Today is the birthday (1573) of Inigo Jones, an English architect who left his mark on London by his design of single buildings, such as the Queen’s House which is the first building in England designed in a pure classical style, and the Banqueting House, Whitehall, as well as the layout for Covent Garden square which became a model for future developments in the West End. He also made major contributions to stage design by his work as theatrical designer for several dozen masques, most by royal command and many in collaboration with Ben Jonson.
Beyond the fact that he was born in Smithfield, London, the son of Inigo Jones, a Welsh cloth worker, and baptized at the church of St Bartholomew-the-Less, little is known about Jones’s early years. He did not approach the architectural profession in the traditional way, namely either by rising up from a craft or through early exposure to the Office of Works, although there is evidence that Christopher Wren obtained information that recorded Jones as an apprentice joiner in St Paul’s Churchyard. At some point before 1603 a rich patron (possibly the earl of Pembroke or the earl of Rutland) sent him to Italy to study drawing after being impressed by the quality of his sketches. From Italy he traveled to Denmark where he worked for king Christian on the design of the palaces of Rosenborg and Frederiksborg.
Jones first became famous as a designer of costumes and stage settings, especially after he brought masques to the stage. Under Queen Anne’s patronage he is credited with introducing movable scenery and the proscenium arch to English theatre. Between 1605 and 1640, he was responsible for staging over 500 performances, collaborating with Ben Jonson for many years, despite a relationship fraught with competition and jealousy: the two had arguments about whether stage design or literature was more important in theatre. (Jonson ridiculed Jones in a series of his works, written over a span of two decades.) Over 450 drawings for the scenery and costumes survive, demonstrating Jones’s virtuosity as a draughtsman and his development between 1605 and 1609 from initially showing no knowledge of Renaissance draughtsmanship to exhibiting an “accomplished Italianate manner” and understanding of Italian set design, particularly that of Alfonso and Giulio Parigi. This development suggests a second visit to Italy, circa 1606, influenced by the ambassador Henry Wotton. Jones learned to speak Italian fluently and there is evidence that he owned an Italian copy of Andrea Palladio’s I quattro libri dell’architettura with marginalia that refer to Wotton. His architectural work was particularly influenced by Palladio. To a lesser extent, he also held to the architectural principles of the ancient Roman writer Vitruvius.
Jones’s first recorded architectural design is for a monument to Lady Cotton, circa 1608, showing early signs of his classical intentions. Around this time, Jones also produced drawings for the New Exchange in the Strand and the central tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral, displaying a similar practical architectural inexperience and uncertain handling of themes from sources including Palladio, Serlio and Sangallo. In 1609, having perhaps accompanied Lord Salisbury’s son and heir, Viscount Cranborne, around France, he appears as an architectural consultant at Hatfield House, making small modifications to the design as the project progressed, and in 1610, Jones was appointed surveyor to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He devised a masque for the Prince and was possibly involved in some alterations to St James’s Palace.
On 27th April 1613, Jones was appointed the position of Surveyor of the King’s Works and shortly after, embarked on a tour of Italy with the earl of Arundel, destined to become one of the most important patrons in the history of English art. On this trip, Jones was exposed to the architecture of Rome, Padua, Florence, Vicenza, Genoa and Venice among others. His surviving sketchbook shows his preoccupation with such artists as Parmigianino and Schiavone. He is also known to have met Vincenzo Scamozzi at this time. His annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura also demonstrates his close interest in classical architecture: Jones gave priority to Roman antiquity rather than observing the contemporary fashion in Italy. He was probably the first Englishman to study these Roman remains first hand and this was key to the new architecture Jones introduced in England.
In September 1615, Jones was appointed Surveyor-General of the King’s Works, marking the beginning of Jones’s career in earnest. Fortunately, both James I and Charles I spent lavishly on their buildings, contrasting with the economical court of Elizabeth I. As the King’s Surveyor, Jones built some of his key buildings in London. In 1616, work began on the Queen’s House, Greenwich, for James I’s wife, Anne. With the foundations laid and the first storey built, work stopped suddenly when Anne died in 1619. Work resumed in 1629, but this time for Charles I’s Queen, Henrietta Maria. It was finished in 1635 as the first strictly classical building in England, employing ideas found in the architecture of Palladio and ancient Rome. This is Jones’s earliest surviving work.
Between 1619 and 1622, the Banqueting House in the Palace of Whitehall was built, a design derived from buildings by Scamozzi and Palladio, to which a ceiling painted by Peter Paul Rubens was added several years later. The Banqueting House was one of several projects where Jones worked with his personal assistant and nephew by marriage John Webb. Unfortunately, as the last great strongholds to the Cavaliers, the great mansion inside of Basing House was destroyed by Cromwell’s army and even the walls were broken into many pieces on 8th October 1645.
