• The Artist’s Collection, Marly-le-Roi
• France, Private Collection
“He was true to the traditions bequeathed by his predecessors in the 17th and 18th centuries and, having inherited the temperament of the Israël Sylvestres, the Perelles, and the Rigauds, he had their spontaneous and spiritual talent. A skilled draughtsman and lively watercolorist, he knew how to communicate the warmth and color of his pencil and crayon to his burin.” - Eugène-Louis-Viollet-le-Duc1
Until recently presented together in a single black wooden frame since the late 19th century, our two drawings constitute precious and exceptional evidence of the particular affection that Auguste-Alexandre Guillaumot, as an architectural draughtsman, had for the bygone royal castle of Marly. While the Watering Pool drawn on site in 1857 marked the artist’s first contact with the vestiges of the dwelling destroyed a half-century earlier, the View of the Château of Marly in 1710, executed in about 1875, culminates almost twenty years of study and passionate excavations which succeeded in bringing Louis XIV’s favorite residence back to life.
Trained by the engraver Augustin-François Lemaître (1797-1870), Auguste-Alexandre Guillaumot exhibited in the Salon between 1842 and 1891 in the various categories of Engraving, Painting, Drawing, and especially Architectural Drawing or Engraving. By 1845, he had received his first distinction, a 3rd class medal for Phalante and Æthra after the low relief by Grégoire Giraud. Guillaumot’s works with their great precision and perfect technique marvelously rendered the monuments and their sculpted decoration, and he rapidly made a name for himself in the illustration of works on art such as the Monographie de la cathédrale de Chartres (Monograph of Chartres Cathedral) by A.-N. Diron, E.E. Amaury-Duval, and J.-B. Lassus, (Paris, 1842-1846) and the Voyages pittoresques et romantiques dans l’ancienne France (Picturesque and Romantic Travels through France), a vast collection directed by Isidore Taylor.
For the latter publication, the artist collaborated with Eugene Viollet-le-Duc and a solid friendship developed between the two men. Guillaumot was thus one of the main engravers for the Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française published starting in 1854 (Dictionary of French Architecture, translated in 1856). He then participated actively in the Encyclopedia of Architecture. The influence of the illustrious architect and restorer was determinant in Guillaumot’s career, to the point that, though he only was a year younger, he didn’t hesitate to call himself Viollet-le-Duc’s student when he exhibited his architectural drawings and reconstitutions of monuments.
It was also for the collection directed by Viollet-le-Duc, Promenades artistiques dans Paris et son environs (Artistic Promenades in Paris and its Surroundings) that Guillaumot engraved the Watering Pool for Marly-le-Roi in ruins. Exhibited in the Salon of 1857 (no. 3449), the print is the harbinger of the artist’s Château de Marly studies which came out of his fascination with the abandoned site. The first number of the Promenades appeared the same year – unfortunately not followed by any other – and attested the scale of the research already undertaken by Guillaumot. He observed and drew the park’s vestiges, copied archival documents, and realized his first reconstitutions, including a bird’s eye view of Louis XIV’s most original residence. The project of a monograph took form in 1865 with the publication of a richly illustrated and magisterial folio volume. Nonetheless, the artist hardly ever ceased his investigations, and even settled in Marly-le-Roi. The works he exhibited in the Salon starting in 1857 concerned almost exclusively the Château de Marly, as did the majority of his watercolors, drawings, and sketches scattered during his post-mortem sale in 1892.
Our two watercolors do not appear in the sales catalogue, because probably purchased by a collector in Guillaumot’s lifetime, which would explain the date of 1860 on the escutcheon of the Watering Pool even though the work itself is undated. It is a free-hand drawing in sanguine produced on site and then reworked in pencil and watercolor, with particular attention given to verticals and perspective. Without a doubt, this sheet served as the model for the engraving exhibited in 1857 which copies the least details, with the exception of a few minimal modifications: part of the left side has been reduced, figures around the pool have been rendered more carefully. In fact, of all the sketches and diagrams by the artist during his first excursions to Marly, The Watering Pool merited Salon honors more than any other because it shows the only construction by Jules Hardouin-Mansart which escaped the demolition of the château, even if it lacks Coustou’s famous horses conserved in the Louvre.
The second drawing depicts, on the other hand, the culmination of several years of meticulous archival research, notes and diagrams, excavations, and reflection. It would seem to be contemporary with the watercolor entitled The Watering Pool of 1700, dated 1876 and exhibited in the Salon of 1878 (57.5 x 97 cm. (22 5⁄8 x 38 3⁄16 in.) private collection). More ambitious, our work offers an unprecedented view of the royal pavilion and is concerned with the restitution of buildings for which only foundations exist, as well as sculpted decoration, ironwork, groves, pavilions, and park statuary. The draughtsman gives it the date of 1710, that is, the end of Louis XIV’s reign, so as to display the Carp pool built around that date in accordance with Pierre Lepautre’s idea, and covered in faïence tiles, a feature Guillaumot which had discovered during his own excavations in the 1860’s. The perspective, mainly in pencil, is laid out in sanguine. The composition is then worked up in watercolor, while gouache highlights the gilt, marble, and water spray. The artists enjoys peopling the site with very precisely attired courtiers – in 1875, Guillaumot published a collection of 18th Century Costumes – and uses the wheelchair surrounded b y guards to imply the presence of the old sovereign.
In spite of a few errors (the draughtsman was determined to depict the thickness of the pink marble pilasters against the façade of the Royal Pavilion, whereas recent research has proved that they did not project beyond the wall), Guillaumot’s reconstitution stands out from drawings by architectural historians and engravings of the time on account of its liveliness. As a result of his drawing talent and undeniable artistic sensitivity, the vanished castle, bathed in the rays of a setting sun which projects the shadows of trees across vast dirt walkways, is resuscitated in all its splendor.
We would like to thank Mr. Bruno Bentz for having kindly confirmed the dating of our works.
1 Eugène-Louis-Viollet-le-Duc, Post-mortem Sale of M. Aug. Guillaumot the father, painter, and engraver : watercolors, drawings and watercolors. Reconstitution of the château and Park of Marly and diverse drawings from his studio, Sale Paris, May 10, 1892, p. 4:
“Il était fidèle aux traditions léguées par ses devanciers des dix-septième et dix-huitième siècles, et, ayant hérité du tempérament des Israël Sylvestre, des Perelle et des Rigaud, il en avait le talent spirituel et primesautier. Dessinateur habile et aquarelliste plein de verve, il savait communiquer à son burin la chaleur et la couleur de son crayon et son pinceau.”
General Bibliography (Unpublished Works)
Bruno BENTZ, "Auguste Guillaumot et la redécouverte du château de Marly," Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, posted on line, October 16th, 2015, http://crcv/revues.org/13275.
Géraldine CHOPIN, "Enrichissement des collections du Musée-Promenade. Un ensemble de dessins d’Auguste-Alexandre Guillaumot," Marly, art et patrimoine, 9, 2015, pp. 66-68.
Auguste-Alexandre GUILLAUMOT, Château de Marly-le-Roi, construit en 1676, détruit en 1798, drawn and engraved after documents from the Imperial Library and Archives, Paris, A. Morel, 1865.
Auguste-Alexandre GUILLAUMOT, Promenades artistiques dans Paris et ses environs. Architecture, sculpture, décoration, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (dir.), 1st delivery, Paris, A. Morel, 1857.