NEW ORLEANS, LA – In celebration of the City of New Orleans’ Tricentennial in 2018, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) will present The Orléans Collection, an exhibition of selections from the magnificent collection of the city’s namesake, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (1689-1723). Universally praised during his lifetime, the exceptional collection was comprised of some of the preeminent works in the history of art. On view from October 26, 2018 through January 27, 2019, The Orléans Collection will bring together, for the first time, a selection of 50 masterpieces from institutions such as the Uffizi Gallery, the Louvre, and the Rijksmuseum to tell the story of the collection’s formation, its reputation, and its impact in early 18th century Paris.
“The Orléans Collection, renowned at the time of the founding of the City of New Orleans, celebrates the artistic sensibilities of Philippe II,” said Susan Taylor, the Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of NOMA. “His legacy is his patronage of the arts: architecture, painting, music, dance and theatre. As an institution that is committed to celebrating all of the arts, it is fitting that NOMA takes on this project during New Orleans’ Tricentennial.”
By bringing out Philippe II’s distinct views on art, The Orléans Collection situates Philippe II as the preeminent collector of his time. The astounding number of paintings recorded at the time of the Duke’s death—772—demonstrate the scope of his collection, which remained in his family for two generations until its sale in London in the 1790s during the French Revolution. Its dispersal represents a watershed event in the history of collecting, and contributed to the formation of Europe’s first public museums, among them, the National Gallery of London.
"A unique strength of our subject is the quality and breadth of Philippe II's collection itself, which will offer visitors an overview of European art, from Venice and Rome to The Netherlands and France," said Vanessa Schmid, NOMA’s Senior Research Curator for European Art.
The Orléans Collection will explore exceptional aspects of Philippe II’s collection through four guiding themes: the Palais Royal and its grand redecoration as a center for the arts and exchange in Paris, the diplomatic and personal display of the collection in public and private spaces, the Duke of Orléans’ personal taste and psychology as a collector, and the fame and impact the collection had for visitors, contemporary artists, and collectors in Paris.
Upon the death of Louis XIV in 1715, Philippe II served as the regent of France until the young heir Louis XV came of age. After two generations of court life focused at Versailles, Philippe II's eight-year regency represented an important shift of French social and cultural life back to Paris around the newly flourishing neighborhood on the Right Bank of the Duke's Palais Royal.
The exhibition installation will replicate the display at the Palais Royal, highlighting the political and personal aspects of the Duke’s collection. The Duke had a remarkably developed sense of style, which is evident through his favorite paintings, and works by his court painter, Antoine Coypel, who is featured in the exhibition. He was most passionate about Florentine and Venetian art of the Renaissance, which hung in his grand gallery, and he was also France’s first great collector of Dutch and Flemish art, which he displayed in the intimate setting of his private apartments.
Philippe II cultivated a cosmopolitan circle and worked with agents and friends to find and purchase paintings. He sought to build a princely collection of international reputation, and visitors to the Palace wrote with awe of the sheer number of pictures and their sumptuous display.
In 1721, the Duke's important purchase of the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden brought 75 masterpieces to Paris and was announced with pride in Parisian papers. The collection included treasures from the Habsburg collections commissioned by Philip II of Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and Rudolf II in Vienna. He purchased many other paintings from European monarchs, which played an important role in projecting a public image of nobility.
The final theme considers the impact of Philippe II’s collection in Paris for collectors and artists. Visitors and early guidebooks attest to the public orientation of the collection at the Palais Royal and the unique status of the collection as neither truly of the crown nor truly private. Many well-known French artists like Boucher and Natoire studied the collection and reinterpreted its famous paintings to the modern style.
Offering opportunities for new scholarship, NOMA’s exhibition is the first time this subject has been undertaken. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full color 300-page scholarly catalogue that will present new research and serve as a lasting resource for scholars and the general public alike. Essay and discussion topics include: An Overview and Analysis of the Collection; The Art Market for Paintings in Early 18th Century Paris; The Acquisition of the Queen Christina Collection; The Display of the Collection in Public and Private Spaces; Venetian Art in the Collection; and the Emergence of the Bolognese School; and an appendix of current locations.
Exhibition curator and project coordinator Vanessa Schmid, Senior Research Curator for European Art at the New Orleans Museum of Art, has assembled a team of consultants and catalogue contributors including leading scholars in the fields represented in the collection. The following scholars have committed to contributing to the catalogue: François Mardus of the Louvre Museum; Nicole Garnier, Musée Condé; Xavier Salomon, The Frick Collection; Rachel McGarry, Minneapolis Institute of Art; Julia Armstrong-Totten, formerly of the Getty Provenance Index.
Related programs will include curator-led noontime talks, gallery tours, seminars, film screenings, lectures, and a two-day symposium, exploring the major themes behind the exhibition.
About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses nearly 40,000 art objects encompassing 5,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum's 46 galleries Fridays from 10 AM to 9 PM; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 AM to 6 PM; Saturdays from 10 AM to 5 PM and Sundays from 11 AM to 5 PM. NOMA offers docent-guided tours at 1 PM every Tuesday - Sunday. The adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century's master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week: 9 AM to 6 PM. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org. Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents, courtesy of The Helis Foundation. Teenagers (ages 13-19) receive free admission every day through the end of the year, courtesy of The Helis Foundation.