The Alexandre Lenoir Museum of French Monuments

The Alexandre Lenoir Museum of French Monuments


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  • Museum of French Monuments, drawing by Vauzelles, cloister.

    LENOIR Alexandre (1761 - 1839)

  • Museum of French Monuments, XV roome century.

    LENOIR Alexandre (1761 - 1839)

  • Museum of French Monuments, XVI roome century.

    LENOIR Alexandre (1761 - 1839)

To close

Title: Museum of French Monuments, drawing by Vauzelles, cloister.

Author : LENOIR Alexandre (1761 - 1839)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Picture reference: 79EE747 / RF 5279, fol. 34

Museum of French Monuments, drawing by Vauzelles, cloister.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

To close

Title: Museum of French Monuments, XV roome century.

Author : LENOIR Alexandre (1761 - 1839)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

Picture reference: 96CE4665 / RF 5279 folio 22

Museum of French Monuments, XV roome century.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

To close

Title: Museum of French Monuments, XVI roome century.

Author : LENOIR Alexandre (1761 - 1839)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 55 - Width 42

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

Picture reference: 89DE4450 / RF 5279, fol. 27

Museum of French Monuments, XVI roome century.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - M. Bellot

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Lenoir, creator of the French Monuments Museum

During the Revolution, the Constituent Assembly decided to place the goods of the clergy at the disposal of the nation (November 2, 1789). This measure, soon extended to the property of the Crown and of emigrants, led to the creation of deposits authorized to receive these new national treasures.

In 1790, the Petits-Augustins convent was commissioned by the Monuments Commission to receive statues from religious foundations. On October 21, 1795, he obtained permission to transform his deposit into a historical and chronological museum of French sculpture.

Image Analysis

A spectacular staging of monumental art

The heart of the museum designed by Alexandre Lenoir consisted, in its final version, of several rooms where medieval and modern sculpted works were presented in chronological order. Other exhibition venues completed this panorama of French art: in addition to the two courtyards and the interior garden which contained archaeological remains from all eras, the vault and the cloister offered a glimpse of medieval sculpture.

The vast majority of the collections consisted of funerary monuments from the Abbey of Saint-Denis or Parisian churches and busts of famous people, to which were added works commissioned from contemporary artists. Lenoir invested himself entirely in the creation of this museum, to which he gave a very personal touch.

Drawings representing the cloister and the 15th century roomse and XVIe century allow us to appreciate the originality of his project: not only did the classification of works by period and style contribute to the rediscovery of medieval art, but the special atmosphere specific to each room was a real lesson in history.

Thus, the room of the XVe century which contains the marble tomb of Louis d'Orléans received a luxurious decoration, in the style of the time that it represents: purple and blue backgrounds, golden frames, carmine legend, columns decorated with capitals and arabesque pedestals from of a portico of the Saint-Peyre church in Chartres ...

Similarly, in the room of the XVIe century, where, according to the curator, the greatest masterpieces of French art are gathered, including the tomb of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany, the ceilings are decorated with arabesques, salamanders , entwined numbers and currencies, motifs very popular at that time.

Taking into account the expectations of visitors, Lenoir created a varied museum itinerary with different visit modes: the works are the subject of a spectacular staging intended to satisfy the tastes of a large audience, each room is distinguished from the others by its decor, and visitors can either follow the agreed circuit through the eras of art, or give free rein to their reverie in the cloister of the convent or the English garden that can be seen from the room of the XVe century. The interior design is therefore part of a coherent museographic project, which offers a vision that is both global and spectacular of French monumental art and gives value to the notion of style, according to Winckelmann's diagram.

Interpretation

An innovative and ambitious museographic project

Several objectives governed the creation of the Musée des Monuments Français. Eager to protect works of art from revolutionary vandalism, the curator had the ambition to constitute a museum-pantheon, modeled on Westminster Abbey.

He was the first to take into account the historic value of the monument, whose function is not only to pay homage to personalities, but also to express the memory of the country.

This conception of the museum as a place of memory goes hand in hand with an educational vocation. Lenoir indeed proposed to sketch a new history of the French nation, by developing a cultural fund adapted to a new era, where the revolutionary ideal of a new man and the obsession with the myth of origins are embedded in the background. .

The carefully selected range of famous historical figures was intended primarily for education and public education. This is why Lenoir arranged the works in a chronological order, so as to sketch a reasoned history of sculpture through the centuries and to identify scientific principles.

However, despite its fame, this achievement had only an ephemeral existence: under the Restoration, faced with the triple opposition of Catholics, royalists and supporters of the academic tradition, Lenoir was forced to close his establishment in 1816. The latter nevertheless served as a model for the creation of the Museum of Comparative Sculptures at the Trocadero in 1879.

  • monuments
  • Museum
  • patrimony
  • sculpture
  • vandalism
  • Lenoir (Alexandre)

Bibliography

Antoine de BAECQUE, Françoise MELONIO, Cultural history of France, t. 3, Enlightenment and freedom, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Paris, Seuil, 1998.

Alexandre LENOIR, Imperial Museum of French Monuments, Paris, 1810.

Dominique POULOT, Museum, Nation, Heritage, 1789-1815, Paris, Gallimard, 1997.

Nora Pierre Roland SCHAER, “Alexandre Lenoir and the Museums of French Monuments”, in The invention of museums, Paris, Gallimard - Meeting of national museums, 1993.

To cite this article

Charlotte DENOËL, "The Museum of French Monuments of Alexandre Lenoir"


Video: Basilica of Saint Denis in Paris France. Interior view, November 25, 2019.


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