Jules Hardouin Mansart, architect to Louis XIV

Jules Hardouin Mansart, architect to Louis XIV

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Jules Hardouin-Mansart was a 17th century French architect whose work marks the peak of the Louis XIV style. Its name evokes the "Mansards" of our roofs, even if it is not directly Hardouin-Mansart which is at the origin. We owe, among other things, to this "great patron of the architecture of the Sun King" the completion of the Palace of Versailles, its Hall of Mirrors and the Grand Trianon. It is also the source of administrative buildings such as the facade of the Hôtel de Ville de Lyon, castles such as Dampierre, religious buildings such as the Saint Roch Church in Paris ...

Did you say attics?

Jules Hardouin was born in April 1646 in Paris. His family of painters and sculptors, originally from Beauvais, settled in the capital during the time of Henri IV. Thanks to his mother, who is the niece of François Mansart (1598-1666), architect under Louis XIII, Jules, the seventh child, learned painting, then was taken in by this great uncle who instilled in him the profession of architect. Having as master Liberal Bruant, he took part in various projects, such as the Hôtel de Condé in Paris and the Hôtel de Vendôme, on which he was presented to Louis XIV. On the death of this uncle, he appends his name to his… and is then called Jules Hardouin-Mansart! The inventor of the attic? No !

The term "attic" dates from the 16th century. As Paris was constantly expanding, with more and more people wanting to find accommodation, Pierre Lescot (1515-1578), architect of the Louvre, had the idea of ​​using the attics of houses to install living rooms. François Mansart, Jules's uncle, therefore used this process very regularly in his plans; quickly the workers made a common name of it "the attics". His name goes down to posterity and cannot be forgotten.

Jules Hardouin-Mansart became involved in the world of Parisian printmaking after his marriage in February 1668 to the daughter of an officer of the provost of the Hôtel de Paris. Having retained the former clients of François Mansart, he began to be recognized by the great lords who entrusted him with the building of private mansions in the new town of Versailles (Créqui, Chaulnes, etc.).

The first achievements of Harduin Mansart

Inspired by Le Vau, he produced the plans for the Hôtel de Ville d'Arles during a trip to Languedoc in 1673, work which was completed in 1676. Being noticed by Colbert, the king entrusted him with his first mission in 1675: to renovate the Château du Val in the forest of Saint Germain. Louis XIV is looking for a place of residence close to Paris. Hardouin-Mansart thus transforms "the simple house of the Val" into a small castle with a large terrace where the king could walk while finding rest and tranquility. This is a small test for the architect who accomplished his mission brilliantly until 1677. At the same time, he worked on the Château de Clagny for the royal mistress Madame de Montespan. So in December 1675 he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Architecture.

His rise was very rapid: Louvois entrusted him with the Royal Church of Invalides in 1676 and its famous dome, one hundred and one meters high, at the same time as the Church of the Soldiers, nicknamed the Church of Saint Louis des Invalides. The following year, he supplants François d´Orbay in Versailles and will take care of this vast project until his death. Louis XIV put him in charge of Marly in 1679, then of the castle of Saint Germain en Laye in 1680, Hardouin-Mansart nevertheless remained present on other Parisian sites such as the hotels of Pomponne, the châteaux of Presles and Montmirail.

He obtained the title of Prime Architect of the king in 1681, a title that has not been worn since 1670 on the death of Le Vau; he then entered the order of chivalry of Mont-Carmel and Saint Lazare even if he was not quite right, not being a noble ... Louis XIV took charge immediately. Ennobled, he takes as a symbol a column surmounted by a sun, framed by 2 eagles.

Protected by Louvois, he moved to the Marais, a house in the rue des Tournelles, which he had transformed into a private mansion and decorated by the artists of the Buildings of the King. Became Inspector General of Buildings in 1685 and to compensate for all the ongoing projects, he set up a “designer office” where he initiated a large number of decorators. From this desk came a multitude of sketches, plans and drawings preserved today in the Stockholm National Library, documents important for understanding the process of raising these buildings.

Always very busy, he designed the places of Vendôme in 1677 and that of the Victories in 1686, looks at the house of Saint Cyr for Mme de Maintenon in 1686 and participates with Coysevox in the realization of the large equestrian statue of the king which will finally be settled in Rennes, while leaving its mark in many châteaux such as Dampierre for Colbert's son-in-law in 1682, the chapel of the château of Chambord in 1684, Chantilly for the Condés, the orangery of Sceaux in 1686.

