Architecture in France: Renaissance to Neoclassicism

The sixteenth century and Italy

The development of French culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was largely governed by the assimilation of Italian elements from the High Renaissance period and later. The Italian Wars (the French invaded Italy in 1494) began a vogue for things Italian and for preoccupations that the Italians held dear.627 Academies were established in France.632 Subjects like the French language and legal traditions were studied in an historical context.630 Overt and complicated antiquarianism was appreciated in court art.631 Ancient marbles were enthusiastically imported, and collected together into 'museums' ,626'628

In architecture, the importation of a strictly High Renaissance manner was delayed, for when Milan became a French dependency, the richly decorated style of contemporary work in that city greatly appealed to the French, as many of the chateaux of the Loire Valley testify. Evidently the greater severity of Bramante's Milanese work did not attract the foreigners, preconditioned as they were by a native Gothic manner. Early French attempts to imitate Italian Renaissance style therefore show interest in the motifs of the classical style without an appreciation of its syntax. The large Porte Doree at Fontainebleau (1528-40) by Gilles le Breton is a triumphal arch after the manner of those at the Castel Nuovo in Naples and the Palace at Urbino, but it makes many mistakes of architectural grammar: the work


Detail of a chimney of the Chateau de Chambord, overloaded with Renaissance forms.

has monumentality, but lacks proportion, logic and clarity.

Two buildings of the first half of the sixteenth century, both by Italians, did present a classical manner from which the French learnt. The first was the Chateau de Madrid, near Paris (begun 1528; now destroyed), based on the well-known symmetrical plan of Poggio a Caiano. (Poggio is also thought to have influenced the plan of Chambord (begun 1519).629) The second was the Chateau of Ancy le Franc (begun 1546; altered) by Serlio, which displays a rusticated ground storey, Doric pilasters, niches on the piano nobile and, in the courtyard, a system of niches which derives


LEFT Fontainebleau: Aile de la Belle Cheminee, in an etching by Israel Silvestre.

from Bramante. Sebastiano Serlio was summoned from Italy to France in 1540/1 by Francois I, to whom he had dedicated Book III of his Architettura of 1540. His great influence in Northern Europe was mainly due to this profusely illustrated manual, which provided a convenient crib to Italian practice for half a century. At about the same time, in 1541, the


painter, stuccoist and architect Primaticcio returned to France, bringing with him Vignola who, however, apparently built nothing during his visit. Primaticcio did: in 1568 he designed the Aile de la Belle Cheminee at Fontainebleau, a work which in its simplicity and logic was to be a model for succeeding generations of French architects from Salomon de Brosse to Francois Mansart.

Philibert de I'Orme

The tradition of French architecture was not formed solely by Italians. Philibert de 1'Orme probably spent the years 1533-6 in Rome in the suite of Cardinal Du Bellay, a man with Humanist interests who collected antiquities and shipped many back to his friends in France. Secretary and doctor to the Cardinal was Francois Rabelais; Philibert, we may assume, shared the interest in the reconstruction of Antiquity that Rabelais demonstrates in his great novel Gargantua, of 1534. (It has, for example, been shown that Rabelais's pre-


Philibert de I'Orme's Chapel at Anet, 1549-52, photographed and shown in section, from his Architecture, 1567.



The entrance gate of the Chateau d'Anet, by Philibert de I'Orme.

scription for the Abbaye de Theleme is based on Serlio's reconstruction of the Roman port of Ostia.633 Furthermore, Rabelais planned a topography of Rome.) Philibert's thorough study of Antiquity is proclaimed in his own architecture, in the structure of the Tomb of Francois I in the basilica of St-Denis in Paris (begun 1547), and particularly in the great Chateau d'Anet, of which the chapel (1549-52) and the entrance gate (c. 1552) remain.635 The frontispiece to the house itself is in the courtyard of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where it was taken in 1797 as a specimen for the Musee des Monuments Francais (the site being that of the secularized Couvent des Petits-Augustins).

Earlier buildings by Frenchmen had incorporated Italian elements as decorative details into a stylistic system which was largely medieval. Philibert's work, on the contrary, displays a rationality and clarity, and a comforting lack of horror vacui, which are distinctly Italian.634 He also shows an individuality in assembling classical forms which is equally far removed from the work of pattern-book copyists of Italian ideas and from the luxuriant French Mannerism which flourished in the contemporary designs of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau the Elder (c. 1520-c. 1584). Compared with Pierre Lescot's Square

Court of the Louvre (1546-51), Philibert's work is extremely forceful; Lescot probably did not go to Rome to study, and his work is rather flat and non-structural, as befits motifs taken from the flat pages of books rather than from the life. By contrast, we know from surviving drawings that, like Brunelleschi, Philibert occasionally uncovered parts of antique buildings in order to find out how they


Detail of a coffered vault, Temple of Venus and Rome, Rome, perhaps Philibert's source for the Anet vault.



