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Adam, Robert, 1728-1792 / The works in architecture of Robert and James Adam = Les ouvrages d'architecture de Robert et Jaques Adam
Volume I (1900)

Preface [II. The Villa of Earl Mansfield at Kenwood],   pp. [1]-5

Page 2

The maffive entablature (B), the ponderous compart-
ment ceiling (C), the tabernacle frame, almoft the only
(2 cics
We cannot however allow ourfelves to clofe this note without doing jutiice to the memory
of a great man, whofe reputation as an architect, has been long carried down the flream by
a torrent of undifttinguifhing prejudice and abufe.
Sir John Vanburgh's genius was of the firit clafs ; and, in point of movement, novelty
and ingenuity, his works have not been exceeded by any thing in modern times. We
fhould certainly have quoted Blenheim and Caflle Howard as great examples of thefe
perfefdons, in preference to any work of our own, or of any other modern architec ; but
unluckily for the reputation of this excellent artifi, his tafte kept no pace with his genius,
and his works are fo crouded with barbarifms and abfurdities, and fo borne down by their
own prepoflerous weight, that none but the difcerning can feparate their merits from their
defers. In the hands of the ingenious artill, who knows how to polifh and refine and bring
them into ufe, we have always regarded his productions, as rough jewels of inellimable
(B) The m iffive entablature. It is well known to every one who has made architeciture,
in any degree, the objet of his attention, that the entablature conflitutes a principal part or
each order, and is itfelf formed of three great divilions, the architrave, freeze and cornice.
It is not here meant to find fault with the whole, or its component parts, but fo far only as
it has been abused by the mifapplication, ignorance, and want of invention in many modern
Nothing can be more noble and liriking, when properly applied, than a fine order of
columns, with their bafes, capitals, and entablatures: nothing more tierile and difguftful,
than to fee for ever the dull repetition of Dorick, Ionick, and Corinthian entablatures, in
their ufual proportions, reigning round every apartment, where no order can come or
ought to come ; and yet it is aftonifhing to think that this has been almoti invariably the
cafe in the apartments of every houfe in Europe, that has any pretenfions to magnificence,
from the days of Bramante down to our time. In fmaller rooms, where height is wanting,
the architrave has fonetimes been omitted, and fometimes both architrave and freeze, but
their places were ponderoutly fupplied by a cornice of molt ample dimentions fit for the
temple of Jupiter Tonans, from which it was imitated perhaps, or, more probably, copied.
To defcribe here in what manner this tirefome repetition may be avoided, would be, to
anticipate the purpofe of the prefent work, which, among other things, is intended to point
out a new file of compotition for thofe parts of interior decoration.
(C) Compartment ceiling ; a name given to all ceilings that are divided into various
pannels, furrounded with mouldings, a mode to which we do not here mean to obje, there
being many beautiful compofitions of this kind, both ancient and modern ; but the epithet
of ponderous is applied to diltinguifh thofe that were in ufe in this country, during the ladt
century, from thofe of the prefent times ; the Itile of the former being of a mot enormous
weight and depth.
Thefe abfurd compolitions took their rife in Italy, under the firli of their modern mailers,
who were no doubt led into that idea from the obfervations of the soffits ufed by the ancients
in the porticos of their temples and other public works. Thefe the ancients, with their
ufual fkill and judgment, kept of a bold and matlive ftyle, fuiting them to the flrength,
magnitude, and height of the building, and making an allowance for their being on the
exterior part, and adjoining to other great objeds; all which ferved to diminifh and lighten
the effed to thefe compartments. - But on the inlide of their edifices the ancients were
extremely careful to proportion both the fize and depth of their compartments and pannels,
to the dilance from the eye and the objects with which they were to be compared; and, with
regard to the decoration of their private and bathing apartments, they were all delicacy,
gaiety, grace, and beauty. If the reader is delirous to examine more minutely into thefe
truths, let him confult the Rotunda, the Temple of Peace, the ruins of Adrian's villa, the
Palace of the Emperors, and other Crypte at Rome, with the inimitable remains on the
Baian fhore.-- We fhall only adA, that from this mitiake of the firfi modern Italian artilts,
all Europe has been mifled, and has been fervilely groaning under this load for thefe three
centuries pail.
Michael Angelo, Raphael, Pyrro Ligerio, Dominichino, Georgio Valari, and Algardi,
with great talie and knowledge, threw off thefe prejudices, and boldly aimed at reloring
the antique.
But at this time the rage ofpainting became fo prevalent in Italy, that intiead of following
thefe great examples, they covered every ceiling with large fresco compolitions, which, tho'
