François-Joseph Bélanger

By Olivia Edmondson

François-Joseph Bélanger (1744–1818), Design for a Wall Elevation at the Hôtel Dervieux, c.1789. Pen, black and red ink over graphite with coloured washes and gouache on paper, 306 × 285 mm. DMC 1333.

This drawing is one of more than twenty alternative designs for a room in the Paris mansion built for Anne-Victoire Dervieux opera dancer and, from 1794, the architect and designer Bélanger’s wife. Bélanger imagines for Dervieux a scheme of ‘Etruscan’ arabesques loosely inspired by the archaeological excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii. Compass, ruler and pen were used to delimit and subdivide the decorative field; ink, watercolour and gouache were then applied to work up the fine detail of trellis, tablets, terms, arcades, dancing figures, birds, griffons, fine scrolls and floral patterns, caught within boldly coloured frames.