A painting by Édouard Odier offered to the Musée de la Vie romantique

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27/2/23 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée de la Vie romantique - After the numerous recent donations to the Musée d’Orsay (see the news item of news item of 3/6/21) and to the Petit Palais (see the news item of 11/8/21), Élisabeth and Jacques Foucart have once again shown their generosity, this time to the Musée de la Vie romantique, by offering it - still in memory of Bruno Foucart, and through the intermediary of the Société des Amis du musée - a painting by Édouard Odier representing a knight on the shore (ill. 1).

1. Édouard Odier (1800-1887)
A Knight by the Shore
Oil on canvas - 75 x 61 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie Romantique
Photo: unidentified photographer
See the image in its page

Édouard Odier is a little known name, yet he is one of those forgotten "romantic" artists who deserve to be rediscovered. This rediscovery has, it is true, been initiated by the publication of his Mémoires, accompanied by the publication of some of his letters, published in 2006, but whose distribution is nonetheless confidential [1]. The subject had been identified by Bruno Foucart as Vasco Nuñez de Balboa touching the Pacific, in particular because of the banner he carries showing the lion of Castile, and his brother had taken it up again in the 1989 article, but he told us that he had been imprudent at the time and no longer recognised this theme, preferring to give it a purely descriptive title. Is this "knight by the shore" an illustration of a feat of arms from the past? A story that has yet to be found? For the time being, it is better to remain vague, while waiting to be able to link the work to another painting.

3. Édouard Odier (1800-1887)
Capture of the Fort of Montmélian. The magistrates Come to Present Henri IV the Keys of the City, Salon of 1838
Oil on canvas - 380 x 234 cm
Nérac, Château-musée Henri IV
Photo: Le Paragone (public domain)
See the image in its page

For, as we said, horses, and knights, are one of the artist’s favourite themes, and he often shows himself to be close to better-known painters such as Gros or even Géricault [2]. In any case, he shows a vigour that testifies to his qualities as a painter, although he tended to play them down. Thus we learn that in a letter to Léopold Robert, he calls his works "mes cochonneries"! This should rather be seen as false modesty, since they show qualities that were recognised: at the 1838 Salon he was awarded a first-class medal for a commission from the King’s Household, Capture of the Fort of Montmélian. The magistrates Come to Present Henri IV the Keys of the City (ill. 3), now kept in the Henri IV castle-museum in Nérac. The king rides a horse that is not nearly as spirited as the one shown in the painting.

4. Édouard Odier (1800-1887)
Portrait of a Horseman in Armor
Oil on canvas - 81 x 65 cm
Paris, Musée de la Vie Romantique
Photo: Paris Musées (public domain)
See the image in its page

This work is therefore perfect for the museum’s collections, and will join another painting by this little-known romantic, also a Cavalier en armure (ill. 4), whose exact subject is again not identified, and where exceptionally the animal is rather calm compared to Odier’s other horses often shown prancing or rearing.

Didier Rykner


[1It is nevertheless possible to obtain it easily online].
We learn that Odier was born in 1800 in Paris, into the family of a rich banker and industrialist from Geneva. After starting to learn the banking trade from his father, he belatedly entered the studio of Amable-Paul Coutan, a history painter who won the Prix de Rome in 1820. He does not seem to have attempted to compete for this prize himself, but this did not prevent him from travelling to Italy and participating in numerous Salons. His family fortune, strengthened by a rich marriage, probably did not require him to practise his profession of painter too intensively, which may explain the small number of works known to be by him, and the fact that he seems to have stopped painting between 1851 and his death in 1887. But it is true that we still know too little about him to be fully positive.

Between 1830 and 1844, he nevertheless received several commissions, no doubt also because of his friendship with the Orléans family, in particular the Duc d’Aumale, with whom he was intimate. He was the author, along with many of his colleagues, of a large composition for one of the Crusade rooms at Versailles: the Lift of the Siege of Rhodes (ill. 2). A subject that does not show horses, although these animals were one of his favourite subjects, as the work donated to the Musée de la Vie romantique attests.

2. Édouard Odier (1800-1887)
Lift of the Siege of Rhodes, August 19, 1480, 1838
Oil on canvas - 406 x 655 cm
Versailles, Musée national du château de Versailles
Photo: Château de Versailles
See the image in its page

This was first published in an article in Genava in 1989 by Jacques Foucart following the first article in the same journal by Marcel Roethlisberger the previous year[[These essays have been republished in the book cited at the beginning of the article. We have taken the essential information from them.

[2We should probably look in the works sometimes imprudently attributed in recent years to Géricault to perhaps find - who knows? - paintings by Odier.


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