Introduction Art Collection Academie


The database is comparing the composition and arrangement of the collection of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1715 and 1781.


The present database is built on two eighteenth-century sources – Description de l’Académie Royale des arts de peinture et de sculpture (1715) by the secretary of the Académie Nicolas Guérin and Description sommaire des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture et gravure exposés dans les salles de l’Académie Royale (1781) by art amateur Antoine-Nicolas Dezallier d’Argenville. In their inventories, Guérin and Dezallier d’Argenville list the paintings, sculptures, engravings, and plaster casts that made up the art collection of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1715 and in 1781 respectively and describe, to different lengths, the arrangement of these objects in the rooms of the Académie at the Louvre. These documents thus provide relatively accurate information on the composition and layout of the collection at two different points in the eighteenth century. Consisting of 655 objects, 173 of which were part of the collection both in 1715 and 1781, our database allows one to work with each year separately or to compare the two.


It is essential to note that at these two points in time – in 1715 and in 1781 – the Académie occupied different floors. The institution changed its location numerous times (it was originally housed at the Saint-Eustache, then at the Hôtel Clisson on rue des Deux-Boules, on rue Sainte-Catherine, and at the Palais-Royal), before ending up in the Louvre in 1692. But even in the Louvre, the Académie moved as many as three times: at first it was situated on the first floor, then in 1712 it moved to the ground floor, and finally in 1724 it reoccupied the first floor. Hence Guérin, writing in 1715, describes the arrangement of the collection on the ground floor of the Louvre, while Dezallier d’Argenville, writing in 1781, describes its arrangement on the first floor.


It is equally important to observe that neither Guérin, nor Dezallier d’Argenville are all-encompassing in their descriptions. Guérin’s inventory covers the objects that adorned the Salon, the Salle d’Assemblée, what he calls the “Troisième salle” and the “Salle séparée des autres”, and the Vestibule but gives only general information about the two life-drawing rooms, the other two rooms that the Académie occupied on the ground floor of the Louvre. Life-drawing rooms (there were two on the first floor of the Louvre as well) are also omitted from Dezallier d’Argenville’s description, which focuses on the Antichambre, the Grande salle, the Salle des portraits, the Salle d’Assemblée, and the Galerie d’Apollon. In the meantime, in both 1715 and 1781, these rooms housed bas-reliefs and paintings that were awarded the Grand Prix de Rome, académies (figural drawings by professors that students copied before they were allowed to draw from life), and wax and terracotta bas-reliefs (from which students drew before proceeding to drawing from a model). Therefore, although life-drawing rooms and the objects that adorned them are crucial to understanding of the Académie royale and its collection, they are not part of our database. Nor are the prints that could be consulted at the Cabinet des estampes, again only because they are not listed by Dezallier d’Argenville.


The vast majority of the objects recorded by Guérin and Dezallier d’Argenville are reception pieces – the works that young artists submitted for examination by the academic jury to become full members of the institution. The inventories also contain a large number of donated and commissioned artworks, many of which were portraits of patrons and members of the Académie. They also also occasionally include purchased works (mostly prints), paraphernalia of academic teaching (such as two human skeletons used in anatomy classes), and works of art from the royal collection that leaked into the Académie’s rooms.


After the dissolution of the Académie in 1793, this one-of-a-kind body of works was divided between the Musée du Louvre, the École Nationale Superiore des Beaux-Arts, the Château de Versailles, and many other collections in France and abroad. The main contribution of the present database is that it finds objects that once were displayed together at the Louvre in their current locations. Nevertheless, there remain quite a few unidentified pieces, objects with uncertain attribution, and lost works. We would therefore be very grateful for any further information and would welcome any contributions, corrections, or hypotheses via

User Guide

This database contains artwork records, a search engine and a set of tags that allow the user to filter search results by type, medium, artist, current location, and date (1715 or 1781). The chronological filter allows further classification by room. As the Académie occupied different floors in 1715 and 1781, the set of rooms for each year is different (note that the 1715 Salle d’Assemblée and the 1781 Salle d’Assemblée are two different rooms). Entries of individual artworks include its technical description, reference to the catalogue of the collection in which it is housed today, indication of the location of the work on the ground floor of the Louvre in 1715 and/or on the first floor in 1781, links to primary sources, links to additional resources, legal information on the use of images and metadata, citation references, and contact information. The user can add several entries in a selection using the bookmark icon and print out the selection using the print icon.