PINEAU, Nicolas
(b. 1684, Paris, d. 1754, Paris)


French sculptor, architect and designer. He was the son of Jean-Baptiste Pineau, Sculptor-in-ordinary to the King, and would have had considerable early contact with his father's workshop. He studied architecture with Jules Hardouin Mansart and for some time was a pupil of Germain Boffrand. After studying at the Académie de Saint-Luc he went to Lyon, where he married into a family of sculptors. He was also familiar with the workshop of the silversmith Thomas Germain, who surrounded himself with sculptors and architects.

In 1716 Pineau was engaged to work for Peter the Great in Russia, with his brother-in-law Joseph Simon (active 1716-76), the painter Louis Caravaque (1684-1754) and the architect Alexandre-Jean-Baptiste Le Blond. Pineau's contract specified that he was to be engaged for works of ornamental sculpture, but after the death of Le Blond in 1719 he was also able to provide ambitious architectural projects. He participated in the decoration of the palace at Peterhof and in the provision of wooden paneling for Peter the Great's study (1718-20) in which military trophies and attributes of the arts and sciences were carved in the latest Régence style. Pineau also worked on fountains for the palace grounds and probably on decorations for the fortress of SS Peter and Paul in St Petersburg. His architectural projects included a major scheme for a church, for which a drawing survives (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs), and he organized the decorations for the funeral of Peter the Great in 1725. His contract ended in 1726, but he appears to have remained in Russia until the death of Catherine I in 1727.

On his return to Paris, Pineau found the Régence manner had been transformed in the decade of his absence by the carver-designer François-Antoine Vassé and the designer Gilles-Marie Oppenord. Surprised to find the field of architecture currently well filled by highly competent Paris-trained practitioners, he depended upon his own specialty of designs for carving, and enjoyed a 'vogue extraordinaire.' He associated himself particularly with the architect Jean-Baptiste Leroux, who afforded him free rein in designing interiors. The later reaction against the Rococo ensured that most of these crucial works were destroyed through neglect: Pineau's work is amply documented, however, in his surviving drawings and in engravings, witnesses to his delicacy of relief, the extreme attenuation of his mouldings and the free interplay of tendril and interlace.

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