Symbolic representations of The Bad Architect ABOVE and 77ze Good Architect RIGHT, /rora Philibert de I'Orme's Architecture, 1567.

were built. His father was a stonemason, so it is not difficult to imagine the son developing a knowledge of structure and form. His practicality is obvious in his two books, the Nouv-elles Inventions pour bien bastir et a petit frais (1561) and the Architecture (1567); illustrations to the latter show, in symbolic form, the banishment of the Gothic style in favour of a splendid antique classicism.

The architectural elements which attracted Philibert were those popular in the Italian Renaissance: arrangements of superimposed Orders (which he used for the frontispiece to Anet), the triumphal arch (used in the entrance to Anet), and the centrally planned church, which provided his most impressive creation, the chapel at Anet. It is clear that Philibert was in touch with current Roman thinking, and particularly with the profusion of ideas about how the new St Peter's should be completed (in the 1530s the site was substantially as Bramante had left it). Thus the frontispiece to Anet (ultimately based on the typical Roman


arrangement of columns and arches, as on the Colosseum) is close in manner to one of the towers of S. Biagio at Montepulciano built by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, who was influenced in turn by the schemes for St Peter's. The chapel at Anet is small in size but massive in scale: its coffered vault (taken from the cult niches of the Temple of Venus and Rome, in


A design which is Italianate in its use of the Orders, particularly the Giant Order, and in its central courtyard, which derives from works like Mantegna's house at Mantua. From J. A.du Cerceau's Third Book of Architecture, Paris, 1582.

Rome); the four barrel vaults over the four arms (curved to fit the drum which they support); the inscription in Roman capitals around the drum; the bold floor pattern reflecting the vaulting of the dome—all these elements give to the work a grandeur which is Italian and High Renaissance. Certain of its features can be considered wilful (including the 'Romanesque' towers flanking the entrance); but nothing so controlled and so monumentally antique was, with one exception, to be built in France until the time of Francois Mansart.

That exception is another centrally planned building which, had it ever been finished, would have been the most Italianate structure in France. In about 1560, Primaticcio began a circular Funerary Chapel for the Valois Dynasty next to the medieval St-Denis: the mausoleum was to be of the 'Colosseum' type, but only the top of the second Order was


The vestibule of the Bourbon-Montpensier chapel, Champigny-sur-Veude. Built towards the end of the sixteenth century, this is more correctly structured than earlier French buildings in the classical style, but just as decorated.

reached, and it remained in a fragmentary state until it was pulled down in the eighteenth century. Like the chapel at Anet, its formal sources and the rationale of its iconography lie with Bramante's Tempietto and with the various projects for the new St Peter's.

Salomon de Brosse

The period following the death of Philibert de 1'Orme in 1570 is confused both by the impractical size and extravagance of many of the architectural projects (compare the great display houses in contemporary England), and by the ravages wrought by the Wars of Religion. Much of the work produced has to be reconstructed from drawings and prints, but the main lines of development were clearly toward an increasing simplicity and monumentality, as exemplified in the achievements of Salomon de Brosse, whose work forms a link between Philibert de 1'Orme and Francois Mansart. He was a grandson of Jacques I du Cerceau and must have worked on the chateau which his uncle Baptiste and Jacques II du Cerceau were building at Verneuil, but his own style has little to do with Mannerist extravagances. De Brosse's Palais du Luxembourg (begun 1615) and the chateaux he built at Coulommiers (began 1613) and Blerancourt (c. 1612-19) dispense with superfluous decoration and emphasize qualities which are classical: mass, balance, and clarity. De Brosse almost certainly did not visit Italy, but the patrons who commissioned him to build Blerancourt had been to Rome, and possessed drawings of contemporary wonders, particularly of the works of Vignola. Through these, Salomon completed an architectural education begun with the architectural treatises and buildings of Philibert de 1'Orme, several of whose devices he adopts. The influence of Pierre Lescot is evident in the treatment of the Orders on the facades of Blerancourt, and the scheme derives from plans which Philibert made for the Chateau de Saint-Maur. Although he must, of course, have known of works like Maderno's S. Susanna, it was principally to Philibert's frontispiece for Anet that Salomon turned for the inspiration of his west front for St-Gervais,



Elevation of the Valois Mausoleum at St-Denis, Paris LEFT, and plan ABOVE, designed by Primaticcio, c. 1560, but never completed. BELOW Coulommiers en Brie, Chateau, begun 1613, designed by Salomon de Brosse. All from Jean Marot's Recueil des Plans . . . 1654-60. Compare the centralized entrance 'tempietto' of the chateau with the Valois Mausoleum designs by Primaticcio



Paris (begun 1615). This facade was not the first example of the Roman church front to be built in France, but it is by far the boldest in its use of classical vocabulary.

