She is 30 and he is 36, Giulia Longo curator at Musée Anne de Beaujeu in Moulins, and Lionel Arsac, curator of sculptures at Versailles both received the second Prix Michel Laclotte, dedicated to young curators at the beginning of their career. Introduced by Geneviève Bresc-Gaultier, who talked about working with Michel Laclotte (1929-2021) at the Louvre when he was 42 and already director of the paintings department, the Prize is given by “Fondation pour l’art et la recherche” under the patronage of Sauvegarde de l’Art Français presided by Oliver de Rohan. Giulia Longo organized a major exhibition on Anne de France in Moulins and a colloquium and Lionel Arsac found a group of sculptures ordered by Louis XIV for the gardens of Trianon which had disappeared. They are now back in Versailles thanks to the generosity of the Angolan Embassy who received in exchange a copy in marble resin made by Atelier Prométhée, which sits in the garden of former Hotel Ephrussi Rothschild on avenue Foch. And it was the topic of an exhibition this Spring at Versailles.
It is an extraordinary adventure which Lionel Arsac started when he discovered a small black and white picture of the “Zéphyr et Amour” marble composition ordered by Louis XIV two years before his death in 1713. And the prize took into account his sense of diplomacy and persuasion as well as his skills as an art historian, detective and researcher. For the last five years (he is 36), he travelled in the archives and to the Rothschild houses where the sculpture was thought to reside since it was sold to Alphonse de Rothschild in 1881. And he found it at the embassy of Angola on avenue Foch, a former Rothschild residence with another group “L’Abondance” . Once the State of Angola accepted to give it to the French government, his hardest task was to convince the Administration but on February 4, 2022, he could celebrate. The deal was signed by both ministers. Now a catalog has been published.
Giulia Longo who studied in Pisa and at Ecole du Louvre spoke in perfect French and alluded to Michel Laclotte’s love for Italy when she thanked the jury for the Prize. She has worked at Musée Anne de Beaujeu in Moulins for three years and talked with eloquence about the sculptures of Bourbonnais and the beginning of the Renaissance in this area where Anne de France (1461-1522), daughter of Louis XI and sister of Charles VIII, reigned over the arts in this region, conveniently located between Lyon and the Loire valley. Her exhibition last year and the colloquium she organized with Mathieu Deldicque and Maxence Hermant from BNF, took place over two days when they discussed the part taken by Anne de France in the period. Jean Hey, Maître de Moulins, is the most famous character of the town thanks to his triptych, but Longo’s research led to understand how important culturally the princess had been.
It was a moment of great joy to see these young curators, so bright and so curious, who were rewarded for the efforts they make to increase our knowledge of the past. Michel Laclotte was a revered art historian and director of Musée d’Orsay and of the Louvre. And each recipient underlined that his spirit was still vivid among us. The Prize of 5 000€, given by Fondation pour l’Art et la Recherche (presided by Christian Volle) was split between the two laureates.
Olivier de Rohan, who runs Sauvegarde de l’art Français, a foundation which celebrated its 100 th anniversary last year, has endless energy and develops artistic programs for the young. A new project sends high school children to find objects to restore in their towns and they are given a 10 000€ budget. Thanks to his discussions with the French educational system, this program is now credited in the school exams. In Italy, history of art is part of every school curriculum, and the name of Pierre Rosenberg was mentioned as deploring the fact that it is not enough taught in France. Let’s hope that thanks to private energy, the state realizes how important it is.