France: the paintings of Notre-Dame in safety at the Louvre

Fifteen important paintings of the seventeenth century, spared by the flames that devastated Notre-Dame de Paris, were unhooked to be taken to the Louvre Museum on Friday, before the long restoration work began on the cathedral.

In the forecourt where floats in the air lingering smell of burning four days after the disaster, the Minister of Culture Franck Riester confirms the good news: these large paintings, “mays” of the seventeenth century (so called because they were offered in May at the cathedral by the corporation goldsmiths) -the largest of 3 meters on 4- “have not been damaged” and “are in almost normal conditions.”

Good news that was hoped since the interior of the nave had not been directly attacked by the fire.

The paintings “have been preserved from the flames and can be removed, deposited and transported in secure reserves,” says the minister.

The operation will be concluded during the day. The 15 paintings prizes, signed in particular by Laurent de La Hyre or Charles Le Brun, were carefully packaged and placed in trucks that were to transport them to the Louvre.

Some fifty people were mobilized, including four teams of six carriers. Restaurateurs, curators, a photographer have checked and surrounded their work.

“Removal is not easy. The paintings are large and heavy, the chapels are a little crowded “, including modern glass confessionals, says Isabelle Pallot-Frossard, director of the Center for Research and Restoration of Museums in France.

“The packaging work is the longest since we go down first, we observe them, we make the statement of state, photographs, and then we pack them,” she said.

For Judith Kagan, head of the heritage conservation office, “what we are doing right now is an evacuation to allow the yard to unfold without being occupied with the precious objects in the middle.” “There are no paintings damaged in the fire,” she says.

Only four works, intact but not yet accessible because the places where they are must be secure, were to remain in the cathedral: two paintings, a reliquary containing the remains of Saint Genevieve, patron saint of Paris, and “a Virgin with the child who is straight and has kept a small candle that has been lit for several days, “says Judith Kagan.

Way of the Cross

To explain the good state of preservation, M me Pallot-Frossard explains that “there was no water at all fallen in the chapels. There was no soot as there was no significant fire in the cathedral. When flaming beams fell, firefighters immediately put a stop to the fire.

On Good Friday, when Catholics commemorate the Passion of Jesus and his crucifixion, the Archbishop of Paris, Bishop Michel Aupetit, who normally takes part in the Stations of the Cross at the Sacred Heart, participates in the one organized around Notre-Dame with the faithful.

The crown of thorns, leaving the cathedral with other relics from Monday night, will not be worn on the course, for security reasons, said the diocese.

President Emmanuel Macron, who announced the end of the project in five years, attracting criticism of skeptics who believe that such an operation will take more time, received Friday a delegation of UNESCO.

They gave an update on the international aid that flocked to the reconstruction of Notre Dame, alongside General Jean-Louis Georgelin, appointed by the presidency to oversee the reconstruction.

According to the art expert Eric Turquin, who has done a lot of expertise after fires, “the fact that the paintings were in side chapels probably preserved them from excessive heat that would have crystallized the painting. and would have had an irremediable effect. ”

In 2017, twelve million tourists visited Notre-Dame, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that had been the subject of major works for several months, and whose fire caused an emotion worldwide. Donations from patrons and private individuals have flocked. Scammers have attempted to intercept some of the donations with fake sites.