French Painting 15th to 17th Century: A Publishing Project

In 2003 the Hermitage Foundation UK adopted a proposal to start publishing catalogues of Hermitage collections in English. Work on the first volume, covering Flemish paintings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (which appeared in 2008), did much to inspire the establishment of the Hermitage’s now extensive series of full collection catalogues (now over 30 of them in print). Catalogues of British painting, British engraved gems, British silver and Persian painting have all been published in English, the Hermitage Foundation UK is supporting publication of Iranian bronzes and has financed translation of two volumes of Ancient Greek vases. 

Now we have a new volume in the pipeline, for which we are currently raising money:

Never before published in full, the Hermitage has a world-famous collection of French paintings from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. Now at last, some 260 paintings will be covered in this fine volume by curator Natalia Serebriannaia. From early works such as a fifteenth-century Entry of Christ into Jerusalem by the Master of the Thuizon Altar, the collection runs through to the end of the seventeenth century. Nearly 250 pictures come from the main (historic) collection and several more from the Special Collection of items removed from Germany at the end of the Second World War.


Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with Polyphemus, 1649 / Nicolas de Largilliere, The Provost and Aldermen of Paris in 1687, 1689

If some of the paintings – notably Poussin’s Landscape with Polyphemus and Tancred and Erminia, and Claude Lorrain’s series The Four Times of the Day – have been repeatedly published, many more remain little known or entirely unknown. The paintings from the Special Collection have not previously been published in any form and in an important innovation for Hermitage catalogues, the author plans to include several miniatures from the Hermitage’s small but precious (and unpublished) collection of portrait miniatures.

The pictures came from some of the most famous international and Russian collections. There are works commissioned by Poussin’s friend and patron Paul Chantelou; pictures that were owned by celebrated collectors such as Pierre Crozat and Jean de Jullienne in Paris, Sir Robert Walpole of Houghton Hall, Count Heinrich von Brühl of Dresden and the (infamous) ‘Duchess of Kingston’. There are paintings from the founding collection of the Hermitage picture gallery, that acquired in 1764 from Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. In the early nineteenth century came paintings from the collection of Empress Josephine at Malmaison.

As for Russian collections, some came as gifts from Ivan Shuvalov to the Academy of Arts in the eighteenth century, others belonged to Catherine the Great’s favourites Grigory Orlov and Grigory Potemkin; there are pictures from the noble family collections of the Princes Yusupov and Counts Stroganov, from Count Kushelev-Bezborodko and Pyotr Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, both of whom specifically wanted their collections to be accessible to the public after their death. There are paintings that once belonged to Agathon Fabergé, son of the jeweller Carl Fabergé. The most recent acquisition came from the art market in 2010.

See the full fundraising booklet here.