Metallic architecture in the 19th century

Emile Zola was a great admirer of metallic architecture: "Space had been gained everywhere, light and air entered freely, and the public circulated with the greatest ease under the bold flights of the far-stretching girders. It was the cathedral of modern commerce, light but solid, made for a nation of customers. […] and all that iron formed, beneath the white light of the windows, an excessively light architecture, a complicated lace-work through which the daylight penetrated, the modern realization of a palace of the dreams, of a Babel-like heaping up of the storeys, enlarging the rooms without end".

Metal was employed into construction since the end of the 18th century for its resistance to fire and its incommensurable solidity which was far more important than the wood or stones 'one and gave the possibility to lighten and open buildings. Barely used at first, the metal production grew between 1820 and 1870, at the same time that the Industrial Revolution progressed, and its cost became over the years more affordable. A single event widely participated to disseminate the use of metal into architecture: the Parisian carpenter strike that lasted for several months in 1845 and made builders use iron to end up their constructions.
The Halles Centrales by Baltard, the Pont de l'Europe, the Corn Exchange Building, the Crystal Palace, the famous Pont des Arts, or even the church Saint-Eugene among other religious buildings, covered galleries, train stations honored then metal architecture.
The World's Fairs were an opportunity for the States to start great constructions with this new material and to show the world how modern their country was. Thus, the Eiffel Tower was built for the World's Fair of 1889 and the Grand Palais for the one of 1900.

Green and Red Levanto

The Italian exploitation of the Green and Red Levanto - a marble or rather a serpentine rock mingled with green and white veins - dates back from the 12th century. Nowadays, only the quarries of San Giorgio and Rossola have continued its extraction. Among the great fireplaces realized with that marble, there is in the Palace of Versailles, the fireplace of the Antechamber of Dogs and the fireplace of Louis XVI style installed in the Grand Trianon.

Alabastro di Busca

Alabastro di Busca is an Italian marble from Busca, in the Piedmont region. It was first extracted around 1500, until 1963, when the quarry was definitively closed.

It was a precious marble exported all over Europe during the Renaissance and afterward. It was mostly used for making altar balustrades in churches, like the one in the Santissima Trinità in Busca and the Superga basilica in Turin. It was also used to decorate private interiors, most notably fireplaces like the ones on the third floor in the Bonaparte House in Ajaccio, and the one that was in the Meeting Room in Maurice Fenaille's sanatorium, in the Aveyron Department of France. It is a very decorative marble with warm shades of ochers and oranges faded into grays.

Maurice Fenaille

Maurice Fenaille (1855-1937) was a great Parisian art connoisseur, patron, and philanthropist.

In 1883, he took over his family's company to become a successful petrol industrialist by commercializing innovative products. By the end of the First World War, he was running one of the most important oil companies in France.

A true art connoisseur, Maurice Fenaille became a patron of the arts, supporting many contemporary artists such as Auguste Rodin and Jules Chéret. He also helped out museums by contributing to certain acquisitions, like that of the Bain Turc by Ingres at the Louvre Museum, and by donating many works of art from his collection to various museums. He also took it upon himself to salvage and restore the Château de Montal in the Lot Department by recovering most of the pieces and artworks that had been sold off at several auctions.

Maurice Fenaille's wife was from Aveyron, and he grew very attached to this Department, where he wished to bolster economic development. He founded a school of agriculture and an upholstery workshop. In 1912, he built a sanatorium in Sévérac-le-Château. In the meeting room, he installed the exceptional Alabastro di Busca fireplace with gilded bronze lion heads available on our website.