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Devigne, Marguerite

Date born: 1884

Place born: Dinant, Belgium

Date died: 1967

Place died: Dilbeek, Belgium

Specialist in sculpture, particularly of the Meuse River Valley; curator of sculpture at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels. Devigne studied art history and archaeology at the University of Liège, in Belgium. When she obtained her doctoral degree in 1912, she was the first female doctor in art history in Belgium. Her dissertation, on medieval art in the Meuse River Valley, was granted from the University of Liège with Marcel Laurent as her dissertation supervisor. In Paris, she studied with André Michel at the École du Louvre. Between 1915 and 1949, she held several positions at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels. In 1923, she published the Catalogue de la sculpture, which includes a considerable number of nineteenth-century works of Belgian artists. In 1928, she was appointed assistant curator and in 1935 curator. In addition to her work in the museum, she was professor of the history of costume at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. In addition, she taught the history of sculpture at the École des Hautes Études in Ghent, and art history at the École normale provinciale d’instituteurs in Morlanwelz. She regularly published articles in various periodicals as well as a number of books. She was a contributor to the Biographie nationale, issued by the Royal Academy of Belgium. She also contributed to the Thieme-Becker Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler and to the Enciclopedia Italiana. Her magnum opus, La sculpture mosane du XIIe au XVIe siècle, the publication of which was delayed by World War I, appeared in 1932. During World War II, Devigne replaced the chief curator of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Leo van Puyvelde, who then lived as an exile in England. During this period, Devigne had the difficult task of dealing with the German authorities. She catalogued the painting collection della Faille de Leverghem, donated to the museum in 1942. After the liberation, her interim directorship was harshly criticized, which led to her replacement by curator Arthur Laes (1876-1959), who held this post until Van Puyvelde returned the next year. The “comité de patronage”, on the other hand, which praised her for her conduct during the war, made several proposals to keep her on her position. Meanwhile she was severely attacked by the press. She left the museum in 1949 with bitterness. Her rehabilitation followed in 1951, when the journal Front was condemned for the publications in which it dishonored Devigne with slander. This judgment was confirmed by the Court of appeal in the next year. After her retirement, Devigne traveled for a long visit to the USA. She worked on a short English overview of the history of sculpture in Belgium, which appeared in New York, in the series Art Treasures of Belgium.

Her 1932 La sculpture mosane du XIIe au XVIe siècle is an elaborate and learned essay which provides great deal of information and documentation on the larger cultural contexts in which the arts in the Meuse River Valley flourished and developed. Devigne was particularly interested in aspects of stylistic relationships between the sculptors in the Meuse Valley and artists in Germany, France, Flanders and Italy. MD

Home Country: Belgium

Sources: Oudheidkundig Jaarboek 3e series 4 (1924): 284; De Seyn, Eug. Dictionnaire biographique des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts en Belgique. 1. Brussels: Éditions L’Avenir, 1935, p. 371; Chapman, Gretel. Mosan Art, an annotaded bibliography. Boston: Reference Publications in Art History, 1988, p. 197; Van Lennep, Jacques. Catalogue de la sculpture. Artistes nés entre 1750 et 1882. Brussels: Musées royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, 1992, pp. 67-73; Marcus-de Groot, Yvette. “‘Geen mooier studievak voor een vrouw dan de kunstgeschiedenis’. Vrouwelijke kunsthistorici en hun aandeel in de traditie.” In Van der Stighelen, Katlijne and Westen, Mirjam, eds., Elck zijn Waerom. Ghent: Ludion, 1999, pp. 102-113; Marcus-de Groot, Yvette. Kunsthistorische vrouwen van weleer. De eerste generatie in Nederland vóór 1921. Hilversum: Verloren, 2003, pp. 74, 123, 125-126, 167-169; Devillez, Virginie. “Le musée en guerre (1939-1947) ”  Les Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Deux siècles d’histoire. Brussels: Dexia Banque et Racine, 2003, 1, pp. 361-369; [obituary :] Sulzberger, Suzanne. “In memoriam Marguerite Devigne.” Revue belge d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’art 35 (1966): 234-235.

Bibliography: [dissertation] La sculpture au Pays de Liège du XIVe à la fin du XVIe siècle. Université de Liège, 1911-1912; Constantin Meunier. Turnhout: Brepols, 1919; Thomas Vinçotte. Turnhout: Brepols, 1919; Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Catalogue de la sculpture. Brussels: Weissenbruch, 1923; Van Eyck. Brussels : L. J. Kryn, 1926; Laurent Delvaux et ses élèves: De la parenté d’inspiration des artistes flamands du XVIIe et du XVIIIe siècle. Brussels: Van Oest, 1928; La sculpture mosane du XIIe au XVIe siècle: contribution à l’étude de l’art dans la région de la Meuse moyenne. Brussels: Van Oest, 1932; Collection della Faille de Leverghem. Brussels: Musées royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique, 1944; Esquisse de l’histoire du costume en Belgique. Brussels: Pawwels Fils, 1952; Sculpture, vol. 2 of Art Treasures of Belgium. New York: Belgian Govt. Information Center, 1954.

Subject's name: Marguerite Devigne