« ZurückWeiter »
require a degree of inventive genius, that can harmonize contradictions and reconcile impossibilities; that can go beyond the exact calculations of the ancients in accomplishing a certain proposed effect, and recast every part with reference, to a new and different whole.
“ If, after so long a trial of it,” observes Mr. Leeds, “ it be found utterly incapable of giving us any thing much better or more consistent than has hitherto been produced, and that we have already exhausted its powers of design, and the combinations it admits of, we have no very great reason to be surprised, if it should now be laid aside for a style, which not only readily adapts itself to our mode of building, but derives much of its character and effect from features for which ancient architecture makes no provision, or, rather, obstinately rejects.”
If, however, Grecian architecture, from its marked unfitness for our wants and uses, is ever to be generally laid aside, what is there, it may be asked, that can be proposed as a substitute for it, at least in secular edifices ? In reply, we confess that there might, indeed, be few opportunities among us for developing the powers of the highest style which flourished after the revival of letters, – the style of Bramante, of Palladio, and 'of Michael Angelo ; but we should, on that account, be the more desirous to see some of them well improved. Introduced into England by the great master Inigo Jones, this fine manner was followed by Wren, Vanbrugh, Kent, and his patron, the accomplished Earl of Burlington, and exhibits itself in their works at Whitehall, and at Coleshill, in Berkshire, at St. Paul's Cathedral, at Blenheim, Chatsworth, and Castle Howard, and in the elegant front of Lord Burlington's own town mansion. Horace Walpole gives his impressions of the last named edifice in an account, which Mr. Britton calls“ speaking of it in rapturous
“ As we have few samples of architecture more antique,” says he, "and more imposing than that colonnade, I cannot help mentioning the effect it had on myself. I had not only never seen it, but had never heard of it, at least with any attention, when, soon after my return from Italy, I was invited to a ball at Burlington House. As I passed under the gate by night, it could not strike me. At daybreak, looking out of the window to see the sun rise, I was surprised with the vision of the colonnade that fronted me. It seemed one of those edifices in fairy tales that are raised by Genii in a night's time."
All the splendid piles to which we have alluded, are adorned with columns, in their various elevations, but are built to so extensive a scale, that their columns lose the insipid appearance of being employed as a means of decoration alone, which is often the case in the works of Palladio and his imitators. The superb fronts of Castle Howard, in particular, verify the truth of this remark. But the highest recommendation of the Italian style, and that for which we think it specially deserving of attention, is this ; that although it does not reject the application of porticos and columnar supports, a higher degree of expression and dignity is often to be obtained without them. The exquisite productions of Baldassare Peruzzi, of Francesco di Giorgio, and their pupils, afford us models for enthusiastic imitation. This manner is sometimes termed the palazzo style, — the style invented and adopted by masters who were painters as well as architects, — who judged of their façades, masses, and returns by their effect upon the eye, before_reducing them to a pedantic ordeal of modules. The Palazzi Riccardi, Pandolfini, Strozzi, and Gondi at Florence, — the renowned Farnese, the splendid Massimi, at Rome, and the Piccolomini, at Siena, display a true greatness of manner, that belongs to all the productions of the acme of Italian art, and portion of the detail being strictly analogous to the style and character of the building, and kept subservient to the feeling embodied in the whole. In England, two very striking examples have been erected within a few years by Mr. Charles Barry, the successful candidate in the competition for the New Houses of Parliament, and who stands, almost by acclamation, at the head of the British school of architecture. The Traveller's Club House, first, and the Reform Club House, built soon afterwards, have given very happy evidence of his peculiar and versatile talent. The eminent appropriateness, and the picturesque and striking beauty, of the manner which he had chosen, have, beyond question, greatly conduced to form a growing taste for the palazzo style among the architects of the great metropo
The effect of this will be seen and felt for many years in the street architecture of London. We should be happy, were we able to indulge the hope, that the example of a beautiful villa, erected in Brookline, during the past year, would exert an equally favorable influence upon the neglected
every member domestic architecture of our own country. But the Grecian temple presses too heavily on the imagination of our professional men, to be thrown off so easily.
The Grecian temple consists of a colonnade, or exterior row of pillars surrounding the whole edifice, and on which the roof mainly depends for support. The cell, or enclos.ed portion of the building, is formed by a plain wall behind, into which no windows should open, and which was never designed either for habitation, for converse, or for congregational worship. It was entirely an inferior consideration among the Greeks, who lived, acted, and worshipped in the open air, and under the broader canopy of their cloudless sky. But with us, how different a manner of construction is pointed out by the plain necessity of the case. We require, for the greater part of the time, to be within our edifices, and not on the outside of them. We find it convenient to have our roof rest on the walls, instead of placing a superfluous row of piers beyond ; and in those walls, we must have apertures to provide us with air, light, and entrance. Construct these apertures, remove the colonnade, and place the cornicione upon the wall itself, and we then have the groundwork of an Italian building, which, in all its parts, is strictly conformable to the demands of common sense, and is susceptible of being so elaborated as to satisfy the highest idea of beauty.
