The estate of Morfontaine (or Mortefontaine), near Ermenonville, was acquired in 1770 by Le Peletier, who transformed the park into a garden designed in the fashionable Anglo-Chinese manner. Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, bought the estate in 1798, and lavished a fortune on renovating it once more. It was at Morfontaine that Joseph signed the Franco-American alliance on 3 October 1800. Joseph divided the park into two parts, a small garden surrounding the house and a larger park with rivers, lakes and follies, and two main buildings: the Château de Vallière and the Pavillon de Vallière. The last drawing in this lot depicts the Tour Dubosq, built by Le Peletier on an outcrop in the park.
The present drawings, along with another twelve, hung in the Pavillon de Vallière, which stood near the Tour Dubosq. Among the other bodycolours was view of a fête held at Morfontaine to celebrate the signing of the Franco-American treaty, together with landscapes and views of Southern Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt.
The three drawings in the present lot were recorded in the 1814 inventory of Morfontaine, nos. 226, 227 and 239, each valued at 12 francs. They remained in the Pavillon de Vallières until the late 19th Century. The group reappeared in an inventory taken at the death of the Baronne de Saint Marc, dated 8 January 1921. By that date the drawings were hanging in the Petit Salon and together were valued at 1,500 Francs. A coloured print of the gardens of Morfontaine by Piranesi, hanging in the same room, was valued 100 Francs.
Pietro and Francesco Piranesi arrived in Paris in about 1798, were they and produced prints of their own invention and after their father's plates. In 1807 Francesco discovered that the earth at Morfontaine could be used to produce good-quality terracotta, and he obtained permission from Joseph Bonaparte to build a factory. The busines was not a success, and the present drawings, which seem to have been retained by Piranesi, were surrendered to Bonaparte as part of the settlement of his debts.