On 16 June 2020, the Old Master and 19th Century Art department will be holding its grand sale for this semester. This exceptional sale will be an opportunity for enthusiasts to discover the wonderful collection of Baron François Empain, entitled Éloge de la folie (In Praise of Folly). Monomaniacs, madmen, frenzied dancers, drinkers and oddly-behaved animals characterise this singular collection in which collectors will find such distinguished names as Brueghel, Antonio Canova and Jacob Jordaens. Here, we present a painting and two sculptures from this important collection in more detail.
This painting has a particularly noteworthy feature: it is a unique example of LeRoi boit!, as it is the only panel known to be signed BRVEGHEL rather than BREVGHEL, the artist having changed his signature around 1616.
With its lively scene of perfect folly, this one uniquely rare piece embodies the theme of the whole collection. Here, the Feast of the Epiphany is being celebrated in a Flemish province. Everyone is revelling in the boisterous display, in which chickens, dogs and cats take fright, the large doors are wide open in spite of it being winter and the messengers to the left are being ignored.
Dance, a theme which accompanied Antonio Canova throughout his career, is splendidly represented by these two dancers in white marble.In 1802, the Venetian master was commissioned by Joséphine de Beauharnais to sculpt a statue to grace her Malmaison residence; delivered in 1812, Dancer with Hands on Hips was a resounding success at the Salon. In 1814, Dancer with Finger on Chin was completed and delivered to financier Domenico Manzoni di Forli. From the 19th century onwards, the dancers appeared as a pair in the most beautiful collections.
These original sculptures in white marble illustrate Canova's meticulous craftsmanship: one can see the fluid movement of the fabrics, the precise detail achieved in the flowers, and the curves of the dancers performing their steps.