Musée d'Orsay: Eugène Viollet-le-Duc Fragment of Pompeian Architecture

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Fragment of Pompeian Architecture

Fragment of Pompeian Architecture for History of a Designer
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879)
Fragment of Pompeian Architecture for History of a Designer
Pencil and watercolour
H. 17; W. 10.8 cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais

Fragment d'architecture pompéienne pour "Histoire d'un dessinateur" [Fragment of Pompeian Architecture for "The Story of a Young Designer"]

After the war of 1870, Viollet-le-Duc decided to involve himself in public life. He devoted himself notably to a series of books for the layman, intended to disseminate his conception of the world in which art and society are closely linked. The last of these books Learning to draw, or The Story of a Young Designer (1879), recounts how M. Marjorin gives training in drawing and, more generally, in art, to a young boy, Petit Jean.

The account is autobiographical for two reasons, since Viollet-le-Duc took his inspiration from his own life both for the character of the pupil and that of the teacher. Furthermore, the itinerary that Marjorin and Petit Jean followed in Italy, recounted in chapter XVI, is very close to the one Viollet-le-Duc undertook in 1836-1837. The illustrations also are reminiscences of the architect's stay in Italy. This Fragment of Pompeian Architecture, figure 93 of The Story of a Young Designer, was inspired by a Pompeian painting in the museum in Naples that Viollet-le-Duc had certainly studied during his own trip. But here, he offers a view that has been completely transformed, retaining just one decorative detail that is exclusively architectural. On the other hand, he simplifies it so that this polychrome decoration could just as easily have come from a medieval church as from a Pompeian villa.
Thus this drawing enables Marjorin to convince Petit Jean of one of the most important principles of his rationalist thought, according to which "painting [is] always called on to enhance architecture".

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