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Midterm Essay, French Architecture 1515-1750
3. Discuss the importance of the châteaux of the Loire River Valley: The Loire Valley Châteaux are remarkable in their hesitancy towards fully embracing the Classical architectural ideals of the Italian Renaissance. Despite a gradual transition towards more Classical plans and forms by the mid-15th century, prominent Flamboyant elements, such as steeply pitched roofs pierced by a profusion of chimneys, dormer windows and spires, flying buttresses and asymmetrical layouts, continue to appear relatively consistently in the architecture of the Loire Valley Châteaux throughout the reigns of Charles VII, Louis XII and Francois I. An argument could be made for this slow transition as a result of practical limitations. While the Italian campaigns of Charles VII, Louis XII and Francois I certainly piqued an increasing interest in the new Italic style, a comprehensive, readily available treatise of the fundamental principles of classical architecture was not available in French until the publication of Sebastiano Serglio’s “Five Books of Architecture” in 1537-1547. Without a solid foundation for reference, non-Italian architects were certainly prone to incomplete understandings of classical elements both in their forms, implementation and structural purpose. Furthermore, distinctions between the different roles of mason, stone-cutter and sculptor were somewhat more fluid in the tradition of Flamboyant France, largely due to the stylistic inseparability of architecture and sculpture in Late Gothic design (Zerner, 40). This somewhat complicated the process of building All’Antica, as the Classical style definitively separated architectural forms from decorative sculpture. local craftsmen were not only trained and accustomed to creating the forms of the Flamboyant aesthetic, but their inability to distinguish between the roles of the
the French patrons and artists struggled to reach a deeper understanding of Classical architecture. but not a period in which any points are scored or any games won. 31). aimed at translating the All’Antica ideals of progress. reason. sought not to emulate Italian Renaissance Classicism directly. power and status into a visual language that made sense. this argument simplistically and somewhat offensively implies that the end goal of the French Renaissance patrons was to faithfully attempt to recreate the aesthetics of Italian Renaissance architecture. They introduced Classical elements while maintaining traditional schemes. essentially declares it a sort of “stylistic half time”. Defining this period as an “era of transition" . While practical considerations and limitations certainly played a role in the slow development of Classical architecture in France. authority and progress.mason and that of the sculptor. The Loire Valley Châteaux demonstrate a purposefully tempered implementation of Classical elements. stood in way of understanding and implementing one of most basic precepts of Classical Architecture (Zerner. but rather to show themselves as inheritors or in some case dominators of the past. I would argue that the patrons of the Loire Valley Châteaux. necessary perhaps. most notably under the rule of François I. they did not want to separate themselves abruptly from the past. where players struggle to regroup and reorganize in order resume the game in the second half. and justified their authority within the context of French tradition. but to convey the same ideals of progress. had no traditional foundations in the memories of the French. Pure Italian Renaissance Classicism. The Châteaux of the Loire Valley are stylistically labeled as a “era of transition”(Blunt 1-3). as a means to establish themselves as progressive evolutions of a lineage of conventional authority They were not revolutionaries. Half-time . in which. power and status while remaining firmly within the historical tradition of France. no matter how much it conveyed a sense of order. was accepted. regularity.
Contrast between the traditional and the new in the Loire Valley Châteaux can also be seen in the continued inclusion of traditional medieval defensive elements within the new. This “era of transition” however does not merely recount a linear. civilian and courtly châteaux plans of the Renaissance. ready adoption of more and more classicizing elements. grounded bands that define the lightly colored walls are topped by the dark irrational plethora of spires. While often reduced in scale and vestigial. The most noticeable of these composite arrangements of the two styles is seen in the overtly Gothic roofs paired with relatively flat walls defined by horizontally by courses and vertically by shallow pilasters as seen at Azay-le-Rideau. Yet rather than appear jarring. the juxtaposition of the overtly rational and the overtly mysterious. it seems to establish within itself a specific stylistic set of precepts based on a careful balance of contrasts. chimneys and dormers that dramatically stretch towards the skies above. it is merely a period of inaction and preparation between two significant periods. Rather. the châteaux of the Loire Valley often retained features from their fortified predecessors in their plans. The rational.has no worth in and of itself. While this may be seen as merely a misconstrued understanding of the application of Classical structural elements. The fortified constructions of the Middle Ages were no longer necessary as the château became the showpieces of the king. rather than the stronghold of warring lords. The imposing square corner towers at Blois seem incongruous with the observably vulnerable nature of the galerie facade of . These defensive elements contrasted with the blatant penetrability and domesticated nature of the rest of the châteaux’s design. The tendency to combine of Gothic and Classical features is evident throughout the châteaux of the Loire Valley. the court and the wealthy. Chenonceau and Chambord. produce an overall feeling of balance and controlled chaos. it can also be interpreted as adhering to an aesthetic of balanced contrasts.
but also purposely insisted on the inclusion of traditional elements. the apex of this supposed period of . Thomas Bohier tore down the former keep and mill. yet allowed the Marques Tower to stand. the implication being the châteaux of this period were a series of experimental attempts to understand and implement the principles of Classical architecture. The patrons of the Loire valley châteaux. later Francois I would build his additions to Blois as an extension on to those of his predecessor. At Chenonceau. essentially in the foreground. As symbolic nods to the power and force of the fortified châteaux of the feudal lords. to the extent even of retaining segments of former buildings within their new plans. where a sole remaining medieval corner tower stands guard over an utterly exposed three-sided open court. otherwise relatively classical plan. while interested in the use of Classicizing elements. of his new châteaux.Francois I’s wing. While no longer a necessity. Even at Chambord. Louis XII incorporated the 13th century Audience hall into his reconstruction of Blois. The label “era of transition” implies a shift from one clear point to another. the retention of fortified elements within the now largely leisure based domestic châteaux plans in the Loire Valley. Jean le Breton leveled the previous château. While by the mid sixteenth century. This contrast between the traditional and new roles of the château is almost playfully handled at Villandry. except for a single medieval square guard tower which he incorporated into his new. the assumption that the ultimate goal of these “transitional” patrons was to the achievement of a purer classical form is somewhat problematic. the inclusion of these elements not only serves to associate the new constructions (and their owners) with the authority and power of tradition. but also highlights the new. At Villandry. a far more standardized Classism does develop. demonstrates an appreciation of an aesthetic of contrasts. and usually of little actual defensive value. sophisticated nature and role of the Renaissance Château.
building onto the foundations of Charles VIII allowed Francois I to clearly associate himself within the continuity of the monarchy. At Villandry. remains largely evident in the period.“transition to All’Antica”. the medieval guard tower not only demonstrated the power and clout of the new owner. The Loire Valley Châteaux were statement pieces. they sought to associate themselves within the historical traditions of local authority and status. they were creating their own style built on contrasting elements that insisted on a balance between the old and the new. . the rigidly classical original plan of Domenico da Cartona was ultimately altered in favor of a more traditional look than designed. By actively incorporating elements of the past. despite the lure of classicizing rationalism. At Chenonceau. A conscious and active desire to incorporate the past and tradition. but also managed to highlight the new leisurely. non-defensive nature of the chateau. wealth and power of the patrons. status. while asserting himself as an innovator by ensuring that his additions were slightly closer to Classical precepts than his predecessor. They were not blindly experimenting in hopes that they would at some point finally understand the principles of Antiquity. At Blois. represented by its’ open courtyard. keeping the Marques Tower allowed Thomas Bohier to visual define his dominance over his predecessors. Rather. intended to proclaim the aspirations.