Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture


















ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14





Rococo was a refinement in miniature of the curvilinear, "elastic" Baroque of Borromini and Guarini, and thus could be happily united with architecture in Central Europe, where the Italian style had taken firm root. It is not surprising that the Italian style received such a warm response there. In Austria and southern Germany, ravaged by the Thirty Years' War, the number of new buildings remained small until near the end of the seventeenth century. Baroque was an imported style, practiced mainly by visiting Italians. Not until the 1690s did native designers come to the fore. There followed a period of intense activity that lasted more than 50 years and gave rise to some of the most imaginative creations in the history of architecture. These monuments were erected for the glorification of princes and prelates who, generally speaking, deserve to be remembered only as lavish patrons of the arts. Rococo architecture in Central Europe is larger in scale and more exuberant than in France. Moreover, painting and sculpture are more closely linked with their settings. Palaces and churches are decorated with ceiling frescoes and decorative sculpture unsuited to domestic interiors, however lavish, although they reflect the same taste that produced the Hotel de Varengeville.

Johann Fischer von Erlach.

The Austrian Johann Fischer von Erlach
(1656-1723), the first great architect of the Rococo in Central Europe, is a transitional figure linked most directly to the Italian tradition. His design for the church of St. Charles Borromaeus in Vienna (figs. 845 and 846) combines the facade of Borromini's S. Agnese and the Pantheon portico (figs. 761 and 253). Here a pair of huge columns derived from the Column of Trajan (see fig. 277) substitutes for facade towers, which have become corner pavilions reminiscent of those on the Louvre court (compare fig. 735). With these inflexible elements of Roman Imperial art embedded into the elastic curvatures of his church, Fischer von Erlach expresses, more boldly than any Italian Baroque architect, the power of the Christian faith to absorb and transfigure the splendors of antiquity.


Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, (baptized July 20, 1656, Graz, Austria—died April 5, 1723, Vienna), Austrian architect, sculptor, and architectural historian whose Baroque style, a synthesis of classical, Renaissance, and southern Baroque elements, shaped the tastes of the Habsburg empire. Fischer’s works include the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (1694–1702) and the Kollegienkirche (1696–1707), both in Salzburg, and the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1695–1711) in Vienna. His Entwurf einer historischen Architektur (1721; A Plan of Civil and Historical Architecture) was the first successful comparative study of architecture.

Early career in Italy and Austria.
The son of a provincial sculptor and turner, Fischer was trained in his father’s workshop. He went to Rome at about age 16 and had the good fortune to enter the studio of the great Baroque sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In Rome he acquired considerable knowledge of ancient art and of the scientific methods then beginning to be used in archaeology—methods that formed the basis for his own later archaeological reconstructions. He also studied ancient Roman, Renaissance, and Baroque art and architecture. About 1684 he went to Naples, then under Spanish rule, probably in the service of the Spanish viceroy. He is reported to have been ambitious and even to have acquired considerable wealth.

After some 16 successful years in Italy, Fischer returned to his homeland at an opportune time; after the imperial victories over the Turks, the Habsburg empire was emerging as a great European power, and the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I wished to emulate King Louis XIV of France by representing his power as an absolute monarch visibly in magnificent buildings. The aristocracy followed his example by erecting splendid palaces, and the Roman Catholic clergy, too, wanted to glorify, in ecclesiastical architecture, the victory over the infidel as well as that over the Protestant Reformation. Moreover, the Turks had destroyed many country seats of the aristocracy and had severely damaged the suburbs of Vienna during the siege of 1683. The need for new buildings as well as the quick economic recovery following the victories brought about a great increase in building and a resultant flowering of art and architecture.

In 1687 Fischer embarked on a brilliant career as court architect to three successive emperors, Leopold I, Joseph I, and Charles VI, and also designed buildings for the aristocracy and the archbishop of Salzburg. In 1689 Leopold I appointed him to teach his elder son, Joseph, perspective and the theory and history of architecture. In 1690 Fischer won public recognition with two temporary triumphal arches erected in Vienna to celebrate Joseph’s entry into the city after his coronation in Frankfurt am Main as king and future ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. During the next 10 years, Fischer was much sought after as an architect in Vienna and Salzburg and in the Habsburg lands. In 1693 alone he was commissioned to design 14 important buildings.

