It is only by extension of the term that the architecture of England in the seventeenth century may be properly called Renaissance. But if, in architecture, we understand by Renaissance a revival of the use of classic details, such extension is justifiable, for in this architecture the use of classic details is becoming established, and the art of Jones and Wren stands in relation to the Elizabethan architecture as the art of Vignola and Palladio does to that of the early Renaissance in Italy, and that of Lescot and De l'Orme to the early French Renaissance.
Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren were the only English architects of great importance at this epoch. It was their genius that determined the character of modern English architecture, and we may therefore confine our attention to their works.
Of Jones, Horace Walpole thus speaks in his Anecdotes of Painting:1 " Inigo Jones, ... if a table of fame like that in the Tatler were to be framed for men of indisputable genius in every country, would save England from the disgrace of not having her representative among the arts. . . . Vitruvius drew up his grammar, Palladio showed him the practice, Rome displayed a theatre worthy of his emulation, and King Charles was ready to encourage, employ, and reward his talents." This famous architect began his artistic career in the early part of the seventeenth century. Nothing is known of his early education, but in youth he appears to have manifested an inclination for drawing, and to have acquired some skill in landscape painting.2 He does not seem to have had any systematic training in architecture, but in early life he travelled in Italy,1 where he studied the ancient monuments and read the works of Palladio and other Italian authors. In a book entitled StoneJienge Restored? he says: " Being naturally inclined in my younger years to study the arts of design, I passed into foreign parts to converse with the great masters thereof in Italy, where I applied myself to search out the ruins of those ancient buildings which, in despite of time itself, and violence of barbarians, are yet remaining. Having satisfied myself in these, and returning to my native country, I applied my mind more particularly to the study of architecture." For a quick-witted man with architectural aptitudes no training could be better, except that of growing up in an atmosphere of building activity, as the craftsmen of the Middle Ages did.
1 Vol. 2, p. 260.
2 Cunningham's Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, vol. 4, p. 71.
In his first practice Jones appears to have worked in a mixed style. The mongrel Elizabethan art was still in full vogue, and with this style, says Cunningham, " Inigo compounded, and for some time persevered in what the wits of the succeeding age nicknamed King James's Gothic." The well-known porch of St. Mary's church, Oxford, if it be by Jones, may furnish an example of this earlier style. But he soon sought to free himself from the vagaries of the Elizabethan craftsman, and strove to introduce a rigorous use of Palladian forms. He had learned the grammar of the orders as formulated by the architects of the later Renaissance, and had apparently conceived a sincere belief that the Palladian canons embodied all that was most excellent in architectural design. He saw in the Elizabethan art only its manifold infractions of the rules of order and proportion, and its grotesque distortions of classic forms. To reestablish these rules and restore these forms appeared to him the way to regenerate English art.
First among his extant works that can be certainly identified is the well-known Banqueting Hall built in 1619, for King James I, as a part of the projected palace of Whitehall, for which he had prepared the plans on a vast scale. The first remark prompted by this design is that it is not at all English.
1 Cunningham, op. cit., p. 76.
2 A work undertaken at the request of the king, in which Jones reaches the astonishing conclusion that in Stonehenge we have the remains of a Roman temple of the Tuscan order. Cf. Cunningham, p. 106 et seq.