Jacques-Germain Soufflot


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French Neo-Classical architect. He studied in Rome (1731–8) before settling in Lyons where he built the Hôtel-Dieu (1739–48), the Loge du Change (1747–50), and the Théâtre (1751–6—destroyed 1826) which made his reputation. The last, with its relationship between stage and auditorium, was an important paradigm for later developments. He was a respected theorist too, and after a further nine-month visit to Italy (1750–1), he was able to demonstrate his knowledge of Classical antiquities, notably with his up-to-date reports on the latest archaeological discoveries at Herculaneum and elsewhere. This important Italian study-visit, which he undertook as part of the entourage of Abel-François Poisson de Vandières (1727–81), later Marquis de Marigny, and brother of Madame de Pompadour (1721–64), was highly significant in the history of French architecture, for it marked a change away from the Rococo of Louis Quinze to the Neo-Classicism of Louis Seize (apart from investigating Pompeii and Herculaneum, Soufflot was one of the first to continue his journey south to Paestum, where he made drawings of the Greek Doric temples from which Dumont made engravings published as Suite de plans de trois temples antiques à Paestum (1764) ). Marigny (Directeur-Général des Bâtiments du Roi from 1751 to 1773) called Soufflot to Paris in 1755, where he was made Contrôleur des Bâtiments du Roi au Département de Paris, and given the task of designing the new Church of Ste-Geneviève, the first great building of French Neo-Classicism. A Greek cross on plan, the nave and aisles were defined by rows of Corinthian columns carrying a continuous entablature over which light domes and vaults rose. Soufflot's pupil, Maximilien Brébion (1716–96—who carried out Soufflot's designs for the drum and dome over the crossing from 1780), wrote that in building the church Soufflot had reunited, under one of the most beautiful forms, the lightness of construction found in Gothic churches with the purity and magnificence of Greek architecture. With its great Roman temple-front, elegant columned drum and dome over the crossing, and rational geometry it made a great impact, and was much admired by Laugier as a seminal example of perfection in architecture. The gravitas of the Antique was eloquently expressed, especially in the severe crypt, where the impact of the Greek Doric Order from Paestum is clear. The Church was secularized in 1791, and altered under Quatremère de Quincy to become the Panthéon, with the character of a mausoleum(e.g. the lower windows were blocked up, so that the outer walls were blank—Summerson saw this as a strengthening of the building because the ‘factor of safety proved too low’, which is a misinterpretation). Soufflot also designed de Marigny's own house in the Faubourg du Roule (from 1769), and various fabriques (including a fine nymphaeum) at the Château de Ménars (from 1764), in a dessicated Neo-Classical style. He also designed the sacristy at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris (1756–60).

Bergdoll et al. (1989);Builder (1980);Etlin (1984);Gallet et al. (1980);Kalnein (1995);Middleton & Watkin (1987);Placzek (ed.) (1982);Petzet (1961);Rondelet (1852);Rykwert (1980);Jane Turner (1996);Ternois & Pérez (eds.) (1982);D. Watkin (1986)


Subjects: Architecture.

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