Equally significant in Salomon's work is his attachment to the centrally planned form, as shown in his entrance pavilions to the Luxembourg, Coulommiers and Montceaux, which all rely ultimately for their design on the Valois Mausoleum, probably via the entrance and garden pavilion designs for Verneuil. The entrance pavilion at Montceaux, and that at the Luxembourg (altered internally in the early nineteenth century) survive to show the emphasis which Salomon de Brosse placed on plain stone surfaces articulated by chaste Orders and decorated only by the sharp lines formed by the angles of the masonry.

Francois Mansart

De Brosse's successor was Francois Mansart, who was fortunate in that his career began when the Wars of Religion were over, and sufficient money was available to finance such a notoriously exacting and perfectionist designer. In his infinite capacity for taking pains, and in his fertile inventiveness, Mansart was a genius. Whether he was designing the inside of a chateau or the outside, Mansart's manipulation of space through interestingly shaped rooms or the bold design of columns and entablatures is chastened by the reticence with which he works the plain stone and by the simple monumentality of the grand designs. Thus the Orleans Wing of the Chateau de Blois (1635-8, but stopped through lack of funds) is festive in its repetition of coupled pilasters and columns on the entrance side; the colonnade at ground level swings from the wings toward the triumphal arch motif of the frontispiece. Balancing such gaiety, however, are the soothing horizontals of the three entablatures, which are very boldly drawn. The inheritance of Philibert de 1'Orme, Lescot and Salomon de Brosse, which will echo throughout Mansart's career, is clearly visible in the Orleans Wing at Blois. It is the French tradition of sobriety and restraint, some might say of over-intellectuality and coldness, which inoculates Mansart against too strong a dose of the Baroque, strains of which are nevertheless in evidence in the exuberance of Blois.

Chateau de Blois, Orleans Wing.

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Detail of the Order and entablature of the Orleans Wing of the Chateau de Blois, by Mansart.



Francois Mansart: Plan ofSte-Marie de la Visitation, 1632-4. From Jean Marot's Recueil des plans . . ., 1654-60, and RIGHT

Indeed, French architecture of the mid-century can be presented as part assimilation of Baroque influences, and part struggle against them. To appreciate the simplicity of the Orleans Wing, it should be compared with Louis Le Vau's College des Quatre Nations in Paris (begun 1661), which employs the giant Order together with wildly swinging curved facades and a boldly projecting church facade in the centre of the scheme. The Church of the Val-de-Grace, Paris (begun 1645), of which the lower parts and the portico are due to Mansart (the rest is by Lemercier), uses the Italian church front in the Maderno manner, but simplifies and enlivens the model by introducing a much more boldly projecting portico approached by a full flight of steps. Like his predecessors, Mansart held the centrally planned church in high regard, for although only his Church of the Visitation, Paris (1632^1), survives by which we may compare his attainment with Philibert de TOnne's in the chapel at Anet, he planned another, much grander structure. This was a Bourbon Funerary Chapel, to be attached to St-Denis and approached via the retro-choir. For this scheme there exist two drawings by Mansart of about



plan of the design for the Bourbon Funerary Chapel at St-Denis.

1664; a model is also known to have been made.

The drawings for the Bourbon Mausoleum, planned in rivalry with Primaticcio's abandoned Valois Mausoleum, show the influence of various schemes by Leonardo da Vinci, although they are much more intricate and architecturally subtle. Such a revival prompts the complex question of Leonardo's influence in France, where he spent his last years .(he died in 1519).629 He certainly prepared a grid plan for a royal palace at Romorontin near the river Cher, and its regularity might well have governed the design of Charleval (perhaps by J. A. du Cerceau the Elder) and, at a greater distance in time, the grand projects for the Tuileries and the Louvre.* Parallel illustrations for palaces occur in Serlio's 'True Sixth Book', which was probably well known in manuscript form. Such recourse to High Renaissance precedents shows where Mansart felt the origins of his style of architecture to lie.

The Bourbon Mausoleum would have been an immense building. Unfortunately, funds were available only for the completion of the

*Such an unlikely-sounding survival is far from impossible: witness the casting techniques developed by Leonardo for the Sforza Monument, possibly relayed to France in manuscript form by Benvenuto Cellini, and used at the end of the seventeenth century by Girardon, Such techniques were unknown in Italy.

