This drawing is one of a series of seven views of the Pont-Royal executed during its construction (1685-1689): two of similar size, previously also in the Wattinne collection in Paris (Mareuse, op. cit., pp. 64-71), two in the Louvre (Lugt, op. cit., 1949, nos. 549-50) and two at the Bibliothèque nationale (Lugt, op. cit., 1936, nos. 277-78), these last four of smaller dimensions.
Lieven Cruyl was a Flemish priest, architect, draughtsman and etcher. He left Ghent for Italy in 1664 and spent a few years in Rome before staying for extended periods in Florence (1672), Naples (1673) and Venice (1676). He executed many views, some of them 'bird's eye views'. He was back in Ghent in 1678 but is documented working in Paris in 1680-82 and in 1686-87.
It is not known for what purpose Cruyl made this series of drawings although he might have been associated with the construction of the bridge. He might have planned to publish a series of prints, but only one seems to have been realized. It was executed after one of the drawings in the Louvre, showing the finished bridge from a similar point of view to that used in the present work (Jatta, op. cit., p. 315, fig. 141).
In 1684 the wooden bridge that linked the Louvre to the Rue du Bac was carried away by ice. It was soon decided to replace it with a stone bridge. The architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708) was chosen to design it and the construction was overseen by François Romain (1648-1735), a Dominican monk from Holland. He introduced new construction techniques visible in the present drawing, most importantly the preparation of the foundations by dredging, and the use of caissons of great timber boxes in which the masonry was built and sunk down on top of the piles. The bridge comprises five arches and is 110 metres wide. This present view shows a stage in the construction at which the two arches at the sides are already complete and work has moved to the three central arches. A temporary bridge has been built and large cranes activated by wheels are used to transport the pieces of pouzzolone cement.
This drawing also provides a fascinating, rare and early panorama of Paris. On the left is the Louvre, with the Pavillon de Flore and the Galerie de bord de l'eau, at the end of which is the Vieux Louvre. One of the many interesting features of the drawing is that it shows all the buildings that filled the space between the Tuileries and the Louvre (now replaced by a garden, the Arc du Carrousel and the Pyramide), with the Church of S. Thomas du Louvre in the middle. Further away, one can make out S. Eustache and the Hôtel de Ville. The river is crowded with boats used for the construction of the bridge, and the embankments are full of construction materials among which are numerous workers. In the distance are depicted, with great precision, the Pont-Neuf, the Chapel of the Samaritaine (now destroyed), the Pont-au-Change, and the Pont-Nôtre-Dame surmounted by houses, the Pont-Saint-Michel, Nôtre-Dame, la Sainte-Chapelle. On the left bank one can see the Couvent des Théatins, the Hôtel de Bouillon (now part of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts), the Collège des Quatre-Nations (now Institut), the large abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Saint-Sulpice and the dome of the Palais du Luxembourg. In the background are le Val-de-Grâce and the hills dominating the Seine and the Marne.