[REDON de BELLEVILLE, Charles Godefroy, Baron] FRENCH REPUBLICAN CONFISCATIONS OF WORKS OF ART FROM PERUGIA AND ROME. An important series of 10 letters and six schedules (one with duplicate, one duplicated in Italian) from the archive of Charles Redon de Belleville as Consul of the French Republic in Livorno, 17 Pluviôse an IV [i.e. 6 February 1796] - 8 Vendémiaire an VI [29 September 1797] and 22 Pluviôse an IX [11 February 1801], including documents signed by Charles DELACROIX (as Minister of Foreign Relations), Christophe SALICETI (as commissioner for the Armies of Italy and the Alps), Claude PETIET (as Minister Extraordinary in Lombardy) and members of the commission for the requisitions Claude-Louis BERTHOLLET (chemist), Gaspard MONGE (geometrist), Jean-Guillaume Moitte (sculptor), Jean-Simon Berthélémy (history painter) and others, 18 documents in total, together approximately 58 pages, 4to and folio (occasional wear and soiling to margins, some later annotations in pencil).
AN IMPORTANT SERIES OF DOCUMENTS PROVIDING ONE OF THE MOST COMPLETE ACCOUNTS OF WORKS OF ART CONFISCATED FROM PERUGIA AND ROME BY THE FRENCH REPUBLIC AFTER BONAPARTE'S FIRST ITALIAN CAMPAIGN. Charles Redon de Belleville's consular posting of Livorno was the main trans-shipment point for the works of art plundered from Rome and Perugia on their way to Paris via Marseilles. A series of three letters from the commissioners 'à la recherche des Objets de Sciences & Arts' list the contents of two convoys of works of art from Perugia (29 paintings in total, including works by Raphael and Perugino), and instruct Belleville as to their care and shipment, making clear the personal interest of the Général en Chef (Bonaparte): in particular Belleville is to take 'toutes les precautions possibles afin d'éviter que ce convoi ne tombe entre les mains des Anglais'; a letter of 20 Floréal an V gives instructions for wrapping the paintings on their arrival in Livorno in wax-cloth, of which there is a shortage in Perugia. Four shipments of works of art from the Vatican and the Capitoline in Rome are described in separate schedules, which list paintings, including works by Raphael, Poussin, Guerchino, and Carraccio, and classical sculpture, including the Apollo Belvedere, the Discobolos, the Capitoline Venus, the Spinario, the Dying Gladiator and the Laocoon, and refer to boxes containing three boxes of books and 500 manuscripts from the Vatican; a letter of 24 Messidor an V, apparently in the autograph of Gaspard Monge, gives anxious instructions for the care of these last. A recapitulatory schedule made in Livorno preparatory for their shipment of all the convoys to Marseilles lists 75 statues (including three privately consigned for Bonaparte), 13 paintings from Perugia, 34 paintings from Rome and 18 cases containing books, manuscripts, natural history, printing matrices and other artefacts. An intriguing additional schedule, undated, lists works of art in museums in Florence, divided by School, 'qui seroient nécessaires au complément de la galerie des antiques du Musée Central des Arts', with page references to the guidebook to Florence published by the Abbé Lanzi in 1782, and culminating with 'La collection entière des dessins du Grand Duc ... consistant en 300 Volumes'. A modest 'Nota' disclaims excessive voracity: 'l'Intention de l'Administration du Musée n'est pas que tous les tableaux portés en la précédente note soient transportés à Paris, mais bien que l'on choisisse parmi eux les plus capitaux ...'. The collection also includes a memorandum signed by Charles Delacroix setting out Belleville's official consular instructions; and three other letters relating to his official duties.
Charles Redon de Belleville was appointed Consul in Livorno in February 1796, in the wake of Napoleon Bonaparte's victorious first campaign in Italy. His early duties consisted principally in seizing the considerable quantities of British property and money in Livorno (the main British trading port in Italy) in order to re-equip the famously ragged Army in Italy. He remained in Livorno until the peace of Campo Formio in autumn 1797, when he was transferred to Genoa as Commissaire Général. With the city on the point of capture by the allies in April 1800 Belleville sought the permission of General Moreau to remove his archives to France. He subsequently held the position of Commissaire Général in all the Italian ports, and the same in Madrid, and ended his career as Administrateur Général des Postes, Baron and Commander of the Légion d'honneur. Fear of police seizures drove him to burn some part of his papers, including his memoirs, in 1815; the archive suffered again in 1870 when the house in which it was stored at Meaux was pillaged by the Prussian army. The surviving papers, comprising 332 documents in total, 17 Pluviôse an IV - 21 Fructidor an X, were published by Belleville's grandson, H. Du Channoy, in 1892 as Notes et correspondance du Baron Charles Redon de Belleville. The majority of the present documents are assembled under the heading 'Notes, Etats etc etc sur les envois de monuments des arts provenant d'Italie donnés en rançon et envoyés a Paris par M. de Belleville ...', 'dont nulle part', claims M. Huët de Coëtlissan in his introduction, 'on ne trouverait une nomenclature aussi complète que dans les papiers de Belleville'.
The French requisitions of works of art from Italy were among the most notorious of their systematic plunderings of collections in subjugated states. Works from Perugia and Rome were ceded under the terms of the Treaty of Tolentino with the Papacy, and, as the present archive describes, transported to the rapidly expanding Musée Central (housed in the Louvre). The most prominent works were returned after Napoleon's fall, but the more than 800 lesser works distributed to French provincial collections under a consular decree of 1 September 1801 proved considerably more difficult to trace, and in a large number of cases efforts to recover them were abandoned.