Fine Arts Paris began in 2017 as a boutique affair of 34 dealers, and though it has now grown to 46 exhibitors – most of them French – it still prides itself on carefully crafted displays and museum-quality works. This year (13–17 November), the fair is looking to underscore its links with the museum world with an events programme that offers behind-the-scenes tours of various institutions. Visitors will also be treated to a first look at the Château de Fontainebleau’s most recent acquisition: a late 16th-century mythological scene by a follower of Francesco Primaticcio. La Piscine – the museum of art and industry in Roubaix – provides a pop-up display of works from its collection, by artists including Marc Chagall and Camille Claudel. At Galerie Charvet there is a selling exhibition on the theme of museum interiors; highlights include a painting of a man polishing the armour of a horse guard at the Royal Armoury in Turin, by the Piedmontese artist Giovanni Giani in 1892.
One of the more curious objects on offer this year is a terracotta roundel of around 1855 by the Scottish artist Alexander Munro, who moved to London in 1848 to work for Charles Barry and quickly fell in with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In around 1854 he carved a marble medallion for the Ashmolean in Oxford – one of few surviving portraits of John Everett Millais in his youth, showing a handsome profile with flowing locks. In the terracotta work now for sale at Galerie Chaptal, Munro depicts the painter’s hair pinned back by the wind, as though gliding through the sky; the bony wings of a bat are attached to his neck.
The strong showing of sculpture this year also includes an exhibition at Galerie Malaquais of 10 works by the Catalan sculptor Manolo (Manuel Hugué), a close friend of Picasso; a Symbolist engraving in painted end-grain wood by Georges Aubert, completed under the direction of Odilon Redon, at Galerie Edouard Ambroselli; and a second or first century BC marble torso of Aphrodite, brought by newcomer Cahn International.
The medieval offering this year is bolstered by new participant Galerie G. Sarti, which presents a glittering gold-leaf and tempera panel painting by Gregorio di Cecco di Luca, a painter active in Siena in the early quattrocento; it depicts the Christ child seated on his mother’s lap, offering a ring to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, thus completing her mystical marriage to God. Rare book specialists Les Enluminures bring a Book of Hours illuminated by the Master of François de Rohan, one of the most successful miniaturists of the early 16th century, who completed a number of royal commissions; the manuscript on show here includes an illustration of Job, naked on his dung heap, raising his head to look forlornly at the friends who have come to comfort him.
Elsewhere in the French capital, Paris Photo returns to the Grand Palais for its 23rd edition with 213 international exhibitors (7–10 November). This year, the fair shines a spotlight on Zanele Muholi, the South African artist and activist whose intimate depictions of black LGBT subjects have brought her attention in recent years (a retrospective of her work is at Tate Modern next spring). Meanwhile, Also Known as Africa – France’s only fair dedicated to art and design from Africa and its diaspora – is once more at the Carreau du Temple (9–11 November).
From the November 2019 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.