Oppenordt, Gilles Marie

Son of a cabinetmaker of the king, of Dutch origin, Gilles Marie Oppenord was in the midst of artisans protected by the king and housed in the Louvre of which he was a part to receive a very complete training. Sent to Rome, he made a large number of drawings after the antique and after the buildings of Bernini and Borromini, but also, more rare at a time when artists were interested in Rome above all, he studied in northern Italy the works of Palladio and Bramante. On his return to France, he could not join the Versailles teams, Hardouin-Mansart preferring Lepautre, and he devoted himself above all to church projects, whose Baroque tendency is clearly marked. His first major commission, the Hôtel de Pomponne, dates from 1714. The woodwork, known by the drawings of Oppenord, are characterized by a very great decorative richness: hunting trophies are hanging from very naturalistic trees. In the secondary panels, he adapts for the first time to the carving of woodwork the motifs of the arabesque: foliage, lambrequins, etc.

Its originality at this time lies mainly in the new use of certain decorative elements. He will give his measure when he will be named first architect of the duke of Orleans. He then works at the Palais Royal, starting with the duke's private apartments before the big apartments. Oppenord can apply in these apartments his theories on free decoration. He uses some elements that are found in the Louis XV style, the panels surrounded by chopsticks that curl up and down, stylized flower motifs, bat wings, shredded shells. However, Oppenord is retained in his research by the weight of his Italian training. The architectural elements remain essential for him, and some reminiscences of the Italian Baroque, his age also perhaps, make that he is not a founder of Rococo style, in the same way as Meissonnier or Pineau, but only a forerunner. Like François Antoine Vassé, his contemporary, Oppenord is the great architect of the transition style of the Regency period.

He inspires Charles Cressent, cabinetmaker of the Regent, with his interiors. He was appointed architect of the Regent from 1715.

The abundance of his drawings (more than two thousand), bought in 1742 by the engraver Huquier who published them from 1748 in collections known colloquially as the Small, Medium and Grand Oppenord, assured him throughout the eighteenth century an extreme celebrity. This collection compiles projects of woodwork, furniture, consoles, lighting, cartridges, this decor already includes capricious arabesques Rococo style but still keeping a trace of the symmetry and balance of classic taste.