Panel for a decorative frieze with portrait of da Vignola (from a set of six)
One of nine panels forming originally a decorative frieze in the cabinet intérieur of Étienne-François, duc de Choiseul (1719-1785) at his château of Chanteloup. In an anonymous drawing dating to ca. 1771, six of the frieze panels are seen in the duke’s private cabinet, one of the most richly decorated rooms in the castle, placed above large paintings by Giovanni Paolo Panini. Together the paintings and carved frieze panels, each with a medallion of a celebrated Italian artist framed by tied branches of laurel leaves and ribbon-tied garlands of flowers, commemorated Choiseul’s successful ambassadorship to the Vatican in 1753-1757.
This particular panel has the portrait of the Italian architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573), as identified in the French spelling of his name below. Overall, this and the other panels recall the decorative vignettes with profile medallion of famous artists designed by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre and engraved by Claude-Henri Watelet for the latter’s L’Art de peindre, published in 1760.
It has been suggested that Choiseul’s architect Louis-Denis Le Camus may have directed the execution of the panels by the sculptor Jean-François Antoine Boulanger, the latter’s brother the joiner Jean-Éienne Boulanger, and possibly the painter-gilder Jean Gilles Ramier, all of whom worked for Choiseul around the time that the room was most likely decorated. After the duke’s death, the paintings were sold at auction in 1786 but the frieze remained in place. It was removed at an unknown date and six of the panels were later part of the model collection of woodwork, paneling, and seat furniture of Maison Leys, a successful decorating business, located at the Place de la Madeleine in Paris. Since 1885, the business was directed by Georges Hoentschel who installed the collection in 1903 in a museum-like display at Boulevard Flandrin, Paris. Three of the panels are visible in Léopold Stevens’ (1866-1935) Interior of the Hoentschel Collection at 58 Boulevard Flandrin, Paris (2019.55). In 1906, Hoentschel sold the collection to J. Pierpont Morgan who gave the panels with the rest of the decorator’s seventeenth and eighteenth century objects to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the following year.