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Courajod, Louis-Charles-Léon

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    Full Name: Courajod, Louis-Charles-Léon

    Other Names:

    • Louis Courajod

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1841

    Date Died: 1896

    Place Born: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Career(s): art collectors and curators


    Museum curator, professor and art collector. Courajod attended the Lycée Charlemagne in Paris. After his graduation from Law school in 1864, he was trained as an archivist and paleographer at the école des Chartes from 1864 until 1867 where he met, among others, the future founder of art history at the Sorbonne, Henry Lemonnier. He continued his studies at the école des Hautes études. From 1867 until 1874 he served as an employee at the Cabinet des Estampes of the Bibliothèque Nationale, under chief curator Henri Delaborde. In that position, Courajod began to explore the field of art history. In 1867 he published his first article, “Les sépultures des Plantagenets à Fontevrault.” In 1874 he was appointed at the Louvre Museum as an attaché to the preservation of sculpture and art objects of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In 1879 he was promoted to the position of adjunct curator. He reorganized and rearranged the collection, researching the art works and revising attributions. Between 1878 and 1887 he published a major study on the work of Alexandre Lenoir (1762-1839), the curator of the former Musée des monuments français (1795-1816). Part of this museum’s collection had been relocated to the Louvre. Courajod’s special fields of interest included the monumental sculpture of the fourteenth and fifteenth century, a period of transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. In addition, in 1887, he was appointed a professor of the history of sculpture of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Modern Age at the école du Louvre. Among his students were André Michel, Paul Vitry, and the Dutch art historian Aart Pit. Courajod was a regular contributor to the Gazette des Beaux-Arts. He was a member of a number of committees including the Commission des monuments historiques and the Société des Antiquaires de France. In 1893 he became the director of the Department of Sculpture of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Modern Age at the Louvre. He died prematurely at age 55. His successor as curator and professor was Michel, who completed and published Courajod’s catalog of the sculpture collection. Michel was the co-editor, with Lemonnier, of the three-volume publication of Courajod’s art classes at the école du Louvre. Courajod was the first art historian to look specifically for racial/national factors as determining styles. He argued that the Renaissance had been motivated by influences from Northern France and Flanders, opposing the Northern realism of these schools against the predominance of the classical and Italian character of the Renaissance. He also argued that medieval art had developed not exclusively from Roman art, but from a much wider complex of Christian, “barbarian”, and Oriental influences. Although he was trained as an archivist he always stressed above all the importance of the direct contact with the art work itself. He traveled regularly to study the objects in situ, considering them as the primary documents of art history. His posthumously published Leçons professées à l’école du Louvre (1887-1896),1899, has curious similarities to the universal history of art notion of Josef Rudolf Thomas Strzygowski (Vaisse). Wilhelm Vöge, whom he met while Vöge was in France in 1893, described Courajod as “the vehament Courajod” (Panofsky).

    Selected Bibliography

    [] Brière, M. G. “Bibliographie des travaux de Louis Courajod.” Lemonnier, Henry and Michel, André, eds. Louis Courajod. Leçons professées à l’école du Louvre (1887-1896). vol. 3, pp. xix – xxxv; études iconographiques sur la topographie ecclésiastique de la France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Le Monasticon gallicanum. Paris: Liepmannssohn et Dufour, 1869; Lemonnier, Henry and Michel, André, eds. Louis Courajod. Leçons professées à l’école du Louvre (1887-1896). 3 vols., 1. Origines de l’art roman et gothique, 2. Origines de la Renaissance, 3. Origines de l’art moderne. Paris: Alphonse Picard et Fils, éditeurs, 1899-1903. Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, marchand-bijoutier ordinaire du roy 1748-1758. 2 vols. Paris: F. de Nobele, 1965, Reprint of 1873 edition; Alexandre Lenoir, son journal et le Musée des monuments français. 3 vols. Paris: H. Champion, 1878-1887; [Musée national du Louvre] Catalogue sommaire des sculptures du Moyen Age, de la Renaissance et des Temps Modernes. Paris: Librairies-Imprimeries réunies, 1897.


    Michel, André. “L’enseignement de Louis Courajod” in Lemonnier, Henry and Michel, André, eds. Leçons professées à l’école du Louvre (1887-1896). vol 3. Origines de l’art moderne. Paris: Alphonse Picard et Fils, éditeurs, 1903, pp. v-xvii; Panofsky, Erwin. “The History of Art.” In The Cultural Migration: The European Scholar in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953, p. 85, mentioned; D’Amat, Roman. “Courajod (Louis-Charles-Léon)” Dictionnaire de Biographie Française (1961): p. 931-932; [Vöge reminiscence] Panofsky, Erwin. “Wilhelm Vöge: A Biographical Memoir.” Art Journal 28 no. 1 (Fall 1968): 30; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 139, 168, 475-477; Bresc-Bautier, Geneviève. “Courajod, Louis(-Charles-Léon)” Dictionary of Art 8 (1996): 50; Cahn, Walter. “Henri Focillon” Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline. 3. Philosophy and the Arts, Helen Damico, ed. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000, p. 265, mentioned; Un combat pour la sculpture: Louis Courajod (1841-1896) historien d’art et conservateur. (Actes de la journée d’étude organisée par l’Ecole du Louvre et le Département des sculptures du Musée du Louvre, à l’occasion du centenaire de la mort de Louis Courajod (1841-1896), Musée du Louvre, 15 janvier 1996, publiés sous la direction de Geneviève Bresc-Bautier avec la collaboration de Michèle Lafabrie). Paris: école du Louvre, 2003. [obituary:] Michel, André. “Louis Courajod” Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1896 no. 2): 203-217; Vaisse, Paierre. “Josef Strzygowski et la France.” Revue de l’Art no. 146 (2004): 73-83.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Courajod, Louis-Charles-Léon." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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