The Months; drawings for the old City Hall's interiors by Alexandre Cabanel, portfolio of twelve engraved plates, accompanied by a double proof plate, Paris, E. Testard publisher
The pages on display are from a portfolio containing prints taken from the drawings for the interior decorations which Alexandre Cabanel designed for former City Hall of Paris
This building was one of the prestigious constructions begun under the Second Republic and continued by Baron Haussman under the Second Empire.
The greatest artists of the period such as Ingres, Delacroix, Baltard contributed to this project alongside Cabanel. With this work he joined the ranks of the nation's artistic elite, even though his contribution was limited to a small section of the ceremonial rooms.
Léon Bénouville was entrusted with painting 'The Four Seasons' on the door arches of the Caryatids Room whereas Cabanel was commissioned to paint the twelve months of the year in the upper tympanum, under the lead of the architect Jean-Baptiste Lesueur.
The Month of February
His perfect mastery of human anatomy enabled Cabanel to overcome, with authority and naturalism, the difficulty imposed by the triangular format. He chose simple and universal subjects and this characteristic modesty impressed his contemporaries.
It was these same contemporaries who leave us their vision of the overall interior design, judging in particular the colours to be "attractive and limpid." The decor disappeared in the fire which led to the City Hall's destruction in 1871.
The printed reproduction of the preparatory drawings met with a great success, perhaps related to the subject's popularity.
In 1884 Théodore Ballu, who was in charge of the construction of the new city hall, invited Cabanel to work on the new interior decoration, but the painter died before the commission was officially signed.