During these years he created a new type of country house, combining the most important achievements in suburban architecture since the 16th century. He united the ideas of the French Baroque country palace made up of many joined pavilions with that of the classically inspired Renaissance villa, typical of Andrea Palladio, surrounded by low detached wings. By using the powerful curving forms of the Roman Baroque architects, especially Bernini, he gave his villas a more dynamic form. One of their outstanding features is the spacious oval hall in the centre of the plan, as in Schloss Neuwaldegg (1692–97), near Vienna, and in Schloss Engelhartstetten (c. 1693), in Lower Austria. Fischer’s country house designs had a decisive influence on the architects of his time. In a similar synthesis of Roman and French Baroque seasoned with Palladian elements, he also created a new type of town palace characterized by impressive form, structural clarity, and the dynamic tension of its decoration. The Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy, begun in 1695, and the palace of the ban of Croatia, Count Batthyány (1699–1706), both in Vienna, are notable examples of this type.

As architect to Johann Ernst, Count von Thun, the archbishop of Salzburg, Fischer displayed his talent in church architecture and town planning. The domes and towers of his churches changed the whole appearance of Salzburg. In their exquisitely proportioned, lofty interiors he tried to achieve a balance between the longitudinal and central schemes, a problem all great church architects had been faced with since Michelangelo’s projects for St. Peter’s in Rome. All of Fischer’s churches have two-towered facades accented by dynamic curves and elegant decoration, but each has its own special quality, determined by its location and by its particular function, as attached to a seminary, a university, or a nunnery. The elegant concave facade of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity), for example, contrasts to and heightens the effect of the sober front of the adjoining seminary buildings. The almost geometric forms of the Kollegienkirche (University Church) surmounted by the undulating forms of its towers crown the university complex, providing a new architectural and symbolic accent to a city dominated by its massive cathedral, as Salzburg had been. Fischer also designed a new facade for the archbishop’s stables and laid out a square in front of it. He changed an old quarry into a summer riding school and built the archbishop’s summer residence, Schloss Klesheim (1700–09), outside Salzburg.

Foreign travels and change of style.
At the turn of the 18th century, Fischer was at the height of his career. In a visible sign of his success as a court architect, he was raised to the nobility in 1696. The imperial alliance with Prussia, Holland, and England during the War of the Spanish Succession enabled Fischer, in 1704, to visit those countries and to study their architecture, particularly in relation to Palladio. The result was a remarkable change in his architectural style. In 1707 he went to Venice to study Palladian architecture at its source. The result was his development of a new type of “Palladian” palace facade, classical in its proportions but enlivened with richly sculptured decoration. It consists of a central projection accentuated by a giant order and surmounted by a triangular pediment and of relatively unarticulated lateral sections. Its models were English and North German Baroque interpretations of Palladian architecture as well as the works of Palladio himself and of his Italian followers. Fischer’s major achievements in this field are the facades of the Bohemian Chancellery (1708–14) and Trautson Palace (1710–16), both in Vienna, and of the Clam-Gallas Palace (begun 1713), in Prague, which were imitated by architects all over the Habsburg empire.

During the first 10 years of the 18th century, however, Fischer designed fewer buildings than in the years before. His time was taken up by his administrative duties as chief inspector of court buildings and his work on a great history of architecture, Entwurf einer historischen Architektur. His book, which reveals the wide range of his learning, was the first comparative history of the architecture of all times and all nations; it included significant specimens of Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Muslim, Indian, and Chinese architecture, illustrated by engravings with explanatory notes. Some of the archaeological reconstructions that appeared in the book were among the best of Fischer’s time. At the end of the historical survey he placed his own achievements, which he saw as a logical continuation of the Roman tradition of architecture. The book was published in 1721.

Final projects.
When his second imperial patron, Joseph I, died in 1711, Fischer’s position as the principal architect at the Viennese court was no longer uncontested. Many preferred the more pleasing and less demanding architecture of his rival Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt to Fischer’s lofty conceptions. Yet he was also able to gain the favour of Charles VI, to whom he dedicated his history of architecture in manuscript in 1712, and to obtain the commission for the building of the Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles Borromeo; begun 1715).

