Germain Boffrand

Portrait of Germain Boffrand by Lambert-Sigisbert Adam

Germain Boffrand (French pronunciation: [ʒɛʁmɛ̃ bɔfʁɑ̃]) (16 May 1667 – 19 March 1754) was a French architect. A pupil of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Germain Boffrand was one of the main creators of the precursor to Rococo called the style Régence, and in his interiors, of the Rococo itself. In his exteriors he held to a monumental Late Baroque classicism with some innovations in spatial planning that were exceptional in France[1] His major commissions, culminating in his interiors at the Hôtel de Soubise, were memorialised in his treatise Livre d'architecture, published in 1745, which served to disseminate the French "Louis XV" style throughout Europe.


Born at Nantes, the son of a provincial architect, Boffrand went to Paris in 1681 to study sculpture in the atelier of François Girardon, before entering the large official practice of Jules Hardouin-Mansart. His uncle, Philippe Quinault, introduced him to prospective clients among the aristocracy of Paris and at Court. He was employed from 1689 (Kimball) on works in the Bâtiments du Roi under Mansart, notably at the Orangerie of Palace of Versailles and in Paris at Place Vendôme, where Boffrand was among the draughtsmen responsible for the first designs (from 1686) and for the Convent of the Capucins, Hôtel de Vendôme[2] From 1693 he was less employed and in 1699 he left the Bâtiments du Roi[3] to commence work, at first in Lorraine and in the Netherlands, then after his return to Paris in 1709, for a distinguished private clientele in Paris, well disposed towards his audacious innovations, such as the oval forecourt of the Hôtel Amelot de Gournay (1710–13), that were unthinkable in the royal works. In 1709, he was placed in charge of the interior apartments of the Hôtel de Soubise, where he soon succeeded the architect Pierre-Alexis Delamair (1676–1745). None of his early interiors survive, largely replaced by his spectacular Rococo work of the years following 1735.[4]

Hôtel de Soubise (1704-1707); Boffrand reurned to execute a suite of high rococo interiors (1735-1740)
Wall elevation in the bedroom of the Prince de Rohan at the Hôtel de Soubise

Boffrand was received by the Académie d'architecture in 1709. The following year he was among those employed in the additions to the Palais Bourbon. In 1732, he was appointed inspecteur général des ponts et chaussées and produced plans for restructuring Les Halles. He was a participant in the competition for the design of Place Louis XV. Named chief architect to the hôpital général in 1724, he constructed in the Île de la Cité a foundling hospital, the Hôpital des Enfants Trouvés (1727, demolished). Boffrand also worked for the hospitals at the Salpêtrière, at Bicêtre, and at the Hôtel-Dieu. He built a series of hôtels particuliers in Paris as speculative business enterprises. Of the inventive spatial arrangements in the hôtel that swiftly became the Hôtel Amelot de Gournay, Germain Brice remarked in his early 18th-century guidebook that "one will note some remarkable and daring lay-outs, which however appear rationally based, providing several amenities".[5] Boffrand's pavilion of 1712-15 that inaugurated the new quarter of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré was purchased and became the Hôtel de Duras.[6]

Abroad, Boffrand worked for the Duke of Lorraine (not yet a part of France), where he was appointed Premier Architecte to Duke Léopold in 1711, but little of significance remains.[7] He also constructed a fountain and a hunt pavilion, Bouchefort, in the gardens of the schloss belonging to the Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian II Emmanuel. In 1724 Boffrand worked on site at Würzburg with Balthasar Neumann, who had been consulting him in Paris, on the Prince-Bishop's Residenz (under construction 1719-1744). His designs were carried out in the main suite of rooms, where Fiske Kimball detected Boffrand's artistic control in the stuccowork by Johann Peter Castelli of Bonn.[8]

Among the architects trained in his atelier were François Dominique Barreau de Chefdeville, Charles-Louis Clérisseau and Emmanuel Héré de Corny, the architect of the Place Stanislas at Nancy. Boffrand's two sons collaborated in the office, both dying young, in 1732 and 1745.[9]

Last years and death

Boffrand's folio, Livre d'architecture, was published in 1745. There are no surviving caches of his drawings. In January 1745 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.[10] Germain Boffrand died in Paris in 1754 at age 86.

Major commissions

The following commissions of Boffrand are largely taken from Fiske Kimball, The Creation of the Rococo, 1943.

In Paris

Château de Lunéville (1708-1709)

In Picardie

In Lorraine

Religious architecture

Civil engineering


  1. Kimball 1943, p.109.
  2. Kimball 1943 p. 38.
  3. He returned after the death of Mansart in 1708, paid from 21 March 1709 under the new administration of Robert de Cotte at the modest rate of 1000 livres a year, later increased to 1200. (Kimball 1943, pp 78, 125).
  4. Kimball 1943, p. 178.
  5. "on remarquera des dispositions extraordinaires & hasardées, lesquelles cependant paroissent fondées en raison pour plusieurs commoditez." (Brice, Description nouvelle de ce qu'il y a de plus remarquable dans la ville de Paris, 1713 edition, vol. III, p. 153, noted by Kimball, p. 99, note. Also found in the 1725 edition, vol. 4, p. 49).
  6. A small section of the interior was engraved for Blondel's Architecture françoise (Kimball 1943, p. 99 note).
  7. Kimball pp 100, 129.
  8. Kimball 1943, p. 149.
  9. Kimball 1943, p. 128, note.
  10. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 17 December 2010.
  11. The remodelled salon is illustrated in Boffrand's Livre d'architecture, 1745.
  12. Boiseries from the Hôtel de Broglie installed at the Musée Carnavalet appear to date from the 1730s (Kimball 1943, p 98 note.)


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