The rediscovered magic of the grand decorations of Notre-Dame de Paris

STORY – Mobilier national reveals the impressive paintings, choir carpets and tapestries of the recently restored cathedral.

After the restoration of the walls of Notre-Dame, interior objects and decorations came next. This project within a project, which is nearing its end, mainly concerned the large-scale paintings that decorated the cathedral. Five years after the fire and until July 21, the Mobilier national is exhibiting some of the “big” decorations that have been patiently restored in its workshops and at the C2RMF – as well as models of future liturgical furniture.

The spaces of the Galerie des Gobelins are huge and high ceilings, tapestries, a huge choir carpet commissioned by CharlesE century (called “may”) perfectly find their place there. The exhibition at the height of the cathedral creates a majestic impression.

22 paintings

The day after the fire on April 15, 2019, heritage curators noted that no artwork was damaged (except the altar) – a miracle. For safety reasons, paintings, furniture and sculptures will still be evacuated from the cathedral. Thanks to the donated money, the decision was made to restore them in depth.

At the exhibition, a room is dedicated to videos that show restorers from four groups of companies working mainly on May. For two years, at least 50 people were mobilized at the bedside of 22 paintings. Before their restoration, they each benefited from a scientific study using ultraviolet and infrared rays. There was much to discover, especially in the paintings of Aubin Vouet or Charles Le Brun, compositional adjustments and repaintings. The play before and after the cleaning is captivating for the visitor: we see how faces, expressions or hands appear until then largely hidden by the dirt.

A legendary set

Among the main works with which we find ourselves literally face to face, thirteen great Mays, thanks to the best painters of the 17th century.E century, including Charles Le Brun, Laurent de La Hyre, Charles Poerson and the Le Nain brothers.

Thirteen is part of a private collection consisting of paintings offered annually in May between 1630 and 1707 by the Paris goldsmiths’ corporation. Accompanied by an interpretation or a poem, almost seventy-six Mayans were once placed in the nave. Today, this ensemble has become legendary in the eyes of conservatives, especially since the French Revolution was responsible for its dispersal. “Of the original 76, many have disappeared, some have been stored in churches or museums, and 13 were in the cathedral on the night of the fire,” calculates Emmanuel Pénicaut, Director of Collections at Mobilier national. When Notre-Dame reopens, they will be placed back in the chapels and offered to the gaze of millions of visitors.

In addition to the grand Mays, the National Exhibition of Mobilier displays half of the fabulous monumental choir carpet commissioned by Charles’ chest at the back of the cathedral. Which saved it from the fall of the vault on the evening of April 15, 2019. It was used for major celebrations, including the wedding of Napoleon III, the visit of Tsar Nicholas II. in 1896 or Jean-Paul II. in 1980 During the 850th anniversary of Notre-Dame, in 2013, the Archdiocese of Paris briefly displayed it in the nave. This shows that its exposure is rare.

Until July 21st, the Mobilier national is exhibiting some of the “big” decorations that have been restored in its workshops and at the C2RMF (Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France).
DRAC Île de France

Rich stained glass window

It has been dusted and cleaned – the National Furniture curators have also repaired some tears caused by moths. Half of this choir carpet (the other half is still under restoration) can be admired from a small platform that provides an overview of this masterpiece. Very richly decorated, reminiscent of abundant stained glass windows.

When leaving the rooms, don’t forget to look at the current liturgical furniture (in miniature). The diocese commissioned five elements of liturgical furniture from the artist and designer Guillaume Bardet (ambassador, altar, cathedral, baptistery and tabernacle) to be made at the Barthélémy Art foundry in Crest in Drôme. Because they were made of bronze and stone, they could not be moved to the tapestries. However, we can see models that give a good idea of ​​how these heavy brown objects with clean lines will fit into the main ship.

Right next to the models are two sofas in light solid oak produced by Landes Bosc. They also come from a competition announced by the Diocese of Paris. He insisted that the 1,500 chairs in Notre-Dame remain discreet and above all utilitarian. A command respected by the designer Ionna Vautrinová, who imagined chairs with poles, slightly angular, easy to transport.

In the end, not everything on display will be reinstalled at Notre-Dame, the large choir carpet and tapestries, which are inherently fragile, will be placed in reserve. It is a great opportunity to come face to face with these exceptional woven works and paintings staged side by side. Together, these pieces tell the story of the splendor of the religious art dedicated to Notre-Dame de Paris.

“The magnificent restored decoration of Notre-Dame”, until July 21 at the Galerie des Gobelins (Paris, 13E). Res.: furniturenational.culture.gouv.fr

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