Panels thumbnail 1
Panels thumbnail 2
+35
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Europe 1600-1815, Room 1

This object consists of 23 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.

Panels

1779-1782 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

These panels originally decorated a salon in the Parisian house built for the wealthy fermier general Laurent Grimod de la Reynière. It was the first scheme in France to use the motifs of classical and Renaissance grotesques, which were to become a popular form of decoration in the 1780s and 1790s - arabesques, urns, tripods and distorted figures. The designer of the scheme, Charles-Louis Clérisseau, had been a student in Rome before working there for the Scottish architect Robert Adam, who commissioned him to record sites, in particular the ruins of the Emperior Diocletian at Spalato (now Split, in Croatia), although Clérisseau got little recognition for this work. This scheme, however, was widely influential, in particular on designers such as Jean-Demosthène Dugourc in the late 1780s and 1790s.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 23 parts.

  • Pilaster
  • Overdoor Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Painted Panel
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
  • Pilaster
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Eight pictorial panels illustrating the story of Achilles, painted in oil on canvas on a white ground, with fourteen pilaster panels painted with acanthus scrolls. From the Salon of Hôtel Grimod de la Reynière, Paris. Designed and painted by Charles-Louis Clérisseau and possibly part painted by Etienne de Lavallée-Poussin between 1779 and 1782, the over-door made later (around 1850) when the panels were installed at Ashburnham Place.
Physical Description
A set of eight panels and fourteen pilaster panels, of canvas on stretchers, with painted decoration, the main panels telling the story of Achilles' early life. The pilaster panels appear identical, with a scrolling acanthus frond growing from a plant at the bottom of the pilaster, with eight scrolls above of equal size, the acanthus painted in brown against a cream ground with dashes of gold, giving the appearance of mosaic. The narrative panels are of similar height but two are slightly wider than the others. Each is painted with a framework of arabesques, flanking and enclosing three panels: close to the base a horizontal rectangular panel painted in cameo; a central oval panel painted in polychrome with a major incident from the story of Achilles; and upper circular panel painted to suggest a single figure in bas-relief.



The subjects of the main panels, following the story of Achilles are:



1. Thetis dips Achilles in the Styx (W.2A-1957)

2. Thetis is informed by Calchas that Achilles will die in the Trojan War (W.2B-1957)

3. Achilles in maiden's dress presented by Minerva to Lycomedes (W.2C-1957)

4. Achilles playing the lyre to Deidameia, daughter of Lycomedes and her sister (W.2D-1957)

5. Achilles and the daughters of Lycomedes receiving the gifts of Ulysses (W.2E-1957)

6. Achilles feasting with Briseis (W.2F-1957)

7. Briseis led away from Achilles by Agamemnon's heralds (W.2G-1957)

8. Iris giving arms to Achilles (W.2H-1957)
Style
Gallery Label
Panels with the story of Achilles About 1777 These panels are from a decorative scheme for a grand house in Paris. It was the first French Neoclassical interior to feature ‘grotesques’. Grotesque decoration gets its name from the ancient art found in the excavated rooms (grottoes) of the palace of the emperor Nero in Rome. It includes vases, medallions and friezes framed by a symmetrical structure. Clérisseau studied in Rome and recorded many ancient monuments. His work influenced the Neoclassical style. France (Paris) Designed and painted by Charles-Louis Clérisseau Figurative scenes probably by Etienne de Lavallée-Poussin Oil on canvas From a set of eight made for the Salon of the Hôtel Grimod de la Reynière, Paris Given by the Art Fund (09/12/2015)
Credit line
Given by Art Fund
Object history
Almost certainly these panels originally formed the main decoration of the Salon in the Hôtel Grimod de la Reynière in the Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde), Paris, built in 1769 for Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, a rich fermier général. The design for the decoration of the Salon was by Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820). He probably painted the decorative wall panels, while the oval ceiling panel and the two overdoors were the work of Etienne de Lavallée-Poussin (ca. 1733-93); a 1787 guide to Paris by Luc-Vincent Thiery (see refs.) records the room as being decorated to the design of M. Clérisseau with history paintings by 'M. de la Vallée, surnommé le Chevalier Poussin’. Edward Croft-Murrary (see refs.) suggests that Etienne de Lavallée-Poussin could have been responsible not only for the ceiling and overdoors, but also perhaps for main panels.



