The apartment of the Count of Nieuwerkerke in the Louvre

The apartment of the Count of Nieuwerkerke in the Louvre

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  • Interior of the cabinet of Count Emilien de Nieuwerkerke, Director General of the Imperial Museums, in the Louvre.

    GIRAUD Charles (1819 - 1892)

  • Nieuwerkerke in his room at the Louvre.


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Title: Interior of the cabinet of Count Emilien de Nieuwerkerke, Director General of the Imperial Museums, in the Louvre.

Author : GIRAUD Charles (1819 - 1892)

Creation date : 1859

Date shown: 1859

Dimensions: Height 85 - Width 108

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 90-001839-02 / RF1990-4

Interior of the cabinet of Count Emilien de Nieuwerkerke, Director General of the Imperial Museums, in the Louvre.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Nieuwerkerke in his room at the Louvre.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 17.8 - Width 28.4

Technique and other indications: Old photograph, made in the XIXe, from the painting by Charles Giraud, Nieuwerkerke in his room at the Louvre, kept at the Casa de Alba Foundation, at Liria Palace, Madrid.

Storage location: National Museum of the Château de Compiègne website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 00-011290 / S.N.

Nieuwerkerke in his room at the Louvre.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: May 2005

Historical context

The political and administrative career of Count Emilien de Nieuwerkerke coincides exactly with the period of the IIe Republic and Second Empire. The fate of Princess Mathilde's lover is indeed closely linked to that of the imperial family.

From December 25, 1849, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, President of the Republic, appointed him Director General of the National Museums. The Count of Nieuwerkerke thus succeeds Philippe-Auguste Jeanron (1809-1877) at the head of the team of curators who, under his leadership, contribute to the influence of French museums and lay the foundations of the current organization of national museums.

The cultural policy of the Second Empire was extremely rich and dynamic; the national museums benefit from significant resources which allow them a wide development: spectacular acquisitions such as, for example, the purchase of the collection of antiques of the Marquis de Campana in 1861; massive opening of museums to the public; modernization and extension of existing cultural establishments or creation of new museums such as the Picardy museum in Amiens.

In 1849, the national museums came under the Ministry of the Interior. As a result of this reorganization, Nieuwerkerke was appointed Intendant of Fine Arts of the Emperor's House on July 5, 1853, a function of an essentially honorary nature, limited to the role of unofficial adviser to the sovereign in artistic matters.

On June 23, 1863, the Department of Fine Arts was attached to the House of the Emperor and united to the General Directorate of Imperial Museums within the Superintendence of Fine Arts. On June 30, the appointment of the Count of Nieuwerkerke to the post of Superintendent of Fine Arts gave him absolute authority both over the imperial museums and over public commissions or the School of Fine Arts, which he undertook to reform from 1863.

Nevertheless, it was the government formed on January 4, 1870 that created a veritable Ministry of Fine Arts whose portfolio was entrusted to lawyer Maurice Richard. Emilien de Nieuwerkerke retained the title and function of Superintendent of the Imperial Museums until his resignation on September 5, 1870, the day after Sedan's surrender.

Image Analysis

Charles Giraud's painting represents the count of Nieuwerkerke's study in the second apartment he occupied in the Louvre from 1858. This vast room, sixteen meters long, communicates with the anteroom through a large opening supported by two columns of marble and framed by pilasters. On either side of this opening, the director of the Imperial Museums had the marble effigy of two of his most illustrious predecessors placed: on the left, the bust of Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825) by Joseph-Charles Marin ; on the right, the bust of Count Auguste de Forbin (1777-1841) by Joseph-Marius Ramus. On the opposite wall, as if in echo, the official portraits of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, according to Winterhalter, frame the window overlooking the rue de Rivoli. In the center of the room, enthroned on an Aubusson carpet, precious artistically arranged objects seem to imitate a still life from the 17th century.e century. We recognize the nave of the royal collections, which is next to an Egyptian canopic vase and to pieces of weaponry that belonged to King Charles IX. Paintings by old masters - Cariani, Titian, Giorgione, Albane, Canaletto, Guardi… -, probably taken from the reserves of the Louvre museum, adorn the walls.

