Since Henri Cernuschi’s original bequest, gifts of works, legacies and donations constitute essential contributions to the enrichment of the collections of the Musée Cernuschi.

Gifts made for the benefit of the museum

Gifts made for the benefit of the museum can take two forms: a direct gift and a notarised donation.

  • Direct gift: The direct gift is the simplest and most common way of gifting. The donor materially hands over the gifted object, in their lifetime, to the beneficiary. No notarised deed is necessary. This gift is only valid on the double condition that the goods can be handed over in their material form (which excludes buildings) and that the beneficiary accepts them.
  • The notarised donation: The act of donation is an authentic deed signed by a notary. The donor often retains usufruct: during their lifetime they retain possession of the works, which they can thus enjoy before their transfer to the museum.

Historic donations

In 2016 and 2013, important donations enriched the collections of the Cernuschi Museum

The donation by Madame Françoise Marquet-Zao in 2016 was a historic addition to the Cernuschi Museum’s collection.

Firstly, it is a reminder that the works of Zao Wou-ki were exhibited for the first time in France at the Cernuschi Museum, in 1946. Vadime Elisseeff, curator of the museum at the time, made the bold and discerning decision to show to the work of this young and unknown artist to the Parisian public. The press immediately recognised the talent of Zao Wou-ki. Two years later, the young Chinese painter arrived in Paris, the city where he would produce most of his work.

The works in the donation reflect this key period of the artist’s career, during which he made numerous technical experiments and moved from representational art to abstraction. For his work on paper alone, Zao Wou-ki used charcoal, watercolour, gouache and, naturally, ink. He made several Matissean line portraits, drawing inspiration both from live nude models and ancient Chinese engravings and prints. He started working again with ink in the 1970s after a few years’ break, and never gave it up. His series of abstract compositions from the 1970s to the 2000s are eloquent illustrations of the many facets of his work.

The antique objects collected by the artist are also extremely important additions to the heritage collections of the Cernuschi Museum. He started to collect them from the late 1960s but made increasingly numerous acquisitions from the 1990s and 2000s on, either through purchases or gifts received for his birthday or on visits to his studio. Pieces dating from the Shang to the Qing dynasties illustrate several millennia of Chinese art history. These ritual vases, fragrance burners with green and bluish patinas and celadons in simple shapes are also irreplaceable sources for those wishing to learn about Zao Wou-ki’s taste for and interest in Chinese antiquity.

The donation also includes works by Chinese artists who were friends of Zao Wou-ki, particularly Walasse Ting.

In 2013, the museum’s collection of Korean works was considerably enriched by the donation by Madame Park In-kyung of 66 paintings by her husband, Lee Ungno (Yi Ung-no) (1904-1989).

Together with the 40 paintings already in the museum, these constitute the largest public collection outside of Korea of works by this major Korean modern artist. Following the Japanese occupation, Lee Ungno actively supported a revival of contemporary art, before leaving for France in 1960. He founded the Académie de Peinture Orientale de Paris four years later, and developed a special relationship with the Cernuschi Museum.

On the foundation of the Académie Orientale in 1964, the director of the museum, Vadime Elisseeff, played a key role in establishing a sponsorship committee for the association, bringing together individuals as different and complementary as Fujita Tsuguharu, Zhang Daqian, Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages. Relations between the Cernuschi Museum and Lee Ungno soon intensified: every week, from 1971 onwards, the artist met with his pupils at the museum, where he taught until his death in 1989.

In 2013, Park In-kyung, who carried on her husband’s teaching before handing over to their son, Lee Young-Sé, decided to gift the museum with a remarkable ensemble of 62 works by Lee Ungno illustrating the most personal side of his production, a mixture of painting and calligraphy, representational and abstract art.

This major donation, followed by several years of research and restoration, has produced a collection that is unique outside of Korea, and which led to a retrospective exhibition entitled Lee Ungno, l’homme des foules (Lee Ungno: A Man of the Crowd) (9 June–19 November 2017 that would not have been possible without this final series of gifts.


A bequest left in your Will

A bequest is a form of donation benefiting the museum.

A will is a legal deed in which the testator expresses his or her last wishes. Unlike a donation, this deed takes effect on the death of its author. The person’s last wishes can be effected as a result either of an authentic deed or of a privately drawn-up document. An authentic deed is signed by a notary in the presence of a second notary or other witnesses. A private, or handwritten will is written, signed and dated by the testator. In France, a testator’s freedom to dispose of their estate is limited by legal requirements to leave his or her next-of-kin a fixed portion of their property (forced heirship). It is advisable to seek the advice of a notary.

In keeping with Article 795 of the Code Général des Impôts (modified by French Law no. 2016-1087 of 8 August 2016 – art. 108), the following are exempted from transfer tax on free gifts:

  • Gifts and legacies of works of art, monuments or objects of historical value, books, printed matter or manuscripts to establishments with a civil personality . . . when these works and objects are to appear in a public collection;
  • Gifts and legacies to public establishments or institutions in the public interest whose resources are assigned exclusively and in a non-profit-seeking manner to scholarly, cultural or artistic works.


Significant legacies left to the museum

In 2017, the museum acquired the Touron Bequest, which included a group of famille verte porcelain objects.

The year 2008 saw the addition to the inventory of the bequest of Pierre Ledoux, former vice-chairman of the Société des Amis du Musée Cernuschi.

The Touron Bequest includes a box, a bowl, ducks, a dish, a couple, a condiments dish, an ink pot, a fountain, a ritual vase, a god, a vase, a teapot and a jug in famille verte porcelain.

The term “famille verte” (green family) was coined by Albert Jacquemart and Edmond Le Blant. Since its use in 1862 in their book Histoire artistique, industrielle et commerciale de la porcelaine, it became widely adopted in the West. It is used to describe porcelain entirely painted with transluscent enamels, without a cobalt blue underglaze. This palette is known in Chinese as yingcai (hard, strong colours) or Kangxi wucai (the five colours of Kangxi). There is a variant of this type of porcelain where the enamels, generally limited to yellow, green and brown or aubergine are applied directly to the unglazed porcelain, known as susancai (soft three colours).

This porcelain family, which flourished between 1685 and 1725 and was directly related to the development of commercial exchanges between the West and the East, contributed to the growing taste for chinoiserie in 18th-century Europe. The Touron Bequest offers an ensemble typical of this major artistic phenomenon that is not widely represented in the collections of the Cernuschi Museum.

In 2008, the bequest of Pierre Ledoux, former vice-chairman of the Société des Amis du Musée Cernuschi, who died in 2005, was added to the museum inventory.

The most significant work in this group is undoubtedly a large bronze jia (M.C. 2008-14, H. 43.3 x W. 22.1 x D. 21.8 cm). A jia is a receptacle in which fermented beverages could be heated before being transferred to jugs and then cups. The jia was particularly common in the late Erligang period (circa 1550 – circa 1050 BCE). This period saw the development of the Third Style of archaic bronzes, as defined in 1953 by Max Loehr.

The Ledoux jia can be compared to three others more or less contemporary to it. The most precious one was discovered in the tomb of the queen consort Fu Hao in Xiaotun near Anyang; another was unearthed in 1965 in Feixi Xian in Anhui province; and a third is in collection of the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.