Clérisseau, Belanger,Hubert Robert, Bagatelle and the developing of NeoClassicism in France
Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the Genesis of Neoclassicism
Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820), the French architect, archaeologist, and artist, occupies a unique position in the genesis and wide-ranging adoption of neoclassical architecture during the second half of the eighteenth century. His skillful drawings in particular of ancient decorative details, of real and imaginary ruins, and of ancient-style buildings - helped create a style that was to influence such notable figures as Catherine the Great and Thomas Jefferson. Clérisseau's vision of antiquity as the basis for a new architecture is eloquently expressed in the 169 drawings reproduced here.
Thomas McCormick's book is the first comprehensive and balanced study of Clérisseau. It carefully charts his role in the creation of neoclassicism in Italy and its diffusion to France, Germany, England, Russia, and the United States. McCormick describes the influence on his work and development of Clérisseau's relationships to the architects Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Johann Joachim Winckelmann and to his students William Chambers and Robert Adam, among others. It was during his stay in Italy with Adam that Clérisseau made many of the unusually beautiful and sensitive drawings of antique forms that are among the more than 100 now in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad. McCormick also clarifies Clérisseau's muchdebated role in the design of the state capitol in Richmond, Virginia.
Thomas McCormick is Professor of Art at Wheaton College. An Architectural History Foundation Book.
This is one of a set of six paintings from a room in the Château de Bagatelle, on the outskirts of Paris which belonged to the comte d’Artois, brother of Louis XVI. Robert often incorporated the antique ruins and monuments he had studied in Italy, in the present case the temple of Jupiter Serapis at Pozzuoli, near Naples. The statues of Mercury and Venus are based on works by the French sculptor Pigalle while the landscape is imaginary.
Charles-Louis Clérisseau (28 August 1721 – 9 January 1820) was a French architectural draughtsman, antiquary and artist. He had a role in the genesis of neoclassical architecture during the second half of the 18th century.
Born in Paris, he was a pupil of the painter of ruins Giovanni Paolo Pannini and a former student at the French Academy in Rome, which he left in 1754 after a dispute with its director, Natoire. In 1755 the Scottish architect Robert Adam arrived in Florence, where he met Clérisseau, who accompanied him to Rome; there Adam resolved, under the spell of Clérisseau, to produce a volume for publication upon his return that would establish him as a serious architect. The project he selected was a volume documenting the ruins of Diocletian's Palace at Split, easily accessible on the Dalmatian coast. Over a period of five weeks in 1757 Adam sketched and supervised the documentation of the ruins, while Clérisseau produced perspectives, and two German draftsmen undertook the measured drawings. Most of the published engravings in Adam's Ruins of the palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalato (1764) are believed to be the work of Clérisseau, though he received no credit.
Clérisseau passed most of the next decades in Rome. As it had done since the High Renaissance, ancient Rome and modern Rome functioned as a cultural hub, the ruins of Classical Antiquity providing a school in themselves, if one had a knowledgeable guide. Clérisseau served as a mentor to a generation of young architectural students who had won the prestigious Prix de Rome for study at the French Academy in Rome and guided the developing taste for the Antique in young French and British artists and gentlemen amateurs on the Grand Tour. In particular, his skillful drawings of ancient architectural details, of real Roman ruins and imaginary ones, helped form the taste of young architects like Robert Adam in the 1750s and his brother James Adam, in 1760-63. Clérisseau supported himself by providing architectural views, sometimes in series, for young men on the Grand Tour.
Returning to Paris, Clérisseau was a magnet for young neoclassical architects, like François-Joseph Bélanger, who never went to Rome. In 1774, Clérisseau provided the designs for Jean-François Peyron's decors in the salon of the Hôtel Grimod de La Reynière, Paris, the earliest revival of grotesques in France. From 1785-89, he assisted Thomas Jefferson, in producing designs for the Virginia State Capitol. At the time, Jefferson was residing in Paris, while serving as American Minister to France. In 1788, the first (and only) volume in Clérisseau's intended series, Antiquités de la France, was published in Paris. Subtitled, "Monumens de Nismes", the folio included detailed engravings of the Maison Carrée, the building that inspired Clérisseau's collaboration with Thomas Jefferson on the design for the Virginia State Capitol. Mistakenly believing it to be a Republican period building, Jefferson admired the Maison Carrée (19-16 BCE) as "one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful and precious morsel of architecture left us by antiquity...." (quoted in McCormick, 1990).
