Georges de Bellio

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Georges de Bellio, photograph from 1865

Georges de Bellio (born Gheorghe Bellu ) (born February 20, 1828 in Bucharest , † January 26, 1894 in Paris ) was a Romanian doctor and art collector. He settled in Paris in 1851, studied medicine and became a follower of homeopathy . His friends and patients included several painters of French impressionism , whose pictures he collected early on. Parts of his important art collection are now in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. This also includes the painting Impression soleil levant by Claude Monet , from which the term Impressionism is derived.


Georges de Bellio's parents belonged to the upper class of Romania. His mother was Irina Văcărescu, daughter of Barbu Văcărescu , who worked as the Ban of Craiova . His father Alexandru Bellu came from a boyar family of Macedonian Aromanians . The ancestors came as merchants from Voskopoja in today's Albania . The grandfather Ştefan Bellu settled in Bucharest towards the end of the 18th century. His brother Constantin Bellu lived as a banker in Vienna and was raised to the nobility. He founded the Athens Archaeological Society and is known in Greece as Konstantinos Bellio .

Georges de Bellio had three older brothers: Stefan, Barbu and Constantin. Ștefan Bellu was married to Eliza Știrbei, a daughter of the Prince of Wallachia, Barbu Dimitrie Știrbei . From this marriage, the future lawyer and collector Alexandru Bellu emerged. The brother Barbu Bellu was under Alexandru Ioan Cuza Minister of Culture and Justice of Romania. Ion I. Câmpineanu , a nephew of Georges de Bellio, held numerous political offices. He was the Romanian Minister of Justice, Finance, Interior and Foreign Affairs , Mayor of Bucharest and Director of the National Bank .


Nicolae Grigorescu:
Portrait of Georges de Bellio
Giovanni Boldini:
Portrait of Georges de Bellio
Pierre-Auguste Renoir:
Portrait of Victorine de Bellio

Georges de Bellio was born as Gheorghe Bellu in Bucharest in 1828 and grew up in a wealthy family. While the two older brothers Stefan and Barbu took care of family business or their political career, Gheorghe went to Paris with his brother Constantin in 1851. Gheorge converted his first name into the French Georges and instead of the Romanian surname Bellu chose the Greek name variant Bellio , to which he prefixed the nobility suffix de . Georges de Bellio studied medicine at the University of Paris , became a follower of homeopathy and was a member of the Société médicale homéopathique de France . He later worked as a doctor at the Hôpital Hahnemann , a hospital in Paris based on the teachings of Samuel Hahnemann .

Together with his brother Constantin, Georges de Bellio first lived in the Rue de La Grande Batelière near the Grands Boulevards . De Bellio often visited the cafés de la Nouvelle Athènes , Café Riche , La Maison Dorée or Tortoni, which were popular with writers and painters at the time . He later lived on Rue des Martys and then on Rue Alfred Stevens. He married Catherine Rose Guillemet, who gave birth to their daughter Victorine on August 15, 1863. His brother Constantin committed suicide in 1875.

In his free time, de Bellio devoted himself to very different interests. He developed a passion for bookbinding, collected postage stamps, began taking photos and drawing, and built an art collection. His nephew Alexandru Bellu lived temporarily with him in Paris, later became an important photographer and also put together an art collection. There is no reliable information about the origins of Georges de Bellio's art collection. There is evidence of his participation in the auction of Eugène Delacroix's estate in 1864. He also regularly visited the art dealers on Rue Laffitte, the Hôtel Drouot auction house and the galleries of Paul Durand-Ruel and Bernheim-Jeune .

It is unclear when and how de Bellio got to know the painters of French Impressionism. It was probably Prince Gheorghe Bibescu , who is known as de Bellio , who introduced him to this group of people. Bibescu, who lived in exile in Paris, commissioned Pierre-Auguste Renoir for ceiling paintings in his palace in 1868 and owned several of his works. It is also possible to arrange contacts through another Romanian, the painter Nicolae Grigorescu, who is a friend of the collector . He lived temporarily not far from de Bellio in the rue de Clichy and made a portrait of him in 1876.

In 1876 the painter Claude Monet invited the collector de Bellio to his studio to view paintings. De Bellio had already acquired a work by Monet in 1874, but the formal address in their correspondence suggests that the two men only met personally in 1876. In addition to other works by Monet, de Bellio bought his first pictures from Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1876 . In the following years, numerous other works by the Impressionists came into his collection, including works by Berthe Morisot , Edgar Degas , Paul Gauguin , Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley . For the group exhibitions of the impressionists in 1877 and 1879, de Bellio sent several pictures from his collection.

