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  • Musee d'Orsay Acquires Gerome Work For $1.3 M October 27, 2004 NEW YORK

    Jean-Leon Gerome. The Reception of the Grand Conde at Versailles.

    Today at Sotheby's, Jean-Leon Gerome's The Reception of the Grand Conde at Versailles was purchased by the Musee d'Orsay for $1,296,000. The painting, which had previously been in the distinguished collections of William H. Vanderbilt (who purchased it from the artist's studio in 1878) and Edmund Safra (who purchased it for his Republic Bank in 1993), was included in Sotheby's sale of 19th Century European Art. Most recently the property of HSBC's Corporate Art Collection, the painting had been estimated to bring between $700,000 and $1.2 million.

    Polly Sartori, Senior Vice President in Sotheby's 19th Century European Art Department, said, "The return of this exceptional work to France is particularly fitting as it is known that Gerome had hoped it would grace the walls of the Museum of Chantilly, but he could not refuse the hefty sum of $23,000 that William H. Vanderbilt offered in 1878." Regarded as Gerome's most opulent and grandiose composition, The Reception of the Grand Conde at Versailles depicts the scene of Louis XIV receiving the Grand Conde in 1674. True to academic practice, Gerome has not depicted the moment of the King's reply, but the moment before, as Conde, exhausted, pauses on the steps. The King's elegant response is foreshadowed by the festive scattering of laurel wreaths on the stairs.

    Realizing the importance of a collector such as Vanderbilt, Gerome wrote a personal letter to accompany the painting. "In the year 1674 Conde had returned to court, where he was received in triumph. The King came forward to meet him on the grand staircase, which was not his usual habit..." Gerome continued with a detailed description of the scene and concluded with the following line: "I hope also that you will be satisfied for I have done my best to arrive at this result." Apparently Vanderbilt was very pleased with the painting as he chose to hang it in his personal library rather than the opulent gallery he had built for his extensive art collection at his Fifth Avenue mansion.