A History of French Architecture, From the Reign of Charles VIII Till the Death of Mazarin, Vol. 1 (Classic Reprint)

A History of French Architecture, From the Reign of Charles VIII Till the Death of Mazarin, Vol. 1 (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from A History of French Architecture, From the Reign of Charles VIII Till the Death of Mazarin, Vol. 1

In the following pages I have endeavoured to trace the history of French Neo-Classic architecture from its tentative beginnings in the reign of Charles VIII to its mature development in the middle of the seventeenth century. My first idea was to attempt a continuous history of the movement down to the break-up of the classical tradition at the time of the French Revolution, but the subject is so enormous that it would be impossible to do justice to it in any summary manner, and I have therefore limited the present survey to French architecture prior to the death of Mazarin. This is a convenient date at which to pause, because on the one hand the art had by that time completely arrived, and on the other the personal rule established by Louis XIV after the death of Mazarin introduced certain new social and political factors, which materially affected the arts of France.

In order to complete my account of the sixteenth century, I have included a sketch of the latter days of Gothic architecture. Dates of course overlap in an inconvenient manner. Francois Mansart died in 1666, and Le Vau only four years later, yet I have not included Errard, Le Vau, Cottart, or Antoine Le Pautre in this work, because they represent a different phase in architecture, and belong to the group of men who were taken on by Colbert after the death of Mazarin, and their work was the starting-point of the new era of Louis XIV, rather than the last word of the age of Mazarin and Anne of Austria.

The guiding purpose of this history has been to show the continuous growth of French Neo-Classic architecture from the date of its first introduction into France. In my judgement it is unhistorical to limit the Renaissance to those two or three generations of the time of Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francois I, when builders and ornamentalists were blundering about in endeavours to grasp the spirit of the Italians which lamentably failed of their purpose.

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