François Nicolas Henri Racine de Monville (1734-1797) was a quintessential representative of the French Enlightenment: a virtuoso musician, sportsman and bon vivant, he was also a visionary architect whose Column House in his country estate, the Désert de Retz in Chambourcy, was described by art historian Ernest Ganay as "the most interesting building of the 18th century."
Monsieur de Monville's circle of friends, guests and acquaintances ranged from Queen Marie Antoinette to Thomas Jefferson and included the lexicographer Doctor Samuel Johnson, the courtesan Madame du Barry and portraitist Madame Vigée-Lebrun. His closest friend was the playwright and secret agent Pierre Caron de Beaumarchais, who wrote a poetic tribute to his friend that is published in this book for the first time.
This biography incorporates virtually everything that is currently known about Monville's life and includes much information from source material that has been out of print for over a century. Monville: Forgotten Luminary of the French Enlightenment runs to 224 pages and over 45,000 words and is complemented by a fourteen-page index, a bibliography of over three score references and reproductions of three engravings of the Désert de Retz after Constant Bourgois, originally published in 1808.
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