Second Empire – Napoleon III Style (1865-1880)

Second Empire Style, also called Napoleon III Style, was the predominant Architectural Style during the second half of the 19th century, in Europe and internationally.

The grand salon in Napoleon III's Louvre apartment.
The grand salon in Napoleon III’s Louvre apartment. Image source: http://www.bernardsmith.eu/ French Napoleon_III_(1848-1870) Second_Empire_(1865-1880).html

 

WHO WAS NAPOLEON III?

Napoleon III, also called (until 1852) Louis-Napoléon, in full Charles-Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was born in 1808 in Paris and was died in 1873.

He was the only President (1848-1852) of the French Second Republic and, as Napoleon III, the Emperor (1852–70) of the Second French Empire. He was the first President of France to be elected by a direct popular vote.

Napoleon III, detail of a portrait by Hippolyte Flandrin.
Napoleon III, detail of a portrait by Hippolyte Flandrin. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Napoleon-III-emperor-of-France.

Napoleon III modernized the French banking system, greatly expanded and consolidated the French railway system, and made the French merchant marine the second largest in the world.

Beginning in 1866, Napoleon had to face the mounting power of Prussia, as Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought German unification under Prussian leadership. In July 1870, Napoleon entered the Franco-Prussian War without allies and with inferior military forces. The French army was rapidly defeated and Napoleon III was captured at the Battle of Sedan. The French Third Republic was proclaimed in Paris, and Napoleon went into exile in England, where he died in 1873.

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Napoleon-III-emperor-of-France; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_III

 

ABOUT the STYLE:

The Second Empire style was borrowed from France. Under the emperor’s direction, much of Paris was rebuilt with wide avenues and striking monumental buildings replacing medieval alleys and structures. The reconstruction of Paris in the Second Empire style had a major impact on building design throughout Europe and the United States.

The prototype for Second Empire style is the Opera Garnier, in Paris, designed by Charles Garnier.

Info source: https://architecturestyles.org/second-empire

Opera House, Paris, by Charles Garnier, begun 1861.
Opera House, Paris, by Charles Garnier, begun 1861. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Garnier
The grand foyer at the Opéra, Paris.
The grand foyer at the Opéra, Paris. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Opera-house-Paris-France
IN EUROPE

In Europe, this style is particularly prominent in:

  • Paris and Vienna, both of which were both heavily redeveloped on the late 19th century.
Burgtheater, Vienna, designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer and completed in 1888, is a prime example of the Second Empire style.
Burgtheater, Vienna, designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer and completed in 1888, is a prime example of the Second Empire style. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Empire_architecture_in_Europe.jpg
  • Rome also saw a huge expansion after the Risorgimento, where the Bank of Italy designed by Gaetano Koch is a notable example.
Bank of Italy, Rome.
Bank of Italy, Rome. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Monti_-_via_Nazionale_Palazzo_Koch_1000117.JPG
  • in Britain, at the end of the nineteenth century, the style is exemplified by Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, designed by Edwin Alfred Rickards.
Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, completed in 1911.
Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, completed in 1911.  Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Empire_architecture_in_Europe#/media/File:Methodist_Central_Hall.JPG
  • In Germany the style characterizes most of the apartment and public buildings of the period, including the Reichstag building, Berlin.
Reichstag Building, Berlin, completed in 1884.
Reichstag Building, Berlin, completed in 1884. Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_building#/media/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Second-Empire-style

 

UNITED STATES AND CANADA

In the United States, representative buildings include the Old City Hall, Boston (G.F.J. Bryant and Arthur D. Gilman, 1862–65) and the State, War, and Navy Department Building, Washington, D.C. (Alfred B. Mullett with Gilman, consultant, 1871–75).

Old City Hall, Boston.
Old City Hall, Boston. Image source: http://mass.historicbuildingsct.com/
The State, War, and Navy Department Building, Washington, D.C.
The State, War, and Navy Department Building, Washington, D.C. Image source: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/html

 

KEY features:

Although great variations exist, general characteristics can be identified:

  • Mansard roof (straight, straight with flare, concave, convex, S-curves) with dormers.
  • Entry porch with stoop
  • Marble fireplaces with arched openings
  • Tall arched windows with decorative cornices
  • Two-over-two double-hung sash
  • Windows flanked by columns or pilasters
  • Columns were usually paired and supported entablatures that divided the floors of the building
  • Exterior veranda with balustrades

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Second-Empire-style; https://architecturestyles.org/second-empire/; http://www.buffaloah.com/a/archsty/sec/

La Salle, IL. Hegeler Carus Mansion, c. 1876, with full Second-Empire form, styling and Mansard roof.
La Salle, IL. Hegeler Carus Mansion, c. 1876, with full Second-Empire form, styling and Mansard roof. Image source: https://architecturestyles.org/second-empire/