Abstract and Keywords
Here, I turn to the final application of architectural knowledge: to the design itself. But in keeping with the general direction of this book I will not, on the whole, look at examples of the application of acquired knowledge in specific architectural designs. Instead, I will explore how English intellectuals theorized the process of designing classical architecture in general. This was a process that was fundamentally based on the classical orders, understood not just as a set of column types but as an overall system of proportion and, even, a method of design. The final text I turn to will be Wren’s writings on architectural design. Here, I argue that he used ancient variety as justification to be equally varied in one’s use of the orders in architectural design, although the ability to do this was ultimately dependent on the learning and the ingenuity of the architect.
If Ionic temples were to be built for Juno, Diana, Father Liber and all other such deities, their intermediate position will be acknowledged because their principal characteristics will be balanced between the severity of the Doric style and the delicacy of the Corinthian.
Vitruvius, De architectura, Book 1. Ch. 2, 5
Il est assez difficile de determiner precisément ce que le nom d’Ordre signifie chez les Architectes, quoy qu’il soit tres-necessaire de le bein entendre.
Roland Fréart de Chambray,
Parallèle de l’Architecture antique et de la moderne, 1650, p. 6
First, they are all Round …
Henry Wotton, Elements of Architecture, 1624, p. 30
This book has been about knowledge. In Chapter 1 we saw how definitions of the architect in the period were predicated on knowledge and its acquisition from sources, appropriate or otherwise. In Chapter 2 we saw how that acquisition of knowledge took place in practice, and in Chapter 3 we witnessed antiquarians working at the coalface, extracting the most precious forms of architectural knowledge for others—architects or intellectuals—to make use of. But we have yet to consider the final destination of all this knowledge: the building or, more specifically, its design. This chapter will consider how elite, autodidactic architects of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in England conceived of the process of applying architectural knowledge to their designs.
There were, of course, different types of architectural knowledge, and a considerable quantity of information that architects collected and used was related to practical matters. As discussed in the Introduction, this was knowledge that one either knew or one did not (or, conceivably, one could pretend to know), and its application in designs was a relatively straightforward process with easily identifiable results. Just as today, buildings were well built and were structurally sound, or they were not. When it came to more theoretical forms of knowledge, relating to aesthetics or to function—to what buildings looked like and how they worked—we are on less firm ground. Having said that, some forms of knowledge relating to the appearance of buildings could also operate straightforwardly. An example of this might be the direct use, by architects, of source material that they had collected. We saw this process at work in the second chapter alongside more general, but still relatively direct emulations of particular regional styles or ‘manners’. However, the (p.151) problems with analysing the use of aesthetic knowledge in early modern England come when we begin to consider questions of individual agency and invention in the process of design. Thus far, this book has argued that architects and intellectuals of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in England continually collected knowledge relating to the architecture of the ancient world or architecture that had been inspired by it in Europe in the preceding centuries. After all, the accumulation of such material was what qualified them to subsequently design buildings that also emulated the buildings of ancient Greece and Rome. But that did not mean that these architects were merely automatons assembling architectural designs, like a kit, from pre-existing knowledge. Or, at least, that was not how they saw themselves. On the contrary, architects very clearly defined themselves as original creators, or inventors, of designs that were uniquely the products of their own minds.1
Architecture and Invention
Evidence for this can be found in a variety of sources. Take this undated letter written by Wren to Isaac Barrow, the master of Trinity College, Cambridge, concerning the design of the college’s new library, one of Wren’s most celebrated designs:
A building of that consideration you goe about deserues good care in the designe and able workemen to performe it; & that he who takes the generall management upon him may haue a prospect of the whole, and make all parts inside & outside corresponde well together. To this end I haue comprised the whole designe in 6 Figures.2
Here, Wren was clear that he, as the architect, had an overall conception of the whole building, both inside and out. The appearance of the library, and how it would function when built, was an idea that he had formulated himself and which he subsequently communicated—through a series of six drawings—to the workmen who would then, Wren hoped, faithfully execute it. The sense that an architect produced the overall idea of the building, to be accurately followed by subservient workmen, was further articulated by Wren in a 1681 letter to another college head, this time, John Fell, dean of Christ Church College, Oxford:
It is not a picture I send you or an imperfect Essay but a designe well studied as to all the Bearing & fit to instruct the Workeman if he will study the other Designe of the Groundplot, wch at first sight seems perplex, but he will find every necessary Line of severall different plans (as the worke varies in rising) shewing how they beare upon one another, compare it with the orthography & the compasses will distinguish wch is which, plainer then wordes can expresse it.3
(p.152) This letter firstly represents evidence of the belief in the suitability of the drawing as an effective method of architectural communication, as we saw in Chapter 2.4 But the passage again reveals Wren’s conviction that the architect’s idea, his ‘designe well studied’, was a definitive point in the creation of a building (albeit, in this case, a Gothic one) to which all subsequent building work should be in obedience to. It should be observed, as a caveat here, that not all architects were as concerned over the satisfactory execution of their designs as Wren was in these letters.5 But it was often circumstances—normally geographical ones—that meant that the construction of some buildings were not overseen with any degree of close control by the makers of their designs.
But, on the whole, the writers that this book has discussed were in general agreement that the architect created their own designs, resulting in a finished building that was, ultimately, their intellectual property. That was how Roger Pratt saw it. His unpublished ‘Rules for the Guidance of Architects’, written in 1665, contained numerous references to the initial decisions made by an architect, and to which the builders were then subservient. For Pratt, indeed, the architect’s chief responsibility was to ensure that the ‘the building be laid out and carried out according to the design given’.6 That design was to come from the mind of the architect, although it had to take into account the specific circumstances of the commission, such as location, building type, and budget. If they were to be successful, an architect also had to aspire to the Vitruvian triad:
An able Architect ought […] To be able to design all sorts of buildings after the most useful, strong, and beautiful manner, and that may be both in regard to the person, time, place, expense or any other circumstance proposed to him, as likewise to be able to adorn and repair etc.7
(p.153) These remarks are similar to those of another author who clearly believed that the individual authority of the architect was constrained only by circumstance. This was, unsurprisingly, Roger North. The last time we encountered North, we saw him arguing for the importance of the ‘spirit’ in architecture: this was the belief that an individual’s identity manifested itself in architectural design. This can be seen in practice in his account of one of his own rare forays into the architectural design process. In a long passage in his unpublished treatise on architecture, he described how he decided upon the design of the Middle Temple Gateway (Figure 4.1) in 1683:
I designed 4 pilaster columnes and a frontone [pediment]; and to preserve the dignity of the fabrick, I was forc’t to raise it very high, the houses being so on each side. If wee had not topt them, all had bin spoyld, and the building had looked mean. But the width would not bear 4 columes from the bottom. Therefore I raised a table, to sett the order upon so high, that it received all the apertures of entrance; and then grounded the wall with brick rubb’d and gaged, which sett off the stone. If it had bin all stone from bottom to the top, as some gentlemen advised, it had bin like a steeple. But the rustick base, being all stone, and the rest above brick and stone, shewed a lightening of the work, and by making a distinction disguised the height. And thus I gained a just height for the order, and made a fair front. I owne the faults, which (p.154) I forsaw but could not mend. The flat arch in the middle for the coach-passage, and compass arches on each side, is not proper; for the middle should have bin compass, and the iles flatt. But that had lost a chamber, which could not be. And next the coines are too small. I had not room to make them greater. If it had bin all stone without breaks, it had confounded the corner pilasters, by taking away their profile or shape. The thrust of the flatt arch, falls not upon the hollow of the compass arches, which had bin a fault inexcusable, but upon the solid above them; and therefore there is no reall absurdity in the disposition of those arches. One thing is worth observing; that the flatt arch is made very deep, and the stones rising towards the middle, and the range of them make a handsome stylobate for the collumnes, and accord extreamly well. The rest is ordinary; onely the height of the columns, and the midle intercolumes, exceed the rule of the Ionick order.8
This is an unusually detailed description by a contemporary architect (albeit one who very infrequently practised the art), of the minutiae decisions that a designer made during the conception of a building in late seventeenth-century England. There are a number of relevant points we can take from it. Firstly, the quotation reveals that North saw his knowledge of practical, building matters as being axiomatic and facilitatory to the aesthetics of the design. He knew what ‘rubb’d and gaged’ brickwork was and he was able to personally deploy his knowledge of it in an aesthetic capacity and in order to make the gateway lighter in appearance as well as to emphasize the corner pilasters. The second point is that North was, at all times, the master of the building’s design, except when the specific nature of the site put limits on his ideas. Thus, it was he who ‘raised’ the basement of the gateway and, equally, it was his achievement alone that the building ‘gained a just height for the order, and made a fair front’. Conversely, he was also solely responsible for any faults in the design—he owned them, he tells us—although he also admitted that the height of the surrounding houses meant that he was ‘forc’t to raise’ the building higher than he would have liked. So, aside from the constraints imposed on his design by the building’s location, North, like Wren and Pratt, was clearly conscious of his own individual agency as the designer of a building.
But there is a final point to be taken from North’s account, one that opens up an apparent paradox in the nature of designing classical architecture in the period. For there was a tension, clearly present in his words, between North’s individual will and the rules of classical architecture, or the ‘Regular’ manner of building, as North had called it elsewhere in his writings.9 So, North knew that the quoins that he had designed were ‘too small’ and that the flat arch in the middle of the basement was ‘not proper’. He apologized to his reader for these departures from the normal way of doing things, though he pleaded that the rest of the design was ‘ordinary’, with only the height of the columns transgressing the rules of the Ionic order. One is reminded here of Vernon’s apparent conception that there was an (p.155) ancient architectural norm that buildings ‘should’ conform to. But in North’s case, this notion—of a set of ‘ordinary’ rules, the transgression of which required an apology on the part of the architect and a recourse to the excuse of the building’s location—clearly jarred with his and other architects’ awareness of themselves as individual, creative agents of architectural design.
We have now reached a fundamental question in our investigation of the late seventeenth-century intellectual position on architecture: how did contemporary actors square the formal dependency on ancient, European (and, sometimes, English) source material—both general and specific—with the apparent belief in their own individual agency that architects exhibited over their own creative productions?10 The ‘regular’ architectural knowledge that they collected and sought to emulate in their designs brought with it a set of rules that had been codified by Vitruvius, which were visible in the surviving ancient ruins, and had been tweaked, to various degrees, by Renaissance authors. What was the English architect to do with this highly prescribed knowledge apart from to slavishly copy existing designs (which they clearly did not see themselves doing in their buildings)? To answer this we need to confront some very big questions indeed: how was the process of designing buildings, of making aesthetic choices in architecture, understood in the period? Did the architects and writers of the London-based intellectual cultures that I have been discussing attempt any sort of definition of architectural aesthetic formulation in their writings? Did they write about the creative process in architecture? And how did they conceptualize the process by which architects conceived of buildings?
John Evelyn and the Process of Designing Architecture
Much use has already been made, in this book, of Evelyn’s ‘Account of Architects and Architecture’. As one of the most detailed and comprehensive portrayals of the contemporary building world, it sheds much light on how one English intellectual, at least, conceived of the operations of architecture in the period. It also contained a lengthy description of the design process in architecture that has not been examined yet. Can Evelyn, once again, provide us with the answer to the question of how architects were expected to apply their knowledge to specific designs? Here, unfortunately, the diarist and virtuoso lets us down, for his description of how architects actually went about designing buildings was rather abstract and, consequently, not particularly helpful. It was also taken, almost exclusively, from Vitruvius and a number of recent commentators on the Roman text. Nonetheless, it serves as an introduction to that Vitruvian process—which was still the germ of all other (p.156) conceptualizations of the architectural design process in the period—and, so, I will go through Evelyn’s argument briefly.
Evelyn began his description of the process with a passage that we encountered in the first chapter, the one where he discussed the division of architecture into ‘speculation’ and ‘practice’ or, metaphorically, between ‘shadow’ and ‘substance’, or the ‘tabernacle’ and the ‘temple’. I now quote the passage again, but extend it, for it leads to our principal quarry:
We have already spoken of Workmen, and Manuary Assistants, in the foregoing Paragraphs, without whose more than ordinary Skill and Diligence, the Learned’st Architect mistakes the Shadow, for Substance, umbram, non rem consecutus videtur, and may serve to rear a Tabernacle, not build a Temple, there being as much difference between Speculation and Practice in this Art, as there is between a Shadow and a Substance; but with what Advantages those Persons proceed who both know, and can apply, I have already Demonstrated; and when we consider that the whole Art consists in the most Exact and Elegant Order imaginable, it is not to be wondered there have been so few able Men of the Profession: Sir H. Wotton, who reckons those two Parts for one, that is, the fixing of the Model to a full Expression of the first Idea, passes (with our Master) to the Species or kinds of this Disposition.11
So, Evelyn, as usual, emphasized the importance of practical as well as theoretical knowledge in architecture and architectural design, and he then turned to the initial act of creating a design, the ‘first Idea’. Here, he made his first recourse to Vitruvius (‘our Master’), via Henry Wotton, and he followed the Roman author in seeing the acts of ordinatio and dispositio as the first steps in the process of creating good architecture. Wotton, as Evelyn noted, had conflated these two steps (he ‘reckons those two Parts for one’), writing in the Elements of Architecture that ‘hee (Vitruvius) meaneth nothing by Ordination, but a well setling of the Modell or Scale of the whole Worke. Nor by Disposition, more then a neate and full expression of the first Idea or Designement thereof’.12 So, for Wotton, ordinatio was an overall idea of how the building was to be, and dispositio was the material expression of that idea. In Evelyn’s metaphor, then, dispositio was the substance to ordinatio’s shadow. Following this, Evelyn turned to another authority, Claude Perrault, whose commentary on De architectura offered another explanation of these Vitruvian concepts.13 Perrault, noted Evelyn, defined ordinatio in a slightly narrower way, as (p.157) the ‘judicious Contrivance of the Plan or Model’ rather than a more broader, holistic, conception of the entire building.14 Evelyn then described some scenarios involving the proportioning of rooms to demonstrate this narrower process of ground-planning that Perrault conceived Vitruvian ordinatio to be.15 Following this, Evelyn identified Perrault’s conception of dispositio as being ‘where all the Parts and Members of a Building are assign’d their just and proper Places, according to their Quality, Nature, Office, Rank and Genuine Collocation; without Regard to the Dimension or Quantity, which is another Consideration, as Parts of Architecture’.16 Again, this was a more constrained and less ambitious definition; it was the localized arrangement of rooms, staircases, and storeys according to appropriateness. Evelyn then embarked on a discussion of some of the flaws in the planning of buildings in England, further inspired by Perrault’s somewhat narrower definition of dispositio and which need not concern us here.
