Number 41   March - April 2005


By Bea Whyld

The Tempietto, located at the southeastern edge of the Rose Garden, presents the story of love from two different perspectives. The young maiden believes she has love within her grasp and she is in control of the situation; whereas, Cupid knows that love is his province (note his admonition to us not to give him away), and he is totally in charge. But, before we get into the story of this lovely piece of sculpture, let us discuss how it came to be in this particular location.

The original plans for the residence we now know as The Huntington Art Gallery, were pencil sketches dated June 1904 and June 1905 respectively, done by E. S. Code, building engineer for a railroad company. The residence, as ultimately designed by Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey, embodied most of the ideas contained in Code's sketches. Construction of the home was begun in 1909. Henry and Arabella Huntington took up residence in January 1914.

However, between those original sketches, the final design, and the occupancy, many changes took place that resulted in the home and the adjacent Rose Garden appearing as we know them today.

The plan for the Rose Garden was submitted to Henry Huntington in the fall of 1907. The first rose bushes were planted in January 1908. Originally, the east-to-west axis of the garden was planned to coincide with the east-to-west axis of the house. At Mr. Huntington's insistence, changes were made in the axis of the house to preserve two oak trees. This disturbed not only the Rose Garden alignment, but also the previously planted North Vista axis.

History of the Tempietto

To accommodate the perceived misalignment, the eastern-most portion of the Rose Garden was reduced by about 35% in 1922. And sometime around 1927, the Tempietto was installed at the head of the Rose Garden. This work may have been planned as part of the changes in the estate needed to prepare the grounds for opening to the public after Henry Huntington's death May 23, 1927. The sales book of the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery records the following purchase from Messrs. Duveen, Bros, Inc., 20, Place Vendome, Paris:

"March 28th, 1927 – An old French 18th century Stone Architectural ‘Temple of Love' representing ‘Cupid captured by Youth.' Louis XVI period (1774-1789) attributed to Louis Simon Boizot."

The purchase price was $7,824.00. The assumption is this included both the temple and the statuary.

On February 6, 1937, Maurice Block of San Marino sent the following letter to Duveen in New York:

"We are preparing an informational booklet to supplement our handbook of the art collections and find that we lack a great deal of information on the exhibits that we ought to have. You have always been most kind in helping us and that fact gives me the courage to send a new appeal at this time…

"On the west lawn is a ‘temple' with sculpted group purchased from you in 1927. Did this come from the Chateau Porchefontaine in France and could you give us some idea of the location of this chateau? There is no signature on the temple, yet we have a statement in the bill that it is a Jacques Ange Gabriel. How could this statement be verified? Or on what basis is it made? The sculptured group, L'amour Captif de la Jeunesse is also unsigned. Could you give us the authority for the positive ascription to Louis Boizot?"

On May 4, 1937 the following letter was sent from Duveen to Maurice Block:


"Our information respecting this piece is contained in a Report by Paul Gouvert, from whom it was acquired. We attach hitherto a Photostat of his report and a translation of it."

"Letter, Paul Gouvert ("expert," Paris) to Duveen Brothers (Paris), 7/15/27:

"This delightful piece of architecture and the statue which it shelters were discovered in 1916, on the spot where, towards the end of the XVII and XVIII centuries, was to be found the important domain of Porchefontaine, a dependence of Versailles, and bordered by the woods of Viroflay, a domain which was partitioned in 1855 when the Worms Family became the proprietors, and which was later resold several times, being ceded in 1916 to Mr. Gouvert Senior, who found on the said property the Temple and the Statue which are the subject of the present report.

"This domain of Porchefontaine which for more than a century served as a training field and riding academy for the horsemen and horses belonging to the King's Stables (Petite and Grande Ecuries) became later one of the places where the decorative motives and elements of all kinds which were not completed or did not please were stored, or had not found any place in the neighborhood which the architects of the gardens of Versailles had assigned to them.

"In regard to this elegant monument it is infinitely probable that it was designed by Ange Gabriel, a member of the Royal Academy of Architecture, called about 1760 to the Court to make the designs for these charming monuments.

"The harmony of the lines of this little temple, the delicacy of the proportions, as also the idea of a group inspired by the antique, translate perfectly the conceptions of that great architect-decorator. It is certain that this monument was only sent to Porchefontaine when its placement in the Park (Versailles) was not possible, the stone cupola which should serve as the roof of the temple, which is unfinished, does not appear to have ever been accomplished, which corresponds to the projects of Hubert Robert* who wished to introduce to the Trianons** an uncompleted temple surrounded by its supposed débros [sic], a project which was carried out but not accepted; very possibly the said temple was sent to the depot of Porchefontaine, and the authorities were content, after several trials, with constructing little elements like those of the Ile du Belvedere.***

"All of these particulars found in the library at Versailles, and other different sources, form, in my humble opinion, the expression of the sincerest truth, and have been consigned to me in the present report and with all independence of judgment to be forwarded to Messrs. Duveen Bros. For them to make any use of it which may appear good to them."

*Hubert Robert – French Rococo Era Painter, (1733-1808).
**Trianons - Versailles is more than a palace surrounded with beautiful gardens. It also has a huge park where one can discover two small castles named Grand and Petit Trianons, former summer residences for the Kings.
***Ile du Belvedere – This is obviously a geographical location in France. However, extensive research has failed to unearth its location or if it still exists.

Current thinking is that these attributions to Gabriel and Boizot are very tentative, at best.  The present belief is that the Tempietto is "attributed" to Gabriel and the sculpture is "after" Boizot.  Boizot created a small porcelain figurine which is now thought to be the inspiration for our sculpture.

"The circular temple is composed of six fluted limestone columns that rest on square limestone bases with limestone capitols. A circular limestone frieze sits atop the columns. The columns stand on a round, stepped, stone platform.

The frieze was carved in two horizontal bands of six blocks each. The capitols were each carved of single blocks that end below the acanthus leaves.. The fluted columns were each carved of single blocks of limestone to just below the first contour. The bases below the columns have a rounded contour on top of a square lower section – all of which were carved of single blocks of stone." Quoted from Huntington Conservation Research Form by Jane Bassett dated 8/5/03.

L'AMOUR CAPTIF DE LA JEUNESSE is carved into the front of the base.


Care and Restoration

One column was heavily damaged in the 1971 Sylmar earthlquake.  A progress report dated November 20, 1991, describes the work done on a previously damaged column. The column was removed without dismantling the frieze and cornice pieces above it.

In 1992 the H. N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation awarded The Huntington a grant in the amount of $100,000 to support the restoration of the Tempietto and complete the relandscaping of the Rose Garden around it. These funds were used to structurally stabilize the temple and apply a consolidant to the limestone. It was at this time the walkway connecting the Tempietto to the south terrace of the Art Gallery was installed.

The Floribunda rose ‘French Lace' was planted around the temple. This rose has proven to perform two very important functions: First, it is a beautiful framework for the Tempietto, with its bushy growth and almost continuous heavy bloom of apricot-ivory and white corollas of 30 petals. Its other important function is that it grows very strong and large prickles (up to 1/4"), thereby protecting the entire structure from curious visitors who sometimes desire to view the edifice closer than from the sidewalk--a wonderful combination of beauty and function.

Bea Whyld, Rose/Shakespeare Docent

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