Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Eighteenth century at the Museum of Port-Royal-des-Champs

Over Easter I was lucky enough to visit the site of the Abbey Port-Royal-des-Champs in Magny-les-Hameaux just south of Versailles - close to the busy N10 and the urban sprawl of modern Paris, but psychologically a million miles away.  It was one of the few sunny days of the year so far and the ruins, though meagre, were beautiful and peaceful.  The 17th-century lodge at Les Granges houses a museum, with iconic works by Philippe de Champaigne.  Upstairs is a marvellous room dedicated to the 18th-century history of Jansenism.  Here is a little "virtual tour".  The lighting was awful for photographs, so I have taken most of the images of the paintings from the RMN Images d'Art website.  (As this site reveals, the current display is only a few highlights of  whole collection.)

Far wall (left):

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) Portrait of Jean-Baptiste de Santeuil ( 1630-1697)

A canon of Saint-Victor de Paris,Santeuil was known principally as a Latin poet, author of verses to the glory of the Gallican church.  He composed the epitaph of Antoine Arnauld.  M. de Coustard, contrôleur général de la grande Chancellerie, commissioned from Rigaud in 1704, a trio of portraits - La Fontaine, Boileau-Despreau and Santeuil.

François Jouvenet (1664-1749) Portrait of Nicolas Petitpied (1664-1747) 

A Doctor of the Sorbonne in 1692, Nicolas Petitpied was one of the forty signatories of the Cas de conscience of 1703.  He refused to retract his protest and went into exile in Holland with Pasquier Quesnel.  He was author of an Examen théologique, contre la bulle Unigenitus (1713).

Far wall (left) and Right Wall:

Portrait of Pascal and display cabinet containing his death mask, calculating machine and various printed works.  The unbound copies of the Provincial Letters are interesting - journals and pamphlets must all originally have circulated like this:

Pier Leone Ghezzi (1675-1755)  Allegory of the fulmination of the Constitution Unigenitus (oil painting) 

The pope, seated in the centre, blesses a text of Unigenitus presented to him by a kneeling personage.  At his right is a female figure which symbolises both Wisdom and Truth.  She leans on  the Book of the Seven Seals, whilst the Holy-Spirit is represented in the cloud above.  

Anonymous paintings depicting scenes from the destruction of Port-Royal (1711-13)

Clément Belle (1722-1806). Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Le Sesne de Ménilles d'Etemare (1682-1770). 

The abbé d'Etemare, of Saint-Magloire, was one of the principal theorists of figurism and an prominent defender of the Jansenist cause.  He was author of Gémissements d'une âme vivement touchée par la destruction du saint monastère de Port-Royal des Champs (1734).  A severe looking gentleman, this one!

Wall nearest the entrance:

Hyacinthe Rigaud : Portrait of René Pucelle (1655-1745, painted in 1721) 

A magistrate of the Parlement of Paris, the abbé Pucelle was nominated to the Conseil de Conscience in 1715, but proved an outspoken supporter of Jansenism and the cause of the diacre Pâris.

Jean Restout (1692-1768). The abbé Firmin-Louis Tournus "in prayer" 90cm x 74cm. 

This picture is identical to the one in the Musée Carnavalet. Christine Gouzi  identifies both as originals by the hand of Restout.

The left-hand of the two cabinets contains:  

  • Jansenist copy of the Constitution Unigenitus (top left)
  • signed copy of Quesnel's Protest...against the condemnation of 101 propositions, 1718 (bottom left) 
  • Nouvelles ecclésiastiques for 1735 (top right) 
  • plate from the Nouvelles ecclésiastiques for 1733 by Restout depicting the Constitution Unigenitus as "the abomination of desolation"

The right-hand cabinet contains:
  • Carré de Montgeron's The truth of the miracles...of M. de Pâris, 1737 (top left) 
  • Royal Ordonnance ordering the closure of the cemetery of Saint-Médard, 27 January 1732.  (top right) 
  • Declaration of Charlotte Regnault concerning her illness and her convulsions at the tomb of M. de Paris, 1733 (bottom right)

Also in the cabinet is this splendid reliquary, featuring images (and presumably relics) of the diacre Pâris and other prominent Jansenists.  A further display case along the side wall contains more reliquaries, some at least of which are familiar from the Diocese of Paris website.  The examples on display by no means exhaust the  collection - there are photos of several more, almost equally extravagant specimens, on the RMN-GP website.

Left wall by the entrance (cabinet of reliquaries):

Collection Gazier:

The room adjoining contains items from the collection of Auguste Gazier, which included several fine portraits of 17th-century Jansenists by Philippe de Champaigne. One wall is given over to items relating to the Convulsionnaires.

Anonymous engraving of the diacre Pâris.

As the notice points out, this slightly crude portrait lacks Restout's attempts to convey the spiritual qualities of the deacon, and depicts him in a realistic pose.

Jean Restout. The abbé Tournus holding a cane. 

The abbey of Port-Royal des Champs can be seen in the background.  According to Christine Gouzi the original of this portrait is in Vire (P55). 

Engraving by G.F. Schmidt after Restout, "Pilgrimage of piety"

Portrait of Tournus and the diacre Pâris with Port-Royal beyond - as noted, the original oil by Restout has recently been found.

Bernard Picart, Cemetery of Saint-Médard and the "agitations" of the Convulsionaries

This dual print is a plate from the famous Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (2nd edition published by the abbé Banier in 1741).  Picart, a Protestant, was not a sympathetic observer; we are clearly invited to see parallels with pagan ceremonial.

Here is a final oil painting, which hangs on its own.  It is an anonymous portrait of the diacre Pâris "as St. Charles Borromeo" - an odd conceit.  I suppose the idea is to emphasise the Jansenist movement's place within the mainstream of Catholic Reformation. 


Images d'Art RMN-GP - Port-Royal-des-Champs

Musée National de Port-Royal-des-Champs 

Thérèse Picquenard, L'art et le mouvement convulsionnaire" Chroniques de la Société de Port-Royal.30 (1981)

Highlights of the whole collection, can be seen on the Notes de Musée blog.

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