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An old canvas of Notre-Dame de Paris identified in a church in Givors


Signed by the painter Joseph Vivien, the lost painting was one of the works offered every May 1 to the cathedral by the goldsmiths of Paris.

Long suspended in the chapels and pillars of the central nave of Notre-Dame de Paris, the Mays were a series of large religious paintings offered every May 1 to the cathedral, until the beginning of the 18th century, by the corporation of goldsmiths of Paris, which commissioned artists chosen by competition.

Seized and dispersed during the Revolution, these works enriched the collections of the Louvre and the regions, where some have long been lost to sight.

One of those missing Mays, an

Adoration of the Magi

painted by Joseph Vivien (1657-1734), has just been rediscovered in the Saint-Nicolas church in Givors, in the Rhône.

Spotted and then identified by an art history enthusiast, the large canvas did indeed originate from the Parisian cathedral, more than 400 km from the town of the Lyon metropolis.

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After the dramatic fire which affected Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral two years ago, rediscovering a part of its history in Givors has a particular flavor

", declared the mayor Mohamed Boudjellaba, in a press release from the city of Givors and the Lyon Historical Society.

Two enigmatic signatures, traced in the lower right corner of the painting, "

A. Magimel

" and "

A. Lagneau

", have made it possible to trace the origins hitherto little known of this large religious canvas measuring 3 meters by 4, hung in the Saint-Nicolas church since at least 1906. The two names, unknown to the battalion of painters of the modern era, were in fact the two representatives of the goldsmiths of Paris, in 1697, as discovered by Benoît Faure-Jarrosson, of the Lyon Historical Society.

It was by going through the digital collections of the National Archives that the keystone of this identification appeared to him, in the form of the commission for the work, signed by Antoine Lagneau and Antoine Magimal, passed to the painter from Lyon.


Adoration of the Magi

, by Joseph Vivien (1657-1734).

City of Givors / Lyon Historical Society

In addition to its certain historical value, this identification will allow us to deepen our knowledge of this painter appreciated at the end of the reign of Louis XIV, and who had ended his career in Bonn, in the Electorate of Cologne.

Renowned portrait painter, he was particularly distinguished by his precocious and refined use of pastel in his compositions.


Joseph Vivien is known as a portrait painter, he did not do so many religious scenes, even if one keeps one

," observed for France 3 Benoît Faure-Jarrosson.

There was no reason to attribute this painting to him.

»Acquired in 1810 in Paris by Cardinal Fesch (1763-1839), uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte and archbishop of Lyon, this

Adoration of the Magi

could have been entrusted to the walls of the church shortly after its consecration in the 1820s, or later, at the time of the important works that Saint-Nicolas de Givors experienced in the 1890s. Two other works preserved in the place of worship, including a painting by Pierre-Charles Jombert (1748-1825) just restored, could also come from the collections of Cardinal Fesch.


The major significance of this discovery confirms the great interest of the works preserved in the Saint-Nicolas church, the restoration of which should make it possible to fully appreciate all the richness

", underlined for the town hall of Givros Bruno Galland, curator and director of the archives of the Rhône department and the metropolis of Lyon.

Like various other paintings in the church, the condition of Joseph Vivien's canvas has indeed deteriorated over time, due to recent water infiltration and lack of maintenance.

A major restoration of old art objects and 19 monumental stained glass windows from the 19th century - part of which threatens to collapse - is underway at the Saint-Nicolas de Givors church, as part of an enhancement of the historical heritage of the city.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2021-04-07

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