VICTOR-JEAN NICOLLE (1754-1826)
A PAIR OF ARCHITECTURAL CAPRICCI
Watercolour with pen & ink
Both 16.5 x 9 cm
Victor-Jean Nicolle trained in Paris at the École Royale Gratuite de Dessin, the free drawing school founded in in Paris by Jean-Jacques Bachelier (1724-1806). Nicolle won the Grand Prix de Perspective in 1771, and after graduating he entered the architectural studio of Louis François Petit-Radel (1739-1806), who under the First Empire became inspector general of civil buildings and built the Roule slaughterhouse, among other accomplishments.
Nicolle’s architectural specialism and training was put to great use during his lengthy sojourns in Rome, which appear to have been between 1787-1798 and 1806-1811. Often filled with anecdotal detail, Nicolle’s drawings from his Italian period are almost all rigorously accurate in their topography. They are, as such, important documentary evidence of the appearance of the Eternal City in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Like many artists in Rome before him, Nicolle was inspired by Hubert Robert’s capricci, and drew a number of his own. Nicolle would generally make drawings 'sur le motif' in pen and ink, which he would then finish with wash and watercolour in his studio. Although best known for his Roman views, he also produced drawings of other cities in Italy, including Bologna, Venice, Verona, Naples and Florence, while in France he made numerous studies of Paris and its environs.
Although he never exhibited at the Salons, his reputation as a topographical artist was such that in 1810 he received a commission from Napoleon for fifty watercolour views of the principal monuments of Paris, intended as a wedding present for the Empress Marie-Louise and now at Malmaison. Other significant groups of drawings by Nicolle are today in the Louvre, the Musée Carnavalet and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, as well as the museums of Rouen and Lille.