J-B Maréchal was a talented painter of gardens and interiors. Few of his works survive or appear on the market but the Musée des Arts Decoratifs and the Musée Carnavalet have interior and garden scenes. This gouache is believed to have been sold in Paris on 22nd March 1928, entitled Promenade Dans un Parc, when it came into the collection of Levi Parsons Morton of Washington, DC (US Minister to France, Paris 1881-85). It is inscribed par Marechal et Versailles. The beautiful subtle colours and technique in gouache with unusual circular composition form a scene that is full of movement with both figures and trees. The royal gardens at Versailles were continually redesigned and reworked throughout the eighteenth century. Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette were obsessed by their progress and recorded the gardens ‘historic’ changes by employing such renowned artists as Hubert Robert, J-H Fragonard, C-L Chatelet and presumably J-B Maréchal to paint the neo-classical gardens they created and often destroyed within one season. The pinkish hues of the otherwise monolithic block formed by retaining wall and steps add to the softening effect of the balustrade and the clever ‘anchors’ for the eye, constituted by the urns. This is a capriccio based firmly on the Antique, but serving as a backdrop to those courtiers swirling around in their fantastic clothes and wigs of elaborate form. Essentially a stage set for the slowly dying royal court, the graceful elegance of the composition is a poignant example of nature tamed and civilized according to contemporary belief.
Levi Parsons Morton; Ann Eustis Emmet, Washington, DC