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Louis-Hippolyte Lebas (Paris 1782-1867)

Design for: Œuvre complète de Jacques Barozzi de Vignole

signed or with inscription (in a contemporary hand) ‘par Lebas, architect’ (verso)
pen and grey ink, watercolour, proprietary watermark and fragmentary watermark Van der Ley (cf. Churchill 193) [1]
32.5 x 24.5 cm

Possibly anonymous sale; Catalogue des œuvres de Feu Hippolyte Le Bas et des tableaux & dessins anciens & modernes [...] qui formaient son cabinet, Hôtel Drouot (Me Delbergue- Cormont; salle 5), 2-4 December 1867, part of lot 85 (Le Bas & Debret. Œuvre de Jacques Barozzi de Vignole. Dessins de MM. Le Bas et Debret, environ 84 Planches gravées, Épreuves tirées en grande quantité, et la propriété d’édition de cet ouvrage, qui n’est pas terminé); Private collection, the Netherlands.

The 'Œuvre' complète de Jacques Barozzi de Vignole (Complete works of Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola) is a lavish volume of plates of all the executed works of the Italian architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573). Its publication started in 1815 and over the years 14 installments were published, compromising of an engraved decorative title-page and 84 ditto plates. Its authors, Hippolyte Lebas (or Le Bas) and François Debret (1777-1850), were both young architects who were trained at the School of Architecture in Paris and at the private school of drawing of the immensely influential architect Charles Percier (1764- 1838).
In his architectural work, Lebas was strongly influenced by Percier, and his associate Pierre Fontaine (1762-1853), whose designs and many monuments build during Napoleon’s were instrumental in the creation and development of the Empire style.

Apart from his architectural work, Lebas also produced designs for furniture by Jacob Frères and for the decorative arts. The artist supplied designs for the Sèvres manufactory and for the industrial textileand wallpaper works of Philippe Oberkampf at Jouy, [2] for whom he would also design his factory buildings. Lebas’ design for the frontispiece for the œuvre catalogue of the work of Vignola is inspired by the ornamented portrait of the author that served as the titlepage of Vignola’s Regola delli cinque ordine d’ architettura (Canon of the Five Orders of Architecture) from 1562. In this drawing, Lebas has transformed the classical Renaissance portrait into a severe neoclassical variant. The half-length portrait of Vignola is reduced to a medallion depicting only the head and shoulders of the architect. This change gave room to a large decorative border, consisting of fruits symbolizing fruitful labour, surrounding the portrait. Beneath the portrait are two putti which are directly inspired by the two putti at the top of the 1562 engraving. One is seated on a book and the other is seated next to a rolled-up sheet with an architectural design and both are holding architectural instruments from Vignola’s time. In between them is an ornamented frame with the Italian name of the sitter while two women on either side of the portrait are holding architectural attributes; the one on the left a compass and a book, while the woman at right holds a square. Both figures are inspired by the two much smaller scale figures with the same attributes that appear in Vignola’s portrait from 1562. The title of the publication is repeated in Roman writing on the base of the sheet – entirely different to the 1562 print – with on either side Vignola’s most important patrons. Pope Julius III, for whom Vignola designed the summer residence Villa Giulia, is shown at right. Lebas made a mistake with the portrait at left; Pope Paul III, born as Alessandro Farnese (1468- 1549), was never a patron of Vignola, but his namesake Alessandro Farnese (1520-1689), a cardinal, was. The cardinal’s hugely important and influential family employed Vignola numerous time; amongst his designs commissioned by the family were two architectural masterpieces, the Church of the Gesù in Rome and the Villa Farnese, located some 50 kilometers outside the city. The two fleur-de-lys in the corners of the decorations at the top of the sheet are a reminder of the Farnese blazon, which consists of 6 fleur-de-lys on a shield, and which can also be found on the 1562 portrait at top.

The drawing is a fine example of the art from the final years of Neo-Classicism, during which the focus initiated by Napoleon on the Roman Imperial style became paramount. One of the characteristics of the Empire style is the strong colours of the textiles, a quality that Lebas fully demonstrates here, entirely in line with his designs for Oberkampf’s products. The present sheet is not only the preliminary drawing for the engraved contours but also serves as a model for the colourists of any luxury copies of the book. [3]
It furthermore is one of the few design drawings by Lebas that have survived. Another drawing by the artist which is very close in its neat execution and is a design for a toile de Jouy, a printed textile manufactured by Oberkampf, is in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York. [4] Two drawings by François Debret, also for the Œuvre complète de Jacques Barozzi de Vignole, are in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York. [5]

[1] W.A. Churchill, 'Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France Etc. In the XVII and XVIII Centuries and their Interconnection', Amsterdam, 1935, pp. 74 and pl. CLXX.
[2] see the pattern Les Monuments de Paris (1816/18), in various collections; Metropolitan Museum, inv. 32.156.1; Victoria & Albert Museum, inv. T. 726-1972; Art Institute Chicago, inv. 1924.817; and the pattern La Marchande d’amours; Metropolitan Museum, inv. 26.238.9a-f.
[3] see [accessed 12 March 2024].
[4] inv. 2002-5-1.
[5] inv. 2016.358 and 2016.359.

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