The art of Inigo Jones has been thoughtlessly lauded in more recent times. " His special strength," says Mr. Bloom-field, his latest panegyrist, "lay in his thorough mastery of proportion, his contempt for mere prettiness, and the rare distinction of his style. His own theory of architecture was that, in his own words, " it should be solid, proportional according to the rules, masculine and unaffected." 2 Was Inigo Jones a master of proportion ? Does he not in this declaration betray a fundamental misconception of the true meaning of proportion ? Is any genuine work of art " proportional according to the rules," i.e. the mechanical formulas of Vitruvius or Palladio on which he professed to base his practice ? And did Jones ever carry out in practice his avowed theory that architecture should be unaffected ? Can an art be unaffected which is so frankly copied from a foreign style ? I have characterized the spirit of much of the architecture of the Renaissance as theatrical; that of Inio Jones is preeminently so, and it is significant that he was extensively employed, in his early career, in designing architectural backgrounds for the stage.
The artistic career of Sir Christopher Wren, the most justly famous architect of the belated English Renaissance, began after the Civil War. Inigo Jones had prepared the way for him, and a body of aristocratic dilettanti, ardently devoted to the neo-classic propaganda, had arisen. The artistic notions of these people are instructively set forth in the following passage from Parentalia: 3 " Towards the end of King James Fs Reign, and in the Beginning of his Son's, Taste in Architecture made a bold step from Italy to England at once, and scarce staid a moment to visit France by the way. From the most profound Ignorance in Architecture, the most consummate Night of Knowledge, Inigo Jones started up, a Prodigy of Art, and vied even with his Master Palladio himself. From so glorious an Out-set, there was not any Excellency that we might not have hoped to obtain; Britain had a reasonable Prospect to rival Italy, and foil every Nation in Europe beside. But in the midst of these sanguine Expectations, the fatal Civil War commenced, and all the Arts and Sciences were immediately laid aside."
1 Op. cit., p. 265.
2 A History of Renaissance Architecture in England, by Reginald Bloomfield, London, 1897, vol. 1, p. 122.
3 Parentalia, or Memoir of the Family of the Wrens, by Christopher Wren, London, 1750, pp. 269-270.
Before turning his attention to architecture Wren had been a distinguished scholar at Oxford, where he was appointed Professor of Astronomy in the year 1657. It was n°t until mature manhood that he began the practice of architecture, and thus, like so many others who have achieved distinction in this art, he never had a special and systematic preliminary training for it. His father, Dr. Christopher Wren, Dean of Windsor, is said to have been skilled in all branches of mathematics and in architecture,1 and this, together with his own native aptitudes, appears to have made it easy for him, by observation and practice, to acquire the necessary preparation for such work as he was to do. His opportunities for study of the architectural monuments of the Continent were small. He never visited Italy, but he spent some months in Paris, and while there wrote, in a letter to a friend, as follows : " I have busied myself surveying the most esteem'd Fabricks of Paris, and the Country round; the Louvre for a while was my daily Object, where no less than a thousand Hands are constantly employ'd in the Works; some in laying mighty foundations, some in raising the stories, columns, entablements, etc, with vast stones, by great and useful Engines; others in Carving, Inlaying of Marbles, Plastering, Painting, Gilding, etc, which altogether make a school of Architecture, the best probably, at this Day in Europe." The Italian architect Bernini was working on the Louvre at the time, and in the same letter Wren writes: " Mons. Abbe Charles introduc'd me to the acquaintance of Bernini, who shew'd me his Designs of the Louvre, and of the King's Statue. . . . Bernini's Design of the Louvre I would have given my skin for, but the reserv'd Italian gave me but a few Minutes View; it was five little Designs on paper, for which he hath receiv'd as many thousand Pistoles; I had only time to copy it in my Fancy and Memory. I shall be able by Discourse, and Crayon, to give you a tolerable Account of it." 1 He appears to have made the most of his time while in France, but he naturally confined his attention to the modern works of that country, which alone were then thought worthy of notice. The great chateaux of Fontainebleau, St. Germains, Chantilly, and many others, he speaks of in the same letter as having "surveyed that I might not lose the impressions of them."
1 Parentalia, p. 142.
Wren's first architectural work appears to have been the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, which is thus referred to in Parentalia: " This Theatre, a work of admirable Contrivance and Magnificence, was the first publick Performance of the Surveyor,2 in Architecture; which, however, had been executed in a greater and better style, with a view to the ancient Roman Grandeur discernable in the Theatre of Marcellus at Rome, but that he was obliged to put a Stop to the bolder strokes of his Pencil, and confine the Expense within the Limits of a private Purse."3 But his great opportunity occurred after the fire of London, when he was commissioned to prepare plans for the rebuilding of the city, including the cathedral of St. Paul and all the city churches. Before the great fire he had been ordered to submit designs for the restoration of the old cathedral of St. Paul, the grand old Norman structure, with additions in the early English style, which, notwithstanding the repairs and additions of Inigo Jones, was still thought to be in a dangerous condition. Wren made a careful survey, and worked out a plan, elevation, and section of the old structure, and expressed surprise at what he considered the negligence of the old builders. " They valued not exactness : some Inter-columns were one inch and a half too large, others as much, or more, too little. Nor were they true in their levels." 4 He thought that the whole fabric was alarmingly insecure, except the portico built by Jones, which, he said, "being an entire and excellent piece, gave great reputation to the work in the first repairs."5
He prepared plans for a thorough restoration, but these were not approved, and he set off for France. Then came the great fire and put an end to all thought of repairs on his part, though the commissioners appear still to have clung to the idea of restoration until they were satisfied, by fruitless effort to utilize what remained of the old work, .that such a course was impracticable.1
1 Parentalia, pp. 261-262.
2 Wren had been appointed surveyor-general and principal architect of the city of London after the great fire.
3 Parentalia, p. 335. * Ibid., p. 273. 8 Ibid., p. 277.