A collector, patron and teacher: Antoine Vivenel (1799-1862)

A collector, patron and teacher: Antoine Vivenel (1799-1862)

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  • Portrait of Antoine Vivenel.

    PAPETY Dominique (1815 - 1849)

  • Caricature of Antoine Vivenel.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Bust of Antoine Vivenel.

    DANTAN, known as Le JEUNE Jean-Pierre (1800 - 1869)

To close

Title: Portrait of Antoine Vivenel.

Author : PAPETY Dominique (1815 - 1849)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 235 - Width 169

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage location: Antoine Vivenel Museum website

Contact copyright: © Antoine Vivenel Museum, Compiègne

Portrait of Antoine Vivenel.

© Antoine Vivenel Museum, Compiègne

To close

Title: Caricature of Antoine Vivenel.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 36.4 - Width 21.8

Technique and other indications: Graphite on vellum paper.

Storage location: Antoine Vivenel Museum website

Contact copyright: © Antoine Vivenel Museum, Compiègne

Caricature of Antoine Vivenel.

© Antoine Vivenel Museum, Compiègne

© Antoine Vivenel Museum, Compiègne

Publication date: June 2008

Historical context

Born in Compiègne, in the Oise, on 27 Ventôse Year VII (March 17, 1799), Antoine Vivenel belongs to a long line of craftsmen from Compiegne who have made building their chosen domain. These prestigious contracts quickly put him at the head of a considerable fortune which he used, for the most part, to patiently gather, from 1825 to 1848, a collection of more than 4,000 works of art ranging from Antiquity in contemporary times. In Antoine Vivenel's mind, it was less a question of creating an amateur cabinet than of setting up a Museum of Studies which would underline the educational role of the work of art and, on March 20, 1843, he abandons to the city of Compiègne "All the objects of art, antiques and curiosities in his cabinet". The museum of Compiègne is indeed "An encyclopedic collection of all the arts and all eras", of which the exceptional collection of Greek vases constitutes the essential ornament. For Vivenel, the museographic establishment is inseparable from pedagogy and must have as its primary vocation "The artistic education of the people". He endows the winners of the annual competitions with lavish prizes and personally looks after the future of young people who show the best artistic dispositions.
This boundless generosity was undoubtedly detrimental to Antoine Vivenel's fortune. Was he the man of a regime - the July Monarchy - during which his prosperity and fame had been established and imposed? As such, did the Second Republic and the Second Empire not quarantine this follower of the theories of Charles Fourier (1772-1837)? Nothing can confirm it. In any case, it was a ruined man who died in Paris on February 19, 1862.

Image Analysis

In the capital, Antoine Vivenel is a famous building contractor with a storefront. The work of enlarging and renovating the Hôtel de Ville de Paris to which he devoted himself is no stranger to this notoriety. A public figure, he has connections in the governmental sphere and with the nobility. He had many friends in the artistic circles of the time. This fame made it a favorite subject for painters and sculptors in the last ten years of the July Monarchy.
Adept like Antoine Vivenel of the phalansterian doctrine of Charles Fourier (1772-1837), Dominique Papety (1815-1849) was a friend of the entrepreneur and produced several portraits, including this one, exhibited at the Salon of 1846, which represents him in his renaissance office at the Hôtel de Ville in Compiègne, busy drafting the deed of donation for his collections for the benefit of his hometown. In the background, on the wall, a framed lithograph depicts the Hôtel de Ville de Paris, the masterpiece of the skillful entrepreneur.
Another sign of indisputable social success, Antoine Vivenel inspires cartoonists who bite into him. In an anonymous drawing, he rides an owl, proudly brandishing the Hôtel de Ville de Paris planted with the point of his trowel. Many projects emerge from his pocket and fall in cascade. On dry land, windmills clearly assimilate him to a building Don Quixote. The sculpted caricature of Jean-Pierre Dantan, known as the Younger (1800-1869), is one of the many portrait-charges that the artist exhibited in a room in the Passage des Panoramas, known as the "Dantan Museum". This bust of Antoine Vivenel rubbed shoulders with celebrities from politics (Talleyrand, Hamilton, Louis-Philippe, etc.), the arts (Beethoven, Paganini, Liszt, Verdi, etc.) and literature (Victor Hugo, Balzac, etc.).

Interpretation

Self-taught, art lover and collector born with sure taste and remarkable discernment, Antoine Vivenel gathered, between 1825 and 1848, a magnificent collection of Greek and Italian vases. Although it is now almost certain that he made the traditional trip to Italy in 1826, it seems unlikely that he could have purchased vases there, on the peninsula or in Greece itself. Vivenel rather ran antiques dealers and public sales. Thus he attended the sale of the collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities of Fiérard, which was held from January 23 to 25, 1837. He acquired around fifty vases during the sale of the collection of Count Beugnot, in May 1840. Similarly, he bought ten vases - including the splendid psykter by the painter from Kléophradès - at the Magnoncour sale in 1841. Twelve vases came from the dispersal of Baron Roger's cabinet in March 1842. However, many of these pieces had previously belonged to Chevalier Durand or Lucien Bonaparte. Nevertheless, whatever the conditions in which these ancient ceramics were acquired, none is of mediocre quality, all are of artistic, archaeological, anthropological interest, and the City of Compiègne can, today, rightly, s' be proud of owning one of the finest collections of Greek vases in France.

  • antiquity
  • Museum

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "A collector, patron and teacher: Antoine Vivenel (1799-1862)"


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