Pierre PUGET (Château-Follet, 1620 – Marseilles, 1694)

Stevedore and Galiot in the Port of Marseilles in front of the Fort and Notre Dame de la Garde Chapel

31.5 x 58.7 cm. (12 716 x 3 18 in.)
Circa 1655. Pen, brown and black ink over black chalk lines on parchment Inscribed on the mount, lower center: Pierre Puget 1622-1694

· • Certainly Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon de Fabregoules (1746-1836) Collection, Aix-en-Provence.
• By inheritance, his son Jean-Baptiste-Marie Bourguignon de Fabregoules (1782-1863), Counselor at the Appeals Court, Aix-en-Provence.
• Ceded, c. 1840, with the whole collection to Charles-Joseph-Barthélémy Giraud (1802-1881), Aix-en-Provence and Paris.
• Ceded with his entire collection to cover debts to Jean-Baptiste-Charles-Prosper Flury-Hérard (1804-1873), Paris (stamp, lower right: L. 1015, F. H. No. and in brown ink: 163).
• His sale, Paris, Drouot, May 13th-15th, 1861, Blaisot expert, part of lot 305ter adjudged 60 fr to Chennevières.
• Marquis Charles-Philippe de Chennevières-Pointel (1820-1899) Collection, Director of Beaux-Arts, Paris and Bellesme (Normandy) (L. 2072 lower left).
• His post-mortem sale, Paris, Drouot, April 4th-7th, 1900, Paul Roblin expert, lot 428 (“Magnificent Galley approaching a dock, in the foreground on the left, a stevedore. Very beautiful ink drawing on parchment. Collection Ch. Giraurd.”) Adjudged 510 fr. to Ducrey.
• Paris, Private Collection.

“I hardly believe that any collector or museum in Provence possesses a richer collection than ours of drawings by P. Puget, the most famous sculptor in France who was at the same time, painter, architect, and draughtsman for the King’s galleys.”

In these terms, Philippe de Chennevières began his chapter on Puget in the description of his imposing graphic collection which appeared in L’Artiste between 1894 and 1897. Among the drawings by this “powerful genius,” the Marquesse especially cites the parchment which we present, whose history he retraces up to Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon de Fabregoules, distinguished collector of art from Aix who, at the beginning of the 19th century, had formed a study where Poussin’s and Rubens’ paintings appeared alongside sculptures by Coustou and Chastel. As for the very rich graphic assembly by his father, it passed from a succession of one illustrious collector to another: Charles Giraud, juriconsulte, President of the Aix Academy, and Prosper Flury-Hérard, Banker of Foreign Affairs and Commander of the National Guard.

The very precise and finished drawings on parchment depicting boats constitute an important part of Pierre Puget’s oeuvre, quite distinct from his naval decoration projects intended for sculpture studios at the Toulon Arsenal which he directed since 1670. If the vessels of the Mediterranean flotilla with richly sculpted sterns constituted the principal subject of these seascapes, they were integrated into a deliberately topographical landscape far removed from the dry sketches intended to detail the ornamentation of the king’s vessels. In this picture, the galleys and sailboats with their marvelous rendering in the least details of the architecture and ornamentation count as much as the wind, the wrinkled water surface, the mass of waves, the sailors who clamber up masts, the stevedores charging barges, loiterers along the docks, antique vestiges and fortifications of the ports. The draughtsman reveals himself to be a remarkable landscapist with the most subtle light effects and most refined compositions.

In these large drawings, Puget marvelously fuses sculpture, architecture, and sculpture, that is to say, the ensemble of the areas in which he excelled. Certain sheets are mainly in wash while others, including the one we present, are realized only in fine quill pen and approach engraving. The hand is also exceptionally vivacious, and reveals the artist’s various influences, which are not limited to only Dutchmen, such as Reinier Nooms called Zeeman or Willem van de Welde, but also include Italians and masters from Lorrain. The whole is of remarkable precision, set off by the parchment, a precious support which allows no retouching or corrections. Perfectly achieved works, often doted with a dedication, Puget’s seascapes were avidly sought. Father Bougerel, in his Mémoires pour server à l’histoire des hommes illustres de Provence (Memoirs to serve as a History of Illustrious Men of Provence), published in 1725, indicated that the sculptors François Girardon and Jean de Dieu owned several drawings of this type.

Executed only in pen, our sheet seems to have been produced in the 1650s before Puget settled in Genoa in 1661. Starting in the second half of the 1650s, the artist seems to have worked more in brush and ink wash. Nonetheless, certain specialists don’t hesitate to suggest a later date for some particularly virtuoso parchments, that is, after Puget’s return to Toulon in 1668, or even c. 1680. Very close to our drawing in its technique, the Ship in a Port near a Ruined Obelisk conserved in Los Angeles is thus situated c. 1675-1680.

In the center of the page, the artist places a beautiful galiot with its poop richly sculpted with Atlantes and tritons, crowned with the arms of France. The ship is crawling with sailors and soldiers recognizable by their halberds, but its sails are lowered and its forty oars raised. In the distance a galley and a few barges can be distinguished. The background is contoured by a length of the Marseilles roadstead coast dominated by the fort and Notre Dame de la Garde Chapel. In the foreground, a stevedore curved under the weight of a crate stamped with a merchant’s distinctive signs of a hand and a cross bearing the initials FD is seen advancing with difficulty along the stone quay. Completely unbalanced, the composition plays on the contrast between the gracefulness and sumptuousness of the galiot and the enormous muscular body of the porter, between the mythological Atlantes’ dancing lightness on the stern and the man’s heavy pace, between the finesse of the description of sculptured ornaments, and the brutal energy of the figure where Puget expresses himself as a sculptor.
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Related Literature

Charles-Philippe de CHENNEVIERES, “Une collection de dessins d’artistes français,” L’Artiste, June 1895, chapter VII, pp. 422-423.
Philippe AUQUIER, Pierre Puget, décorateur naval et mariniste, Paris, 1907, cat. 57, ill. pl. XX.
Klaus HERDING, Pierre Puget, Das Bildnerische Werk, Berlin, 1970, p. 39 note 172, fig. 33 (detail).
Pierre Puget. Peintre sculpteur, achitecte. 1620-1694, exh. cat. Marseilles, Centre de la Vieille Charité, Museum of Fine Arts, 1994, p. 179, fig. 23 bis (detail), 180.
Louis-Antoine PRAT and Laurence LHINARES, La collection Chennevières, quatre siècles de dessins français, exh. cat. Louvre Museum, Paris, 2007, p. 100, 297, cat. 273 ill.

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