In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a self-consciously eclectic intellectual fashion with roots in antiquity was cultivated in northern Europe.1 Although often understood as a branch of philosophy, it was a more general method of thought that found many applications and made a deep mark on contemporary artistic theory and practice. The act of selection was the method's basis. A philosopher, for instance, could draw upon the strengths of several different schools or traditions, combining them in various ways to develop new ideas or improve older ones. The method's proponents called it unbiased and impartial, claiming that it allowed users to avoid the pitfalls of rigid discipleship and narrowly sectarian thinking. Its detractors argued that it lacked a firm theoretical basis and was often an easy substitute for developing fundamentally new concepts.

Such eclecticism had clear applications in the visual arts, which were then essentially imitative. Indeed, many of the problems the eclectic philosophers faced seemed to fall away in the context of design, which had long embraced similar ideas of selective emulation of different sources. Whether eclecticism yielded a fundamentally different kind of art than did other related concepts is debatable. Very likely, the effect of eclecticism was one of degree, as it encouraged a synthetic approach drawing on a broad range of ideas and traditions. Although the idea can be seen in the figural arts, it is most evident in the architectural literature produced by Germanic writers, notably the architect and theorist Leonhard Christoph Sturm, during the earlier eighteenth century.

This essay presents three short case studies involving major projects overseen by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, and Balthasar Neumann. In some cases, their eclectic approaches reflected their own prerogatives. In others, they represented patrons' wishes or building administrations set up to achieve particular results. In some instances, the method was articulated clearly; in others it must be deduced from the work and the intellectual context. Outlined here is the rise of this way of thinking in Germanic universities (extending north to Uppsala, near Stockholm), rather than in arts academies (a more familiar source for explanations of artistic phenomena), and how the idea made its way into architectural theory. The origins of eclecticism are located not in literature specific to architecture or the visual arts but in a broader intellectual culture that emphasized these methods for the pursuit of artistic perfection.

Most of the buildings presented here are familiar, the work of architects regarded highly by both contemporaries and later historians. The methods behind their designs have often seemed suspect, however, and while historians have generally recognized the designs' synthetic nature, they have rarely explored them further. Historians have largely avoided acknowledging an eclectic method, which has long been understood as a crippling liability in the arts, a sign of creative weakness.2 This attitude, antithetical to the optimistic outlook of most eighteenth-century eclecticism, grew from the uncompromising attitudes of a generation of thinkers working in the decades around 1800. Most consequentially, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel saw an eclectic method of thought as intellectually vacant and unjustifiable. Artists and critics of his generation were equally damning in their critiques, seeing eclecticism as a sign of artistic feebleness or failure. This attitude has proved remarkably durable, persisting through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with surprisingly little examination, in part because modernist ideas of artistic integrity and innovation could not easily accommodate eclecticism. Yet in the eighteenth century such a method gave the buildings discussed here much of their significance. Their perceived quality was dependent in part on a conceptual method that has long been downplayed and, to a large degree, forgotten.

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Imperial Vienna

In 1713, during an outbreak of the plague, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI vowed to build a new church in Vienna. The building that Charles's architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656–1723), undertook two years later—the Karlskirche—was dedicated to Carlo Borromeo, the emperor's name saint (Figure 1). Narrative reliefs spiraling up the church's twin columns recount stories from the saint's life. These columns frame a complex and varied architectural composition. Between them stands a pedimented porch surmounted by a dome on a high drum. Walls curving out behind the columns connect this dome to shorter bell towers on either side. The ensemble dominates the square set before it.

Figure 1

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Karlskirche, Vienna, begun 1715 (author's photo).

Figure 1

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Karlskirche, Vienna, begun 1715 (author's photo).

This composition involved some compromises. The façade is essentially a screen. At street level, the towers appear to offer arched entrances to the building, but there is only one real entrance, set in the middle of the porch. The interior space is a narrow, domed oval linked to the façade only at the portal. From the rear, the building appears to be a centrally planned church set near a wall.

The basic prototype for the Karlskirche seems to have been the ancient Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, described in 2 Kings as a domed building flanked by two enormous columns. A sixteenth-century engraving by Philips Galle after Maarten van Heemskerk imagines this building in a composition similar to Fischer's (Figure 2). The Karlskirche's built columns, however, suggest a different reference. The tall bases, the winding reliefs, and the platforms near the rounded tops forcefully recall the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. These ancient elements are bound together here in ways that reflect contemporary churches elsewhere. The overall approach to the composition, with its towers nearly disconnected from the main structure, is comparable to François Mansart's Church of the Minimites in Paris, built in 1657–77 (Figure 3). The central portico surmounted by a dome with two flanking towers has been traced to the competitions of the Academy of Saint Luke in Rome, where Fischer spent time during the 1670s and 1680s.3

Figure 2

Philips Galle after Maarten van Heemskerk, Temple of Solomon, Jerusalem, engraving, 1572 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Figure 2

Philips Galle after Maarten van Heemskerk, Temple of Solomon, Jerusalem, engraving, 1572 (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Figure 3

François Mansart, Church of the Minimites, Paris, façade begun 1657 (Jean Marot, L'architecture françoise [Paris, ca. 1665]).

Figure 3

François Mansart, Church of the Minimites, Paris, façade begun 1657 (Jean Marot, L'architecture françoise [Paris, ca. 1665]).

These structural elements provide the basis of the composition as well as the conceptual content of the church. We are expected to recognize the motifs separately, but they merge together as a coherent presentation of Habsburg history and ideology. The columns refer not only to the temple of Jerusalem but also to the Pillars of Hercules at the Strait of Gibraltar, the traditional western boundary of the Roman Empire. The Habsburgs regarded themselves as direct heirs of the Roman emperors, and Gibraltar fittingly represented the boundary of their dominion in their capacity as kings of Spain. Although the church is dedicated to Carlo Borromeo, its name—Karlskirche, or Charles Church—recalls three other figures: Charlemagne (Charles or Karl the Great), the first Holy Roman Emperor and progenitor of the Roman Empire's transfer to the north; Charles (Karl) V, under whom the Habsburgs achieved their greatest reach, and who took two paired columns as his emblem; and Charles VI, his heir and the builder of this church.4

Fischer regarded the Karlskirche as one of his finest works, and he emphasized its significance. In the years around 1715, he produced his Entwurff einer historischen Architectur (Outline of a Historical Architecture), the first global history of architecture.5 In large-format plates, this book presents in sequence the Temple of Solomon, the seven wonders of the ancient world, architectural highlights of ancient Rome, a group of non-European buildings, and Fischer's own works, which appear as a summation of all the monuments and traditions coming before. Architecture and empire are fundamentally intertwined here, for the book emphasizes earlier imperial ages and suggests parallels with Habsburg ideology and historical writing. The reign of Charles VI and its architecture were thus set within an unbroken lineage of imperial rulers and their buildings.6

Yet even within Fischer's book, the Karlskirche stands out. It comes near the end and is represented by four plates, more than any other building discussed. If the Temple of Solomon—divinely inspired and built for a biblically sanctioned ruler—is the starting point for Fischer's architectural history, the Karlskirche forms the end point, summing up all that has come before it, including a group of domed mosques framed by twin minarets. The Ottoman mosque in Bursa, included here, shares the basic architectural logic of a centrally planned space covered by a dome and framed by minarets. This is juxtaposed on the plate with a similar mosque, albeit one with a single minaret, standing in Pest, which became part of the Habsburgs' lands after their 1686 victory over the Ottomans (Figure 4). In this way, Fischer signaled that this church represented a culmination of his own work, and of historical architecture more generally.

Figure 4

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, mosques in Bursa and Pest (Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Entwurff einer historischen Architectur [Vienna, 1721]; Getty Research Institute/Internet Archive).

Figure 4

Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, mosques in Bursa and Pest (Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Entwurff einer historischen Architectur [Vienna, 1721]; Getty Research Institute/Internet Archive).

For the purposes of this essay, the Karlskirche's individual sources are less important than recognition of the building as a synthesis of numerous sources and traditions. Indeed, Fischer went beyond the handbooks of iconography routinely employed by painters and architects, and introduced academics as his collaborators. The polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and the antiquarian Carl Gustaf Heraeus were closely involved in developing the building's concept—not simply its iconographic content, as seen in paintings and ornament, but also its specifically architectural elements.7 The Karlskirche, then, was an idea in stone, developed by an architect who could justifiably call himself an intellectual on the basis of his antiquarian research for the Entwurff. The church represents a summation not only of Fischer's powers as a designer but of architecture's historical development as well. In the earlier eighteenth century, architectural syntheticism or eclecticism could be seen as evidence of a particular conceptual approach, and it was in these terms that Fischer conceived and presented his most important work.