De Bellio particularly supported the painters Monet, Pissarro and Renoir. He often bought pictures from them to get them out of their financial hardship. Renoir reported that whenever he or one of his painting colleagues needed 200 francs, they went to Café Riche at lunchtime to offer a picture to the de Bellio who dined there. De Bellio always bought the pictures from them without looking at them. In addition, he treated her as a doctor free of charge, or instead of receiving cash payment for the treatment of one of her pictures. The relatives of the painters were also among his patients. This is how he treated Alfred Sisley's wife in 1883. Édouard Manet, whom he visited on his deathbed, was one of his patients. After his death, de Bellio received a painting from Manet's widow out of gratitude. When Monet initiated a fundraising campaign in 1889 to buy Manet's painting Olympia for the French state, de Bellio was one of the first to donate.

De Bellio showed the works of art in his apartment to other collectors, artists and critics. For example, the critic Gustave Geffroy and the painter Eugène Carrière visited him . In addition to his portrait of Grigorescu, de Bellio had himself portrayed by Giovanni Boldini in an oil sketch in 1889 . As early as 1878 de Bellio Manet had given Manet the commission to paint the daughter of his nephew Ion I. Câmpineanu ( Portrait de Lise Câmpineanu , Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art ). Another family portrait is the portrait of Victorine de Bellio ( Musée Marmottan Monet ) commissioned by Renoir in 1892 on the occasion of his daughter's engagement . Victorine and Ernest Donop de Monchy married a year later.

On January 26, 1894, de Bellio died and was subsequently buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery. His daughter and son-in-law inherited the extensive art collection. Although the Donop de Monchy couple sold several works from the collection to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard and the collector Alexandre Berthier de Wagram from 1895 onwards , they still own numerous important pictures. In 1938 they began donating parts of the collection to the Musée Marmottan . After the death of Victorine Donop de Monchy in 1957, the remainder of the former de Bellio collection came into the possession of the museum as a bequest. This foundation prompted Claude Monet's son, Michel Monet , to make further donations to the museum, so that it now has one of the most important collections of Claude Monet's works and the name of the museum was changed to Musée Marmottan Monet .

Art collection

Édouard Manet:
Portrait of Lise Campineanu
Claude Monet:
Impression soleil levant
Edgar Degas:
The Ironer

After the death of Georges de Bellio, Ernest Donop de Monchy compiled an inventory of his father-in-law's art collection. After that, the collection alone contained 143 paintings and six pastels. These included 28 paintings by Claude Monet, eleven by Camille Pissarro, eight each by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Édouard Manet, five by Armand Guillaumin , four by Paul Cézanne and one each by Eva Gonzalès and Edgar Degas . There were also 133 watercolors and drawings by various artists and 170 graphics by Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec . Not all works can be precisely identified today, as the work titles listed are not always clear. Although some works of art can be identified on the basis of photographs of de Bellio's apartment, such evidence is lacking for the majority of the works of art. The documents on the sales by the heirs do not always give precise information about individual works of art.

Before de Bellio began collecting works by the Impressionists on a large scale in the 1870s, his art collection differed little from that of other contemporary collectors. His areas of interest included, for example, French silverwork, Japanese handicrafts, ceramics from the Mediterranean region and drawings by French artists of the 18th century. The Musée Marmottan Monet includes works on paper by Claude Gillot , Jean-Honoré Fragonard , Jean Baptiste Leprince , Hubert Robert , François-André Vincent , Jean-Baptiste Isabey , Pierre Paul from this early part of the collection from de Bellio's estate Prud'hon and Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps . The earliest recorded purchases of paintings include works by Eugène Delacroix , which the collector acquired at the auction of the artist's estate in 1864. In addition to a copy by Delacroix based on a work by Rubens , he bought a horse study by the painter. In addition, de Bellio owned various old master paintings such as the paintings The Smoker with the Jug by Dirck van Baburen and The Drinker by Frans Hals . There were also paintings from the 18th century such as Un Repas servi aux Champs-Elysées by Hubert Robert and a Seated Young Lady , attributed to Thomas Lawrence . For example, the collector owned pictures from the 19th century such as a Reading Monk by Honoré Daumier and Head of a Jew by Nicolae Grigorescu . Grigorescu's picture, also known as the Portrait de Juif , Tête de Juif or Juif de Moldavie , was on view at the Salon de Paris in 1877 .

The first recorded purchases of works by the Impressionists date back to 1874. At the Hôtel Drouot, de Bellio bought the painting La Seine à Argenteuil by Claude Monet for 400 francs and he bought the painting Rue de l ' from the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel for 300 francs Hermitage à Pontoise by Camille Pissarro . De Bellio bought five other works by Monet in 1876, including the painting Das Atelierboot (now the Kröller-Müller Museum ). The most famous picture in the collection was Impression soleil levant by Claude Monet. The name Impressionism is derived from this image. Like La Train dans la neige, La Locomotive , Le Pont de l'Europe, Gare Saint-Lazare , Effet de neige, Soleil couchant , Les Tuileries and Le printemps à travers les branches, it was donated to the Musée Marmottan as a gift from its heirs . Other works by Monet from the de Bellio collection are now in other museums. The pictures La Rue Montorgeuil, fête du 30 juin 1878 in the Musée d'Orsay , La Seine à Vethuil in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, Printemps à Vetheuil in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, a small version of Camille in the green Dress in the Muzeul Național de Artă al României in Bucharest, Véthuil l'hiver in the New York Frick Collection and La femme à l'ombrelle, Jean Monet dans son berceau in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC It is striking that de Bellio after 1880 no longer acquired any works by Monet. On the one hand, he had already amassed a large collection of works by the artist and from that time on the artist was no longer dependent on financial support; on the other hand, he did not like Monet's later motifs.