Hardouin-Mansart: the architect-builder

In 1688, Louis XIV urges him to transform Trianon. Much appreciated by the king, he was promoted knight of Saint Michael in 1693, then Superintendent of Buildings in 1699: a position that no architect had achieved since Philibert Delorme in the 16th century. Succeeding in buying a property in Bourbonnais, he became Count of Sagonne in 1699, but continued to work on the reconstruction of the Hôtel de Ville de Lyon in 1701, then at the Saint Roch Church in Paris. Faced with ever-increasing demands, he reformed the Royal Academy of Architecture by creating a second class, while protecting the Academy of Painting and Sculpture.

Almost adored, he will have portraits, busts made one by his friend Coysevox and the other by Lean Louis Lemoyne in 1703. These two men will prove to be rivals on this occasion. Lemoyne seeks to prove and show Mansart's success: the architect wears the cross of the order of Saint Michael, he wears a very voluminous wig and is dressed in a magnificent lace frill under a large coat. It looks more like the portraits of the king made by Coysevox. Illustrious man, in 1702 a bronze medal was made in his effigy and his bust will be exhibited at the museum "to all the glories of France" by Louis-Philippe.

He died suddenly in 1708 in Marly, was buried in Saint Paul, leaving an immense fortune of a million and a half books, including a large collection of paintings and sculptures, but few library books. Coysevox made him a funeral monument in 1712.

The biggest projects

Jules Hardouin-Mansart will spend most of his life as an architect in Meudon and Versailles. Under Louvois and under the Grand Dauphin, it played a fundamental role for the new castle of Meudon between 1698 and 1704 and the transformations will occupy it for twenty eight years!

At Versailles, he spent thirty-two years of his career listening to, transforming and modifying buildings, gardens, groves, never tiring, always with the same energy and the support of the King. His entry, he made it through the gate of the gardens and the grove of Renown in 1676. In 1678, he was entrusted with the Hall of Mirrors (designed to exhibit masterpieces from the royal collection, only antique sculptures or assimilated), where his art, combined with that of the painter Le Brun, will make him an incomparable masterpiece.

It was at this time that he supplanted François d´Orbay the successor of Le Vau by intervening on the Ambassadors' Staircase, the Venus room, the Offices of the King and the Queen on either side of the royal court. He redesigned the access to the castle, the wings of the Ministers in 1679-1680, as well as the gate of the Place d'Armes and the royal gate, the Grande and the Petite Ecuries between 1679 and 1683 in a horseshoe shape, part of the facades is only in freestone, then he designed the South Wing in 1678 while the North Wing was not until 1685.

The Queen's Staircase was recreated, then the Salon de l'Abondance and the Cabinet des Médailles, without forgetting the Cabinet du Billiards and the Cabinet des Coquilles. Responsible for Buildings, he began the Grand Commun between 1682 and 1686, followed by the Hôtel de la Surintendance des Bâtiments du Roi between 1688 and 1692.

Outside, he devoted himself to the Orangery between 1681 and 1687 and its grand staircases, the building of the King's Vegetable Garden, the new Parterre d'Eau, the grove of the Colonnade between 1684 and 1686 as well as the modification from the Latona basin. The transformation of the Anti Room of the Ox's Eye was carried out in 1701, as well as the last king's room installed in the center of the castle. During his last years, he looked after the Royal Chapel from 1698 and the Church of Notre Dame de Versailles.

A very tall man

Considered to be one of the greatest French but also European architects (the canton of Vaud in Switzerland and in Turin Victor Amédée II of Savoy claim it), treated as "courtier artist, architect with incapable and worldly wig" by Saint Simon, Hardouin-Mansart was perhaps a courtier, but fulfilled all the roles until obtaining the Directorate of Buildings (since superintendent).

Embodying French classicism, it is the basis of a hundred monuments entrusted to it by the Church as well as the Great, the Princes or the King. Helped in this by his "family" who will be present in the design of buildings until the end of the reign of Louis XV, he was the favorite of the Sun King, the man on whom Louis XIV passionate about art and architecture was able to rest, a man of great talent and unfailing energy.


- Jules Hardouin-Mansart - The infinite site. collective work. Passages, 2020.

- Jules Hardouin-Mansart by Alexandre Gady - Professor of Modern Art History, University of Nantes. 2010.

Video: Lévolution du château de Versailles entre 1624 et 1798.


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