The ostentatious luxury of this cabinet is indicative of the power of this high official of the imperial regime. The decor is indicative of an era dominated by eclecticism of taste: contemporary works - such as the statue of Psyche trying on her finger one of the arrows of Love, by Célestin-Anatole Calmels - side by side with works from the Renaissance or the highest Antiquity.

Charles Giraud's painting Nieuwerkerke in his room at the Louvre now belongs to the collections of the Casa de Alba Foundation, at Liria Palace, Madrid. The National Museum of the Château de Compiègne has this old photograph, taken in the 19th century.e century by an anonymous operator.

Although vast and monumental, this room is more sober and more stripped down than the office of the director of the Imperial Museums. Framed by two 18th century chests of drawerse century, the four-poster bed is placed in an alcove which occupies the back of the room. A weapon trophy adorns the right wall, above a carpet-covered table. A round pedestal table stands in the center of the room. Books are carelessly placed on the floor. The count of Nieuwerkerke is seen from behind, seated in a padded armchair. He reads the newspaper in front of a fireplace topped with a large mirror.

This is a private room, undoubtedly where its many guests on "Fridays du Louvre" do not enter. On the left, a small dog lifts its head out of its basket. He bears a strong resemblance to one of Princess Mathilde's pugs, the only person allowed into the privacy of the Count's bedroom.


Manager of national and then imperial museums, from December 25, 1849 to September 5, 1870, Count Émilien de Nieuwerkerke had official accommodation in the Louvre, where he settled the day after his appointment.

From 1849 to 1857, he occupied an apartment on the site of the Daru staircase, near the Salon Carré. François-Auguste Biard's painting An evening at the Louvre with the Comte de Nieuwerkerke is set in the luxurious living room of this first residence.

In 1857, the redevelopments of the Louvre undertaken by the architect Hector Lefuel (1810-1880) led the Comte de Nieuwerkerke to settle on the first floor of the Marengo wing, between the Cour Carrée and the rue de Rivoli. The work forced the director to temporarily give up his Friday evenings. They resumed on January 22, 1858, in this new apartment whose luxury and size had nothing to envy to the old one, as Horace de Viel-Castel, curator of the Musée des Souverains since 1852, bitterly remarked on June 19, 1857. : “The apartment that Nieuwerkerke is having in the Louvre takes up seventeen rooms on the first floor. Lefuel no longer knows how to get by; since the day this apartment was decreed, the demands of Nieuwerkerke have been increasing every day. He only asked for good boy's accommodation at first; today it has arrived at the complete apartment, living rooms, bedrooms, study, dining room, bathroom, etc., etc. As for the Conservatives, there is no point in their being housed; it is even unnecessary for them to occupy a decent office, a kind of attic is enough for them. However, Nieuwerkerke neither dines nor lunches at the Louvre, he spends half of the year in the countryside and is busier with external matters than with those of the Museum. He is aiming at the Senate and when he does he will deal with the Museum even less. "

Of course, the Count of Nieuwerkerke liked pomp. He was not devoid of personal ambitions: he was appointed senator on October 5, 1864. He nevertheless managed to reconcile his activities as an artist and collector with his responsibilities as a competent administrator of the imperial museums.

  • Nieuwerkerke (Emilien de)
  • Louvre
  • Museum
  • patrimony
  • Second Empire
  • Alive Denon (Dominica)
  • Napoleon III
  • Titian (Tiziano Vecellio)


Christiane AULANIER, History of the Louvre Palace and Museum, volume IV “The new Louvre of Napoleon III”, Paris, RMN, 1953.Geneviève BRESC-BAUTIER, Louvre Museum New acquisitions by the Department of Paintings (1987-1990), Paris, RMN, 1991.Philippe CHENNEVIERES, Memories of a Director of Fine Arts, Paris, Athena, reissue 1979.Fernande GOLDSCHMIDT, Nieuwerkerke, the handsome Emilien, prestigious director of the Louvre under Napoleon III, Paris, Art International Publishers, 1997 Jean TULARD (dir.), Dictionary of the Second Empire, Paris, Fayard, 1995.The Count of Nieuwerkerke: Art and power under Napoleon III, catalog of the exhibition at the Musée national du Château de Compiègne, Paris, RMN, 2000.The Louvre Review, 1990, n ° 4, p.310-311.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The apartment of the Count of Nieuwerkerke at the Louvre"

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