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Design Before Design: A Quick and Dirty History of Style to 1800

The Parthenon, Athens (448-432 BC)

Pantheon, Rome (2nd century AD)

Andrea Palladio’s Villa Almerico-Capra "La Rotonda"in Vicenza, Italy, 1550

Mannerism and the Late Renaissance

Michelangelo, Laurentian Library, San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy from 1524

Baroque Architecture, Italy

Borromini, Dome of San Ivo della Sapienza, 1642-62, Rome, Italy

Baroque Architecture, Italy

Borromini, Dome of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, 1643-43, Rome, Italy

Bernini and Roman Baroque

Bernini, Baldacchino, St. Peter’s 1624-33, Rome, Italy

Bernini and Roman Baroque

Bernini, Throne of St. Peter 1657-66, St. Peter’s, Rome, Italy

Design for a frame Johann Paul Schor Rome c. 1670s

Mirror with sunflower motif Anonymous Rome Second half of seventeenth century

“the bed’s innovation and magnificence filled all the world with admiration”

State bed of Maria Mancini Colonna Johann Paul Schor Rome c. 1663


Print from Tableaux d’ornements et rocailles Designed by Jacques Lajoue French c.1740

Centerpiece and terrines for the Duke of Kingston Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier Paris 1735

Candelabre Juste-Aurele Meissonier Paris, 1734

We should be infinitely obliged to (metalsmiths) if they would be good enough not to alter the intention of things and to remember for instance that a candlestick out to be straight and perpendicular in order to support its light, not twisted as if someone had forced it out of shape; that its pan ought to be concave so as to hold the wax than runs down and not convex so as to let it drop in a sheet on the candlestick, besides a quantity of other charming devices no less unreasonable which it would take too long to mention. Charles-Nicholas Cochin Mercure de France December, 1754

ormolu chĂŠnets unidentified maker France c. 1730

Nothing is monstrous, as Horace observes, than to couple together beings of different nature; and yet ‘tis what many of our artists at this time glory in doing. A cupid is the contrast of a dragon; and a shell of a bat’s wing; they no longer observe any order. . . they heap cornices, bases, columns, cascades, rushes and rocks in a confused manor, one upon the other; and in some corner of this chaos, they will place a cupid in a great fright, and have a festoon of flowers above the whole. Abbé le Blanc

Mantle clock Maker unknown French c. 1745-1750

Mantel clock Attributed to Jean-Pierre Latz French c. 1730’s

. . . Be pleased not to make a scythe smaller than an hour-glass, a hat ot tambourine larger than a bass viol, a man’s head smaller than a rose, a bill hook as large as a rake, etc. It is with much regret that we find ourselves obliged to beg them (artisans) to confine their genius within these laws of proportion. Charles-Nicholas Cochin Mercure de France December, 1754

What do the pendulum clocks, so much in fashion, resemble; which have neither basis not console, but seem to spring out of the wainscot . . . those stags, dogs, huntsmen, or Chinese figures, which they dispose in so odd a manner about the dial-plate; are they its natural ornament? AbbĂŠ le Blanc Letter to Comte de Caylus 1737-44

Rococo cartel clock attributed to Jacques Caffieri France c.1750

commode Antoine Gadreaux and Jacques Caffieri France c. 1738

Casket (coffres de toilette) Maker unknown France 1755-1760

. . . We furnish them with fine straight wood and that they ruin us with expense by working it into all these sinuous forms, that in bending our doors in order to subject them to circularities which it pleases the good taste of our modern architects to give to all our rooms, they make us spend much more than if they were to make them straight, and that we find no advantage in them since we pass just as well through a straight door as through a rounded door. Charles-Nicholas Cochin Mercure de France December, 1754

The Cabris room Grasse, France 1775-72 Metropolitain Museum

Weiskirche J. B. Zimmermann Germany 1745-54

Robert Clee Trade card for liqour dealer English 18th century

Title cartouche A New Book of Ornaments AntonioVisentini England, 1753

Critiques of the rococo • Illogical, Irrational or “unnatural” (material, structure and ornament) • Corrupting, seductive, luxurious, ephemeral, fashionable • Dysfunctional, decorative • expensive

The Continuing Curve

Rococo • • • • • • •

Curvalinear, organic Exuberant and emotional Feminine, private Amoral and irrational Synthetic and inclusive Artist as servant, artisanal Ahistorical

Classical • • • • • • •

Rectilinear, geometric Restrained and rational Masculine, public Moral and rational Reductive and exclusive Visionary and academic Ancient pedigree


Candelabra Juste-Aurele Meissonier Paris, 1734


Hot water urn Jean-Babtiste-Claude Odiot France c.1800


Title cartouche A New Book of Ornaments AntonioVisentini England, 1753


John Baskerville, Title page for Virgil’s Bucolica, England, 1757

H么tel Tassel Staircase Victor Horta Brussels 1893

Sitting room furniture Georges De Feure Paris 1900

Parody of Art Nouveau /Jugendstil Interiors, Berlin, c.1900

A decorative disease?

Art Nouveau Lyre-Guitar Luigi Mozzani Italy c. 1910

MT8 table lamp Wilhelm Wagenfeld Germany 1924

Cover for Elementare Typographie Jan Tschichold, Germany, 1925

Marcel Breuer, Wassily-Chair, Bauhaus, 1926

Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France, 1929-31

Seagram Building Mies van der Rohe New York 1958

Eero Saarinen, TWA Terminal, JFK Airport, New York, 1956-62

Organic Mid-century Modernism

La Chaise Charles and Ray Eames USA, 1948-present

Concert poster for “The Association” Wes Wilson USA, 1966


Teakettle Michael Graves for Alessi USA, 1985

Heatwave radiator Joris Laarman, The Netherlands 2003


Cinderella Table Jeroen Verhoeven The Netherlands, 2004

Imac G3, 1990’s

Isub subwoofer Jonathan Ive for Harman Kardon USA, 1999

PowerMac G4 Jonathan Ive for Apple Computers USA, 1999

Week 2: design before design  

This week we explore the shifting design impulse between the curve (rococo) and the straight line (classicism)

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