Claude Nicolas Ledoux

Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (21 March 1736 – 18 November 1806) was one of the earliest exponents of French Neoclassical architecture. He used his knowledge of architectural theory to design not only domestic architecture but also town planning; as a consequence of his visionary plan for the Ideal City of Chaux, he became known as a utopian.[1] His greatest works were funded by the French monarchy and came to be perceived as symbols of the Ancien Régime rather than Utopia. The French Revolution hampered his career; much of his work was destroyed in the nineteenth century. In 1804, he published a collection of his designs under the title L’Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l’art, des mœurs et de la législation (Architecture considered in relation to art, morals, and legislation).[2] In this book he took the opportunity of revising his earlier designs, making them more rigorously neoclassical and up to date. This revision has distorted an accurate assessment of his role in the evolution of Neoclassical architecture.[3] His most ambitious work was the uncompleted Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, an idealistic and visionary town showing many examples of architecture parlante.[4] Conversely his works and commissions also included the more mundane and everyday architecture such as approximately sixty elaborate tollgates around Paris in the Wall of the General Tax Farm.

French Neoclassical architect
“Claude Ledoux” redirects here. For the Belgian composer, see Claude Ledoux (composer).
Claude-Nicolas Ledoux

Ledoux by Martin Drolling, 1790
Born (1736-03-21)21 March 1736

Dormans-sur-Marne, France
Died November 18, 1806(1806-11-18) (aged 70)

Paris, France
Occupation Architect
Project for the ideal city of Chaux: House of supervisors of the source of the Loue. Published in 1804.

. . . Claude Nicolas Ledoux . . .

Ledoux was born in 1736 in Dormans-sur-Marne, the son of a modest merchant from Champagne. At an early age his mother, Francoise Domino, and godmother, Francoise Piloy, encouraged him to develop his drawing skills. Later the Abbey of Sassenage funded his studies in Paris (1749–1753) at the Collège de Beauvais, where he followed a course in Classics. On leaving the Collège, age 17, he took employment as an engraver but four years later he began to study architecture under the tutelage of Jacques-François Blondel, for whom he maintained a lifelong respect.

He then trained under Pierre Contant d’Ivry, and also made the acquaintance of Jean-Michel Chevotet. These two eminent Parisian architects designed in both the restrained French Rococo manner, known as the “Louis XV style” and in the Goût grec (literally “Greek taste”) phase of early Neoclassicism. However, under the tutelage of Contant d’Ivry and Chevotet, Ledoux was also introduced to Classical architecture, in particular the temples of Paestum, which, along with the works of Palladio, were to influence him greatly.

The two master architects introduced Ledoux to their affluent clientele. One of Ledoux’s first patrons was the Baron Crozat de Thiers, an immensely wealthy connoisseur who commissioned him to remodel part of his palatial town house in the Place Vendôme. Another client obtained through the auspices of his teachers was Président Hocquart de Montfermeil [5] and his sister, Mme de Montesquiou.

Château de Mauperthuis, 1763 (demolished)

In 1762, the young Ledoux was commissioned to redecorate the Café Godeau, in the rue Saint-Honoré. The result was an interior of trompe-l’œil and mirrors. Pilasters painted on the walls were interspersed with alternating Pier glasses and panels painted with trophies of helmets and weaponry, all executed in bold detail. In 1969 this interior was moved to the Musée Carnavalet.

The following year the Marquis de Montesquiou-Fézensac commissioned Ledoux to redesign the old hilltop château on his estate at Mauperthuis. Ledoux rebuilt the château and created new gardens, replete with fountains supplied by an aqueduct. In addition in the gardens and park he built an orangery, a pheasantry and vast dépendances of which little remains today.

In 1764, he designed for Président Hocquart, a Palladian house on the Chaussée d’Antin using the colossal order. Ledoux would frequently employ this motif that was condemned by the strict French tradition, which embraced the principle of superimposing the classic column motifs on each floor, rising from simplest to the most complex: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, etc.

Hôtel d’Hallwyll, Paris, 1766. Elevation of the facade on the rue Michel-le-Comte.

On 26 July 1764, in the Saint-Eustache Church, Paris, Ledoux married Marie Bureau, the daughter of a court musician. A friend from Champagne, Joseph Marin Masson de Courcelles, found him a position as the architect for the Water and Forestry Department. Here between 1764 and 1770 he worked on the renovation and designs of churches, bridges, wells, fountains and schools.

Among the still extant works from this period are the bridge of Marac, the Prégibert bridge in Rolampont, the churches of Fouvent-le-Haut, Roche-et-Raucourt, Rolampont, the nave and portal of Cruzy-le-Châtel, and the quire of Saint-Etienne d’Auxerre.

In 1766 Ledoux began designing the Hôtel d’Hallwyll (Le Marais, Paris), a building that, according to the Dijon architect Jacques Cellerier, received widespread praise and attracted new patrons to the architect.[6] The owner Franz-Joseph d’Hallwyll (a Swiss colonel) and his wife, Marie-Thérèse Demidorge, were anxious to ensure work was executed economically. Therefore, Ledoux had to reuse portions of the existing buildings, the former Hôtel de Bouligneux. He had envisaged two colonnades in the Doric order leading to a nymphaeum decorated with urns at the foot of the garden. However, the limitations of the site made this impossible, so Ledoux resorted to trompe-l’œil painting a colonnade on the blind wall of the neighboring convent, thus extending the perspective.

The recognition given to the relatively modest Hôtel d’Hallwyll led in 1767 to a more prestigious commission, the Hôtel d’Uzès, on the rue Montmartre. There too, Ledoux preserved the structure of an earlier building. Today the panelling from the salon, an early example of the neoclassical style, largely carved by Joseph Métivier and Jean-Baptist Boiston to the designs of Ledoux, is preserved in the Carnavalet Museum, Paris.[7]

Pavilion of Mme du Barry, Louveciennes, 1770-1771

Ledoux designed the Château de Bénouville in Calvados (1768–1769) for the Marquis de Livry. With its simple, almost severe, facade of four stories, broken by a prostyleportico, the Château de Bénouville, while not one of Ledoux’s most inventive plans, is notable for the unusual placement of the main staircase at the center of the garden facade, a position normally taken by the main salon.[8]

Ledoux travelled to England in the years 1769-1771. There he became familiar with the Palladian style of architecture. Palladio, an influential Renaissance architect, was famous for his Italian villas (e.g., the Villa Rotunda). From this point Ledoux worked often in the Palladian style, usually employing a cubic design broken by a prostyle portico which gave an air of importance even to a small structure. In this genre, he built, in 1770, a house for Marie Madeleine Guimard in the Chaussée d’Antin; and following that commission the house of Mlle Saint-Germain, in the Rue Saint-Lazare, the house of Attilly in the suburb of Poissonnière, a house for the poet Jean François de Saint-Lambert in Eaubonne, and most notably the Music Pavilion constructed between 1770 and 1771 at the Château de Louveciennes for the King’s mistressMadame du Barry, whose patronage and influence were to be of use to Ledoux in later years.[9]

. . . Claude Nicolas Ledoux . . .

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. . . Claude Nicolas Ledoux . . .

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