The largest cache of Clérisseau drawings by far is in the collection at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Another large group is conserved at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.
François-Joseph Bélanger (12 April 1744 – 1 May 1818) was a French architect and decorator working in the Neoclassic style.
Born in Paris, he studied at the Académie Royale d'Architecture (1764–1766) where he worked under Julien-David Le Roy and Pierre Contant d'Ivry, but did not win the coveted Prix de Rome that would have sent him to study at Rome; however, through Le Roy's circle he was introduced to some advanced neoclassical designers, such as Charles-Louis Clérisseau, Robert Adam's drawing-master, recently arrived from Rome, and was admitted to the Académie at the age of twenty. He began his career in 1767 working at the Menus Plaisirs du Roi designing ephemeral decorations for court fêtes, and by 1777 he was its director. In this position, he was in charge of the funeral preparations for Louis XV and the coronation coach of Louis XVI. The jewel cabinet he designed for the wedding of the Dauphin to Marie-Antoinette has not survived, but a drawing of it exists, and, most remarkably, the maquette presented for approval of the design, made of wax and painted paper on a wooden frame, (now at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore), which shows that it was very advanced for its date (designed in time to be delivered 4 May 1770), in a fully developed Neoclassical taste, with caryatid demi-figures and framed medallions in blue and white
Ten years later he purchased the position of chief architect to Monsieur, the comte d'Artois, brother of Louis XVI. For him Bélanger designed and constructed the party pavilion Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne, 1777, winning his patron's bet with the Queen by completing the house in sixty-three days (and nights) and introducing décors in the style Étrusque. Bélanger constructed the Folie Saint James, a French landscape garden, in Neuilly from 1777 to 1780, and worked for the comte d'Artois at the Château of Maisons-Lafitte. During the Revolution he spent some time in the prison of Saint-Lazare.
In 1813, at the death of Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart he presented himself successfully as candidate for completing the Bourse. From 1808 to 1813 he rebuilt the cupola of the Halle au blé, the former grain market that is the present Bourse de commerce of Paris. This was among the earliest uses of iron to enclose a long-span interior space.
Bélanger designed and constructed numerous hôtels particuliers for Parisian aristocrats and bankers. He designed the Château de Méréville for Jean-Joseph de Laborde, 1784–86He designed interiors for the Hôtel Baudart de Saint-James, 12 Place Vendôme, and influenced garden designs of the epoch.
He supervised the workshop supported by the connoisseur Louis-Marie-Augustin, duc d'Aumont, that produced hardstone and porphyry vases, pedestals, and tabletops, which were mounted with gilt-bronze ornaments to his designs. The late duc d'Aumont's collection was dispersed at auction, 1782: among the purchasers was the Queen.
He died at Paris in 1818. Among the architects trained in his atelier was Joseph-Jacques Ramée.
Hubert Robert (22 May 1733 – 15 April 1808), French artist, was born in Paris.
His father, Nicolas Robert, was in the service of François-Joseph de Choiseul, marquis de Stainville a leading diplomat from Lorraine. Young Robert finished his studies with the Jesuits at the Collège de Navarre in 1751 and entered the atelier of the sculptor Michel-Ange Slodtz who taught him design and perspective but encouraged him to turn to painting. In 1754 he left for Rome in the train of Étienne-François de Choiseul, son of his father's employer, who had been named French ambassador and would become a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Louis XV in 1758.
