Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and Presbytère; between October 1848 and February 1849; pencil and watercolor on paper; by Gaston de Pontalba; courtesy of Baron de Pontalba

Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and Presbytère; between October 1848 and February 1849; pencil and watercolor on paper; by Gaston de Pontalba; courtesy of Baron de Pontalba

CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW MORE

October 29, 2019 to February 2, 2020

Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

520 Royal Street

Admission is free.

In October 1848, a young, observant sketch artist from France arrived in New Orleans. During his two-and-a-half-year stay, he produced some 120 drawings, watercolors, and prints of the city and surrounding region. Detailed and insightful, his drawings enrich the visual documentation of the region and its architectural history. They also provide a small window into the personal life of one of 19th-century New Orleans’s best-known characters, Micaëla Almonester, Baroness de Pontalba.

The artist, Gaston de Pontalba (1821–1875), was the youngest of the baroness’s three sons, and he accompanied her to New Orleans, along with his brother Alfred and childhood friend Eugène-Joseph Napoléon Klein. The baroness, who grew up in the city, was returning to oversee the construction of two impressive rows of townhouses on her properties flanking the Place d’Armes (renamed Jackson Square in 1851). The Pontalba buildings, as the townhouses came to be known, cemented the baroness’s legacy as one of the city’s great builders.

Gaston de Pontalba’s drawings capture the family’s voyage from France, the houses in which they lived, the nearby plantations they visited, and their summer travels. With the completion of the Pontalba buildings, the family departed for France in March 1851 and never returned to New Orleans. Gaston continued to create drawings, lithographs, and sculptures. Most of his works remained in the Pontalba family château, Mont-l’Évêque, near Paris, where they were recently rediscovered and organized by Pierre de Pontalba, son of the current Baron de Pontalba, who has generously lent them to The Historic New Orleans Collection for this exhibition.

This exhibition is sponsored by Krista and Michael Dumas.