LE DUC, Gabriel
(b. ca. 1623, Paris, d. 1696, Paris)

Biography

French architect. He was the son of Gabriel Le Duc (d. 1654), Master Mason of Paris. He travelled in 1647 to Italy (a journey very much the fashion in Paris at the time), where he took notes on ancient and modern monuments, including Michelangelo's Porta Pia in Rome.

Back in Paris by 1649, Le Duc worked in collaboration with his father until he was engaged in 1654 to work on the construction of the abbey of Val-de-Grâce. There he supervised the construction of the church and its outbuildings, under the orders of Pierre Le Muet. His responsibilities were increased in 1664, when he was entrusted with some of the church fittings - choir stalls, cloister railings and possibly the railings of the baldacchino. This baldacchino was for a long time attributed to Gianlorenzo Bernini, but the legal documents name Le Muet and Le Duc without specifying which of the two was the maker of the work.

Le Duc worked at the Val-de-Grâce site until 1667 and also on other sites during the same period. In 1663 he succeeded Pierre Le Muet, Libéral Bruand and Robert Boudin as supervisor of the construction of the convent of the Discalced Augustinians, where he was responsible in particular for the design of the high altar (destroyed 1739). This was situated in front of a small chapel decorated with openwork and was related to a type of high altar that first appeared in 1660. Le Duc also used the same design for St Denis-de-la-Chartre in 1665.

After the death of François Le Vau in 1676, Le Duc took over the construction of the church of Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, where he designed the roof timbering of the transept and of the bell-tower above it. During the same period he reconstructed the portal of the church of St Josse after the widening of the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher. He made evaluations for the administrators of the Hôtel-Dieu, who commissioned him in 1671 to construct a hôtel in Rue St Dominique (destroyed 19th century), which is visible in two engravings by Jean Marot (Bibliothèque, Paris). The hôtel was situated between a courtyard and garden, as was fashionable; there was also a portico forming the façade of the main building, an unusual element in French architecture at that time. There are similar porticos at the Hôtel Lambert (by Le Vau) and at the Hôtel Sagonne (by Jules Hardouin Mansart). With this feature Le Duc brought out the qualities of the façades while respecting the taste of his contemporaries for symmetry and regularity.

Although less distinguished than Le Vau and Mansart, Le Duc was no less respected by his contemporaries, as was demonstrated by his participation in the construction of Val-de-Grâce, second only to the Palais du Louvre in importance in Paris at that time. One of his sons, Guillaume Le Duc (b. after 1672) was architect to Louis XIV.



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