Born in Paris in 1723, Pierre-Antoine Demachy began his studies with the Florentine architect and painter Giovanni Niccolò Servandoni in 1754. He entered the Academy the following year, was accepted as a painter of architecture in 1758, and by 1786 had become a professor of perspective at the Academy.
The sudden popularity of view paintings and capricci in the eighteenth century resulted in the development of an entirely new genre of painting. Demachy's vedute of Paris were therefore highly sought-after. His understanding of architecture and perspective made him a good candidate for work as a set designer for the Opera, which he did with much acclaim, according to contemporary journals.
While the influence of Piranesi is strongly evident in the present paintings, they also show characteristic elements of Demachy's style - the meticulous study of classical architecture combined with an even lighting and a distinctive cloudy sky that appears in most of his works. The notable absence of figures in these views suggests that they might have been studies for set designs, rather than straight view paintings.
We are grateful to Marie-Pierre Petkowska d'Ostoja for her assistance in cataloguing these paintings (written communication, 10 August 2006). Ms. Petkowska d'Ostoja dates the works to the 1760s.