New Exhibition to Show Art Saved From Notre Dame Fire

After being rescued from the 2019 blaze and restored by experts, art from the historic cathedral is going on show in Paris.

Apr 15, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
Photograph of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris under reconstruction after the 2019 fire, via Deposit Photos


Five years after a devastating fire broke out in the iconic Notre Dame of Paris, paintings and textiles that were rescued from the flames are going on show before the cathedral partially reopens in December. The exhibition of recovered treasures is on view at Le Mobilier National in Paris from April 24 to July 21.


The Rescued Treasures of Notre Dame

A section of the 19th-century Notre Dame choir carpet undergoing conservation, via Le Mobilier National, Paris, France


An exciting array of art rescued from the Notre Dame fire will be on public display in Paris at Le Mobilier National, the French cultural body tasked with conserving historic objects. The exhibition of Notre Dame treasures features twenty-one religious paintings, thirteen of which belong to the celebrated Mays series. A section of the 200-meter “choir carpet” commissioned by King Charles X in the 19th century will also be on view. The paintings and carpet will later be reinstalled at Notre Dame for its reopening.


Fourteen tapestries depicting the life of the Virgin Mary, which were originally woven for Notre Dame in the 17th century, are on loan for the exhibition. Additionally, contemporary liturgical furniture by French designer Guillaume Bardet will accompany the historic artworks in the exhibition. The new furniture—including an altar, baptistry, and 1,500 congregation chairs—will be installed and used in the restored Gothic cathedral.


The Mays Paintings

Detail of the restoration of a Mays painting from Notre Dame cathedral, via Le Mobilier National, Paris, France


Notably, the exhibition of Notre Dame treasures includes part of the Mays series, a collection of 76 religious oil paintings created by premiere French artists like Charles Le Brun and Jacques Blanchard. Every May from 1630 to 1707, a painting was commissioned by the goldsmiths’ guild of Paris as an offering to the Virgin Mary, to whom Notre Dame cathedral is dedicated. The tradition was meant to assert the supremacy of Catholicism following deadly regional conflicts between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots.

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Thirteen of the Mays hung in the dimly-lit side chapels of Notre Dame and suffered some damage during the 2019 fire. Emmanuel Pénicaut, director of Le Mobilier National collections, said, “We began removing [the Mays] the day after the fire and decided they would all be restored. The exhibition is a chance to see them all in one place, in the order they were painted, which is how they would have been originally displayed. What you see now is how they would have looked the day they were completed.”


A Landmark Restoration

Detail of the restoration of the Mays paintings, photographed by David Bordes, via DRAC Île-de-France


Le Mobilier National’s exhibition of Notre Dame treasures breathes new life into the famous cathedral’s art and decor, some of which was often overlooked by visitors in its original context. Exhibition attendees can also expect to learn more about the painstaking efforts undergone by experts to restore these objects and reinstate them in their historic home along the Seine.


Dating back to the year 1163, Notre Dame is universally recognized as a cultural symbol of France and a quintessential example of Gothic architecture. In the five years since the fire, nearly 1,000 experts have worked daily to reconstruct the damaged cathedral and repair its surviving contents, including paintings, textiles, furniture, and other significant objects. After a series of setbacks, Notre Dame is scheduled to partially reopen to the public on December 8, 2024.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.