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Christ in Majesty enhances the Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection;
Tissot's Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant
joins the Paintings Collection

April 18, 2007

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum has announced today the acquisition of two new works of art.  The unusually large gilt copper and enamel relief of Christ in Majesty is a brilliant example of sculptural metalwork from a Limoges workshop, and dates from around 1188.  It joins the Museum’s collection of sculpture and decorative arts from the Medieval to the late Renaissance, including a group of stained glass windows acquired in 2003.  The second acquisition, James Jacques Joseph Tissot’s (1836–1902) Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant is an 1866 oil on canvas painting, from what is considered to be the golden age for fashionable portraiture in France.

Christ in Majesty will be a central work in one of the Museum’s newly installed sculpture and decorative arts galleries in the North Pavilion, and will form part of a display of “Cathedral Treasury” objects that will feature Medieval and Renaissance stained glass, sculpture, decorative arts, and paintings of religious imagery and liturgical function.  The new galleries are scheduled to open in early 2008.  Prior to this installation, the object will be on view beginning this May.  Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant can be seen beginning in early May 2007 in the Museum’s West Pavilion, where it will hang with other portraits by Jean-François Millet, Edgar Degas, Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Cézanne.

“Both these new acquisitions are wonderful complements to the Getty Museum’s permanent collection,” explains Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.  “There are few opportunities to acquire medieval enamels of the scale of Christ in Majesty and this piece is an extraordinarily powerful example, while the Tissot painting of the Marquise de Miramon not only expands our collection of portraiture, but also brings to public view a painting in pristine condition that has had very limited public display from what is arguably the artist’s most significant period.”

Christ in Majesty

The figure of Christ was made from a single sheet of copper worked in repoussé (embossing), with the addition of engraving and mercury gilding.  The image depicts the crowned Christ seated with his right hand raised in a blessing and holding the Bible in his left hand.  His down-turned feet rest on a small rectangular plaque with a pattern of foliate vine ornament in champlevé enamel.  The dominant color of the enamel is blue, with smaller accents of white, turquoise, green, red, and dark blue.  The borders of Christ’s tunic and the book cover are decorated with cabochons and table-cut glass and are engraved with circle, quatrilobe and crosshatched decoration.  Christ’s eyes are inset glass pearls of dark blue and his face has delicately chiseled features framed with finely engraved long hair and a short beard.

It is believed that this sculpture originally came from the Cathedral of St. Martin in Ourense in Galicia, northwest Spain, one of the most important cathedrals on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostella, as there are stylistic similarities between this object and an ensemble of 53 enameled plaques remaining at the Cathedral Museum in Ourense. 

The Christ in Majesty was probably applied as an appliqué to an enameled backplate, and would originally have formed part of a larger ensemble, probably the altar frontal (antependium ) of the main altar in Ourense Cathedral.  A common subject matter for such altar frontals was Christ in the center, flanked by the Apostles and saints.  A remaining plaque in the Cathedral Museum depicts the probable commissioner of this ensemble, Bishop Alfonso (Bishop of Ourense between 1174 and 1213) kneeling before the Cathedral’s patron saint, St. Martin.  It is thought that the altar frontal was disassembled in the early 19th century, perhaps during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Christ in Majesty is probably the largest Limoges enamel plaque in an American public collection, and now represents the earliest work in the Getty’s collection of post-Antique sculpture and decorative art.

Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant

Tissot’s Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant depicts Thérèse-Stephanie-Sophie Feuillant (1836–1912) who was a descendant of a grand bourgeois family with interests in the mines of northern France.  In 1860, she married René de Cassagnes de Beaufort, 5th Marquis de Miramon (1835–1882), bringing to their marriage a significant inherited family fortune.  The Marquis was the head of a noble family whose ancestry traced back to the 11th century.  He was also Tissot’s primary patron at the time of this portrait and went on to commission several more paintings from the artist.

In this painting, a 30-year-old Marquise de Miramon stands in one of the rooms of the Chateau de Paulhac in the Auvergne, her husband’s family seat, surrounded by decorative objects fashionable during the Second Empire.  Behind her is a Japanese screen of cranes on a gold ground and a Louis XVI stool with a pile of needlework, which suggests upper-class domesticity.  On the mantelpiece sit two Japanese vases, an 18th-century terracotta bust (possibly a family member’s portrait by the late 18th-century sculptor Philippe-Laurent Roland), a bouquet of delicate pink and rose flowers, a Japanese ceramic in the shape of a fish, and a white glove.  The Marquise wears the other glove on her right hand, which gently holds a fold of her voluminous dressing gown (a velvet, rose-colored peignoir with a pilgrim-style cape and edged with deep pink ruffles) that falls gracefully around her onto a fur-covered marble floor.  As if caught in a pensive moment, she looks off to the right, avoiding direct visual contact with the viewer.

The Getty’s Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, née Thérèse Feuillant will be the first Tissot painting to hang in a public collection in Los Angeles1.  The closest other Tissot is the artist’s Self Portrait at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, which was painted around the same time as the Getty’s work.  This new acquisition helps expand the Museum’s growing portrait collection with a fully-realized example from the Second Empire (1851–1870), which is considered in many ways a golden age for fashionable portrait painting in France, with artists such as Degas, Charles Carolus-Duran, James McNeill Whistler, and Tissot contributing major examples to the genre.  Tissot submitted this painting to the Paris World Fair in 1867, signifying the high regard he had for the work.  Apart from a brief display in 1993 at Christie’s in New York, the painting has not been seen publicly since that World Fair. 
Along with the painting, the Getty has obtained a swatch of the pink velvet dressing gown that the family felt was important enough to save, along with two letters from Tissot, one asking the Marquise to lend him the painting for the 1867 World Fair.  The letters will be added to the Getty Research Institute’s collection of letters from Tissot.

Note to editors:  Images available on request.


1The painting will also join one other work by Tissot in the Getty Museum's drawings collection - Young Woman in a Rocking Chair. The Getty Research Institute also holds several letters from Tissot from his later career concerning the sale and exhibition of etchings and his illustrations of the Old Testament.

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John Giurini
Getty Communications

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