With the death of Alain Erlande-Brandenburg this morning in his eighty-third year, the world of culture is losing one of its most passionate servants, but also a remarkable knowledge broker and one of the greatest historians of French art, whose fame extended far beyond our borders.
Born in Luxeuil-les-Bains on August 2, 1937, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg had a brilliant education, first at the School of Charters, from which he graduated in 1964 with a thesis devoted to the Funeral and Royal Burials in France from the end of the 8th century to 1285, then at the École du Louvre (1965), and finally at the École pratique des hautes études (1971).
Technical collaborator at the CNRS in 1966, he joined the Cluny museum as curator the following year. In 1981, he took charge of it, along with the Castle of Écouen, where he founded the National Renaissance Museum. These two museums owe him exceptional acquisitions, such as the heads of the Abbey of Saint-Denis, those of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, or Le Déluge, by Masséot Abaquesne (1550). Appointed assistant director of the Museums of France in 1987, he was particularly involved in the creation of the common body of heritage curators, before taking over the head of the national museum of the Middle Ages in 1991. We owe him the renovation of the room of the tapestry of the Lady to the Unicorn and that of the room of the sculptures of Notre-Dame of Paris.
His career, until then entirely dedicated to museums and art history, changed on 2 March 1994 when he was appointed director of the Archives de France. During the four years of his leadership, he sought to give a modern impetus to an institution that at the time was struggling to renew itself and that was marked by lively debates on access to contemporary archives. Councillor of State Guy Braibant was then entrusted with a mission of reflection on archives in France, which gave rise in 1996 to a report in forty proposals intended to rethink in depth and with ambition the policy of the Archives of France. In the same spirit, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg was responsible for restructuring the management of the Archives of France and for a major reorganization of the centres which then formed the National Archives, which announced the creation in 2007 of the three departments with national competence.
After his departure in 1998, he was appointed director of the National Renaissance Museum in Écouen. His energy and passion enabled him to acquire the wardrobe of the Château de Thoisy-la-Berchère by Hugues Sambin and to obtain the patronage of Aéroport de Paris to offer the public a new presentation of the hanging of David and Bethsabée. After nearly 40 years at the Ministry of Culture, he retired in 2005.
In parallel with his career as a great public servant, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg was a passionate teacher, excelling at drawing generations of students and students into his passion for museums and architecture. Director of studies at the École pratique des hautes études from 1974 to 2005, he taught art and archaeology in the Western Middle Ages. From 1981 to 1988, he was also a lecturer in museology at the École du Louvre, where he created the chair on the history of Western architecture. Finally, from 1991 to 2000, he held the chair of archaeology and art history of the Middle Ages at the National School of Charters. He also brought his knowledge to the benefit of students at the École supérieure de Chaillot and those at the Institut d'études supérieures des arts.
Alain Erlande-Brandenburg had devoted his life to science, and especially to the history of Gothic architecture and sculpture, areas of which he was unanimously recognized as the best specialist. Among the great titles that adorn a work rich in more than four hundred articles and fifty works, we can mention Le roi est mort (1975), L'art gothique (1984), La conquête de l'Europe (1987), La cathédrale (1989) Notre-Dame de Paris (1997), and La révolution gothique (2012), reference works for specialists as well as invitations to knowledge for all audiences who love our heritage. His passion led him to constantly disseminate and share knowledge, as evidenced by his commitment to the presidency of the Society of Friends of Our-Dame de Paris, her work at the head of the French Archaeological Society from 1985 to 1994 and her duties as director of the Monumental Bulletin from 1969 to 1994.
The Republic had repeatedly recognized his merits: he was an officer of the Legion of Honour (2002), Commander of Merit (1997) and Commander of Arts and Letters (1993).
I extend my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.