Figures Walking in a Parkland
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Louis de Carmontelle
French, 1783 - 1800
Watercolor and gouache with traces of black chalk underdrawing on translucent Whatman paper
18 5/8 x 148 7/16 in.

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Beginning at the left, an aristocratic couple strolls through a parkland rich in monuments and follies, concluding at a moated two-story country house. Few of Carmontelle's "transparents" exist today; only this one contains an entire story with a beginning, middle, and end. The rouleau transparent, not unlike the later magic lantern, was an early ancestor to movies. The rolled-up drawing, over twelve feet long, would have been cranked through a peep box with a hole for daylight to illuminate the translucent paper from behind. Such amusements added theatrical effects to capitalize on quasi-scientific interest in optical illusion. Within the drawing Louis Carmontelle captured many favorite outdoor diversions of the aristocracy in the late 1700s, including garden design and architecture. The obelisk, pyramid, temple, and other garden structures of this setting resemble his design for Paris's Parc Monceau.