Author(s) Androuet du Cerceau, Jacques
Title Petit traitte des cinq ordres de colomnes
Imprint Paris, s.n., 1583
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les 1596
Subject Orders


     Published at the end of Androuet du Cerceau's life, this small treatise is devoted solely to the five orders. The are first presented in a brief descriptive text; next, the author illustrates each one in a first plate, very didactic, schematically demonstrating the construction of the different members making up the column and the entablature. A second plate proposes versions whose ornamental abundance contrasts with the grammatical rigor of the first. From the morphological viewpoint, the model is the Quarto libro by Serlio; shapes and proportions are closely inspired by those perfected and disseminated by the man from Bologna in 1537. Moreover, one notices that Serlio's influence was still decisive in France during the last quarter of the 16th century, yet at a time when the most recent treatises of Vignola (1562) and Palladio (1570) appeared in Italy. But Bullant, in his Règle (1564) and Philibert De l'Orme in his Premier tome (1567) still used the Serlian paradigms, as did Julien Mauclerc at the dawn of the 17th century.
The decorated versions are much more original, systematically presented in threes, one bearing a fragment of entablature which is particular to it and the two others placed under a common entablature. The author often used a three-part presentation; in collections of drawings or of engravings which, in a certain way, indicate the coming of the present treatise (Madrid, Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid, Ms XVIII-175 ; Termes et cariatides). The abundance and the decorative fantasy characterizing these models are inherent to du Cerceau; it was already the case in one of his first publications, the XXV exempla arcuum (Orléans, 1549). One finds proof of it in most of the collections of engravings or drawings concerning architectural decor. His sources are varied, but it is tempting to see reminiscences of the Spanish manner of decorating the orders in the systematic variety of the shaft decorations and in the shapes of these ornaments. In other respects the search for originality led the author to go beyond the five traditional orders and to propose, in the last leaves (the last one is lacking in the copy kept at the Cabinet des Estampes in the Bibliothèque nationale de France), several "composées" columns which are different from Serlio's "composite", henceforth canonical one, or a "Salomonic" column, already visible in the XXV exempla arcuum.
More generally, this aesthetics of the copia and of creative liberty prevailed at the end of the 16th century in French architecture, at Verneuil, at Charleval and even in the Grande Galerie of the Louvre. In artistic literature, the Petit traité is perfectly in phase with contemporary treatises such as Hugues Sambin's collections of term figures (1572) and those of Joseph Boillot (1592).
As the bibliographic notes indicate, the copy for consultation at the Ensba was bound with diverse plates attributed to du Cerceau, and with nine plates representing the orders drawn by Sebastiano Serlio and engraved by Augustino Veneziano; they were published for the first time in Venice in 1528.

Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2004

Critical bibliography

J. Androuet du Cerceau, Les plus excellents bastiments de France..., D. Thomson (ed), Paris, Sand & Conti, 1988 (Documentary chronology and general bibliography, pp. 310-316.).

H. von Geymüller, Les Du Cerceau. Leur vie et leur œuvre d’après les nouvelles recherches, Paris/London, Rouam/Wood & Co, 1887.

Y. Pauwels, L’architecture au temps de la Pléiade, Paris, Monfort, 2002.

Y. Pauwels, "Entre France et Espagne : du Cerceau et Vandelvira", proceedings of the colloquium Vandelvira en la historia de la arquitectura del Renacimiento, Jaén, February 9-12, 2006, to be published.

D. Thomson, Renaissance Architecture. Critics Patrons Luxury, Manchester/New York, Manchester UP, 1993.