Dear Lucie, thank you for this presentation. I especially enjoyed your fabulous slides. How amazing to have this archival material. I was especially struck by the plans of the exhibitions that you showed towards the end of the presentation. Can you say a little bit more about their purpose? Did Brongniart produce them himself, for his own reference (to work out positioning?) or were these instructions to his assistants? Did he share them beyond the exhibition team at all, I wonder? Can you say a little more about the annotations? What function did they hold? It really put me in mind of Martha Fleming’s paper on Panel 2. Thanks again, Claire Wintle
Thank you very much for your message and questions.
You're right, it's really great to have such documents to understand these exhibitions. It was not Brongniart who drew the plans but most certainly he who designed the layout of the rooms. As you have understood, he had a central role, but he worked for these exhibitions with employees of the Sèvres manufactory who were in charge of arranging the porcelain in the Louvre, and also with outside craftsmen, mainly upholsterers and carpenters. Most plans were made with great care (there is a scale at the bottom). Sometimes they are in colour, and the drawn objects are recognisable. Most of the annotations give the names of the porcelain works. I couldn't show everything, but sometimes the letters on the plans refer to a legend in which the names of the pieces are detailed. However, the porcelain works were occasionally moved around during the exhibition, so the plans do not necessarily show the exhibition as it really was.
I think that the plans had two goals: on the one hand, to allow the employees of Sèvres (we know who participated in the realisation of these exhibitions and how much time they devoted to them) to arrange the porcelain according to the wishes of Brongniart, and on the other hand, to keep a precise record of these exhibitions in the archives of the manufactory. Brongniart was also accountable to his supervisory administration, the Maison du Roi. It is possible, although I found no evidence of it, that Brongniart wanted to present the plan to his superiors in the central administration or to the architect of the Louvre, Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, before the opening of the exhibition. Before the exhibition opened, Brongniart gave a list of the porcelain works he intended to exhibit to the administration. He also had to justify all of the expenses made by the manufactory. This is one of the reasons why many documents still remain.
Indeed, some of the problems that Martha Fleming describes as to the archives of 20th century designers are also valid for the archives of the 19th century. And of course documents often raise more questions than they answer!