17th century Flemish School painting found in Tours Cathedral …

On May 6 I wrote about the Jean Malouel painting – Pietà with Saint John and Two Angels – which a priest found in a cellar of the old stone church in Vic-le-Comte and which he sold with other bric-a-brac to a second-hand goods dealer. This was back in 1985 and the Louvre bought the […]

Discover in the cathedral in Tours-- By who? How much?

On May 6 I wrote about the Jean Malouel painting – Pietà with Saint John and Two Angels – which a priest found in a cellar of the old stone church in Vic-le-Comte and which he sold with other bric-a-brac to a second-hand goods dealer. This was back in 1985 and the Louvre bought the painting for €7.8 million and it goes on permanent display in the museum from tomorrow Wednesday, May 16. You can read about it here.

Well, another painting, perhaps as valuable as the Malouel (see photo above), was found in 2006 in a cupboard in the Cathedral of Saint Gatien in the town of Tours in the department of Indre-et-Loire, southwest of Paris.

Tours Cathedral

In this case the founder was the cathedral’s sexton, Thomas Cherpeau, 33.

And he is now suing the French state for the founder’s fee he is entitled to.

Construction of the Gothic cathedral was begun in 1170 but not completed until 1547. (It had replaced another cathedral which had burned down, probably sabotaged during the conflicts between France’s King Louis VII and England’s Henry II.

In 2006 when one of the cathedral’s rose windows had to be restored, the sexton was asked to clear out the space below the window. He moved a large cupboard and opening it to see what was inside he found some rotting planks and a painting.

The painting – 4 x 2 meters (13 x 7 feet) – was covered in dust and grime and mold and no one thought it was worth anything: It was just an old painting.

Yet, the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles or DRAC – the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs which falls under the Ministry of Culture, when hearing of the painting studied it and decided that it was a painting of the Flemish School of the 17th century.

DRAC had it restored which cost €30,000 – $39,000 / £24,000) and it was returned to the cathedral and it was hung up.

However, the sexton wanted his share of the value of the painting which Article 716 of the French Civil Code allowed him.

The State said no-can-do, and now the sexton is asking the Law Courts to decide whether he has a right to a share of the painting’s value.

I do explain about Art 716 in my previous article, but I will recap briefly to say that in 1905 when the Church and the State were separated, churches and whatever was in them had become the State’s property. As the cathedral did not then list the painting as one of its possessions (did not even mention it) the sexton claims that the Church did not know of the existence of the painting and when he found it in the cupboard in 2006 it was a ‘discovery’. He therefore has right to half of its value.

Justice is slow in France and the sexton is not expected to know the outcome of his case for some time, maybe even a few years.

However, judging by what the Louvre had paid for the Malouel, this 17th century painting said to be of the Conversion of Saint Paul, is worth millions too.

What I would like to know is this:

Why has the Louvre not become involved in this case?

Surely, this painting will be as great a treasure for the museum as the Malouel?

And what if it is a Rubens (1577-1640)? Look at this Rubens below – Daniel and the Lion’s Den from 1615. Look at Rubens’ use of red cloth and look at the background of mountains.

Do you see similarities?

Rubens' Daniel in the Lion's Den from 1615

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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