Palladian or Chinese?

View of the Chinese bridge at Stourhead, with the temple of Apollo beyond, by Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838), 1780-1800. ©V&A Images

View of the Chinese bridge at Stourhead, with the temple of Apollo beyond, by Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838), 1780-1800. ©V&A Images

In response to the previous post about the garden at Stourhead, Andrew helpfully pointed us towards some images of the so-called Chinese bridge there, which was built around 1749 but was taken down again at the end of the eighteenth century. I thought I would feature some of the contemporary views of this piece of short-lived eighteenth-century chinoiserie.

Temporary recreation of the Chinese bridge at Stourhead set up by the structural engineering firm Mann Williams in 2005. ©Mann Williams

Temporary recreation of the Chinese bridge at Stourhead set up by the structural engineering firm Mann Williams in 2005. ©Mann Williams

Single-arch timber bridges were often called ‘Chinese’ in the eighteenth century, probably because they were reminiscent of the bridges shown on Chinese porcelain, lacquer, silk and wallpaper.

View of the Chinese bridge at Stourhead by Copleston Warre Bampfylde (1720-1791), 1770s. ©V&A Images

View of the Chinese bridge at Stourhead by Copleston Warre Bampfylde (1720-1791), 1770s. ©V&A Images

Strictly speaking, however, the use of this type of bridge in Europe goes back to a design in Palladio’s Third Book of Architecture (as noted, for instance by Professor Timothy Mowl in his 1993 book Palladian Bridges).

View of the garden at Stourhead from the Chinese umbrella, by Fredrik Magnus Piper (1746-1824), 1779. ©Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, with thanks to John Harrison's Pinterest boards.

View of the garden at Stourhead from the Chinese umbrella, by Fredrik Magnus Piper (1746-1824), 1779. ©Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, with thanks to John Harrison’s Pinterest boards.

Palladian structures sat happily next to Chinese and Gothic ones in mid-eighteenth-century British gardens and there was a considerable degree of stylistic cross-fertilisation. Some ‘Palladian’ arched bridges acquired ‘Chinese’ fretwork balustrades, whereas others kept their ‘Palladian’ x-shaped cross-braces, but were still dubbed ‘Chinese’.

Sino-Palladian bridge in the park at Wörlitz, Saxen-Anhalt, originally built 1772. With thanks to John Harrison's Pinterest boards.

Sino-Palladian bridge in the park at Wörlitz, Saxen-Anhalt, originally built 1772. With thanks to John Harrison’s Pinterest boards.

The popularity of the English landscape garden ensured that these Sino-Palladian bridges were also exported to other parts of Europe – a nice example of the circulation and reinterpretation of a design motif.

 

 

10 Responses to “Palladian or Chinese?”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Thanks, Emile. I meant to ask about the description of these simple single-span wooden bridges as “Palladian”, as that adjective would immediately bring to my mind either a stone bridge carrying an ornamental pavilion with colonnades and pediments, like those at Wilton House or Stowe or Prior Park (or indeed the Marble Bridge at Tsarskoye Selo), or a more restrained classical stone bridge, like that at Brocket Hall or Blenheim Palace (or indeed the extant one at Stowe).

    For something completely different how about Palladio’s covered bridge at Bassano del Grappa? Something designed by Palladio himself, but not Palladian? Or his unbuilt design for the Rialto Bridge topped by a Roman temple? And Pulteney Bridge is Palladian too, although atypical in many ways. Clearly a very flexible adjective!

    The “Chinese” umbrella is extraordinary. Are there similar examples elsewhere?

  2. Andrew Says:

    Ah, here are some pages from Book Three –

    * https://archive.org/stream/architecturePal00Pall#page/V+%26+VI/mode/1up
    * https://archive.org/stream/architecturePal00Pall#page/n797/mode/1up
    * https://archive.org/stream/architecturePal00Pall#page/n802/mode/1up

    (hope those links work!)

  3. Andrew Says:

    OK, so the third link there works, and takes you to the Rialto design. If you scroll to the previous few pages, you will see some designs for wooden bridges and stone bridges.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much Andrew. Indeed, and plate VI is the source of these ‘Chinese’ single-arch bridges.

    And yes ‘Palladian bridge’ is of course an extremely flexible concept. As Prof. Mowl describes in his book, the type of bridge commonly called ‘Palladian’ in Britain, i.e. the one with the colonnaded superstructure as seen at Stowe, Wilton, Prior Park, etc, was only loosely based on Palladio, being a much simplified version of his Rialto Bridge design, and was actually developed in Britain. So if you were Italian you might call that ‘Anglo-Palladian’ 🙂 But it shows how popular and effective Palladio’s designs were, that they were being used and adapted so widely.

  5. artandarchitecturemainly Says:

    I am glad the popularity of the English landscape garden caused Sino-Palladian bridges to be exported to other parts of Europe. After all, taste always moves around geographically.

    But if the original 1749 Chinese bridge was taken down again within 50 years, it suggests taste moves around in every era as well 😦

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Helen, yes towards the end of the eighteenth century there was a trend towards ‘purer’ landscape gardens, with fewer pavilions and monuments, and fewer non-classical elements. So when Sir Henry Colt Hoare inherited he did a bit of ‘tidying up’ in his grandfather’s garden, not replacing the Chinese bridge when it became unsafe and also removing the Chinese alcove seat, the Gothic greenhouse and the Turkish tent.

  7. Andrew Says:

    The Gothic greenhouse would have been popular again very shortly. Compare the Victorian Camellia House at Culzean – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/427701295834997887/
    How tastes change.

    And a “Turkish” tent too? What a pot pourri of Oriental fancies!

  8. Rudi Says:

    Another example of a Sino-Palladian bridge in Germany:
    http://www.brueckenweb.de/2content/datenbank/bruecken/2brueckenblatt.php?bas=10569#.VBwyC00cRaR

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Rudi, thank you very much. But could it be the same one as in my last image? The names of the different parks and gardens in Anhalt-Dessau are a bit confusing (Wörlitz, Luisium, etc), but I think it might be the same bride, although from a different angle.

  10. Andrew Says:

    Hmm. There see to be lots of images online for “weiße brücke wörlitzer park” and lots of others for “weiße brücke luisium”. They are very similar, but the details of the woodwork look different.

    This blog – http://ndtponton.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/dessau-worlitzer-gartenlandschaft/ – suggests there are actually two separate parks near to each other, with nearly identical bridge, both from c.1770s.

    Wörlitzer Park also has the oldest cast iron bridge on the continent (we have our own Ironbridge, of course).

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