Meanwhile, the foundations of
Baroque classicism in architecture were laid by a group of designers
whose most distinguished member was Francois Mansart (1598-1666).
Apparently he never visited Italy, but other French architects had
already imported and acclimatized some aspects of the Roman Early
Baroque, especially in church design, so that Mansart was not
unfamiliar with the new Italian style. What he owed to it, however,
is hard to determine. His most important buildings are chateaux, and
in this field the French Renaissance tradition outweighed any direct
Italian Baroque influences. The Chateau of Maisons near Paris, built
for a newly risen administrative official, shows Mansart's mature
style at its best. The vestibule leading to the grand staircase has
a particularly beautiful effect, severe yet festive. On seeing the
classically pure articulation of the walls, one first thinks of
Palladio, whose treatise Mansart certainly knew and admired. But
sculpture is used here in the characteristically French way as an
integral part of architectural design. The complex curves of the
vaulting further inform us that this structure, for all its
classicism, belongs to the Baroque.
Vestibule, Chateau of Maisons. 1642-50
François Mansart, Mansart also
spelled Mansard (born January 1598, Paris—died September 1666),
architect important for establishing classicism in Baroque
architecture in mid-17th-century France. His buildings are notable
for their subtlety, elegance, and harmony. His most complete
surviving work is the château of Maisons.
Early years and works.
Mansart was the grandson of a master mason and the son of a master
carpenter. One of his uncles was a sculptor, another an architect.
When his father died in 1610, Mansart’s training was taken over by
his brother-in-law, an architect and sculptor. Later, Mansart was
apprenticed to and heavily influenced by Salomon de Brosse, a
distinguished and successful architect during the reign of Henry IV
and the regency of Marie de Médicis, mother of Louis XIII.
The 1600s, which saw the end of de
Brosse’s career and the beginning of Mansart’s, could not have been
more favourable for a young architect. Henry IV’s entrance into
Paris in 1594 as king of France signaled the beginning of a period
of burgeoning political and social aspiration. Architecture
reflected this aspiration, for the kings wanted their capital and
their palaces to reflect the power of the crown; and the bourgeoisie
commissioned châteaus (country houses) and hotels (town mansions)
large enough for their coaches, stables of horses, and retinue of
servants and splendid enough to receive the king and his entourage.
Most of Mansart’s patrons were
members of the middle class who had become rich in the service of
the crown. They would have to have been very rich indeed to be
Mansart’s patrons. Not only did he draw up plans without regard to
expense but he also refined and improved the plans—tearing down what
had been built and rebuilding—as he went along. According to a
contemporary, Mansart had cost one of his early patrons “more money
than the Great Turk himself possesses.”
Mansart’s career can be traced from
1623, when he designed the facade of the chapel of the church of the
Feuillants in the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris (no longer standing). Of
his early works, the only one that survives is the château of
Balleroy (begun c. 1626), near Bayeux, in the département of
Calvados. Built for Jean de Choisy, chancellor to Gaston, duc
d’Orléans, the brother of Louis XIII, the château consists of three
blocks—a massive, free-standing main building to which two small
pavilions are subordinated. One of the facades of the main building
overlooks a court, the other a garden. The materials and treatment
of the walls are characteristic of much of the work built during the
reign of Henry IV. The walls are mainly of rough, brownish yellow
brick with little architectural ornament but emphasized by white
stone quoins (corners) and white stone frames around the windows.
In 1635 Gaston commissioned Mansart
to reconstruct his château at Blois, which had been built in the
15th and 16th centuries and used as a royal residence by three
kings. Mansart proposed rebuilding it entirely, but only the north
wing facing the gardens was reconstructed. The main building,
flanked by pavilions, is subtly articulated by superimposed
classical orders (Doric on the ground floor, Ionic on the first, and
Corinthian on the second). The court entrance to the main building
is approached on both sides by a curving colonnade. Mansart used the
high-pitched, two-sloped roof that bears his name, mansard. (In
fact, the roof had been used by earlier French architects.) The
details are precise and restrained, the proportions of the masses
In the same period, Phélypeaux de
La Vrillière, an officer of the crown, commissioned Mansart to build
a town house in Paris (rebuilt after Mansart’s death). The building,
known from engravings, was a fine example of Mansart’s ability to
arrive at subtle, ingenious, and dignified solutions to the problems
of building on awkwardly shaped sites.
The château of Maisons.
