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Schedule for the second half of the temporary exhibitions in 2024

At the Louvre

Titles and dates subject to change



16 October 2024-3 February 2025
Hall Napoléon

Exhibition curators: Elisabeth Antoine-König, Senior Curator in the Department of Decorative Arts, and Pierre-Yves Le Pogam, Senior Curator in the Department of Sculptures, Musée du Louvre.

The fascinating figure of the fool, an integral part of medieval visual culture, has been studied in terms of social and cultural history but rarely from the perspective of art history, even though the idea of madness inspired and stimulated literary and artistic creatvity from the 13th to the mid-16th century.

This ambitious, thought-provoking exhibition will approach the typically medieval figure of the fool through its imagery. Over 300 works of art – sculptures, artefacts (ivories, boxes, small bronzes), medals, illuminations, drawings, prints, panel paintings and tapestries – will be displayed according to period and theme. Medieval art is essentially religious in the popular imagination, but the Middle Ages also gave rise to the subversive figure of the fool. Although rooted in religion, it pervaded the secular world and, by the late medieval period, had become an integral part of urban social life.

In medieval times, the definition of the fool was derived from the Scriptures, particularly the first verse of Psalm 52: ‘Dixit insipiens...’ (The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’). Madness was primarily seen as ignorance and an absence of love for God, but there were religious fanatics too, such as Saint Francis. So in the 13th century, the idea of madness was inextricably linked to love and its measure or excess in the spiritual, then the earthly realm.

The theme of the folly of love pervaded chivalric romances (such as those of Yvain, Perceval, Lancelot and Tristan) and the numerous depictions of them, especially in illuminations and on ivories. Before long, the figure of the fool came between the lover and his lady, denouncing courtly values and emphasising the lewd, even obscene, nature of human love. 

The status of the fool shifted from mystical and symbolic to political and social: in the 14th century, the court jester became the institutionalised antithesis of royal wisdom and his ironic or critical observations gained acceptance. New imagery emerged portraying the fool with a distinctive costume: a bauble (mock sceptre), a striped or ‘half and half’ outfit, a cap and bells.

In the 15th century, the figure of the fool gained immensely in importance and popularity at carnival celebrations and in folklore; his association with social criticism made him a vehicle for the most subversive ideas. He also played a role in the upheaval of the Reformation, when the fool was the ‘other’ (Catholic or Protestant). As can be seen in the art of Bosch and Bruegel, he was omnipresent in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

In the modern era, the figure of the institutional fool seems to have been gradually replaced in the courts of Europe by the dwarf or jester. From the mid-Enlightenment onwards, folly took its revenge by emerging in other, less controlled forms. The exhibition will end with a look at the 19th-century view of the Middle Ages through the lens of the theme of madness, but in the tragic, sometimes cruel light engendered by political and artistic revolutions.

The programme of cultural events accompanying the exhibition will bring a little fantasy and folly to the venerable Louvre !  


16 October 2024 - 3 February 2025 
Sully wing, Level 1, salle de la Chapelle 

Exhibition curator: Guillaume Faroult, Chief Curator, Department of Paintings, Musée du Louvre

Watteau’s Pierrot, formerly known as Gilles, is one of the most famous masterpieces in the Louvre’s collection. This enigmatic work, which has long raised questions for art historians, is currently undergoing conservation treatment at the Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, after which time it will be the focus of a spotlight exhibition.

Nothing is known about the painting before it was discovered by the artist and collector Dominique Vivant Denon (1747–1825), Director of the Louvre under Napoleon. It soon came to be regarded as a Watteau masterpiece and garnered praise from renowned writers and art historians. It has often been seen as reflecting a certain image of the 18th century – mischievous, cynical or melancholy, depending on the author and the era. Its fame boosted the return to favour of 18th-century art in the age of Manet and Nadar.

The exhibition will present the findings of the conservation project. It will approach this wholly original work – whose attribution to Watteau has sometimes been questioned – both as part of the artist’s oeuvre and in the cultural and artistic context of the time. Alongside many other paintings and drawings by Watteau, there will be works by his contemporaries – painters, draughtsmen, engravers (Claude Gillot, Antoine Joseph Pater, Nicolas Lancret, Jean Baptiste Oudry, Jean Honoré Fragonard, etc.) and writers (Pierre de Marivaux, Alain-René Lesage, JeanFrançois Regnard, Evaristo Gherardi), with special emphasis on the rich theatrical repertoire of the time.

As soon as the painting entered the Louvre in 1869, via the bequest of Louis La Caze (1798–1869), it became a favourite with generations of viewers. 

Its powerful appeal is partly due to its outstanding quality, but also to its originality for the period and to the mystery surrounding its production.

The exhibition will also explore the painting’s rich and varied critical reception and its far-reaching artistic legacy. This powerful, enigmatic image has greatly inspired French writers, including Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, George Sand, the Goncourt brothers and Jacques Prévert.  The painting has also influenced photographers, filmmakers and musicians (Nadar, Marcel Carné, Arnold Schoenberg), and visual artists (Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet, Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Juan Gris, James Ensor, Georges Rouault and Jean-Michel Alberola), driving them to new creative heights.

The show will explore the fascinating conversations between these great creative minds and Watteau’s enigmatic painting, even as it resonates harmoniously with the ‘Figures of the Fool’ exhibition scheduled for the same dates in the Hall Napoléon (see previous page).


13 November 2024 - 17 February 2025 
Sully wing, Level - 1, mezzanine floor, Hall Napoléon

Exhibition curators:  Olivier Meslay, Hardymon Director, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Esther Bell, Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, Clark Art Institute; Marie-Pierre Salé, Chief Curator, Department of Prints and Drawings, Musée du Louvre

This show, co-organised by the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown (Massachusetts) and the Musée du Louvre, will be the first major monographic exhibition on an artist who has largely faded from view but was counted among the ‘great authorities of his day’ (Charles Blanc).

Guillaume Guillon-Lethière was born in Guadeloupe. His mother was a freed slave of African origin, his father a white French royal official. Guillaume studied first in Rouen and then in Paris during the ancien régime and went on to enjoy a brilliant career: director of the French Academy in Rome (1807–1816), elected member of the Institut de France in 1818 and professor at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1819 onwards. He was also a great collector and artistic advisor to Lucien Bonaparte. 

His artwork reflects his experience of the political upheaval of the period and the succession of political regimes in France from the Revolution to the July Monarchy.

Most of his paintings and drawings focus on ancient history. He began his career in a period dominated by the neoclassical style of Jacques-Louis David; his continuation in the classical vein led to his fall from favour in the late 1820s, as the upcoming generation of Romantic artists began taking over. The Louvre’s collection includes two huge paintings by Guillon-Lethière, both measuring almost eight metres in width and inspired by classical heroism: Brutus Condemning his Sons to Death, finished in Rome in 1811, and The Death of Virginia (1828).

The highlight of the exhibition is his best-known work, unparalleled in his oeuvre: The Oath of the Ancestors (National Pantheon Museum, Port-au-Prince, Haiti), a visual anti-slavery manifesto advocating freedom for all peoples. Most of the works on loan from public or private collections will be on display in Paris for the first time since the 19th century, while the research conducted for both the exhibition and the catalogue will showcase the artist in a brilliant new light. 

The program of the second half of the year can be found out in the downloadable press release below.

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