Carmontelle was a fine artist specialized in drawings and watercolors. He organized the Duke of Orleans, future Philippe-Egalite, parties’ and was an inventor of genius. Very famous in the second part of the 18th century is fame did not cross the mid 19th century.
Yet fans and collectors, starting with the Duke of Aumale, make no mistake about his talent s his auction result can attest.
Let’s discover the artist and his work.
Louis de Carmontelle or Carmontelle whose real name was Louis Carrogis was born in Paris in 1717 from a father shoemaker. After studying drawing and geometry, he became an engineer at the age of 23. He then entered the service of the Duke of Luynes at Dampierre Castle as a tutor in mathematics and drawings of the children of the Duke.
In 1758he entered with the title of engineer topographer at the service of Count Maurice de Saint Pons then governor of the Duke of Chartres, title of the eldest son of the Duke of Orleans, commander of the regiment of the Dragons of Orleans
In 1763, after taking part in the Seven Years' War as a topographer, he joined the Duke of Orleans with the title of reader. This role can be described as follows: "Cette place de lecteur était subalterne, puisqu'elle ne donnait pas le droit de manger avec les princes, même à la campagne. Ainsi que le docteur Tronchin, M. Carmontelle jouissait de la distinction de venir tous les soirs prendre des glaces avec le Prince et les personnes de la cour."
- Proverbs: In order to fulfill its role of organizing parties and entertainment of the Duke, Carmontelle wrote little plays to which he gave the name of proverbs. They are short light comedies in which members of the suite of the Duke were asked to improvise and play a role.
- Transparencies: always to entertain the court of the Duke, Carmontelle develops a sort of magic lantern. The transparencies are landscapes painted on a canvas sewn to others that were rolled behind the scenes at the same time were played by enlightening proverbs from behind. This formed the illusion of movement.
By combining the proverbs and the transparencies, Carmontelle invented the cinema before the time but neither Napoleon nor the Russian tsar were interested and bought back him his extraordinary invention.
Louis Carrogis dit Carmontelle Mr. O'Flanagan, mine de plomb, craie blanche et aquarelle. ©Christie’s
His drawings and watercolors
Along with his activities for the prince, Carmontelle uses his talent for drawing and executes about 750 portraits of regulars of the Court or exceptional character. Thus, there are two versions of Mozart as a child in Versailles.
All the drawing are distinguished by a character profile generally performed within two hours. His portraits are done in pencil and watercolor sometimes with pastel or gouache. It is important to note that in addition to the profile of the person, Carmontelle entering the character.
It did not sell his portraits but offered to the model while taking care to keep a copy. The Musée Condé in Chantilly retains 600 copies; they are a wonderful portrait gallery of the main characters of the second half of the eighteenth century.
In 1773, the new Duke of Orleans, future Philippe-Egalite, asked to Carmontelle to design a park in a field he bought a few years earlier: the Parc Monceau.
Carmontelle imagine a garden of illusions in which the walker takes part to a journey around the world by creating 17 factories. So we could see a Tartar tents, a minaret, and a pyramid in Egypt or a Chinese carousel.
Completed in 1778, the park was redesigned several times since and nothing remains of the creations of Carmontelle.
Praised by his contemporaries for his genius as an inventor and his talent for drawing, it is now unknown to the general public.
His drawings pass regularly at auctions and sales prices depends of the quality of the sheet and the importance of the character represented. It should be emphasized charm and freshness that emerges from his watercolors.
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Illustration principale : Louis Carrogis dit Carmontelle, Portrait de Madame de La Grangette avec inscription 'Mme De La Grangette', sur le montage craie noire et rouge, aquarelle, rehaussé de blanc. ©Christie’s