Louvre, so that the King might reside in his capital city. The Louvre, more than any other project of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was the repository of French faith in their own architects. It was begun on the site of the old castle by Pierre Lescot in 1546, the Square Court was quadrupled in size under Jacques Lemercier (from 1624) and Louis Le Vau (from 1650), and by 1665 only the East Front, the grand entrance, was lacking. Obviously the East Front had to be completed in a style befitting the classicism introduced since Lescot: a competition was therefore arranged in 1665. Mansart was rejected because he submitted a series of plans with too many possible variants, often incorporating a multitude of pasted flaps which further multiplied the confusion, and because he had a history of pulling things down and beginning again if anything displeased him. These Louvre projects, like Mansart's slightly earlier and equally extravagant design for an entrance porch to the Church of the Minimes (begun 1657), often include a vestibule as though they were designs for a centrally planned church. Sometimes such a plan is squeezed into the fashionable Baroque oval; were interior elevations available we might be able to compare this, the expression of Mansart's latest phase, with S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, by Borromini, or S. Agnese, by Bernini, both in Rome. As for the exterior elevations of his Louvre designs, these are of equally startling richness: some have superimposed Orders, others a giant Order, and all are crowned by a dome, a Roman fashion which had been growing in Paris since the church of St-Paul-St-Louis was built in 1627. Sometimes Mansart introduces columns in pairs (as at Blois) to create a strong rhythm capable of surviving such a long facade; occasionally his drawings betray his desire to rebuild other parts of the Louvre as well.

Such a desire is natural to any classically minded architect who thinks of a building as one unit constructed in one style, symmetrical in its arrangement and uniform in its detailing. Mansart had already encountered the problems of dealing with old buildings at Blois, where his Orleans Wing had to be grafted onto three sides of older work: his drawings show that he went to great trouble to make the court and the outer facades uniform in level (by introducing a basement storey on the outer facade, where the ground slopes away), and also to make both of them seem symmetrical: the result of this is that the central axis of the court facade does not bisect the building at the same point as the central axis of the outside of the same wing. Mansart would have preferred to rebuild the whole of the Chateau of Blois, had funds been available, just as he would later have liked to rebuild parts of the Louvre. The result at Blois might have resembled the austere magnificence of his Chateau de Maisons (1642—6), where he did have a free rein.

How magnificent the Louvre would have been had Mansart received the commission! However, he did not, and in 1665 the frustrated Colbert, unable to extract any satisfactory plan from a French architect, sent for a suggestion from Bernini. Back came a frothy design of swinging curves which guaranteed excitement but no extra space (which was at a premium for the Court). Bernini's design, if realized, might have resembled a giddy version of Palladio's Loggia del Capitanio: it would certainly have contrasted strongly with the rest of the Louvre, in which the Orders were used with restraint and understatement. Bernini's two later schemes were also frowned upon as impractical, and the open contempt that he showed for French art and architecture when he visited Paris in 1666 heated to boiling point the cabals which were already formed against him. The rejection of his work (and hence of his suggestion to case all earlier work at the Louvre with architecture of his own design) is symbolic not only of the French rejection of contemporary Italian Baroque style, but also of a strongly reasserted faith in the French tradition. The East Front of the Louvre was eventually built (from 1667) by a committee consisting of Le Vau, Lebrun and Claude Perrault (the French editor of Vit-ruvius), although the contribution of each to the design cannot be decided.636 There are paired giant columns which might have been suggested by some of Mansart's designs, but there appears to be no obvious source for the great peristyle: it might be described as the



East Front of the Louvre, Paris, 1667ff.

unrolled drum of a dome. To some extent, the facade is the result of suggestions made by the committee members in their own designs, but the whole effect is Italian, of the High Renaissance period. The great columns shelter a loggia, and support a simple balustrade and an apparently flat roof (in fact it is pitched, but this is not visible from the ground); they in turn are supported by a rusticated basement storey pierced by window openings, of a type originating in Bramante's House of Raphael.634 The East Front of the Louvre was surely the most unusual facade erected in France during the seventeenth century; it was to have some influence in later years, for instance on Jacques-Ange Gabriel, who designed the two great palaces in the Place de la Concorde, Paris (1757-75), and the equally rational Petit

Trianon at Versailles (1763-9). These structures demonstrate the continuation of the classical tradition by reference back to the practice of the Grand Siecle. A similar reliance on French tradition was to be a feature of French neoclassical painting as well.

The classical tradition, in architecture as in painting, was protected by its schematization into doctrine by the theorists who controlled the Academic Royale d'Architecture (founded in 1671). However, just as in painting, the demands of official architecture during the reign of Louis XIV militated against calm and simplicity, and tended to promote a pompous grandeur and over-decoration in an attempt to articulate the sheer size which the grand gout demanded. The progression of a modified Baroque can be followed in the elevations at

Bernini: the third design for the East Front of the Louvre, Paris. Engraving by Marot.



Versailles, which Le Vau began to remodel in 1669. The original design was moderate and restrained, but nine years later Jules Hardouin Mansart (great-nephew to Francois) extended the palace considerably in length, and altered all the interiors with a taste which owes much to the manner of Pietro da Cortona, the seminal Baroque architect and painter. Lebrun and his assistants decorated the new interiors in a style which also pays homage to Pietro da Cortona.

