Smaak en objectiviteit
How can we be sure that we understand seventeenth-century classicism? Not the rules of the art, but the beauty of it. Take for instance the Amsterdam town hall by Jacob van Campen, a building which has the appearance of an unattractive block, at least in my eyes and in those of some nineteenth- and eighteenth-century critics. A colleague of Van Campen, Philips Vingboons, also made a design tor the town hall, but that was rejected by the city. This design was based on the architecture of Palladio and was much nicer (in my eyes).
It appears to be very difficult to reconstruct the debate on the aesthetics of classicist architecture in the seventeenth century in Holland, because the debate was nearly always focused on artistic rules or on functionalist problems. If we want to know more about the aesthetics of seventeenth-century classicism, we should use our own judgement in matters of taste as a clue to detect the differences in the appreciation of architects, clients and critics in those days. Some architectural historians think that their personal taste must be concealed in order to be as objective as possible. That seems a mistake to me, because our modern taste could be a parameter.
Copyright (c) 1998 Wim Denslagen
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