He then returned to the narrative of the design process and outlined the three component, projective parts of dispositio, all taken from Vitruvius and familiar territory to readers of Renaissance treatises. They were, of course, the plan, ichnographia, the orthogonal elevation, orthographia, and the perspectival drawing, scenographia. At the end of this summary, Evelyn returned to the question of the boundary between ordinatio and dispositio, which, as Wotton had suggested, remained porous:
From all which it appears, That not the bare Idea, or Species (as the Term is in Vitruvius) or as others, the various Kinds of Disposition is to be understood; but the several Designs and Representations of the Division: Seeing in Truth, these three Draughts upon Paper, belong as much to the Ordonance as the Disposition shewing and describing the Measures and Dimensions of the Inspective Parts, Order and Position: From these three Ideas then it is, that same Eurythmia, Majestic and Venusta Species Ædificii does Result, which Creates that agreeable Harmony between the several Dimensions; so as nothing seems Disproportionate, too long for this, or too broad for that, but Corresponds in a Just and Regular Symmetry and Concent of the Parts with the whole:17
So, Evelyn, following Wotton’s characterization, noted that dispositio was the formulation, on paper, of ordinatio, and the result, if done correctly, was (as Vitruvius said (p.158) it should be) eurythmia and, consequently, symmetria.18 The latter two categories were then given perfunctory treatment by Evelyn before he turned to the last stage, decor. Here his words echoed those of North in the latter’s description of the designing of the Middle Temple Gateway, for the application of decor was, to a certain extent, dictated by circumstance:
Decor, which is not only where the Inhabitant, and Habitation suite, seeing that is many times accidental; but where a Building and particularly the Ornaments thereof, become the Station and Occasion, as Vitruvius expressly shews in appropriateing the several Orders to Natural Affections; so as he would not have set a Corinthian Column at the Entrance of a Prison, nor a Tuscan before the Portico of a Church, as some have done among us, with no great Regard to the Decorum: Here therefore it is, That the Judgment of an Architect ought to be Consulted ….19
This has the potential to be a revealing passage. The decision to use the appropriate classical order was, apparently, made at this late stage in the process and it was also here that Evelyn explicitly said that the architect’s own judgement was to be deployed. He then closed his discussion of the design process with some more focused remarks about the building of three-dimensional models and the need for architects to be proficient draughtsmen and to have ‘more than a Vulgar Dexterity in the Art of Designing and Drawing’.20
Have we found a solution to the problem? Was it in this last category, decor (or what we might call the application of ornament) where the individual creativity of the architect was to be found, where invention manifested itself? Well, as North’s account showed and Evelyn’s words echoed, this was certainly an area where the architect was expected to make individual and (hopefully) sagacious, aesthetic decisions. But if this was the only stage in the process that actually involved individual creativity, then that rendered everything before, including those moments of architectural genesis, ordinatio and dispositio, essentially pro forma and not dependent, in any way, on the identity of designer. This could not have been the case. And, surely, Evelyn did not mean that the orders of architecture were to only (p.159) put in an appearance in the final moments of design, as mere decoration? In fact, the apparent lack of discussion of creativity and invention in Evelyn’s account of the architectural design process (aside from the unsatisfactory remarks about decor) are a reflection of his key source: Vitruvius. As Alina Paine has observed, the Roman author himself said very little about creativity in De architectura (a problem recognized—and agonized over—by sixteenth-century Italian authors).21 The apparent lack of creative agency on the part of Evelyn’s architect (at least in the passages quoted above) is to be expected. But, in spite of how formulaically Vitruvian Evelyn’s account of the design process was, his text does, I think, include moments where we can find answers to the problem of invention in English architectural theory in the period. These are the passages that relate to the orders.
For the paragraph on decor was not the only place where he mentioned the orders. In fact, either side of the design narrative that I have just outlined came explicit statements of the orders’ primacy in the creation of architectural design. For example, immediately after, he introduced his lexicon of architectural terminology by emphasizing the centrality of the five orders of architecture to the process of learning, in the appropriate way, about the discipline:
for by the Method of a Compleat Course or Body of Architecture, one should proceed to the more particular Distributions of this Art, whither in Respect to Private or Publick Buildings, but I leave it for some perfect Edition of what remains of the incomparable Palladio; when either by the same it is begun, or by some other Charitable Hand, That, or our Master, Vitruvius himself, as Publish’d by the Learned Perault shall be taught to speak English; and the Title of this Discourse, which minds me of a through Explanation of the more difficult Terms of this Art, for being principally, if not only Conversant about the five Orders and their Ornaments (the subject of our Learned Parallel) calls me back to a distinct Survey of them ….22
Thus, Evelyn knew his description of the general method of architectural design was deficient, particularly when it came to the differences between designing public and private buildings. And he admitted that the accounts of those differences in Vitruvius and in Palladio’s quattro libri were superior to all others.23 But he also recognized that being conversant about architecture required the possession of a rigorous knowledge of the orders and their respective ornaments. We saw, at the (p.160) beginning of Chapter 3, that Evelyn saw Greek and Roman architecture as representing the most ‘Faultless and Accomplish’d’ form of building. But before this, in the original 1664 dedicatory essay to Denham, he had already stated that the deficiencies in contemporary architectural design principally stemmed from the misuse of the five orders: ‘all the mischiefs and absurdities in the modern Structures’ said Evelyn ‘proceed chiefly from our busie and Gothick triflings in the Compositions of the Five Orders’.24 Historians have used this passage to analyse the seventeenth-century use of the word ‘Gothic’, but its treatment of the orders as an architectural gold standard should be emphasized here.25 As I observed in the Introduction, Evelyn often defined the Gothic as a transgression from the rules of classical architecture, and those rules—the orders—were fundamental to good architecture. It was such ‘Gothick’ deviations from the orders, which, by implication, meant classical architecture as a whole, that Evelyn saw as the chief flaw in more recent forms of architecture.
In fact, he had taken this complaint from Fréart, who had also noted in his preface that it was ‘those three by the name of Orders, viz. Dorick, Ionick and Corinthian, which we daily behold so disfigured, and ill treated by the Workmen of this Age.’ Fréart also suggested that the three Greek orders (though not the two ‘Latine’ orders of the Tuscan and the Composite), ‘not only contain whatsoever is excellent, but likewise all that is necessary of Architecture’.26 Of course, Fréart was not the first to suggest that the orders were both sacred and fragile (i.e., susceptible to modern corruption and licentiousness): Italian authors of the previous century, and Serlio in particular, had stressed the point repeatedly in their writings.27 But in Fréart’s words and those of his English translator we can recognize a preoccupation with the orders that was present in almost all seventeenth-century English theoretical writings on architecture. If the orders were fundamental to good architectural design, though, how were they actually conceived in England in the period? It is my contention that the answer to this question will go some way to answering the questions relating to design and invention that I posed above.
The Orders in Seventeenth-Century England
Whereas it might seem like a statement of the obvious to say that the orders were central to the process of English architectural design in this period, it is worth repeating before we look in more detail at how English writers actually conceived (p.161) of this particular ancient legacy.28 English authors and translators in the seventeenth century followed their European predecessors by placing the ancient orders of architecture at the heart of the architectural theoretical project. This much is apparent from the popularity of books of the orders in the period, and we have already seen that parts of architect’s collections in the period were arranged around the orders in systems taken from European books on the subject.29
Although many Italian authors of preceding generations had already discussed the orders extensively in their writings, the first English author to do so was John Shute, whose illustrations of the five orders in his 1563 First and Chief Groundes of Architecture, with their symbolic, anthropomorphic, representations of each type, have become celebrated in spite of the paucity of surviving copies of the work.30 In the accompanying text, Shute initially defined the orders (although he did not use that word) rather narrowly, as being ‘Pillers’ first and foremost, but nonetheless he still saw them as central to successfully learning about architecture:
I have therefore taken my first entraunce into the writing of the arte, at the five antique pillers or Columnes, cōmonly named of the places and persones partely where and of whom they were invented, and partely of their vertues & properties of those that they wer likned unto, which pillars names are these as followeth. Tuscana, Dorica, Ionica, Corinthia &, Cōposita, The treatise of these pillers […] is both so necessary and profitable, that neither without it any man may attaine to any estimable part of the reste of this science, and with it as by a klew of thred or plaine path way a man may most easely pearse and lightely pasover the most darke & unknowen corners of the whole processe therof.31
Shute’s treatment of Vitruvian, and Renaissance, architectural theory is usually held to be inchoate (he was the first English writer on the subject), but there is a certain degree of sophistication in these remarks.32 Shute identified the orders as being ‘pillers’, but he also recognized that hidden within the ‘dark & unknowen corners’ of the principles of the orders lay the ‘whole processe’ of architecture. In fact, his recognition that the orders were both something local and decorative (‘pillers’), as well as an architectural entity that was universal, harder to define, and (p.162) potentially methodological (the ‘darke & unknowen corners of the whole processe’), was close to sixteenth-century Italian positions on the subject, including Palladio’s conception of the orders in the quattro libri and in his architectural practice (see p. 165). This conception of the orders as something dualistic, consisting of ‘pillers’ and something else, was a key facet of European (and subsequently English) writing on the subject.
Shute’s distinction between the orders as ‘pillers’ and the orders as some form of quasi-metaphysical process can also be found, though disavowed, in the work of another early English writer on the subject: Wotton. In The Elements of Architecture, Wotton went further than Shute and identified a manifest discrepancy between defining the orders as an all-encompassing architectural phenomenon and seeing them as merely a set of column types. He questioned the validity of the former position and, in doing so, came the closest of any seventeenth-century English author to what was probably the original Vitruvian doctrine: ‘I neede now say no more concerning Columnes & their Adjuncts, about which Architects make such a noyse in their Bookes, as if the very tearmes of Architraves, and Frizes, and Cornices, and the like, were enough to graduate a Master of this Art’.33 Wotton used the word ‘Columnes’ interchangeably with ‘Orders’ in his account, and his subsequent discussion of them resolutely treated them as physical columns only. In doing so, he divided up the features of the orders into ‘Communities’ (what they had in common) and ‘Proprieties’ (what distinguished them). These ranged from the seemingly obvious fact that they were ‘all Round’ in shape, to more specific proportional traits that they shared, such as possessing ‘Undersettings or Pedistals, in height a third part of the whole Columne’.34 By ‘Proprieties’ Wotton meant the various proportional and ornamental attributes unique to each order. But, throughout, it was clear that Wotton was treating the orders as an entirely physical, aesthetically discrete phenomenon; they were five types of columns with accompanying entablatures that the Romans used and that modern architects could incorporate into their buildings as they saw fit. These, then, were the positions that the English had arrived at in the 1620s. But to fully understand the later seventeenth-century English conception of the orders, we must now turn to contemporary European writing on the subject.
Fréart and the Orders
Staying in the mid-seventeenth century, but crossing the Channel, a different picture emerges. No other seventeenth-century author (before Perrault at least) attempted such a lengthy and detailed definition of the orders as Roland Fréart de Chambray. In fact, as Fréart himself was fully aware, no one before him had undertaken such a definition either. The importance of Fréart’s Parallèle to English architectural thought in the later half of the seventeenth century cannot be overstated. (p.163) Through Evelyn’s translation, it was widely read until well into the eighteenth century, and the fact that it went through four editions and can be found in all architect’s libraries from the period demonstrates its popularity.35 But nowhere is Fréart’s influence more profound than in his discussion of the orders in his preface and in the opening chapter of the book. I intend to analyse these passages very closely, for they are of great importance to English architectural history. With this in mind, I shall quote from Evelyn’s translation of the text rather than the original. I do this for two reasons. Firstly, Evelyn’s translation was particularly faithful. Secondly, as we shall see, the language used by Fréart’s English translator was, in many respects, as influential as the French author’s argument.
Fréart began the Parallèle with a chapter on ‘the Orders in General’.36 In the preface he had already made clear that, in his text, he would split the five orders that the Renaissance had defined into two groups: one containing the three original Greek orders (Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian) and the other containing the inferior ‘Latine’ orders, by which he meant the Tuscan and the Composite (or ‘Compounded’ in Evelyn’s translation). The first chapter was concerned primarily with the former, which he saw as inherently superior. Fréart began by noting that, in his opinion, no modern author, apart from Vincenzo Scamozzi, had even attempted a comprehensive definition of the orders:
It is sufficiently difficult to determin precisely, what the Name of Order may signifie amongst our Architects, though it be indeed very necessary to understand it well. Of all the Moderns who have written upon the five Orders, there is none, save Scamozzi, who has once remember’d to give us the Definition …37
(p.164) Fréart then proceeded to attack Scamozzi’s definition for being ‘wandring’, noting (with characteristic ill temper) that the Italian author would have done better to ‘have held his Peace, as the rest have done’. But look again at Fréart’s opening lines, for his expectations on modern authors were particularly high. Note how the French author sought not only an explanation of the five orders of architecture, but a definition that included ‘the Name of Order’ in architecture. In fact, his definition of the orders was entirely bound up with a broader definition of order as an architectural principle. This was, I believe, a differently expressed version of the distinction that Shute had managed to articulate in 1563 (between the orders as ‘Pillers’ and the orders as the ‘darke & unknowen corners of the whole processe’). But Fréart went much further in exploring this apparently dual definition of the orders/order in architecture, and his conclusions had profound implications for how the Parallèle was received in English intellectual culture at the end of the century.
Returning to the text and following the attack on Scamozzi, Fréart gave what he saw as Vitruvius’s definition of ‘the Name of Order’ in architecture. This he took from Book 1, Chapter 2 of De architectura, and was, in fact, the Roman author’s definition of that primary stage in the design process: ordinatio. Vitruvius, said Fréart, understood order as ‘Ordonance’ (Fréart’s translation of ordinatio), and that order (i.e. ordonance or ordinatio) represented the ‘Apt, and Regular Disposition of the Members of a Work separately; and a Comparison of the Universal Proportion with Symmetrie’.38 Now is not the time for an analysis of the many ways of translating this passage, but suffice to say, most modern interpretations would see this statement by Vitruvius as representing the conception of the ground plan of the building based on a modular grid or, at least, the act of conceiving of the plan of the building in the way that we saw Perrault defining it in Evelyn’s ‘Account’. It is not generally held to be a comment that related in any meaningful way to the three (or five) orders of classical architecture. But that was exactly where Fréart took it, for he followed this quotation from Vitruvius with the following observation:
It is very Perspicious to all those of this Mystery, that the Principal Piece of an Order is the Column, and that its Entableture being once placed on the Capitel produces the entire Composition. If therefore we will define it exactly, and give the most express Meaning of it, we must, as it were, make a very Anatomy of the Parts, and say, that the Column, with its Base, and Chapiter, Crown’d with an Architrave, Frieze and Cornice, forms that kind of Building which Men call an Order; seeing all these Individual Parts do generally encounter, and are found through all the Orders; the Difference amongst them consisting in no other particular, than in the Proportion of those parts, and the Figure of their Capitels.39
(p.165) This was a standard definition of the orders as types of columns (Shute’s ‘Pillers’), defined by their proportional differences and their ornamental attributes. Yet Fréart, claiming that this was only the most ‘exact’ definition, had combined it with Vitruvius’s description of the process of ordinatio. For the French author, ordinatio and the classical orders of architecture were one and the same thing.