The Karlskirche was unusual for its architectural and imagistic complexity and for the intellectual resources brought to bear upon it, but a synthetic method runs through much of Fischer's work. Suggesting his approach in the Entwurff, Fischer notes that different lands have different tastes in architecture, as in cuisine or clothing, and that these can be brought together and compared, and the best elements identified.8 His own projects indicate that the finest elements of different traditions were not only to be identified but also to be incorporated, creatively synthesized, in new works.

Nicodemus Tessin and Royal Stockholm

Two decades before Fischer designed the Karlskirche, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger (1654–1728) began rebuilding the Royal Palace in Stockholm (Figure 5). The palace was to be the heart of the rebuilt capital, a showpiece that would compensate for the shortcomings of its late medieval predecessor.9

Figure 5

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Royal Palace, Stockholm, north façade, begun 1692 (author's photo).

Figure 5

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Royal Palace, Stockholm, north façade, begun 1692 (author's photo).

Many of Tessin's drawings, notes, and memoranda to the king survive, and these demonstrate how he worked within a system of references. He constantly compares his design to residences elsewhere, in broad terms or precise ones. He often cites the Farnese and Chigi Palaces in Rome and Gianlorenzo Bernini's designs for the Louvre in Paris; these are accompanied by detailed comments on a wide range of models for virtually all structural elements. The staircase, he writes, “is like that in the Palazzo of Don Gasparo [the Altieri Palace in Rome],” and the “the ornament [of the north portal is] as on the Palazzo Chigi.”10 The east façade of the palace, with colossal order Corinthian pilasters set on a high base in the center, flanked by plainer expanses of wall, also seems derived from the Chigi Palace (Figure 6). Precise sources can be identified for many other elements in the building. Some of the window moldings are derived from Francesco Borromini's designs for the Lateran Basilica, engraved in Giacomo de' Rossi's Studio d'architettura civile (1696).11 The north carriageway is similar to that of the Farnese Palace. Other notes recognize an array of options for different compositional solutions, some quite technical. For instance, Tessin notes that in the Chigi Palace, each successive story is one-twelfth shorter than that below it, while the scaling of each story in the Farnese Palace and that in Bernini's design for the Louvre follow entirely different patterns, which he explains in comparable detail.12 Although Tessin does not elaborate further, the implication is that these alternatives generated different effects that might be incorporated in new designs.

Figure 6

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Royal Palace, Stockholm, east façade, begun 1697 (author's photo).

Figure 6

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Royal Palace, Stockholm, east façade, begun 1697 (author's photo).

Other choices Tessin made for the palace function like the referential elements of Fischer's Karlskirche. The Hall of State, where the parliament met, draws on Leon Battista Alberti's reconstruction of the Curia Julia, the meeting place of the Roman Senate, built in the first century BCE. The proportions are similar, as are the internal colonnade with rectangular windows above and below the entablature, and the flat ceiling, which contrasts with vaulted ceilings found elsewhere in the palace.13 All of these elements are subsumed within a large, fairly simple but coherently designed structure.

Elsewhere, in a design for an appeals court adjacent to the palace, Tessin set a two-story arcaded façade above a severe, rusticated base (Figure 7).14 Essentially a series of linked serlianas, the façade design is a variant of that found at Andrea Palladio's “basilica,” or town hall, in Vicenza, as Tessin noted on a drawing for the project. Above the arcade, at the top of the ensemble, he set a false perspective. (Bernini's Scala Regia at the Vatican and Borromini's extreme example at the Spada Palace in Rome are the most familiar examples of this device, but Tessin and his father, also an architect, had used it previously in the Stockholm region.)15 Beside this he incorporated elements of Borromini's design for the attic of the Barberini Palace, offering a variation on Borromini's windows with splayed brackets and a conch shell centered above. Framing this ensemble are flanking wings with horizontal ribs, which again recall the Chigi Palace, and which harmonize with the east and west wings of the palace that the appeals court faces.

Figure 7

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, project for a court of appeals, Stockholm, ca. 1712 (engraving by Claude Haton, ca. 1714; Hans Thorwid/Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).

Figure 7

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, project for a court of appeals, Stockholm, ca. 1712 (engraving by Claude Haton, ca. 1714; Hans Thorwid/Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).

Tessin did not create detailed notes simply to contextualize or lend legitimacy to the design choices he made in negotiating with his patrons. Rather, the notes were integral to his design process. A preliminary sketch for recladding the cathedral adjacent to the palace—an undeveloped part of a larger project to remake the urban district around the palace—includes notes in Italian, German, and Swedish (Figure 8). These annotations were made with the same pen and ink as the drawing, indicating that they are a textual counterpart to the drawing, and they record Tessin's design choices in reference to buildings found elsewhere. For instance, there should be two figures on the frontispiece as at San Marcello in Rome, although these could be replaced by candelabras; the windows below should be as at Santa Maria Maggiore; other elements could approximate those at Saint Peter's Basilica. In a sketch for the side elevations, Tessin notes that the pilaster structure should be like that found on Palladio's Palazzo Valmarana in Vicenza, with residual attic articulation supporting statues along the roofline. Between the pilasters, Tessin incorporated tall, arched windows, and in the attic, text plaques.

Figure 8

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, project for Saint Nikolai Cathedral, Stockholm, ca. 1712 (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).

Figure 8

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, project for Saint Nikolai Cathedral, Stockholm, ca. 1712 (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).

Tessin developed his broad-based knowledge of European architecture through his extensive travels in the periods 1673–80 and 1687–88, during which he compiled detailed observations in a series of notebooks. He assembled a good library of architectural publications and a large collection of prints and drawings, which he purchased, commissioned, inherited, or made himself. Together, these constituted a substantial source of reference material.16 Tessin's notes on the Stockholm palace and its surrounding structures were for his own use, but he was clear and open about his methods. In a memo accompanying his project for a renovation of the Louvre, sent to the French court in 1705, he explained his design choices through references to other buildings (Figure 9). He related his circular, arcaded courtyard to Vignola's Villa Farnese at Caprarola, Palladio's basilica, Borromini's portico for the Palazzo Falconieri in Rome, and other buildings. Some of these connections he explained in depth, citing their particular virtues. Vignola's circular courtyard, for instance, was small, but “much applauded by the connoisseurs.” Tessin wrote that of all forms, the circle is most pleasing to the eye and is most suited to spectacles, since it allows all viewers to see the action equally well. Meanwhile, the arcades in Tessin's design drew on those from Palladio's basilica. At the basilica, the arcades wrap around the irregular external façade of a rectangular building; Tessin reconceived this design as a ring within the enormous courtyard of the Louvre.17

Figure 9

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, project for the Louvre, Paris, ca. 1704–5 (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).

Figure 9

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, project for the Louvre, Paris, ca. 1704–5 (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).

In a manuscript on interior decoration that he likely intended to publish, Tessin cites an array of examples as starting points for solutions to architectural problems. The ideas evident in the notes for his Louvre project are developed here into a generalized approach to design, with many of his own works providing case studies. He compares his gallery for the Stockholm palace—the only interior space there finished during his lifetime—to Jules Hardouin-Mansart's gallery for Versailles:

At Stockholm there is a gallery in the palace arranged [ordonée] in the taste of the two preceding [at Versailles and Saint-Cloud]. All the ornaments and compartments there are of gilded stucco, and the figures white. At the two ends one sees on a cloth, which partially covers the cornice, the busts of King Carl XI and of the Queen Ulrica Eleonora, surrounded by virtues.18

Both the form and the content of Tessin's gallery—which presented a narrative of the king's reign—were derived from Versailles (Figure 10). Moreover, Tessin's gallery linked the king's and queen's apartments, forming a spatial ensemble similar to that at Versailles. To execute the work, he imported a group of craftsmen from the French royal building administration, the bâtiments du roi.19 Although Tessin did not have absolute control over the project (for instance, he was unable to convince the king to place the gallery and royal apartments on the first floor, the conventional piano nobile; the king preferred the second floor, in accordance with Swedish custom), he evidently had broad powers to choose the points of reference incorporated in the design.

Figure 10

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, gallery of the Royal Palace, Stockholm, begun 1697 (photo by Alexis Daflos; The Royal Court, Sweden).

Figure 10

Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, gallery of the Royal Palace, Stockholm, begun 1697 (photo by Alexis Daflos; The Royal Court, Sweden).

These examples might be dismissed as anecdotal. However, they reflect Tessin's programmatic statements of his methods. Speaking of French and Roman traditions, he wrote that “combining the two properly, without giving precedence to one or the other, can only be carried out with the exercising of careful judgment, effort, and work; but that is how one learns, and one can expect a much greater level of perfection as a result.”20 On another occasion, he recommended Palladio as the primary authority on the composition of apartments, while stating that he generally preferred a Roman exterior and a French-style interior.21 This describes quite closely his approach to the Stockholm palace.