De Bellio acquired his first painting by Édouard Manet , the small-format painting Three Cows on the Pasture (private collection) at an auction in 1876. This was followed in 1880 by La femme à la jarretière (today Ordrupgaard Museum in Charlottenlund, Denmark). After Manet's death in 1883, more of his works were added to the collection. As a gift from Suzanne Manet , the artist's widow, he received the painting Berthe Morisot à l'éventail (Musée d'Orsay). At Manet's estate auction, the collector bought other paintings such as Modèle du Linge (private collection), Buste de femme (private collection) and La femme au carlin ( Pushkin Museum in Moscow). De Bellio also brought together some works by Manet's sister-in-law Berthe Morisot . These included Vue de Paris des hauteurs du Trocadéro ( Santa Barbara Museum of Art ), Percher de blanchisseusses ( National Gallery of Art ) and Au Bal (Musée Marmottan Monet).

In 1876, Renoir's first pictures probably entered de Bellio's collection. For example, he bought a still life with a bowler hat from the art dealer Durand-Ruel and took a self-portrait by Renoir from the collection of Victor Chocquet . In 1878 he bought Renoir's painting Le Pont de Chatou ( Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute ) from Ernest Hoschedé 's collection . Other works by Renoir in the collection were Madame Henriot en travesti ( Columbus Museum of Art ), Die Modistin ( Oskar Reinhart Collection “Am Römerholz” in Winterthur), Place de la Trinité (private collection) and the Portrait de Victorine de Bellio (Musée Marmottan Monet ). De Bellio put together a number of landscapes by Camille Pissarro . These included Le Jardin des Mathurins, Pontoise ( Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art , Kansas City), Les Boulevards extérieurs, effet de neige (Musée Marmottan Monet), Chemin montant, rue de la Côte-du-Jalet, Pontoise ( Brooklyn Museum , New York) and Paysage à Louveciennes, la barrière ( National Gallery of Art , Washington, DC). In addition, de Bellio collected pictures by Edgar Degas ( Die Büglerin , Norton Simon Museum , Pasadena), Paul Gauguin ( Fleurs et Tapis and Scène martiniquase au manguier ), Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley ( Rue de village (D. 33), Les Gressets , village aux environs de Paris , Chemin montant au Mont-Valérien (D. 364), Les Scieurs de Long , Petit Palais , Paris and Printemps aux Environs de Paris , Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris).


  • Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors . Abrams, New York 1990, ISBN 0-8109-3160-5 .
  • Marianne Delafond: À l''apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio . La Bibliothèque des Arts Lausanne and Musée Marmottan Monet Paris, 2007, ISBN 978-2-88453-139-9 .

Individual evidence

  1. Although de Bellio spent most of his life in France, he remained a Romanian citizen until his death. See Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors , p. 109.
  2. A drawing Soldats au repos by Georges de Bellio, dated Kahr 1844, is in the Musée Marmottan Monet. See Marianne Delafond: À l``apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 82.
  3. ^ Letter from Monet to de Bellio dated April 19, 1876. The letter is in the Musée Marmottan Monet. See Marianne Delafond: À l``apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , pp. 22, 24.
  4. Quoted from Ambroise Vollard: Renoir , p. 19 - reproduced in Anne Distel: Impreesionism, the first collectors , p. 109.
  5. ^ Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors , p. 115.
  6. ^ Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors , p. 123.
  7. Marianne Delafond: À l'apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 43.
  8. Marianne Delafond: À l'apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 57.
  9. Marianne Delafond: À l''apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 58.
  10. Marianne Delafond: À l'apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 60.
  11. Marianne Delafond: À l''apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 54.
  12. Marianne Delafond: À l'apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , p. 17. The Monet picture is identified by Delafond as No. 221 in Monet's catalog raisonné by Daniel Wildenstein. When the picture was auctioned at Sotheby's in New York on May 3, 2005, de Bellio was not named as the previous owner, see /5/N08089-5.pdf . The painting by Pissarro was last auctioned at Christie's in New York in 1995 and is privately owned, see
  13. Monet mentions the studio boat in a letter to de Bellio - referred to there as La Gondole - from April 19, 1876. The letter is in the Musée Marmottan Monet. See Marianne Delafond: À l``apogée de l''impressionnisme, la collection Georges de Bellio , pp. 22, 24.
  14. ^ Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors, p. 115.
  15. ^ Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors, p. 115.
  16. ^ Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors, p. 115.
  17. ^ Anne Distel: Impressionism, the first collectors, pp. 119-120.