Eighteenth-century Neoclassicism

Indeed, little is seen of the essential elements of classical architecture until the time of Jacques-Ange Gabriel (1698-1782). However, there are some signs that there was occasionally some opposition to the Rococo manner of curved, graceful and pretty surfaces, intricate forms and delicate silhouettes, and the almost complete rejection of the classical Orders; an example of an architect who occasionally rejected this style, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, is Germain Boffrand (1667-1754). As befits a pupil of Jules Hardouin Mansart, much of his production is fully Rococo, but his Chapel at the Chateau de Luneville (1720-3), based on his master's severe yet elegant Chapel at Versailles (begun 1678?), corrects its model by its simplicity and rationality, and, above all, by its concern with structure. The columns actually support their respective entablatures; they are dignified by function, not prettified by decoration. Such preoccupations had already been evinced in the Abbe de Cordemoy's Nouveau traite de toute I'architecture (1706) which, inspired by Claude Perrault's edition of Vitruvius (1673, 1684), looks back past the ancient Roman achievement to the work of the Greeks, whose architecture the Abbe and others saw as being similar in structural principles to Gothic. Needless to say, the Abbe held the peristyle of the Louvre in great respect. Rather less obviously, his theory of architecture bypassed the Italian High Renaissance; he claimed that the architects of St Peter's, in using piers instead of functional columns, had ignored Early Christian architecture which, in his eyes, held the key to the understanding of the great achievements of the ancients, or la sainte antiquite.638 The idea met with much opposition.

Primitivism in architecture

For us today, it seems merely curious that a scholar should try and relate Greek to Gothic.642 The eighteenth century, however, was anxious to adopt a syncretic approach in several disciplines, particularly the study of religion, language, society and architecture, and to tabulate similarities which they felt must exist between societies widely scattered in both time and place. Above all, the eighteenth century was a period when the study of history flourished as never before; history entails the categorization of things and events within a time-scale. For architecture, the importance of the theories of Cordemoy and of the practice of Boffrand is that they look forward to the theory and practice of the mid-century. In the Abbe Laugier's Essai sur Varchitecture (1753), function is the main theme: the principles of architecture derive from the primitive hut,646 and only that which is essential to stability—the tree-trunk column and the tree-trunk beam, later imitated in stone—make good architecture.640 All decorative details are forbidden because they contribute nothing. The tree-trunks from which Greek temples derive are, for the eighteenth century, no more and no less structural than the leafy forests with the tops of the

The primitive hut, from Caesariano's edition of Vitruvius, Como, 1521. Laugier's ideas are in the same tradition.





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Marie-Joseph Peyre: TOP Design for an academy, section and elevation, and ABOVE design for a cathedral, both from his Cours d'architecture, Paris, 1765. The obvious source for the cathedral is a purified version of St Peter's, Rome.

trees inclining together which were the assumed origin of Gothic. Such theories do not produce buildings which look Gothic, but rather buildings which are severely classical but employ a lightness of structure inspired by the great cathedrals. The most important church of the century, Soufflot's St-Genevieve (begun 1757; now called the Pantheon), which Laugier welcomed as 'perfect', looks back to the centrally planned churches of the Italian Renaissance: beginning with a Greek cross in which nave and choir were then extended, Soufflot tried to combine classicism with a structuralism that he believed to be Gothic.643


In the sixteenth century, classicism in French architecture had depended on contemporary Roman example. In the 1740s, the same milieu saw the revitalization of that tradition in the form of Neoclassicism, carried back to France from Rome by returning architects.639 Men like Jean-Laurent Legeay, who was in Rome by 1738, sought in their etchings to recreate the might and splendour of the great Roman baths. Piranesi, whose works were to be highly influential in France, later followed Legeay's ideas. Marie-Joseph Peyre, who was in Rome in 1753, built upon Legeay's ideas in the monumental yet sober designs in his Cours d'architecture (1765). Here Roman baths and temples are the foundations of a style which, in its megalomania, prepares the way for the effusions of the 'Revolutionary' architecture of the end of the century; Peyre wrote that each time an architect departed from the general principles of the ancients, he created bad architecture. Another key book— important because, like Peyre's work, it taught a generation of students—was Francois de Neufforge's eight-volume Recueil elementaire d'architecture (1757-68), which insisted on simple shapes in plan and elevation, and restated the relevance to the reformation of French architecture of the achievement of the High Renaissance and of Palladio.

The next few decades were characterized by the manner encouraged in both these books. They saw a relentless simplification and rationalization of structure to the point where plain walls became preferable even to correct articulation by the classical Orders. Theorists designed buildings which were stripped of any decoration, although, as is usually the case, very few buildings were actually constructed in such a severe manner. The type of progress made by following such fundamentalist theory is demonstrated by a comparison between Gabriel's beautiful Petit Trianon (1762-8), and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux's Pavilion de Madame du Barry at Louveciennes (1770-1). In the former, the cubic simplicity and austerity of the window embrasures are set off by the subdued richness of the fluted Corinthian columns on the garden front, and there is a considered balance of plainness and ornament in the whole composition. The Pavilion de Madame du Barry, which is based on the Petit Trianon, is clearly an attempt to correct its model: the podium and the elegant steps are gone, and there is less window area and ornamental balustrading. Ledoux, in other words, concentrates on the block-like character of the work and emphasizes this by extreme variations of light and shade. The sparing use of frieze and figures in niches emphasizes and does not mitigate the severity of the whole. Much more uncompromisingly stark structures are illustrated in his treatise of 1804 (see p. 192, below).