In 1642 René de Longeuil, an immensely wealthy financier and officer
of the royal treasury, commissioned Mansart to build a château on
his estate. The château of Maisons (now called Maisons-Laffitte, in
the chief town of the département of Yvelines) is unique in that it
is the only building by Mansart in which the interior decoration
(graced particularly by a magnificent stairway) survives. The
symmetrical design of the building (as well as the mansard roof) is
similar to that of Mansart’s earlier châteaus, but here there is a
greater emphasis on relief. The central building is a free-standing
block with a prominent rectangular frontispiece that projects from
the main wall in a series of shallow steps. Two short wings,
flanking the main building, stand out from it in clean, unbroken
rectangular sections. Extending from each of the wings is a low,
one-story block. The restrained play of subtly differentiated
rectangular motifs lends grace and harmony.
Because it is now surrounded by
roads and houses, one can only imagine how noble the château looked,
in the setting of terraced gardens designed for it by Mansart, when
it opened with a reception for Anne of Austria and her son, the
boy-king Louis XIV. At times during the château’s construction, de
Longeuil must have been sorely tried by Mansart’s stubborn,
independent, generally difficult personality, but on this day he was
surely pleased with the architect he had chosen.
Perhaps Mansart’s personality was responsible for the setbacks he
began to encounter, the first of which was a royal commission he
received in 1645 and lost in 1646. Anne of Austria asked Mansart to
draw up plans for the convent and church of the Val-de-Grâce in
Paris, which the sovereign had vowed to build if she bore a son.
When the costs of laying the foundation exceeded the funds provided,
Mansart was replaced by Jacques Lemercier, who more or less followed
the original plans.
Along with a large fortune, Mansart
had accumulated many enemies who accused him of capriciousness in
the building and rebuilding of his projects, of wild extravagance,
and of dishonesty. In 1651 a pamphlet entitled “La Mansarade”
(possibly written by political enemies of the prime minister,
Cardinal Mazarin, for whom Mansart had worked) accused him of having
made deals with contractors and charged him with profligacy. The
attack did not prevent him from continuing to work for prominent
With the accession of Louis XIV to
the throne in 1661, private patrons became fewer and fewer.
Architects, painters, sculptors, and craftsmen were called upon to
build, decorate, and furnish structures commissioned by the king.
When, in 1664, Louis decided to complete the palace of the Louvre,
his chief minister and surintendant des bâtiments (roughly,
“superintendent of buildings”), Jean-Baptiste Colbert, asked Mansart
to draw up plans for the east wing (the colonnaded wing). Possibly
because he could not produce and keep to any final plan, Mansart
lost the commission.
In 1665 Colbert again asked Mansart
to produce designs—this time for a chapel for the tombs of the royal
family of the Bourbons to be built at the end of the Saint-Denis
basilica. Mansart planned his design (which was never executed)
around a central, domed space, which later inspired his grandnephew
Jules Hardouin-Mansart in his design for the dome of the church of
When Mansart died the world was
quite different from the one in which his career had begun. France
had become the centre of Europe and Louis the centre of France—not
only politically but also in matters of culture and taste. French
architects, artists, and craftsmen were trained and employed by the
crown for one end: the glorification of the state in the person of
the king, who had declared himself to be the state. But the world
was different, too, in that it had been enriched by the work of the
independent and individualistic genius of François Mansart.
Church of Val-de-Grace
Château de Maisons, southeast-facing garden front
Chateau de Maisons
Chateau de Balleroy
Façade principale de l’hotel de Toulouse
LOUIS XIV, COLBERT, AND THE LOUVRE.
Mansart died too soon to have a
share in the climactic phase of Baroque classicism, ft began with
the first great project Colbert directed, the completion of the
Louvre. Work on the palace had proceeded intermittently for over a
century, along the lines of Lescot's design. What remained to be
done was to close the square court on the east side with an
impressive facade. Colbert, dissatisfied with the proposals of
French architects, invited Bernini to Paris in the hope that the
most famous master of the Roman Baroque would do for the French king
what he had already done so magnificently for the Church. Bernini
spent several months in Paris in 1665 and submitted three designs,
all of them on a scale that would have completely engulfed the
existing palace. After much argument and intrigue, Louis XIV
rejected these plans and turned over the problem of a final solution
to a committee of three: Charles Lebrun, his court painter; Louis Le
Vau (1612-1670), his court architect, who had worked on the project
before; and Claude Perrault (1613-1688), who was a student of
ancient architecture, not a professional architect. All three were
responsible for the structure that was actually built, although
Perrault is usually credited with the major share.
