The painting could have remained essentially one of the masterpieces of the Musée Fabre, if not for a decision in the 1970s to restore its canvas. At the time, Poussin experts began suggesting the possibility that there were stylistic similarities between the Montpellier painting and another one belonging to a private American collection.
Indeed, the coincidences between the two paintings are undeniable: virtually identical heights, similar theme and execution, and the same provenance, the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo.
That was when the relining operation undertaken in Montpellier in 1978 revealed on the original canvas a Latin inscription which had been cut off. All that needed to be done was to check the back of the painting in the private collection to prove whether or not it could be the left-hand part of the painting held by the Musée Fabre!
It is now widely believed that the two paintings are two parts of a single work that was cut in half between 1740 and 1771, at which time each painting began to be considered a work in and of itself and acquired a separate history.
Since then, the two works have been brought together at various international exhibits, specifically in Rome and Biella, Italy, where Cassiano dal Pozzo hailed from.
Bringing these two paintings back together is an exceptional event in the world of art history and French museums. This is a happy ending to a remarkable story, resulting in the marvellous renaissance of a masterpiece separated for more than two centuries. Moreover, it is taking place at the very same time as the reopening of the Musée Fabre, after an unprecedented renovation campaign, and will benefit from the exceptional media coverage of the event.
The painting Venus and Adonis, belonging to the Museum collections, will be displayed in the Galerie des Griffons, the historical centre of the Musée Fabre since its creation in 1828, and brilliantly renovated by the architects. Poussin’s masterpiece, reunited for the first time in more than two centuries, will be on display along with other 17th century masterpieces by French painters including Vouet, Blanchard, La Hyre, Dughet, and Bourdon, and Italian painters such as Dominiquin, Cagnacci and Preti. This acquisition will reinforce the image of the Musée Fabre, which is already known for its collection of works by Poussin, including Paysage au satyre endormi (also from the dal Pozzo collection); and the drawings La pénitence and Paysage des bords du Tibre, while accentuating the presence of Poussin in French public collections. In addition to works at the Louvre, the artist is represented in France in Rouen, Caen, Cherbourg, Les Andelys and Ajaccio.