Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826) was a talented architectural draughtsman from Rouen whose lifelong ambition to become a fully-fledged architect was never successfully realised. Although lacking actual buildings, we can judge his ideas because he donated almost all his drawings to the Bibliothèque Royale (now the Bibliothèque Nationale).
Long forgotten, he was rediscovered in the 1970s and there was a major opportunity to reassess his reputation when the Petit Palais held an exhibition of his works in 2018-2019 titled Jean-Jacques Lequeu Bâtisseur de fantasmes showing his meticulously executed drawings, many of them projects for fantastical buildings.
A characteristic example of Lequeu’s work, a virtuoso demonstration of his knowledge of geometry and perspective, proved to be the toast of Aguttes’ (25/23% buyer’s premium) March 28 sale of Old Masters when it was object of a bidding battle that took it to €85,000 (£75,220).
The 19 x 21in (49 x 54cm) architectural project for a church in pen, ink and wash, signed and dated 1820 lower left, is a detailed view of the interior of a church looking through to the nave and chancel from an entrance framed by tall columns.
“One can only marvel at this interplay of washes: a bistre wash for the anti-chapel, and a light grey wash for the chapel. This work on paper offers an extraordinary contrast”, said Gregoire Lecroix, specialist at Aguttes.
Bidders at the auction appeared to agree as the final price was a multiple of the €15,000-20,000 estimate.
It is possible to stylistically link elements of this drawing to two architectural projects on which Lequeu was employed. The BNF archive includes a drawing for an altarpiece for one of the four palaces of the emperor dedicated to Saint Genevieve the Virgin (a possible project for the Pantheon where he worked as a draughtsman for the architect Soufflot). And the plan of the nave in Aguttes’ drawing relates to that of the church of Saint Madeleine in Rouen, which was inaugurated in 1807 and where Lequeu worked under the direction of the architect Le Brument as a young man.
Also featured among the drawings in the sale and previewed in ATG 2584 was Charles de la Fosse’s (1636-1716) preparatory chalk study for an allegory of a peace treaty between Louis XIV, the Germans and the Dutch. It was pre-empted at the auction by the Château of Versailles for a hammer price of €20,000 (£17,770).
Rémy Le Fur
A section of drawings and old master paintings offered as part of a mixed discipline sale by Auction Art Rémy le Fur (27% buyer’s premium) on March 24 included a group of around 20 works on paper by the French artist Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) a mix of academies (life drawings), portraits and classical subjects.
These made a range of prices from three-figure sums for works including a chalk and stump profile portrait of Madame Virginie Brouet at €700 (£620) and a red chalk study of the head of an antique statue at €800 (£705) up to €87,000 (£76,990) for this 7 x 9in (18 x 23cm) study in chalk, pen and ink with sepia wash and gouache highlights.
The subject, The shadows lead Oscar to the palace of the clouds of Trenmor, is taken from the poetical works of Ossian, the Gaelic poetic cycle published in the second half of the 18th century by the Scottish poet James Macpherson. It became hugely popular across Europe and subjects from the cycle were featured by Girodet in several paintings.
Included in the same sale was a red chalk study of man which was inscribed to the mount lower left in pen Etude pour l’Automne. The drawing was by the French artist Edmé Bouchardon (1698-1762) with an estimate of €2000-3000 but was evidently rated more highly on the day with the bidding going to no less than €60,000 (£53,095).
There were three dedicated drawings sales at Ader (28% buyer’s premium) between March 20-24 including a session forming one half of a two-day auction of works from the Parisian dealership Talabardon & Gautier.
The two-day sale generated a premium inclusive total of over €5.7m for the 280 odd lots with no fewer than 14 institutional pre-emptions.
Topping the drawings bill here at a double estimate €190,000 (£168,140) was an 18½ x 13¼in (47 x 34cm) finely detailed and finished chalk stump and white gouache drawing by Louis-Leopold Boilly (1761-1845) of a young girl carrying her brother on her shoulders in a garden.
It is preparatory drawing for a painting titled La Bonne Soeur or La Petite Soeur of c.1797-99, a domestic scene of everyday life which made up so much of the artist’s work.
Among the other sought-after works was a large 11½in x 2ft 10in (29 x 87cm) pen, ink, and wash view of Lyon by Philippe-Auguste Hennequin (1762-1833) which realised €110,000 (£97,345) against a €30,000-40,000 guide.
The scene is an imaginary panorama of the city where the artist was born. It was done after Revolutionaries took control of Lyon and wasnted to raze it to the ground. Hennequin himself was on the demolition committees.
Alongside the Talabardon & Gautier dispersal were two offerings of Old Master and Modern drawings which produced several notable results.
They included a 19¼x 12½in (49.5 x 32cm) ink and wash design for an altarpiece frame featuring extensive annotations around the margins specifying the locations of the main figures and with a later GP monogram for the artist Georg Pencz at the base.
The work is attributed to Peter Flötner (c.1490-1546), an artist, engraver and designer who moved to Nuremburg in 1522 and was responsible for introducing the Italian Renaissance style of ornament to Germany.
It features a number of Flötner’s characteristic motifs such as dolphins and angel musicians and the extravagance of the design suggests it could be a prototype adaptable for different clients.
It overturned its estimate of €15,000-20,000 to sell for €150,000 (£132,745).