Hardouin-Mansart was the architectural genius behind the most spectacular constructions under Louis XIV. His first known work for the king was Château du Val in the forest of Saint-Germain in 1674.
His works in Versailles included the Hall of Mirrors, the North and South Wings, the Great and Small Stables, the Orangery, the Grand Commun, the Royal Chapel, the Grove of the Domes, the Colonnade Grove, the Grand Trianon, the Notre-Dame church and the Recollects Convent.
Hardouin was the great-nephew of the famous architect François Mansart (1599-1666), from whom he learnt architecture and whose famous surname he added to his own to enhance his reputation. Eminently ambitious, the architect was considered a “skilled courtier” of his time and quickly rose to high-ranking positions, thanks to the support of the king’s mistress Madame de Montespan, and then of Louvois, the War Minister.
For Madame de Montespan, Hardouin-Mansart built in Versailles in 1675 the famous Château de Clagny, which no longer exists. In 1676 Louvois commissioned him with the church of Saint-Louis des Invalides, at the top of which he built the famous dome, another of the architect’s masterpieces. Other constructions by him include the pavilions and gardens at Marly; the Maison d’Education in Saint-Cyr for Madame de Maintenon; Château Neuf de Meudon for the Grand Dauphin; Place des Victoires and Place Vendôme in Paris; the City Hall of Arles, and the Palais des États in Dijon. Made First Architect to the King in 1681, he became Intendant in 1685 and then Inspector General of Buildings in 1691, before being made Superintendant of Buildings in 1699, or a sort of “Minister of the Arts” to Louis XIV. The king was so pleased with his skills that he bestowed a title on him in 1682 and made him a knight of Saint-Michel in 1693 – a distinction conferred notably upon artists. In 1699, after acquiring the commune of Sagonne, near Bourges in the Cher department, he became Count of Sagonne.
The greatest decorators (Jean Bérain, Pierre Le Pautre) and architects (Robert de Cotte, Jacques V Gabriel, Germain Boffrand, Jean Aubert, Jean Courtonne and Pierre Cailleteaux, also called Lassurance) of the 17th and 18th centuries trained in his architectural studio. Hardouin-Mansart is considered one of the greatest architects of France and Europe alongside Michelangelo and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.