08 Oct 2012

Louis Béroud: “The Delights of Flooding”

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Louis Béroud, Les Joies De L’Inondation (Dans La Galerie Médicis) [The Delights of Flooding (in the Medici Gallery)], 1910

From Sotheby’s catalogue of Sale 8783, 19th Century European Art, November 4, 2011, Lot 31:

After visiting the Louvre in the 1870s, an American traveller noted that “along the galleries are numerous temporary
stands, easels, etc., at which artists are constantly at work copying such paintings as they may have orders for, or
hope to find purchasers for”… Stumbling across a working artist and his accoutrements was not a rare
occurrence for the museum goer in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Viewing and copying the museum’s
masterpieces was a traditional part of an artist’s education, and a practice Béroud both enjoyed and used as the
subject of at least twenty-six of his compositions. Indeed, the artist was such a frequent visitor to the Louvre that he is
credited with sounding the alarm upon discovering the Mona Lisa’s theft in 1911.

The Louvre held the entirety of art history, and its crowded walls offered a bounty of choices for diverse study. In the
present work, Béroud places the dapper, mustachioed copyist among the paintings of the Marie de’ Medici cycle, an
aggrandized biography of the ruler, visualized in twenty four works executed by Peter Paul Rubens in the 1620s for
the Luxembourg Palace, later reinstalled into a devoted gallery at the Louvre. The copyist sits before The
Disembarkation of Marie de’ Medici at Marseilles, one of the most popular in the cycle. The painting depicts
Marie upon her marriage to Henry IV, as she walks down a gangplank into the open arms of an allegorical figure of
France, while a trumpeting angel of Fame flies above and Neptune and his naiads rise from the sea. The muscular,
fish tailed naiads proved particularly tempting subjects to copy. Eugène Delacroix had copied one of the sensual
mythological figures. …

Béroud’s copyist makes a similar choice, his canvas focusing on the figure on the right in broad, expressive strokes
and dissonant colors of a fauvist style. … His careful study is interrupted as the trio of naiads literally flows from the canvas on swirling waves which threaten to soak the gallery and wash him away. The copyist tosses his brush aside as his body is thrown back in shock at the surreal experience. The humor of the composition is further suggested by its title Les joies de l’inondation (The Joys of the Flood) as the rushing waters promise to bring the robust beauties into the artist’s lap. Such levity may also serve to counter a serious situation the artist and his fellow Parisians experienced: in January 1910, the year of the present work’s execution, when the Seine overflowed its banks, bringing quick and catastrophic flooding to Paris. … Water inundated several of the Louvre’s basements, threatening the stored artworks. It was only through the rapidly organized and heroic efforts of Parisians working to build sandbag barricades that further destruction to the museum was prevented — allowing Béroud, his fellow artists, and generations of visitors since to continue to enjoy its many treasures.

Alas, though estimated to bring $300,000-500,000, this amusingly surreal painting failed to make its reserve. The Recession, of course.

Hat tip to Marius Kaubrys.


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