Tessin's methods have long been recognized by art historians, and early on they became a critical liability for him. His champions have downplayed his eclectic methods, while his detractors have condemned them.22 However, his eclecticism was not substantially different from Fischer's, or from that of other highly regarded architects of his generation. Rather, Tessin has been critiqued harshly because his approach is so evident and so clearly articulated in his writing.

Balthasar Neumann and the Schönborns

A generation later, Balthasar Neumann (1687–1753) employed an eclectic method similar to that of Fischer and Tessin. However, his eclecticism took a different form, featuring few overt citations of earlier monuments. Although numerous models have been suggested for Neumann's various projects, it is often difficult to establish precise relationships between any given sources and the final forms of his buildings.23 This is complicated further in that his work often resulted from an unusually collaborative design and building process, in which multiple architects proposed solutions for a given project, and elements from those solutions became part of the resulting structure.

Neumann's work has always given the impression that it emerged from a range of sources and hands, in part because this was required of him. In the Schönborn Chapel attached to the Würzburg Cathedral as well as in the Würzburg Residence (Figure 11), a major palace project that occupied him throughout his career, his employers, the Schönborn family, expected him to incorporate the ideas of others. In Paris, Neumann showed his drawings for the palace to Germain Boffrand and Robert de Cotte, then the leading architects of that city. De Cotte made revisions to Neumann's drawings, and both men prepared plans of their own for the project.24 The Schönborns also involved Maximilian von Welsch and Johann Dientzenhofer in the project, along with Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, who was based in Vienna. All contributed drawings proposing various design solutions. Still other architects were involved as well, along with an army of decorators. This culminated in the stuccowork of Antonio Bossi from northern Italy and the ceiling frescoes painted in the early 1750s by the Venetians Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo. (The later stages of the work were undertaken for a prince-bishop from a different family.)

Figure 11

Balthasar Neumann and others, Residence, Würzburg, begun 1720 (author's photo).

Figure 11

Balthasar Neumann and others, Residence, Würzburg, begun 1720 (author's photo).

For the Würzburg palace chapel alone, dozens of variant drawings survive from at least four architects: Boffrand, Neumann, Hildebrandt, and Welsch (Figure 12).25 Welsch produced a series of designs derived more or less directly from the chapel at Versailles; even the annotations and measurements are in French. One project employs a two-story structure with arcaded piers below, housing statues in niches, and paired columns above in a second-story gallery, encircling an open central space (Figure 13). An alternative project approximates Versailles still more closely, with calligraphic reliefs in the piers and single columns above. However, this structure is wrapped into a continuous oval form, unlike the elongated hall with an apse found at Versailles (Figure 14). To these, Welsch attached a façade derived from the Dôme des Invalides in Paris, built by Hardouin-Mansart for Louis XIV. Boffrand also proposed an oval design, but he set it on a transverse axis abutting an expansive nave, thus incorporating a large church into the interior of the palace. Neumann's early plans simplified the structure substantially, employing the oval, but linking it to the main interior space of the palace with a relatively plain gallery. Further projects by Hildebrandt and Neumann followed. Hildebrandt proposed variations on a hall with an apsidal choir. Later, after the design was settled, he prepared drawings for the ornamentation of the space, proposing the kinds of calligraphic motifs he routinely used in Vienna (Figure 15). Neumann developed a series of ideas, differentiating the space by using interlocking ceiling vaults to define curves in the walls and sculpt the space.

Figure 12

Balthasar Neumann and others, Residence Chapel, Würzburg, 1721–36 (photo: Wikimedia).

Figure 12

Balthasar Neumann and others, Residence Chapel, Würzburg, 1721–36 (photo: Wikimedia).

Figure 13

Maximilian von Welsch, project for the Residence Chapel, Würzburg, 1726 (Richard Sedlmaier and Rudolf Pfister, Die fürstbischöfliche Residenz zu Würzburg [Munich: Müller, 1923], 24).

Figure 13

Maximilian von Welsch, project for the Residence Chapel, Würzburg, 1726 (Richard Sedlmaier and Rudolf Pfister, Die fürstbischöfliche Residenz zu Würzburg [Munich: Müller, 1923], 24).

Figure 14

Jules Hardouin-Mansart, palace chapel, Versailles, 1699–1710 (author's photo).

Figure 14

Jules Hardouin-Mansart, palace chapel, Versailles, 1699–1710 (author's photo).

Figure 15

Copy after Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, project for the Residence Chapel (with altar by Johann Wolfgang Auwara), Würzburg, ca. 1734 (Richard Sedlmaier and Rudolf Pfister, Die fürstbischöfliche Residenz zu Würzburg [Munich: Müller, 1923], 45).

Figure 15

Copy after Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt, project for the Residence Chapel (with altar by Johann Wolfgang Auwara), Würzburg, ca. 1734 (Richard Sedlmaier and Rudolf Pfister, Die fürstbischöfliche Residenz zu Würzburg [Munich: Müller, 1923], 45).

What ultimately emerged is a built synthesis of many of these ideas. The interlocking vaults remain, and they give the chapel a lively movement. At the entrance and above the high altar, columns support galleries, similar to those in Welsch's proposal, but these do not encircle the room. At Friedrich Karl von Schönborn's command, Hildebrandt's designs for the side altars were incorporated, and soon housed paintings by Tiepolo. Neumann was thus left to reconcile many ideas and produce a coherent design. In practice, this was often as much a process of competition as of integration. Moreover, the Schönborns involved themselves in virtually every aspect of the project, reserving the right to select the elements they wished to incorporate, as with Hildebrandt's altars. The nature of the Schönborn building operations required synthesis, and the degree to which the finished designs reflect Neumann's preferences remains uncertain.

The collaborative nature of the Würzburg Residence's design has long been problematic for scholars.26 Much of the literature on the palace parses the designs and assigns authorship of the different elements to the various architects involved. Yet this approach runs counter to the building strategy of Neumann and the Schönborns, who evidently believed that their method would result in a coherent design, one more perfect than that which any of the architects working alone could have produced. In this context, Neumann sometimes appears to be more organizer than chief architect of the Schönborn projects.27

This view downplays his actual significance, however. In a tract published on the consecration of the palace chapel, Neumann described himself as the architect “under whom this high princely residence and court church were begun and completed.”28 Boffrand also understood Neumann to be firmly in charge of the project, along with the patron; he wrote that “the plan of this palace as a whole was conceived in the first place by His Highness the Lord Bishop of Würzburg, Prince of Franconia, and by that able architect, Mr Neumann.”29

It may be that Neumann and the Schönborns saw Neumann's role as a creative architect partly in terms of his critiquing and synthesizing his own best ideas with those of others.30 In the Würzburg palace and its chapel, the architect and his patrons discounted the familiar approach of a single architect drawing upon historical sources and adapting these for new programs. Rather, the Schönborns had Neumann, Hildebrandt, Boffrand, and others provide ideas for the Würzburg palace. Neumann then held much of the responsibility for synthesizing the various proposals, subject to frequent Schönborn interventions. He thus had the advantage of being able to incorporate those current ideas best suited to the project at hand while still selecting and combining the best of various historical solutions. In short, the Schönborns set up an administrative structure that guaranteed debate among competing designs and resulted in the ideal resolution of the various designs as well as the blending of the historical with the contemporary.

Eclecticism and Art History

Variants of the methods employed in the projects discussed above from Fischer, Tessin, and Neumann were common in the German lands.31 But to what degree was there a conceptual basis for the synthetic, or eclectic, artistic production of this time and place? And how can these characteristics be explained within a programmatic theory of art? Scholars have occasionally proposed approaching these issues through the postmodern interest in fragments and disjunction, but this says more about their own intellectual preoccupations than it does about the historical conditions that produced these earlier works.32 Although many of the interpretive issues at play here are the legacy of misplaced or anachronistic expectations, I will approach the problem primarily through early modern ideas about the arts.

To some degree, familiar rhetorical models derived from ancient literature, often related to the arts, can account for the approach I have presented here. In De inventione (On Invention), Cicero describes how the painter Zeuxis, challenged to represent the beautiful Helen, chose five young Croton women and combined their finest features.33 He relates this to his own selection of the best aspects of the work of his forerunners: “In a similar fashion [to Zeuxis's selection] … I did not set before myself some one model which I thought necessary to reproduce in all details, of whatever sort they might be, but after collecting all the works on the subject I excerpted what seemed the most suitable precepts from each, and so culled the flower of many minds.”34 Cicero's relation of rhetoric to painting is clear, and is seen elsewhere in classical literature, as in Horace's famous dictum “Ut pictura poesis” (As is painting so is poetry).35 For the early modern reader, these writers encouraged an elective and imitative approach to the arts, one that accorded well with the methods applied by Fischer, Tessin, and Neumann.

