At its founding in 1718, New Orleans was named for the French Regent, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (1674–1723). A formidable personality, Philippe II’s legacy is his patronage of the arts: architecture, painting, furniture, music, dance, and theatre. In celebration of the tricentennial of the city that bears his regal title, NOMA will present an exhibition of selections from the Duke’s magnificent collection. This international loan exhibition will bring together masterpieces by Veronese, Valentin, Poussin, Rubens, and Rembrandt that formerly graced the walls of the Palais Royal in Paris.
The quality of the Orléans Collection was universally praised during Philippe II’s lifetime and its stature is attested by the astounding 772 paintings inventoried at his death. Although originally bequeathed to the duke’s heirs, in the 1790s the family hastily sold the collection to raise money during the French Revolution. The subsequent sales became a watershed event in the history of collecting and museology. The exhibition and its accompanying scholarly catalogue will explore exceptional aspects of the 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 contemporary visitors, artists, and collectors in Paris.
No exhibition of this fascinating subject has been undertaken and this project offers an exceptional opportunity for new scholarship, with a catalogue structured to maximize scholarly research and publish new research about Philippe II’s collection. The catalogue by Vanessa I. Schmid, NOMA’s Senior Curator of European Art, and nine contributors, presents for the first time in over a century a comprehensive analysis of this extraordinary collection.