Art History Term Paper
“Leon Battista Alberti critiquing
The Opéra in Paris by Charles Garnier”
Art History 202
April 19, 2010
The Pennsylvania State University
“A man can do all things if he but wills them”, is what I respond to people when they ask me how I come up with such amazing ideas for my buildings and books. My name is Leon Battista Alberti, and Architecture is my life. I was born in Genoa in 1404, which was during the Early Renaissance times. Even though I’m an architect, I have always been interested in other subjects such as math, music, painting, philosophy, sculptures, crafts, and artistic theories as well, which many would consider me as a Humanist during my times. ...view middle of the document...
I walked a few miles up, and there it was, one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen in my life. Beauty can be interpreted in many ways, but in my opinion, beauty is “the adjustment of all parts proportionately so that one cannot add or subtract or change without impairing the harmony of the whole.” This building was just perfect: its ornamentation, location, order, arrangement, style, colors; it had everything. It clearly pursued venustas just the way I would have done so; I immediately felt connected to it.
What was this building’s purpose? Who was its architect that thought the same way I did? So many questions I had and so much to learn that took me to ask everyone around in pursuit of information. At first I thought it was a church, since it was the most beautiful building around, like if it where the chief ornament of the city, and because it even had an avenue which went directly towards it. Also, I noted that this building stood all by itself on an island, in a podium elevated off the ground, like I would consider a church during my times should be. Its façade seemed to be completely symmetrical and in complete, proportional harmony. But there was something that I didn’t like about this ‘church’: it wasn’t round like the most perfect things in nature are. After asking all the people around me, I was told that it wasn’t a church, but it was “The Opéra”. Apparently, the architect that designed this building was a French architect named Charles Garnier in 1861. According to the people there, this was where Operas and many other theatrical events were presented, and it was one of the most important buildings of that time. At first, I didn’t agree as much that this “public secular building” was treated as if it were a church, nor that it was more important than one since that wouldn’t follow my ladders of beauty, but this building was too beautiful to criticize and I hadn’t seen it all yet. To further examine this amazing piece of architecture, I had to cross the street and almost got hit by these crazy looking motorized carts, but it was worth the risk for what I was about to discover.
The Front façade simply looked amazing, there was no way I could explain it with just words. It showed me how architecture has evolved through time, and not only evolved but also improved in so many ways! The first thing that I noticed is how rich of ornament this building was. As I wrote in my sixth book in which I talk about ornaments in a building, “ornaments may be Figure 2: Façade “The Opera”
Figure 2: Façade “The Opera”
defined as a form of auxiliary light and complement to beauty”. They are the ones that complement to beauty, and they achieve this by deriving from nature properties such as weight, lightness, density, purity, durability, and of course bring to the work some admiration. You see, I love buildings that resemble nature, and I feel that we must always take from nature what we construct, and always choose from it the most...