May-June 2012

Two paintings of the Musée de Reims in the spotlight - May and June 2012

Apollon et Daphné

© Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Reims
about 1890, oil on canvas, 350 x 250 cm

Conference at Châlons-en-Champagne, May 2012

Direction régionale des affaires culturelles de Champagne-Ardenne.
Lecture on the History of Art by Patrick Le Chanu, Chief Curator of the National Heritage and Councillor for Museums at the D.R.A.C.
Wednesday 16th May 2012: “How to Interpret a Picture: Apollo and Daphne by George Desvallières.”

A new masterpiece has recently been added to the collections of the Musée des Beaux Arts at Reims. A few years ago, thanks to the generosity of one of the painter George Desvallière’s descendants, the collections of the Musée des Beaux Arts at Reims was able to acquire an important masterpiece portraying one of the great themes of classical European art: Apollo and Daphne. That was a rare and important event.
Patrick Le Chanu recently gave a lecture on this work, thereby encouraging the Champagne-Ardenne Region public to go and admire this original mythological composition at Reims. According to him, this is one of the finest and most beautiful acquisitions that the Champagne-Ardenne Museums have made in the last few decades.

Sacré-Cœur, protecteur des familles

© Photo: C. Devleeschauwer
1924, oil on paper mounted on canvas, 109,3 x 113,2 cm

At the time of his conversion, the painter George Desvallières (1861-1950) set out to portray divine love in a symbolic manner, and presented his Sacred Heart in a very “non-sulpician” style at the 1905 Salon. From above the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre, Christ tears open his heart over the city of Paris with his two hands, and offers the capital his blood shed on the cross.
Having served as a battalion commander in the 1914-1918 war, Desvallières again took up this concept on his return from the front, and in his Drapeau du Sacré-Cœur in Verneuil-Sur-Avre, showed to what extent God was present during his war-time hardships. Christ on the battle-field shares in the sufferings of the ordinary soldiers, and his heart is placed in the middle of the French flag.
The artist remained fond of portraying divine love as represented by the Sacred Heart, and in 1924 he produced this Sacré-Cœur protecteur des familles, now in the Museum of Reims.
In the manner of Piero de la Francesca or of Simone Martini in their Virgins of Divine Mercy, Desvallières presents Christ, in the place of the Virgin Mary, taking a family under his protection. Christ’s cross is present in the picture as its socket is shown: for Desvallières true love was indissociable from sacrifice. But Christ’s heart, henceforth glorious, shines its light on the three children. He leans over them with a mother’s delicate care, folding them under protection of his kindly cloak. Crowned with a halo on which the artist has inscribed the sacred message LOVE, Christ himself incarnates this word, and evokes another commandment given to his apostles: “Let the little children come unto me”.
Here was another way for the renovator of sacred art to illustrate the art of being Christian: to keep a childlike heart.

Translation by David Baird-Smith


Ambroselli, Catherine, « George Desvallières et la Grande Guerre », La Cohorte, Revue de la Société d’entraide des membres de la Légion d’honneur, n° 206, Paris, novembre 2011, p. 10-16.

Ambroselli, Catherine, « George Desvallières et la Grande Guerre », "George Desvallières and the First World War", Revue LISA (Litteratures, histoire des Idées, images, Sociétés du monde Anglophone) / LISA e-journal (Literature, history of ideas, Images and Societies of the English-speAking world) Vol. X – n° 1 | 2012, Regards croisés sur des guerres contemporaines‎, Varieties of Experience of Modern Warfare‎, edited by Renée Dickason, La Grande Guerre : témoignages, évocations et culte du souvenir‎, (à paraître), p. 34-50, mis en ligne le 13 mars 2012,

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Ambroselli, Catherine, « Sacré-Cœur, protecteur des familles », Magnificat, n° 235, Rennes, Sotiaf / Magnificat, juin 2012, p. 416.

Ambroselli, Catherine, « George Desvallières (1861-1950), peintre et témoin dominicain », Le courrier de l'amitié dominicaine, n° 211, Toulouse, juin 2012, p. 4.

Copyright © Catherine Ambroselli de Bayser, June 2012.