In 1782, the house was recorded in seven drawings and plans by the German-born architect Jana Christjana Kamsetzer, who was in Paris for several months studying the newest decorative fashions in order to design the summer palace at Lazienki for his patron, King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatiwoski.



After the death of the original owner, the Hôtel passed to his son, Alexandre-Balthazar Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1838), a journalist, lawyer and celebrated gourmet, who owned it until 1819. During the occupation of Paris it was the official residence of the Duke of Wellington as Commander in Chief. In 1828 it became the Russian Embassy and, in 1842, the Turkish. Later it passed through the tenancies of a number of clubs, until in 1928 it was acquired by the US government, who demolished it and erected an embassy on the site. We do not know when the panels left the house and came to Ashburnham Place, near Battle, Sussex but they were probably acquired by Bertram, 4th Earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878), either in 1842, when it creased to be the Russian embassy or in the 1850s, when it ceased to be the Turkish Embassy. The panels hung in the large drawing-room of Ashburnham Place, with four of the narrative panels shown on the wall opposite the window and two flanking each to the two doors in the short walls. The panels were set without a dado, starting just above a deep skirting board. This arrangement would be what one might inspect from a mid-nineteenth century installation in the house.



They remained at Ashburnham until 1955, when they were acquired in the sale of the contents of the house by the National Art-Collections Fund and presented to the Museum.



These were the earliest designs to revive the use of grotesques in France. It is not surprising that during the time they were at Ashburnham, they were considered as works by James 'Athenian' Stuart (1713- 88) and compared to his decorative painted panels in the innovative 'Painted Room' at Spencer House, London, which date from 1759 (Country Life, 30th April 1953 – see refs.). There are however differences in the design and execution, these panels being much lighter and gayer. The overall design and the painting of the decorative areas must be the work of Clérisseau, although the paintings of the scenes from the life of Achilles may well be by Lavallée.
Historical context
Charles Louis Clérisseau (1721-80) was an architectural draughtsman, antiquary and artist. He studied at the French Academy in Rome, working with the artist Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691-1765) but left in 1754, after a dispute with the Director. In 1755 he met the young Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-92), by whom he was employed as a draughtsman. It was Clérisseau who was responsible for most of the illustrations of Adam's Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro [Split], which was published in 1764, but with no acknowledgement of Clérisseau’s work. Returning to Paris, he became magnet for young neo-classical architects such as François-Joseph Bélanger (1744-1818), providing images of classical decoration for those who had never visited Rome. In 1785-9 he helped Thomas Jefferson with designs for the State Capitol in Virginia, USA and in 1788 produced the first and only volume of what he intended to be a series on the Antiquités de France.
Production
Writing in The Architectural History Foundation in 1990, Thomas J. McCormick notes that Clérisseau decorated salons in two houses belonging to Grimod de la Reynière: Hôtel Laborde at 3 Grange-Batelière, bought in 1770, and the house built at Rue de la Bonne-Morve, later Rue Boissy d’Anglas. These panels are thought to have come from the house at Rue Boissy d’Anglas. The land on Rue Boissy d’Anglas was purchased in 1769 but the building permit for this plot was not issued until 1775 (McCormick, 1990, See refs.). Grimod lived in the house at Grange-Batelière before the second house was constructed. The salon at Grange-Batelière was decorated between 1773 and 1774 and displayed history paintings by Jean François-Pierre Peyron. Grimod sold the house on Grange-Batelière in 1778 to Pierre Poncet and Jean Theverin. The deed stated that Poncet and Theverin were to build a new house for Grimod de la Reynière on his land on Rue de la Bonne-Morve that would be ready for decoration by June 1779. The decoration of the house at Rue de la Bonne-Morve (later Rue Boissy d’Anglas) must have been completed by 1782 as it was this year that the German-born architect Jana Christjana Kamsetzer took drawings of the salon for King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (now in the University of Warsaw Library collection). Therefore the salon must have been decorated between July 1779 and early 1782.