Why, during a period when Rome was the focus of every architect's training, when Greece was about to become fashionable again, when painters were harking back to the grand manner of Raphael, Guido Reni and Poussin, did both architects and painters begin to reject

Entrance facade of Le Petit Trianon, Versailles, by Jacques-Ange Gabriel 1763-9.

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Pavilion de Madame du Barry, Louveciennes, by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, built in 1771. Engraving from his Architecture, 11, Paris, 1804.

the accumulated Renaissance tradition in favour of something much more simple, and indeed primitive? The answer is that the horizons of the eighteenth century were wider than they had been in any previous age. The men of the Age of Enlightenment travelled more extensively; they were interested in more cultures, and 'collected' a wider range of styles than their predecessors, who had been content with the Renaissance achievement. Their interest in history, and the development of techniques of study which brought that history to life, revealed to them a plethora of historical cultures which influenced fashions



Piranesi: The Temple of Neptune at Paestum.

and styles in the second half of the eighteenth century: from Etruscan, Pompeian, Greek or Gothic to Chinese and Indian (see pp. 231-2, below). Given such a range, the Italian Renaissance tradition took its place as one among a wide range of possible models, and the classical tradition was largely redefined.

In short, the classical tradition was extended backward in time to take in the architecture of the Greeks. Everyone knew, of course, that the Greeks had taught the Romans architecture, because Vitruvius had said so. However, the admirers of Vitruvius were at first taken aback, rather than enchanted, by the early architecture of the Greeks. Sites such as Paestum,641 Agrigentum and others in southern Italy and Sicily were visited with increasing frequency from the 1760s. The temples there revealed to architects a style almost brutal in its primitive simplicity and lack of civilized elegance.644-645 Perhaps Goethe's experience was typical; in his Italian Journey (entry for March 1787), he describes a visit to Paestum, when the initial shock was cured by hist-oricism: The first sight of them excited nothing but astonishment. I found myself in a perfectly strange world; for, as centuries pass from the severe to the pleasing, they form man's taste at the same time . . .; these crowded masses of stumpy conical pillars appear heavy, not to say frightful. But I soon recollected myself, called to mind the history of art, thought of the times when the spirit of the age was in unison with this style . . . and in less than an hour found myself reconciled to it ...

Such historical awareness made it obvious that the history of architecture needed to be written. In his edition of Vitruvius of 1673, Claude Perrault had caused much offence in academic circles by pointing out the faults in his subject's treatment of architecture.636 For the eighteenth century, there sprang to prominence an exciting range of styles (particularly early Greek and Etruscan) which that shrine of authority had ignored. Piranesi tried to write the Etruscans and the Greeks into a


Panaretheon from Ledoux's project for the Ideal City of Chaux, 1773-9, never built. From his Architecture, II, Paris, 1804.



A. E. Marvuglia: a design for a national monument. Boullee was not alone in his megalomania.

new history of architecture, claiming in Mag-nificenza ed architettura de' Romani (1761), and in other books, that the Etruscans and not the Greeks were the architectural teachers of the ancient world.647 He linked 'primitive' Roman architecture with the period of the Republic (that of the Empire had served the Renaissance tradition), and thereby provided a political rationale for its adoption in France; at the same time French painters sought a similar morality in the same period of history. When J.-L. David set his Oath of the Horatii against a row of baseless Tuscan columns, with simple impost blocks and a massive wall, he intended that the architecture should speak the same political language, and hence convey the same message, as the figures. Of course, neoclassical architecture did not always have moral implications; the style was so fashionable that, as Graf Kalnein says, in the new districts of Paris 'one might have thought that one had been transported to Vicenza'637—for the plain fact was that the Palladian manner was more suited than the Greek to town architecture. Yet some Parisian buildings exploit the Greek taste of the period: Jacques Gondoin's Ecole de Mede-cine (1771-6) has a facade which is a screen of columns, like a Greek temple, and Jean-Francois Chalgrin's church of St-Philippe du Roule (1774-8, but designed a decade earlier) has similar ranks of free-standing columns supporting an austere barrel vault.