In actual fact, Vitruvius never used the word ‘order’ or its derivatives to describe those column types known as Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. He instead used ‘genera’, and in De architectura he did not make any clear link between the process of ordinatio (the first stage of a design) and the genera of columns, the latter of which he first discussed in a rather prosaic passage about temple typologies quoted (for the sake of irony) at the top of this chapter. Therefore, Fréart’s conflation of ordinatio and the orders represented a serious misreading of the Roman text.40 For this, he was not exclusively to blame. As Ingrid D. Rowland has shown, it was probably Italian authors of the early sixteenth century, Raphael and Angelo Colocci in particular, who first began to describe Vitruvius’s genera of column types as ordine or the ‘orders’.41 Serlio, the sixteenth-century author who, more than any other, established the canon of the five orders of architecture, also used the word ordine to denote the genera.42 But it was Palladio, in the quattro libri, who first drew some form of link between the passages in Vitruvius that had described the column types, which were by now regularly described as ordine, and the description of ordinatio at the beginning of Chapter 2 of the first book of De architectura.43 Palladio did this rather obliquely and as part of his formulation of the appropriate intercolumniations for the five orders.44 And he did not discuss in any great detail what the possible link between the orders and ordinatio might (p.166) have meant for how architects were to understand the orders as a general principle of design. Perhaps this was because, as Branko Mitrović observes, what Palladio had done was so clearly contrary to Vitruvius’s original text.45 But, nonetheless, his implied combination of the Vitruvian genera and the process of ordinatio had significant implications for the course of architectural theory in the seventeenth century. It was in the writings of Palladio’s French translator and chief promoter, Fréart, and his subsequent English followers, where this can best be seen. For no other author so explicitly drew the two (originally) separate Vitruvian ideas of ordinatio and the genera of columns now known as the orders together as Fréart did. And, unlike Palladio, he explored the implications of this decision in great detail in the Parallèle. Fréart’s version of ordinatio/orders conflation was hugely influential in subsequent English architectural theory. This was presumably because, logically, it produced a very successful result: for it allowed Fréart to formulate a convincing and workable definition of the orders that elided the contradiction that Shute and Wotton had identified between the orders as ‘Pillers’ and the orders as some form of quasi-metaphysical foundation of architecture. It also allowed Fréart to place the orders at the heart of the design process in architecture, which the English would also, consequently, do.
So, if the initial stage of ordinatio was now to involve the orders in some way, how did this actually work in practice? Well, Fréart used this conflation to define the orders as being inherently methodological; they were both a decorative scheme or, as he called it, ‘modes’ of design (in Evelyn’s words ‘manners’), and they were a methodological, underlying, principle of geometric manipulation that inhered in all good architecture.46 The former overlaid and was dependent on the latter. Fréart showed this, firstly, by dealing with the former category: the orders as column types with specific attributes (Shute’s ‘Pillers’ and, indeed, Vitruvius’s ‘genera’). Here, he cited ancient practice as an authority:
They have yet indeed some peculiar Ornaments, as Triglyphs, the Dorick; Dentelli, or Teeth, the Ionick; and the Corinthian her Modilions: but they are none of them of so general and Indispensible Obligation, but that even the most Regular of the Antients themselves, have upon some Considerations frequently dispensed with them. For Ornaments are but Accessories in the Orders, and may be diversly Introduced as occasion requires;47
Thus, for Fréart, the ancients saw the individual, ornamental attributes of the orders as being ‘Accessories’ to something else.48 They were to be deployed depending on situation (as Evelyn and North had recognized), but they were not, by any means, all that made up the orders. This was a striking claim. Fréart had just reduced some of (p.167) the orders’ most clearly distinguishable features (such as the triglyphs of the Doric order and the dentils of the Ionic order) to the level of accessories. But accessories to what? Fréart gives us the answer to this question immediately, and, in the process, we arrive at the key passage in his writing of the orders:
the Excellency and Perfection of an Art consists not in the Multiplicity of her Principles; but contrarily, the more simple they are and few in Number, the more worthy they are of our Admiration: This we may see manifested in those of Geometry, which is in truth the very Foundation and universal Magazine of all those Arts, from whence This has been extracted, and without whose aid it were impossible it should subsist. Well therefore may we conclude, That the Orders being no other than the very Elements of Architecture, and these Three first, which we have deduc’d from the Greeks, comprehending all the Species of Building …49
The ‘Accessories’ of the orders’ ornamental attributes were, therefore, only incidental to the foundational ‘Geometry’ underneath. It was the orders, as defined as the geometrical qualities of the building as a whole, that really mattered, and it meant that the orders were nothing short of the very ‘Elements of Architecture’, or the foundation of ‘all the Species of Building’.50 Everything else was dependent on the ‘Geometry’ that comprised the orders in their most fundamental, pure, state. To put this in classical, metaphysical–philosophical terms, the ornamental attributes of the orders were accidental to the geometrical substance beneath.51 Furthermore, it was the underlying geometrical simplicity of the orders and, as we shall see, the application of that simplicity in the process of ordinatio that rendered the orders the most elemental feature of all good architecture. The orders existed both as columns and as a process of design, and it was geometry that allowed those two definitions to coexist.
It is important to recognize that it was Vitruvius’s description of ordinatio, conveniently widened to include the orders, that had allowed Fréart to get to this position. For it meant that his claim—that the orders should be conceived of as pure geometry as well as ornamental columns types—was constructed methodologically. (p.168) To see this in action, we have to go back to the preface of the Parallèle. Here, the French author had discussed some more general principles of architecture, and, in doing so, had unleashed many of his more infamous and bad-tempered attacks on modern design.52 One of his chief criticisms of modern architects related to their propensity for claiming to have invented new orders of architecture by designing ‘disfigured’ versions of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns and entablatures. They justified this practice, Fréart observed, by claiming that to do otherwise, and follow the ancient orders precisely, would render architecture a process without any form of invention:
a Man shall hardly find an Architect who distains not to follow the best and most approved Examples of Antiquity: Every Man will now forsooth compose after his own Fancy, and conceives, that to imitate Them [the ancients], were to become an Apprentice again; and that to be Masters indeed, they must of necessity produce something of New: Poor Men that they are, to believe that in fantastically Designing some one kind of particular Cornice, or like Member, they are presently the Inventors or a New Order, as if in that only consisted that is call’d Invention; as if the Pantheon, that same stupendious and incomparible Structure which is yet to be seen at Rome, were not the Invention of the Architect who Built it, because he has vary’d nothing from the Corinthian Order of which it is intirely compos’d?53
In this passage, Fréart directly confronted the question that I posed earlier in the context of English design: how could one be creative when designing buildings within an architectural tradition that seemed so dependent on a rigid set of rules? Surely, said Fréart (whilst paraphrasing modern architects), if an architect followed the ancient rules of the orders to the letter, as the Roman designer of the Pantheon had apparently done, then they would fail to be a creative agent in any way. Theirs would be less a process of invention and more one of robotic copying.
Fréart then presented a way out of this paradox, although to understand his solution we must keep the conflation of the orders and ordinatio in mind. Returning to his preface, he continued his assault on modern architects:
’Tis not in the Retail of the Minuter Portions, that the Talent of an Architect appears: This is to be judg’d from the general Distribution of the Whole Work. These low and reptile Souls, who never arrive to the universal Knowledge of the Art, and embrace her in all her Dimensions, are constrain’d to stop there for want of Abilities, incessantly crawling after these poor little Things; and as their Studies have no other Objects, being already empty and barren of themselves; their Ideas are so base and miserable, that they produce nothing save Mascarons, wretched Cartouches, and the like idle and impertinent Grotesks, with which they have even infected all our Modern Architecture.54
The language might seem strong, but the argument here was a careful one and the opening lines of this passage are the most revealing. It was the inability of modern architects to realize that true invention lay in the composing of the whole building rather than in its ornamental accessories that had led to so many (p.169) grotesque variations in the design of modern buildings. They had failed to grasp the inventive potential of that moment when an architect produced the ‘general Distribution of the Whole Work’. This was, of course, an oblique reference to ordinatio, and the reader may now begin to get some sense of Fréart’s argument. Here are his concluding remarks:
As for those others to whom Nature has been more propitious, who are indu’d with a clearer Imagination, they very well perceive that the true and essential Beauty of Architecture consists not simply in the minute Separation of every Member apart; but does rather principally result from the Symmetry and Oeconomy of the whole, which is the Union and Concourse of them all together, producing as it were a visible Harmony and Consent, which those Eyes that are clear’d and enlightned by the real Intelligence of Art, contemplate and behold with excess of Delectation.55
So, the ultimate attainment of beauty in architecture—which could be apprehended in the beholding of good buildings—and in the appropriate use of the orders, was to be achieved by conceiving of the design as a whole. In other words, by practising ordinatio, understood as the manipulation of the basic geometry of the orders, both as separate parts of the plan and elevations of the building, and as a whole, or the ‘Apt, and Regular Disposition of the Members of a Work separately; and a Comparison of the Universal Proportion with Symmetrie’, as Fréart had taken it from Vitruvius. So, it was here, at the very beginning of the Vitruvian design process, that genuine architectural invention lay: in the handling of the basics of the orders, understood as pure geometry, across the whole building, not in the deployment of their individual, ornamental attributes. For Fréart, then, inventive architectural production depended on the orders. And, importantly, and in spite of the fact that it rested on a misreading of Vitruvius’s definition of the orders, his argument was so embedded in the Vitruvian tradition that, by implication, the orders were, for him, present in the numerous stages in the Roman author’s design method. They were as much there—in fact, more so—in ordinatio as they were in decor and, as we have seen, ordinatio dictated dispositio and ultimately resulted in the attainment of eurythmia and symmetria, so they were present in those stages as well.
But before turning to the impact of this argument in England, I want to briefly discuss how this definition of the orders related to the rest of Fréart’s treatise, which, as Evelyn told his English readers, represented a survey of ten modern authors on ancient architecture that took a critical, if not pedantic, approach to their writings. As Fréart’s definition of the orders was entirely rooted in Vitruvian theory (albeit incorrectly understood), that meant that the only proportions that architects should aim to use, according to the French author, were those of the three Greek orders that Vitruvius had recorded for posterity and of which numerous examples survived in ruined form from the ancient world. The establishment of the correct proportions of those orders, as used by the ancients, was the chief (p.170) aim of the rest of Fréart’s text, and he always upheld the authority of ancient examples over any modern author:
Let us not then forsake the Paths which these Excellent Guides [the ancients] have trac’d before us; but pursue their Footsteps, and generously avow, that the few gallant things which have yet reached down to us, are due only as deriv’d from them. This is the Subject that had invited me to assemble and begin this Collection by the Greek Orders, which I had first drawn out of Antiquity her self, before I so much as examined the Writings of our Modern Authors: For even the very best Books extant on this Argument, are the Works of these old Masters, which remain to this Day, and those Beauty is so perfect, and so universally receiv’d …56
Thus, ancient exemplars would always take precedence over modern authors, whose work was then evaluated only on its ability to accurately render the proportions used by the ancients (a consolation prize that Palladio normally won). But, said Fréart, not all ancient buildings used the correct proportions and ornaments of the orders, and not all modern authors had accurately recorded them. So a careful, judicious, study was required to elucidate the most appropriate ancient examples as well as the most accurate modern interpreters of those examples:
Not as if generally the Ancients were to be imitated indifferently; on the contrary, there are but very few of them good, and an Infinite number of them bad, which is that has produc’d this confused Variety amongst our Authors, who treating of the Orders, and their Measures, have differ’d so strangely from one another. It is therefore undoubtedly the safest Way to have Access to the Sources themselves, and to follow precisely the Models and Proportions of which ancient Structures, as have the Universal Consent and Approbation of those of the Profession.57
The fact that his theory of the orders was so dependent on ancient practice (as documented by Vitruvius and evidenced by the buildings) meant that Fréart‘s argument never lost sight of those (supposedly) precise and ideal proportions of the ancient orders. For, if he had defined the orders as just pure proportional geometry with accidental ornamental features overlaid on top of them (i.e., without the link to the ancient practice of ordinatio), then Fréart’s whole method of design would have run the risk of becoming unstable (on his terms at least). The (p.171) orders would have been reduced to ill-defined geometry and subjectively applied proportion, with all the ornaments flexible—even the most apparently sacred of the orders’ attributes (the volutes of the Ionic and the Acanthus leaves of the Corinthian capitals for example)—and those modern architects who had tried to invent new orders would have been justified in their actions. But it was the Vitruvian principle of ordinatio that held the Parallèle together and allowed Fréart’s ideal architectural practitioner to be inventive in the designing of the building within the specific proportions of the three Greek orders, as used by the ancients. Hence Fréart’s constant quest to establish a definitive set of measurements, based on ancient exemplars, in his text.
Fréart’s determination to establish a definitive set of proportions of the orders from the surviving fabric of the ancient world also meant that his argument never reached the position that Claude Perrault would thirty years later. Perrault is usually seen as the one seventeenth-century author whose writings on the orders were truly revolutionary, and before we leave France, we should briefly see what he had to say on the matter. We have already seen, through Evelyn, how Perrault defined ordinatio and dispositio in his translation of De architectura, but elsewhere in his writings, and in his 1683 treatise the Ordonnance des cinq espèces de colonnes selon la méthode des anciens in particular, he went further in defining the orders as a whole.58 In actual fact, in the tellingly named Ordonnance, Perrault followed Fréart (and Palladio) entirely in misreading Vitruvius and conflating ordinatio and the orders as column types. He made this explicitly clear in the very opening lines of the treatise:
The Ordonnance, according to Vitruvius is what determines the size of each of the parts of the building according to its use. By parts of a building we understand not only the rooms that it is composed of, such as the courtyard, vestibule, or hall, but also the parts that are involved in the construction of each room, such as entire columns, including the pedestal, the column, the entablature, which itself is made up of the architrave, frieze, and cornice. These are the only parts dealt with here, and it is their proportions that the ordonnance regulates, giving to each part the dimensions appropriate to its intended application, such as a greater or lesser size calculated for the support of a great weight or a greater or lesser capacity for accommodating delicate ornaments, which may include sculpture or moldings; these ornaments also belong to the ordonnance and provide an even more visible sign than proportion for designating and regulating the orders. Nevertheless, the most essential difference between the orders, according to Vitruvius, is that of proportions. Hence, the architectural order is what is regulated by the ordonnance when it prescribes the proportions for entire columns and determines the shape of certain parts in accordance with their different proportions.59
(p.172) This was a more ambitious definition of ordinatio than the one Perrault had given in his commentary on Vitruvius, and it was also identical to that which Fréart had proffered in the opening chapter of the Parallèle. In many respects, Perrault’s words here represent the perfect précis of the ordinatio/orders conflation that I have been describing, and, again, he emphasized the inherently methodological result of that conflation. The design process began with the orders and—as Perrault made clear—it was their pure proportions, as deployed in the act of ordinatio, that dictated the whole design of the building. Where Perrault subsequently departed from Fréart, however, was in his argument that the most appropriate proportions of the orders—to be subsequently used in the act of ordinatio—could best be established by modern mathematics rather than by the study of ancient exemplars.60 This was the radical departure from previous architectural theory that modern commentators on Perrault have identified in his work, but I will not explore it in any great detail here. This is for the simple reason that Fréart’s definition of the orders was far more influential in English thought in the period than Perrault’s, the implications of which were apparently lost on most English readers. Although the Ordonnance was translated into English in 1708 it did not have the circulation that the Parallèle had and it was not nearly as influential.61 Instead, English authors followed Fréart in never relinquishing the belief that the ancients had used the orders with greater sophistication than the moderns could ever hope to do. Where English authors (or one at least) differed, was that they saw the way that the ancients used the orders differently from Fréart.