extremely fine and ivell painted, were very much lnifplaced, and mull neceffarily, from the
attitude in which they are beheld, tire the patience of every fpeblator. Great compofitions
Thould be placed fo as to be viewed with cafe. Grotefque ornaments and figures, in any
tituation, are perceived with the glance of an eye, and require little examination.
Ces   entablements maflfs (B), ces pefants compar-
timents de plafonds (C), ces lourdes       decorations de
Nous ne faurions nous rfoudre a terminer cette remarque, fans rendre jutlice    ila
m6moire d'un grand homme, dont ]a reputation comme Architecle a dt 6touffde par les
Le Chevalier Jean Vanburgh dtoit un gdnie de ]a premidre claffe, et en fait de mouve-
ment, de nouveaut6 et d'invention, fes ouvrages n'ont 6ti furpalfks par aucun des modernes.
Nous aurions du aulii citer Blenheim et Cattle Howard comme de grands modles en cc
genre, priferablement b nos ouvrages ou   ceux de tout autre Architecte moderne; mais,
malheureufement pour la reputation de cet habile artilte, fon gout ne rdpondoit pas  t fon
genie; et fes ouvrages ont prefque toujours un tel air de pefanteur et fouvent mdme de
frivolit6, qu'il n'y a que l'obfervateur judicieux qui fache appercevoir leur nndrite, au
travers de leurs deffauts. Nous avons tofijours envifa-e fes produflions comme des joyaux
bruts, mais trds prdcieux pour un habile artilie qui fauroit les polir et les mettre en ceuvre.
(B) Mafjif entablement.  Pour peu qu'on ait examine l'architedlure, on fait que lenta-
blement ell une partie capitale de chaqu'ordre, et qu'elle cornprend l'architrave, la frife etla
Nous ne voulons icy cenfurer l'enfemble ou les parties diverses des entablenzens,
qu'autant que la plufpart des artifles modernes les ont mal appliqu6es, soit par ignorance ou
faute d'invention.
Rien n'offre un coup d'oeil plus majelueux et plus frappant, qu'une belle tile de
colomnes fur leurs bafes et couronndes de leurs chapitaux et de l'entablement, quand cette
file el t fa place; mais rien ne paroit plus fec et plus ennuieux, que de voir fans celle des
entablements Dorics, loniques et Corinthiens dans les proportions ordinaires, regner dans
des apartements ot tout ordre d'architemture est diplac6. Cependant, cela fett prefque tou-
jours vft dans les beaux batiments d'Europe, depuis Bramante jufqu'a nos jours.  Dans les
petites piices, qu'on vouloit faire paroitre elevdes, on a omis l'architrave et quelquefois la
frife meme, qu'on a fuppleds par une corniche dnorme et uniquement convenable au temple
de Jupiter Tonnant, d'ou elle a peut etre ald imitde, ou fimplement copide.
Le but de cet ouvrage ell de faire voir un nouveau genre de compolition dans les deco-
rations interieures, et on ne feroit qu'anticiper fur ce but ti on s'effor -oit de decrire ici
comment on peut eviter de repeter par tout ces ornements.
(C) Plafond d compartiments, on nomme ainfi tout plafond divilt en panneaux envi-
ronncs de moulures, genre de decoration dont on voit plusicurs beaux modules tant anciens
que modernes.   Les moulures de ceux qui etoient en ufage parmi nous, le fiecle dernier
etoient d'un poids enorme et leurs panneaux beaucoup trop enfoncts; an lieu que ceux qui
font aujourd'huy en ufage font legers.
Ces pefants compartiments, qui prirent en Italie au renouvellement des arts, ont fans
doute etd faits d'aprds les plafonds des portiques des temples et des autres 6difices publics
des anciens. Mais en les faifant maflifs et hardis, les anciens les approprioient, avec leur
addrelfe et difcernement ordinaires, aux dimenuions et a la folidit6 de l'edifice; ils les pla-
oient an dehors, oft ils font toujours a cotd de grands objets, qui fervent ainfi i donner de
la legeret6 t ces compartiments. Dans l'intdrieur des edifices les anciens avoient auii grand
foin de proportionner le volume et la profondeur de ces compartiments I l'eloignement du
point de vde et aux objets qui les environnoient. A l'gard de la d6coration de leurs apparte-
ments particuliers et de leurs chambres de bains, tout etoit ddlicat, gai et charmant. Si le
ledeur vouloit fe convaincre de ces veritis, il pourroit examiner ]a Rotonde, le Temple de
la Paix, les ruines de la villa Adriana, le Palais des Empereurs et les autres Criptw de Rome,
de m#me que les refles incomparables du rivage de Baia. Qu'il nous foit encore permis
d'obferver que dans toute l'Europe, on a fuivi i cet 6gard les premiers artiltes modernes de
l'Italie, et qu'on s'eft alfervi baffement a leur autorit6 pendant les derniers hi6cles.
Michel Ange, Raphael, Pyrro Ligorio, Dominicain, George Vafari et Algardi, fecouerent
courageufement ces prejugds, et retlorerent la mani6re antique avec beaucoup de gocit et de
Mais la pallion pour la peinture devint enfuite fi grande en Italie, qu'aulieu de fuivre
l'exemple de ces excellents maitres, on y peignit t frefque le plafond entier, genre de com-
polttion que malgre la beaut6 de l'execution, ne pent manquer de fatiguer le fpeclateur qui
veut en embraffer l'enfemble. Tout grand tableau doit etre plac6 de maniere a etre vCt fans
peine: mais des figures grotefqucs et des ornements legers peuvent toijours 6tre embralrks
d'un coup d'oeil.
C E.

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