Charles had vowed to build the Karlskirche as an offering to his patron saint for the city’s deliverance from an epidemic of the plague. In its imperial grandeur the building Fischer conceived not only glorified St. Charles but was also a monument to the emperor himself. In this church he attempted to incorporate and harmonize the main ideas contained in the most important sacred buildings of past and present, beginning with the Temple of Jerusalem and including the Pantheon and St. Peter’s in Rome, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and also the Dôme des Invalides in Paris and St. Paul’s in London. The relatively independent parts of the building—a pair of Roman triumphal columns, low towers, a high oval dome, a central portico modeled after a Roman temple facade, a transept and presbytery—are harmonized to form a visual unity from whatever point they are seen. The complex formal and symbolic structure of the building is the result of its twofold function. For example, the most striking feature of the church—the pair of giant triumphal columns on either side of the portico—is decorated with spiral reliefs glorifying the life of St. Charles. The pair of columns, however, also alludes to the emperor’s emblem, the “pillars of Hercules.”

Fischer did not live to see his masterpiece completed, but his son Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach completed the church with some alterations. Joseph Emanuel also completed the Imperial Stables (1719–23) and built, according to his father’s designs, the Imperial Library (designed 1716, built 1723–37), the interior of which was the most imposing library hall of its time.

In a highly idealistic formal synthesis, Fischer tried to combine the achievements of past and present, mixing forms from ancient Roman, Renaissance, Italian Baroque, and French Baroque architecture to find a new and unique solution for each architectural problem. The leading principle of his building was the integration of various plastically conceived elements, complete in themselves, by dynamic contrast.

Hans Aurenhammer

Encyclopædia Britannica


Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, 1695

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, 1695

Kollegienkirche in Salzburg (1696-1707)

Palais Lobkowitz


Even more monumental, thanks to its superb site, is the Monastery of Melk (fig.
847) by Jakob Prandtauer (1660-1726). The buildings form a tightly knit unit that centers on the church. It occupies the crest of a promontory above the Danube, rising from the rock, not like a fortress but like a vision of heavenly glory. The interior of the church (fig. 848) still reflects the plan of Il Gesu, but the abundant illumination, the play of curves and countercurves, and the weightless grace of the stucco sculpture give it an airy lightness far removed from the Roman Baroque. The vaults and wall surfaces seem thin and pliable, like membranes easily punctured by the expansive power of space.

847. Jakob Prandtauer. Monastery Church, Melk, Austria. Begun 1702

848. Jakob Prandtauer, Beduzzi, and Munggenast. Interior, Monastery Church, Melk. Completed ñ. 1738


Jakob Prandtauer
(baptized in Stanz bei Landeck (Tyrol) on July 16, 1660; died in Sankt Pölten on September 16, 1726) was an Austrian Baroque architect. Trained as a stonemason rather than as an architect, he designed and supervised the construction of the church of Melk Abbey, in Melk, Lower Austria. He was the uncle of Josef Munggenast, who inherited his business and continued his style.


Balthasar Neumann.

The architects of the next generation favored a tendency toward lightness and elegance. The Episcopal Palace in Wiirzburg by Balthasar Neumann
(1687-1753) includes the breathtaking Kaisersaal (fig. 849), a great oval hall decorated in the favorite color scheme of the mid-eighteenth century: white, gold, and pastel shades. The number and aesthetic role of structural members such as columns, pilasters, and architraves are now minimized. Windows and vault segments are framed by-continuous, ribbonlike moldings, and the white surfaces are spun over with irregular ornamental designs. This repertory of lacy, curling motifs, the hallmark of the French style (see fig. 829), is happily combined with German Rococo architecture.

Balthasar Neumann.
The Kaisersaal, Residenz, Wurzburg. 1719-44.
, 1751



Balthasar Neumann

Balthasar Neumann, in full Johann Balthasar Neumann (born 1687, Eger, Bohemia, Austrian Habsburg domain [now Cheb, Czech Republic]—died Aug. 19, 1753, Würzburg [Germany]), German architect who was the foremost master of the late Baroque style.

Neumann was apprenticed to a bell-founder and in 1711 emigrated to Würzburg, where he gained the patronage of that city’s ruling prince-bishop, a member of the Schönborn family, after working on military fortifications. In 1719 Neumann began directing construction of the first stage of the new Residenz (palace) for the prince-bishop in Würzburg, and he was soon entrusted with the planning and design of the entire structure. Work on the Residenz continued at intervals after Neumann’s own death in 1753, though by the 1740s it had advanced far enough for the painter G.B. Tiepolo to decorate the palace’s enormous ceilings.