There are difficulties, however, in assessing the place of the 'Revolutionary' architects* (particularly Boullee and Ledoux) in the classical tradition. Classicism demands a cool and rational style, graced by the Orders. The Revolutionary architects, by their excessive simplification of forms and surfaces, and the wide range of their sources, half-pervert the aims of classicism because they seek to evoke a strong emotional response to their work. Their style is based not on the Vitruvian manner, even less on that of the Grand Siecle, but rather on the historicism which is a feature of the age. That rich historical storehouse of forms (the reverse of a canon of orthodoxy) allowed their architecture, as Boullee says, to 'speak', by which he meant to evoke sensations rather than to convey an exact message. The basic geometric shapes of cube, cylinder, sphere, pyramid have grafted upon them a style now Egyptian (as in Boullee's cemetery designs), now Greek (his immensely inflated sarcophagus, a tomb the size of a temple). Styles have become malleable, to be moulded into different shapes according to the desired mood. Little wonder that the Revolutionary

*So called as much because of their new style as because of the French Revolution.


architects are considered by the more naive historians to be the originators of a /modern' style of architecture. However, it is certainly true that historicism sapped the strength of classicism instead of reinforcing it. In that sense the Revolutionary architects prepared the ground for modernism—but only after the even greater licence of the nineteenth century. If we forget for the moment the emotions evoked by the megalomania and totally impractical size of Boullee's bare and forbidding creations, it is easy enough to see in them links with classicism. Boullee's writings make it clear that, in his opinion, architecture could 'speak' about matters of state and public morality, precisely because his architecture parlante proclaims its function through its forms. The idea is little different in essence from Diderot's conviction that the aim of art is to inculcate virtue, and is a more strongly argued version of Alberti's attachment to certain shapes. Very few Revolutionary projects left the drawing-board, but when they did they were spectacular ; an example is Claude-Nicolas Ledoux's Salines de Chaux (Arc-en-Senans, 1775-9). Ledoux was deeply moved by the monumen-tality of primitive architecture, and the baseless Doric Order that he uses evokes the early Greek past. Similarly, his toll-booths for the gates of Paris (1785-9) show his tendency to use the whole of architectural history (exclud-


ing Gothic) as an arsenal which can supply the toll-booths' elemental and stark shapes with excitement. His strange treatise, entitled L'Architecture consideree sous le rapport de Vart, des moeurs et de la legislation (1804), expresses his belief that architecture can help to change society.

No one could live urban life amidst an architecture that was Utopian in scale and ideals. It transpired that well-worn vocabularies were better suited to a Napoleon or to a resurrected monarchy. First Chalgrin, with his Arc de Triomphe de 1'Etoile (designed 1806), provided France with a Roman classicism well suited to Napoleon's imperial image, although on a scale which would have pleased Boullee (whose pupil he was). Then two students of Peyre, Charles Percier and, from 1794 to 1814, Pierre F. L. Fontaine, created an 'Empire Style' which contrasts strongly with Revolutionary architecture; it is not only much more elegant, but also more archaeologically aware, a trend which is evident in the painting of artists like Vien and David well before the French Revolution. Thanks to the publications of Percier and Fontaine, and to the encouragement of a classical style in the arts by the public patronage of the Government and, after the Restoration, the Crown, the classical style had a much longer life in France than in England, where the Gothic Revival gained an earlier and firmer hold. In France, character-


Triumphal Arch for the marriage of Napoleon, Tuileries Gardens. From Percier and Fontaine's Description des ceremonies et des fetes du manage . . ., Paris, 1810. The arch was only a temporary construction, and made of wood. Such 'entries' had been popular since the Italianization of France in the sixteenth century.


Colen Campbell's imitation of Palladia's Villa Rotonda: Mereworth Castle, Kent, From his Vitruvius Britannicus, HI.

istically, the first revival style of the nineteenth century was French Renaissance; like the later Elizabethan and Jacobean revivals across the Channel, nationalist overtones were important in the choice. In a sense, all revivalism is a form of Romanticism, particularly when the solace achieved by absorption in the past depends on the sensations and not on the reason, when that solace is titillating and superficial, and is not a clearly marked road to salvation. For the Renaissance, the imitation of Rome in society, culture, law and art was the one true path to the re-creation of a noble society. The wider perspectives of the nineteenth century dissipated that article of faith by offering a series of equally attractive alternatives.

A note on British architecture

The place of British architecture in the classical tradition is ignored in this book. When older books treat 'Renaissance architecture' in Britain, they usually mean Renaissance motifs rather than a thoroughly classical style: they confuse decoration with form, Indeed, there were no sixteenth-century buildings in England to rival in precision of classical detailing and simplicity of classical form Philibert de 1'Orme's chateau at Anet—hence no foundations laid in Elizabethan England upon which the first palladian revival of Inigo Jones could grow.

