Watercolor model of the Grand Salon (Maquette of the Grand Salon of the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 88.58)
Thursday, July 14, 2005Thursday, November 9, 2006
A new period room opened July 14, 2005, Bastille Day, at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Permanently installed within the museum, the Grand Salon from the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière (c. 1735) is one of the most intact existing interiors from early eighteenth-century Paris. This room retains its sumptuously carved and gilded paneling. The Grand Salon reflects a mixture of the régence and rococo styles. Its aesthetic merit is complemented by its important history, once owned by Jean Gaillard de La Bouëxière, who successfully pursued royal positions during the reign of Louis XV.
The Groves Foundation, with the support of Carolyn and Franklin Groves, purchased the Grand Salon for The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and continue to fund its complete conservation, restoration, and installation. The Foundation has also provided for an adjacent museum gallery that interprets the Grand Salon and exhibits French and European fine and decorative arts of the eighteenth century.
About the Grand Salon
Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière in the early 20th century
The Grand Salon, with its carved and gilded paneling, is a distinguished survival of 18th-century French interior design. This elegant room-now painstakingly conserved and restored-originated as the formal reception space (c. 1735) in a Paris mansion. The owner, Jean Gaillard de La Bouëxière (1676-1759), was a wealthy man from Brittany who pursued influential positions during the reign of Louis XV.
In the early 18th century, many French merchants, financiers, and nobles acquired private residences in fashionable Paris neighborhoods like the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the Place Vendôme. In 1731, Jean Gaillard de La Bouëxière bought a residence at the corner of the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs (now the Rue Danielle Casanova) and the Rue d'Antin, near the Place Vendôme. He enlarged and modernized the 1682 building, creating an hôtel (mansion) befitting his elite status as a fermier général (tax collector) for the Crown.
Room plan (late 18th century) of the second floor of the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière
The principal rooms of the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière, located on the second floor, included a grand salon richly decorated in the régence and rococo styles popular during the 1730s. In the salons of 18th-century Paris, cultivated people gathered to converse, read literature, enjoy music, and engage in diversions such as card playing. This room's design and decoration created an ambience conducive to those refined pursuits.
Gilded carvings on the two curved wall panels celebrate the arts and hunting. Other panels are adorned with images from classical mythology, including Apollo and the Muses, and with allegorical portraits of the continents. On the cornice that crowns the paneling, putti enjoy life's pleasures while droll monkeys play musical instruments. According to inventories of the time, the grand salon was furnished mainly with gilded armchairs upholstered in Gobelins tapestry picturing scenes from Aesop's fables.
After the death of Jean Gaillard de La Bouëxière in 1759, the hôtel changed hands many times. Ornately paneled rooms were removed from the building, and the interior was subdivided and remodeled. In 1983, through the generosity of The Groves Foundation, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts acquired the mansion's grand salon.
Installation of the Grand Salon is entirely funded through The Groves Foundation and the generosity of Carolyn and Franklin Groves, connoisseurs of French art committed to providing an architectural context for the Institute's impressive collection of French decorative arts.
Symbolism in the Grand Salon
Mythology - Apollo
Allegory - America
Trophy - Hunting
Chinoiserie - Fireback
Singerie - Monkeys and music
Evolution of a Period Room
Detail of the cabinet (study) from the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière as installed at the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1944 (The Saint Louis Art Museum, Purchase 7:1929)
The Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière remained in the family of Jean Gaillard de La Bouëxière until 1766. The bank BNP Paribas owns the renovated building today.
In the late 1920s, the dealers Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co. of Paris sold several rooms from the mansion. The Saint Louis Art Museum purchased a cabinet (study), which remains on view as a period room. In 1929, one week before the stock market crash, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York acquired paneling from the grand salon along with the fireback, fireplace marble, and cornice on view today.
Watercolor model of the Grand Salon
(Maquette of the Grand Salon of the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 88.58)
In the 1940s, the Metropolitan commissioned the interior decorating firm Carlhian of Paris to make a watercolor model of the grand salon. The room's two long walls are reversed in the model, and the interior shutters and faux marble baseboard are missing. Carlhian had to create the model's curtains and four overdoor paintings, since the originals had been removed before the room was sold to the Metropolitan and shipped to New York. The model was given to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1988 by Leon and David Dalva.
The Metropolitan never installed the grand salon, and eventually the New York antiques dealers Dalva Brothers acquired it. In 1983, Carolyn and Franklin Groves and The Groves Foundation purchased the grand salon from Dalva Brothers and donated it to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, with funds to complete its conservation, restoration, and installation.
Conservation and Restoration
More than a dozen workshops, conservation firms, and restoration companies in America and France, in addition to members of the museum's staff, contributed their skills to installing the Grand Salon in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Throughout the process, the museum's curators consulted colleagues at institutions that had undertaken similar projects with their 18th-century French period rooms: the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the American Embassy in Paris.
Artisans from Les Ateliers Gohard (Paris) gilding plaster reliefs in the cornice
From 2002 to 2005, Les Ateliers de la Chapelle in Le Longeron, France, and Les Ateliers Gohard in Paris conserved and, where necessary, restored the carved and gilded panels. Most of their work was carried out in France, following practices of traditional craftsmanship. Meanwhile, the Upper Midwest Conservation Association, housed in the Institute, performed the challenging task of resculpting plaster reliefs on the cornice and the ceiling medallion and repairing breaks in the marble fireplace mantel and hearth.
Artisans from Les Ateliers de la Chapelle (Le Longeron, France) assembling the paneling
The cast-iron fireback is based on an 18th-century example. The 18th-century fireplace bricks came from the Château de Noizé in Maine-et-Loire, France. Plaster designs based on 18th-century motifs adorn the cornice. The six sconces derive from similar sconces (c. 1735) in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the model for the chandelier originally hung in the Château d'Ingelmunster in Belgium, near Lille, France.
The restored windows, interior shutters, and parquet floor are based on photographs taken when their historical counterparts were still intact in the Hôtel Gaillard de La Bouëxière. The window soffits and ceiling medallion were made from plaster casts taken from the originals. The two-part leaded mirrors and the crimson silk curtains with their gilt-threaded passementerie (trim and braid) were reproduced from descriptions in the 1759 inventory of the room.