The aptly named année terrible 1870–1871 – which comprised the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris and the insurrection and civil war of the Paris Commune – had dramatic consequences for the conservation and dispersal of French works of art. The rapid disintegration of the Second Empire, the war and the Commune prompted a desperate flight of French courtiers, collectors, painters and dealers across the Channel, and their presence enriched and reconfigured the London art market. This chapter documents the impact of the events of 1870–1871 on the London art scene, exploring how it reproduced dynamics visible in early revolutionary episodes. It uncovers the cosmopolitan business networks that were mobilised by the conflict, as French and Belgian dealers competed against their London peers for a share of the spoils. By working through the records of consigners and auctioneers, this chapter will sketch out some of the important French collections dispersed in London after 1870, highlighting the calculations not just of the imperial family in exile (including Empress Eugénie and Prince Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte) but also other French aristocrats eager to benefit from the profitability of the English market. War and insurrection played a critical role in the transfer of artworks and re-making of museums.
Stammers, T. (2021). Salvage and Speculation: The London Art Market After the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). In K. Hill (Ed.), Museums, modernity and conflict : museums and collections in and of war since the nineteenth century (15-38). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429295782-2