Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions

After reading Empire Style: The Hotel de Beauharnais in Paris I became very interested in the opulent neoclassicism in the palaces and monuments of the Napoleonic era, also known as the Directoire style or Empire Style. Perhaps one of the most prolific architects of that time was Charles Percier (1764-1838), a French born designer appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte to develop the style. 

Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions, published by Yale University Press, is a fantastic resource guide with more than 300 pages of beautiful photos and illustrations curated by Jean-Philippe Garric, professor of history of Architecture at the University of Paris I. 

An incredibly fascinating book, Charles Percier: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions details the work that Percier oversaw and designed while working on the renovations and decorations of many of France's royal palaces, including the Louvre, and the chateaux of Fontainebleau, Saint-Cloud, and Malmaison. Also featured are many other projects undertaken from the end of the 1700's to the beginning of the 1800's. These contributions to architecture and design in France are particularly interesting, given the turbulent and unsteady period in French History.

Above, a painting of Percier, by Robert Lefevre in 1807. Charles Percier designed furniture, porcelain, metalwork, silver, clocks and timepieces, and more, meticulously detailing his plans for these pieces in spectacular drawings shown in the book. 

Above, Percier's drawing for the interior design of Josephine Bonaparte's bedroom at the Tuileries palace. Isn't this gorgeous? Percier's drawings and watercolors are beyond exquisite, proving his far reaching artistic genius and mastery. His ability to communicate his vision in this way set him apart from his contemporaries, garnering the praise and support of the Emperor Napoleon.

Percier is also known for his close relationship with famed French architect Pierre Francois Leonard Fontaine. The two men lived and worked together until Percier's death in 1838. They are responsible for many of Paris' finest monuments, including the Arc du Carrousel, above. Inspired by ancient Roman triumphal arches, the Empire architecture was designed to glorify the quasi-Roman imperial power of that time, with Greco-Roman columns, pylons, arches, and statuary. This project, along with his contributions to perhaps his largest and most notable renovation of Rue de Rivoli, transformed central Paris.

This book is incredible for the ardent Francophile, history-buff, and lover of interior design. Page by page, you unlock more information about Empire-style decoration, the era of which it was popular, and how the impressive, highly ornamental style was used and shaped by the era of Empirical Napoleon.

Take a closer look, and purchase your own copy via the Amazon link below:

And, if you're keenly interested in Percier and his incredible contributions to art, architecture, and design, there is currently an exhibit on display at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery in Manhattan. The beautiful curated display features more than 130 art works showing Percier's multifaceted artistry. 

If you're in the area, here's the information: 

Now til February 12, 2017
Bard Graduate Center Gallery
18 West 86th Street, between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. 
Gallery hours are Tuesday and Friday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 
Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 
Suggested admission is $7 general, $5 seniors and students.

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