Amphitheatre of the City of Herculaneum
Designed by Ennemond Petitot, Mid 18th Century
Amphitheatre of the City of Herculaneum engraving
Amphitheatre of the City of Herculaneum engraving Amphitheatre of the City of Herculaneum engraving
Ennemond Alexandre Petitot (1727-1801) (after)
Pierre Patte (1723-1814) (engraver)
Amphithéatre de la Ville d'Herculanum
[Amphitheatre of the City of Herculaneum]

Veuve F. Chereau, Paris: c. 1754-55
Engraving, uncolored
15.5 x 18.5 inches, overall
Provenance: James Lamantia, Jr.
$1,800

An engraving of the so-called Amphitheatre of the City of Herculaneum, designed by the French architect Ennemond Alexandre Petitot. There is no visible amphitheatre at Herculaneum and at the time of this design, the only access was through underground tunnels. Instead this print was a design by Petitot for a fireworks display for the “Chinea,” an architectural festival, described as follows by scholar Nina L. Dubin:

In 1738, French students began taking part in this festival by designing the macchine that were the basis for (and were literally consumed in) the celebrations’ fireworks displays, as well as participating in the production of engravings that transcribed (with varying degrees of accuracy) the festivities. Following the discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii, architectural antiquity became a moving force in the festival’s “ephemeral splendors”: the macchina designed in 1747 by Le Lorrain featured, according to the engraving that he produced after the event, a circular Corinthian temple...Two years later, Petitot took as the unprecedented subject of his macchina for the Chinea a recent archaeological event: the discovery of the remains of the amphitheater at Herculaneum, which he “very, very conjecturally restored."

According to the subtitle of the print the building was “executed in relief at Rome in 1749 on the occasion of the ceremony of homage that the Kingdom of Naples performed at St. Siege.” This apparently refers to the macchina constructed for the Chinea. The credit line beneath the print identifies Petitot as the architect to the Duke of Parma, a position he held from 1753 to 1765. The print is dedicated by the engraver Pierre Patte (who was also an architect) to Jean-Baptiste Monthulé (also spelled Montullé), a bibliophile and art collector who served as secretary to Queen Marie Leszczynska, wife of King Louis XV of France beginning in 1754. The credits list the publisher as "the widow of F. Chereau," who died in 1755. As such, the print can be dated to 1754-55 (though the macchina design was from 1749). Another example of this print is in the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.

Herculaneum is an ancient Roman town on the Bay of Naples. Like nearby Pompeii, it was buried in the ashes of a Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD and discovered in the 18th century. During the period from 1749 to 1765, the site of Herculaneum was explored under the auspices of the Kings of Naples and the Two Sicilies (Charles VII and his son and successor, Ferdinand IV), and a basic plan of the town was mapped out before the tunnels collapsed and were closed. Archaeological excavations resumed in the 20th century, uncovering a section of the town and unearthing more relics.

Ennemond Alexandre Petitot was a French architect, city planner and engineer, mainly active in Italy. He studied at the Royal Academy of Architecture in Paris, where he won the Grand Prix in 1745. He traveled to Rome the following year, spending four years studying antiquities and modern monuments. From 1750 to 1753, he worked in Paris for aristocratic patrons. Offered a position as Court Architect to Philip, Duke of Parma, he left for Italy in 1753 and spent the rest of his life in Parma. Among his many projects, he remodeled the ducal summer residence in Colorno, continued building the Venerie Royale, decorated the ducal apartments, constructed the New Garden, and worked on reconstruction plans for the Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo del Giardino, the Ministry building and the Palatine Library.

Pierre Patte was a French architect, engraver and author. He engraved genre subjects and established the plans for the churches at Bolbec and the chateau of Deux-Points, but his major achievements were his analytic architectural studies and civic designs for Paris. These included Monuments Erected in France to the Glory of Louis XV (1765), Discourses on Architecture (1754), Studies of Architecture (1755) and works on street planning and theater architecture. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Patte's works "had a powerful effect on late 18th century French rationalist architecture of the Neo-Classical period."

The Chereau family of print publishers was active in Paris through most of the 18th century. The patriarch and founder, François Chereau I, was working as an engraver in Paris as early as 1712. After his death in 1729, his widow Marguerite and son François Chereau II continued the firm under the imprint "the widow of François Chereau" until they both died in 1755. The firm was carried on by François I and Marguerite's grandson, Jacques-François Chereau, until he retired in 1787 and sold it to François Etienne Joubert. Joubert continued publishing at the same address under his own name, sometimes with "chez Chereau," into the 19th century.

Inscription: Décoration faisant allusion à la nouvelle découverte de cette Ville qui fut engloutie par les cendres du Mont Vésuve sous l'Empire de Titus, la quelle à été executée en relief à Rome en 1749 à l'occasion de la cérérmonie de l'hommage que le Royaume de Naples rend au St. Siege. Dédié à M. De Montullé Baron de St. Port, Conseiller d'Etat, et Sécretaire des Commandemens de la Reine, par son très humble et très obeisant serviteur Patte.

Translation: Design alluding to the new discovery of this city, which was engulfed by the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius during the Empire of Titus, this has been executed in relief at Rome in 1749 on the occasion of the ceremony of homage that the Kingdom of Naples performed at St. Siege. Dedicated to Monsieur De Montullé, Baron of St. Port, Councillor of State, and Secretary of the Commandments to the Queen, by his very humble and very obedient servant, Patte.

Full publication information: Composé par Petitot, 1er Arch'te de S.A.S. le Duc de Parme. Gravé par Patte. A Paris chés la Ve. de F. Chereau, rue St. Jacques aux 2, Piliers d'Or.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Few soft creases not obtrusive. Margins cut -- ample on sides and top; but cut close to credits on bottom.

Provenance: James Lamantia, Jr. (1923 - 2011). At the time of his death, Lamantia was Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was also a practicing architect, and an artist.

References:

Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 6, p. 550 (Patte).

Dickson, Iain. "Herculaneum." Illustrated History of the Roman Empire. http://www.roman-empire.net/articles/article-011.html (29 August 2012).

Dubin, Nina L. Futures & Ruins: Eighteenth-Century Paris and the Art of Hubert Robert. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2010. p. 29. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=5BPnFEIIUVoC&pg=PA29 (28 February 2013).

"François Chereau." Wikipedia. 9 August 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/François_Chereau (29 August 2012).

"Jean-Baptiste de Monthulé." Wikipedia.fr. 27 September 2009. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Baptiste_de_Monthulé (28 August 2012).

"Life of Ennemond-Alexandre Petitot." Lib-Art.com. http://www.lib-art.com/artgallery/237-ennemond-alexandre-petitot.html (29 August 2012).

"Pierre Patte." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Oxford University Press, 1999, 2006. Online at Answers.com: http://www.answers.com/topic/pierre-patte-1 (29 August 2012).