1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Influence of Cinquecento on Other European Countries: France

(Part 105)

Influence of Cinquecento on Other European Countries: France

In the 15th century such was the reverence of men for the revived works of ancient literature and science, that the pretence of the Italians, that they had restored ancient classical architecture on the precepts of an architect of the Augustan age, was sufficient to open the way for them all over civilized Europe.

In the course of that and the following century Italian architecture was adopted and Italian architects employed in France, Spain, Germany, Great Britain, and their respective dependencies; and now, in the 19th century, Vitruvius and Palladio are as predominant on the shores of the Baltic as on those of the Mediterranean; though in England and in some parts of the Continent their influence is considerably diminished since the time of Inigo Jones and Claude Perrault.

It has been already remarked, too, that the Cinquecento was later in gaining a footing in Britain than on the Continent, in consequence of the love of the beautiful national style of architecture, which our ancestors do not appear to have been induced to resign to the barbarian innovators of the South, as readily as most other nations were to give up theirs.

The French, though they received the Vitruvius architecture from the Italians, were patriotic enough, as soon as they had acquired its principles, to confine the practice of it almost entirely to native architects, on whose hands it assumed a different character from that which it possessed in Italy, and became what may be called the French style of Cinquecento.

Its ecclesiastical structures are less faulty than are those of the corresponding period in Italy, but its secular edifices are as far inferior to those of that country. The grand palatial style, which is exemplified in the Farnese Palace in Rome, never found its way into France; but instead, there arose that monstrous and peculiarly French manner, of which the well-known palaces of the Tuileries and Luxembourg are egregious examples.

In the age of Louis XIV the French appear to have reverted to the Italian manner in a certain degree; for the palace of Versailles included almost all the extravagances of that school in its worst period, and contains, moreover, architectural deformities which Italy never equalled till it imitated them. They consist in the style of enrichment which is distinguished by the name, and is due in part to the gross taste, of the monarch in whose reign it had its origin.

The same period produced one of the most classical architects of the French school -- its Palladio or Inigo Jones -- Perrault, whose design for the building of the Louvre was preferred to that of Bernini, though, indeed, the preference was no compliment to the one nor discredit to the other, considering to whom the decision was of necessity referred.

The Hotel des Invalides is of the same age; it exhibits the graces of the Italian cupola, surmounting a composition which includes more than all the faults of St Peter’s in Rome.

The church of Sainte Genevieve, or the Pantheon, a work of the following reign, was intended to be in the ancient Roman style, and of Roman magnificence; but it is rather papally than imperially so. Ancient Rome was regarded in the columnar ordinance, but modern Rome in the architectural composition. In it the ecclesiastical style of the Cinquecento is commingled with the simple beauties of Roman architecture, almost, indeed, to the destruction of the latter; and it is crowned by a too lofty cupola.

More recently the works of the ancients have been studied by the architects of France, greatly to the amelioration of their style, although many of them still appear to disregard the peculiarities of real Greek architecture, and to retain their devotion to Vitruvius and the 15th century.

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