Why were they so convinced ? The 16½ x 12½in (42 x 32cm) oil on canvas depicting a nun caring for an invalid soldier, was painted by a local artist, Claudius Jacquand, in 1822, and is set in the north aisle of the cloister of what was recognisably the Palais St Pierre. The Palais, a former abbey, is now the home of the city's fine art museum and, moreover, this is the earliest known survival of the artist's work, painted when he was only 19 years old.
It was priced at €15,000 on Descours stand.
The two men: Louvre curator Guillaume Kientz and former curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin, decided that best way to ensure its future in the Lyon museum was to launch an immediate appeal for funds, so they went round the aisles of the fair, which were packed with picture dealers, collectors and curators for the opening night's champagne reception, asking for contributions to make up the purchase price.
The response from these assorted afficionados was rewardingly swift. Within just an hour and a half 56 donors had pledged enough money to match the asking price. A very generous donation of €10,000 from Jean-Luc Baroni was a major boost but the gallery said the goodwill was such that they felt that the figure would have been achieved sooner or later anyway judging from the numbers still approaching to donate after the price had been reached.
"Good for the Museum and the National Heritage", was the Galerie Descours verdict.
An interesting footnote to the work is that there has been some artistic licence with the scene. Jacquand has cheated a little with the architecture to gain visual impact for the square tower would not have been visible through the arch from the spectactor's viewpoint. Also the premises were never actually home to a military hospital.
"It is highly unlikely that the military invalids at the city's Hotel Dieu would have taken a stroll all the way to the Palais St Pierre," said the gallery.