These classical stories were widely known and had long been a part of European art theories. Yet they alone cannot account for the Germanic architectural approaches I have just described. Even if they could, it would still be necessary to explain why they were taken so seriously in that region and why they were applied and modified there as they were. More recently, these rhetorical conventions have provided the basis for much of the scholarship on mimesis and originality, including discussions of imitation, repetition, replication, hybridity, and other concepts.36 But one related idea has been pulled out and left for dead: eclecticism.

Interest in this issue, limited though it has been, has settled on various historical moments. In early modern studies, the Carracci and their extended circle from Bologna, ca. 1600, have provided a focal point. Other painters or architects could fill this role, but the Carracci became associated with this way of working for several reasons. For one, they demonstrated a clear interest in various Italian regional traditions of painting. Agostino Carracci made prints after Veronese, who joined Raphael and Correggio as points of reference in many of his paintings, as both seventeenth-century and modern critics have noted. In the first half of the seventeenth century, Giulio Mancini wrote that the Carracci united the manners of Raphael with Lombard painting, while Giovanni Battista Agucchi wrote that Annibale and Agostino Carracci combined various styles within their work.37 In 1678, Carlo Cesare Malvasia emphasized their synthetic approach to painting in an extended biography.38

Such formulations were not new in the seventeenth century, nor were they specific to the Carracci. Paolo Pino wrote in 1548 that whoever could combine the disegno of Michelangelo and the colore of Titian would be “the god of painting.”39 In the same years, Giorgio Vasari described Raphael's development as a synthesis of the strengths of Fra Bartolommeo and other painters.40 Later in the sixteenth century, Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo wrote that his student, Giovanni Ambrogio Ficino, showed prudence and industry in bringing together the light and accuracy of Leonardo da Vinci, the harmonious majesty of Raphael, the colors of Correggio, and the drawing of Michelangelo.41 Elsewhere, he described a hypothetical perfect image of Adam and Eve. Adam should be composed of the disegno of Michelangelo, the colore of Titian, and the proportions of Raphael, while the feminine Eve should have the disegno of Raphael and the colore of Correggio.42 Although these passages might have led to a later association of the Carracci—among other painters—with an eclectic method, Johann Joachim Winckelmann made the connection explicit when he described them as eclectics during the eighteenth century. In a 1763 essay, he wrote that Agostino and Annibale Carracci “were eclectics, and sought to unite the purity of the ancients and Raphael, the knowledge of Michelangelo, the richness and abundance of the Venetian school, especially of Paolo [Veronese], and the joyousness of the Lombard brush in Correggio.”43

Modern scholars have struggled with these passages. In the 1970s, Donald Posner respected the writings of Agucchi and Mancini but rejected any characterization of the Carracci paintings as eclectic. Rather, he argued that Annibale Carracci explored different stylistic possibilities during an experimental phase, but this never constituted a program that guided his work as a whole or a method that could be considered eclectic.44 In 1977, and again in 2000, Charles Dempsey wrote, “Eclecticism is now a dead issue in modern criticism, for which we may be profoundly grateful.” He added, “Thus Winckelmann, for example, claimed that the expanded canon upon which the Carracci drew had resulted in eclecticism, a negative characterization of their style … which I would be very sorry to see revived because of any arguments put forward in this book.”45 Whether the Carracci were self-conscious eclectics or the term was inappropriately applied to them is not my primary concern. The point here is that, despite some efforts to grant legitimacy to the concept, eclecticism still carries a deep stigma.46

It is to some degree accidental that eclecticism became associated with the Carracci, and Winckelmann may have been primarily responsible for this. Winckelmann is often cited as the first to use the term eclectic in reference to the arts. Although this is incorrect, the terminology itself is important, for the word does not appear in the early modern literature derived from Cicero and other ancient writers, nor is it found in early Italian discourse around the Carracci. Winckelmann drew on a much longer intellectual and philosophical tradition that was revived in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.47 In the German academic milieu in which he was raised, eclecticism was hardly stigmatic. Rather, it was a promising concept that fascinated many of the best minds for a century. In this context, it is significant that Winckelmann published his German-language theoretical texts in Dresden and Leipzig; initially, only his more descriptive antiquarian works were published in Italy. If modern readers bring negative associations to the idea of eclecticism, Winckelmann's early German audience connected it with an intellectual tradition brimming with authority and prestige—one, moreover, that was already part of an art literature that has since been largely forgotten.

Eclectic Thought in Northern Europe

Eclecticism was not a new concept in early modern Europe. Its roots go back to antiquity. Diogenes Laertius's Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, written in the third century CE, presents a certain Potamo of Alexandria who refused to submit to the authority of the traditional philosophical schools, such as those of the Stoics, Platonists, Epicureans, and so on. Rather, Potamo chose the best aspects from various philosophical sects to derive a new, composite philosophy.48 In this way he emancipated himself from the dogmatic teachings of individual masters and adopted what he believed were the most valid and useful concepts from multiple schools.

Potamo was obscure even in antiquity and was hardly a major intellectual, but Diogenes Laertius's Greek text soon attracted the attention of scholars after it was translated into Latin by Ambrogio Traversari in the 1430s.49 One consequence of this attention was a growing interest in Potamo and his method of thought in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.50 In 1604, Justus Lipsius wrote with apparent regret that Potamo appeared too late in the development of classical thought for his ideas to take hold.51 Likewise, the Leiden polymath Gerhard Johannes Vossius wrote of his own successive studies under Aristotelians, Platonists, Stoics, and Epicureans, and added, “Clearly, I have become an eclectic.”52 He later proselytized for the idea that an elective philosophy—intellectual eclecticism, with selection as the basis of its method—was a means to surpass sectarian dogma and achieve a more pure and ideal form of thought.53 Lipsius and Vossius were important thinkers. Their books were read widely and reissued regularly for decades. Although they wrote little about Potamo or eclecticism, their works were the starting point for a broad interest in an eclectic method of thought, one that was embraced in intellectual circles. The logic of bringing together the best aspects of various schools of thought to create a single, greater truth was profoundly appealing, and by the end of the seventeenth century eclecticism became a widely accepted intellectual fashion within the larger Germanic academic community.

Johann Christoph Sturm (1635–1703) was central to this development. He spent 1660–61 in Leiden, where Vossius had worked, and there he evidently encountered the idea of eclecticism for the first time.54 The concept captivated Sturm, and after taking a professorship in Altdorf, near Nuremberg, he produced a series of publications on aspects of eclectic philosophy.55 He cultivated broader interests as well, however, and set up a private curriculum in experimental physics, applying the principle of eclectic thought outside the relatively narrow confines of the history of philosophy. In 1697, after long preparation, Sturm produced a remarkable text on eclectic physics, bringing ideas from the history of philosophy to questions of natural philosophy.56

From the end of the seventeenth century through the third quarter of the eighteenth, many professors at the major German universities were self-professed eclectics. Christian Thomasius (1655–1728), professor of law at Leipzig and Halle (and rector at Halle from 1710), seems to have developed his intellectual method from Sturm. He became a figurehead for the movement. In 1688, he wrote in the introduction to a general work on philosophy: “I call eclectic philosophy not what depends on the teaching of an individual or on the acceptance of the words of a master, but whatever can be known from the teaching and writing of any person on the basis not of authority but of convincing arguments.”57 Johannes Buddeus, professor of philosophy and theology at Halle and Jena, wrote in 1703 that “the name and the title of the eclectic philosopher belongs to the man who forms accurate principles for himself through his reflection on reality, and with these as his standard he then chooses between all the opinions he has read in the writings of others, accepting those which conform with these principles and rejecting those which cannot be reconciled with them.”58 Significantly, neither Thomasius's nor Buddeus's statement had much to do with philosophy per se. Rather, each described a more general attitude or method of thought that rejected particular schools in favor of an openness to all worthwhile ideas, ideas that could be applied almost universally.

In the 1730s, the Augsburg cleric Johann Jakob Brucker wrote in his reference work on philosophy—the most important publication of its kind in the eighteenth century—of “a species of philosophy … more pure and excellent than that of any former period, which we shall distinguish by the name of Modern Eclectic Philosophy.”59 Like Thomasius and Buddeus a generation earlier, Brucker saw impartiality and freedom from the constraints of the various schools of thought, rather than any particular connection to Potamo of Alexandria, as the essence of eclectic philosophy.

Eclecticism and the Arts: Leonhard Christoph Sturm and Architectural Theory ca. 1700

The ideas on the possibilities of philosophical eclecticism discussed above were readily accessible to Tessin, Neumann, and other architects. Certainly, the literature of eclecticism soon influenced art writing. Vasari appears to have adopted Diogenes Laertius's description of master–disciple relationships in his Lives, published in 1550 and expanded in 1568.60 Vossius discussed painting and sculpture in the same book in which he presented the eclectic philosophers. Although little more than a collection of excerpts from ancient texts, his book made evident the relationship between philosophy and the arts.61 Neumann likely owned a selection of Thomasius's works, albeit his legal writings rather than his philosophical ones.62

The concept of eclecticism was easy to relate to the arts on a number of levels. The notion of philosophical schools had a clear parallel in artistic schools, which were increasingly being recognized in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Eclectic philosophers often struggled to reconcile the contradictions of different intellectual traditions, but such challenges were less daunting in the visual arts. Although there were substantial regional variations in form, materials, representation, ritual, liturgy, materials, and more, architecture was sufficiently standardized across Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that many elements could viably be employed in widely varied contexts.