The design in some ways suggests
the mind of an archaeologist, but one who knew how to select those
features of classical architecture that would link Louis XIV with
the glory of the Caesars and still be compatible with the older
parts of the palace. The center pavilion is a Roman temple front,
and the wings look like the flanks of that temple folded outward.
The temple theme demanded a single order of free-standing columns,
but the Louvre had three stones. This difficulty was skillfully
resolved by treating the ground story as the podium of the temple
and recessing the upper two behind the screen of the colonnade. The
entire design combines grandeur and elegance in a way that fully
justifies its fame. The East Front of the Louvre signaled the
victory of French classicism over Italian Baroque as the royal
style. Ironically, this great example proved too pure, and Perrault
soon faded from favor.
Claude Perrault. East Front of the Louvre, Paris. 1667-70
Claude Perrault. East Front of the Louvre, Paris. 1667-70
Claude Perrault, (born Sept. 25,
1613, Paris, France—died Oct. 9, 1688, Paris), French physician and
amateur architect who, together with Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun,
and François d’Orbay, designed the eastern facade of the Louvre.
Perrault’s training was in
mathematics and medicine, and he was a practicing physician. He was
elected a member of the newly founded Academy of Sciences in 1666,
and in 1673 he produced a renowned French annotated translation of
Vitruvius’s architectural treatise. Claude’s brother, Charles, was
assistant to J.-B. Colbert, the superintendent of works under Louis
XIV, and Charles saw to it that Claude, who had little practical
experience, was appointed to the three-man commission responsible
for the rebuilding of the Louvre.
Claude Perrault collaborated in the
final design of the Colonnade, a massive row of paired columns that
rises above the unadorned first story and dominates the majestic
east facade of the Louvre. Perrault claimed responsibility for this
design, but it is now thought that he collaborated on it with Le Vau
and d’Orbay and helped solve the engineering problems associated
with the Colonnade’s construction. Perrault was probably the
designer of the Paris Observatory, which still stands.
Perrault’s foremost scientific
pursuit was as a director of a team that performed dissections on
various animals; his death is attributed to a disease contracted
while dissecting a camel.
Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Garden Front, center block,
Palace of Versailles. 1669-85
Louis Le Vau
Louis Le Vau (1612 – 11 October
1670) was a French Classical architect who worked for Louis XIV of
France. He was born and died in Paris.
He was responsible, with André Le
Nôtre and Charles Le Brun, for the redesign of the château of
Vaux-le-Vicomte. His later works included the Palace of Versailles
and his collaboration with Claude Perrault on the Palais du Louvre.
Le Vau also designed two mirroring additions across the Parterre to
the evergrowing Château de Vincennes, the Château du Raincy, the
Hotel Tambonneau, the Collège des Quatre-Nations (now housing the
Institut de France), the church of St. Sulpice, and Hôtel Lambert,
on the Île Saint-Louis, Paris.
Vaux-le-Vicomte, in Maincy (near Melun southeast of Paris) –
Vaux-le-Vicomte, in Maincy (near Melun southeast of Paris) –
The Court of Honor of the Château de Versailles, Versailles, France
PALACE OF VERSAILLES.
The king's largest enterprise was
the Palace of Versailles, located If miles from the center of Paris.
It was begun in 1669 by Le Vau, who designed the elevation of the
Garden Front but died within a year. Under Jules Hardouin-Mansart
(1646-1708), a great-nephew of Franfois Mansart, the entire project
was greatly expanded to accommodate the ever-growing royal
household. The Garden Front, intended by Le Vau to be the principal
view of the palace, was stretched to an enormous length with no
modification of the architectural membering, so that his original
facade design, a less severe variant of the East Front of the
Louvre, now looks repetitious and out of scale. The whole center
block contains a single room, the famous Galerie des Glaces, with
the Salon de la Guerre (War) and its counterpart, the Salon de la
Paix (Peace), at either end.
Baroque features, although not
officially acknowledged, reappeared inside the Palace of Versailles.
This shift corresponded to the king's own taste. Louis XIV was
interested less in architectural theory and monumental exteriors
than in the lavish interiors that would make suitable settings for
himself and his court. Thus the man to whom he really listened was
not an architect, but the painter Le Brun. Lebrun's goal was in
itself Baroque: to subordinate all the arts to the glorification of
Louis XIV. To accomplish it, he drew freely on his memories of Rome.
