Charles de Coubertin’s ‘Sports Allegory/The Crowning of the Athletes: New Insights’
Keywords:Olympic Museum Lausanne, Charles de Coubertin, early Olympic history, Jeux Olympiques, 1896, art historical analysis
Charles de Coubertin, the father of the founder of the modern Olympic Games, was a successful painter in France in the second part of the nineteenth century. One of his paintings is exhibited in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and appears often in Olympic history publications (Brown, 1997; de Coubertin, 1901–1914; Gafner, 1994; Müller & Wacker, 2008). In most of the published works, however, the authors did not include information about the painting; they only published the reproduction. Although the works do not explain the painting’s content, the facts seem sufficient to consider the painting a well-known part of Olympic history. This paper explores the painting’s contribution to Olympic history and applies the art historical method of iconological analysis (Panofsky, 1955) to relate the painting’s content to different contexts, such as historic events or the artist’s personal background. Proceedings of Olympic events and writings of Pierre de Coubertin correspond to the Olympic context. Concerning the personal background of the artist, primary sources of Charles de Coubertin discovered in the archives of the de Coubertin family unveil new insights about the painting and its title.