The full incorporation of eclectic ideas within artistic—and specifically architectural—literature is first found in the writings of Leonhard Christoph Sturm (1669–1719), the foremost German architectural theorist of the early eighteenth century.63 The son of Johann Christoph Sturm, Leonhard Christoph was raised in an intellectual environment that embraced eclectic thought and its applications. His enthusiasm was doubtless invigorated at the universities of Jena and Leipzig, where he studied, and for a time lived, with Thomasius.

Leonhard Christoph Sturm is often seen as a pedant, a stickler for the rules of architecture, a man concerned more with correctness than with invention. Contemporary patrons may have shared this view, as Sturm was largely frustrated in his career as a practicing architect. This can be attributed in part to bad luck, but certainly his few built works were less inventive than those designed by Fischer, Neumann, and others of his era. The conceptual method underlying his work, however, was comparable to that of his peers. His career as a theorist began around 1700, by which time Fischer and Tessin were well-established architects, so it is unlikely that he influenced their work in any substantial way. Rather, Sturm's value lay in his articulation of an approach to architecture with clearly defined origins in the universities, which other architects were already employing in various ways.

In the 1690s, around the time his father applied the eclectic idea to physics, Sturm explored its relation to architecture, always with a strong mathematical foundation. (Mathematics was fundamental to his thinking in all areas.) The eclectic method frames his first tract on architecture, an academic thesis presented at the University of Leipzig in 1692. After surveying a pan-European selection of literature on architecture through the end of the seventeenth century, he urges architects to be “conciliatory and eclectic” in their studies. Architects should make use of all of the literature—and thus all relevant traditions, ideas, and technical solutions—in developing new and superior designs. This architectural analogue to the methods of Thomasius and other eclectic thinkers is made evident in his closing statement—seemingly extraneous to a tract on architecture, but important in showing the intellectual provenance of his ideas—that “we praise the eclectic and conciliatory method of philosophizing above sectarian [thought].”64

This statement reveals a fundamental basis of Sturm's thought, which he developed elsewhere. The idea is more visible in his Architectura militaris hypothetico-eclectica (Hypothetical-Eclectic Military Architecture), which surveys and compares both the major regional traditions of fortification and the primary theorists behind them. The book is, in short, a popularized variant of his Leipzig thesis, applied to defensive building. In a series of dialogues between an engineer and a young student, Sturm points out the strengths and weaknesses of various defensive systems. He closes an introductory summary with a list of structural elements common to all these systems, which allow for interchangeable solutions depending on the demands of the project.65 His approach is clarified in his critique of an unnamed book, which serves to instruct the reader on how to approach the literature and work toward a refined synthesis:

This author is to be especially treasured, because he has shown other engineers the way in which they should write about fortifications. While other authors generally present their manners as the best, and disparage all others, which leads to pointless bitterness and confusion on the part of the reader and a contempt for the noble science [of fortification], he states freely that he has chosen the best of various other [methods], and through additions and subtractions has developed a new manner.66

Architectura militaris hypothetico-eclectica was expanded and republished several times—Neumann owned a copy—but it was an edition of Nicolaus Goldmann's writings that Sturm edited, introduced, and published that was more widely read and important for practicing architects.67 Goldmann was a mathematician and architectural theorist active in Leiden in the mid-seventeenth century. He was not formally associated with the university there, but led a salon in which students received private architectural instruction. Among them was Johann Christoph Sturm, who encountered both architectural theory and the idea of eclecticism in Leiden.68 Goldmann's lectures coalesced into a tract on architecture written about 1660 but not published until the younger Sturm turned to it at the end of the century. The publication of this work became a lifelong mission for Sturm, whose aspirations as a practicing architect were subordinated to his work as a teacher and writer.69

Goldmann's text as published was framed by Sturm's own interests and those of his generation, and it is in Sturm's extensive commentary that his eclectic approach is seen most clearly.70 His orientation is evident in the first pages, in his praise for Goldmann's “accurate mathematics and judicious eclecticism.” He argues that Goldmann sought to help architects bring together without bias the legacy of antiquity and the inventions of modern architects “to produce a new work more perfect than its sources.” (This seems to reflect Sturm's vision more than Goldmann's.) He proposes that architects should marry the lightness of Vignola with the appearance of Palladio and the organization and proportions of Vincenzo Scamozzi.71 They should achieve this synthesis through a process of informed selection.

As in his other publications, Sturm offers much commentary on the ideas and designs of various authors. He cites Vignola, Palladio, Scamozzi, Augustin-Charles d'Aviler, and Jacques-François Blondel, along with others. He does not merely collect and collate these; he critiques them, sometimes harshly. These textual sources are complemented by references to a broad range of visual models. For portals to secular buildings, for instance, Sturm refers the reader to works illustrating architecture in Paris, Rome, Genoa, and Amsterdam, specifying which examples are most worthy.72 Architects should select freely from among these models, he advises, adopting or adapting them alongside others in new projects. Sturm's approach to design here is much like Tessin's, sometimes strikingly so. In his circular courtyard for the Louvre, Tessin combined Vignola and Palladio, reconceiving the arcades of the Vicentine basilica as a circular space; like Sturm, he commented on the qualities of the sources.

If the selection and combination of elements led to the development of more perfect works, what were the criteria for the elements' selection? Tessin routinely cited Italian and French buildings, and occasionally commented on their qualities. Sturm, however, explains his method of selection more carefully than any of his contemporaries. Echoing Thomasius's disavowal of authority and discipleship, he rejects fame (of architect or structure) as a primary justification. He criticizes Michelangelo's Porta Pia and Saint Peter's Basilica for their invention and proportions, and complains that architects, out of reverence for the designer, wrongly assume that a logical justification must underlie them. A purely optical judgment is likewise insufficient, on the grounds that it is irrational. In a challenge to Michelangelo's comment that the artist must keep his compass in his eye, not his hand, Sturm inveighs that the eye does not judge, but the intellect works through the eye.73 Architecture, he says, must be judged from a basis of knowledge and conceptual understanding: Why is it good, and why does it appeal? For Sturm, the answer is nearly always based in mathematics. Proportions and other forms of mathematical logic justify many of the judgments that he renders, often in densely technical explanations. He thus admired Goldmann's efforts for surpassing, through their mathematical precision and conceptual clarity, any previous work:

Before Goldmann, everyone wrote treatises after the methods of craftsmen. This [book], however, has made a science of the intellectual, as the philosophers would wish …. The orders themselves are devised in an entirely new way, so that they have better proportions than Scamozzi's, more grace than Palladio's, and more lightness and conformity with the best antique examples than Vignola's.74

Acknowledging the roots of these ideas in philosophy, Sturm elaborates on their principles and offers a group of recent models and critical commentary. His examples are not meant to be comprehensive, however. As in his other writings, his goal is to assist readers in developing rational architectural judgments of their own. He does not instruct the architect on how to combine elements or qualities in a new work; this he always leaves to the designer. And it is here, in the selection and composition of the parts, that the challenge lies, and with it, the opportunity for excellence. This is not understood to be easy. Sturm makes it clear that success depends on a comprehensive knowledge of architectural practice and a deep understanding of all aspects of the architect's work, bound by a strict sense of judgment that comes only through study and experience. Tessin echoed this view when he wrote that “combining the [French and the Italian traditions] properly, without giving precedence to one or the other, can only be carried out with the exercising of careful judgment, effort, and work; but that is how one learns, and one can expect a much greater level of perfection as a result.”75

The Architect and the University

Sturm was both a professor and an architect. He produced more books than buildings, and he routinely described himself as a professor of mathematics. Many of the figures discussed here shared this bond to the world of the university, which is often overlooked. Tessin studied at the university in Uppsala for two years before beginning his travels. Later in his career, he returned to academia as chancellor of the university in Lund. Less formally, Fischer instructed Emperor Joseph I in architecture, and his Entwurff may have arisen from these lessons. Leibniz later nominated him for membership in a proposed Viennese academy of the sciences, although that institution never materialized.

