Tag Archives: French architecture

La Renaissance en France

The last volume in our special collection focus series on French architecture, Camille Martin’s La Renaissance en France: L’architecture et la Decoration, is a two-volume collection that documents renaissance architecture in France. Its 100 plates consist of large- and small-format black-and-white photographs of exterior and interior architecture and architectural details of building types including both the religious and residential. Each plate is examined in detail at the beginning of the first volume, providing information about its subject’s specific history and design, and, in some cases, additional visual references such as plans or façade or detail renderings. The high-quality images and complementary encyclopedic text make La Renaissance en France the perfect launchpad for monographic inquiries.

Library of Congress call number: NA 405 M3

Antiquites Monumantales

Caumont, Arcisse de. Cours d’Antiquités Monumentales Professé à Caen, en 1830: Histoire de l’Art dans l’Ouest de la France, depuis les Temps les Plus Reculés jusqû au XVIIE Siècle. 6 vols. Paris: Lange, 1830-1841.

In 1831, French historian and archaeologist Arcisse de Caumont began publishing Cours d’Antiquités Monumentales, a six part examination of the evolution of French civil, religious and military architecture from the Gallo-Roman period through the renaissance. Over the course of this considerable tome, de Caumont categorizes major French monuments, organizing each part chronologically. This work represents an early attempt at examining architecture along the temporal register, and, while de Caumont’s efforts is largely archaeological in nature, a significant contribution to the historiography of French architecture.

In general, these works are difficult to navigate. Though each part opens with a detailed listing of content contained within each chapter, they lack any sort of true table of contents or indices. This is further complicated by the occasional inclusion of images of certain architectural details and charts. These materials illuminate issues that are discussed each part but are difficult to triangulate within the text or to locate out of sequence. On the whole, Caumont’s Cours represent an important effort, but do not accord with traditional standards for legibility and use.


Library of Congress call number: NA 1041 C3 V. 1-3, NA 1041 C3 V. 4-5

Franzosische Architektur-und Stadtebau-Ausstellung

Perret, August, José Imbert, Le Corbusier, and André Lurçat. Französische Architektur- und Stadetbau-Ausstellung, 1948/1949. Greiser: Rastatt, 1948

In 1948 and 1949, the French Bureau de l’Expansion Artistique Commandement en Chef Francais en Allemagne sponsored a traveling exhibition of French architecture in Germany. Produced through the participation of “Technique et Architecture” editor-in-chief André Bouxin, the complementary Französische Architektur- und Stadetbau-Ausstellung, 1948/1949 documents the full scope of the exhibition which examined French architecture from the medieval period forward focusing specifically on contemporary design and construction practices. The catalog includes a number of photographs of buildings, construction details, models and plans as well as essay contributions from well known architects including Le Corbusier and August Perret who celebrate the architectural practice and discuss the responsibilities of the profession in the contemporary era.


Library of Congress call number: NA 1041 G476 P477

Fragments d’Architecture

d’Espouy, Hector. Fragments d’Architecture du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance d’Après les Relevés and Restaurations des Anciens Pensionnaires de l’Académie de France à Rome. 2 vols. Paris: C. Schmid, 1897-c. 1925.

Collection: Cret

The French-language Fragments d’Architecture du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance utilizes work produced by novitiate architects studying at the French Academy in Rome to generate an historically fractured vision of the Italian peninsula during the Byzantine, medieval and renaissance periods. Developed under the direction of Hector d’Espouy, winner of the very first Prix de Rome, this volume follows his 1905 publication, Fragments d’Architecture Antique, and includes 180 plates that encompass almost a thousand years of architectural history.

Because students at the Academy generated intricately detailed drawings and plans of Italian monuments as part of their course of study, their work functions to document not only the monuments themselves, but also approaches to contemporary design pedagogy. In perusing these works, one will notice a considerable degree of consistency from plate to plate suggesting a very rigid and systematic drafting instruction.

This consistency is present in the watercolors as well.

As an historical document, the Fragment defy traditional readability. Ecclesiastical and secular buildings are included and organized neither geographically nor chronologically. Typology, style, technique and architectural element are similarly disregarded as organizing factors such that we find tomb and arcade studies intermingled with those rendering façades, campaniles, muqarnas, and mosaics. Nevertheless, these tomes function historically, canonizing certain Italian monuments while providing insight into the curriculum established to train architects.

Library of Congress call number: NA 1111 E7 1925 V.1, V.2

Le Nouvel Opera de Paris

Garnier, Charles. Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris. Paris: Ducher, 1880.

Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris is a two-volume monograph containing over 100 plates documenting Charles Garnier’s plan and design for the beaux-arts opera house. Assembled by the architect, Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris celebrates the building’s intricate orchestration coalescing technical drawings including plans, sections and details along with black-and-white and color renderings to present a comprehensive dossier. Though the façade and interior rooms receive the most comprehensive treatment, certain more rudimentary elements are also highlighted including windows, staircases, and even house seating.

On the whole, these materials construct a macrocosmic image of the theater. Nevertheless, they appear complete with those finer articulations that render the structure in situ so arresting. This is especially true upon examination of the color plates where saturated contrast distinguishes individual building components from the whole.

