PUGET, Pierre
(b. 1620, Marseille, d. 1694, Marseille)


The greatest French sculptor of the 17th century. He worked mainly in his native Marseille and in Toulon, for although he sought success at court, his work was much too impassioned to fit into the scheme of Le Brun's artistic dictatorship. Morover, he was arrogant and headstrong in temperament and he fell victim to the intrigues of fellow artists.

His Baroque style was formed in Italy, where in 1640-43 he worked with Pietro da Cortona in Rome (Palazzo Barberini) and Florence (Palazzo Pitti). Subsequently he made several journeys to Genoa, where he established a condsiderable reputation. His first major work was a pair of atlas figures for the entrance to Toulon Town Hall (1656) and in these he showed the physical vigour and emotional intensity that were the hallmarks of his style. They occur most memorably in his celebrated Milon of Crotona (Louvre, Paris, 1671-82), which was one of his few works accepted for the palace at Versailles.

Puget spent his final years embittered by his failures. He worked as a painter, architect, and decorator of ships as well as a sculptor, and was an outstanding draughtsman.

As the son and brother of stonemasons, Puget was well equipped to understand the technical aspects of building, though it is not clear how far he was involved in the erection of the few architectural projects that were actually built according to his intentions. Puget's two surviving built works, other than the displaced portal of the Toulon Hôtel-de-Ville, are the Halle aux Poissons, a magnificent temple-like building in Marseille, and the famous Hospice de la Charité, Marseille, for which his designs were accepted in 1671, though the building was not completed until 1747.