Gottfried Semper - Life - Early Life (to 1834)

Early Life (to 1834)

Semper was born into a well-to-do industrialist family in Altona. The fifth of eight children, he attended the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums in Hamburg before starting his university education at Göttingen in 1823, where he studied historiography and mathematics. He subsequently studied architecture in 1825 at the University of Munich under Friedrich von Gärtner. In 1826, Semper travelled to Paris in order to work for the architect Franz Christian Gau, and he was present when the July Revolution of 1830 broke out. Between 1830 and 1833 he travelled to Italy and Greece in order to study the architecture and designs of antiquity. In 1832 he participated for four months in archaeological research at the Akropolis in Athens. During this period he became very interested in the Biedermeier-inspired polychromy debate, which centred around the question whether buildings in Ancient Greece and Rome had been colorfully painted or not. The drawn reconstructions of the painterly decorations of ancient villas he created in Athens inspired his later designs for the painted decorations in Dresden and Vienna. His 1834 publication Vorläufige Bemerkungen über bemalte Architectur und Plastik bei den Alten (Preliminary Remarks on Polychrome Architecture and Sculpture in Antiquity), in which he took a strong position in favor of polychromy - supported by his investigation of pigments on the Trajan's column in Rome - brought him sudden recognition in architectural and aesthetic circles across Europe .

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