Boffrand, Germain

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Boffrand, Germain (1667-1754): French Architect.

The architectural style of Germain Boffrand, the greatest French architect of the first half of the eighteenth-century, illustrates his debt to his predecessors, Louis Le Vau and François Mansart. Boffrand was born in Nantes in 1667, the son of a minor sculptor and architect. Introduced to the French court by his uncle, the poet Philippe Quinault, he was apprenticed to Jules Hardouin Mansart. From 1700-1720, Boffrand’s career flourished. In 1700, he built the Hôtel LeBrun in Paris, the first of several Paris townhouses which he designed for members of the court. In 1702, he took over Mansart’s duties at the princely court at Nancy and was responsible for the design and construction of major projects such as the Palais Ducal (1715-1722). As first architect to the Duke of Lorraine from 1711, he introduced classical architecture into Lorraine, using Versailles as the model for the Château of Lunéville (1719).

Following a disastrous business speculation and the loss of the patronage of the duke of Lorraine, after 1720 Boffrand’s activity shifted from private commissions towards administering and directing work on public institutions: the Ponts-et-Chaussées (1723), the General Hospital (1724), restorations in Notre Dame. He continued to undertake these public commissions until his death in 1754. Heavily influenced by Palladio, Boffrand’s classicism was a precursor of the neoclassicism of the following generation. His style, however, particularly in his later years, includes baroque and rococo elements. His mastery of the rococo style is most visible in the famous interior decoration of the Hôtel de Soubise in Paris (1732-1739).

Further reading:

M. Gallet & J. Garms, eds., Germain Boffrand 1667-1754: L’aventure d’un architecte indépendant, 1986

Janet Bertsch

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