Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Mansard

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


Mansard (Mansart), the name of two French architects.—I. François, b.in Paris, probably of Italian stock, in 1598; died there, 1666. During at least the last thirty years of his life he exercised the greatest influence on the development of architecture. Among his contemporaries only Salomon de Brosse approached him in ability. Defects and oddities, so glaring as even to provoke published satires, for some time prevented him from obtaining commissions. He had so high a sense of true architecture that he hardly ever decided on a plan definitely at the outset, anticipating that improvements on the first conception would be sure to suggest themselves later on. Thus he lost the commission for building the Louvre, because nothing could induce him to submit detailed plans. Having built one wing of the château Maison-Lafitte (1642), he destroyed what had been built so as to rebuild it on what he thought a better plan, the ultimate result being the finest of all his non-ecclesiastical works. After beginning the finely planned abbey church of Val-de-Grâce (1645), his fastidious self-criticism made him leave the work, carried only as far as the ground plan, for others to finish. He is said, however, to have elsewhere executed what had been his design for this church. These two are regarded as his best works. To him are due, also, the design and construction of several châteaux — Fresnes Berny, Bercy, and others. At Paris he built, wholly or in part, the Hôtels Carnavalet, de La Vrillière, Mazarin, de Conti, and others, and the façade of the Feuillants, Dames de Ste-Marie, and Minimes. His work is characterized rather by the essential beauty of construction than by the adventitious charm of ornamentation, which, indeed, he employed sparingly. His style was influenced by Salomon de Brosse, but he also strove to follow the older Italian masters.

II. Julius, grand-nephew of François, was originally Jules Hardouin, but took the name of Mansard; was born in Paris, 1646; died at Marly 1708. He had more apparent success than François, if less ability. He enjoyed in a high degree the favour of Louis XIV, who bestowed on him numerous titles and offices, as well as the dignity of Count and the inspectorship of buildings. Nearly all the architectural undertakings of this king are linked with the name of Jules Mansard, who, indeed, has been blamed, rightly or wrongly, for some of Louis's extravagant expenditures. Few architects have ever received such remunerative, or so many, commissions. He sought to combine the style of his grand-uncle, and of Le Brun, with the extreme classical style so much affected at that time, and thus became in some degree an exponent of the Baroque style. His best work is the church of the Invalides, with its dome and cupola similar to St Paul's in London, which is of the same period, and designed after the plan of St Peter's at Rome. Mansard generally laid more stress on elegance of effect than on monumental grandeur, so that some of his effects tend to triviality. The nave of the Invalides is merely a cubical base for the great dome and its double row of columns, though graceful, has little of imposing grandeur in its effect. The outer shell of the dome is of wood, a feature which this building shares with other French structures of similar character. The decoration between the ribs of the cupola, the pierced tapering lantern, encircled with corbels, and the pointed tip, all contributed to its elegance, so that the cap of the dome seems rather to soar than to rest on its supports. This graceful dome, with its high drum and attic, forms a striking point in the panorama of Paris. In the interior, Mansard made use of a happy artifice in order to secure the illuminating effect of the dome to the full without exposing the painting to the direct glare of day: he built two domes the one over the other, the one above with attic windows so placed as not to be visible from the interior; through an opening in the inner dome one sees the paintings in the outer, but not the windows. In spite of certain faults of detail this structure is, on the whole. one of the finest Baroque buildings in existence. With Leveau, Mansard finished the château of Versailles, which exercised so wide and powerful an influence on the architecture of the Baroque period. In the exterior, an effect of space and sweep was sought rather than pure beauty. The interior more than satisfies the anticipations raised by the exterior. The Grand Trianon and the Colonnades are also Jules Mansard's, as well as many other buildings in and near Versailles. His work, in domestic architecture and public buildings is, indeed, scattered all over France, and what is known as the "Mansard roof" takes its name from him.

G. Gietmann