Architecture and Decor

Department of French & Italian

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Following the established sixteenth-century style of residential chateaux such as Chambord and Chenonceau, Louis XIV architecture demonstrates its greatest skill in the secular realm. . . learn more

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Charles Rivière: View of the chateau and gardens of Versailles. Describe the general layout of the manor. What are the principal elements in terms of space and perspective? Discuss the placement of these elements. Discuss the order and logic of the design. Does the lithograph give us different impressions from those presented in the photographs? Explain.

tags: architecture, Rivi�re, chateaux—exteriors, Versailles, fountains
Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart, façade of the central building:  What initial impressions does the chateau give? What is the function of the basin and the statues? Which god is represented? Why? How do the architects make use of light and color? What is the effect?

tags: architecture, chateaux—exteriors, sculpture, Hardouin-Mansart, Le Vau, Versailles, fountains
Other view of the fa�ade. Comment on the “regularity” and the symmetry of the structure. What geometric forms are most visible? Discuss the way in which the architect creates a balance between repetition and variety to create a whole that is solid but not uniform or monotonous.

tags: architecture, ch�teaux—exteriors, Versailles
Old chateau (1623):  What differences in style do you see between the original castle and the expansion of the “New chateau?” Comment on the quotation from the philosopher Saint-Simon describing the juxtaposition of “The beautiful and the ugly, the vast and the narrow [that] were sewn together.”

tags: architecture, ch�teaux—exteriors, Versailles
Hardouin-Mansart, interior of the Royal Chapel (1689-1710). Critics admire the chapel as “a work of extreme classicism and brilliant lightness” (Hartt 719). What aspects of the chapel show its “classical” side? What is the source of the “lightness?” Discuss the composition of the interior. What seems to be most important among the columns, fresco and altar? Why? The nobles gathered on the ground floor, while the first floor (shown in the image) was reserved for the royal family. Explain the symbolism of this distinction. In general, what are the effects of the different levels and the balconies in the chapel?

tags: architecture, Hardouin-Mansart, religion, 1680-1689, Versailles
Royal Chapel, exterior view. What direct correspondences do you see between the interior and the exterior of the chapel? How does the general structure seem to “repeat itself” inside and out? Do the two complement one another? In what way? Describe the relationship between the chapel and the rest of the chateau. In your opinion, does the chapel reflect the motifs already in place?

tags: architecture, religion, chateaux—exteriors, Versailles
Hardouin-Mansart, Le Brun and Coysevox: Hall of Mirrors.  Imagine you are a nobleman attending the king’s lever. How does the hallway reinforce the idea of the “incontestable” power of Louis XIV? Why do Hardouin-Mansart and Le Brun insist upon the reflection of light? What is the effect of the perspective? In terms of light, what is the relationship between the ceiling and the mirrors? Describe the interactions between the parquet and other elements of the hall.

tags: Hardouin-Mansart, Le Brun, Coysevox, Versailles, interiors
Torchieres of Louis XIV, Hall of Mirrors. What do the marble, the columns and the vaults add to the general impression? What is the practical and symbolic function of the golden torchieres and crystal chandeliers? Is the hall simple in its d�cor? What do you make of the linear character of the interior and exterior of the chateau?

tags: Versailles, interiors
Coysevox : Stucco, Hall of War. What is the “story” told here? Who are the characters above and below the king? What are they doing? What is the king wearing? In general, how is he depicted? What posture does he take with respect to the events shown in the stucco? What differences and similarities do you see between this work by Coysevox and the bust of the king and statues by Bernini?

tags: sculpture, Coysevox, Versailles, interiors, Louis XIV, war
Virtual image taken from Versailles 1685 (CD-ROM): Extended view of a courtyard of the chateau. What forms and motifs do you see here which are repeated elsewhere? What variety do you notice with respect to the fa�ades? Describe the proportions of the chateau. How does the sky play a role in the composition of the courtyard? In your opinion, how did the king use this courtyard? What was its function? How does it provide a sense of harmony?

tags: architecture, chateaux—exteriors, Versailles
Door opening onto the courtyard (see also previous image). Describe the geometry and space of the door. What motif is at the center of the arch? How is this motif repeated throughout the door? Compare and contrast this arch with those of the Royal Chapel and Hall of Mirrors. Does the door also give any negative impressions? Explain.

tags: architecture, chateaux—exteriors, Versailles
Plate affixed to the walls and doors of the chateau. Discuss the variety of motifs and their metaphorical significance. What is the importance of the anthropomorphism of the sun? Try to imagine a motto or inscription for the plate.

tags: architecture, Versailles, interiors
Hardouin-Mansart, Grand Trianon, 1687. A manor built as a refuge from the activity of the main chateau. How does the Grand Trianon differ from the exterior of the New Chateau? Explain the importance of the marble and the exterior colors. Do you see an affinity with the style of the Hall of Mirrors? Explain.

tags: architecture, Versailles, Hardouin-Mansart, 1680-1689
Petit Trianon, built for Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, 1763-68. Compare and contrast the style of the Seventeenth Century with that of the Eighteenth. Which motifs recur? Which are rejected? Concentrate on the forms, the proportions and the composition of the building. One observer suggests that this building distinguishes itself by its “sobriety” and by its “measured richness of d�cor.” Comment.

tags: architecture, Versailles, Mme de Pompadour, Louis XV, 1760-1769
Hardouin-Mansart, Church of the Invalids, Paris, 1680-91. In your opinion, what is the most prominent element of the monument? Why? Between neoclassicism and the baroque, where does Hardouin-Mansart get his inspiration? Be specific. To what other famous religious structure does the church allude?

tags: architecture, Hardouin-Mansart, religion, Paris, 1680-1689


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