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Fontaine, Pierre-François-Léonard

Fontaine, Pierre-François-Léonard (1762–1853). French architect and interior designer. He studied under Peyre, in whose atélier he met Percier, with whose name his was to be so intimately linked. He went to Rome in 1786, where he was joined by Percier, and absorbed the principles of Neo-Classicism while there. In 1792 they worked together on decorations for the Opéra, and in 1793 designed furniture for the Convention. Drawing on their Roman experiences, they produced their first book, Recueil des palais, maisons, et autres édifices mod-ernes dessinés à Rome (Compendium of Palaces, Houses, and Other Modern Buildings drawn in Rome—1798). By that time Fontaine had established a reputation as a designer of fine furniture, and his contacts led to an introduction to Napoleon: Percier and Fontaine were appointed to design the interiors of Malmaison (1800–2), in which exquisite work they effectively created the Empire style. From that time, they were virtually Napoleon's official architects, and their influence was widespread, especially after their Recueil de décorations intérieures (Compendium of Interior Decorations) was published in 1801, in which their developed eclectic Neo-Classical style, embracing Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Renaissance ornament, was enticingly displayed. It was reissued in 1812 and 1827, and in an enlarged Italian edition of 1843. They restored many palaces (e.g. Saint-Cloud and the Tuileries) that had been vandalized at the time of the Revolution, and designed the settings and trappings for two great Napoleonic public events: the Coronation (1804) and the Em-peror's second marriage to Marie Louise of Habsburg-Lorraine (1791–1847) in 1810.

Fontaine seems to have been the entrepreneur, with Percier as the designer of fine detail. However, the partners did not confine their activities to providing rich Empire interiors, for their buildings (though few) were also beautifully proportioned and elegant: they include the Arc du Carrousel, Paris (1806–8—modelled on the Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome, but treated polychromatically); a whole series of transformations of Paris, of which the Rue de Rivoli and Place des Pyramides (1802–3) are the best-known, although they prepared a huge scheme including a Palais de Chaillot, larger than Versailles, linked on a vast axis to a huge complex of buildings, including a University, École des Beaux-Arts, and Archives, not executed.

After Napoleon's fall, Fontaine became architect to King Louis XVIII (1814–24), for whom he built the Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris (1815–26), on the site of the burial of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. He also restored the Palais Royal (1814–31) and the Hôtel-Dieu, Pontoise (1823–7). He published Le Palais-Royal (1829) and Résidences de Souverains (1833). In the words of obituarists, Percier and Fontaine ‘never married’, and are buried in the same grave in Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.


Biver (1964);
Builder (1980);
Middleton & and Watkin (1987);
D. Watkin (1986)

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