Claude Louis Chatelet

1750 - 1795

A View of Château de Romilly-sur-Seine


Oil on Canvas




48.8(h) x 65(w) cms


Signed and Dated lower left: 'CL Chatelet 1787'


Claude Louis Chatelet was born in Paris in 1753 and it is not known to whom he was apprenticed. He was to specialise in landscape painting and owed his success to the Abbé de Saint-Non, who sponsored his most important commission. This was the series of illustrations for the Abbé’s Voyage Pittoresque, ou description historique des royaumes de Naples et de Sicile, published in five volumes in Paris between 1781 and 1786. For this ambitious publication, one of the most beautiful books of the 18th century, Saint-Non ordered drawings from Fragonard, Hubert Robert and Claude-Joseph Vernet among others. Chatelet was, along with Louis-Jean Desprez, responsible for the largest number of illustrations that were later published in the book.

As a contemporary of Hubert Robert, Chatelet was hugely influenced by the work of this artist and in his own art he combined the classical ambiance of Robert with the decorative beauty of Claude Joseph Vernet.

Chatelet travelled widely through Europe and made many sketches of the scenery. A great number of paintings within various institutions depict landscapes in Switzerland, Italy and England. Marie-Antoinette was a major patron of Chatelet and commissioned a large number of paintings from him.

Chatelet later became an ardent republican and a member of the revolutionary tribunal. He was arrested in the purge that followed 9th Thermidor (i.e. the fall of Robespierre on the 27th July 1794). He was subsequently tried, sentenced and executed on the guillotine.


Though no trace of the Château de Romilly remains today, a castle existed on the site in the Aube Department from at least the 1400s when it belonged to the Bishop of Troyes. For several hundred years the estate appears to have comprised two building complexes close to each other which were surrounded by a communal moat. In the 1600s and early 1700s the land changed hands several times until in 1762 the estate was purchased by Jean-Marie Richard (1708 - 1783).

Born in Versailles, Richard was the elder brother of the artist and printmaker Jean-Claude Richard (aka Abbé de Saint-Non) and Louis Richard de La Bretèche, both of whom were painted by Fragonard. A financier and Le Receveur Général des Finances (an office which he purchased for over one million livres), Jean-Marie Richard made great improvements to the estate creating groves of trees and '...par une belle cascade et par de longs canaux ou coule une eau vive.'

After Richard's death in 1783 his brother La Bretèche inherrited the château (as well as his brother's government position). It was during his tenure that Chatelet painted the Château de Romilly, presumably after being introduced to La Bretèche by his brother Saint-Non after his and Chatelet's Naples and Sicily project mentioned in the biography above.

During the 1780s Chatelet received many commissions from the French nobility, including Marie-Antoinette and the Montesquiou family, to paint their newly built or recently expanded châteaus. The Château de Romilly, seen in Chatelet's painting with its waterfall, mansard roof and alternating square and cylindrical turrets, recalls the architectural style of Germain Boffrand (1667-1754), one of the main creators of style Régence. The château was probably updated during the 1700s by the Richard family or the previous owner the Marquis de Coëtlogon.

Just three years after the château was painted La Bretèche faced bankruptcy and sold his lands in 1790. In December 1796 the château was purchased by Olry Worms (1759 - 1849), who thereafter changed his name to "Olry Worms de Romilly". Worms was a Parisian banker, politician, President of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, and recipient of la Légion d'honneur. After his death the château was sold in 1853 and was demolished.

A note on the provenance:
Forsyth Wickes was an American Francophile who collected primarily 18th century French paintings, drawings, porcelain and furniture. At his death much of his collection was donated to The Museum of Fine Arts Boston including paintings by Fragonard, Lancret, Gérard and Boucher.


(Presumably) Commissioned from the artist by Louis Richard de La Bretèche (1722 - 1804).
Forsyth Wickes (1876 - 1964), New York and Newport RI, USA.
Thence by descent to the previous owner.