Jason Nguyen, “Vulcan’s Ornament”

Charles Le Brun, “Fire” from André Félibien, Tapisseries du roy ou sont representez les quatres elemens et les quatre saisons (1670)

CRRS Friday Workshop
Jan. 21, 3:30-5:00pm
Zoom registration

Jason Nguyen is an architectural historian working at the junction of architecture, science and technology, and political economy in the early modern world at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto.
(Faculty profile.)

Few materials convey the artistic potential of human creativity like metal. In early modern Europe (and especially in France), architects incorporated the material into their projects with increasing frequency. Elaborately designed stair railings, balconies, door knockers, and locks celebrated the material’s formal capabilities while also signalling the profession’s engagement with the labour guilds and the state’s mining and metallurgical industries. This talk looks at a series of prints of architectural ironwork during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in France. The incorporation of decorative patterns and plates by commercial engravers in well-read books by Mathurin Jousse, André Félibien, Augustin-Charles d’Aviler, among others, illustrates the degree to which architects functioned as coordinators of both labour and ornamental form during the design and construction process. Manufacturing initiatives tied to imperial war efforts intersected with the period’s scientific theorization of matter to produce a materials-based approach to the design and making of ornament. What resulted was a profound theorization of form whereby exuberant designs in wrought and cast iron represented the material’s potential as conceived by the artist.