Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

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Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (1814 – 1879) was a French architect and theorist, famous for his "restorations" of medieval buildings. Born in Paris, he was as central a figure in the Gothic Revival in France as he was in the public discourse on "honesty" in architecture, which eventually transcended all revival styles, to inform the emerging spirit of Modernism.


Early years

Viollet-le-Duc's father was a civil servant in Paris who collected books; his mother's Friday salons drew Stendhal and Sainte-Beuve. His mother's brother, Étienne-Jean Delécluze, "a painter in the mornings, a scholar in the evenings" (Summerson), was largely in charge of the young man's education. Viollet-le-Duc showed a lively intellect: republican, anti-clerical, rebellious, he built a barricade in the July Revolution of 1830 and refused to enter the École des Beaux-Arts. Instead he opted in favor of direct practical experience in the architectural offices of Jacques-Marie Huvé and Achille-François-René Leclère.

Architectural restorer

Restoration work

In the early 1830s, the beginnings of a movement for the restoration of medieval buildings appeared in France. Viollet-le-Duc, returning in 1835 from a study trip to Italy, was commissioned by Prosper Merimée to restore the Romanesque abbey of Vézelay. This work marked the beginning of a long series of restorations; Viollet-le-Duc's restorations at Notre Dame de Paris brought him national attention. His other main works include Mont St-Michel, Carcassonne, Roquetaillade castle and Pierrefonds.

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