View of the Seine in the 18th centurye century

View of the Seine in the 18th century<sup>e</sup> century

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Title: The Seine downstream from the Pont Neuf in Paris with, on the left, the Louvre and, on the right, the Collège des Quatre-Nations

Author : RAGUENET Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas (1715 - 1793)

Creation date : 1754

Date shown: 1754

Dimensions: Height 46 cm - Width 85 cm

Technique and other indications: oil on canvas

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © RMN - Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Hervé Lewandowski

Picture reference: 02-005840 / R.F. 1971-12

The Seine downstream from the Pont Neuf in Paris with, on the left, the Louvre and, on the right, the Collège des Quatre-Nations

© RMN - Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Hervé Lewandowski

Publication date: November 2015

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

The eye of Paris

This view of the Seine is dated and signed by the artist at the bottom right of the painting, on the Quai Malaquais ou des Théatins ("Raguenet 1754"). The sponsor of this work is unknown, but it circulated in private circles before being donated in 1971 to the Louvre by Baroness Henri de Bastard, in the same lot as The Pont Neuf in Paris, with the Samaritaine pump on the right.

Son of Jean-Baptiste Raguenet (1682-1755), furniture and works of art dealer, Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas Raguenet was born in 1715 in Paris. Little is known about his life, but he seems to have trained in the art through contact with his father and within the Academy of Saint-Luc, a community of artists that competes with the very official Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. His pictorial activity is concentrated in the second half of the XVIIIe century, a period during which the City of Lights underwent many architectural changes.

By drawing up a wide panorama of the Seine, Jean-Baptiste Raguenet produces a portrait of the city in which his sense of observation and precision recalls the vedute Italian painters like Canaletto (1697-1768), in Venice, whose works are declined in engraved versions. The buildings represented in the lower third of the painting thus demonstrate the richness and diversity of Parisian constructions.

Image Analysis

The river in motion

In this painting, probably made from the Pont Royal, the Seine occupies a central place. The artist operates a wide panorama from the middle of the river, the outline of which serves as a long perspective with a west-east orientation.

The city is taken from life, and each of the characters is busy with his task. In the foreground, sailors are at work, recalling the decisive role of Parisian shipping. Boats provide the junction between the two banks, while barges form a train of logs along clearly visible banks, which suggests that this view was taken during the low water period, at the end of spring or during the 'summer.

In the background, the city is revealed with a view that opens up like an amphitheater between the north bank (on the left) and the south bank of the river (on the right). The gaze is slowly lost thanks to the bluish hues and the mist ensuring the transition between the buildings and the sky, which occupies the upper two-thirds of the canvas. From left to right, we can see the long facade of the Louvre, the tower of the Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie church, the Pont Neuf which precedes the Pont au Change, still lined with tall buildings, the towers of the Conciergerie, the spire of the Sainte-Chapelle, the towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral and the College of the Four Nations.


The Parisian urban planning laboratory

Raguenet's work is invaluable for the study of the Parisian living environment at the end of the Ancien Régime. In total, we owe him a series of more than seventy views of Paris out of a catalog of around ninety works. This activity responds to the demand of art lovers, who are also patrons in love with the capital, as the writer Louis-Sébastien Mercier suggests when he mentions the extent of the production: “So many eloquent paintings that catch the eye in every corner of the crossroads, and what a gallery of images, full of striking contrasts. "

On this canvas, political power is embodied by the Louvre Palace and its long facade on the Seine side, built on the plans of Charles Perrault. This wing houses the long galleries overlooking the quay of the same name and the Saint-Nicolas port, used to supply the palace. The buildings of the Vieux-Louvre are revealed by the slate roofs.

The municipal action is also underlined by the Pont Neuf built by Henri IV, whose equestrian statue is installed on the western tip of the Ile de la Cité. In front of this statue shown from behind, two pavilions mark the passage opening onto Place Dauphine.

Finally, the cultural function is suggested by the College of the Four Nations, founded by will of Cardinal Mazarin. All in all, all these constructions help to draw an exceptional heritage which makes Paris the architectural showcase of the kingdom.

  • architecture
  • Paris
  • patrimony
  • city
  • Seine
  • Louvre
  • royal bridge
  • New Bridge


BACKOUCHE Isabelle, The Trace of the River: the Seine and Paris (1750-1850), Paris, School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences, coll. “Civilizations and Societies” (no 101), 2000. CHAGNIOT Jean, New history of Paris. VIII: Paris in the 18th century, Paris, Association for the publication of a history of Paris, 1988, COURTIN Nicolas, Paris in the 18th century: between rococo fantasy and classical revival, Paris, Parigramme, 2013.LAVEDAN Pierre, New history of Paris. XV: History of town planning in Paris, Paris, Association for the publication of a history of Paris, 1993. GADY Alexandre, PÉROUSE DE MONTCLOS Jean-Marie (dir.), On the spirit of cities: Nancy and urban Europe in the Age of Enlightenment (1720-1770), cat. exp. (Nancy, 2005), Versailles, Artlys, 2005.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, “View of the Seine in the XVIIIe century "

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