Years in Rome
He spent fully eleven years in Rome, a remarkable length of time; after the young artist's official residence at the French Academy in Rome ran out, he supported himself by works he produced for visiting connoisseurs like the abbé de Saint-Non, who took Robert to Naples in April 1760 to visit the ruins of Pompeii. The marquis de Marigny, director of the Bâtiments du Roi kept abreast of his development in correspondence with Natoire, director of the French Academy, who urged the pensionnaires to sketch out-of-doors, from nature: Robert needed no urging; drawings from his sketchbooks document his travels: Villa d'Este, Caprarola. Robert spent his time in the company of young artists in the circle of Piranesi, whose capricci of romantically overgrown ruins influenced him so greatly that he gained the nickname Robert des ruines. The albums of sketches and drawings he assembled in Rome supplied him with motifs that he worked into paintings throughout his career.
His success on his return to Paris in 1765 was rapid: the following year he was received by the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, with a Roman capriccio, The Port of Rome, ornamented with different Monuments of Architecture, Ancient and Modern. Robert's first exhibition at the Salon of 1767 was greeted in print by Denis Diderot, "The ideas which the ruins awake in me are grand." He was successively appointed "Designer of the King's Gardens", Keeper of the King's Pictures" and "Keeper of the Museum and Councilor to the Academy".
Robert was arrested in October 1793, during the French Revolution. He survived his detentions at Sainte-Pélagie and Saint-Lazare by painting vignettes of prison life on plates before he was freed at the fall of Robespierre. Robert narrowly escaped the guillotine when through error another prisoner died in his place. Subsequently he was placed on the committee of five in charge of the new national museum at the Palais du Louvre.
The Revolution also resulted in the destruction of some of Robert's work. Robert had designed the decorations for a little theatre in the new wing at the location of the current staircase Gabriel in the Palace of Versailles. Designed to seat about 500, this theatre was built from the summer of 1785 and opened in early 1786. It was intended to serve as an ordinary court theatre, replacing the Theatre of the Princes Court which was too old and too small, but was destroyed during the time of Louis Philippe. A watercolour of Robert's design is in the National Archives in Paris.
Robert and picturesque gardens
Enterprising and prolific, Robert also acted in a role similar to that of a modern day art director, conceptualizing fashionably dilapidated gardens for several aristocratic clients, summarized by his possible intervention at Ermenonville; there he would have been working with the architect Morel for the marquis de Girardin, who was the author of Compositions des paysages (1777) and had distinct views of his own. In 1786 he began his better documented collaboration at Méréville, with his most significant patron, the financier Jean-Joseph de Laborde, who found François-Joseph Bélanger's plans too expensive and perhaps too formal. Though documents are again lacking, Hubert Robert's name is invariably invoked in connection with Marie Antoinette's 'premier architecte' Richard Mique through several phases of the creation of an informal landscape garden at the Petit Trianon, and the setting of the "petit hameau. Robert's contribution to garden design was not in making practical ground plans for improvements but in providing atmospheric inspiration for the proposed effect. At Ermenonville and at Méréville "Hubert Robert's paintings both recorded and inspired", according to W.H. Adams: Robert's four large ruin fantasies, painted in 1787 for Méréville may be searched in vain for direct connections with the garden. Hubert's paintings of the Moulin Joly of his friend Claude-Henri Watelet render the fully-grown atmosphere of a garden that had been under way since 1754. His set of six Italianate landscape panels painted for Bagatelle were not the inspiration for the formal turfed parterre set in the thinned woodlands, designed by Bélanger; the later picturesque extensions of Bagatelle were carried out by its Scottish gardener, William Blaikie. Robert's commissioned painting of the long-delayed rejuvenation of the park at Versailles, begun in 1774 with the cutting down of the trees for sale as firewood, is a record of the event, resonant with allegorical meaning. Robert was more certainly responsible for the conception of the grotto and cascades of the 'Baths of Apollo,' tucked within a grove of the chateau's park and built to house François Girardon's celebrated sculpture group Apollo Attended by Nymphs.
