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HistoryVersailles through the centuries

Jules Hardouin-Mansart

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Chief Architect and Superintendent of the King’s Buildings (1646-1708)

Hardouin-Mansart, the favourite architect of Louis XIV, designed some of the most celebrated architectural achievements of the reign. He embodied French classicism of the end of the 17th century. He initiated at Trianon the style of fine wood panelling with rocaille decorative themes of the 18th century.

The name of Hardouin-Mansart, an architectural genius, is attached to the most grandiose achievements of the reign of Louis XIV. The first building he produced for the king was the Château du Val in the forest of Saint-Germain in 1674. At Versailles, he designed the Hall of Mirrors, the North and South wings, the Grand and Small Stables, the Orangerie, the Grand Commun building, the royal chapel, the Domes and Colonnade groves, the Grand Trianon, the church of Notre-Dame and the convent of the Récollets, etc.

For Mme de Montespan, Hardouin-Mansart built in Versailles in 1675 the famous Château de Clagny (destroyed). In 1676, Louvois entrusted him with the church of Saint-Louis des Invalides which he completed with its famous dome, another masterpiece of the architect. He also designed pavilions and gardens in Marly; the house in Saint-Cyr for Mme de Maintenon; the new Château de Meudon for the Grand Dauphin; the places des Victoires and Vendôme in Paris; the town hall of Arles and the Palace of the States of Dijon in the provinces, etc.

An ambitious figure, known as a “clever courtier” in his time, he reached the highest posts very quickly thanks to the backing of Mme of Montespan, the king’s mistress, then that of Louvois, the War Minister. Chief architect to the king in 1681, he became Intendant and then Inspector General of Buildings in 1685 and 1691 and finally Superintendent of the King’s Buildings in 1699, i.e. Minister of Arts of Louis XIV. The king was so satisfied with his talents that he ennobled him in 1682 and made him a Chevalier of Saint-Michel – a distinction granted to artists – in 1693. He became comte de Sagonne in 1699 after his acquisition of this estate near Bourges (Cher).

Grandnephew of the celebrated architect François Mansart (1599-1666), he trained in architecture under him. To attract the king’s attention, he added the prestigious name of “Mansart” to his own. His architectural office trained some of the greatest interior designers (Jean Bérain, Pierre Le Pautre) and architects (Robert de Cotte, Jacques V Gabriel, Germain Boffrand, Jean Aubert, Jean Courtonne, Pierre Cailleteaux dit Lassurance) of the 17th-18th centuries. Alongside Michelangelo and Bernini, Hardouin-Mansart is regarded as one of the greatest French and European architects.

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