Francois de Cuvillies

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Cuvilliés, Jean-François-Vincent-Joseph (1695–1768). Rococo architect of the utmost refinement. Born in Soignies-en-Hainaut, near Brussels, as Court Dwarf he entered (1708) the service of Max II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria (1679–1726), who was then in exile in France. As a member of the Electoral house-hold, Cuvilliés was exposed to the latest French tastes in architecture. When the Court returned to Munich in 1714, Cuvilliés worked under Effner, who had been a pupil of Boffrand, and, in due course, the budding architect Cuvilliés was also sent to Paris, where he studied briefly under Jean-François Blondel (1683–1756). When he came back to the Bavarian capital he worked with Effner, and, when Karl Albrecht succeeded as Elector (1726–45), seems to have been treated as the older architect's equal, although the prize of Oberhofbaumeister (Chief Court Architect) eluded him until 1763. For the new Elector's brother, Clemens August (1700–61), Elector and Prince-Archbishop of Cologne (from 1723), Cuvilliés designed Rococo interiors (1728–30) at Schloss Brühl near Cologne (newly built to designs by Schlaun), as well as the charming hunting-lodge of Falkenlust (1729–37), with its interiors gaily decorated with Chinoiserie and other orientalizing motifs judiciously mingled with Rococo ornament. Cuvilliés also may have been responsible for the chine-sisches Haus for the Pheasantry in the Park (c.1730).

Cuvilliés was recalled to Munich, where he was to carry out his finest works, prompting the dissemination of the Rococo style throughout Bavaria, including the Reiche Zimmer (State Room) in the Munich Residenz (Seat of the Court), executed from 1730 to 1737, and acclaimed as among the finest of European Rococo achievements before being badly damaged during the 1939–45 war. From 1733 he was involved in the building of the Archiepiscopal Palais Königsfeld (or Holnstein), Munich (completed 1737), and, at the same time, in preparing the plans of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Schäftlarn, south of Munich. However, his finest creation is unquestionably the Amalienburg in the grounds of Schloss Nymphenburg (1734–9): this is an exquisite single-storey hunting-pavilion with a balcony (a tir aux faisans from which pheasants could be shot) over the central circular saloon, part of which extends outwards in a bow in the centre of the entrance-façade. The enchanting Rococo interior decorations, with blue, yellow, and straw-coloured walls enriched with refined silvered embellishments, and enlivened with mirrors and Chinoiserie motifs, are outstanding, although J. B. Zimmermann was responsible for the stucco-work.

Cuvilliés was called in as a consultant by the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne to advise on the building of the Collegiate Church of St Michael, at Berg-am-Laim, Munich (1738–51), J. M. Fischer being the architect, and, around 1737, designed the lovely high-altar for the former Augustinian (now Parish) Church at Diessen, also by Fischer.

The Livre de Cartouches (Book of Cartouches) marked the start of a series of publications by Cuvilliés from 1738 featuring illustrations of ornamental designs for cartouches, ceilings, frames, and entire rooms, with furnishings and panels. Other publications, featuring designs for mirrors, chandeliers, and a great deal more, followed from 1745, and from 1756 yet another series, this time featuring architectural designs, came out. These works were hugely influential in Central Europe. By the mid-1740s his advice was being sought by many patrons, and he was involved in the designs for Schlösser at Haimhausen, near Munich (from 1747), and Wilhelmstal, near Kassel (from 1750—a restrained Classical design), but his finest works were in and around Munich. His Residenz-Theater, Munich (1750–3), is one of the most beautiful small theatres in the world, bursting with the type of ornament he had published in various Livres: it was badly damaged in 1944, but was reconstructed in 1958, albeit on a different site within the Residenz complex. His appointment as Oberhofbaumeister by the Elector Maximilian III Joseph (1745–77) came late in his career, after he had rebuilt the central room at Schloss Nymphenburg (1756–7), and he did not live long after. His last work was the completion of the façade of the Theatinerkirche (St Kajetan, the church of the Theatine Order) in Munich (1767). His son, François-Joseph-Ludwig (1731–77), produced many of the illustrations for his father's publications, and seems to have been largely responsible for the third series of the 1750s in which Rococo and Neo-Classicism merged. He reissued many of his father's designs in his École de l'Architecture Bavaroise (from 1770).


Bourke (1962);
Braunfels (1938, 1986);
Hitchcock (1968a);
Jervis (1984);
Lieb (1992);
F. Wolf (1967)

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