This exhibition celebrates the restoration of a painting given to The Atkinson in the late 19th century. Due to its poor condition, The Triumph of Art by Nicolas Pierre Loir has not been exhibited in over a century.

The Triumph of Art by Nicolas Pierre Loir was created as an allegory of the arts, a celebration of music, architecture, sculpture, portrait and history painting. The painting pays homage to Jean Baptiste Colbert, a major patron of the arts and a powerful minister who helped Louis XIV rule over France in the 1600s.

An exhibition contextualizing the newly restored painting has been created from The Atkinson’s permanent collection, reflecting the art forms portrayed in The Triumph of Art. Key works on display include sculptures by Elisabeth Frink and Henry Moore, and paintings by LS Lowry and Charles Ginner.

Stephen Whittle (Principal Manager, Museum, Gallery & Operations):The Triumph of Art is a painting with a remarkable history that found its way to Britain in the turmoil surrounding the French Revolution. It gives us an invaluable insight into the life and times of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and provides an opportunity to look at the controversial figure of one of his most powerful ministers. We are immensely grateful to Southport’s Art Society for helping us to bring this painting back to life.”

Nicolas-Pierre Loir (1624 – 1679), was a French painter and engraver. Loir benefitted from the support given to French artists by Louis XIV and by his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert. As well as painting for the King and the aristocracy, Loir painted numerous altarpieces and religious paintings. He also designed tapestries at the Gobelins factory in Paris, which was bought and supervised by Colbert. Loir’s work can be found in many of the world’s major galleries from the Louvre to the Hermitage. However, The Triumph of Art is the only major work by Loir in a British collection.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) came from a family of merchant bankers. Despite not belonging to the nobility, by the mid-1660s he became the most powerful of Louis XIV’s ministers. In the 19th century the novelist Alexandre Dumas portrayed him as a ruthless, cold-blooded politician but also as a visionary and patriot. He was known as ‘Le Nord’ because of his chilly demeanour. Colbert played a crucial role in drafting the notorious ‘Code noir’ governing the conditions of slavery in France’s colonies.

Dr Onyeka Nubia has been invited by The Atkinson to comment on The Triumph of Art by Nicolas Pierre Loir and the patron, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, and his authorship of the ‘code noir’. Dr Nubia is a pioneering and internationally recognised historian, writer and presenter who is reinventing our perceptions of the Renaissance, British history, Black Studies and intersectionalism. Join us online for a pre-recorded lecture from Dr Nubia, Thursday 15 October, 7pm.

The exhibition is presented with thanks to the Chateau de Sceaux for funding the restoration of the painting and The Art Society Southport for funding a new picture frame.


The Triumph of Art                                                                    

10 October – 12 December 2020

Free Entry. Monday – Saturday. 11am – 4pm.


Online Exhibition – The Triumph of Art


Online Lecture – Dr Onyeka Nubia – The Triumph of Art, Jean Baptiste Colbert and the Code Noire

Thursday 15 October. 7pm. Free, donations welcome. Booking required.


Our collections

The Atkinson is home to an impressive collection holding over 3,500 artworks and over 25,000 pieces of social history, that are displayed on rotation across our museum and galleries.


The Atkinson’s reopening times & services

Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm (Closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays)

Library, Box Office, Museum, Gallery, Shop, Café