Anecdotes of Painting in England: With Some Account of the Principal Artists - Vol. 3

By Horace Walpole | Go to book overview
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in 1742. He was employed in building several houses, and died in 1746.


JOHN NICHOLAS SERVANDONI,

(1695—1766,)

a celebrated architect, resided here some years, though having various talents, he was best known in his own country as a painter. He executed many scenes for the opera, and painted a staircase (in conjunction with one Andréa) at Mr. Arundel's, the corner of Burlington-street, now Mr. Townshend's. He also gave the design of the theatre of fireworks for the peace in 1749, soon after which he returned to Paris. He was born at Florence, May 2, 1695, studied under Paolo Panini and Rossi, and was created a knight of the order of Christ. His genius was particularly turned to theatric machinery, of which he gave proofs at Dresden and Lisbon, and especially at Paris, where he was received into the Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and where he contrived magnificent serious pantomimes in the Grande Salle des Machines, besides fine decorations in several operas. An account of those shows may be seen in the fifth volume of the Dictionnaire des Théâtres. 1

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built for Mr. Styles, (an enormously fortunate adventurer in the South-Sea year,) who is said to have expended more than 100,000l. upon that structure. The southern portico has just pretensions to magnificence. Of the houses he designed in different counties, which were principally additions to ancient residences, are Clandon, Surrey (1731) ; Lyme-hall, Cheshire; and Bodecton-park, Sussex. The last mentioned was destroyed by fire, in 1826. He was buried at St. Pancras, Middlesex, 1746, æt. sixty.—D.
1
Servandoni first distinguished himself as a machinist and scene-painter, and was the most celebrated artist in Europe for pyrotechnic construction. He had much employment in different courts upon occasions of triumph ; but being entirely given up to his pleasures, he dissipated all that he gained—fell gradually into neglect, and ended a long life in poverty. We have no specimen of his architectural abilities, which certainly were of the first order, of which the façade of St. Sulpice, at Paris, bears ample testimony.

This building is characterized by that which the French critics call "la grande manière." French architecture had been exceedingly deteriorated by the false taste of Oppendard and Gabriel, who were patronised by Louis XV. ; and who introduced the frittered style which Walpole so justly satirizes. More classical designs have since prevailed, as introduced by Servandoni, Sufflot, and Le Boy, the well-known precursor of our Athenian Stuart. This grand front of St. Sulpice was begun in 1733, finished in 1745. Its dimensions are upon an enlarged scale, consisting of a Doric and an Ionic order, and extending 384 French feet, and each of the galleries having a height of at least 40 feet. The portico or colonnade is one of the most striking in modern Paris, which may now be said to emulate Rome in

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