Architecture and Sculpture
In architecture and sculpture, it took the Northern countries longer
to assimilate Italian forms than in painting. France was more closely
linked with Italy than the rest. We will recall that it had conquered
1499, and that King Francis I had
shown his admiration for Italian art earlier by inviting first Leonardo
and then the Mannerists to France.
As a consequence, France began to assimilate
Italian art somewhat earlier than the other countries and was the first
to achieve an integrated Renaissance style. We shall therefore confine
our discussion to French monuments.
732), built by
Hector Sohier, shows that he followed the basic pattern of French Gothic
church choirs (compare fig. 449),
simply translating flamboyant decoration into the
vocabulary of the new language. Finials become candelabra, pier
buttresses are shaped like pilasters, and the round-arched windows of
the ambulatory chapels have geometric tracery.
As we might expect, architects still trained in the Gothic
tradition could not adopt the Italian style all at once. They readily
used its classical vocabulary, but its syntax gave them trouble tor many years. One glance at the choir of St.-Pierre at
733) is stylistically more
complicated. Its plan, and the turrets, high-pitched roofs, and tall
chimneys, recall the Gothic Louvre (see fig.
536). Yet the design, though greatly modified by
later French builders, was originally by an Italian pupil of Giuliano da
Sangallo, and his was surely the plan of the center portion (fig.
734), which is quite unlike its
French predecessors. This square block, developed from the keep of
has a central staircase fed by four corridors. These
form a Greek cross dividing the interior into four square sections. Each
section is further subdivided into one large and two smaller rooms, and
a closet, forming a suite or apartment in modern parlance. The
functional grouping of these rooms, originally imported from Italy, was
to become a standard pattern in France. It represents the starting point
of all modern "designs for living."
732. HECTOR SOHIER. Choir of St.-Pierre, Caen. 1528-45
CHATEAU OF CHAMBORD.
The Chateau of Chambord (fig.
733. The Chateau of Chambord (north front).
734. Plan of center portion. Chateau of Chambord (after Du Cerceau)
The Chateau of Chambord
Francis I, who built Chambord, decided in
1546 to replace the old Gothic
royal castle, the Louvre, with a new palace on the old site. The project
had barely begun at the time of his death, but his architect, Pierre Lescot (c. 1515-1578),
continued it under Henry II, quadrupling the size of the court. This
enlarged scheme was not completed for more than a century. Lescot built
only the southern half of the court's west side (fig.
735), which represents its
"classic" phase, so called to distinguish it from the style of such
buildings as Chambord. This distinction is well warrranted. The Italian
vocabulary of Chambord and St.-Pierre at Caen is based on the Early
Renaissance, whereas Lescot drew on the work of Bramante and his
successors. Lescot's design is classic in another sense as well: it is
the finest surviving example of Northern Renaissance architecture. The
details of Lescot's facade do indeed have an astonishing classical
purity, yet we would not mistake it for an Italian structure. Its
distinctive quality comes not from Italian forms superficially applied,
but from a genuine synthesis of the traditional chateau with the
Renaissance palazzo. Italian, of course, are the superimposed classical
orders (see figs. 605 and
700), the pedimented
window frames, and the arcade on the ground floor. But the continuity of the facade is interrupted by three
projecting pavilions that have supplanted the chateau turrets, and the
high-pitched roof is also traditionally French. The vertical accents
thus overcome the horizonal ones (note the broken architraves), an
effect reinforced by the tall, narrow windows.
735. PIERRE LESCOT. Square Court of the
Louvre, Paris. Begun 1546
Pierre Lescot, (born c. 1515, Paris, Fr.—died 1578, Paris),
one of the great French architects of the mid-16th century
who contributed a decorative style that provided the
foundation for the classical tradition of French
In his youth Lescot, who came from a
wealthy family of lawyers, studied mathematics,
architecture, and painting. There is no evidence that he
visited Italy, although much of his design was classical; it
appears that he acquired his knowledge of architecture from
illustrated books and from Roman ruins in France.
Lescot’s most important contribution to
architecture was his rebuilding of the Louvre, which he
began in 1546 as a commission from Francis I. The style and
design of Lescot’s work on the Louvre reflect a revolution
in French architecture marked by the influence of classical
elements. His work on the facade combined traditional French
elements and classical features to create a unique style of
French classicism. Lescot’s other work includes the Hôtel
Carnavalet (1545), which still survives in part; a screen at
Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois (1554); the Fontaine des Innocents
(1547–49); and the château of Vallery. Unfortunately, none
of these works has survived intact.
The Cour Carré of the Louvre, with the Lescot Wing on the left
Lescot's Fontaine des nymphes 1549, rededicated as Fontaine
Equally un-Italian is the rich sculptural decoration covering almost the
entire wall surface of the third story. These relicts, admirably adapted
to the architecture, are by Jean Goujon (c.
1510-1565?), the finest French sculptor of the
mid-sixteenth century. Unfortunately, they have been much restored. To
get a more precise idea of Goujon's style we must turn to the relief
panels from the Fontaine des Innocents (two are shown in
737), which have survived intact,
although their architectural framework by Lescot is lost. These graceful
figures recall the Mannerism of Cellini (see fig.
695) and, even more,
Primaticcio's decorations at Fontainebleau (see fig.
696). Like Lescot's architecture,
their design combines classical details of remarkable purity with a
delicate slcndemess that gives them a uniquely French air.
736, 737. JEAN GOUION. Reliefs from the
Fontaine des Innocents. 1548-49.