For insight into daily life in France in the eighteenth century, architectural and ornament drawings provide compelling visual documentation. This catalogue of eighteenth-century French drawings selected from The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection testifies to the peerless efforts on the part of artists and craftsmen of Frances Age of Enlightenment to invest utilitarian objects with refinement and beauty. Many different types of drawings illustrate how wide-ranging these aesthetic concerns were. Architectural subjects include designs for townhouse exteriors and interiors, including decorative ornament; pavilions; stage sets; temporary structures for court and civic festivities; and an entry for the Prix de Rome architectural competition. These are joined by studies for fountains, furniture, carpets, a screen panel, decorative hardware, silver and other metalwork, porcelain, vases, and a cane handle. There are also designs for printed materials, ranging from ornamental book illustrations to a printed funeral ticket. Fantasy architectural capriccios of no utilitarian function constitute another major genre.
These compositions allow us to analyze the working methods of eighteenth-century French artists and craftsmen. Some drawings represent the artists' earliest conceptions, others the completely evolved idea in its final form, ready for execution. Highly finished drawings made for presentation to the client or as a kind of catalogue for clients to choose from appear along with drawings made as records of already existing architecture and interiors. The latter, in some cases, are the only documentation we have of these monuments.
One hundred twenty-five entries are accompanied by 148 black-and-white illustrations and 17 color plates. The catalogue is arranged alphabetically by artist and is complemented by a list of abbreviated references and an index. Each entry includes descriptive commentary, provenance, and references that make this book invaluable to the scholar, the collector, and the layman.