Although a disciple of Poussin, Lebrun must have been impressed by
the great decorative schemes of the Baroque, for they stood him in
good stead 20 years later, both in the Louvre and at Versailles. He
became a superb decorator, utilizing the combined labors of
architects, sculptors, painters, and artisans for ensembles of
unheard-of splendor. The Salon de la Guerre at Versailles is closer
in many ways to the Cornaro Chapel than to the vestibule at Maisons.
If his ensemble is less adventurous than Bernini's, Lebrun has
emphasized surface decoration just as much. And, as in so many
Italian Baroque interiors, the separate ingredients are less
impressive than the effect of the whole.
Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Le Brun, and Coysevox. Galerie des Glaces
(Hall of Mirrors), Palace of Versailles
Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Le Brun, and Coysevox. Salon de la Guerre,
Palace of Versailles. Begun 1678
GARDENS OF VERSAILLES.
Apart from the magnificent
interior, the most impressive aspect of Versailles is the park
extending west of the Garden Front for several miles. Its
design, by Andre Le Notre (1613-1700), is so strictly correlated
with the plan of the palace that it becomes a continuation of the
architectural space. Like the interiors, these formal gardens, with
their terraces, basins, clipped hedges, and statuary, were meant to
provide an appropriate setting for the king's appearances in public.
They form a series of "outdoor rooms" for the splendid fetes and
spectacles that Louis XIV so enjoyed. The spirit of absolutism is
even more striking in this geometric regularity imposed upon an
entire countryside than it is in the palace itself.
Charles Riviere. Perspective View of the Chateau and Gardens of
At Versailles, Jules
Hardouin-Mansart worked as a member of a team, constrained by the
design of Le Vau. His own architectural style can be better seen in
the Church of the Invalides named after the
institution for disabled soldiers of which it formed one part. The
building presents a combination of Italian Renaissance and Baroque
features, but reinterpreted in a distinctly French manner. The plan,
consisting of a Greek cross with four corner chapels, is based
ultimately (with various French intermediaries) on Michelangelo's
plan for St. Peter's; its only Baroque element is the
oval choir. The dome, too, reflects the influence of Michelangelo, and the classicistic vocabulary of the facade
is reminiscent of the East Front of the Louvre, but the exterior as
a whole is unmistakably Baroque. It breaks forward repeatedly in the
crescendo effect introduced by Maderno. And, as in
Borromini's S. Agnese in Yiuzm Navona (see fig. 761), the facade and
dome are closely correlated. The dome itself is the most original,
and the most Baroque, feature of Hardouin-Mansart's design. Tall and
slender, it rises in one continuous curve from the base of the drum
to the spire atop the lantern. On the first drum rests,
surprisingly, a second, narrower drum. Its windows provide light for
the painted vision of heavenly glory inside the dome, but they
themselves are hidden behind a "pseudo-shell" with a large opening
at the top, so that the heavenly glory seems mysteriously
illuminated and suspended in space. "Theatrical" lighting so boldly
directed would do honor to any Italian Baroque architect.
Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Church of the Invalides, Paris. 1680-91
Plan of the Church of the Invalides
Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Church of the Invalides, Paris. (detail)
Jules Hardouin-Mansart, (born , c.
April 16, 1646 Paris, Fr.—died May 11, 1708, Marly-le-Roi), French
architect and city planner to King Louis XIV who completed the
design of Versailles.
Mansart in 1668 adopted the surname
of his granduncle by marriage, the distinguished architect François
Mansart. By 1674, when he was commissioned to rebuild the château of
Clagny for Louis XIV’s mistress Madame de Montespan, he was already
launched on a brilliant career. Among his earlier achievements were
many private houses, including his own, the Hôtel de Lorges, later
the Hôtel de Conti.
In 1675 Mansart became official
architect to the king and from 1678 was occupied with redesigning
and enlarging the palace of Versailles. He directed a legion of
collaborators and protégés, many of whom became the leading
architects of the following age. Starting from plans of architect
Louis Le Vau, Mansart built the new Hall of Mirrors, the Orangerie,
the Grand Trianon, and the north and south wings. At the time of his
death he was working on the chapel. The vast complex, with an
exquisite expanse of gardens designed by André Le Nôtre, was a
harmonious expression of French Baroque classicism and a model that
other courts of Europe sought to emulate.
Although occupied with this
enormous project for much of his life, Mansart built many other
public buildings, churches, and sumptuous houses. Thought to be most
reflective of his individual ability to combine classical and
Baroque architectural design is the chapel of Les Invalides, Paris.
Admirable contributions to city planning include his Place Vendôme
and Place des Victoires, Paris.
Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Place Vendome in Paris
Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Grand Trianon in Versailles