Lieven CRUYL (Ghent 1634 - Ghent c.1720)

The Construction of the Pont Royal, Paris, in 1686

Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over an underdrawing in black chalk, with framing lines in brown ink.
Signed and dated LIVINUS CRUYL PBR fecit 1686 at the lower left.
190 x 299 mm. (7 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.)


This drawing depicts the construction of the Pont Royal over the river Seine in Paris. Throughout much of the 17th century, the wooden bridge at this spot, linking the rue du Bac to the Pavillon de Flore of the Louvre, had been damaged by fires and floods, and it was a flood which destroyed the bridge completely in 1684. The construction of a new stone bridge, paid for by King Louis XIV, was to be part of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s urban development of Paris.

The bridge, named in honour of the King and designed by the King’s architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, was begun in October 1685 and completed by June 1689. Construction was directed by the architect Jacques Gabriel, who is almost certainly the figure seen in the near foreground, to the right of centre, in this drawing. Gabriel was assisted by François Romain, a Dutch-born Dominican monk and engineer, who may perhaps be identified with the cleric at the lower right corner of the composition, giving instructions to the workmen.

Only recently rediscovered in an English private collection and previously unknown to scholars, this drawing may be added to a group of seven drawings by Cruyl depicting the construction of the Pont Royal between 1685 and 1689. (The drawings of the Pont Royal by Cruyl can be divided into two groups; those showing the actual construction and those depicting the finished bridge.) Three of these drawings, of very large dimensions, were recorded in the collection of Adolphe Wattinne in Paris in 1919; one of these, dated 1687 and showing a more advanced stage in the building work, was sold at auction in 2009.

Four other drawings by Cruyl of the Pont Royal, all of smaller dimensions, are in Parisian museums. Two drawings in the Bibliothèque Nationale, dated 1686 and 1687 and of the same dimensions as the present sheet, depict the bridge under construction, while two drawings in the Louvre show the bridge as completed, seen from both directions.

Unlike most of Cruyl’s other extant drawings of the Pont Royal, the present sheet is not an aerial view, but is drawn at much the level of the bridge itself, showing the construction machinery in more detail. In this respect, it is closest to the earlier of the two drawings in the Bibliothèque Nationale, likewise dated 1686 and of identical dimensions, which also shows the workmen, horses and dredging equipment from a much closer vantage point.

Like all of these drawings, the present sheet presents an accurate and fascinating glimpse of Paris near the end of the 17th century, with the Quai and gardens of the Tuileries at the upper right and the buildings of the future Quai de la Grenouillière (later the Quai d’Orsay) at the left.

It is not known why Lieven Cruyl made this series of detailed and accurate drawings of the Pont Royal, although it is most likely that they were intended as designs for engravings, with the artist specifically tasked with recording the construction of the bridge. Only one such engraving was executed, however; a panoramic view of the completed bridge, for which the related drawing is in the Louvre.

Acquired by a private collector in the 1950’s
Thence by descent until 2012.

Lieven CRUYL

The Construction of the Pont Royal, Paris, in 1686

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