John Evelyn and the Orders
As the Parallèle, with its definition of the orders, was so widely read in England in our period, did it influence how English people saw the orders? And, crucially, did Fréart’s comments on how the orders related to invention and design influence how the English saw the process of architectural creation? The obvious place to look is the ‘Account’ that Evelyn appended to his translation of the French text, but again, it disappoints. Following the account of the design process that I set out above, Evelyn also gave his readers a definition of the orders as part of his lexicon of architectural terms, although this definition (and its location in the lexicon) (p.173) differed in first and second editions. In the first edition Evelyn placed his basic definition of the orders within a section entitled ‘columna’. In light of the preceding discussion in this chapter, this very fact rendered clumsy Evelyn’s initial treatment of the orders. But even if he located the definition within a category that Shute would have called ‘pillers’, Evelyn still admitted that the orders represented some form of fundamental material in the make-up of an architectural design and that they were, to some degree, more than the just columns:
A Column, which is strictly the Naked Post or Cylinder only; does not assume the Name and Dignity of any Order, till compleatly qualified with those Parts and Accessaries, which give it Name Praeminente and Rank; but being so distinguish’d, they are to Architects what several Modes are in Music, and the Carminum genere among the Poets: All Buildings whatsoever coming properly under the Regiment of some one or other of them, or at lest, ought to do, and they are Five, (according to the Vulgar Account) namely, Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composita:62
He had taken the comparison of the architectural orders to musical modes and poetic genres directly from the Danish writer Johann Heinrich Alsted’s Encyclopaedia of 1630, a work that he greatly admired.63 But the rest of the definition seems to have been Evelyn’s own. So, the orders, for Evelyn, were made up of a ‘Naked Post or Cylinder’, by which he meant the column in some bare state (akin to Fréart’s underlying geometry but exclusively based on columnar form). Added to this were ‘Parts and Accessaries’ which gave each order its ‘Rank’. By this, he clearly meant the ornamental and specific proportional attributes of the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite. Although his suggestion that some bigger ‘Regiment’ of each order dictated the overall design hinted at the process of ordinatio, this was clumsy in comparison with Fréart’s model (although it was, ironically, closer to what the original Vitruvian doctrine had been before the Renaissance had mangled it).
Perhaps Evelyn recognized that this, as a definition of the orders, would not do. In the second edition he moved this passage and relegated it to late in a new section entitled ‘ordo’.64 This gave a longer definition of the orders, which was closer to Fréart’s, though it still lacked the subtlety of the French author:
Order, by which we are all along to understand certain Rules and Members agreed on for the proportions and differences of Columns, the Characters, Figures, and Ornaments (p.174) belonging to every Part and Member; whither bigger or lesser, plain or inrich’d: Or as others, a Regular Arangement of the principal, and constituent Parts of a Column, from whence there Results that Composition which gives it usefulness with Grace and Beauty: This for consisting then of the several Shapes and Measures, obliges us to say something more of Proportion as being indeed the very Foundation of Architecture itself …65
So, Evelyn initially defined ‘Order’ as being the individual attributes of the ancient column types, but he then made reference to the proportion that inhered in each and, ultimately, formed the basis of ‘the very Foundation of Architecture itself’. Following this, Evelyn had little more to say on the matter, and nothing on how this might relate to invention. For a more nuanced engagement with Fréart’s definition of the orders and their implication for the process of design, we must go elsewhere.
Christopher Wren, the Orders, and Invention in Architecture
In fact, the most comprehensive negotiation of the ideas in the Parallèle can be found in the most sophisticated, but also the most complicated, piece of architectural–theoretical writing to emerge from England in this period: Christopher Wren’s ‘Tracts on Architecture’. These have not played much of a role in this book thus far; they now take centre stage. But they are not an easy source to use. They lack the clarity of most of the texts that I have discussed thus far, and they do not contain the sort of definitive statements on architectural subjects that populate Evelyn’s ‘Account’. It is not even entirely clear when they were written. Soo, in her published transcription of the source, suggested that they were at least begun in the 1670s.66 But, as we shall see, many of the passages in them must date to later in his career, and in the proceeding discussion I will highlight specific moments in the text that prove they were written towards the end of Wren’s career, perhaps early in the eighteenth rather than the seventeenth century. The ‘Tracts’ were also unpublished in Wren’s lifetime, and their survival in manuscript form brings with it other difficulties. Particularly troubling is the possibility, pointed out by J.A. Bennett, that the first publisher of the text, Wren’s son, may have added to them in some way.67 But I believe that there is enough material in the ‘Tracts’ that appears to be (p.175) grounded in the architectural–theoretical world of the turn of the eighteenth century and, like Bennett, I will assume that the majority of the ‘Tracts’ are the work of Wren himself.
But even if they were the work of Wren alone, that does not mean that they should be seen as complete in any way, for it is important to recognize the fragmentary nature of them as an historical source. As Wren Jr. himself admitted, they had been taken from ‘my Fathers Manuscript Papers’, which ‘were only the First rough Draughts, not perfected, nor intended by him for the Press’.68 The unfinished and piecemeal nature of the text makes the process of establishing the theoretical influences on the ‘Tracts’ even more important, for that process allows us to fill in potential gaps and, thus, make clear Wren’s original argument, as I will do in the following discussion. The final caveat with regards to the ‘Tracts’ is that they carry considerably more historiographical baggage than any other piece of English architectural writing in late seventeenth-century England. Because of Wren’s position as the head of the architectural hierarchy in the period they have received a great deal of attention from scholars, and this corpus of work needs to be addressed before I turn to the text itself.
Eileen Harris’s entry on Wren in her indispensable 1990 catalogue British Architectural Books and Writers makes two claims about the ‘Tracts’: one is correct, and the other is, I believe, not. The former, correct, assertion is that no historian (in 1990 at least) had analysed Wren’s ‘Tracts’ in the context of seventeenth-century architectural theory, and the writings of French authors in particular.69 As Harris observes, scholarship on Wren’s architectural writings had, up to that point, been dominated by J. A. Bennett’s studies of the scientific context for the ‘Tracts’ in the 1970s: a scholarly achievement that rendered any prior attempts to understand Wren’s theories of architectural design and beauty largely irrelevant.70 As previously stated, Harris’s historiography is correct: Bennett remains the most significant historian to write on Wren’s Tracts, but he did not explore them in the context (p.176) of seventeenth-century architectural theory (which was never, in fact, his intention). Harris then lays down the gauntlet to some ‘future author’ to do this but, in doing so, warns that author against ‘attempting what Wren himself thought unnecessary, that is the supplying of reasons for his rules’.71 This is where Harris takes a wrong turn, for there was reason behind Wren’s rules, and this can be elucidated (although the rules themselves are perhaps harder to establish). Harris made this statement in good faith, for this is indeed what Wren appeared to say in ‘Tract II’ (we will look at the specific passage shortly). The other reason why the ‘Tracts’ appear to be short on reasons for the rules of architecture was that, in the writing of them, Wren did not seem particularly preoccupied with the orders, as so many of his contemporaries were. This, again, was an assertion made by Harris, and it is a correct one, but only if we take the orders to mean those specific types of columns that Vitruvius had called genera and that Shute had introduced to the English as ‘Pillars’. Instead, if we define the orders according to Fréart’s orders/ordinatio definition then Wren emerges as the one English architectural theorist from the period with the most to say on the subject.
The reason why Fréart’s definition of the orders is so important for our understanding of the ‘Tracts’ was that the Parallèle, or more precisely Evelyn’s translation of it, exerted a profound influence on Wren’s architectural writings. An example of this influence can be seen in the terminology used in Wren’s ‘Tracts’. This was often remarkably similar to that used by Evelyn in his translation of the Parallèle, as was the context in which it was used. Take Fréart’s preface, where the French author defended his annexation of the Tuscan and Composite orders (the ‘Latine’ orders) from the three Greek orders. Fréart identified the ‘Latine’ orders as being the principal sites of more recent architectural abuses and warned against using these two in conjunction with the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian:
these three Orders here, that have therefore no need of the other two (Tuscan and Composite) which being purely of Latine Extraction, and but Forreigners in respect to them, seem as it were of another species; so as being mingl’d, they do never well together, as those to whom I discourse will soon perceive, when they shall have once put off a certain blind Respect and Reverence, which Antiquity, and a long Custom (even of the greatest Abuses) does commonly imprint in the most part of Men …72
Evelyn used the word ‘custom’ to describe the tradition of abuse in architecture since antiquity. In Fréart’s original, the word was ‘usage’.73 Wren also saw ‘custom’ as denoting the process of desensitization, through overfamiliarity, to architectural abuse: ‘Customary Beauty is begotten by the Use of our Senses to those Objects which are usually pleasing to us for other Causes, as Familiarity or particular Inclination breeds’.74
Another word (and its use in a particular context) that the ‘Tracts’ shared with Evelyn’s translation of the Parallèle was ‘Fancy’, which, in the original French was (p.177) rendered as ‘fantaisie’.75 Here is Evelyn’s translation of Fréart’s discussion of the conflict between ancient sobriety and modern excess: ‘a Man shall hardly find an Architect who distains not to follow the best and most approved Examples of Antiquity: Every Man will now forsooth compose after his own Fancy’.76 Compare it to this passage in the ‘Tracts’: ‘the Principles of Architecture are now rather the Study of Antiquity than Fancy’.77 And again from Wren: ‘An Architect ought to be jealous of Novelties, in which Fancy blinds the Judgement; and to think his Judges, as well those that are to live five Centuries after him, as those of his own Time’.78 So the two authors (and one translator) were in agreement: there was a tension between ancient principles and faddishness or ‘Fancy’, played out across centuries of architectural time. The previous Wren quotation also used the words ‘jealous’ and ‘Novelty’ in conjunction. Fréart had employed these two words together (jalousie and nouveauté in French) at the very beginning of the Parallèle: ‘all that Jealousie does commonly suggest in reproach of Novelty’.79 A final example was the word ‘mode’ (also mode in Fréart’s original text), which was also used by Fréart as a pejorative descriptor of fashion or faddishness: ‘its now become as it were the Mode, I should say rather an universal Madness, to esteem nothing fine, but what is fill’d and surcharged with all sorts of Ornaments, without choice’.80 Similarly, Wren noted, in a passage that will be discussed in greater detail below, that ‘the only Thing uncapable of Modes and Fashions in its Principals, the Orders’ and again, in ‘Tract II’ that ‘they [the ornaments of the orders] are but Modes and Fashions of those Ages wherein they were used’.81
So, there were lexical similarities between Evelyn’s translation of Fréart and Wren’s ‘Tracts’. Bennett also noted this in 1972, and he rightly used them to warn against seeing too many superficial, literary similarities between Wren’s writings on architecture and those of Perrault’s, as historians had done before him.82 But we can go further than this, for there were similarities between Wren and Fréart that went far beyond language. In particular, it was Fréart, and not Perrault, who exerted the greatest influence on how Wren conceived, theoretically, of the orders.
As mentioned above, Wren’s ‘Tracts’ do not, at first glance, seem particularly concerned with the orders, although the text began with an explicit statement of their rightful primacy in the history of architecture. In the second paragraph of ‘Tract I’ Wren wrote: ‘Architecture aims at Eternity; and therefore the only Thing uncapable of Modes and Fashions in its Principals: the Orders’.83 Here, one suspects, he had in mind the ordinatio aspect of the definition of the orders rather than the column types definition. He then followed this claim by arguing that the orders predated the Greeks and Romans, that they were also ‘Phœnician, Hebrew, and Assyrian; therefore being founded upon the Experience of all Ages’, and then (p.178) noted that ‘Experiments’ in the orders—by which he meant the deployment of ‘Fancy’—were expensive and produced ‘Errors incorrigible’. Thus, he concluded, the ‘Principles of Architecture are now rather then Study of Antiquity than Fancy’.84 This was already much closer to Fréart than Perrault, particularly in its insistence that the study of ancient exemplars was essential to the understanding of the chief principles of architecture: the orders. In Fréart’s (and Evelyn’s) words: ‘It will first be requisite to be thoroughly Instructed in the Principles of Architecture, and to have apply’d our Studies to Antiquities, which are the very Maxims and Rules of this Art’.85
Returning to Wren, we then get to the most famous passage of the ‘Tracts’, the discussion of the causes of beauty:
There are natural Causes of Beauty. Beauty is a Harmony of Objects, begetting Pleasure by the Eye. There are two Causes of Beauty, natural and customary. Natural is from Geometry, consisting in Uniformity (that is Equality) and Proportion. Customary Beauty is begotten by the Use of our Senses to those Objects which are usually pleasing to us for other Causes, as Familiarity or particular Inclination breeds a Love to Things not in themselves lovely. Here lies the great Occasion of Errors; here is tried the Architect’s Judgement: but always the true Test is natural or geometrical Beauty.86
Wren’s causes were split, therefore, into natural beauty that derived from geometry and was to be achieved by the application of uniformity and proportion, and customary, which, as we have already seen, was dictated by familiarity with certain ‘modes’ or fashions. This division is strikingly similar to that which Fréart had identified in his definition of the orders: between geometry—which should be uniform across the whole building and applied in the act of ordinatio—and ornamental accessory, which, the French author had also noted, was susceptible to ‘Custom’ and which, in turn, ‘does commonly imprint in the most part of Men’ and which was limited to the Vitruvian stage of decor.87 Indeed, Wren’s emphasis on how customary beauty worked on the senses through familiarity rather than by being intrinsically beautiful (as natural beauty was) was extremely similar to Fréart’s assertion that the ‘Humor of the several Ages and Nations’ had left a ‘deep Impression on the Minds of certain half-knowing People’.88 When it came to ‘natural beauty’, (p.179) Wren did, admittedly, differ from Fréart in seeing geometry’s aesthetic causality as being natural or related to nature (Fréart did not say what, ultimately, caused geometry’s beauty), but otherwise the division is the same: between geometry and fashionable accessory. And again, like Fréart, Wren recognized that the architect’s inventive responsibility lay in making decisions in both the formulation of geometry in an architectural design and in the application of customary phenomena. But it was the former that Fréart and, subsequently, Wren, identified as the ‘true Test’ of an architect’s inventive skill. Again, therefore, Wren located true architectural invention in the process of handing the basic geometries of the building rather than in the more arbitrary deployment of custom. But it is important to note that Wren did not say that ‘customary beauty’ was necessarily the cause of ugliness or lack of beauty, it was just less stable than natural beauty and it was to be handled by architects with a great deal of care: this was exactly how Fréart had defined the ornamental attributes of the orders. And as Wren had already stated that the orders were ‘uncapable’ of being affected by ‘Modes and Fashions’ it stands to reason that the orders—in their basic geometrical form—were the result of the cause of ‘natural beauty’.