Inigo Jones's long visit to Italy in 1613/14 instilled in him both a love of Palladio and a knowledge of Italian architecture ancient and modern. His Queen's House at Greenwich is a small villa in the tradition of Palladio; his Banqueting House in Whitehall a basilica in the Vitruvian mould. Neither these works nor his country houses (the most palladian being Stoke Bruerne, Northants) met with any imitators until the early eighteenth century. Jones's manner was, certainly, rather coldly academic, in contrast with the floridity of the still popular Elizabethan style. This, together with the uncertainties of the Civil War, spelt scant success for this first British Palladianism. The advent to power of another scholar, Christopher Wren, marked the introduction into Britain of the contemporary Italian Baroque, with an admixture of French features as well. This was easily adapted to the continuing vogue for very large country houses, and provided designs both rich and simple for the fifty-one London churches needed after the Great Fire, and for the new St Paul's. Thus, in a land hitherto used to the Gothic style (if we discount Inigo Jones's awkward Corinthian portico to old St Paul's), Wren introduced a new range of continental ideas.

It was to be the influence of Inigo Jones,



West facade of Wanstead, Essex, by Colen Campbell. From Vitruvius Brittanicus, III.

however, rather than the Baroque manner of Wren, which prompted the long-lasting Palladian Revival of the early eighteenth century. Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, William Kent, his protege, and Colen Campbell, his adviser, all considered the Baroque style as extravagant and fanciful, particularly Vanbrugh's great piles of Blenheim and Castle Howard. Burlington, a young and wealthy aristocrat, made his Grand Tour in 1714/15 and, inspired by the publication of the first volume of Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britan-nicus and Leoni's first translation into English of Palladio's Quattro Libri, which both appeared in 1715, set off again to Vicenza to study the work of his new-found hero and to collect his drawings and books. Upon his return in 1719, the Palladian group designed buildings which have much of the plain simplicity of some of Jones's creations. Mere worth Castle, by Campbell, shows how a doctrinaire pal-ladian chastises the master's source, in this case the Villa Rotonda. Burlington's own villa at Chiswick (from the same source) is much richer and more complicated, particularly inside.

Indeed, just how like the works of Palladio is that great series of porticoed English country houses of the eighteenth century ? With what work by Palladio might one compare Wan-stead, or Holkham ? The comparison lies only in the imitation of certain motifs, particularly the rusticated basement, the colonnaded portico, the balustrade above the cornice, the great emphasis placed on exterior staircases, and the so-called palladian window. Palladio himself produced no country houses or town palaces approaching the size of Wanstead, which has


all the features of the Elizabethan parade house clothed in a cold and regular classicizing articulation. Palladio's manner was much richer and more diverse than the sum of those few elements which Burlington decreed fit for imitation. The English could not take over Palladio wholesale, so to speak, because the social and economic traditions of the two countries were as distinct as their building histories. The British therefore contented themselves with Palladio's types of palace and villa elevation—but stretched out to often immoderate length to suit the demand for palaces in the country. The adopted formulae, published in Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, were seized upon by clients because they were easily adaptable to almost any building requirement.

The plethora of styles which are subsumed under 'Neoclassicism' will be studied in the next chapter, but it is apposite to reflect why it happened that Britain rather than continental Europe was the true home of the Gothic and Indian revivals, of Chinoiserie and Egypto-mania, let alone of the late Roman Imperial and the Picturesque which were but two of Robert Adam's specialities. Burlington had envisaged but one style as the salvation of British architecture; men like Walpole, Adam and Soane embraced several. (The triumph of Gothic in the nineteenth century is one result of such latitudinarianism.) One of the answers lies in the wider horizons opened up to travellers in the eighteenth century, as a result of inclination as well as of trade and Empire. But perhaps the lack of any firm classical tradition in architecture other than that so recently created by Palladianism predisposed the British to strike out in novel directions. It is, therefore, not surprising to find Britain rather than the Continent sheltering the greatest monuments of the Greek Revival.

Given such considerations, can we perhaps cast Britain in the role of destroyer of the classical tradition? For her literary men, just as much as her architects, were the first to experiment with ideas which would be taken up on the Continent only toward the end of the century. We need only mention Britain's contributions to the Romantic Movement in France and Germany to realize how feeble was the hold of classicism. We might also be


forgiven for wondering how long French Neoclassicism would have survived without the sustaining ideology of Napoleon and his resuscitation of the Roman Empire. Perhaps Britain only destroyed classicism in the sense of offering to Europe a set of viable alternatives. We shall see in the next chapter how the credibility of classicism in painting and sculpture is sapped in a continuous process from about the end of the eighteenth century. In that chapter, Britain will be mentioned only as the repository for treasures gathered on the Grand Tour by the richest and most powerful nation in Europe.

Ince Blundell Hall, Lancashire, from a drawing by J. P. Neale. Blundell, who started collecting in 1777, had the pantheon at the right built to hold the cream of his antiques.

Detail of the rotunda, Stowe House. Such pantheon-like rooms occur all over England. They were often intended, like their basilican counterparts, as showcases for antiques brought back from the Grand Tour.



J. Zoffany: Charles Towneley and his friends in the Towneley Gallery, Westminster. Collection of Burnley Corporation, Lancashire. The room is also lit in the antique manner, by a skylight.