Réau, writing in 1937 (see refs.), accepts the panels at Ashburnham as being from the Salon in the Hôtel Grimod de la Reynière. However, Edward Croft-Murrary, writing in 1963 (see refs.) suggesting that the minor differences between Kamsetzer’s drawings and the panels at the V&A may indicate that it was a version of the design made later, although it is difficult to see why this would have been done.



Several authors cite a passage in the Almanach des Artistses in 1777 as referring to the salon that housed these panels, suggesting an earlier date of production. However, McCormick argues that this passage in fact discusses the salon of Grimod de la Reynière’s previous residence at Grange-Batelière.

Subjects depicted
Summary
These panels originally decorated a salon in the Parisian house built for the wealthy fermier general Laurent Grimod de la Reynière. It was the first scheme in France to use the motifs of classical and Renaissance grotesques, which were to become a popular form of decoration in the 1780s and 1790s - arabesques, urns, tripods and distorted figures. The designer of the scheme, Charles-Louis Clérisseau, had been a student in Rome before working there for the Scottish architect Robert Adam, who commissioned him to record sites, in particular the ruins of the Emperior Diocletian at Spalato (now Split, in Croatia), although Clérisseau got little recognition for this work. This scheme, however, was widely influential, in particular on designers such as Jean-Demosthène Dugourc in the late 1780s and 1790s.
Bibliographic References
  • Réau, Louis, 'La Décoration de L'Hôtel de la Reynière d'après les Dessins de l'Architecte polonaise Kamsetzer'. Bulletin de la La Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, vol I, 1937, pp. 7-16
  • Croft-Murray, Edward. 'The Hôtel Grimod de la Reynière: the Salon Decorations'. ApolloNovember 1963, pp. 377-383
  • Batowski, Z. Podróže artystyczne Jana Christjana Kamsetzera (1776-1782). Krakow, 1935
  • Hussey, Christopher. 'Ashurnham Place, Sussex'. Country Life30 April 1953, pp. 1335-6, figs. 5 and 6.
  • National Art-Collections Fund, Fifty-second Annual Report 1955-6, p. 18, no. 1779
  • 'Le Salon de M. de La Reynière, nouvellement décoré par M. Clérisseau' in Almanach des Artistes1777, pp. 84-6
  • Thiéry, Luc-Vincent, Guide des Amateurs et des Etrangers Voyageurs à Paris. Paris, 1787, vol. I. p. 103, 186.
  • 'Ashburnham Place', Country Life, vol. XXXIX, Jan. 1949, p. 149
  • Damie Stillman, 'The Gallery for Lansdown House: International Neoclassical Architecture and Decoration in Microcosm', The Art Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 1, March 1970, pp. 75-80
  • Fiske Kemball, 'Les influences anglaises dans la formation du style Louis XVI'. Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1931, (pp. 29-44)
  • Bauchal, Dictionnaire des architectes français
  • Denys Sutton, 'Taste and Design in the 18th Century', a review of the Royal Academy Exhibition of works of art of the 18th Century, 1955, Country Life, 8 December 1955, p. 1374-5.
  • Elizabeth Miller and Hilary Young, eds., The Arts of Living. Europe 1600-1815. V&A Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978 1 85177 807 2, illustrated p. 161. W.2C-1956 is illusrated.
  • Antonia Brodie, ‘Display in the Interior’, in Princely Treasures: European Masterpieces 1600-1800, Sarah Medlam & Lesley Miller (eds.), (London: V&A, 2011), pp. 42-43.
  • McCormick, Thomas J., ‘Charles-Louis Clérisseau and the Genius of Neo-Classicism’, The Architectural History Foundation, New York, Cambridge & London, 1990, pp.164-178.
  • J. Winckelmann, Lettres Familières, ed. by H. Jansen, Vol. II, p. 215.
  • S. Grandjean, Empire Furniture 1800 to 1825, (New York, 1966), p. 23.
  • D. Stillman, The Decorative Work of Robert Adam, (London, 1966), p. 84
  • S. Eriksen, Early Neo-Classicism in France, (London, 1974), pp. 310-11.
  • Edwards, Ralph. English taste in the eighteenth century : from Baroque to neo-classic : winter exhibition, 1955-56, London : Royal Academy of Arts, 1956
Collection
Accession Number
W.2A to V-1957

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record createdAugust 16, 2005
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