Drawing, Project for the Tomb of the Maréchal de Belle-Isle, 1761
This is a Drawing. It is dated 1761 and we acquired it in 1931. Its medium is black chalk, pen and black ink, point of brush and brown-black ink; gray and brown wash, red watercolor, white gouache on yellow-brown wove paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.
This highly finished drawing is a speculative design for a tomb by the French academician and sculptor Augustin Pajou (1730-1809). It is an audacious composition that presents a novel outlook on death and the afterlife in eighteenth-century France. It was designed for Charles-Louis-Auguste Fouquet ( 1684 - 1761), Maréchal de Belle-Isle who enjoyed an illustrious military and political career under Louis XV. In Pajou’s design, Maréchal is received by his pre-deceased wife and his son, all dressed all’antica and their poses inspired by baroque catafalques. The figures replace the Christian allegorical figures that would normally be in their places according to conventions of tomb design. In the background, the angel of death closes the door to the sepulchral chamber to indicate that the Maréchal is the last of his line to die. Pajou has created an imaginary architectural space not privy to the living—a glimpse inside the sepulchral chamber for the dead spirits. This design negotiates traditional visual imagery with innovative narratives--that of the tragic extinction of a family line –and echoes a transitional moment when Enlightenment ideals influenced representations of death and the afterlife.
Its dimensions are
90 x 56.9 cm (35 7/16 x 22 3/8 in.)
It has the following markings
Watermark: CXD BLAUW [cf. Churchill 194]
It is signed
Signed and dated in pen and black ink, lower right: Pajou inve fe 1761.
It is inscribed
Inscribed in black chalk and black ink, lower central tablet: DIS MANIBUS (To the spirits of the dead), followed by two lines of indecipherable characters; on two tablets to the sides, in black chalk and black ink: DOM [deo optimo maximo - To God, the Greatest Good], each followed by indeciperable lines of text. Lower edge (across bottom step), inscribed in pen and brown ink: Projet d'un Tombeau pour le Maréchal de Belle Isle/ allégorie/ Le Maréchal Entre dans la chambre Sepulcrale ou Sont les tombes de sa femme et de Son fils/ le Comte de Gisors tout deux morts avant lui/ Leurs ombres Sont supposés sortire de leurs tombeaux pour le Recevoir, et L'ange de la mort ferme la porte/ de la chambre Sepulcrale pour indiquer que le Marechal fut le Dernier de Sa famille. [Project for a tomb for the maréchal de Belle-Isle. Allegory. The maréchal enters the sepulchral chamber in which are the tombs of his wife and his son, the comte de Gisors, both dead before him. Their shades are imagined as leaving their tombs to receive him, and the Angel of Death shuts the door of the sepulchral chamber to indicate the maréchal was the last of his family] On verso, inscribed in pen and black ink: Vente Hubert B. 24 Mai 1876/ EHR
Cite this object as
Drawing, Project for the Tomb of the Maréchal de Belle-Isle, 1761; Italy; black chalk, pen and black ink, point of brush and brown-black ink; gray and brown wash, red watercolor, white gouache on yellow-brown wove paper; 90 x 56.9 cm (35 7/16 x 22 3/8 in.); Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt; 1931-73-234
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition The Cooper-Hewitt Collections: A Design Resource.