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French Renaissance - Architecture

( Originally Published 1921 )

A. Plans.—The irregularity peculiar to Gothic buildings was occasionally retained as suitable to the exigencies of the country-side (p. 618 E).

The typical town-house plan has a court enclosed on one side by the " corps de logis," flanked on either side by lower wings and cut off from the street by a screen wall (p. 625).

B. Walls.—A country chateau is seen on all sides, and picturesque grouping from every point of view was therefore sought (pp. 621 A, 622 A). The gables and prominent stone dormers of the early period (pp. 621, 622, 643 H) gradually gave place to pedimented and balustraded facades (pp. 624 A, 625 A). Pavilions crowned with steep independent roofs mark the centre and ends of facades (pp. 623 C, 625 A, F). Stone was the chief material, sometimes combined with red brick.

C. Openings.—Arcades were not usual, owing to the northern climate. Doors of the early period often show Mediaeval influence and are much elaborated (p. 643 G), but later are frequently treated plainly (p. 644 F, x). Gothic mullions and transoms continued, though changed in detail (pp. 618 c, 622 A, 643 H). Windows were often superimposed, but with the use of the Orders horizontal lines of the entablature prevailed (p. 624 A, 644 D, K). Symmetry was so much considered that when there was a mezzanine floor with windows (p. 644 K), similar windows were added in the upper part of main apartments adjoining. The attic was a favourite feature, often with circular windows (" ceils-de-bceuf "), as at the Hotel des Invalides, Paris (p. 629 B, C).

D. Roofs.—High roofs are usual with dormer windows and lofty chimney-stacks which give a picturesque sky-line from a distance (pp. 618 D, 621 B, E, 622 A). The French " Mansard" roof, which gave more internal space, was favoured ; while pavilions with independent roofs assumed the importance of towers (pp. 622 13, 623, 624 A, 625 A). Domes were employed in churches of the later period (p. 634)

E. Columns. — Pilasters, lozenge-panelled or carved with foliage, were used to ornament quasi-Gothic features, as at Chambord, where slate in the panels gives variety (p. 643 G, H).

A separate " Order " was usually given to each storey, according to the practice of Vignola (pp. 622, 623, 624 A, 625 A, 626 A).

F. Mouldings.—Gothic influence pervaded the early period and combinations of Classic and Mediaeval mouldings were often used. Some cornices have unusually small members, while later mouldings gradually developed a distinctive character (pp. 643, 644).

G. Ornament (pp. 618 F, 626 B, 639, 643, 644).—Gothic wood panelling continued into the early period, and was often splendidly carved with arabesques, as at Blois ; whereas in later work the scale suggested by the material was gradually lost. The Raphael style of decoration was introduced by Italian artists, as at Fontainebleau, and has continued to influence French art. Tapestry and hangings were superseded by the Louis XIV style of wood, papier-mache, and stucco -decoration in white and gold, which was also applied to furniture and every accessory, and thus gives fitness and unity to the interiors. Sculpture acquired increasing importance, and figure sculpture of great excellence appears in combination with modern French architecture. Other ornament is seen in panels (p. 643 D, E), capitals (p. 643 A, B, C, F), balconies (p. 644 B), vases (p. 644 c), keystones (p. 644 A, x), console (p. 644 E), walls and ceilings (p. 644 G), fountains (p. 644 J), and entablatures (p. 644 L).

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