Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Patricia Mainardi

Committee Members

Amanda Wunder

Diane Kelner

Laura Auricchio

Subject Categories

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


Rococo, Ornament


The ornemaniste Claude III Audran worked over the course of some forty years to delight elite aristocrats, including Louis XIV, by creating cutting-edge arabesque designs with motifs drawn from popular culture. He became a maître in the Académie de Saint-Luc. He chose not to become a member of the Académie royale de peinture et sculpture, but he subcontracted work to Académie artists and achieved unparalleled status as a master of his craft. Despite the longevity of his successful career, previous scholarship has only examined a handful of individual projects and the arc of his career has never been fully examined. Differences in the assessment of Audran’s talent in contemporary accounts and subsequent scholarship have left Audran’s artistic status ambiguous. I argue that Claude III Audran, over the course of his career, acted as a connection between the Maîtrise and the Académie royale and earned renown for the creation of interiors he directed. This dissertation follows the arc of Audran’s career and includes consideration of contextual variables that impacted his work.

Chapter One relates the known biographical facts about his background and training. Noting that he achieved his acceptance as a member of the Maîtrise when the circumstances of the crown finances limited state patronage and impacted Audran’s choices as he established himself as a Maître ornemaniste. This situation and additional variables in the marketplace will be discussed in this and in the chapters that follow.

Chapter two provides a history of the arabesque from its roots in the ancient grotesque to the end of the seventeenth century. Tracing the characteristics of the grotesque and the evolution of the motifs provides an understanding of the utilization and of design precedents. The dissemination of the motifs through various media had brought the use of grotesque decoration to France; e.g., through the work of Italian émigré artists working for François I at Fontainebleau. Subsequent generations of artists modified the motifs to suit their decorative purposes, such as Charles LeBrun and Jean Berain, who were Audran’s immediate predecessors.

Chapters three, four and five present case studies of commissions following Audran’s career. Chapter Three discusses the application of arabesque motifs in venues used to escape the rigors of Louis XIV’s court for leisure pursuits, such as the hunt or the enjoyment of music in aristocratic interiors. Those projects lead to Audran’s commission to decorate the Menagerie at Versailles. Audran used motifs drawn from La Fontaine Fables for that commission and another at the Château de Réveillon, which are discussed in Chapter four. The chapter also considers the influences driving Audran’s choice of those motifs. Chapter five considers later commissions during the Régence for newly rich patrons who brought a different set of criteria to Audran for designing arabesques.

Finally, Chapter Six discusses Audran’s competition in the artistic marketplace and his influence as a mentor to other artists and their subsequent work. Living to the age of 76, Audran earned a reputation for excellence recognized by the crown and aristocratic elites. The examination of his career and his contributions to interior design adds to the historical narrative of the rococo period.

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