Wren then followed the explanation of the causes of beauty by listing some examples of ‘Views contrary to Beauty’, chief of which was the ‘Excess of Uniformity’ or ‘Variety’. This appears to be lifted straight out of Fréart, who wrote in the first chapter of the Parallèle:
For the Excellency and Perfection of an Art consists not in the Multiplicity of her Principles; but contrarily, the more simple they are and few in Number, the more worthy they are of our Admiration: This we see manifested in those of Geometry, which is in truth the very Foundation and universal Magazine of all those Arts.89
Wren’s stress on the role of perception or ‘Opticks’ as the arbiter of architectural beauty may well have been taken from Fréart as well. ‘Tract I’ abounded in discussion of how the eye comprehended buildings. For example, Wren’s discussion of variety concluded with the statement that the use of variety was, ideally, to ‘transgress not the Rules of Opticks and Geometry’ and that the use of perspective drawings was key to anticipating how ‘the Eye sees the Building’.90 Fréart had noted in the first chapter of the Parallèle that ‘the Art of Architecture does not consist in Words; the Demonstration ought to be sensible, and Ocular’.91 In ‘Tract I’ therefore, Fréart’s influence on Wren’s writings was profound and, in particular, it was his definition of the orders that drove the aesthetic formulation in the tract.
If the reader is already familiar with Wren’s ‘Tracts’, then they may have identified a problem with the above analysis. For much of what I have just argued would appear to be contradicted by Wren in ‘Tract II’, which apparently disavowed the importance of the ancient orders as a set of rules. Indeed Wren, in his second tract, would appear to contradict what he himself had written at the start of ‘Tract I’ where he had emphasized the eternal nature of the orders. Authors on the ‘Tracts’, before Bennett, were at pains to highlight contradictions such as this in both (p.180) Wren’s writings and in his architecture. They could never work out whether he, like Fréart, upheld the authority of the ancients or whether, like Perrault, he sided with the modern formulation of proportional beauty.92 Bennett brilliantly squared these contradictions by highlighting a principle of empiricism that ran across the ‘Tracts’. I also intend to elide the contradiction, but in a different way. Unlike Bennett, I will do this by turning, once again, to contemporary architectural discourse. For it is my contention that, to properly understand the relationship between Wren’s first two tracts and, indeed, to comprehend his entire architectural–theoretical project, we need to look to other texts from the period (and, indeed, from the Renaissance as well). These are numerous, but the position they generally espouse was one best summed up by a seventeenth-century French author: not Fréart, nor Perrault, but, instead, Antoine Desgodetz.
In fact, the actual argument of ‘Tract II’ is fiendishly hard to follow, and, in its creation, was reliant on multiple influences, so I will proceed slowly. Wren started the text with the proposition that modern authors had been too preoccupied with a particular way of writing about architecture, one that had focused rather narrowly on the specific proportions and ornamental details of the classical orders:
Modern Authors who have treated of Architecture, seem generally to have little more in view, but to set down the Proportions of Columns, Architraves, and Cornices, in the several Orders, as they are distinguished into Dorick, Ionick, Corinthian, and Composite;93
This was reminiscence of Fréart’s reproach of modern authors for refusing to define the orders on theoretical grounds, and it also, like Fréart, implied that the orders were more than just the individual attributes of the Vitruvian genera. But then began the most problematic passage in ‘Tract II’ and the one that prompted Harris to warn future authors from attempting to see reasons behind Wren’s theorization of classical architecture:
[Modern authors] in these Proportions finding them in the ancient Fabricks of the Greeks and Romans, (though more arbitrarily used than they care to acknowledge) they have reduced them into Rules, too strict and pedantick, and so as not to be transgressed, without the Crime of Barbarity94
As Soo observes, Wren was now tapping into an old debate about the degree to which the proportions of the orders in surviving ancient architecture were uniform.95 It had long been acknowledged that there were significant discrepancies in this regard. Indeed, the motives of Palladio, other treatise writers of the sixteenth century, and even Fréart himself, had been to bring together the sometimes disparate set of measurements displayed by surviving ancient buildings and make an ideal set of (p.181) them.96 But, in Wren’s time, and as he acknowledged in this passage, proof of the arbitrary nature of the ancients’ deployment of the orders’ proportional attributes was becoming so conclusive as to render attempts to create ideal sets of them irrelevant. One text, in particular, established, definitively, that the ancient use of proportion was not, in any way, uniform; this was Desgodetz’s 1682 Les édifices antiques de Rome, which the English architect owned.97
This was, of course, a hugely important text, which contained the published results of Desgodetz’s time spent measuring the ruins of Rome, at the behest of the Académie Royale d’Architecture, between 1676 and 1677.98 In publishing the Édifices, Desgodetz’s initial intention had mirrored that of Fréart’s: to establish a definitive set of measurements of ancient buildings in Rome, but in doing so he realized that all previous authors on the ruins had failed to measure the buildings with any degree of exactness:
My first intention was therefore, when I undertook to measure with precision the antiquities of Rome, to learn which of the authors in vogue ought to be followed, as having given the real measures. But when upon the spot I took the necessary pains to be elucidated in this doubt, I was not a little surprised to find another elucidation which I did not seek; and this let me see that those who have hitherto measured the ancient structures, have not it with precision, and that there is not so much as one of all the designs we have of them, where very considerable faults are not to be found.99
Although Desgodetz challenged the findings of these previous authors, including Fréart’s beloved Palladio, the author of the Parallèle would still have approved of the sentiment behind these words: the establishment of a set of ancient exemplars of the orders was, after all, the purpose of Fréart’s original treatise. The problem was that Desgodetz’s actual measurements showed that no two ancient buildings were alike in their proportional attributes, that they all failed to follow an exact set of rules, and that it was hard to establish any degree of ideal uniformity. Desgodetz himself did not comment explicitly on this fact, but other authors leapt on it. Perrault, predictably, went first. He wrote in the Ordonnance, published the year after the Édifices, that:
all those who have written about architecture contradict one another, with the result that in the ruins of ancient buildings and among the great number of architects (p.182) who have dealt with the proportions of the orders, one can find agreement neither between any two buildings not between any two authors, since none has followed the same rules.100
Perrault was able to say this because he had examined ‘the book that Monsieur Desgodets has recently published on the ancient buildings of Rome’, and he used his countryman’s findings as further licence to formulate a new set of proportions of the orders, not based on ancient exemplars.101 To return to Wren and the passage from ‘Tract II’ that began this discussion, the English architect and author seems to have come to the same conclusion: there was no point in trying to establish a definitive set of the proportions based on ancient buildings, because they were just too ‘arbitrarily’ used by Greek and Roman architects.102 For Wren, the ancient architectural orders were not, in any way, a homogenous phenomenon; instead, they were deeply heterogeneous.
Wren’s claim in ‘Tract II’, that ancient architecture was characterized by variety, chimed with the generally dynamic nature of architectural knowledge in this period. As we saw in Chapter 3, the conception of a norm in ancient architectural practice was slowly being eroded as more and more evidence of ancient ruins emerged. Though considerably less sophisticated than Desgodetz’s recording of Roman buildings, Vernon had also come to similar conclusions in Athens: that the specifications of ancient architectural examples often did not match up to either texts or other buildings. In Vernon’s case, he had realized that the buildings of Athens bore little resemblance to the architectural models that Vitruvius had described. Discoveries such as these had the potential to disrupt existing architectural paradigms, and Wren, as a theorist, was evidently fascinated by them. In fact, the ‘Tracts’ demonstrate that he was widely read in travel literature and took into account, in his writings, new discoveries relating to ancient architectural sites. In ‘Tract III’, for example, he made use of Halifax’s 1695 account of Palmyra. In a general discussion of the development of the Doric order in antiquity he noted that ‘thus was Tadmor built, the Ruins of which shew nothing at present to Travellers, but incredible Numbers of Pillars of the Dorick Order, some yet standing, more broken, which were certainly the Remains of long Porticos to shade the Streets’.103 This was a reference to the Colonnade Street of Palmyra, and Wren’s knowledge of it must have come from Halifax’s account and its accompanying illustration, which very clearly showed the abundance of Doric columns that Wren described. His use of Halifax’s text is significant (p.183) for two reasons: firstly, it definitively dates this part of ‘Tract III’ to 1695 or later, as no account of the desert city existed before then, but, secondly, it is evidence that Wren kept abreast of the latest developments in the community’s knowledge of ancient architecture and shaped the theoretical reasoning in the ‘Tracts’ around them.104
Other moments in the ‘Tracts’ where Wren demonstrated his knowledge of recent architectural discoveries came in his account of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus in ‘Tract IV’. Towards the end of his reconstruction of the building—which he had predominantly taken from Pliny—he noted that ‘Modern Travellers tell us, there are great Heaps of Ruins at this Day, and large Vaults, which probably were the Substructions of the Colonades’.105 These ‘Modern Travellers’ would have been Spon and Wheler, whose 1679 and 1682 accounts of their journeys in Greece and Turkey included descriptions of Ephesus that matched Wren’s description.106 Also in ‘Tract IV’ (and again in ‘Tract V’) Wren made reference to the Tomb of Absalom in Jerusalem, which he believed had been built in biblical times using the Tyrian order, a proto-Doric column type that, he argued, predated the three Greek genera.107 Wren thought that the tomb represented the best surviving example of the order, and to establish this he gave a description of the structure, which he took from a number of sources including George Sandys’ 1615 account of his travels in the Holy Land.108 Wren also appears to have talked to travellers who had seen it first hand, as he knew that it was over thirty feet high and that the proportions of the pilasters, which Wren thought were of his Tyrian order (they are, in fact, Ionic, and date from the first century AD), were greater than those of Vitruvius’s Tuscan order.109 This information was not included in Sandys’ account, and Wren reported that his knowledge of the tomb had come from both ‘the description given of it [presumably by Sandys] and what I have learnt from Travellers who have seen it’.110 In fact, Wren’s account of the Tomb of Absalom was embarrassingly inaccurate (he was not even sure if it was hexagonal or square in plan), and he had not, evidently, read the more detailed description of the monument (with accompanying illustration) in Cornelius de Bruyn’s 1698 Reizen van Cornelis de Bruyn, door (p.184) de vermaardste deelen van Klein Asia.111 Nonetheless, his discussion of it again demonstrates his interest in accounts of ancient architecture in travel writing and it inadvertently provides further proof of the instability of the community’s knowledge of the fabric of the ancient world. For, had he seen de Bruyn’s illustration of the monument, then he would have realized that the tomb had Ionic pilasters, the existence of which would have seriously compromised his overall argument for the existence of the Tyrian order in ‘Tract IV’.
The discoveries in texts such as those of Desgodetz, Halifax, Spon, Wheler, and de Bruyn had the potential to challenge existing architectural–theoretical models. That was precisely what Desgodetz’s findings did to Fréart who, remember, had relied on the assumption that a definitive and uniform set of measurements could be extracted from a corpus of ancient buildings to make his formulation of invention by ordinatio work. Once this assumption had been destabilized, there were two things that English followers of Fréart could do. Firstly, they could choose to simply ignore Desgodetz, as Evelyn would do in his second edition of the Parallèle, published over twenty years after the Édifices,112 or they could accept Desgodetz’s (p.185) results and try to make use of them (alongside what was left of Fréart’s argument) in formulating new methods of designing classical buildings. Wren opted for the latter approach.
If we now return to the narrative of ‘Tract II’, we can see this. Following the comment on ancient proportional arbitrariness, Wren proceeded to, apparently, contradict everything that he had argued in the first tract. Still on the subject of the ancient orders of architecture, he now proposed that:
though in their own Nature, they [the orders] are but the Modes and Fashions of those Ages wherein they were used; but because they were found in the great Structures, (The Ruins of which we now admire) we think ourselves strictly obliged still to follow the Fashion, though we can never attain to the Grandeur of those Works.113
So Wren now argued that the ‘several Orders’ that he had explicitly named as the Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite were merely the modes or fashions of the ancients. This would appear to place them definitively on the customary side of his causes of beauty, and it also seems a much closer position to that of Perrault (aside from the claim that modern architects could not hope to emulate the ‘grandeur’ of ancient buildings). It also looks, to all intents and purposes, like a direct contradiction of his assertion in ‘Tract I’ that the orders were ‘uncapable of Modes and Fashions’. What is the historian to do with this contradiction (aside from conclude that the ‘Tracts’ are so fragmentary that they lack any degree of coherency whatsoever)? If we keep reading, Wren’s argument becomes clear. Following this apparently contradictory passage, he gave some examples of ancient ‘Liberties’ that he had read about, including those recorded in a sketchbook of ancient ornamental details made by Pirro Ligorio that Inigo Jones had apparently brought back from Italy.114 He then continued his assault on the modern obsession with the ornamental attributes of the orders, and, in doing so, appeared to even further contradict the statement in ‘Tract I’ that the orders were immune to modes and fashions:
But although Architecture contains many excellent Parts, besides the ranging of Pillars, yet Curiosity may lead us to consider whence this Affectation arose originally, so as to judge nothing beautiful, but what was adorned with Columns, even where there was no real Use of them […] It will be to the Purpose, therefore, to examine whence proceeded this Affectation of a Mode that hath continued now at least 3000 Years, and the rather, because it may lead us to the Grounds of Architecture, and by what Steps this Humour of Colonades came into Practice in all Ages.115
Wren, here, echoed Wotton in dismissing the orders as being merely the ‘ranging of Pillars’, but his recognition that the process of tracing the history of orders might lead to the ‘Grounds of Architecture’ is significant, for, as we shall see, Wren had not yet given up on Fréart’s definition.
(p.186) ‘Tract II’ continued with an extended discussion of the original origin of the orders, and in doing so retraced his steps (he had explored this theme at the end of ‘Tract I’). To do so, Wren went to Vitruvius who had ‘led us the true Way to find the Originals of the Orders’ and his ensuing description of the origins of the orders followed the Roman author’s account of the link between the orders and the timber construction of primitive buildings (though Vitruvius’s famous stories of the human-corporeal origins of the three Greek orders were absent, Wren having dismissed them in ‘Tract I’).116 As Soo argues, this discussion served to ground the origins of the orders in nature, which, of course, was one of Wren’s causes of beauty. This can best be seen in his account of the development of ancient colonnades:
People could not assemble and converse, but under shade in hot Countries; therefore, the Forum of every City was also at first planted round with Walks of Trees […] These Avenues were afterwards, as Cities grew more wealthy, reformed into Porticoes of Marble; but it is probable, at first the Columns were set no nearer the Trees were before in Distance, and that both Architraves and Roofs were of Timber; because the Inter-columns would certainly have been too large to have had the Architraves made in Stone; but the Architects in After-ages, being ambitious to perform all in Stone, and to load the Architraves also with heavy Cornices of Stone, were necessitated to bring the Pillars nearer together; and from hence arose the Differences of the Eustyle, Sustyle, Diastyle, and Pycnostyle Disposition of Columns, by which Vitruvius and his Followers would make a systematical Science of their Art, forming positive Rules, according to the Diameters of their Columns, for the Inter-columns, and the Proportions of the Architraves, Cornice, and all the Members of which they are composed.117
So the structural and geometric principles of the orders were descended from nature, but their various ornamental and proportional attributes had come about because of the later need to create rules for masonry construction. Masonry had different structural properties than timber, Wren noted, and as a result, the original, natural intercolumniations narrowed. At the same time, ancient writers sought to codify those new measurements, forming ‘positive Rules’ and making a ‘systematical science’ of architecture. So the creation of rules for the orders had come about through circumstance: the need to use stone rather than timber.
