Mansart, François


Mansart, François
(1598-1666)
   French architect, first trained by his father who was a carpenter. When his father died in 1610, Mansart completed his training with his brother-in-law, the architect Germain Gaultier who had collaborated with Salomon de Brosse. No evidence exists to confirm that Mansart was in Italy, yet he was familiar with the Italian architectural vocabulary, already fairly well represented in France through the work of de Brosse and Jacques Lemercier. By now, the treatises of Vitruvius, Andrea Palladio, and Giacomo da Vignola had been translated into French and made available to local masters. Also available were books with reproductions of the monuments from antiquity on which the Renaissance architectural vocabulary of Italy was based.
   Mansart's first recorded commission was the façade of the Church of Feuillants in Paris (1623-1624; destroyed; known only through engravings), a work based on de Brosse's Church of St. Gervais. Mansart added a tall screen above the segmented pediment in the manner of Jean du Cerceau and volutes (spiral scrolls) at either side of the upper story with rusticated pyramids at either end to differentiate his work from that of de Brosse. Mansart correctly applied the Colosseum principle to the structure, with the Ionic order below the Corinthian. The commission was followed by the Château de Berny (1623-1624), of which only a portion of the court façade survives. Here, Mansart provided a freestanding structure with independent roofs, at the time a major departure from the usual French château type. He also added some curvilinear forms along the court to add movement to the structure and flanked it with quadrant colonnades.
   The Château de Balleroy (c. 1631) is one of the few buildings by Mansart to have survived in its original condition. Built for Jean de Choisy, chancellor to the Duke of Orleans, the structure is fairly small in size, so Mansart emphasized its vertical axis to add to its monumentality. The building sits on a terrace accessed by semicircular stairs that break the monotony of the rectilinear forms. The central block is composed of three stories and crowned by a pitched roof with dormers. The side blocks mimic these forms, yet their height is decreased so as not to compete with the central block.
   Other domestic structures by Mansart include the Château de Blois (1635-1638) built for Gaston d'Orléans, Louis XIII's brother, and the Château de Maisons (1642-1646) for René de Longueil, the king's Président des Maisons. In the mid-1640s, Mansart also pro-vided a design for the Church of Val-de-Grâce commissioned by Anne of Austria, Louis XIII's wife, who passed the work on to Lermercier after a year as Mansart ignored budgetary constraints and kept making changes to his plans. Mansart, in fact, is known to have had a belligerent personality that cost him not only this commission but many others. Toward the end of his life, he fell into oblivion, receiving only sporadic work from patrons. Today, Mansart is considered one of the most proficient and influential architects of 17th-century France.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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