A Collector Clinched a Rare 17th-Century Terracotta Sculpture for a Record $2.85 Million at a French Auction. Now, the Louvre Is Snatching It


Imagine going to an auction house, determined to take home an art historical treasure. The piece you want sparks a heated bidding war, but you prevail even as the price soars to record levels. Then, still flush with victory, you get the call: a museum decided they want your latest trophy—and under the law, they can snatch it out from under you by matching your winning bid.

That’s exactly what’s happening to one collector after the “The Great Centuries” sale on June 18, at Osenat in Versailles. After an exceedingly rare terracotta sculpture by 17th-century French artist François Anguier sold for €2.6 million ($2.85 million), the Louvre in Paris decided it wanted the artwork. To the collector’s presumed chagrin, the institution has exercised its right under French patrimony laws to overturn the auction result.

“This means that a museum doesn’t intervene during the sale, but when the auction is over it ‘pre-empts, i.e. it buys the piece at the final price,” a Louvre spokeswoman told the .

The artwork dates to before 1767, and is a preparatory work for a funerary monument the artist created for Jacques de Souvré, a French military officer who was a member of the Knights of Malta. It had not been seen at auction since 1872, following an initial sale in 1763.

François Anguier, <em>Funerary Monument to Jacques de Souvré</em> (before 1667). Collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

François Anguier, (before 1667). Collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

“I have never had my hands on a 17th-century terracotta model of this importance modeled by a French sculptor,” sculpture appraiser Alexandre Lacroix, of the company Lacroix Jeannest, told . “Until the 18th century, the French preferred wax or wood to present models to their patrons, and it wasn’t until the 1730s that terracotta sculptures appeared at the Salon de l’Académie. When you also consider the extreme fragility of the material, it’s easy to see why early French terracotta works are so rare. Though preserved at the time by sculptors or patrons, they have now almost all disappeared.”

According to the magazine, there are only two other known extant terracotta funerary monument models from the era, one by Gilles Guérin and a second Anguier, still in the hands of his descendants.

The Osenat sale marks an auction record for the artist, who has only had two lots appears on the market, in 2010 and 1992, according to the Artnet Price Database. Both were bought in. This time around, the auction house was expecting fireworks, with a presale estimate of €2 million to €3 million ($2.2 million to $3.3 million).

The final marble version, originally created for the church of Saint Jean de Latran in Paris, was dismantled during the French Revolution. The main portion of it now resides in the Louvre. By snagging the recently auctioned model, the museum will be able to finally reunite the two works.


More Trending Stories:  

The Brooklyn Museum’s Much-Criticized ‘It’s Pablo-matic’ Show Is Actually Weirdly at War With Itself Over Hannah Gadsby’s Art History 

This Famed Dollhouse Is Hung With Tiny Original Artworks, Including a Miniature Duchamp. Here Are Three Things to Know About the One-of-a-Kind Treasure 

A Writer Is Calling Out the British Museum for Using Her Translations of Chinese Poetry in an Exhibition Without Permission 

Beeple Collector Metakovan Is Suing Twobadour, Claiming His Ex-Partner Is Falsely Taking Credit for Buying the $69 Million NFT 

The Site of Caesar’s Assassination in Rome, Until Recently Only Visited by a Colony of Stray Cats, Is Now Open to Human Tourists Too 

Anna Delvey’s New Hustle Is a Podcast of Frothy Conversations With Artists, Writers, and Fellow Fraudsters—and It Could Be Illegal 

Rubens Painting Lost For 300 Years and Misidentified When Last Sold at Auction Will Star At Upcoming Sotheby’s Sale in London 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here