Following this grounding, in nature, of the origins of the orders and the charting of their subsequent transition into ‘positive Rules’, Wren was ready to resolve his own apparent contradiction between the first two Tracts. In doing so, he resurrected Fréart’s theory of the orders. Here, a third of the way into ‘Tract II’ came the pivotal line in Wren’s ‘Tracts’: ‘It seems very unaccountable that the Generality of our late Architects dwell so much upon this ornamental, and so slightly pass over (p.187) the geometrical, which is the most essential Part of Architecture.’118 This was, of course, taken straight out of Fréart’s preface—even down to the reproach of modern architects—and it was a recapitulation of the French author’s ordinatio-driven definition of the orders. If we go back to the first Tract, it becomes clear what Wren meant by all this: remember, the only thing ‘uncapable of Modes and Fashions’ were the orders. So, if we put these two passages together, the orders represented geometrical beauty and had done so since they emerged from nature. But not the orders as defined as a set of column types—those attributes were modes that had been created by ancient people as a result of the circumstances of masonry construction, and were ultimately caused by customary beauty—rather, the orders defined as Fréart had done so in his preface: as an overarching system of inventive design based on pure geometry.
But Wren’s theory of the orders differed from Fréart in one crucial respect. His use of Desgodetz and other writings on ancient architectural variety allowed him to conceive of the ancient use of the orders in a different way to Fréart. As the ancients were far more flexible and varied in their use of the orders—both as geometry and ornament—than was previously thought, Wren, unlike Fréart, was able to use that fact to argue that invention in architectural design—i.e., the policing of natural beauty and customary beauty—was down to the choices made by the individual architect alone and was not constrained by any adherence to overly proscriptive rules. Wren developed this argument in ‘Tract IV’, and it is best seen in his comments on the behaviour of the architects of various ancient buildings. In this Tract, he interpreted four ancient buildings (the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, the Basilica of Maxentius and the Temple of Mars Ultor in Rome, and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus) and made it clear that this discussion would be laced with the theory that he had articulated in the preceding tracts.119 So in his discussion of the temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, which he predominantly took from Palladio’s recordings, he made the following observation: ‘The Squares in the Wall of the Cella opposite to the Intercolumnations tell us how extremely the Ancients were addicted to square and geometrical Figures, the only natural Foundation of Beauty.’120 Wren was here referring to a set of square carved panels, set into the wall of the temple, and matching the intercolumniation of the portico (Figure 4.2).121 Thus, the ancients were the masters of creating natural beauty using the basic geometry of the orders as modern architects, according to Wren in ‘Tract II’, had generally failed to do. His evaluation of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which was taken from the account of the monument in Pliny, was also driven by Fréart’s insistence on the primacy of ordinatio (and its application in dispositio) in the quest (p.188) for invention in architectural design: ‘The Ordinance of the Whole falls out so wonderfully, and the Artists being contemporary with the School of Plato, I know not but they might have something to practise from thence, in this harmonick Disposition.’122 So once again, the overall perception of the building was given greater importance than the application of ornament; it was the ‘Ordinance’ of the whole that really mattered. In the case of the Mausoleum, its architects had mastered ordinatio to such a sophisticated degree that Wren speculated on a possible link to the contemporaneous Platonic Academy.
But he also used these buildings to demonstrate that the ancients’ handling of the orders could be flexible to the point where they were willing to dispense with seemingly essential elements if circumstance dictated it and if it meant that the overall design of the building was more successful. He showed this with the example (p.189) of the Basilica of Maxentius in Rome (which Wren, like all architectural writers in the Renaissance and early modern period thought was the ‘Temple of Peace, built by the Emperor Vespasian’) and, in particular, the omission of the corona from the cornice of the building’s Corinthian order.123 He began this discussion by apparently disapproving of the architect of the Basilica’s decision to design a ‘humble Portico, and low Wings’, although he conceded that this was part of an overall intention to make the building look as broad and flat as possible. He then continued by confronting the lack of the corona in the cornices:
But shall I accuse Antiquity for want of Skill in Opticks, of which every where it shews such admirable Proofs? since particularly here the Architect hath given great Testimony of it in the Contrivance of his Cornice, wherein he hath left out the Corona, or Hanging-square, by an unusual Example. The Corona seems an essential Part in all Cornices, as that which gives Denomination to the whole, and is necessary to the Beauty of a Cornice; because, by its Projecture it shadows all the lower Members, receiving upon its place Surface a terse Light from above; this gives the Eminence and distinct Appearance which we see in the Parts of a Cornice at distance; but the Artist here ingeniously apprehending that his Lights in this Fabrick stood level with his Cornice, and therefore it would want the Effect for which it is used, and that the Hanging-face of it would be fore shortened to nothing, to the Eye which beholds it from beneath, wisely left out this Member, which, if these optical Reasons did not prevail, would never have been used, since, of all Members, this is that which most loads the Cornice, and makes us, for want of Stones of such Vastness, and Money to move them, despair …124
Wren’s focus on the lack of the corona probably reflected the influence of Desgodetz on his writings. Palladio, whose accounts of ancient structures in the quattro libri were also used by Wren in the ‘Tracts’, made no mention of the feature, but it is clearly present in Desgodetz’s illustrations of the Basilica, and the French scholar commented explicitly on it in the accompanying text (Figure 4.3).125 But more importantly, Wren recognized that the corona was nearly always essential to the appropriate functioning of a classical cornice and, in particular, to the cornice’s overall appearance as perceived from the ground. It was, therefore, by in large ‘necessary to the Beauty’ of the cornice. But in the case of the basilica, Wren noted, the architect had dispensed with the feature because the way that the building would receive natural light meant that the cornice would look better without this apparently vital element. The ‘Opticks’, which Wren had discussed in the first Tract, were thus improved by a substantial change to the order of the building. Wren continued that ‘It was not therefore Unskilfulness in the Architect that made him (p.190) (p.191) chuse this flat kind of Aspect for his Temple, it was his Wit and Judgment’.126 So, for Wren, the ‘Wit and Judgment’ of the individual architect mattered more than the proscribed rules of the orders. If the commission required it, if it meant that the building would be more beautiful and function more appropriately, then an architect could break any rule in the classical playbook. After all, the ancients had done so on some of their very best buildings.
Importantly, Wren was not the only English writer from the period to argue for this degree of flexibility in the use of the orders, although he certainly explored the idea in far greater detail than any other author. Nonetheless, a very similar argument can be found in North’s writings on architecture. Earlier in this chapter we saw North bending the rules of ‘Regular’ architecture in his Middle Temple Gateway because the situation of the building necessitated such changes. But in another unpublished text, the ‘origin and development of Regular Architecture’, North went further than this and justified a more flexible use of the orders, in spite of their undeniable and seemingly eternal beauty. In doing so, he argued something similar to that which Wren had proposed in the ‘Tracts’:
As for the bases, capitals and other ornaments of the orders so much pleaded for and so religiously executed, I cannot ascribe such necessity to them; but all the world must agree they are beautyfull, having past censure of times, and nothing since found out of equall request. So that I must allow an ingenious architect to vary in those particulars as his judgement prompts; but let him take heed, few in the world have ventured but have succeeded ill, and there is no excuse for going out of the way, when that very thing is a fault in the opinion of most, and to follow the patterne is right, the sence of all; which to mee seems a great consolation to the men of designe, that they are sure to please, it they are not capricious.127
For North, then, the orders were beautiful and, like Wren, he believed that their longevity had proved them to be so. But they could also be applied flexibly, provided that the architect doing so was an ‘ingenious’ one. But he cautioned against anyone doing this and noted that by sticking closely to the regulations of the orders an architect would generally please. North’s other arguments regarding the orders differ from Wren and are, generally, closer to Perrault’s conceptualization of them, but another thing he shared with his countryman was his belief that no matter how important the orders were, their successful deployment was still dependent on the individual talent of the architect.128 Wren, remember, had combined his (p.192) knowledge of the heterogeneity of ancient architecture that he had obtained from Desgodetz and other authors with Fréart’s definition of the orders/ordinatio and come up with a remarkably flexible and pragmatic theory of architectural design. But the handling of the basic geometries of the building—the process of ordinatio—was, for Wren, the ultimate manifestation of the agency of the individual architect. His argument here differed from Perrault in that he still upheld ancient authority, but he used that very authority to argue in favour of a great deal of licence in the handling of the orders of architecture. Wren’s ‘Tracts’ were, above all, supreme evidence of the power of knowledge in early modern architectural theory, and they vindicate my approach in this book. It was through learning about architecture in books that Wren formulated this theory of design. In the Conclusion we shall see what implications this theory has for our understanding of his architecture.
(1) Individual creativity certainly existed as a concept in the period, and many art forms, including painting and music, were moving toward a definition of creativity that was predicated on individual agency in design. For a summary of recent scholarship on seventeenth-century notions of creativity see Rebecca Herissone, ‘Introduction’ in Herissone and Howard (eds.), Concepts of Creativity, pp. 1–12.
(2) McKitterick, Making of the Wren Library, p. 142.
(3) The letter is dated 1 May 1681: Caröe, Tom Tower, p. 23.
(4) In one of his letters to the Earl of Conway regarding the design of Ragley Hall, Hooke discussed the nature of communicating architectural designs over long distances. He felt that text was an inappropriate medium on its own, and should always be accompanied by drawings and, if possible, a model: I never designed those draughts for any other use than to explain my meaning to yr Ldp which without them it would have been very difficult to have done intelligibly by words. That soe yr Ldp understanding the severall Designes might pitch upon the best, which being done I alway designed a farther explanation of all particulars by a module and necessary draughts (Batten, ‘Architecture of Hooke’, pp. 102–3)
(5) William Winde, for example, seems to have relied on craftsmen to fill in the details of his designs on country houses and even allowed them to contribute elements to drawings: Colvin, Biographical Dictionary, p. 1133. And even Wren did not exert complete control over designs. As Colvin argued, many of the specific, ornamental features of Wren’s City Churches and St. Paul’s Cathedral were probably designed by masons and other craftsmen in situ: Howard Colvin, ‘The Rebuilding of the Church of St. Mary Aldermary after the Great Fire of London’, in H. Colvin (ed.), Essays in English Architectural History (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 195–205. Nonetheless, authors made it clear in their writings that the architect was in nominal control of the entire design. Later in this chapter we will see that some writers, Wren included, saw the overall design of the building as being the principal location for the deployment of an architect’s individual invention, not in smaller ornamental features. Another caveat here was that designing buildings in the institutional sphere might well have operated differently to private commissions. As I have argued elsewhere, the phenomenon of office holding in administrative practice in the period meant that architects working for large institutions such as the Crown and the City of London relinquished a certain degree of individual autonomy and designed, first and foremost, in their capacity as the holders of an office: Walker, ‘Limits of Collaboration’, p. 137.
(6) Gunther, Architecture of Roger Pratt, p. 86.
(7) Gunther, Architecture of Roger Pratt, p. 83.
(8) North, Of Building, pp. 51–2. See also Colvin, ‘Roger North and Christopher Wren’, pp. 258–9 and Colvin, Biographical Dictionary, p. 753.
(9) North’s conception of ‘Regular’ architecture is discussed in the Introduction to this book. North, Of Building, p. 115.
(10) This is a question that has been explored by scholars of the Renaissance, and the sixteenth century in particular. See Alina A. Payne, ‘Creativity and bricolage in architectural literature of the Renaissance’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 34 (1998), pp. 20–38. The relationship between invention and classical architecture in seventeenth-century England has received less attention.
(11) Evelyn, ‘Account’, pp. 11–12. The Latin quotation is taken from Vitruvius, Book 1, Chap 1, 2.
(12) Wotton, Elements of Architecture, p. 118. Evelyn’s use of Wotton here trod a fine line, bearing in mind the earlier seventeenth-century writer’s clear separation of theory and practice in architectural agency (see Chapter 1, note 28). Wotton would have probably disagreed with Evelyn on the importance of practical knowledge in the initial design process. See Harris, British Architectural Books, pp. 500–1; and Rykwert, First Moderns, p. 128.
(13) For Perrault’s commentary on the section of Vitruvius in which the Roman author discussed ordinatio and dispositio see Perrault, Les dix livres, p. 9. Evelyn’s account here represents the beginning of his lexicon of architectural terms, and he uses the narrative of the Vitruvian design process to introduce some key architectural words, including ordinatio, dispositio, eurythmia, symmetria, and decor, all of which, except dispositio (which is included in the description of ordinatio), appear in italics in the margin in the manner of the ensuing lexicon. The references to Perrault’s commentary were added to the second edition of the ‘Account’ as part of a number of changes to the lexicon. In this case, the changes are not particularly substantial and merely represent expansions of ideas that were present in the first edition. Later, in Evelyn’s discussion of columns and orders, the changes are more important, and will be discussed on p. 173.
(14) As discussed on pp. 171–2, Perrault, like Fréart before him, argued in his later text on the orders, the Ordonnance, that ordinatio as a process was inextricably linked to the orders themselves. Recent authors have argued that what Vitruvius actually meant by ordinatio and dispositio was the process of creating a modular grid that dictated the proportions of the rest of the design. In this respect, the original Vitruvian concepts of ordinatio and dispositio resembled a simplified version of what later Beaux-Arts designers would identify as the parti: Thomas Noble Howe, ‘Commentary’, in Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, I.D. Rowland and T.N. Howe (eds. trans.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 149.
(15) Evelyn, for example, saw Perrault’s definition of ordinatio as representing the process by which ‘the Court, the Hall, Lodgings and other Rooms’ were judged to be ‘neither too large, or too little’ so that ‘the Hall be of fit Capacity to receive Company: The Bed-Chambers for Persons of Quality’: Evelyn, ‘Account’, p. 12.
(16) Evelyn, ‘Account’, p. 12; Perrault, Les dix livres, p. 9.
(17) Evelyn, ‘Account’, pp. 14–15.
(18) The Vitruvian concepts of eurythmia and symmetria were of great interest to Renaissance authors, but seventeenth-century writers seemed less interested in them. Neither Evelyn nor Fréart devote much discussion to them, and they tended to treat them as a given provided ordinatio and dispositio had been conducted properly. For an introduction to eurythmia and symmetria in Renaissance writings and those of Barbaro in particular see James S. Ackerman, ‘Daniele Barbaro and Vitruvius’, in C.L. Striker (ed.), Architectural Studies in Memory of Richard Krautheimer (Mainz: von Zabern, 1996), pp. 1–5, p. 5. Frustratingly, Evelyn says nothing about cogitatio and inventio, which Vitruivus addressed as concepts between his description of the stages of dispositio and eurythmia: Vitruvius, On Architecture, p. 14.
(19) Evelyn, ‘Account’, p. 15. It is tempting to see Evelyn’s reproach of architects who built church fronts out of the Tuscan order as a slight on Inigo Jones and his design of St. Paul’s Covent Garden. The reverence for the former Royal Surveyor was widespread but, evidently, not universal. This passage was present in the first edition and was reprinted verbatim in the second. For the Vitruvian concept of decor and its treatment by Renaissance theorists see Alina A. Payne, The Architectural Treatise in the Italian Renaissance, Architectural Invention, Ornament, and Literary Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 35–41.
