Cristóvão de Figueiredo, The Departure of the Relics of Saint Auta from Cologne. Lisbon, MNAA © DGPC / ADF, Luísa Oliveira / José Paulo Ruas

Room dedicated to the latest news of the Department of Paintings

10 June – 10 September 2022

Very rarely presented or even mentioned in French museums, Portuguese painting deserves a closer look. This presentation of some 15 exquisite painted panels, on loan from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon, will be an opportunity for the French public to discover Portuguese painting for themselves. Visitors to the Musée du Louvre will have a chance to see the refined and masterly works of artists such as Nuno Gonçalves (active 1450–before 1492), Jorge Afonso (active 1504–1540), Cristóvão de Figueiredo (active 1515–1554) and Gregório Lopes (active 1513–1550). This exhibition is part of the France–Portugal Season 2022.

Combining in a highly original way the pictorial inventions of the first Italian Renaissance and innovations from Flemish painters imported by artists like Jan van Eyck who stayed in Portugal in 1428–1429, the Portuguese school of painting made a name for itself from the mid-15th century, at the same time that the kingdom of Portugal was in full expansion mode.

Thanks to the patronage of kings Manuel I (reigned 1495–1521) and João III (reigned 1521–1557), who surrounded themselves with court painters, Portuguese painting experienced a golden age in the first half of the 16th century before being eclipsed by the crisis of the succession of the crown in 1580 and the annexation of Portugal by Spain.

Since the founding exhibition Portuguese A rt in the Age of the Great Discoveries of the 20th Century in 1930 at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, the latest exhibitions in France on the subject (Sun and Shadows: 19th-Century Portuguese Art, Musée du Petit Palais, Paris, 1987, and Red and Gold: Treasures of Portuguese Baroque, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris, 2001) did not deal with this privileged period of the Portuguese Renaissance.

Thanks to the acquisition of Portuguese paintings by the Musée du Louvre through the generosity of donors, a history of this school has begun to take shape, with four paintings from the 15th to the 18th centuries forming a small nucleus. The Department of Paintings endeavours to continue to expand on this base, in line with the universal vocation of the Musée du Louvre and its duty to propose the most complete overview possible of European painting.
This spotlight exhibition is also an opportunity to highlight more generally Portuguese paintings on display in France, as part of the project to inventory Iberian paintings in French national collections carried out in tandem with the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art.

Apart from Nuno Gonçalves, the first great Portuguese painter whose panel opens the exhibition, the artists in the exhibition were all active in Lisbon in the first half of the 16th century. Capital of the vast Portuguese empire, Lisbon was then a multicultural city turned towards the ocean which carried wealth and discoveries from the New World into Europe. It also hosted the courts of kings Manuel I and João III, both of whom were builders and great patrons of the arts.

The exhibition aims to shine a light on a particularly innovative time in the history of European painting, when painters of Flemish origin such as Francisco Henriques or the Master of Lourinhã brought to Portugal a masterful and very refined technique of oil painting and a new taste for landscapes and the decorative effects of fabrics and precious materials.

A group of related artists took shape around Jorge Afonso, who played a major role at court. They assimilated this new way of painting and executed the vast majority of the altarpieces commissioned by the king for churches and monasteries. The refinement of the Flemish technique was perfectly suited to this courtly art, but it was also combined with a sometimes humorous sense of narration, a taste for naturalistic details and the representation of everyday figures and objects.

The paintings exhibited at the Louvre are all religious and contain delightful details, often a still life or an opening onto a poetic landscape. The anonymous panel of Hell is no exception and was most likely commissioned in a religious context; the evocation of the deadly sins also allows for a precise description of objects, some of which were imported from America, and leaves room for nudes, which are very rare in Portuguese painting of this period.

Exhibition curators: Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau, curator in the Department of Paintings, Musée du Louvre, and Joaquim Oliveira Caetano, director of the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon.

This exhibition is organised by the Musée du Louvre in partnership with the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (Lisbon, Portugal).

This exhibition benefits from support from the Sponsor Committee of the France-Portugal Season 2022, the Fundação Millennium BCP and the Banque BCP.

Exhibition catalogue
Edited by Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau and Joaquim Oliveira Caetano. Co-published by Musée du Louvre Editions / In Fine éditions. 128 pages, 46 illustrations, €29.


Friday 10 June at 12:30 p.m.
Presentation of the exhibition
By Charlotte Chastel-Rousseau and Joaquim Oliveira Caetano

France-Portugal Season 2022

In a joint decision by the President of France and the Prime Minister of Portugal, the France–Portugal Season will be held simultaneously in both countries between 12 February and 31 October 2022.

This cross-cultural France–Portugal Season, which is part of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is an opportunity to highlight the close ties that bind the two countries, embodied in particular by the presence in France of a very large community of Portuguese origin, and in Portugal of a growing number of French expatriates. These two dynamic, mobile and active groups constitute an exceptional human and cultural link between France and Portugal.

Beyond a programme that showcases European culture, the France–Portugal Season 2022 also highlights a concrete commitment to the themes that the two countries share and together strive to defend in the Europe of the 21st century: the common ecological transition, particularly through the theme of the Ocean; gender equality; investment in youth; respect for differences and the values of inclusion.

Through more than 200 projects consisting of upwards of 480 events, mostly co-constructed between French and Portuguese partners in 87 cities in France and 55 in Portugal, the Season aims to highlight the many collaborations between French and Portuguese artists, researchers,  intellectuals, students, entrepreneurs, cities, regions, cultural institutions, universities, schools and associations. All the initiatives forge deep and sustainable ties between the two European countries and contribute to the construction of Europe.

The France–Portugal Season 2022, chaired by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, is organised:

– in Portugal: by Camões, lnstituto da Cooperação e da Língua, I.P. – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and by the Gabinete de Estratégia, Planeamento e Avaliação Culturais (GEPAC) – Cultural Affairs, with the support of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers (Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality) and the Ministry of Economy and Digital Transition; the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Environment and Climate Action; the Ministry of the Sea; and the Portuguese Embassy in France. Curator-general for Portugal: Manuela Júdice

– in France: by the Institut Français, with the support of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Recovery, the Ministry of National Education, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the Ministry of the Sea, the French Embassy in Portugal and the network of Alliances françaises in Portugal.
Curator-general for France: Victoire Bidegain di Rosa.

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