Sculpture Journal

‘La bonne fabrique et le superbe ornement’: Pierre Puget’s ship decoration

Sculpture Journal (2015), 24, (2), 141–160.

Abstract

Pierre Puget’s eighteenth-century biographers agreed that he excelled in ship decoration. However, most of the time these biographical essays remain highly allusive concerning his ship decoration projects. This article focuses on the crucial years when Puget worked for Louis XIV as director of the Toulon arsenal sculpture workshop. New archival documents allow a more exact chronology of Puget’s projects to be established, and highlight the role played by the sculptor in this field. Iconographic and stylistic analysis of ten decorative schemes reveals his sources of influence, first by underlining the links between Puget’s drawings and those of the Genovese artists Domenico Piola and Filippo Parodi, and secondly, by showing how models by the king’s artists, François Girardon and Charles Le Brun, contributed to his decorative language. Puget’s iconographic programmes also demonstrate his originality. Departing from traditional models, none of his decorative schemes pursue the usual themes of royal myth-making, unlike those made by Louis XIV’s acolytes. Although the majority of his decorations were fully reworked or destroyed during preparations for the war with Holland in 1671, they found a new resonance in the first part of the eighteenth century when the sculptor and decorator of warships François-Antoine Vassé took Puget’s drawings as a clear source of inspiration.

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Author details

Théron, Magali