(20) Evelyn, ‘Account’, pp. 15–16. For the use of architectural models in the period, which was widespread, although probably limited to major commissions, see Wilton-Ely, ‘Architectural Model’, pp. 250–9.
(21) Payne, ‘Creativity and bricolage, pp. 23–4.
(22) Evelyn, ‘Account’, p. 16.
(23) Evelyn’s claim that Palladio’s treatise was ‘incomparable’ probably reflected the influence of Fréart, who had argued, in the Parallèle, that Palladio was the finest modern writer on architecture and had himself translated the quattro libri into French in 1650. Palladio’s influence on Fréart’s definition of the orders will be discussed later in this chapter, but for Fréart and Palladio in general see Frédérique Lemerle, ‘Fréart de Chambray ou les enjeux du Parallèle’, XVIIe siècle, vol. 196, no. 3 (1997), pp. 419–53, pp. 448–9. The one English text from our period (though very early) that did explore the requirements for designing different types of buildings was Pratt’s unpublished writings on architecture. Pratt’s description of the general design process (written in November 1660) was a simplified, and rather homemade, version of Vitruvius’s. He called everything that took place before ornament as ‘precognition’ and divided this stage up into the usual ichnography, orthography, and scenography. He also emphasised the importance of arithmetic and geometry in this process: Gunther, Architecture of Roger Pratt, pp. 18–22.
(24) Fréart, Parallel, p. C1v.
(25) For Evelyn’s thoughts on the Gothic more generally see Friedman, ‘John Evelyn and English Architecture’, pp. 164–5; and Buchanan, ‘Interpretations of Medieval Architecture’, pp. 39–42.
(26) Fréart, Parallel, pp. 2–3. For a detailed discussion of Fréart on the orders see pp. 162–72.
(27) For Serlio’s well-known discussion of the ancient orders and modern ‘licence’ in the use of them see Sebastiano Serlio, Sebastiano Serlio on Architecture, Volume One, V. Hart and P. Hicks (eds. and trans.) (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996), p. 136. See Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks, ‘On Sebastiano Serlio, Decorum and the Art of Architectural Invention’, in Hart and Hicks (eds.), Paper Palaces, pp. 140–57, pp. 147–8.
(28) For the general interest in books of the orders in seventeenth-century England see Harris, British Architectural Books, pp. 23–31; and Bold, John Webb, pp. 18–21.
(29) As Harris shows, when English editions of European architectural treatises were produced they tended to be ones that focused on the orders. The most popular included texts by Hans Blum, Serlio, and Vignola: Harris, British Architectural Books, pp. 23–4.
(30) Sixteenth-century Italian writing on the orders was hugely influential in the following century and has been extensively discussed in recent literature. I will make reference to it when appropriate, but for general introductions to the subject see John Onians, Bearers of Meaning, the Classical Orders in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 263–330; and Anderson, Renaissance Architecture, pp. 67–73. For Shute, see Vaughan Hart, ‘From Virgin to Courtesan in Early English Vitruvian Books’, in Hart and Hicks (eds.), Paper Palaces, pp. 297–318; Harris and Savage, British Architectural Books, pp. 418–22; and Savage, Early Printed Books, vol. 4, pp. 1855–8.
(31) John Shute, The first and chief Groundes of architecture..., (London: Thomas Marshe, 1563), p. Aiii. Shute’s use of the word ‘pillar’ to denote the orders suggests that he was not so familiar with the works of his Italian contemporaries, who had long since adopted the word ordine to denote Vitruvius’s column types (see p. 165).
(32) Harris and Savage, British Architectural Books, p. 421.
(33) Wotton, Elements of Architecture, pp. 42–3; Harris, British Architectural Books, p. 501.
(34) Wotton, Elements of Architecture, pp. 30, 32.
(35) The first edition was published in 1664 and was reissued in 1680. Although sales were slow initially, the second edition of 1707 was clearly a huge bestseller, judging by its presence in so many libraries. The third edition was released in 1723 (as a demonstration of the ongoing importance of seventeenth-century theoretical works in the following century, it had Wotton’s Elements of Architecture appended to it), and a fourth edition appeared in 1733: Harris, British Architectural Books, pp. 196–201. Hooke owned the first edition (Feisenberger, Sale Catalogue, p. 100); Hawksmoor, the first and second editions (Watkin, Sale Catalogues, pp. 103–4); and Talman, the first edition (Griffiths, ‘Talman Collection’, p. 245). Wren’s library, unsurprisingly, contained the 1707 second edition, which was dedicated to him (Watkin, Sale Catalogues, p. 39), but he was also given a copy of the first edition by Evelyn in 1665; this survives complete with Evelyn’s handwritten dedication: Keynes, John Evelyn, p. 166. Additionally, Roger Pratt cited Fréart in his notes on buildings in 1666 and must have had access to, presumably, the 1664 edition: Skelton, ‘Reading as a Gentleman’, p. 27.
(36) Scholarship on Fréart’s Parallèle is not as substantial as that concerning the works of other French architectural theorists in the early modern period (Blondel and Perrault in particular). For introductions to Fréart and his text see the introduction in Roland Fréart de Chambray, Parallèle de l’architecture antique avec la moderne suivi de Idée de la perfection de la peinture, F. Lemerle-Pauwels and M. Stanić (eds.) (Paris: École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, 2005), pp. 7–18; Lemerle, ‘Fréart de Chambray’, pp. 419–53; and Wiebenson and Baines, Millard Collection, French Books, pp. 194–6.
(37) Fréart, Parallel, p. 11. The passage in Scamozzi’s L’idea della architettura universale to which Fréart referred was in Part 2, Chapter 1, Line 42. Translated by Evelyn (through Fréart) it defined order as ‘a kind of Excellency, which Infinitely adds to the Shape, and Beauty of Buildings, Sacred or Profane’. For Scamozzi and the orders see Marco Frascari, ‘The Mirror Theatre of Vincenzo Scamozzi’, in Hart and Hicks (eds.), Paper Palaces, pp. 245–60. In many respects, Fréart was correct in his broader observation here. Although the great Italian treatise writers of the previous century were often preoccupied by the orders in their writings, they very rarely gave extensive explanations of what they actually conceived the term ‘orders’ or ‘order’ to mean.
(38) This well-known passage has been translated in many different ways. In his 1707 translation, Evelyn translated Fréart’s reading of it into English and then added another translation of the passage taken from Perrault’s French translation of the text: Fréart, Parallel, p. 11. A convincing modern translation of the passage, that makes it clear just how far it is from Vitruvius’s later discussion of the orders as column types, is: ‘Planning consists of adapting each individual element of a building to the right dimensions and establishing its overall proportions by reference to modularity’: Vitruvius, On Architecture, p. 13.
(39) Fréart, Parallel, pp. 11–12.
(40) For Vitruvius’s discussion of the genera see Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lafaivre, Classical Architecture, The Poetics of Order (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1990), pp. 35–115. For the Renaissance use of the term and its replacement with ordine, see Ingrid D. Rowland, ‘Vitruvius in Print and in Vernacular Translation: Fra Giocondo, Bramante, Raphael and Cesare Cesariano’, in Hart and Hicks (eds.), Paper Palaces, pp. 105–21, pp. 117–18; Branko Mitrovic, ‘Palladio’s Theory of the Classical Orders in the First Book of I Quattro Libri Dell’Architettura’, Architectural History, vol. 42 (1999), pp. 110–40, pp. 111–12; and Payne, Architectural Treatise, pp. 41–5.
(41) Ingrid D. Rowland, ‘Raphael, Angelo Colocci, and the Genesis of the Architectural Orders’, Art Bulletin, vol. 76, no. 1 (1994), pp. 81–104, pp. 97–9; and Rowland, ‘Vitruvius in Print and Translation’, pp. 117–18. See also Howe, ‘Commentary’, p. 149.
(42) For Serlio’s writings on the orders and his contribution to the creation of an orthodoxy of the five orders see Georgia Clarke, ‘Vitruvian Paradigms’, Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 70 (2002), pp. 319–46, pp. 336–44; and Yves Pauwels, ‘Les origines de l’ordre composite’, Annali d’architettura, vol. 1 (1989), pp. 29–46, pp. 42–3.
(43) Palladio was following Vignola and Barbaro in using the word ordine to describe the orders, and Barbaro had also used it as a translation of ordinatio in his Italian edition of Vitruvius, though he made no link between the concept of ordinatio and the column types described later in De architectura: Barbaro I dieci libri, p. 18. Palladio would be the first to do this: Mitrović, ‘Palladio’s Theory’, p. 112; and Branko Mitrović, Learning From Palladio (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), pp. 97–101. For Barbaro’s writings on ordinatio see Louis Cellauro, ‘Daniele Barbaro and Vitruvius: the Architectural Theory of a Renaissance Humanist and Patron’, Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 72 (2004), pp. 293–329, pp. 324–5.
(44) Andrea Palladio, The Four Books on Architecture, R. Tavernor and R. Schofield (trans.) (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997), pp. 18–19. For a recent and thorough discussion of Palladio’s formulation of the orders and their intercolumniations in both theory and practice see Hemsoll, ‘Palladio’s Architectural Orders’, pp. 1–54.
(45) Mitrović, ‘Palladio’s Theory’, p. 112.
(46) Fréart’s conception of the orders as ‘modes’ was similar to Alsted’s (and, subsequently, Evelyn’s) analogy between the orders and musical modes (see p. 173).
(47) Fréart, Parallel, p. 12.
(48) The potency of this claim did not result from any corruption resulting from Evelyn’s translation. In Fréart’s original text it still carried the same meaning: ‘car les ornements ne sont qu’accessoires dans les ordres, et s’y peuvent introduire divesement selon l’occasion’: Fréart, Parallèle, p. 59.
(49) Fréart, Parallel, p. 12.
(50) Again, Evelyn’s translation of the text was particularly faithful here. The original read: ‘Nous pouvons donc bien conclure que les ordres n’étant que les éléments de l’architecture, et ces trois premiers que nous avons eus des Grecs, comprenant toutes les expèces de bâtiments’: Fréart, Parallèle, p. 59.
(51) It is remarkable how similar Fréart’s conception of the orders was to the basic Aristotelian and, later, scholastic, hylomorphical doctrine of matter: an underlying, indistinct layer of (geometrical) substance to which accidental (proportional and ornamental) qualities were added to make sensible the overall thing. It may well be coincidental—or at least metaphorical—but Frèart, as an educated gentleman, would almost certainly have read the Metaphysics, and it remains a possibility that it was in the back of his mind. As a way of conceiving of phenomena, hylomorphism was still hugely influential in this period. Fréart’s contemporary René Descartes wrote extensively on it and Evelyn’s fellow Royal Society member John Locke was its principal defender in England. The potential link between seventeenth-century conceptions of the orders and Aristotelian hylomorphism may well be worth further scholarly investigation. For a comprehensive evaluation of seventeenth-century hylomorphism, particularly relating to substances, see Robert Pasnau, Metaphysical Themes, 1274–1671 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 135–75. Aristotelianism, much more generally, exerted a significant influence on sixteenth-century Italian architectural theory, particularly that of Barbaro. See Branko Mitrović, ‘Paduan Aristolelianism and Daniele Barbaro’s Commentary on Vitruvius’ De Architectura’, The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 29, n. 3 (1998), pp. 667–88.
(52) For Fréart and his criticism of modern architects see Lemerle, ‘Fréart de Chambray’, pp. 446–8.
(53) Fréart, Parallel, p. 3.
(54) Fréart, Parallel, p. 3.
(55) Fréart, Parallel, p. 3.
(56) Fréart, Parallel, p. 4. These statements go some way to proving correct the characterization of the Parallèle by Wiebenson and Baines as a sort of intellectual ‘pattern book’ of architecture: Wiebenson and Baines, Millard Collection, French Books, p. 196.
(57) Fréart, Parallel, p. 6. Again in this passage, Fréart revealed himself to be more than just a blind follower of the ancients (to be so would be a contradiction of his assertion that invention was possible in the very initial stages of any architecture design), and it was only to certain ancient exemplars that he turned in order to find the best models of the orders and their proportions. He was even willing to set aside Vitruvius when the surviving ruins provided a better proportional model than the text of De architectura. The best example of this in the Parallèle can be found when Fréart discussed that perennial Renaissance problem building: the Theatre of Marcellus, the Doric order of which did not conform to Vitruvius’s stipulations despite the building being roughly contemporary with the Roman author’s writings (Serlio, in particular, had found this discrepancy troubling: Hart and Hicks, ‘On Sebastiano Serlio’, pp. 147–8). Here, Fréart argued that the Doric order on the building was superior to that described in the text, which Fréart (incorrectly) suspected had been corrupted during transcription in the Middle Ages: Fréart, Parallel, p. 20.
(58) For Perrault’s theory of the orders see Alberto Pérez-Gomez, ‘Introduction’ in Claude Perrault, Ordonnance For The Five Kinds of Columns After the Method of the Ancients, I. K. McEwen (trans.) (Santa Monica: Getty Center, 1993), pp. 1–44; and Wolfgang Herrmann, The Theory of Claude Perrault (London: A. Zwemmer, 1973), pp. 95–129. For Perrault’s writings on the orders, ancient architecture more generally, and contemporary science, see Antoine Picon, Claude Perrault, 1613–1688, ou, La curiosité d’un classique (Paris: Picard, 1988), pp. 115–56. For a recent, and thoroughly convincing, reappraisal of Perrault’s writings on ancient architecture in relation to those of his supposed adversary Blondel, see Gerbino, François Blondel, pp. 148–59.
(59) I quote here from the recent English translation of the text: Perrault, Ordonnance, pp. 65–6.
(60) I recognize that this is a very brief summary of what represents, in practice, an argument at least as complex as that of Fréart. For helpful summaries of Perrault’s position on the proportions of the orders see the essays by Pérez-Gomez and Herrmann cited above.
(61) Claude Perrault, A Treatise of the Five Orders of Columns in Architecture, John James (trans.) (London: J. Sturt, 1708). As Pérez-Gomez argues, the Ordonnance was treated by its translator John James as a standard book of the orders rather than as a revolutionary piece of architectural theoretical scholarship. This was best seen in the allegorical frontispiece to the English edition, which, Pérez-Gomez argues, depicted the creation of architecture as a quasi-magical act rather than as a mathematical, empirical process, as Perrault argued for in the text: Pérez-Gomez, ‘Introduction’, p. 3. Some English authors were influenced by the treatise, principally North and (possibly) Wren: Harris, British Architectural Books, pp. 368–71. As I shall argue in the last section of this chapter, however, Fréart exerted a greater influence on Wren than Perrault did.
(62) Evelyn, ‘Account’, 1st ed., p. 126.
Evelyn’s claim that the orders were five in number, ‘according to the Vulgar Account’, betrayed, of course, the influence of Fréart’s division of the orders into the Greek and the ‘Latine’.
(63) Evelyn produced a manuscript digest of the Encyclopaedia in the 1650s: Hunter, ‘John Evelyn in the 1650s’, p. 72. Van Eck has written about the use and exploration of Alsted’s musical and poetic metaphors of the orders in the later, eighteenth-century writings of Germain Boffrand: Germain Boffrand, Book of Architecture … (ed. C. van Eck, trans. D. Britt) (Ashgate: Aldershot, 2002), p. xxii. Evelyn though, never elaborated on how he thought the metaphor worked and, for him, it seems to have been a reasonably throwaway line.
