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Hittorff, Jacques-Ignace

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Hittorff, Jacques-Ignace

    Other Names:

    • Jacques-Ignace Hittorff

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 20 August 1792

    Date Died: 25 March 1867

    Place Born: Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): Ancient Greek (culture or style), archaeology, architecture (object genre), Classical, and sculpture (visual works)


    Archaeologist, architect and architectural historian; first to publish the fact that classical Greek architecture was brightly colored. Hittorff studied at the Gymnasium in Cologne before being apprenticed to a stonecutter at age fifteen. He traveled to Paris in 1810 with his friend (and later Egyptologist) Franz-Christian Gau (1790-1853) where he trained in architecture. He received several royal commissions. After visits to England and Germany, he obtained a commission in 1822 from Louis XVIII to travel to southern France, Italy and Sicily. In Sicily, he and the architectural student Karl-Ludwig von Zanth (1796-1857) examined the classical monuments of Agrigento, Segesta, and Syracuse. When they unearthed a small heroön (martyrion) from temple B on the Selinontan acropolis, they concluded that Greek architecture must have been brightly painted. Hittorff may have been alerted that painted architectural ruins existed by the English architect and academic Thomas Leverton Donaldson. Two other British archaeologists, William Harris (d. 1823) and Samuel Angell had discovered fully polychromed metopes from temple C at Selinus the same year, but due to the death of Harris, had been unable to do more than announce their initial findings. Hittorff sent early letters to Die Kunstblatt announcing his disoveries in 1824. The notion of polychromy in Greek sculpture had been published by the leader of the French Academy, Antoine Quatremère de Quincy. Working separately, Hittorff hired another German architectural student working in Rome, Wilhelm Stier (1799-1856) to make drawings of their further exploits in Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Hittorff returned to Paris in 1824, replete with the drawings and materials of his studies. Initially, he and Zanth recorded their investigations in Architecture antique de la Sicile in 1827. For the next twenty-five years, the dispute as to whether Greek architecture was painted raged in pamphlet debates, among scholars siding with Hittorff, Gottfried Semper. The debates fuelled questions everywhere. Hittorff was part of a committee including C. R. Cockerell and Donaldson, which met between 1836-1837 in London to determine whether the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum had originally been colored. In 1851 Hittorff published his Restitution du temple d’Empédocle à Sélinonte, ou l’architecture polychrome chez les Grecs, which, using the temple of Empedocles, at Selinus, Italy as the example, set out their findings of classical polychromy in full. The book contained for the first time anywhere a reconstruction of a temple with the brightly colored painting adorning it. Their work gained general acceptance and is considered the foundation to the color theory of Greek architecture. Hittorff’s primary career, however, was as an architect. His architectural commissions included the decorative design of the Place de la Concorde where he placed statuary and fountains to impressive result. Assigned the Champs-élysées, he likewise provided fountains and the rotunda of the Panorama based upon classical proportions. He was also responsible for the (second) Gare du Nord (1859-1865). He ended his career in Cologne. His library forms part of the city and university library of Cologne. His student, Stier, went on to become an eminent professor of architecture at Berlin.

    Selected Bibliography

    [first letters citing discoveries] Kunstblatt no. 28 (1824) and Kunstblatt no. 39 (1824); and Zanth, Ludwig. Architecture antique de la Sicile; ou, Recueil des plus inte´ressans monumens [sic] d’architecture des villes et des lieux les plus remarquables de la Sicile ancienne. Paris: Imprime´ chez P. Renouard, 1827; [essay in English by Hittorff, in] Grüner, Ludwig. Descriptions of the Plates of Fresco Decorations and Stuccoes of Churches and Palaces in Italy During the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, with an Essay On the Arabesques of the Ancients as Compared with those of Raphael and his School [by Hittorff]. London: J. Murray, 1844; Restitution du temple d’Empe´docle à Se´linonte, ou l’architecture polychrome chez les Grecs. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1851.


    Neuf, Hans. “Ingres und die Familie Hittorff.” Pantheon 22, no. 4 (July 1964): 249-263; Hammer, Karl. Jakob Ignaz Hittorff: ein Pariser Baumeister 1792-1867. Stuttgart: A. Hirsemann, 1968; Schneider, Donald David. The Works and Doctrine of Jacques Ignace Hittorff, 1792-1867. 2 vols. New York: Garland Pub., 1977; Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 1, p. 594; Breton, E. “Hittorff, Jacques-Ignace.” National Biographie Generale 24: 807-811.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Hittorff, Jacques-Ignace." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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