In recent years, Cardinal Fesch's extraordinary collection Italian art has been subject to lively interest. But this is to forget that he also possessed remarkable paintings from France and also northern Europe. In addition to owning famous works by Poussin, Greuze, Rembrandt and Dou, he also had eleven paintings by Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837). Whilst this seems a very small number when compared with the totality of the collection (15,989 paintings), appearances can in fact be deceptive.
The works were not chance acquisitions, nor were they lost amongst a mass of modern works; Fesch did not particularly like modern painting. Whilst he possessed few 18th-century works (only two famous works by David, one which he hurriedly sold to Lucien), he owned several paintings by Sablet, «Napoleon's official painter» according to Anne van de Sandt, and a complete ensemble of work by Marguerite Gérard. Given his professional interest as a man of the cloth in religious works, this predilection for Marguerite Gérard's genre pieces is surprising and reveals a little-known side to Fesch's collecting life.
Today, Marguerite Gérard is known only as Fragonard's sister-in-law, but the Cardinal was interested in her painting in its own right and did not like the more rococo Fragonard, or their joint productions. Fesch followed the taste of the period and publicly affirmed his support for the artist by buying a good number of her works, for most part presented at the Salon. This exhibition in Ajaccio is thus an occasion to recreate the Fesch collection as it was before the sales in Rome of 1843, 1844 and 1845.
The exhibition shows Marguerite Gérard in her family and local context, illustrating her links with the Fragonard family, and it has been made possible by the kind loan of works from the Département des Arts graphiques at the Louvre. The shows also sets Marguerite in relation to the contemporary paintings collected by the Cardinal, notably Sablet and his work La Tarentelle, a masterpiece recently rediscovered.
The exhibition also highlights the Cardinal's predilection for Dutch painting.
Winter: 9-15am to 12-15pm/14-15pm to 5-15pm. Closed Sundays and Mondays
Summer: 10am to 5-30pm
Musée Fesch - Ajaccio
50 rue Fesch - 20 000 Ajaccio (Southern Corsica) - France
+33 (0)4 95 21 48 17
+33 (0)4 95 21 80 94