Eugène Lami: The Orléans Family Painter and Decorator

A painter and decorator from the romantic period

Chantilly in the18th century, hunting lunch (1847) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

Who is Eugène Lami?

Eugène Lami (1800–1890) was one of the most significant painters and decorators of the July Monarchy (1830–1848). 

Close to the children of King Louis-Philippe, he was their decorator and portraitist, notably working for Henri d'Orléans (1822–1897), Duke of Aumale and founder of the Condé Museum in Chantilly.

Portrait of Marie-Caroline of Bourbon-Sicile, Duchess of Aumale (1822-1869) and her eldest son Louis d'Orléans, Prince of Condé (1845-1866) at the age of two (1847) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

As a watercolor specialist, Eugène Lami produced art under the Romantic movement—an artistic movement that spread throughout Europe in the first half of the 19th century. 

We are able to determine that he belonged to this school given his interest in nature, movement, and emotions.

Moreover, Lami favors genre scenes, painting the elegant life of the court and the bourgeoisie, which he was close to.

Trip to England (1827) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

Lami's drawings

This drawing comes from an album containing 125 drawings and sketches drawn by Eugène Lami during his youth, between 1825 and 1829, during a training trip to England. 

It is a lively representation of a London street, sketched in graphite and watercolor.

Eugène Lami learned the watercolor technique from Richard Bonington (1803–1828), an English painter known for his romantic landscapes and seascapes. The two artists had met at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in France in 1817.

King's Page / represented by H.R.H., the Duke of Nemours, in Quadrille de Marie Stuart (1829) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

This drawing is part of a series created by Lami to illustrate the memory of Mary Stuart's Quadrille—a costume ball in honor of the marriage of this Renaissance Queen, which was held at the Tuileries Palace in 1829 and which was attended by the artist.

We can see a squire, or young nobleman, assigned to the service of the king, dressed for the occasion. Here, Eugène Lami demonstrates his predilection for the decor and costumes of centuries gone by.

Lami and the Duke of Orleans, royal prince: Wedding of the Duke of Orleans in the great chapel of Fontainebleau in 1837 (1837) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

This watercolor painting, which was painted from life rather than being created in a studio, immortalizes the marriage of Ferdinand-Philippe, the eldest son of Louis-Philippe and older brother of the Duke of Aumale, to German Princess Helene de Mecklembourg-Schwerin.

Here, Lami establishes himself as one of the main chroniclers of the splendor of the July Monarchy regime (1830–1848).

Duchess of Aumale's bedroom, in the private apartments of the Château de Chantilly (2019) by Michel UrtadoChâteau de Chantilly

Small Apartments in Chantilly

Eugène Lami was also a talented decorator, renovating and decorating apartments in the Tuileries Palace for the Orléans family, where he confirmed his taste for historicaldecorating, using styles from previous centuries.


In November 1844, the Duke of Aumale asked Lami to decorate his private apartments at the Château de Chantilly, which can still be seen today.

An evening with the Duke of Orleans at the Pavillon de Marsan (1843) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

In this watercolor, Eugneè Lami perfectly renders the vibrant and worldly atmosphere that reigned in the apartments of the Duke and Duchess of Orléans, the brother and sister-in-law of the Duke of Aumale, in the Pavillon de Marsan, within the Tuileries Palace. 

Lami's use of color and rendering of atmosphere is remarkable. 

The Duke of Orleans on horseback in front of his staff (1850) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

The eldest son of Louis-Philippe, the Duke of Orléans died in an accident in 1842, after the horses on his carriage ran away.

Eugène Lami created several watercolors depicting him in his final military review for his bereaved family. More particularly, he demonstrates his ability to paint horses, both when stationary and when moving.

Project for the wooden gallery (Vers 1848) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

While the private apartments of the Duke and Duchess of Aumale in Chantilly were being renovated, a tunnel was created to provide servants with a corridor to move around.

Although Félix Duban had been appointed as architect for this tunnel project by the Duke of Aumale, it would seem that Lami wanted to compete with him, designing a tunnel worthy of the location. However, his project would never see the light of day.

Project for the big castle of Chantilly (Vers 1848) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

During the French Revolution (1789–1799), the Grand Château de Chantilly was completely demolished, torn down to its foundations.

Wishing to rebuild the castle in its entirety, the Duke of Aumale entrusted this project to Félix Duban. This view of Chantilly, signed by Lami, testifies to the latter's interest in this project: did the duke ask him to work on it as well?

Cavalry: project for an uniform (Non daté) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

This large drawing was acquired by the Duke of Aumale and depicts a light cavalry—a military unit dedicated to military reconnaissance missions, deployed during the First and Second Empire. 

Eugène Lami had clearly designed a new uniform for these soldiers.

Baba-Ali, horse of the Duke d'Aumale in Algeria (Non daté) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

Eugène Lami depicts the small Arabian horse that the Duke of Aumale rode in Algeria and which he notably rode during the capture of the Smalah of Abd el-Kader, on May 16, 1843.

Baba-Ali is held by a soldier of the 17th regiment of line infantry commanded by the Duke of Aumale. That's why you can see the number 17 on the royal blue saddle cloth on the horse.

Fox Hunter, 18th century (1879) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

This drawing shows an 18th Century English couple with a hunting hound. The title Fox Hunter refers to the fox hunt—an English custom, in which Lami surely participated.

Hunting with hounds, which consists of hunting a wild animal with the help of a pack of hounds, was an activity particularly appreciated by the Orléans family.

Funeral of King Louis Philippe (1775-1850) in Claremont in 1850 (1852) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

Following the death of King Louis-Philippe on August 26, 1850, while he was in exile in Claremont near London, the Duke of Aumale and his brothers watched from the top of the staircase as his coffin was carried out.

The Duke of Aumale acquired this watercolor from the artist on July 27, 1889. Eugène Lami sent him a letter in which he wrote: "The subject is that of an ever so sad story, that of a King of France dying in exile …".

Chantilly in the 18th century, walk on the water (1846) by Eugène LamiChâteau de Chantilly

Eugène Lami's drawings depict both the military life and the leisure activities of the royal family. 

His watercolor works, which are sometimes very intimate, are a valuable record of the tastes and life of the members of the Orléans family during the July Monarchy.

Credits: Story

A virtual exhibition from the "Eugène Lami: The Orléans Family Painter and Decorator" exhibition organized at Domaine de Chantilly, Cabinet d'arts graphiques, from February 23 to March 19, 2019. Curator: Nicole Garnier-Pelle, General Heritage Curator in charge of the Condé Museum and Mathieu Deldicque, Heritage Curator at the Condé Museum.

The texts are inspired by those in the "Eugène Lami: Painter and decorator for the Orléans family," exhibition catalog created by Nicole Garnier-Pelle and Mathieu Deldicque, with the collaboration of Caroline Imbert, co-edited by Faton and the Domaine de Chantilly, 2018.

Virtual exhibition designed by Clara Voiry.

Images ©RMN-Grand Palais Domaine de Chantilly

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