Musée d'Orsay: Félix Duban Architectural Fantasy

Félix Duban
Architectural Fantasy

Architectural Fantasy in the Style of Pompeii
Félix Duban (1797-1870)
Architectural Fantasy in the Style of Pompeii
Pencil and watercolour
H. 38; W. 48 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Fantaisie architecturale en style pompéien [Architectural Fantasy in the Style of Pompeii]

Duban's "Compositions" amazed and delighted visitors to the posthumous exhibition of his work held at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1872. These thirty or so Fantasies were a revelation because, after exhibiting at the Salon in 1831 and 1833, Duban had never again exposed himself to critical attack.

Duban is one of the first architects to have restored polychrome in his surveys of antique architecture sent back from Rome during his residency as the prize-winner of the Grand Prix de Rome in 1823. He followed the lead of Jacques Ignace Hittorff, who had discovered the polychrome of antique Greek and Latin monuments in the 1830s. This sense of colour which he wielded with poetry, intelligence and elegance, is also found in his architectural work at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the château de Dampierre, Blois, or the Louvre.

Although these Architectural Fantasies conjure up Pompeii, the tombs of Etruria, Rome or Florence, and even if they include known archaeological features, there is no hidden educational agenda. There are no human figures and the painted walls and surfaces, amphorae and canthari, kraters and statues, garden adorned with fountains, wooded hills and the outline of Vesuvius create a poetic, sensual version of life in Pompeii and also reveal the architect's talents as a painter. The museum has several of Duban's paintings, Interior View of Sainte Chapelle, Projects for the Hôtel Galliera, and a Fantasy in Etruscan Style as well as an extraordinary dressing table that he designed for the Duchess of Parma.

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