Saturday, 20 September 2014

Memories from the Temple - Collection Alain Bancel

Alain Bancel was a collector with an obsessive interest in the French Revolution's saddest victim, the little Dauphin Charles-Louis, posthumously recognised as Louis XVII. Over thirty years, he managed to amass in his modest apartment in northern Paris a collection to rival that of the Carnavalet. 

Unhappily on M. Bancel's death in 2003 his collection was "victime du fisc" and had to be dispersed. It became one of the auctions of the season. There were 470 lots,with an estimate of 450,000  and the sale eventually realised 760,000 €. 

Some of these rare pictures and objects have now found their way into public collections.  But how extraordinary to see photos of them jumbled together in true 18th-century style in M. Bancel's home!. (Photos from the website Musée Louis xvii.)


Lot 76:  Autograph of the Dauphin Louis Charles (Louis XVII) c.1790

A rare writing exercise in the hand of the Dauphin, later Louis XVII, dating from about 1790. From the inheritors of the abbé Dumesnil de Saint-Cyr. professeur d'écriture des enfants de France  [ Sold for 11, 794 €]


Lot 83: Note signed by Marie-Antoinette and Madame Élisabeth

Note from Marie-Antoinette and Madame Élisabeth, signed by Marie-Antoinette "M.A." and dating from the end of March 1793.  Such notes were smuggled out of the Temple in bottles etc. It was entrusted to the Chevalier de Jarjayes for the comte d'Artois, to accompany the gift of Louis XVI's ring and a lock of his hair.  [Sold for 22 409 €]

Lot 186:  Shirt worn by Louis XVI on the morning of his execution

This  nightshirt, preserved by Cléry, was taken off by Louis XVI on the morning of 21st January 1793, when he dressed to leave the Temple tower for the last time  [sold for 12 383 €]
Also from Cléry, Lot 187: a pair of Louis's breeches [sold for 10 615 €.]

Lot 193: Knitting needles belonging to Marie-Antoinette

Ivory knitting needles which belonged to Marie-Antoinette.  An accompanying note certifies that they had been retrieved from the Tuileries by Tison the gaoler's daughter and used by Marie-Antoinette in the Temple. [The estimate of 4-5,000 € was smashed; the needles   fetched 30 664 € !]

Lot 215:  Outfit belonging to the Dauphin Charles-Louis

Outfit belonging to the Dauphin in brown and beige striped material comprising a coat with eight buttons, a waistcoat and trousers. Made for a child of 1 metre 20 (3ft 11 inches) 7-8 years old, but painfully thin. It had been preserved by the royal valet de chambre Cléry and remained in his family until 1882.  Estimated at 12 000 €, it sold for 19,460  €. 

The purchaser was a public collection, the Musée Galliera (Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris), which also owns a beautiful pink silk costume of the Dauphin's, dating from happier times in Versailles.   The Galliera does not have a permanent display, but the outfits are occasionally exhibited. 

Also in the sale were two of the Dauphin's coats (Lot 208 and Lot 209),  plus various other more pathetic items of clothing: a white chemise (Lot 212), now also in the Musée Galliera and even one of the little boy's socks.

Lot 226: Key to the Temple tower

The key (depicted above with various lots comprising further keys and fragments of upholstery etc. from the Temple) came from collection of Philippe Gille, whose grand-father, a commissaire de police, acquired it when the tower was demolished. (Sold for 9 671 €.). 

Lot 368: Copy of Kucharski's last portrait of Marie-Antoinette, thought to have been made by the artist himself (oil)

Sold for 28 306 €, against an estimate of 3-4,000 €

Lot 373: Anonymous copy of a portrait of Louis XVII by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun 

Presumed copy of a lost original portrait of Louis XVII by VLE destroyed by order of the Committee of Public Safety in June 1794.  The estimate for this picture was  6,000 €, but I do not know how much it made.  For discussion of the documentation, see:


"In Memorandum": images of the Bancel collection on the Musée Louis xvii website.

Picture of Alain Bancel at work cataloguing his paintings for the Musée Louis xvii, posted  on the forum Le boudoir de Marie-Antoinette

Judith Benhamou-Huet "A la mémoire de Louis XVII" , article in 16/05/2003

Sale catalogue:
PIASA: Sale of  Wednesday 21st May 2003
Vente Souvenirs Historiques Autour de Louis XVII : Collection Alain Bancel

Details of the prices fetched:

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