Exhibit | December 10, 2015

The Morgan Presents the First-Ever U.S. Exhibition on Pierre Jean-Mariette

New York, NY, December 9, 2015—During his lifetime Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774) assembled one of history’s finest and most renowned collections of drawings. He amassed over nine thousand sheets that were dispersed after his death, and today works from his collection are found in museums and private collections around the world, many of them still in Mariette’s distinctive blue mounts. Despite his importance as a collector and connoisseur, he has never before been the subject of an exhibition in the United States.

On view at the Morgan Library & Museum from January 22 through May 1, 2016, Pierre-Jean Mariette and the Art of Collecting Drawings explores the eighteenth-century collector’s pivotal role in shaping our modern view of the old masters and provides a rare opportunity to consider the particular ways in which Mariette studied, mounted, altered, restored, and displayed the drawings in his collection. Through the examination of his methods, the exhibition highlights practices of collecting that persist even today.

The heir to a well-established dynasty of printmakers, publishers, and print dealers from Paris, Mariette formed a collection that included drawings both by old masters and by contemporary artists such as the Italian painters Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) and Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691/92-1765). The collection was encyclopedic in scope and included masterpieces and works by little known artists. Pierre-Jean Mariette and the Art of Collecting Drawings presents a selection of some twenty drawings representative of Mariette’s holdings. The works on view come primarily from the Morgan’s own collections, but the exhibition also includes sheets from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Princeton University Art Museum, and private collections. Among the artists represented are masters such as Parmigianino (1503-1540), Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), Guercino (1591-1666), Salvator Rosa (1615­-1673), and Sébastien Bourdon (1616-1671).

“As one of the world’s pre-eminent repositories of works on paper, the Morgan is suitably positioned to mount this first exhibition on Mariette,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the museum. “He was a firm believer that drawings reveal the true spirit of an artist, and devoted much of his life to their study. His scholarly writings, discriminating eye, and skill at categorizing and organizing drawings remain enormous contributions to the history of art.”


I. Mariette and the Study of Drawings Mariette was revered by his contemporaries for the breath of his knowledge. His rigorous study was founded upon his belief that drawings—to a greater extent than paintings—revealed an artist's character and intentions, and that the careful analysis of drawings was therefore indispensable to an accurate history of art. He was also among the earliest collectors to highlight the provenance of the works he acquired.

On his mount for Annibale Carracci’s Study for Choice of Hercules (ca.1595-97), for example, Mariette proudly listed his name as well as that of Pierre Mignard (1612-1695) and the Parisian financier Pierre Crozat (1665-1740), both of whom had previously owned this important study for Carracci’s famous painting in the Farnese Palace in Rome.

II. Blue Mounts

Mariette carefully mounted his drawings on custom-made blue paper mats embellished with gold filets, decorative borders, and cartouches bearing the name of the artist. Having the works similarly matted gave aesthetic unity to the collection and also facilitated the organization of the sheets in portfolios. His blue mounts provided a refined way of displaying and storing drawings, and at the same time they deeply influence the viewer’s perception of the sheets. The contrast between the dark mat and the light paper of the drawing forces the eye to focus on the image at the center. This visual effect becomes particularly clear when comparing a drawing with Mariette’s original mat to one without it.

III. Restoring Drawings

Mariette was an expert paper restorer and often manipulated the drawings in his collection with the intention of improving their legibility. Although by today’s standards the practice of cutting, pasting, and retouching old master drawings is unorthodox, such interventions were an essential part of Mariette’s art of collecting. He commonly, for example, added strips of paper around the edges of fragmentary drawings not only to supply missing parts of the composition but also to center the sheets on the mounts

One of the most dramatic interventions he performed was the splitting of a single sheet of paper to separate the recto and the verso of double-sided drawings. His contemporaries were amazed by his skill in this challenging operation. To gain a better understanding of how Mariette split his drawings, the Morgan’s Thaw Conservation Center attempted to separate a replica of a drawing with studies on both sides. The experiment is shown in a video in the exhibition.

General Information

The Morgan Library & Museum

225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405



Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station


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