Neumann, too, was part of an academic community. From 1732, a decade after he first expressed interest in such a position, he taught courses in civil and military architecture at the University of Würzburg, performing in a university setting what he had been doing privately for some time.76 His courses were incorporated into the formal curriculum of the university and housed within the faculty of philosophy, which included mathematics.77 Neumann's post at the university was arranged by Friedrich Karl von Schönborn as part of a larger effort to modernize the institution's curriculum.78 Neumann was evidently seen as a substantial addition to the faculty, for he occupies a prominent place in an eighteenth-century written history of the university.79

Fischer, Tessin, and Neumann cultivated ties to universities rather than to academies of the arts. Fischer and Tessin had visited the academies in Paris and Rome. In the German lands, however, arts academies were both late to arrive and slow to mature. Most of the German academies around 1700 were informal affairs organized by court artists, with little formal teaching or intellectual content, and seemingly little interest in architecture.80 Many were reorganized as state institutions during the course of the eighteenth century, but before then, architects with intellectual aspirations favored universities. Thus, while Tessin and Fischer did not read Sturm's publications earlier in their careers, and may not have been interested in them later on, they were likely well aware of the discourse on eclecticism, which thrived in the universities. They formulated their responses independently, but their designs were essays in the formulation of an eclectic architectural method.

The Death of an Idea

Eclecticism was still a viable concept when Winckelmann wrote in the 1760s. For instance, his close friend Anton Raphael Mengs, a painter who worked in a deliberately synthetic manner comparable to those of the architects presented here, was outspoken in his views. In the 1760s, he wrote an extended tract promoting his methods and explaining that “I have proposed to myself to imitate the most eminent parts which I have discovered in others.”81 Mengs's method was a variant of the story of Zeuxis and the Croton women, a standard piece of art literature by the eighteenth century and a common subject for history paintings.82 In 1776, however, Mengs acknowledged that expectations were changing. There was an elegiac tone to his writing as he resigned himself “to be the last of those who seek the good road, rather than to be the first among those who are dazzled by a brilliant but false glory.” Here he was referring to the nascent obsession with personal vision and artistic genius, a trend—soon to be called romanticism—that displaced selective imitation.83 This shift was complete within a few decades, and eclecticism took on unmistakably negative connotations.

In 1801, the German-speaking Swiss painter Henry Fuseli, active in London, associated individual genius with an outright rejection of eclecticism. He presented his argument in relation to the Carracci, whom Winckelmann had only recently described with appreciation:

Such was the state of the art when, toward the decline of the sixteenth century, Lodovico Carracci with his cousins Agostino and Annibale, founded at Bologna that eclectic school, which by selecting the beauties, correcting the faults, supplying the defects and avoiding the extremes of the different styles, attempted to form a perfect system. But as the mechanic part was their only object, they did not perceive that the projected union was incompatible with the leading principle of each master …. The heterogeneous principle of the eclectic school soon operated its own dissolution.84

Fuseli's first published work was a translation of Winckelmann's Reflections on the Paintings and Sculptures of the Greeks, and he later began a translation of the History of the Art of Antiquity, in which the Carracci are described as eclectics. Winckelmann was likely the source of Fuseli's association of selective imitation and eclecticism with the Carracci.85 Around the same time, the writer Friedrich von Schlegel wrote that “with Giulio Romano, Titian, and Correggio the great artistic epoch of the inventive genius came to an end. The learned followers and eclectic painters from the school of the Carracci and other contemporaries are to be compared to the learned works of the Alexandrine poets.”86 Schlegel substituted the Alexandrine poets for the Alexandrine eclectic philosophers, but the idea was the same. Genius was now the key concept for critics like Schlegel and for painters like Fuseli, and their understanding of it could not accommodate an eclectic method.

Eclectic architecture had found its conceptual base in contemporary thought, and so too was there an intellectual basis for the shift in thinking about the arts around 1800. Both Immanuel Kant and Hegel rejected eclecticism outright. For Kant, the idea implied a lack of intellectual rigor.87 Hegel was even more damning in his assessment. While he ignored Vossius, Thomasius, and their modern peers in his lectures on the history of philosophy, he briefly discussed Potamo of Alexandria in a raging critique that was likely aimed at the modern eclectics rather than at the obscure ancient philosopher:

Eclecticism is something to be utterly condemned, if it is understood in the sense of one thing being taken out of this philosophy, and another thing out of that philosophy, altogether regardless of their consistency or connection, as when a garment is patched together of pieces of different colours or stuffs. Such an eclecticism gives nothing but an aggregate which lacks all inward consistency. Eclectics of this kind are sometimes ordinary uncultured men, in whose heads the most contradictory ideas find a place side by side, without their ever bringing these thoughts together and becoming conscious of the contradictions involved; sometimes they are men of intelligence who act thus with their eyes open, thinking that they attain the best when, as they say, they take the good from every system, and so provide themselves with a vade mecum of reflections, in which they have everything good except consecutiveness of thought, and consequently thought itself. An eclectic philosophy is something that is altogether meaningless and inconsequent.88

Hegel's importance for artistic theory is broadly recognized. Kant's ideas were no less significant, and were arguably more central to the developing attitudes of modern artists, particularly their emphasis on individual freedom and autonomy.89 Indeed, the lingering significance of Kant and Hegel in the practice and study of art reaffirms that ideas matter—even ones developed far from the studio or drafting table. However, it is notable that the conceptual shift at the end of the eighteenth century substituted one set of philosophically based attitudes for another, both originating in the universities of northern Germany and both finding expression and consequences in a wide array of fields. Kant and Hegel have retained a central place in the practice of art history, and this helps to explain our difficulties in making sense of the eclectic aspects of much eighteenth-century art and architecture. Moreover, these philosophers' ideas complemented and promoted the ideal of the individual artist-genius. Already present in art literature from the sixteenth century, this image of the artist became central to nineteenth- and twentieth-century modernism and to contemporary criticism and historical writing.90 This enduring notion has in turn made it difficult for historians to acknowledge the legitimacy of the methods employed by Fischer, Tessin, and Neumann, even as they have long recognized the importance of these architects' works. The eclectic methods that Fischer, Tessin, and Neumann used were central to their works and essential to one conception of modern architecture in the eighteenth century.



This article has taken some time to prepare. My thanks to those who offered criticism and ideas along the way, and especially to Malcolm Baker, Paul Duro, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, and Holly Shaffer, who read various drafts and offered comments.


However, for recent discussions, see Doris H. Lehmann and Grischka Petri, eds., Eklektizismus und eklektische Verfahren in der Kunst (Hildesheim: Olms, 2012); Daniel M. Unger, Redefining Eclecticism in Early Modern Bolognese Painting: Ideology, Practice, and Criticism (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019). For an examination of similar ideas in nineteenth-century France, see Albert Boime, Thomas Couture and the Eclectic Vision (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1980). For discussion of comparable ideas in South Asia, see Holly Shaffer, “ ‘Take All of Them’: Eclecticism and the Arts of the Pune Court in India, 1760–1800,” Art Bulletin 100, no. 2 (2018), 61–93.


Hellmut Lorenz, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (Zurich: Verlag für Architektur, 1992), 10–12.


Hans Sedlmayr, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1976; repr., Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1997), 280–300. For a somewhat different reading, see Joseph Rykwert, The First Moderns: The Architects of the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980), 70–75.


Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, Entwurff einer historischen Architectur (Vienna, 1721).


Franz Matsche, Die Kunst im Dienst der Staatsidee Kaiser Karls VI: Ikonographie, Ikonologie und Programmatik des “Kaiserstils,” 2 vols (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1981); Friedrich Polleroß, “ ‘Wien wird mit gleichen Recht Neu=Rom genannt, als vormals Constantinopel’: Geschichte als Mythos am Kaiserhof um 1700,” Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien 11 (2009), 103–27.


Heraeus worked closely with Fischer on a number of occasions. Leibniz met Heraeus in Vienna in 1713, and the two initiated an ongoing correspondence. In 1716, Leibniz proposed an alternative concept involving two columns before the church. See Sedlmayr, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, 269–70. Heraeus also met Christian Thomasius (discussed below) and many other professors in Halle and Leipzig, as evidenced by his album amicorum. See Joseph Bergmann, “Über K. Carl's VI. Rath und Hof-Antiquarius Carl Gustav Heraeus, dessen Stambuch und Correspondenz: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des k.k. Münz- und Antiken-Cabinets,” Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften—Philosophisch-historische Classe 13, no. 3 (1854), 556–64.


Fischer, Entwurff, introduction, n.p.


Ragnar Josephson, “Det Tessinska slottet,” in Stockholms slotts historia, ed. Martin Olsson, vol. 2 (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1940).


Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.


Martin Olin, “Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and the de' Rossi Books: A Vision of Roman Architecture in Eighteenth-Century Sweden,” in Studio d'architettura civile: Gli atlanti di architettura moderna e la diffusione dei modelli romani nell'Europa del Settecento, ed. Aloisio Antinori (Rome: Quasar, 2013), 185–211.


