After his bankruptcy in 1778, Jean-Louis Prieur took refuge in the Enclos du Temple under the protection of the Count of Artois to escape his creditors and royal jurisdiction. His activity as an ornamental sculptor now predominated, as attested by the many collections of drawings and engravings now in existence 7 8. This also enabled him to compensate for his loss of clientele and the decline of his founder-chaser’s workshop.

The ornaments for parcloses

Montant d’ornements, Paris, avant 1784
Papier vergé; plume, encre noire, aquarelle sépia et bleue
Collection Kraemer
© MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance

Drawn by Prieur and engraved by Fay, seven Cahiers de sujets arabesques numbered X to XVI were published by Mondhare & Jean after 1784. In the 1770s and 80s, the arabesque genre then in vogue spawned numerous albums for use by artists as models. Depicting fanciful figures and naturalist ornamental motifs mirrored on either side of a vertical axis, these compositions were intended to be painted on panelling. Delicate and pleasant to the eye, they were ideal for intimate rooms such as the boudoir. Two parclose ornaments dating from around 1784 from the Kraemer Collection depict antique-inspired motifs such as smoking cassolettes and the imperial eagle, with plump children and garlands of flowers. Combined in numerous variations, these compositions in an easily recognisable style exude the joie de vivre so typical of Prieur’s work.

The Suites de Vases

Modèle de vase en bronze, Paris, vers 1780-1790
Papier vergé ; plume, encre noire, aquarelle sépia, crayon graphite
Inv. 3412
© MAD, Paris

In 1783, three Suites de Vases were published, drawn and engraved by the artist and dedicated to the Chevalier de Crussol, bailli (king’s administrative representative) of the Enclos du Temple. These prints have enabled us to identify two drawings of vases. The one decorated with caryatids (ill. 7), figures then fashionable inspired by the Kanephoros caryatids on the Erechtheion in Athens. is part of the 1ère Suite. The vase with satyrs’ head mascarons and bacchic decoration 9 was published in the second series. The model with handles in the form of satyresses 10 was probably engraved by Fay for the XIe Cahier de Vases, published by Jean after 1792. The four models with arabesque decoration largely depict the plump children so characteristic of Jean-Louis Prieur’s style 11. The engraving of the one with handles in the form of infant tritons is in the Ve Cahier de Vases, drawn by Prieur and engraved by Fay, published by Mondhare & Jean between 1784 and 1792.