Saturday, November 23, 2013

Church of Santa Prisca

Taxco Mexico


Church of Santa Prisca is an iconic building of Taxco, it was the tallest building in Mexico until 1806. José de la Borda, who grew rich off of a silver mine, contracted Cayetano de Sigüenza to design this church in order to repay God.

According to legend, during the church’s construction there was a horrible storm, during which it got so bad that construction workers kneeled and prayed for their safety. Santa Prisca appeared, holding the thunder in her hands in order to keep it from harming the workers. This legend is reflected in a painting that is located inside the temple.

This church is a great example of the Mexican Baroque. The facade has a Churrigueresque influence, and seems to have both plan style and elaborate ornamentation.  “It is built in pink stone, and its’ octagonal dome it covered in polychrome tiles”. The
central retable entrance is flanked by two bell towers that are plain style on the bottom and increase in ornamentation as you near the lanterns. Inside there are nine retables which are covered in gold leaf.




Antônio Francisco Lisboa (His given name) was the illegitimate son of Manoel Francisco Lisboa and an African slave, Isabel. He was born in Ouro Preto, located in the mountains of Minas Gerais, and was one of the first famous native born architects to Brazil. As a young boy Aleijadinho was believed to have been influenced greatly by his father, who was a practicing carpenter and architect. Portuguese artist, João Gomes Batista, was responsible for introducing Aleijadinho the theory of design.

Because architects were in short supply in Brazil, Aleijadinho began receiving commissions at a very young age. His first work was a sketch for the fountain of the Govenor’s Palace in Vila Rica. In 1766 his first architectural work was the Church of St. Francis of Assisi Church, which was the most elaborate church to be built in that area. Its dramatic exterior is composed of soapstone and an undulating curvilinear façade. It has two bell towers which are cylindrical unlike the unusual straight towers. He did this in order to make the experience of approaching the church much more dramatic.

It was Said that he was crippled with leprosy, but Aleijadinho’s illness did not show up in records until 1777. The artist literally had to be carried into the main chapel of the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora das Mercês e Perdões which he was in charge of designing. He was dubbed the nickname ‘Little Cripple’. He eventually began to lose fingers, and even his feet. Even so he was determined to keep designing.

Among his greatest works were the twelve apostles at the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus of Matosinhos. Twelve enormous statues carved out of soapstone were carved between 1800 and 1805. Although the sculptures themselves were asymmetrical in shape, he organized them in a way that gave the illusion of symmetrically.
After this massive project he became less active as it neared the end of his life. Nonetheless He was still able to complete some works during those last few years, such as his sculptures for the Church at Congonhas, which is now declared a world heritage site.


Thursday, November 21, 2013


Singerie (n): a picture, decoration, or design in which monkeys are depicted

The definition above is pretty broad actually. What we really want to focus on is the singeries during the Rococo period that became popular after chinoiserie style. In the image above, it's easy to see how singeries merge quite well with the oriental style as they are both whimsical and unrealistic. In French, the word "singerie" translates literally into "Monkey Trick" and depicts monkeys performing human acts and dressed in human garments. It's debated that the style is actually a less-than-subtle commentary on pre-Darwinism and how humans evolved from their animal counterpart. 

Like other artistic styles, the singerie grew overtime to merge with Chinese and other Asian influences. It started out with monkeys in Parisian clothing and soon they were in ethnic dress. Monkeys have always been considered tools for humor; at the time, it was popular to have them perform tricks in costumed garments. This idea of using an animal to portray light-heartedness is appropriate to the Rococo because the belief at the time was to promote joy. Singerie did not spread too far outside of France where it originated. 


Royal Chapel at Versailles

The Royal Chapel

The paintings and sculptures in the chapel at Versailles evoke the idea that the king was chosen by God in a series which starts at the nave and ends at the gallery where the king would sit.

The marble floor and the Chapel altar as seen from the royal tribune

The chapel was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and his brother Robert de Cotte, it is dedicated to St. Louis, it was completed in 1710. The architect did not see the end of construction because he died in 1708. So his brother-in-law Robert de Cotte replaced him. 

A floor plan with a nave, side aisles and an ambulatory, an elevation with galleries, a harmony of white and gold contrasting with the polychromy of the ornamental marble tiling and paintings of the vault; resulting in an original work where influences of gothic architecture and baroque aesthetics mix.

 The king would sit in the royal gallery, surrounded by his family. The ladies of the Court occupied the side galleries. The “officers” and the public sat in the nave. The king would only go down to the nave for important religious celebrations during which he received communion, for the Order of the Holy Spirit ceremonies, the baptisms and weddings. 

Above the altar, around the Cliquot organ played by the greatest maestros like François Couperin, the Music of the Chapel, renowned across Europe, would sing motets each day throughout the entire church service.

The paintings and sculptures in the chapel at Versailles evoke that idea in a series which starts at the nave and ends at the gallery where the king would sit. Indeed, above the pillars of the nave angels are represented carrying the instruments of the passion of Christ which leads to his death, a theme which is illustrated by the large low relief of the high altar; above, the altarpiece expresses the splendor of the resurrection with the divine symbol of the triangle with the name Iahve written in Hebrew, in the middle of rays of light. In the half dome above the organ, Christ appears in the glory of the Resurrection, then on the vault God the Father and finally above the gallery, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, symbolized by a dove, which must inspire the king’s actions.

Additional Sources:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Chinoiserie is the French word for "Chinese-esque" and it's actually quite appropriate especially when the emphasis is put on the "-esque" portion. The term refers to a European adaptation and interpretation of Chinese decorative and artistic influences. This can range anywhere from furniture to paintings, but it was basically the Europeans having this grand notion of what China was at the time and then somehow mixing it in with Western culture. Not that it was unprecedented at the time for Europe to take influences from other civilizations (see Muslim culture in Spain), but they pretty much butchered this one.

The style itself consisted of contrasts in scale, imagery of a seemingly unknown land, and an attempt to imitate popular Chinese decorative material at the time (lacquer, porcelain, etc.). Almost needless to say, Chinoiserie did not last very long. Soon after it's upcoming, neoclassicism took over, but the style came back in the modern century. They say that imitation is flattery. So, at this point in time, you could say that the Chinese represented Regina George and every other country was a Cady Heron gawking at the technological and decorative marvels that the country held (Mean Girls reference. Sorry, not sorry). 

The era that it was most associated with was the Rococo since it blended well with the style because of its penchant towards asymmetry. They didn't stop at dishware and applied decoration though. Many countries have small towns that are modeled after Chinese cities and architecture that resemble the iconic pagodas. Parts of the culture even leaked into fashion and literature. The predominance of this style for a period of time might have spoken to the rise in power of the Chinese at the time because of its ability to produce high-quality textiles and unique products.

Church of St Francisco

Quito, Ecuador


When designing for the new world they aimed to proclaim the power of Christianity by building massive churches. They wanted to appeal to the already Christians, but also convert the natives. And lastly they wanted the wow factor, they didn’t want the people coming from Europe to feel like they had a church that was not compatible with home.

The church of St. Francisco is a Roman Catholic Church that is one of the largest built from colonial Latin America. The complex houses the Virgin of Quito, which is sacred to the city. The church is made up by three spaces: the public square, the courtyard, and the church itself. It includes 13 cloisters, and three churches. Although the exterior is a plan style with the retable entrance, the interior is what really the “wow” part of this church. Because gold was so abundant here they really used that to their advantage, and by doing so created a space that no European or native had ever experienced before.


Class Notes

Tracing the Cartouche

The Church of the Gesù’s Façade was the start of the baroque movement. Its fundamental elements can be traced through the entire period and many regions. For example the buildings' cartouche, figure in the shape of an oval, can be traced from Rome to Spain, France, England, Portugal, Germany, and Eastern Europe.

Balthasar Neumann, Vierzehnheiligen, 1743-72, Bamberg, façade

Eastern Europe
Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, Prague, 1780, K. I. Dientzenhofer, façade

Conrad Rudolf: Valencia Cathedral Valencia, 1713, façade

Niccolo Nasoni, Dos Clerigos Church and Tower, Oporto, 1732-50, façade

Francois Mansart, Chateau de Maisons, garden façade, Maisons-lafitte, 1641-50

Bluecoat Chambers, Liverpool, 1717. Architect unknown, façade

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ruins of St. Paul

Ruins of St. Paul
also known as Sam Ba Sing Tzik
Macau, China

The old St. Paul's College and Cathedral built in Macau, China was an attempt to bring Baroque architecture and Catholicism to Asia. The facade shows forms that are typical of the Baroque style that can also be found in Il Gesu. A mixture of Corinthian and Ionic capitals top the large columns on each level. The columns diminish in size and height as the levels get higher to almost give a forced perspective. Niches and what I imagine would be an aedicula are located on the second level with three entrances on the first. There are deep cornices that line the tops of the columns and a volute relief that flanks the sides of the third story. A broken pediment sits atop the entire structure. Despite being obviously Baroque, the facade displays some Asian elements as well; stone dragons are placed on either side of the third and fourth tiers and some Chinese inscriptions. The dragons are placed as a guardian for protection, which obviously didn't work. Nevertheless, the facade is considered a perfect fusion of eastern and western cultures. 

In 1835, St. Paul's College and Cathedral became the Ruins of St. Paul after a fire broke out in the church during a typhoon. Before it had been in shambles, the church had actually been considered the largest and most grand in all of Asia even though no attempts had been made to restore it after the natural disaster. Its leftover facade sits atop a hill where you have to ascend 66 steps to reach the iconic shell. It is buttressed with concrete and steel to ensure its durability and is now considered a historic landmark for the city of Macau.  


5 Women Changing the Face of Architecture