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Title: Vanbrugh, Blenheim Palace, and the meanings of Baroque architecture
Author: Legard, James A.
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2013
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Blenheim Palace, designed for the 1st Duke of Marlborough by Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, is not only an outstanding exemplar of English baroque architecture, and also one of the best documented; yet it has not been the subject of focussed monographic study since the 1950s. In this thesis I reconsider the design and construction of Blenheim between 1705 and 1712, in an attempt to shed light on its historical meanings that it was originally intended to embody. In my first chapter, I introduce Marlborough and Vanbrugh, arguing that both built careers by exploiting the implicit exchange between service and reward at the heart of early modern court life. In my second chapter, I explore how Vanbrugh, with Hawksmoor’s increasingly important assistance, set about designing Marlborough a ‘martial’ and ‘magnificent’ residence suited to his roles as Queen Anne’s leading courtier and most successful general. In my third chapter I argue that the standard accounts misrepresent the chronology of important aspects of Blenheim’s design and construction, obscuring the existence of a highly cohesive phase of enlargement and aggrandisement in 1707. In my fourth chapter, I suggest that this transformation can be linked, circumstantially and chronologically, to the effects of Marlborough’s military victories of 1706 and, especially, to his elevation to the rank of sovereign prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Offering an alternative to some recent iconographic approaches to the palace, I show how the palace’s sculptural programme was designed to reflect and consolidate this exceptional status. Taken together, these findings significantly refine, and in some respects revise, our basic knowledge of the design and construction of Blenheim, and also reveal with new clarity the extent to which English ‘baroque’ architecture must be understood in the context of early modern English—indeed, European—court culture.
Supervisor: Geraghty, Anthony Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available