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date: 07 December 2019

Delafosse, Jean-Charleslocked

(b Paris, 1734; d Paris, Oct 11, 1789).
  • Claire Baines

Extract

(b Paris, 1734; d Paris, Oct 11, 1789).

French decorative designer, engraver and architect. In 1747 he was apprenticed to the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Poullet (d 1775), but he seems not to have completed his apprenticeship. By 1767 he styled himself ‘architecte et professeur pour le dessin’. In 1768 he published the first volume of his most important work, the Nouvelle iconologie historique. It contains 110 plates, nearly all engraved by Delafosse himself, with designs for furniture, decorative objects and architectural ornament in the heavy, classicizing, Louis XVI style. In addition, each design bears a particular, usually complex, symbolic or iconological meaning, pertaining to an almost encyclopedic range of subject-matter. In some of his designs he manipulated abstract shapes in new ways, using such forms as truncated columns, cones, pyramids, spheres, discs and rectangles, sometimes carefully shaded to appear simultaneously three-dimensional and flat. His compositional methods were characteristic of the most revolutionary architectural designs of the period, such as those of Etienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. In these images he used discrepancies of size, employing Piranesi’s device of juxtaposing tiny human figures with immense architectural elements, sometimes heavily rusticated to emphasize the contrast further; reversals of weight and balance; and spatial ambiguities, playing off three-dimensional objects against two-dimensional shapes. He divorced familiar architectural elements—the base of a column, a pediment, a single Ionic volute—from their usual functions and placed them in new and witty contexts....

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