These and other examples are given in Josephson, “Det Tessinska slottet,” 18–23; Björn R. Kommer, Nicodemus Tessin und das Stockholmer Schloß (Heidelberg: Winter, 1974).


Kommer, Nicodemus Tessin, 51–56; Mårten Snickare, “The Construction of Autocracy: Nicodemus Tessin the Younger and the Architecture of Stockholm,” in Circa 1700: Architecture in Europe and the Americas, ed. Henry A. Millon (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005), 70–71.


Olin, “Nicodemus Tessin the Younger,” 192–95.


Nicodemus Tessin the Elder incorporated such a gallery in the staircase of Drottningholm Palace, near Stockholm, beginning in 1662. Tessin the Elder was in Rome in 1651–52, but he left that city just before Borromini built one at the Spada Palace in 1652–53. Tessin the Younger incorporated a gallery in his own residence in Stockholm. See Kristoffer Neville, Nicodemus Tessin the Elder: Architecture in Sweden in the Age of Greatness (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 86; Birgitta Haslingen, 300 Years of the Tessin Palace: A House in Accordance with All the Orders of Architecture (Stockholm: Stockholmia, 2003).


Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Sources, Works, Collections: Catalogue du cabinet des beaux arts 1712, ed. Per Bjurström and Mårten Snickare (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2000); Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Sources, Works, Collections: Travel Notes 167377 and 168788, ed. Merit Laine and Börje Magnusson (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2002); Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Sources, Works, Collections: Architectural Drawings I: Ecclesiastical and Garden Architecture, ed. Martin Olin and Linda Henriksson (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2004).


Ragnar Josephson, L'architecte de Charles XII, Nicodème Tessin, à la cour de Louis XIV (Paris: G. van Oest, 1930), 139–44; Guy Walton, “Tessin as Diplomat and Artist—His First Project for the Louvre (1703–1706),” Konsthistorisk tidskrift 72, nos. 1–2 (2003), 134–46.


Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Sources, Works, Collections: Traictè dela decoration interieure 1717, ed. Patricia Waddy (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2002), 107.


Linda Hinners, De fransöske handtwerkarne vid Stockholms slott 16931713: Yrkesroller, organisation, arbetsprocesser (Stockholm: Stockholm University Press, 2012).


Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, quoted in Haslingen, 300 Years of the Tessin Palace, 56.


Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, Observationer Angående så wähl Publique som Priuate huus bÿggnaders Starkheet, beqwämligheet och skiönheet, in rättade, effter wår Swänska Climat och oeconomie [ca. 1714], ed. Bo Vahlne (Stockholm: Byggförlaget, 2002), 45.


See the review of the literature on Tessin in Anders Bergström, “Bilden av Tessin,” Konsthistorisk tidskrift 77, nos. 1–2 (2008), 72–76.


See, for example, Christian Otto, Space into Light: The Churches of Balthasar Neumann (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1979), 130–41.


See Germain Boffrand, Book of Architecture [1745], ed. Caroline van Eck, trans. David Britt (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2002), 79–85; Katharina Krause, “Résidences épiscopales: Les voyages de Balthasar Neumann en France et de Germain Boffrand en Franconie,” in Art de cour: Le mécénat princier au siècle des lumières, ed. Christian Taillard (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009), 189–204.


Jarl Kremeier, Die Hofkirche der Würzburger Residenz (Worms: Werner, 1999), 75–145.


Erich Hubala, “Genie, Kollektiv und Meisterschaft—zur Autorenfrage der Würzburger Residenzarchitektur,” in Martin Gosebruch zu Ehren: Festschrift anlässlich seines 65. Geburtstages am 20. Juni 1984, ed. Frank Neidhart Steigerwald (Munich: Hirmer, 1984), 157–70; Jarl Kremeier, “Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt und seine Tätigkeit für Franken,” Belvedere 9, no. 1 (2003), 4–13, 76–81.


Johannes Süßmann, “Balthasar Neumann als fürstbischöflicher Baukomissar,” in Die Kunst der Mächtigen und die Macht der Kunst: Untersuchungen zu Mäzenatentum und Kulturpatronage, ed. Ulrich Oevermann and Johannes Süßmann (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2007), 223–39.


Transcribed in Kremeier, Die Hofkirche, 240–64.


Boffrand, Book of Architecture, 79.


For a different view, see Kremeier, Die Hofkirche, 236.


This was noted already in the later seventeenth century by Prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein. See Viktor Fleischer, Fürst Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein als Bauherr und Kunstsammler (1611–1684) (Vienna: Stern, 1910), 194. More generally, see Meinrad von Engelberg, “ ‘Jeder Nation nachzuthun, was jede zum besten hat’: Deutscher Barock als ‘eklektische Nationalmanier,’ ” in Lehmann and Petri, Eklektizismus und eklektische Verfahren, 23–48.


Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, “Schlaun—ein unzeitgemäßer Zeitgenosse?,” in Johann Conrad Schlaun 16951773: Architektur des Spätbarock in Europa, ed. Klaus Bußmann, Florian Matzner, and Ulrich Schulze (Stuttgart: Oktagon, 1995), 594–97; Maria Loh, “New and Improved: Repetition as Originality in Italian Baroque Practice and Theory,” Art Bulletin 86, no. 3 (2004), 477–504.


Cicero, De inventione, trans. H. M. Hubbell (London: William Heinemann, 1949), 2.1.1–3. A different version of this story is found in Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis 35.36. On the legacy of the Zeuxis myth, see Elizabeth C. Mansfield, Too Beautiful to Picture: Zeuxis, Myth, and Mimesis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).


Cicero, De inventione 2.2.4.


Horace, Ars poetica 361–65. See especially the classic study by Rensselaer W. Lee, Ut Pictura Poesis: The Humanist Theory of Painting (New York: W. W. Norton, 1967).


For early modern studies, see inter alia Denis Mahon, Studies in Seicento Art and Theory (London: Warburg Institute, 1947), 192–229; Denis Mahon, “Eclecticism and the Carracci: Further Reflections on the Validity of a Label,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 16, nos. 3–4 (1953), 303–41; Rudolf Wittkower, “Imitation, Eclecticism, and Genius,” in Aspects of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Earl R. Wasserman (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965), 143–61; Charles Dempsey, Annibale Carracci and the Beginnings of the Baroque Style, 2nd ed. (Fiesole: Cadmo, 2000); Loh, “New and Improved”; Elizabeth Cropper, The Domenichino Affair: Novelty, Imitation, and Theft in Seventeenth-Century Rome (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005); Paul Duro, “ ‘The Surest Means of Perfection’: Approaches to Imitation in Seventeenth-Century Art and Theory,” Word and Image 25, no. 4 (2009), 363–83; Robert Williams, Raphael and the Redefinition of Art in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 19–75; Unger, Redefining Eclecticism.


Giulio Mancini, Considerazioni sulla pittura, ed. Adriana Marucchi, vol. 1 (Rome: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 1956), 109. For Agucchi, see Mahon, Studies in Seicento Art, 241–58, esp. 248–52.


Anne Summerscale, Malvasia's Life of the Carracci: Commentary and Translation (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000).


Paolo Pino, Dialogo di pittura [1548] (Venice: Guarnati, 1946), 131.


Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' piu eccellenti pittori scultori ed architettori [1568], ed. Gaetano Milanesi, vol. 4 (Florence: Sansoni, 1879), 376–77. See Williams, Raphael and the Redefinition of Art.


Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, Trattato dell'arte de la pittura, scoltura, et architettura (Milan: Paolo Gottardo Pontio, 1584), 438.


Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, Idea of the Temple of Painting [1590], trans. and ed. Jean Julia Chai (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), 93.


Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Kleine Schriften, Vorreden, Entwürfe, ed. Walter Rehm (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1968), 229. See also Johann Joachim Winckelmann, History of the Art of Antiquity [1764], trans. Harry Francis Mallgrave (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2006), 238.


Donald Posner, Annibale Carracci: A Study in the Reform of Italian Painting around 1590, vol. 1 (London: Phaidon, 1971), 83–92.


Dempsey, Annibale Carracci, x, 53. While the first comment appears in both the 1977 first edition and the 2000 second edition of Dempsey's book, the second is present only in the second edition.


See, for example, Carroll L. V. Meeks, “Creative Eclecticism,” JSAH 12, no. 4 (Dec. 1953), 15–18.


Kristoffer Neville, “Winckelmann's Eclecticism,” Source 37, no. 4 (2018), 228–36.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 1.21. See Myrto Hatzimichali, Potamo of Alexandria and the Emergence of Eclecticism in Late Hellenistic Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).


Marcello Gigante, “Ambrogio Traversari interprete di Diogene Laerzio,” in Ambrogio Traversari nel VI centenario della nascita, ed. Gian Carlo Garfagnini (Florence: Olschki, 1988), 367–459.


