Imaginary figures of death and life in the architecture of Grandjean de Montigny

Milton Vitis Feferman, University of Pennsylvania


The central theme of this dissertation thesis is that many architectural works produced at the end of the eighteenth century in France, while programmatically distinct incorporate images drawn from a common set of ideas and images. One observes that during a long historical period, philosophical, religious and even secular ideas—reproducing constant and repetitive imaginative narratives—coalesce around certain central themes: the representation of an earthly pilgrimage that, after conquering a symbolic path of sins and difficulties, arrives at a “space” that represents liberation; images of the garden of Eden, of the primitive ladder to the heavens, and of the spatial “ambitus” that forms the imagined illustration to the ancient text of the “Tabula Cebetis.” To illustrate these concepts, two exemplary architectural models executed by the French architect Auguste-Henry-Victor Grandjean de Montigny (Paris, 1776-Rio de Janeiro, 1850) are utilized: an Elysée or Cimitière, selected for the Academy's 1799 Grand Prix competition and his house built in the Gávea section of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil The initial section, describes the context and parameters of the design competitions at the École de Beaux Arts, in Paris, at the end of the eighteenth century, illustrating the similarities and differences in the approach to imagery of the projects presented by students. The conditions for the development and conception of a new civic theme in French cemeteries is examined, particularly as exemplified in the works of the architects Durand-Thibault and especially in the works of Etienne-Louis Boullée in his seminal work for a Temple of Nature. The formal and symbolic strategy for a cemetery presented by Grandjean de Montigny is analyzed, with a description of how symbolic ideas and spatial narratives were appropriated and adapted to form a new symbolic formatting for this novel architectural program. Finally, this dissertation analyzes how these ideas and symbols contributed equally to the development of a personal project—the construction of Grandjean's residence in Brazil—describing how they were appropriated and adapted not only to a new gram of domestic habitation, but also to a new physical, social, and architectural environment that characterized Brazil in the mid nineteenth century.

Subject Area

Architecture|Art history

Recommended Citation

Feferman, Milton Vitis, "Imaginary figures of death and life in the architecture of Grandjean de Montigny" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3165669.