Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Architecture of Fantasy II

Twee verticale trofeeën

Twee verticale compartimenten met harnassen

Vier verticale trofeeën

vertical trophies with cannons

doublet of musical blazon trophies

Cartouche with heart shaped calligraphy

Cartouche with calligraphy

ornamental calligraphy

Trapeziumvormige vlakdecoratie

Trapeziumvormige vlakdecoraties met grotesken

trapezoidal decorations with grotesques, garlands and trophies

Rechthoekige cartouche

Rechthoekige cartouche omgeven door moreskentitel

Cartouche met grotesken, middenonder staat een kindtitel

Ovale cartouche met Venus


Cartouche Fragments

Twee fonteinentitel

Known in the lowland countries as the 'King of Architects', Hans Vredeman de Vries [aka Johan Frisio] (~1527-~1606) apprenticed in his native Friesland as a painter before travelling widely in the Holy Roman Empire, partly as a result of religious persecution. He was most active in Antwerp, Liège, Wolfenbüttel, Hamburg, Danzig, Prague and The Hague.

De Vries' interest in architecture developed from studying and copying the works of Serlio and Vitruvius, augmented by a commission he received to complete another artist's unfinished painting on perspective. These themes of classical architecture and perspective dominated De Vries' design work, which belongs more in the realm of theoretical rather than practical architecture. He was responsible for the construction of a few modest buildings, a number of triumphal arches for ceremonial entries of royal dignitaries and he worked as a fortification surveyor-architect at one stage; but it was his innovative design sketches that proved to be most influential.

Although de Vries is thought not to have visited Italy, his purely ornamental designs - borrowed from classical antiquity - for vases, furniture, scrolls, grotesques and trophies, constituted an inventory of Renaissance decoration and served as an important conduit for the Italian styles to be disseminated throughout northern Europe. The motifs were cast in the fantasy Mannerist style, as was the custom of the day, and, combined with de Vrie's rich inventiveness - anticipating themes of Baroque decoration - the ornamental designs are particularly notable for straddling, or at least linking, all three major artistic traditions: Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque styles.

The majority of de Vries' sketches were engraved by other people - Gerard de Jode, Hieronymus Cock, Phillip Galle, Hendrik Hondius - in a variety of cities and printshops, thereby laying the foundation for their widespread copying and circulation. Collections of these prints were intended as instructional models for artists and architects but the motifs could be adapted by goldsmiths, tapestry makers or sculptors. The assembly of images in this post and the previous entry are intentionally skewed towards the decorative studies; but in truth, de Vries' two volume treatise on perspective and his more formal works on orders and details of architecture had the more lasting influence in northern and central European (and even British) architectural circles.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Architecture of Fantasy I

Pictores Statuarii Architecti

Pictores Statuarii Architecti a

Pictores Statuarii Architecti b

16th century funeral monument

baroque crypt design

Hydriatitel - grotesque 16th century jug

Saliniumtitel - grotesque sideboard

Perspective d

Perspective e

Perspective c


Perspective a

Perspective b

Het labyrinth wordt - 16th century garden layout design

Labyrinth - garden architectural design

Caryatidum (Vulgas Termas vocat) 1565 c

Caryatidum - embellished architectural plinths or columns

Caryatidum (Vulgas Termas vocat) 1565 quartet

Caryatidum (Vulgas Termas vocat) 1565 quartet a

Caryatidum (Vulgas Termas vocat) 1565 quartet b

16th century designs by Hans Vredeman de Vries, sourced from Rijksmuseum, University of Heidelberg, Frisian Historical and Literary Centre and Ornamental Prints Online.

Originally, the intention here was to focus in on the outlandish columns and plinths (from 1565) seen in the last half dozen or so images above. But providence would have it that the large-ish format images of the desired material was accompanied by some of the most intrustively toxic watermarking it has ever been my misfortune to encounter.

My energy and patience was zapped after painstakingly - and not quite successfully- removing or reducing the watermarks in the two larger images featuring columns. So the rest were assembled into quartets of the smaller versions by way of compromise. (many of the balance of the above images were background cleaned too, just by the way)

I was drawn to the columns because they pre-date a few other sets of ornate fantasy pedestals or caryatids that have been showcased on BibliOdyssey previously. Together, all these works appear to constitute something of a genre of onwardly-evolving architectural design fantasies, restricted only by the imagination of each of the artists/engineers/architects involved. Check out the following old entries to see the weird permutations of the 'style' (and no doubt this collection is woefully incomplete, in the bigger academic picture, but nevertheless very cool in the "I had no idea gobbling down handfuls of magic mushrooms was a prerequisite for architectural design in the 16th century" kind of way) ...

In year order of publication:

The silver lining to the watermark conundrum, of course, was finding a slew of extravagant, marvellous, and curious designs by de Vries, covering such a wide range of subject matter that it warranted posting two entries. And perhaps the weirder images are yet to come.

***Be sure to see the follow-up, The Architecture of Fantasy II, for more examples, background detail and links***

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