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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

The dome of the Pantheon is elegant and chaste


FIG. 111.--THE PANTHEON. _Paris._]

It is said that this church was begun as the fulfilment of a vow made by King Louis XV. when he was ill, but as the French Revolution was in progress when it was completed, it was dedicated to the "_Grands Hommes_," or the great men of France, and not to God or the sweet St. Genevieve, who was one of the patron saints of Paris.

The dome of the Pantheon is elegant and chaste, but not great in design or effect, and the whole appearance of the church is weakened by the extreme width of the spaces between the front columns; this makes the entablature appear weak, and is altogether a serious defect. Another striking fault is the way in which a second column is placed outside at each end of the portico; one cannot imagine a reason for this, and it is confusing and unmeaning in the extreme. The interior of the Pantheon is superior to the exterior, and many authorities name it as the most satisfactory of all modern, classical church interiors; when it was built it was believed to be as perfect an imitation of antique classical architecture as could be made, and all the world may be grateful that it escaped the fate prepared for it by the Communists. This was averted by the discovery and cutting of the fuse which they had prepared for its destruction on May 24th, 1871; the fuse led to the crypts beneath the church, where these reckless men had placed large quantities of powder.

style="text-align: justify;">In the beginning of the present century French architects believed it best to reproduce exactly ancient temples which had been destroyed. According to this view the church of the Madeleine was begun in 1804, after the designs of Vignon. Outwardly it is a temple of the Corinthian order, and is very beautiful, though its position greatly lessens its effect. If it were on a height, or standing in a large square by itself, it would be far more imposing (Fig. 112).

[Illustration: FIG. 112.--THE MADELEINE. _Paris._]

The church of the Trinity and that of the Augustines, at Paris, are important church edifices of the present day, but though much thought and time have been lavished on them, they are not as attractive as we could wish the works of our own time to be; and they seem almost unworthy of attention when we remember that in the same city there are so many examples of architecture that have far more artistic beauty, as well as the additional charms of age and the interest of historical associations.

We have already spoken of the sort of building in which Francis I. delighted. Of all his undertakings the rebuilding of the Louvre was the most successful. Its whole design was fine and the ornaments beautiful; many of these decorations were made after the drawings of Jean Goujon, who was an eminent master in such sculptures. The court of the Louvre has never been excelled in any country of Europe; it is a wonderful work for the time in which it was built, and satisfies the taste of the most critical observers (Fig. 113).

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