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An image of The public promenade by Philibert-Louis Debucourt

Philibert-Louis Debucourt

(France 13 Feb 1755 – 22 Sep 1832)

The public promenade
Alternative title:
La promenade publique
Media category
Materials used
colour etching, engraving and aquatint
iii of 3 states

46.4 x 63.8 cm (trimmed to platemark)

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r, incised on plate "D.B.92.".
European Art Collection Benefactors' Fund 2011
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Debucourt originally trained as a painter under Joseph Marie Vien and was elected an associate member of the French Royal Academy in 1781. He exhibited his pictures at the Salon from 1781 to 1785, and then between 1810 and 1829. After the publication of his first print in 1785 he seems to have devoted himself more to printmaking than to painting.

How he learned his craft is not known but he quickly mastered the demands of the coloured “wash manner” technique that had been pioneered in Paris in the 1770s by Jean-François Janinet, and practised by Gilles-Antoine Demarteau, Charles-Melchior Descourtis and Louis Le Coeur, among others.

Debucourt became the greatest exponent of multi-plate colour printmaking. For prints such as ‘The public promenade’, he used a combination of aquatint and hand tools to create the numerous plates – one for each colour (red, yellow, blue) including the black plate which gives outlines to the figures.

The scene depicted is a lively and crowded gathering in the gardens of the Palais-Royal in the centre of Paris. The palace was owned by the duc d’Orléans. He opened its grounds to the public, allowing boutiques and cafés to operate and soon creating a popular haven for Parisians of all social levels – from aristocrats to pickpockets and prostitutes – where the police were barred from entering. Debucourt emphasizes the affectation and frivolity of the fashionable promenaders. The print is a satirical panorama of the French aristocracy, the last gasp of the ‘ancien régime’, which was shortly to crumble completely with the execution of the king and queen in 1793.

Debucourt’s original modello drawing in gouache is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

Bibliography (6)

Victor I Carlson and John W Ittmann, Regency to Empire. French printmaking 1715-1814, 1984, 290-91, (illus.). no.103

Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, L’Art du XVIIIe siècle, 'Debucourt', pg.181-215, 1910, vol.III.

Maurice Fenaille, L’œuvre gravé de P.-L. Debucourt, 1899, (illus.). no.33

Margaret Morgan Grasselli, Colorful impressions: the printmaking revolution in eighteenth-century France, 2003, 144-45, (illus.). no.83

Jean-Richard Pierrette, Graveurs français de la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle. XVIIIe exposition de la Collection Edmond de Rothschild, 1985, 112-13, (illus.).

Marcel Roux, Inventaire du fonds français, graveurs du dix-huitième siècle, 1949, vol. 6, p.175. no.26

Exhibition history (1)

European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014

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