(64) In the second edition, the section on ‘columna’ gave a much narrower definition, one that omitted the part about the orders in general: here, the column ‘nakedly, and strictly taken, is that Part of an Order only, which is the Prop or Columen, plac’d too support something Superior to it’: Evelyn, ‘Account’, p. 20.
(65) Evelyn, ‘Account’, p. 40.
(66) Soo suggested an initial date of the 1670s due to the apparent overlap between the material in the ‘Tracts’ and some of the discussions of ancient and biblical buildings that Hooke recorded having with Wren in his diary in the mid-1670s. But Wren evidently remained interested in such matters throughout his career, and, as we shall see, the ‘Tracts’ contain evidence that he was collecting material relating to ancient architecture in the 1690s and (probably) later. Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 119–20.
(67) ‘Tract II’ was certainly added to after Wren’s death: it contained a passage that references the 1730 English edition of Francesco Scipione Maffei’s A Compleat History of the Ancient Amphitheatres, although this insertion in the original publication of Parentalia is in quotation marks: Christopher Wren Jr., Parentalia or Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens … (London: T. Osborn, 1750), p. 354. See Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 158, 290. For a comprehensive account of the history of the text, in its manuscript forms and in publication, see Bennett, ‘A Study of Parentalia’, pp. 129–47; see also Savage, Early Printed Books, vol. 4, pp. 2458–9.
(68) This quotation comes from Wren Jr.’s correspondence and is cited in Bennett, ‘Natural Causes of Beauty’, p. 7.
(69) Soo’s 1998 edition of Wren’s Tracts is accompanied by an introduction that is focused on the scientific context of the text. She does compare Wren’s theories to those of Perrault and Guarino Guarini, but as fellow scientists-turned-architects rather than as part of a broader architectural–theoretical culture. Desgodetz and Fréart, to my mind the most important influences on Wren’s Tracts, are given scant attention: Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 119–52. Rykwert briefly analyses the Tracts in the context of Perrault and Scamozzi but again does not explore the influence of other French theorists on the work. He does, however, point to similarities between the ‘Tracts’ and the writings of John Locke, which is a plausible connection; see note 87: Rykwert, First Moderns, pp. 148–9.
(70) J.A. Bennett, ‘Christopher Wren: The Natural Causes of Beauty’, Architectural History, vol. 15 (1972), pp. 5–22; and Bennett, Mathematical Science of Christopher Wren, pp. 118–24. Prior authors who tackled the problems in Wren’s ‘Tracts’ but did so without producing satisfactory results were Eduard F. Sekler, Wren and his Place in European Architecture (London: Faber and Faber, 1956), pp. 50–7; Viktor Fürst, The Architecture of Sir Christopher Wren (London: Lund Humphries, 1956), p. 173–4; Whinney, Wren, pp. 199–202; and Kerry Downes, Christopher Wren (Penguin: London, 1971), pp. 47–9. See Bennett, ‘Natural Causes of Beauty’, pp. 8–9, for criticism of these authors’ approaches.
(71) Harris, British Architectural Books, p. 506.
(72) Fréart, Parallel, p. 2.
(73) Fréart, Parallèle, p. 53.
(74) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 154.
(75) Fréart, Parallèle, p. 53. Perrault, in his Vitruvius edition, also used the word ‘fantaisie’ in a similar context: Perrault, Les dix livres, p. ē2. See Herrmann, Theory of Claude Perrault, p. 31.
(76) Fréart, Parallel, p. 3.
(77) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 154.
(78) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 155.
(79) Fréart, Parallèle, p. 52; Fréart, Parallel, p. 1.
(80) Fréart, Parallel, p. 88.
(81) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 153, 157.
(82) Bennett, ‘Natural Causes of Beauty’, p. 17.
(83) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 153. For a reading of these passages that stresses their similarities to Perrault’s writings, see Levine, Between the Ancient and Moderns, pp. 198–9.
(84) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 154. The assertion that the Greeks and Romans were not the first to use the orders did not come from Fréart, but was a fairly common argument in architectural theory in the period. As Soo observes, the notion was at least as old as Alberti: Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 132. Wren’s formulation of a ‘Tyrian Order’ that predated the three Greek orders was novel, but one that related to his overall conception of ancient architecture as being more varied than previously thought (see p. 180).
(85) Fréart, Parallel, p. 6.
(86) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 154. For Bennett’s analysis of this passage, which emphasizes the influence of contemporary empiricism and the importance of mathematics on Wren’s prioritization of geometry, see Bennett, ‘Natural Causes of Beauty’, pp. 11–15. Numerous other authors have attempted to make sense of it. They are helpfully summarized by Bennett.
(87) Fréart, Parallel, p. 2. As I suggested in note 51 there is, again, an affinity here with philosophical thought from the period. Joseph Rykwert noted this in 1980, pointing to a similarity between Wren’s dual conception of the causes of beauty and John Locke’s writings on primary and secondary qualities: Rykwert, First Moderns, p. 148. Again, these similarities would be worthy of further scholarly investigation.
(88) Fréart, Parallel, p. 2.
(89) Fréart, Parallel, p. 12.
(90) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 154–5.
(91) Fréart, Parallel, p. 11.
(92) Bennett provides a useful summary of previous authors’ attempts to wrestle with contradictions in Wren’s writings and between his writings and his buildings: Bennett, ‘Natural Causes of Beauty’, pp. 9–10. For an alternative reading of Wren’s writings on ancient architecture, see Levine, Between the Ancients and Moderns, pp. 198–201.
(93) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 157.
(94) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 157.
(95) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 124.
(96) As Payne observes, Palladio sums this process up in the beginning of Book One of I quattro libri: Payne, ‘Creativity and bricolage’, p. 29. Although, as David Hemsoll has recently shown (and Palladio himself admits) the orders as exemplified in the quattro libri were also deeply informed by Palladio’s experience in using them in his own buildings: Hemsoll, ‘Palladio’s Architectural Orders’, p. 39.
(97) The copy listed in the sale catalogue of Wren’s library was the 1697 reissue of the Édifices: Watkin, Sale Catalogues, p. 36.
(98) For Desgodetz, see W. Herrmann, ‘Antoine Desgodets and the Académie Royale d’Architecture’, Art Bulletin, vol. 40, no. 1 (1958), pp. 23–53; and Wiebenson and Baines, Millard Collection, French Books, pp. 148–51.
(99) I quote here from the English translation of the first half of Desgodetz’s Édifices produced by George Marshall in 1771: Antoine Desgodetz, The Ancient Buildings of Rome by Antoine Desgodetz, George Marshall (trans.) (London: George Marshall, 1771), p. xii. For this edition see Harris, British Architectural Books, pp. 180–2.
(100) Perrault, Ordonnance, p. 48. See Herrmann, ‘Desgodets’, p. 31.
(101) Perrault, Ordonnance, p. 63.
(102) Unlike Perrault, Wren does not cite Desgodetz by name in the text of the ‘Tracts’, but his knowledge of the great variety in the ancient use of the orders must come from the Édifices either directly, or indirectly through Perrault’s Ordonnance. There is a reference to Desgodetz in the margin of ‘Tract III’ with reference to the French author’s measurements of the Pantheon, although this could have been added by Wren’s son or a later editor: Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 168. One thing is for sure: the beginning of ‘Tract II’ must date from after 1682, when the Édifices was published, as Wren would not have been able to make such an explicit statement on ancient proportional variety before that date.
(103) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 167–8.
(104) The dating of this passage to the 1690s (or after) brings into question Soo’s overall dating of the ‘Tracts’ to the 1670s. She had argued in favour of the 1670s date on the basis that Hooke’s diary demonstrated that Wren was acquiring information about ancient architecture in that decade, but as this Palmyra reference shows, he was doing just that much later in his career.
(105) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 173. For Wren and Hooke’s interest in reconstructing ancient and biblical architecture from textual sources such as Pliny see Alexander Wragge-Morley, ‘Restitution, description and knowledge in English architecture and natural philosophy, 1650–1750’, Architectural Research Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 3 (2010), pp. 247–54.
(106) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 299; Spon, Voyage, p. 254; Wheler, Journey, pp. 257–8. Wren’s library contained copies of both Spon and Wheler’s books: Watkin, Sale Catalogue, p. 12.
(107) For Wren’s discussion of the Tyrian order, which was unique in contemporary architectural writing, see Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 128–30; and Du Prey, Hawksmoor’s London Churches, pp. 10, 16–17.
(108) Wren’s library contained the 1670 sixth edition of Sandys’ text: Watkin, Sale Catalogues, p. 12. Sandys’ account of the tomb was accompanied by a fairly useless illustration that showed one corner of the tomb rather than the whole structure: George Sandys, A Relation of a Journey begun An: Dom: 1610 … sixth edition (London: Robert Clavell et al., 1670), p. 147.
(109) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 169, 191.
(110) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 191.
(111) Wren claimed in ‘Tract IV’ that ‘the Body of this Structure is square, faced on every Side with Pillars, which bear up an hemispherical Tholus solid; a large Architrave, Freeze, and Cornice lie upon the Pillars, which are larger in proportion to their Heighth, than what we now allow to the Tuscan Order; so likewise is the Entablature larger. This whole Composition, though above 30 Feet high, is all of one Stone, both Basis, Pillars, and Tholus, cut as it stood out of the adjacent Cliff of white Marble’. In ‘Tract V’ he gave a different account of it, claiming that it ‘is compos’d of seven Pillars, six about in a Hexagon, and one in the middle’. This latter description, which was very far from the truth, did not come from Sandys and probably originated in an (evidently garbled) account Wren had picked up first hand: Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 169, 191. De Bruyn’s account was much more accurate and was translated into French in 1700 and English in 1702: Cornelius de Bruyn, A Voyage to the Levant: or, Travels in the Principal Parts of Asia Minor, the Islands of Scio, Rhodes, Cyprus, &c. W.J. (trans) (London: Jacob Tonson, 1702), p. 188. For de Bruyn, see Savage, Early Printed Books, vol. 1, pp. 270–1.Wren’s omission of the information contained in de Bruyn’s account suggests that these passages in the ‘Tracts’ predate 1700 (or 1702), although the possibility that Wren wrote them later and overlooked de Bruyn’s text cannot, of course, be discounted. Interestingly, the sale catalogue of Wren’s library published in 1748 includes the 1702 edition of de Bruyn, suggesting that Wren bought the volume after he had written the ‘Tracts’ but failed to amend the text. Alternatively, the catalogue also included books owned by Wren’s son, whose copy of de Bruyn this could well have been: Watkin, Sale Catalogue, p. 15.
(112) This was not quite true. Evelyn in the 1707 edition of the Parallèle added an ‘Advertisement Concerning This Edition’ in which he discussed the publication of the Édifices. In this, he recognized that Desgodetz’s measurements of the ancient ruins were far more precise than those found in earlier texts, including the Parallèle, and he described them, with hardly subtle amounts of sarcasm, as having a ‘Precision so Delicate (and even to a Hair-breadth, as they say) so scrupulously Nice, as reaches not only to single Feet, Inches and Lines alone, but even to the Minutest Part of a Part of a Line, curiously Engraven’. As we saw in Chapter 2, he then lamented the inability of English engravers to match the quality of Desgodetz’s plates, but he questioned, ultimately, ‘Whether, after all this Critical and Elaborate Scrutiny, they amount to any considerable Advantage in the main’. This was unfair. Evelyn had translated the Parallèle in 1664 because it was, he believed, the most accurate survey of the measurements of the ancient orders, and his remarks about Desgodetz, who had outdone Fréart in terms of accuracy, seem born out of jealousy of the later French author’s achievement: an achievement that was precisely that which Evelyn had identified as one of the chief merits of Fréart’s text. Evelyn finished the discussion by claiming that Desgodetz’s new measurements did not undermine the credibility of the Parallèle, which, he assured his readers, they may ‘rely upon’: Fréart, Parallel, pp. 8–9. In all, it is difficult to see the ‘Advertisement’ as anything other than architectural–theoretical sour grapes. For a more generous analysis of the ‘Advertisement’, see Harris, British Architectural Books, p. 199.
(113) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 157.
(114) It is unclear what this sketchbook was. Soo suggests that it might have been among those papers belonging to Jones that John Webb inherited. See Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 289–90; and Levine, Between Ancient and Moderns, pp. 172–3.
(115) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 157–8.
(116) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 158. Vitruvius’s account of the origin of ancient buildings came in Book 2, Chapter 1: Vitruvius, On Architecture, pp. 37–41. In ‘Tract I’ Wren argued that the orders were derived from the proportions of trees rather than humans, although in ‘Tract II’ he accepted the veracity of Vitruvius’s account of Callimachus’s formulation of the Corinthian order from acanthus leaves and a basket: Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 156, 159.
(117) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 159. Wren references four of the five species of temples described in Book 3, Chapter 3 of De architectura: Vitruvius, On Buildings, p. 73.
(118) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 159.
(119) For Wren’s discussion of these buildings in ‘Tract IV’ and their relationship with the discussion Wren conducted with Hooke about the restitution of ancient buildings in the 1670s, see Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 120–31; and Wragge-Morley, ‘Restitution, Description and Knowledge’, pp. 247–54.
(120) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 184.
(121) This feature was visible in both Palladio and Desgodetz’s illustrations of the building. Palladio, though, had reconstructed what he thought the original temple looked like, and had extended them further into the portico: Antoine Desgodetz, Les édifices antiques de Rome, dessinés et mesurés tres exactement (Paris: Jean Baptise Coignard, 1682), p. 139; Palladio, Four Books on Architecture, p. 228.
(122) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 187.
(123) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 173. Wren’s account of the Basilica of Maxentius has been analysed by Caroline van Eck in the context of its implications for the beholding of architecture and how the building might communicate the gesture of peace to the beholder: Caroline van Eck, Classical Rhetoric and the Visual Arts in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 178–89.
(124) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, pp. 176–7.
(125) Desgodetz, édifices, p. 109. Palladio’s illustration of the Corinthian order on the Basilica clearly shows the absence of the corona, but the Italian author did not draw attention to it as Desgodetz did: Palladio, Four Books on Architecture, pp. 221–5.
(126) Soo, Wren’s Tracts, p. 177.
(127) North had already made it clear that the ornamental properties of the orders were not essential to all architectural design. Shortly before this passage he criticized the use of engaged orders in interior decoration, noting that the orders originated from the need to shelter from the elements and as a result were ‘useless’ and ‘ugly’ when deployed superficially on interior walls: North, Of Buildings, pp. 116–17.
(128) In their introduction to the text, Colvin and Newman argue that North’s position on the orders was closer to Perrault than any other of his contemporaries. This may well be true, although I believe that the passage is closer to Wren’s argument in the ‘Tracts’ than to any other author. North thought highly of Wren and, as Colvin and Newman also observe, discussed architectural theory with him in person: North, Of Building, pp. xiii–xiv, xix. In general, North’s arguments regarding the orders—like his conceptualization of the contemporary architect—are somewhat original for the period. They warrant further study.