Petrus Regout (1801–1878)
Raised in a Maastricht family of porcelain merchants, Petrus Regout knew how to exploit his time’s economic and political developments to good effect. From his grand home opposite the newly constructed Bassin, he started producing glass, crystal and pottery. On the Bassin and the Zuid-Willemsvaart, the location was very favourable because it became easier to sell goods to the north. It was the beginning of a factory complex that would later develop into Royal Sphinx.
Regout’s industrial dynamism and business acumen brought him tremendous wealth and made a big impression on King William II. Regout saw his chance to obtain his lifelong aspiration to status. He earned the King’s favour, even acquiring a hunting lodge for him, Vaeshartelt Castle, and he was appointed a member of the Senate, but this was to no avail. The old money disapproved of Regout’s ambition and ostentation. Later he went to live in Willem II’s hunting lodge, but the ‘Lord of Vaeshartelt’ had to continue to do so without a title. All that remains is his indelible legacy in Maastricht, immortalised in an iconic picture album.
Petrus Regout & Co., later Royal Sphinx (1834–2009)
Regout’s crystal-cutting factory (1834), nail factory (1834), potteries (1836) and glassworks (1838) grew into an enormous enterprise that radically changed Boschstraat. Maastricht was a dirty and poor city in the 19th century. Regout’s activity helped keep the city going and caused its population to skyrocket. Workers’ districts formed in the shadows of the factory chimneys, where the Regout family also lived. Petrus was married to Aldegonda Hoeberechts (1798–1878), his accomplished business partner known for her compassion and cunning.
Petrus Regout’s workers appreciated him. Though the working and living conditions were harsh, Regout cared for his employees and built houses for them. Unfortunately, the ‘benefactor of the poor class’ long sustained a lousy reputation. Once his sons ran the company, they did so with a heavy hand. Soon, the residential districts that Petrus had built, such as the Cité Ouvrière, left much to be desired. The old Petrus Regout was made a scapegoat for the social misery and antipathy towards the company that spread among the Maastricht workers. Only recently have his achievements been studied from a more neutral position.
Nevertheless, today we can rightly criticise The Album, which looks very frivolous compared to his workers’ fate.
Album dédié à mes enfants et mes amis (1866, 1868)
Belgian and Prussian industrialists made a good impression by producing chic lithograph albums, and Regout, who strived for status all his life, had his own lithograph album produced in Paris. Théodore Müller, the most expensive lithographer, made prints of Regout’s most lavish possessions, such as his estate zone just outside Maastricht, with Vaeshartelt as the jewel in the crown. The Album became his calling card to the people Regout wanted to impress and entice into visiting him. However, his efforts were unsuccessful.
His castle portfolio was not the problem. Apart from his favourite residence, Vaeshartelt, Regout’s self-made Arcadia also included Klein Vaeshartelt, la Grande Suisse and la Petite Suisse (Villa Kanjel). Leafy parklands with fountains powered by steam engines connected the estates. Many of the garden designs still exist today. However, Regout also added many embellishments that had to be removed later – he was not known for his good taste. As a result, the estates nowadays no longer always resemble what we see in his prints. And yet, The Album’s lithographs are incredibly accurate depictions, down to the smallest details.
Bureau Europa shows The Album in its entirety for the first time, collected, restored and framed by the Maastricht art collector Tom Cremers.