A View of Aisle at the Chartres Cathedral

Interior of Chartres Cathedral - château de Fontainebleau - © RMN Grand Palais

James Roberts
1832
Watercolour on Paper
H. 95.5 cm;L. 68 cm
Fontainebleau, Musée National du Château, LP 171

James Roberts was a watercolourist of English origin who lived in France between 1826 and 1848 and was particularly admired by the royal family. He devoted himself to the popular genre of church interiors. He painted, for example, Milan’s Duomo Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice or the Church at Brou and the Chartres Cathedral for the exhibition of 1833. Purchased by the king after the exhibition, these two watercolours, were sent to the Château de Fontainebleau in May 1837 for Madame Adelaide's bedroom on the ground floor of the François Ist Gallery. The building was immediately reinvested by both the faithful and artists after becoming a cathedral again in 1821. The first album containing romantic views of the cathedral was published in 1828. A panorama by Charles Marie Bouton was dedicated to it and many artists contributed to the interior views of the cathedral. Roberts focuses on the choir tower, a masterpiece of flamboyant sculpture started in 1514 by Jehan de Beauce. The artist's faded touch highlights the play of light on the white stone and clearly distinguishes the four levels of sculpture. In each of these watercolours, Roberts likes to paint the curve that the aisle follows supported by the strong pillars that are laid out before it.

Far from simply being archaeological views, these two watercolours also present the vivid life of the cathedral: here and there, ordinary worshippers in white headdresses with their baskets and children are kneeling beside small chairs. A procession advances towards the aisle from the side and a mass is being said in a small chapel illuminated with large blue stained glass windows.

Exhibitions
2018-2019, Château de Fontainebleau, Louis-Philippe à Fontainebleau. The King and History.
2013-2014, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, Cathédrales
1998, Château de Fontainebleau, Painters For a Castle. Fiftieth Wok(16th Century – 19th century) from the collections at the Château de Fontainebleau.

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