Monuments on the Move: The Transfer of French medieval heritage overseas in the early twentieth century


  • Celine Brugeat Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès



Collections, Cloisters, French heritage, Art market


From New York to California and even some paradisiacal islands, medieval architectural fragments or entire monuments were re-assembled and rebuilt by wealthy American collectors. If Alva Vanderbilt, Isabella S. Garner or John P. Morgan were the first to introduce medieval art to United States collections, it was not until 1914 and the opening of the spectacular George Grey Barnard cloisters that the public could visit a place especially dedicated to French medieval architecture. The reconstruction of these remains reveals different practices of collecting and displaying but also raises the question about the reasons for such a massive hemorrhage of European architectural heritage. Most long-term properties of the French Church had already suffered from the ravages of the Hundred-year war as well as from the wars of Religion, from the gradual desertion of religious institutions by their communities during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and, finally, from vandalism and alienation of ecclesiastical properties during the French Revolution. However, during the post-revolutionary period until the early twentieth century, general indifference and negligence regarding the national heritage, abandoned to private hands, largely contributed to scattering this dismantled monumental patrimony across the country. In this tumultuous context, Paris became the central market for opportunist French dealers and their international clientele. Ambitious collectors and museums reassembled these spectacular ensembles in creative and reinvented structures.

Author Biography

Celine Brugeat, Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès

Docteure associée, Laboratoire TRACES, UMR5608




How to Cite

Brugeat, C. (2018). Monuments on the Move: The Transfer of French medieval heritage overseas in the early twentieth century. Journal for Art Market Studies, 2(2).