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François Mansart

(1598—1666) French architect

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Leading French Classical architect. Establishing his own practice by 1624, he evolved a style influenced by de Brosse and du Cerceau. One of his most important works was the Church of the Val-de-Grâce, Paris (from 1645), completed by Lemercier and others when building had reached the nave entablature: the original design was probably a derivation of Palladio's Il Redentore, Venice. One of his earliest works was the Château de Balleroy, near Bayeux, Calvados (c.1626), with single-storey pavilion-wings set in front of a massive central block, the whole composed with assurance. With the Orléans wing, Château de Blois (1635–8), Mansart reached a mature architectural style derived from de Brosse but distinguished by purity of detail giving the building an unfussy Classical dignity. Later elevations were modelled more elaborately, as in his Château de Maisons, near Paris (1642–51), a serene, very French composition, with elliptical rooms set in the projecting wings. Elevations are treated as a regular grid with planes defined by pilasters, unengaged columns, entablatures, and architraves. The centrepiece has three superimposed Orders.

He also designed Ste-Marie-de-la-Visitation, Paris (1632–4), a circular domed church surrounded by small chapels, and prepared designs for a huge domed mausoleum for the Bourbons at St-Denis (1665), complete with chapels set around the main circular space, but this was not realized. However, the design demonstrates that Mansart was an architect of genius: it influenced J. Hardouin-Mansart's dome of the Invalides. Ingenuity and assured geometries were also demonstrated in Mansart's Parisian hôtels, although most of his work has been destroyed. However, his remodelling of the Hôtel Carnavalet (1660–1) survives in part: there he placed rooms all round the court, eliminating the usual wall with gate on the street-frontage. His ambitious schemes for the Louvre (1660s) survive only on paper.

Babelon & Mignot (eds.) (1988);Blunt (1941, 1982);B&Smith (1973);Hautecœur (1948);Placzek (ed.) (1982);Jane Turner (1996)

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