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Allegory of architecture

Jacques Aliamet (1726–1788) after Charles Eisen (1720–1778)
Allegory of architecture. Etched frontispiece in Marc-Antoine Laugier (1711–1769), Essai sur l'architecture. Nouvelle édition. Paris: Chez Duchesne, 1755. Purchased on the Gordon N. Ray Fund, 2008; PML 195080
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A master of Rococo illustration, Eisen understood perfectly the author's arguments against Rococo ornament in architecture—a capricious stylistic aberration that should be corrected by a return to nature. A winsome goddess of architecture reclines against the ruins of the classical orders and gestures toward a more truthful and authentic structure, a rustic cabin framed by living trees. Laugier applied some of the same reasoning to garden design in the last chapter of this influential treatise. As much as he admired the work of Le Nôtre in Versailles, he had to regret the relentless insistence on symmetry in that type of formal garden and preferred instead the elegant simplicity of the Chinese style, which had been described by missionaries in their reports on oriental customs and culture.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.