Philippe Jolyet - Le jeune Prudhon receuilli et élévé par les moines de Cluny - huile sur toile 1863

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823)

Past exhibition

Admire the different faces of one of the most emblematic 19th century painters of the city of Cluny.

  • Adults: €9.50

    Children: free

  • From 10 years old

  • The exhibition is presented at the Museum of Art and Archaeology of Cluny with the following extras: portraits made by students of the College Prud'hon of Cluny; wooden puzzle and exhibition booklet!

  • Book your ticket


On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon's death, his native town will celebrate the artist with a dive into the heart of about thirty portraits. Paintings, sculptures and engravings will coexist to bring back to life this emblematic character of the city.

If Cluny is known for its abbey and its powerful monastic order which reigned over the Christian Middle Ages, few know that the Burgundian city has also written its name in the history of painting.

It is indeed in Cluny that was born, on April 4, 1758, the son of a stone mason who was going to become, at the sides of his contemporaries David, Goya or Canova, one of the greatest painters of his time!

Who is Pierre Paul Prud'hon ?

By his remarkable predispositions for the drawing, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon benefits very early from the protection of the priest of his parish and the Benedictine monks who allow him to follow the courses of the abbey college.

The romantic spirit of his biographers in the 19th century made the abbey of Cluny the matrix of his imagination:

He lived in this world of stone and marble, of historiated columns, of stained glass windows, of statues, of woodwork, of tapestries. He remains dazzled in front of this chapel of Bourbon, a treasure of magnificence.

At the age of 16, he was recommended to the bishop of Mâcon and left for Dijon to take classes with the painter François Desvoges. After a brief return to Cluny, he won the Prix de Rome of the States of Burgundy in 1784. His career was launched, and during the Empire he became the portraitist of the imperial family and the court. Royal commissions under the Restoration will complete his consecration as The Assumption of the Virgin for the chapel of the Tuileries.

Le jeune Prud'hon recueilli et élevé par les moines de Cluny, surpris en train de copier les tableaux de l'abbaye - huile sur toile de Philippe Jolyet 1863 - Musée Vivant Denon - Ville de Chalon-Sur-Saône - P. Bernard
Le jeune Prud'hon recueilli et élevé par les moines de Cluny - Huile sur toile de Philippe Joylet, 1863

© Musée Vivant Denon / Ville de Chalon-sur-Saône / P. Bernard

His work

The true genius of Prud'hon, his domain, his empire, is the allegory.

This brings to mind the great compositions for which the painter is still famous today, such as Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime, in the Louvre. Known by a single self-portrait from the years 1785-1788, the young man presents a serious face. One must refer to the effigies executed in the following century to appreciate his friendly features, his smile, his bluish eyes and his abundant flowing hair.

Portrait dessiné de Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
Portrait dessiné de Pierre Paul Prud'hon

© Centre des monuments nationaux

Her representations

A letter of 1855 preserves a precious psychological description of him:

Mr. Prud'hon was gifted with a perfect character of amenity: a fine spirit, a gentle cheerfulness, an upright sense [...], of a delicate health which did not prevent him from working constantly.

In the light of the painted, engraved or sculpted portraits, some of them very faithful, their authors having personally known Prud'hon, it is a XIXth century which oscillates between sensitive representations and official solemnity.

David d'Angers, Charles-François Nanteuil, Pierre-Paul Darbois will go into the romantic vein with sculpted representations animated by the power of creative genius. Others, such as Charles Fournier, François Buffet, Louis-Emile Truffot, focused on more official effigies, portraits with an academic tone in which the medal of the Legion of Honor that Napoleon had awarded to Prud'hon at the Salon of 1808 ostensibly appears.

Portrait de Pierre-Paul Prud'hon par Buffet, François (1789-1843)
Portrait de Pierre Paul Prud'hon par Buffet, François (1789-1843)

© Reproduction Benjamin Gavaudo