Neumann began designing other buildings as well, starting in the 1720s with the Schönborn Chapel (1721–36) in Würzburg Cathedral, the priory church at Holzkirchen (1726–30) outside Würzburg, and the abbey church at Münsterschwarzach (1727–43). He did buildings for other members of the Schönborn family and was eventually put in charge of all major building projects in Würzburg and Bamberg, including palaces, public buildings, bridges, a water system, and more than a dozen churches. Neumann designed numerous palaces for the Schönborns, including those for the prince-bishops at Bruchsal (1728–50) and Werneck (c. 1733–45). In the 1740s he designed his masterpiece, the pilgrimage church at Vierzehnheiligen (1743–53), as well as the pilgrimage church known as the Käppele (1740–52) near Würzburg and the abbey church at Neresheim (1747–53).

Neumann showed himself a great master of composition in the interiors of his churches and palaces. The walls and columns in his buildings are diminished, disguised, or opened up to create startling and often playful effects while nevertheless retaining a sense of symmetry and harmony. Neumann made ingenious use of domes and barrel vaults to create sequences of round and oval spaces whose light, airy elegance is highlighted by the daylight streaming in through huge windows. The free and lively interplay of these elements is accented by a lavish use of decorative plasterwork, gilding, and statuary and by wall and ceiling murals.

Encyclopædia Britannica


Interior of the Basilica of the Fourteen Holy Helpers

Neumann's Wurzburg Residence and the beginnings of its Court Gardens.

Dominikus Zimmermann.

A contemporary of Balthasar Neumann, Dominikus Zimmermann
(1685-1766), created what may be the finest spatial design of the mid-eighteenth century, the Bavarian pilgrimage church nicknamed "Die Wies" (figs. 850 and 851). The exterior is so plain that its interior richness seems truly overwhelming. Like the Kaisersaal, its shape is oval, but since the ceiling rests on paired, free-standing supports, the spatial configuration is more fluid and complex. As a result, we are reminded of a German Gothic Hallenkirche (see fig. 473), despite the playful Rococo decor. Guarini's prophetic revaluation of Gothic architecture has here become reality.

Pilgrimage Church in Steinhausen

850. Dominikus Zimmermann. Interior, Die Wies, Upper Bavaria. 1745-54
Plan of Die Wies



Dominikus Zimmermann

Dominikus Zimmermann, (born June 30, 1685, Gaispoint, near Wessobrunn, Bavaria [Germany]—died Nov. 16, 1766, Wies), Bavarian Baroque architect and stuccoist whose church at Wies (now in Baden-Württemberg) is considered one of the finest accomplishments of Baroque architecture.

Zimmermann was taught stucco work by Johann Schmutzer and initially worked as a stuccoist. His earliest independent building design is the Dominican convent church at Mödingen (1716–21), in which he was aided by his brother Johann Baptist Zimmermann (1680–1758), a notable Bavarian court stuccoist and a fresco painter.

A considerable portion of Zimmermann’s career was spent in the building of two Gesamtkunstwerke (“total art works”) for which he and his brother designed and executed nearly every aspect of construction and decoration. Both are pilgrimage churches. The first, in Steinhausen, was begun in 1727. The floor plan is an oval, with 10 slender, free-standing piers supporting a vault painted in exemplary style by Zimmermann’s brother. This structure has been regarded by some as the first truly Rococo church because of its light, airy structure and its delicately coloured, flowing, undulating decorations in coloured stucco and painted frescoes.

The second church, at Wies (1746–54), has a rather drab and demure exterior but an even richer interior. The plan is again oval, with eight piers supporting a sumptuous entablature and vault, decorated this time with unmistakably Rococo motifs and a delicate ceiling fresco by Johann Baptist. The interior is remarkable for the rich colour harmonies and the swirling, controlled movement of its decoration, which obliterates the previously clearly demarcated zones of pillar, capital, entablature, and vault.

Upon his retirement in 1752, Zimmermann chose the town of Wies as his home.

Encyclopædia Britannica



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