Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Reclining Nude (Gabrielle) was put on display at the Museum of Fine Arts on Friday in a chamber exhibition. The masterpiece, bought with the support of the Hungarian government, is the most valuable piece purchased by the museum in the last 100 years.
The nude, painted in 1903, became Hungarian property for the price of $12.3 million (HUF 3.5 billion). At a press conference on Thursday, László Baán, the Director General of the Museum of Fine Arts, revealed that the Renoir painting would be on display at the museum alongside other contemporary impressionist paintings. The paintings, which include works by Cézanne, Gauguin and Pissarro, will be on display until August 20.
At the beginning of 2019, they obtained a masterpiece by Anthony Van Dyck with the support of the Hungarian state, and, at the time, this was regarded as the museum’s priciest purchase. However, the Renoir painting now holds the title of most expensive purchase made in the last 100 years. As a result, the Museum of Fine Arts’ impressionist collection has acquired yet another masterpiece.
Zsófia Kovács, the curator of the exhibit, described the nude as one of the most remarkable pieces created by Renoir in the latter half of his career. In fact, it was previously exhibited in Budapest in 1907, but the Museum of Fine Arts was unable to obtain it at the time.
In 1903, Renoir painted the nude of his wife’s cousin, Gabrielle Renard, who often modeled for painters. The old master was so pleased with the piece that he kept it for four years and even painted two additional versions of it. The piece on display is the original version, but the later versions are kept in world-renowned collections in the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the curator added.
According to Kovács, the exhibition puts Renoir’s masterpiece into context by displaying it alongside the work of other contemporary French impressionists (most of which were on display in Budapest before in 1907). Some of these – including pieces by Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Eugene Boudin and Charles-Francois Daubigny – were bought by the Museum of Fine Arts. Other paintings by Paul Cézanne, Maurice Denis and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes were bought by Hungarian private collectors and later became part of the museum’s collection.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and László Baán, the Ministerial Commissioner for the Liget Budapest Project, presented Renoir’s Reclining Nude on May 14 at the opening ceremony of the new National Museum Restoration and Storage Center (OMRRK) as part of the Liget Budapest project. The center will house almost 300,000 works of art and other items from the collections of the Ethnographic Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery.