LE PAUTRE, Antoine
(b. 1621, Paris, d. 1679, Paris)

Biography

French architect and designer, part of a family of artists, brother of Jean Le Pautre. He is said to have studied design and etching with his older brother Jean, and probably learnt the rudiments of architecture from Étienne Martellange. A document of 1643 refers to him as mason and architect, and in 1644 he was called Architecte des Bâtiments du Roi, perhaps indicating that he had worked at a royal building site. His earliest patrons were the French Jansenists, to whom he became known through his father (or another relative), who had worked in 1639 in the Parisian hôtel of the Jansenist Anne de Rohan. In 1646 Le Pautre began the chapel of Port-Royal de Paris (completed 1648), the first Jansenist church, and the Hôtel de Fontenay-Mareuil, Paris (completed 1647; destroyed), built for the French ambassador to Rome, whose mother was related to the Jansenist Arnauld family.

While at work on minor domestic commissions in Paris, at the end of 1652 or the beginning of 1653 Le Pautre published the Desseins de plusieurs palais, which contained engravings of his recently completed buildings as well as ideal designs for châteaux and hôtels, city gates, fountains, ceilings and ornamentation. In his preface Le Pautre stressed that the Desseins was not concerned with ancient architecture or theory but was simply a book of his own inventions. Significantly, it was dedicated to Cardinal Jules Mazarin, a powerful patron and advocate of contemporary Italian art, and the Baroque style of Le Pautre's ideal projects was intended to appeal to Mazarin and to aristocratic circles.

The book produced its desired result when, in 1654, Le Pautre was commissioned to build the Hôtel de Beauvais, Paris (completed 1660) for Catherine Henriette Bellier, lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria. That same year he remodeled the choir of his parish church, St Laurent, Paris, and in 1657 provided a design for the lateral façade of the church of the Jacobins, Lyon (completed 1687 or later; destroyed 1816).

Le Pautre's success in constructing the Hôtel de Beauvais over medieval foundations on a highly irregular site, as well as the publication of imaginative projects in the Desseins, established him as a leading domestic designer. In 1659 he was appointed architect to Philippe I, Duc d'Anjou (later Duc d'Orléans), and immediately set to work at Saint-Cloud, near Paris, Philippe's country residence.

At Saint-Cloud, Le Pautre added a dramatic architectural cascade (c. 1662-64) to the hydraulic attractions of the garden and completely refashioned the old Maison de Gondi into a free-standing block (c. 1660-68). It was decided c. 1669 to enlarge the château into a U-shaped plan, orientated towards the Seine, with the remodeled block incorporated as the left (south) wing. The right (north) wing, virtually a duplicate of the left one, was completed in or before 1677. In that year Le Pautre proposed a corps-de-logis linking the two wings, but his design was not adopted. Instead, a corps-de-logis, probably designed by Jean Girard, a mason working under Le Pautre, was constructed (c. 1677-80/81). (The wings of the château of Saint-Cloud were modified by Jules Hardouin Mansart beginning in the 1680s; the building was destroyed in 1870.) Another commission resulting from the connection with Philippe was the château of Seigliere de Boisfranc, Saint-Ouen (begun c. 1662; destroyed.), built for Philippe's treasurer. Le Pautre also designed for Louis XIV. He provided plans (untraced) for the Louvre (1664) and Versailles (1669), but these were not adopted.

In 1671 he was named a founder-member of the Académie Royale d'Architecture, and in 1674 he was commissioned by the King to design a château for Mme de Montespan and her children at Clagny, on the outskirts of Versailles. The building displeased Mme de Montespan, however; Le Pautre was dismissed and the following year the commission was handed to Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Le Pautre's failure at Clagny, as well as the apparent reassignment of the Saint-Cloud corps-de-logis to Girard in 1677, indicate a serious downturn in Le Pautre's fortunes in the 1670s. When he died in 1679, however, he still bore the title of Contrôleur Général des Bâtiments du Monseigneur, Duc d'Orléans.