Bernini, "Fourth Project for the Louvre, East Elevation," 1665

Fig. 11. Jean Marot after Bernini, “Fourth Project for the Louvre, East Elevation,” 1665, Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, (source– “Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Third Design for the East Facade of the Louvre” by Michael Hall)

Projects for the Louvre: Fourth Project

Isabel Smith

Bernini began his fourth project for the Louvre on June 7, 1665 (fig. 11). Similar to the third project, this final project has a flat façade with three portals on the central pavilion. The rotunda is still present, though it is only visible from the interior side of the east wing (fig. 12). The facades of each the wings are divided into three bays by monumental Corinthian pilasters. The central pavilion of this project features engaged monumental columns, also in the Corinthian order, which are reminiscent of ancient temples. What is most interesting about this plan is the rustication that Bernini designed for the ground floor.

When Bernini presented the King with this plan on June 20, 1665 he provided two options for the ground story.[1] The first option featured a common rustication, the second option proposed a more natural rock-like formation.[2] Louis chose the second option, although it was more expensive. This type of rustication would require more sculptural skill than that of the average stonemason. Bernini had already used this rustication technique with the façade of the Palazzo di Montecitorio (fig. 13).

Bernini, "Palazzo Montecitorio," ca. 1650, Rome, Italy, (source-- Ralph Lieberman Archive, Harvard University)

Fig. 13. Bernini, “Palazzo Montecitorio,” ca. 1650, Rome, Italy, (source– Ralph Lieberman Archive, Harvard University)

The façade of the Palazzo di Montecitorio features the rock-like rustication on the bases of the monumental pilasters and on the window ledges of the ground floor. Bernini employs this rock-like rustication in a way that gives the illusion that the pilasters and window ledges are in the process of being carved out of stone. This plan, with the formerly visible rotunda now hidden and the absence of the curved façade was closer to the controlled classical style that Colbert ultimately chose for the east façade of the Louvre.  The removal of these distinctly Roman Baroque paired with the rock-like rustication creates an east façade in the classical order that seems to be carved from stone and commands the viewer’s attention.

Bernini, "Fourth Project for the Louvre, East Elevation, Cour Carrée view," 1665

Fig. 12.  Jean Marot after Bernini, “Fourth Project for the Louvre, East Elevation, interior facade,” 1665, Conway Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, (source– “Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Third Design for the East Facade of the Louvre” by Michael Hall)

 

 

Colbert accepted this design and in October of 1665, and shortly before Bernini would return to Rome the foundations for Bernini’s Louvre were laid.[3] However, in the Spring of 1667 construction for the Louvre stopped. Colbert claimed the situation was temporary and construction would resume. In April 1667 Bernini sent an alternative plan to France via Mattia de Rossi, but Colbert

dismissed it. Construction never resumed and Colbert instead formed a panel, consisting of Architect Louis Le Vau, Physician Claude Perrault, and Painter Charles Lebrun to submit an alternative plan.[4] The King quickly picked one and three years later the colonnade for the east façade of the Louvre was complete (fig. 15). The colonnade of the east façade of the Louvre as it stands today is considered the first example of the Louis XIV style.[5]

Louis Le Vau, Charles Perrault, and Charles Lebrun, "East Facade of the Louvre," 1670, Paris, Louvre (source--University of California, San Diego)

Fig. 15. Louis Le Vau, Claude Perrault, and Charles Lebrun, “East Facade of the Louvre,” 1670, Paris, Louvre (source–University of California, San Diego)

Colbert and Louis’s decision to stop construction on Bernini’s Louvre after over a year of work made little sense.  In a letter dated July 15, 1667 to Bernini, Colbert claims that construction would take much too long, especially during a time of war.

The King has expressed great regret at being unable to put into execution the beautiful design which you have him for his palace of the Louvre. But His Majesty, realizing that it would be so difficult to embark on so considerable a project in the present state of war both by land and sea, whose duration, being uncertain, might necessitate suspension, and at the same time being under the necessity of being lodged, has seen fit to continue the building according to the plan started by his forebears, and this could be finished in the course of two or three years. His Majesty reserves the possibility of carrying with its grandeur and magnificence. He has therefore not abandoned hope that you may appreciate the situation and even participate in it by giving him once again the pleasure of seeing you at work with such conspicuous success.[6]

There was also an issue of cost, the rustication that Bernini designed for the ground floor was extremely expensive and Bernini insisted that he bring three craftsmen from Rome to Paris because the French Masons were “‘unwilling to go to the trouble of undertaking something new or to depart from their established practice’” and that “‘ there are certain experiments to be done which [he] [could not] undertake [himself], things of so lowly a nature as to be done outside [his] competence.’”[7]

Fig. 14. Bernini, " Fourth Project for the Louvre, Plan for the Ground Floor," 1665, (source--

Fig. 14. Bernini, ” Fourth Project for the Louvre, Plan for the Ground Floor,” 1665, Grand Marot(source–Art and Architecture in France by Anthony Blunt)

The floor plan did not have the long gallery that was so important in displaying wealth and distributing natural light throughout the palace (fig.14 ). There were now two courtyards within the façade itself, providing more opportunity for natural light, but making the construction of a long gallery impossible. The final east façade of the Louvre is somewhat similar to Bernini’s fourth plan although in a much more strict classical style. For example, the three Frenchmen added a colonnade and a pediment to the entrance to reinforce the reference to an ancient temple.

Louis Le Vau, " Château de Versailles, Garden Façade," 1668-1665, Versailles France, (source-- Réunion des Musées Nationaux)

Fig. 16.  Louis Le Vau, ” Château de Versailles, Garden Façade,” 1668-1675, Versailles France, (source– Réunion des Musées Nationaux)

In truth Bernini’s final plan for the Louvre was not abandoned. As Colbert stated in his letter, “‘His Majesty reserves the possibility of carrying with its grandeur and magnificence,'” although Bernini’s name was never involved with any future plans his design was.  The Palace of Versailles, which Louis began to altar to his specifications shortly after construction stopped on the Louvre, features a garden façade that is similar to Bernini’s last design (fig. 16). The garden façade of Versailles is three levels with a flat roofline. The roof is decorated with sculptures and the façade alternate s between flat and raised sections. The façade lacks the classical temple entrance that was included in Le Vau, Perrault, and Lebrun’s Louvre. This façade, which was undeniably influenced by Bernini’s fourth design for the Louvre indicates that Bernini’s plan did not fail because of differing tastes. Louis clearly wanted to use Bernini’s façade, but not for the Louvre, a palace that he had no desire to live in and not with Bernini as the architect. Bernini’s plans for the Louvre met the French Academy’s standards for art. Bernini’s fourth plan appealed to the mind rather than to the emotions as his first plan did and he followed the rules of a classical order, but Bernini, while a great master was not a French great master.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Irving Lavin, “Bernini’s Image of the Sun King,” in Past-Present: Essays on Historicism in Art from Donatello to Picasso, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 147.

[2] Lavin, 147

[3] T. A. Marder, Bernini and the Art of Architecture, (New York: Abbeville Press, 1998), 272.

[4]Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 220.

[5] Blunt, 220.

[6] Cecil Gould, Bernini in France: An Episode in Seventeenth-Century History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 117.

[7] Gould, 70.