1st FLOOR - 16
Upstairs: Vernet Gallery and Small Rooms
Esprit Requien (1788-1851) and architect Paul Renaux wanted the Vernet Gallery (1834) to echo the Grande Gallery at the Louvre, designed by Percier and Fontaine. Like its model, the Vernet Gallery is embellished with Corinthian columns. Unfortunately however, it no longer has the overhead daylight which once provided such excellent natural lighting.
The gallery pays tribute to the painters in the Vernet family, starting with the most famous Vernet, Claude-Joseph (1714-1789). His son Carle (1758-1836) and grandson Horace (1789-1863) were also hugely talented painters highly appreciated by King Louis XVIII, King Charles X and Louis-Philippe. The gallery vestibule displays 18th-century works by Valade and Raoux and paintings by another illustrious family of painters who worked in Avignon, the Parrocel family. The “Parrocel dynasty” is described in a series of busts made in the 19th century.
The gallery itself displays examples of the work by Joseph Vernet, whose compositions are marked by an overwhelming sense of space and decoration. Several of these paintings were recovered from the Nazi occupying forces after the war and were given to the National Museums (M.N.R.) for safekeeping. Also in the gallery are works of high quality by Hubert Robert portraying ruins. In the fall and spring seasons, the Vernet Gallery is used for lectures by the prestigious Ecole du Louvre decentralised to Avignon. See the museum’s website for more information on this lecture series: www.musee-calvet-avignon.com.
Toward the back of the gallery there are neoclassical works by Bidault, a landscape painter from Carpentras, Site d’Italie by Corot, and two masterpieces by Horace Vernet: two versions of the story of Mazeppa (based on the poem by British poet Lord Byron) that he painted in 1826. Nearby hangs Sleeping Bather (or Nymph) by Théodore Chassériau (1850), a famous painting by one of the most significant French romantic artists, deposited by the French government in 1851. A partition separates the gallery from the display of paintings from the Salon acknowledging the official taste in the 1820-1880 period, with works by Dubufe, Granet, Lordon, Roll, Laugée. Note the large canvas signed Horace Vernet, representing Joseph Vernet, tied to a mast, studies the effects of the storm, a sort of family homage which was met with great success when displayed at the 1822 Salon.
Several sculptures add to this ensemble: by David d’Angers, Avignon sculptors Joseph and Jean-Louis Brian, and the plaster statue of Woman stung by a serpent. The marble version at the Musée d’Orsay was a scandalous success at the 1847 Salon.
Continue your visit by turning back and entering the “Little Rooms”, or “Petits cabinets”, smaller rooms which display a selection of paintings from the museum’s collection.
In the near future, a new, more cohesive display is planned to display the paintings from the French School, 1500 to 1900.
There will be the Mignards, portrait painters of French society under King Louis XIV, Reynaud Levieux, Nicolas Pinson, and the grand style of the Royal Academy, from Largilierre and Louis de Boullogne to Jean-Baptiste Pierre and to Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), who served as master to David.
Joseph-Marie Vien was a native of Montpellier and bridged the period of Court painting at the end of the reign of King Louis XV and the neo-classic David style. One of David’s greatest masterpieces is hung in the corner room – Death of Bara (1794), a true revolutionary icon. The following room displays various 19th century trends, Romanticism, Eclecticism, Realism, and the changes in landscape painting which led to Impressionism, with works by Caruelle d’Aligny, Paul Guigou, Daubigny, Guillaumin.
As you leave the museum behind, take a look at the Portrait of Esprit Calvet (1839) painted by Eugène Devéria commissioned by the Vaucluse General Council to pay tribute to the founder of the museum.
Baigneuse endormie près d'une source
Théodore Chassériau. Inv. D 851.2