He deserves to be remembered not so much for his skill as a painter, but as for the liveliness and point with which he treated the subjects he painted. The contrast between the ruins of ancient Rome and the life of his time excited his keenest interest. The reputation he acquired in Rome, working for a time in the studio of Pannini, whose influence can be seen in the Vue imaginaire de la galerie du Louvre en ruine (illustration).
Along with this incessant activity as an artist, his daring character and many adventures attracted general admiration and sympathy. In the fourth canto of his L'Imagination Jacques Delille celebrated Robert's miraculous escape when lost in the catacombs.
The quantity of his work is immense; the Louvre alone contains nine paintings by his hand and specimens are frequently to be met with in provincial museums and private collections. Robert's work has more or less of that scenic character which justified his selection by Voltaire to paint the decorations of his theatre at Ferney. Robert died of a stroke on 15 April 1808.
His work was much engraved by the abbé de Saint-Non, with whom he had visited Naples in the company of Fragonard during his early days; in Italy his work has also been frequently reproduced by Chatelain, Linard, Le Veau, and others.
The Château de Bagatelle is a small neoclassical château with a French landscape garden in the Bois de Boulogne in the XVIe arrondissement of Paris.
The château is a glorified playground, actually a maison de plaisance intended for brief stays while hunting in the Bois in a party atmosphere, which was initially built as a small hunting lodge for the Maréchal d'Estrées in 1720. Bagatelle from the Italian bagattella, means a trifle, or little decorative nothing. In 1775, the Comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's brother, purchased the property from the prince de Chimay. The Comte soon had the existing house torn down with plans to rebuild. Famously, Marie-Antoinette wagered against the Comte, her brother-in-law, that the new château could not be completed within three months. The Comte engaged the neoclassical architect François-Joseph Bélanger to design the building that remains in the park today. The Comte won his bet, completing the house, the only residence ever designed and built expressly for him, in sixty-three days, from September 1777. It is estimated that the project, which came to include manicured gardens, employed eight hundred workers and cost over three million livres. Bélanger's brother-in-law Jean-Démosthène Dugourc provided much of the decorative detail. The central domed feature was a music-room. The master bedroom was fitted up in the manner of a military tent, and Hubert Robert executed a set of six Italianate landscapes for the bathroom. Most of the furnishings were provided by numerous Parisian marchand-merciers, notably Dominique Daguerre; a decorative painter was A.-L. Delabrière.
The château still carries over the porch of its main entrance the words first used by the Latin poet Horace to describe his own house: "Parvus sed aptus." It could be translated as "Small but able, sufficient for all needs."
In 1777 a party was thrown in the recently completed house in honour of Louis XVI and the Queen. The party featured a new table game featuring a small billiard-like table with raised edges and cue sticks, which players used to shoot ivory balls up an inclined playfield with fixed pins. The table game was dubbed "Bagatelle" by the Count and shortly after swept through France, evolving into various forms which eventually culminated in the modern pinball machine.
The formal garden spaces surrounding the château, which was linked to its dependencies by underground tunnels, was expanded with a surrounding park in the naturalistic English landscape style by the Scottish garden-designer Thomas Blaikie, and dotted with sham ruins, an obelisk, a pagoda, primitive hermits' huts and grottoes.
A fête given 20 May 1780, described in Blaikie's diary, gives a sense of the extravagant atmosphere. An additional part of the Bois de Boulogne had recently been taken into the prince's grounds, but the wall remained:
Mr Belanger had an invention which made a Singulare effect by undermining the wall on the outside and placing people with ropes to pull the wall down at a word.... there was an actor who acted the part of a Magician who asked their Majesties how they liked the Gardens and what a beautiful view there was towards the plain if that wall did not obstruct it but that their Majesties need only give the word that he with his enchanted wand would make make that wall disappear; the Queen not knowing told him with a laugh 'Very well I should wish to see it disappear' and in the instant the signal was given and above 200 yards opposite where the company stood fell flat to the ground which surprised them all"