The employment of the Grecian style obliges us, also, to banish the very idea of spires and steeples. These characteristic appendages are certainly, in themselves, very ornamental, while pointing silently to heaven, they form the outward and striking evidences of the Christianity of a people. But if the present state of things continue, they must be tacitly surrendered, and the oblong, four-sided, prostyle temple become the stereotyped pattern of design. This is plainly the deplorable crisis to which we seem to be approaching, and against which we would lift up a voice of earnest remonstrance. Perhaps, however, when the flood is at its height, it will turn of its own accord. We should not be greatly surprised at a sudden reaction. “Human nature," said Martin Luther," is like a drunken trooper on horseback, for if you set it up on one side, down it falls on the oth
; and we are already encouraged, by certain ominous symptoms, to think it possible, that even the heaviness of
our Hellenic stone-masons may, at some time or other, encounter a serious obstacle to its complacent equipoise.
We are not, however, without some ante-Revolutionary edifices in Boston, which do honor to the talent of their architects, and to the liberal taste of those who employed them. It is, indeed, a sad truth, that if we look about us for
any thing correct or pleasing, we do not find it so much in the works of our own time, as in those which were executed sixty or eighty years ago. One of these, the old King's Chapel in Tremont street, has often been made the subject of judicious admiration. If the exterior be bare of ornament, at any rate, it makes no pretension to any other character ; it is a plain, solid, well jointed piece of masonwork, which is respectable for its sober unity of expression, and venerable, at least in our young country, from the weather stains which have gathered upon it for nearly a hundred years. In its exterior form and character, it is almost exactly like the London churches erected at the same period, such a one as Hawksmoor, Gibbs, or Kent would have been very likely to design. Its plan is that of a simple oblong building, with a semi-elliptical recess for the chancel, at the eastern end, and having a heavy, square tower, at the opposite front. The tower is surrounded on three sides with a plain portico, which we wish had been omitted. The order displayed in it is the Roman Ionic, and the details are executed in a correct and pleasing manner. The windows in the lower row are small, and nearly square, covered with a low, flat arch, and deeply recessed in the wall. In the next, or gallery story, they are still of the same width, but nearly twice as high, and finished with semi-circular arches, the substantial solidity of which would be aped in vain by the bricks, and cements, and compositions of our gaudy contemporaries. A old, projecting cornice crowns the whole, relieved with modillions on its lower surface, but appearing perfectly in keeping with the main idea. There is nothing particularly handsome in all this, but it is the sentiment shown in it which we so much admire, — an utter absence of claptrap and pretension, - a stern disclaimer of wishing to appear any thing more than it really is, – a plain rejection of extraneous and adscititious fictions. We defy any man of true taste to look at it in this light, for a moment, and then wish to see it stuck over with dapper shreds and patches of
Grecian ornament. But though the exterior is so designedly unpretending, the architect bas bestowed a much higher, yet equally consistent, degree of finish upon the interior. The nave, or body, of the church is separated from the aisles by very elegant Corinthian columns, standing in couples, and raised upon bases a little above the height of the pews. We very willingly confess, that we do not admire the manner in which the entablature of these columns is cut up to receive the arches of the ceiling. It is a serious blemish, arising from the construction of the roof, and seems to be imitated from what has always been considered a fault in the celebrated church of St. Martin in the Fields.
The necessity of a similar arrangement was very ingeniously avoided by Wren, in his beautiful church of St. James, Westminster, the roof of which is a fine specimen of economic carpentry, and should have been more familiar to the architect of our chapel. But the effect of this interior is so solemn and imposing, that we would willingly forget this slight license. There is no other church in Boston, where the dim, religious light,” so conducive to a devotional frame of mind, is admitted with such judicious and sparing economy, — the decent pulpit, desk, and clerk's desk standing apart from the chancel, — the antique altar-piece, with the Prayer, the Belief, and the “good commandments ten,” — the marble monuments that
occupy the centre of the wide 'piers, and the deep, quiet organ-loft at the western end, at once bespeak the distinctive character of a church, and make us sensible that “ we cannot desecrate it, even in thought.” It has the air, neither of a disguised ball-room, nor a travestied theatre ; herein lies its great contrast to the churches of our own time; and it will not be thought a hasty or unadvised assertion, when we say, that there are few of these, that do not strongly resemble either the one or the other.
There is another interior, belonging to the same style and period, which deserves a high degree of admiration. It will scarcely be conceived, that the dingy and ill-shaped pile of brick, on the east side of Brattle square, conceals one of the most highly finished, elegant, and solemn interiors in the country. Perhaps the inferiority of the situation was the reason for so entirely neglecting its external appearance, which certainly gives promise of any thing else than the remarkable view obtained on entering, and disposes the unini