This recovery is thoroughly documented in Michael Albrecht, Eklektik: Eine Begriffsgeschichte mit Hinweisen auf die Philosophie- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Stuttgart: Frommann, 1994). See also Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, Topica universalis: Eine Modellgeschichte humanistischer und barocker Wissenschaft (Hamburg: Meiner, 1983), 255–92; Donald R. Kelley, “Eclecticism and the History of Ideas,” Journal of the History of Ideas 62, no. 4 (2001), 577–92.


Justus Lipsius, Manuductionis ad stoicam philosophiam libri tres (Antwerp: Moretus, 1604).


C. S. M. Rademaker, Life and Works of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (1577–1649) (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1981), 30.


Gerhard Johannes Vossius, De philosophorum sectis liber (The Hague: Vlacq, 1657).


Albrecht, Eklektik, 309–57. On Sturm, see Hans Gaab, Pierre Leich, and Günter Löffladt, eds., Johann Christoph Sturm (1635–1703) (Frankfurt: Deutsch, 2004).


Johann Christoph Sturm, De philosophia sectaria et electiva dissertatio academica (Altdorf: Meyer, 1679); Johann Christoph Sturm, Philosophia eclectica, 2 vols (Altdorf: Kohl, 1686–98). See Albrecht, Eklektik, 309–31.


Johann Christoph Sturm, Physica electiva sive hypothetica (Nuremberg: Endter, 1697). See Michael Albrecht, “Hypothesen und Phänomene: Zu Johann Christoph Sturms Theorie der wissenschaftlichen Methode,” in Gaab et al., Johann Christoph Sturm, 119–35.


Christian Thomasius, Introductio ad philosophiam aulicam (Leipzig, 1688), introduction, n.p., quoted in Kelley, “Eclecticism and the History of Ideas,” 584.


Johannes Buddeus, quoted in Gregorio Piaia, “European Identity and National Characteristics in the Historia philosophica of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 34, no. 4 (1996), 602.


Johann Jakob Brucker, Kurtze Fragen aus der philosophischen Historie, 8 vols. (Ulm, 1731–37), quoted from Johann Jakob Brucker, The History of Philosophy, from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Present Century, vol. 2 (London: Johnson, 1791), 510. See Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann and Theo Stammen, eds., Jacob Brucker (16961770): Philosoph und Historiker der europäischen Aufklärung (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1998).


Patricia Lee Rubin, Giorgio Vasari: Art and History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995), 5.


Vossius, De philosophorum, 125–41. See Allan Ellenius, De arte pingendi: Latin Art Literature in Seventeenth-Century Sweden and Its International Background (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1960).


Verzeichniß der Bücher, Kupferstiche und Handzeichnungen aus der Verlassenschaft des fürstl[ichen] Würzburg[ischen] Herrn Artillerie-Obersten und berühmten Architekten Franz Michael Ignaz von Neumann (Würzburg: Stahel, 1804), 8. The older works in the sale catalogue of Neumann's son, Franz Ignaz Michael, are generally assumed to have been inherited from Balthasar.


Isolde Küster, “Leonhard Christoph Sturm: Leben und Leistung auf dem Gebiet der Zivilbaukunst in Theorie und Praxis” (PhD diss., University of Berlin, 1942); Christian Schädlich, “Leonhard Christoph Sturm 1669–1719,” in Große Baumeister, vol. 2 (Berlin: Bauakademie der DDR, 1990), 91–139; Jörg Biesler, BauKunstKritik: Deutsche Architekturtheorie im 18. Jahrhundert (Berlin: Reimer, 2005), 66–75; Jeroen Goudeau, Nicolaus Goldmann (16111665) en de wiskundige architectuurwetenschap (Groningen: Elchers, 2005), 441–60.


Leonhard Christoph Sturm, De optima tum aedificandi (Leipzig: Brandenburger, 1692), n.p.


Leonhard Christoph Sturm, Architectura militaris hypothetico-eclectica … [1702] (Nuremberg: Monath, 1720), 7.


Sturm, 9. Sturm describes the work as “Ein Anonymus. Gedruckt zu Amsterdam 12. 1689. Bestehet aus 9. Bogen Materie und 15. Kupfferplatten.” This may refer to Jean François Bernard, Nouvelle manière de fortifier les places: Tirées des methodes du Chevalier de Ville, du Comte de Pagan, & de Monsieur de Vauban (Amsterdam: Desbordes, 1689).


Verzeichniß der Bücher, 44.


Goudeau, Nicolaus Goldmann.


Nicolaus Goldmann and Leonhard Christoph Sturm, Vollständige Anweisung zu der Civil Bau-Kunst (Wolfenbüttel: Bismarck, 1696).


This is particularly the case in the second edition (1699) and in all subsequent editions, which include extensive commentary by Sturm.


Leonhard Christoph Sturm, Vollständige Anweisung zu der Civil Bau-Kunst, 2nd ed. (Braunschweig: Keßlern, 1699), introduction, n.p.


Sturm, 72.


Sturm, introduction, n.p.


Sturm, introduction, n.p.


Tessin, quoted in Haslingen, 300 Years of the Tessin Palace, 56.


Walter Jürgen Hofmann, “Architektur und Geschichte der Architektur in der Baukunst Balthasar Neumanns,” in Balthasar Neumann: Kunstgeschichtliche Beiträge zum Jubiläumsjahr 1987, ed. Thomas Korth and Joachim Poeschke (Munich: Hirmer, 1987), 143–71; Wilfried Hansmann, Balthasar Neumann (Cologne: Dumont, 1999), 27, 35.


Friedrich Karl von Schönborn, Verordnung und verbesserte Einrichtung bey dero Wirtzburgischen Universität [1743] (Würzburg: Stürtz, 1980), n.p.


See generally Peter A. Süß, “ ‘Zu des Landes wahrer Wohlfahrt und Unserer getreuen Unterthanen zeitlichem und ewigem Heyl’—Die Würzburger Universität im Vorfeld der Aufklärung: Friedrich Karl von Schönborns Hochschulreform,” in Aspekte des 18. Jahrhunderts: Studien zur Geistes-, Bildungs- und Verwaltungsgeschichte in Franken und Brandenburg-Preussen, ed. Peter Mainka, Johannes Schellakowsky, and Peter A. Süß (Würzburg: Freunde Mainfränkischer Kunst und Geschichte, 1996), 43–100. Largely because of Thomasius's efforts, the university in Halle was a model for the reforms undertaken in Würzburg, and the Schönborns recruited professors from the Protestant universities in Halle, Leipzig, and Jena, and specifically from the circle of Thomasius, thus creating a Catholic version of those other intellectual centers. Süß, “ ‘Zu des Landes wahrer Wohlfahrt,’ ” 81.


Christian Bönicke, Grundriss einer Geschichte von der Universität zu Wirzburg, vol. 2 (Würzburg: Nitribitt, 1788), 106–10. Neumann's children continued his architectural and academic pursuits. One son, Franz Ignaz Michael von Neumann, became a builder. Another son, Dr. Valentin Franz Neumann, became a cleric and vice chancellor of the University of Würzburg. Verzeichniß der Bücher; Hansmann, Balthasar Neumann, 46.


See the relevant essays in Anton W. A. Boschloo et al., eds., Academies of Art: Between Renaissance and Romanticism (The Hague: SDU, 1989).


Anton Raphael Mengs, The Works of Anthony Raphael Mengs, vol. 2 (London: Faulder, 1796), 25. This statement is developed more fully in Anton Raphael Mengs, Gedancken über die Schönheit und über den Geschmack in der Malerei (1762; repr., Zurich: Heydegger, 1765). On Mengs, see Steffi Roettgen, Anton Raphael Mengs, 17281779, 2 vols. (Munich: Hirmer, 1999–2003).


Mansfield, Too Beautiful to Picture.


Mengs, Works of Anthony Raphael Mengs, 25.


Henry Fuseli, in Gisela Bungarten, J. H. Füsslis (1741–1825) “Lectures on Painting,” vol. 1 (Berlin: Mann, 2005), 72–75.


Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Reflections on the Paintings and Sculptures of the Greeks, trans. Henry Fuseli (London: Millar, 1765); Mahon, Studies in Seicento Art, 216–17.


Friedrich Schlegel, Kritische Friedrich-Schlegel-Ausgabe, vol. 4, Ansichten und Ideen von der christlichen Kunst, ed. Hans Eichner (Munich: Schöningh, 1959), 56.


For a point-by-point discussion of Kant's rejection of eclecticism, see Lucien Braun, Histoire de l'histoire de la philosophie (Paris: Ophrys, 1973), 222.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, vol. 2 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 400–401.


Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999), 68–78; Mark A. Cheetham, Kant, Art, and Art History: Moments of Discipline (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).


See, inter alia, Alina A. Payne, “Rudolf Wittkower and Architectural Principles in the Age of Modernism,” JSAH 53, no. 3 (Sept. 1994), 322–42.