CHERPITEL, Mathurin
(b. 1736, Paris, d. 1809, Paris)

Biography

French architect and decorator, active in France and Rome. Cherpitel began his training in the office of Ange-Jacques Gabriel and later attended the school of Jacques-François Blondel. Co-winner of the Prix de Rome as an architect with Jean François Chalgrin in 1758, but he is chiefly remembered for his considerable skill as a draughtsman.

Cherpitel studied in Italy from 1759 to 1765. He was a close friend of Hubert Robert and Fragonard, whose company he kept in Rome, and who helped stimulate ideas for his drawings. He was elected to the Académie Royale d'Architecture in 1776.

Cherpitel's first independent commissions were for clients outside Paris and included plans for a Vienna town house for Miklós, Prince Esterházy. His success in Paris was assured by the patronage of Marie-Florent, Comte du Châtelet, whose family commissioned three Parisian town houses from Cherpitel: the Hôtel du Châtelet (1770; now the Ministère du Travail), the Hôtel de Damas (1776; now the Korean Embassy) and the Hôtel de Rochechouart (1776; altered, now the Ministère de l'Education).

The Hôtel du Châtelet combined the newly fashionable Neo-classical style with traditional forms. Initially the massing recalls the town houses of the Regency (1715-23), but Cherpitel marked the entrance with a giant order and stiffened the composition of the principal façades with slablike frontispieces. The plan of rectangular rooms arranged enfilade is conservative, but the interiors are decorated with swags and grotesques inspired by antiquity.

Cherpitel's most important public building was St Pierre du Gros-Caillou in Paris (1775; destroyed 1798), where he established a medieval plan of nave, double aisles and ambulatory articulated by Doric colonnades within a cubic mass faced by a free-standing Doric portico.

Shortly after his death, in January 1810, over 300 of his drawings of the most famous monuments in Rome and other Italian cities were sold.