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François Mansard

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(Also spelled Mansart ).

French architect, born in Paris, probably of Italian stock, in 1598; died there, 1666. During at least the last thirty years of his life he exercised the greatest influence on the development of architecture. Among his contemporaries only Salomon de Brosse approached him in ability. Defects and oddities, so glaring as even to provoke published satires, for some time prevented him from obtaining commissions. He had so high a sense of true architecture that he hardly ever decided on a plan definitely at the outset, anticipating that improvements on the first conception would be sure to suggest themselves later on. Thus he lost the commission for building the Louvre, because nothing could induce him to submit detailed plans. Having built one wing of the château Maison-Lafitte (1642), he destroyed what had been built so as to rebuild it on what he thought a better plan, the ultimate result being the finest of all his non-ecclesiastical works. After beginning the finely planned abbey church of Val-de-Grâce (1645), his fastidious self-criticism made him leave the work, carried only as far as the ground plan, for others to finish. He is said, however, to have elsewhere executed what had been his design for this church. These two are regarded as his best works. To him are due, also, the design and construction of several châteaux -- Fresnes Berny, Bercy, and others. At Paris he built, wholly or in part, the Hôtels Carnavalet, de La Vrillière, Mazarin, de Conti, and others, and the façade of the Feuillants, Dames de Ste-Marie, and Minimes. His work is characterized rather by the essential beauty of construction than by the adventitious charm of ornamentation, which, indeed, he employed sparingly. His style was influenced by Salomon de Brosse, but he also strove to follow the older Italian masters.


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