The Queen’s Chapel, St. James’s Palace, was built between 1623 and 1627, for Charles I’s Roman Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria. Parts of the design originate in the Pantheon of ancient Rome and Jones evidently intended the church to evoke the Roman temple. These buildings show the designs of an architect with a confident grasp of classical principles and an intellectual understanding of how to implement them.
The other project in which Jones was involved is the design of Covent Garden square. He was commissioned by the earl of Bedford to build a residential square, which he did along the lines of the Italian piazza of Livorno. It is the first regularly planned square in London. The earl felt obliged to provide a church and he warned Jones that he wanted to economize. He told him to simply erect a “barn” and Jones’s often-quoted response was that “his lordship would have the finest barn in Europe”. In the design of St Paul’s, Jones faithfully adhered to Vitruvius’ design for a Tuscan temple and it was the first wholly and authentically classical church built in England. The inside of St Paul’s, Covent Garden was gutted by fire in 1795, but externally it remains much as Jones designed it and dominates the west side of the square.
Jones also designed the square of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and a house in the square, the Lindsey House built in 1640, is often attributed to Jones. Its design of a rusticated ground floor with giant pilasters above supporting the entablature and balustrade served as a model for other town houses in London such as John Nash’s Regent’s Park terraces, as well as in other English towns such as Bath’s Royal Crescent.
Another large project Jones undertook was the repair and remodeling of St Paul’s Cathedral. Between the years of 1634 and 1642, Jones wrestled with the dilapidated Gothicism of Old St Paul’s, casing it in classical masonry and totally redesigning the west front. Jones incorporated the giant scrolls from Vignola and della Porta’s Church of the Gesù with a giant Corinthian portico, the largest of its type north of the Alps, but was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Also around this time, circa 1638, Jones devised drawings completely redesigning the Palace of Whitehall, but the execution of these designs was frustrated by Charles I’s financial and political difficulties. More than 1000 buildings have been attributed to Jones but only a very small number of those are certain to be his work. According to architecture historian John Summerson, the modern concept of an architect’s artistic responsibility for a building did not exist at that time, and Jones’s role in many instances may be that of a civil servant in getting things done rather than as an architect. Jones’s contribution to a building may also simply be verbal instructions to a mason or bricklayer and providing an Italian engraving or two as a guide, or the correction of drafts. In the 1630s, Jones was in high demand and, as Surveyor to the King, his services were only available to a very limited circle of people, so often projects were commissioned to other members of the Works. Stoke Bruerne Park in Northamptonshire was built by Sir Francis Crane, “receiving the assistance of Inigo Jones”, between 1629 and 1635. Jones is also thought to have been involved in another country house, this time in Wiltshire. Wilton House was renovated from about 1630 onwards, at times worked on by Jones, then passed on to Isaac de Caus when Jones was too busy with royal clients. He then returned in 1646 with his student, John Webb, to try and complete the project. Contemporary equivalent architects included Sir Balthazar Gerbier and Nicholas Stone.
One of Jones’s design work was “double cube” room, and it was also the foundation stone of his status as the father of British architecture. Jones, as the pioneer in his era, had strong influence during their time. His revolutionary ideas even effect beyond the Court circle, and today, many scholars believe that he also started the golden age of British architecture. Jones’s full-time career effectively ended with the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 and the seizure of the King’s houses in 1643. His property was later returned to him (c. 1646) but Jones ended his days, unmarried, living in Somerset House. He was, however, closely involved in the design of Coleshill House, in Berkshire, for the Pratt family, which he visited with the young apprentice architect Roger Pratt, to fix a new site for the proposed mansion. He died on 21st June 1652 and was subsequently buried beside his parents at St Benet Paul’s Wharf, the Welsh church of the City of London. John Denham and then Christopher Wren followed him as King’s Surveyor of Works. A monument dedicated to him was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666.
You could go with a period recipe to celebrate Jones if you want. Here is a delightful idea from Robert May’s Accomplisht Cook. I chose it for today because it emphasizes design. The instructions are not really fully clear. What I think May is getting at is that you must make three separate elements: a green one with creamed spinach, a white one with cream alone, and a yellow one with egg yolks and cream. How the seasonings should be distributed is completely unclear. You should, however, place the three colors in a tart in a design of your choosing that keeps the green, yellow, and white elements distinct. I’ll leave you to figure it out.
To make a Spinage Tart of three colours, green, yellow, and white.
Take two handfuls of young tender spinage, wash it and put it into a skillet of boiling liquor; being tender boil’d have a quart of cream boil’d with some whole cinamon, quarterd nutmeg, and a grain of musk; then strain the cream, twelve yolks of eggs, and the boil’d spinage into a dish, with some rose-water, a little sack, and some fine sugar, boil it over a chaffing dish of coals, and stir it that it curd not, keep it till the tart be dried in the oven, and dish it in the form of three colours, green, white, and yellow.
To truly honor Jones I would go for a dish that is architectural in scope. You can save your gingerbread palaces for Christmas, and, instead, get some ideas from this gallery: