Archives: The Invention of the Past

Press kit

Tales of Heart and Sword in Europe


19 April to 21 July 2014

The Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon and the Royal Monastery of Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse are combining their efforts to produce The Invention of the Past, a two-part exhibition that looks at the representation of history in 19th century figurative art in Europe. Particular emphasis is being placed upon how artists from that period represented the Middle Ages, the Renaissance period and the 17th century. The Royal Monastery of Brou shall present Gothic, my Love…, thus echoing its unique Gothic architecture and its pronounced funerary vocation by portraying Medieval heritage. The featured artists, whether they faithfully reproduced or recomposed the monastery’s architectural features, strived to stir moving sentiment in those who saw and still see their work. This was characteristic of many funerary works of that time, and they are particularly appreciated for their mysterious, melancholic and romantic moods and atmospheres.
The Museum of Fine Arts Museum, Lyon shall host Tales of Heart and Sword in Europe, 1802-1850, an exhibition that highlights the precursory role played by the artistic scene in Lyon at the time in the apparition of a new manner of representing history via works of the ‘anecdotic’ and ‘historical’ genres which were produced in the wake of the French Revolution and during the Romantic era. Almost two hundred paintings, drawings and sculptures show how artists across Europe depicted notable figures and events from a ‘national’ past that had hitherto long been neglected in favor of antiquity and mythology. These artists rediscovered and reinvented historical elements in order to recreate them in the form of a renewed and imaginary visual form. It was at this time that historical studies took on a new lease; Walter Scott and Romantic writers who seized upon the theme became highly successful, as were theater productions depicting the same themes. Although characterized by their attention to historical details such as the places, decors and objects of the period they studied, the works of these artists also demonstrate their willingness to transform them in order to create highly narrative and moving studies. The pictorial vision of these 19th century artists still influences our perceptions of historical events today.
The Invention of the Past, Tales of Heart and Sword in Europe, 1802-1850, is the first exhibition in over forty years to be consecrated to this major artistic movement. It presents a vast panorama of works by painters such as Fleury Richard, Pierre Révoil, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Paul Delaroche as well as other contemporary European artists from this period. They painted and brought to life loves and tragical destinies of kings and queens, princesses and heroes, from Du Guesclin to Bayard, from Saint Louis to Henry IV, and from Joan of Arc to Mary Stuart.