Next Icon of the Louvre

Cranach's 3 Graces, with journalists,

Cranach’s 3 Graces, with journalists,

In November 2010 the Louvre was made aware of a Lucas Cranach’s The Three Graces, which had been in private collections since it was painted in 1531. There’s another lesser Three Graces by Cranach at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas (seen below), but this 1531 Three Graces was not only unknown to the general public it was in pristine condition.  Henri Loyrette, Director of the Louvre said “the work’s astonishing perfection, its extreme rarity, and its remarkable state of preservation allow it to be called a ‘national treasure'”.

The Louvre scrambled to raise the enormously small amount of 4 million euros, but their acquisition department could only raise 3 million (does make you wonder), so they made an unprecedented on-line appeal to individual donors for the rest. Within a month they raised the 1 million euros from an estimated 7000 donors (initially the papers said it was 5000 donors, but the Louvre later corrected the figure).

24cm x 37cm, oil on wood, image taken from

Lucas Cranach´s Three Graces (1531) 24cm x 37cm, oil on wood, image taken from

What I don’t understand is why, when the National Gallery of Scotland raised 50 million pounds (in 2008 for Titian’s 1559 Diana and Acteon from Lord Sutherland) or the Tate raised 5.7 million pounds (for a Rubens drawing, The Apotheosis of James I (1628) — when Viscont Hampden threatened to sell it abroad, god forbid) was it such a big deal for the Louvre to appeal to the public for a measly one million euros? Why are we talking such small potatoes?  Le Monde said that the average donation was 150 Euros, and that a quarter of the donations hovered around 50 Euros. That’s great. Grassroots is important, but the figure does pale in comparison.

Another quandary – how could it have been on sale for so little when Henri Loyrette, director of the Louvre, said that it was a candidate to become the Louvre’s “Next Icon”? Let us not forget that Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust sold for 106 million dollars at Christie’s in NY in May 2011, that Munch’s The Scream sold for 120 million dollars at Sotheby’s, again in NY, in May 2012. They’re fine paintings, sure, but to my single-minded eye the talent that Lucas Cranach has over Munch and Picasso trumps them. Moreover, doesn’t age count for anything these days? Guess not.

1535 Three Graces, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, in Kansas at

1535 Three Graces, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, in Kansas at

In any event, my last gripe for the day… Good for the Louvre to have been so very modern in going to the public for such treasure – but where is it? On the second floor there’s a (GREAT) wall at the Louvre entitled “Painting of the Month”. It’s between Richelieu and Sully and it’s basically just a hallway with a bench. No one ever really notices it (and no, I’ve never put it in a treasure hunt — too unfair). According to the Louvre’s website this “Next Icon” was hung on the “painting of the Month” wall for an impressive 3 months at the beginning of 2011 (ooh la la, how big of them!), but has been in hiding ever since. Since it was in a ´Remarkable State of Preservation´ upon purchase, where is it? (Correction the 2nd floor Richelieu side room was closed off when I wrote this. As of 28 June it’s open. I really can’t keep up with all of their construction and changes – the Greek sections particularly)

My next post will address the actual painting, opposed to this museumese around the painting. But first, big question: Have you signed up for the next THATLou? Sunday 1 July, and it’s covering Ladies at the Louvre… surprise surprise!


9 thoughts on “Next Icon of the Louvre

  1. Interesting…a superb painting that I’m sure influenced both Munch and Picasso.
    But art is no different than fashion or pastry these days.
    Franchement I don’t think the French like to ask.
    They prefer to tell IMHO.

    • What’s IMHO? And yes, it is a real treasure. Regarding the Kansas 3 Graces my mother pointed out that the middle face was probably reworked in the 18th or 19th centuries as the face is a-typical of the Germans or Cranach’s hand. Makes sense, no?

  2. PS
    compared to the NY Met, I find the Louvre the most impossible place to find things.
    So I’m not surpised the Cranach is sitting in some obscure hallway.
    It comes down to marketing like the call for donations perhaps..?

    • Yes, but even worse the little gem was only on the “wall of the month” for three months! It’s no longer there — but either on loan or in storage. A scandal!

      Concerning the Met it may be because you’re familiar with it. I do, too, having grown up in NY. However, navigationally (if that’s a word!) it’s actually more difficult because so many collectors insist on their paintings being hung together — think Lehman with his Braques near the 14th Century Martinis for example.

  3. Pingback: Cranach’s Three Graces | THATLou

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