Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Oil painting - An Allegory of Architecture
  • An Allegory of Architecture
    Loo, Carle van, born 1705 - died 1765
  • Enlarge image

An Allegory of Architecture

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    England (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    Late18th century to mid 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Loo, Carle van, born 1705 - died 1765 (after)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John Jones

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Carle Vanloo (1705-1765) was born in Nice but rapidly joined his elder brother in Italy. In Rome, he was first trained by the painter Benedetto Lutti (1666-1724) and the sculptor Pierre Legros le jeune (1666-1719). Back in Paris in 1719, he studied at the Académie Royale, where he won first prize for drawing in 1723. He subsequently was awarded the Prix de Rome and spent several years in this city. Upon his return to Paris, he enjoyed a great success and produced paintings for the court and the Parisian high society. He was the friend and the main rival of François Boucher (1703-1770) and trained many important artists of the following generation such as Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Gabriel-François Doyen (1726-1806), Bernard Lépicié (1698-1755) and Louis Lagrenée (1725-1805).

This painting belongs to a set of four paintings illustrating four allegories embodied by children (Music, Architecture, Sculpture and Painting). The present painting shows the Allegory of Architecture. Carle Vanloo's original painting was conceived as a decorative over door panel for the Salon de Compagnie of Madame de Pompadour in her castle at Bellevue. It is a good example of fashionable French decorative art of the mid-18th century, which favoured the depiction of mischievous children's play.

Physical description

Three children studying a blueprint while two others help to construct a building.

Place of Origin

England (possibly, painted)


Late18th century to mid 19th century (painted)


Loo, Carle van, born 1705 - died 1765 (after)

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


Height: 76 cm estimate, Width: 97.7 cm estimate, Height: 92 cm framed, Width: 111 cm framed, Depth: 5.5 cm framed, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by John Jones, 1882
Ref : Parkinson, Ronald, Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860. Victoria & Albert Museum, HMSO, London, 1990. p.xix-xx

John Jones (1800-1882) was first in business as a tailor and army clothier in London 1825, and opened a branch in Dublin 1840. Often visited Ireland, travelled to Europe and particularly France. He retired in 1850, but retained an interest in his firm. Lived quietly at 95 Piccadilly from 1865 to his death in January 1882. After the Marquess of Hertford and his son Sir Richard Wallace, Jones was the principal collector in Britain of French 18th century fine and decorative arts. Jones bequeathed an important collection of French 18th-century furniture and porcelain to the V&A, and among the British watercolours and oil paintings he bequeathed to the V&A are subjects which reflect his interest in France.

See also South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Jones Collection. With Portrait and Woodcuts. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 11, Henrietta Street. 1884.
Chapter I. Mr. John Jones. pp.1-7.
Chapter II. No.95, Piccadilly. pp.8-44. This gives a room-by-room guide to the contents of John Jones' house at No.95, Piccadilly.
Chapter VI. ..... Pictures,... and other things, p.138, "The pictures which are included in the Jones bequest are, with scarcely a single exception, valuable and good; and many of them excellent works of the artists. Mr. Jones was well pleased if he could collect enough pictures to ornament the walls of his rooms, and which would do no discredit to the extraordinary furniture and other things with which his house was filled."

Historical significance: This painting is one of the many copies after the Allegory of Architecture currently housed in the Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museum of California (1950.11). It is part of a set of four paintings illustrating allegories of the four arts: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture and Music. The V&A owns a replica of each one (see 550-1882, 551-1882, 552-1882).
This Allegory of Architecture shows three children studying a blueprint while two others help to construct a building. On the original version, the blueprint is inscribed with the words: 'Elevation de Bellevüe', referring to the castle the painting was designed for.
The original set was conceived as over door panels for Madame de Pompadour's 'Salon de Compagnie' in her castle at Bellevue and were presented at the Paris Salon in 1753. They were extensively copied in the 19th century in different formats and were engraved, not in reverse, by E. Fessard as early as 1756. A set of four paintings (perhaps the originals but doubtful) was on the London art market by 1853 (sale Christie & Manson, 27-28 May 1853, lots 190-193). The V&A paintings could have been therefore executed either after the engraving or another painting and may be dated from late 18th century to mid 19th century.
This painting is a good example of Vanloo's decorative paintings, which are characterised by lingering Rococo mannerisms but also anticipate a re-orientation of French art towards the new style. Allegorical decorative panels were then fashionable and often involved children and naked putti such as in the art of Boucher who was Vanloo's main rival.

Historical context note

Decorative paintings originated in the Antiquity with frescoes, a technique that was reintroduced and developed in the late 13th century and the 14th century particularly in the work of the Isaac master, Giotto and his followers and perfected during the Italian Renaissance. In Florence and Venice, these compositions were also often executed on panels (spalliere) or canvases and then inserted into architectural elements directly carved or applied on the walls. This trend was exported to France and became particularly fashionable during the 17th and the 18th century under the patronage of enlightened kings such as Louis III and Louis XIV, followed by the Parisian high society. The Rococo period for instance favoured decorative scheme peopled by mischievous figures while the succeeding Neo-classical movement developed furnished interiors that combined Greek and Roman decorative and architectural sources in such examples as James Stuart's Painted Room in Spencer House, London (1759) and sought-after designs by Robert Adam which were circulating thanks to the publication of Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam (London, 1773-9).

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'An Allegory of Architecture', After Carle Vanloo, Late 18th century-mid 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 284-286, cat. no. 352.
B. Long, Catalogue of the Jones Collection, London, 1923, p. 43 f.
Carle Vanloo, premier peintre du roi exh. cat. Nice, Musée Chéret, 1977, p. 71.


Oil paint; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Architecture; Architecture; Allegory; Children


Paintings; Children & Childhood


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.