Library of Congress call number: NA 6840 F72 P382

The Petit Trianon Versailles

Arnott, James A. and John Wilson. The Petit Trianon, Versailles: Illustrated by a Series of Measured Drawings and Photographs of the Entire Building, Exterior and Interior; Including a Large Selection of the Furniture, and Various Details of Iron Work and Brass Work, Together with a Historical Account of the Palace, and Descriptive Letterpress. New York: C. Scribner, 1908.

Last summer, the Architecture and Planning Library celebrated its special collection by highlighting a number of books concerning French renaissance architecture. The project ultimately included volumes expanding beyond the scope of the renaissance and even of the expressly architectural, examining materials from the Merovingian period onward, certain items of which were concerned with ceremonial dress, religion, and the nature of architectural scholarship. This summer, we will continue featuring these works, employing a similarly broad perspective as evidenced in this, our first installment, which looks at Wilson and Arnott’s Petit Trianon, a style manual meant to instruct the architect in the intricacies of the burgeoning neoclassic.

Organized from exterior to interior, its 97 plates provide a general overview of the building and document in precise detail specific building elements such as stairwells, railings and panels as well as furniture designs. Though light on text, the early pages of the book provide a sympathetic analysis of life in the Petit Trianon during the reign of Louis XVI, humanizing the infamous Marie Antoinette in palpably anti-revolutionary prose. Subsequent pages provide a detailed overview of each plate or sets of plates organized by object represented. The Petit Trianon combines beautifully rendered plans and details with photographs, succinct descriptions and just the right amount of socially conservative commentary to provide an excellent reference for the architect, historian or culture connoisseur.

Library of Congress call numbers: NA 7736 V7 A8

Memento Pratique d’Archeologie Francaise

Flipo, Vincent. Mémento Pratique d’Archéologie Française: Illustré de 700 Gravures dans le Texte et de 18 Hors-texte, Tirés en Héliogravure. Paris: Firmin-Didot, c. 1930.

Collection: Cret

In the spirit of turn-of-the century positivism, Vincent Flipo’s French-language Mémento Pratique d’Archéologie Française represents an effort to reduce the architectural to taxonomic components. Flipo organizes his study rather conventionally, beginning with a chapter on materiality, but quickly moves on to a chronology of building type. This allows Flipo to establish the basic building blocks that organize medieval architecture, focusing large sections of text on each component. As he progresses, Flipo charts the evolution of earlier models, documenting them textually and with renderings of architectural components, plans and sections, and black and white photography occasionally overlaid with plan data. Flipo focuses his study on religious architecture evolution of building typologies and iconography as the Gothic becomes increasingly attenuated and ogival.

Library of Congress call number: NA 1041 F5

The Renaissance under the Valois

Mathews, Charles Thompson. The Renaissance under the Valois: A Sketch in French Architectural History. New York: W.T. Comstock, 1893.

Mathews’ English-language The Renaissance under the Valois documents in 41, high-quality historic photographs of some of France’s most celebrated architecture. Short chapters complement series of images, each organized chronologically to support Mathews’ central thesis–namely, that the French Renaissance was an evolutionary style emerging out of a marriage between the Gothic picturesque and Italian Renaissance practices filtered through a specifically French perception of the architectural ideal. These chapters are well organized and include marginalia to guide reading and quick reference. Clearly a product of the post-Napoleonic imperial era, the book takes on a resoundingly nationalist tone collapsing zeitgeist with historiography to create a document that not only reproduces in elegant visual detail the relationship between designed space and temporality, but also that which arises between the academic undertaking and its specific moment of execution.

Library of Congress call number: NA 533 M4

French Architecture and its Relation to Modern Practice

Blomfield, Reginald. French Architecture and its Relation to Modern Practice. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927.

Nostalgia defines this the third title in our French architecture series from the pen of Sir Reginal Blomfield. An English gentlemen, architect and scholar, Blomfield extends his considerable experience beyond the bounds of academic contribution and into the realm of criticism to celebrate purity and order in architectural design. His romanticized yearnings locate a peak in French Architectural achievement, one that slowly erodes “in the shallows and quicksands of Viollet le Duc’s medieval travesties.” This 21-page manifesto includes other such vitriolic gems extolling, by nation, the undesirable idiosyncrasies of modernist experimentation happening throughout the continent. At times, Blomfield betrays a chauvinism born not out of a natural proclivity toward racial superiority but rather emerging out of his own quintessential Englishness, a celebration of the exquisiteness of his own citizenship. And in his nationalist reverence for the past and even pastness, he recalls the Scholar Gypsy, who witnesses “this strange disease of modern life” as it “Still nurs[es] the unconquerable hope, Still clutch[es] the inviolable shade.”

Library of Congress call number: NA 1041 B5



Terrasse, Charles. Fountainebleau. Paris: Draeger et Verve, 1951.

Charles Terrasse’s Fountainebleau monograph celebrates this site of hunting and retreat, documenting its interior architecture, paintings and sculptures while chronicling its quotidian functions. Often ethereal black and white photographs as well as a few color images complement Terrasse’s prose, resulting in a truly romantic portrayal of the chateau’s exquisite interiors and collection of centuries of painted and sculpted masterpieces. Though devoid of any plans, Fountainebleau‘s assembly of visual material animates the day-to-day of royal life and all of its accompanying courtly duties within the spaces of this renaissance chateau.


And the pièce de résistance.

Library of Congress call number: DC 801 F67 T4