Martin, Jean
Goujon, Jean

Title Architecture, ou art de bien bastir...
Imprint Paris, J. Gazeau, 1547
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les 1785
Subject Entry


     The French translation of Vitruvius' treatise De architectura lies within the context of the architectural renewal of the years between 1545 and 1550; it belonged to the same time period as the projects of Philibert De l'Orme for Anet and Lescot for the Louvre. The French rediscovery of ornamental language à l'antique made it necessary to have access to the founding text. It was also the period during which the modern language of art criticism was being transformed in France. From this point of view Jean Martin's translation of the treatise, posterior to his adaptation of the Songe de Poliphile (1546) and to the translation of Serlio's Books I-II (1545) which had familiarized him with architectural vocabulary, is the reflection of the discussion between lexicographers and well-read people. For the first two books of Serlio's treatise, Martin had to invent a lexicon to render an account of the new language, imported from Italy. There was scarcely any model available to him, outside of the unauthorized French translation of Serlio's Book IV by Pieter Coecke van Aelst (Antwerp, 1542).
In the dedication to the king and the foreward, Martin does not fail to render homage to all those whose works were precious to him (Fra Giocondo, Serlio, Philandrier, Budé). Indeed the enterprise was not simple. While the humanist had a French foreman's lexicon of traditional construction terms at his disposal, it was not the same thing as for vocabulary defining ornaments, foreign to medieval practices. Martin was therefore compelled to have recourse to paraphrase to explain learned words, often of Greek origin. He also took advantage of the French translation of the Medidas del Romano by Sagredo (Toledo, 1526), the Raison darchitecture antique, extraite de Vitruve, published without a date, probably 1536, at the presses of Simon de Colines, who had popularized the Vitruvian terminology. But he knew how to distinguish himself from it, proving that he had acquired a competence while working next to laborers.
The illustrations of the work are remarkable, if not astonishing; the plates were partly borrowed from the fine Venitian edition of Vitruvius drafted by Fra Giocondo (1511), from the annotated edition by Cesare Cesariano (1521), and from Serlio's Book II. The other plates were specially executed by Jean Goujon during 1544-1545, as attested by the presentation manuscript of the first book at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (ms. fr. 12338). Goujon's intervention concerns the first two books (human proportions, a wildlife tableau, atlantes and caryatids), and continues in Books III and IV on the orders. In fact, it is less a question of an illustration of Vitruvius' text than a graphic gloss, or rather a digression in images, comparable to the one inserted in Book III by Guillaume Philandrier in his Annotationes (1544). In counterpoint to the Vitruvian text, it gives the reader a glimpse of the modern orders, that is to say the Serlian orders. Thus the text and the plates do not correspond; Goujon was essentially inspired by Regole generali (Quarto libro) published in Venice in 1537 and reissued in 1540 and in 1544. He modernized them, for example adopting the contour of the Ionic volute described by Philandrier in his Digression on the orders. By way of postface Goujon put in a "Salut au lecteur" in which he annotates his plates and which is indeed the oldest original text on architecture written in French. While the author cites, other than Serlio, the great architects of the Rome of Jules II or Dürer in it, his annotations remained influenced by Sagredo. He was interested neither in materials nor in construction, while still showing great concern for the details of contours and moldings.
The Vitruvius of 1547, in its composite presentation, provided French practicians with the theoretical basis they lacked. But this culture is equivocal; in giving Serlian shapes a Vitruvian legitimacy, Goujon's plates assimilated the grammar of the Quarto libro into the doctrine of the antique author.

Frédérique Lemerle (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2005


Critical bibliography

M. Carpo, L’architettura dell’età della stampa. Oralità, scritturà, libro stampato e riproduzione meccanica dell’immagine nella storia delle teorie architettoniche, Milan, Jaca Book, 1998, pp. 79-86.

P. du Colombier, Jean Goujon, Paris, Albin Michel, 1949, Appendice A, pp. 123-128.

F. Lemerle, "Jean Martin et le vocabulaire d’architecture", Jean Martin Un traducteur au temps de François Ier et de Henri II, Cahiers V. L. Saulnier, 16, Paris, Pens, 1999, pp. 113-126.

F. Lemerle, "La version française des Medidas del Romano", F. Marías and F. Pereda (eds.), Medidas del Romano, Diego de Sagredo, Toledo. 1526, Toledo, Pareja, 2000, 2, pp. 93-106.

F. Lemerle, "L’Architecture ou Art de bien bastir de Vitruve, traduit par Jean Martin à Paris chez Jacques Gazeau Françoys, en 1547", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004, pp. 418-419.

F. Lemerle, "The Vitruvian Lexicon in Sixteenth-Century in France", communication at the conference Vituvianismus. Ursprünge und Transformationen / Vitruvianism. Its Origins and Transformations / Vitruvianisme. Ses origines et transformations, Berlin, Humboldt Universität, July 14-16 2011, forthcoming.

Y. Pauwels, "Jean Goujon, de Sagredo à Serlio : la culture architecturale d’un ymaginier-architecteur ", Bulletin Monumental, 156-2, 1998, pp. 137-148.

Y. Pauwels, L’architecture au temps de la Pléiade, Paris, Monfort, 2002, pp. 35-42.

Y. Pauwels, "Serlio et le vitruvianisme français de la Renaissance: Goujon, Bullant, De l’Orme", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004, pp. 410-417.

Y. Pauwels, L’architecture et le livre en France à la Renaissance : « Une magnifique décadence » ?, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2013, pp. 90-100.

T. Uétani & H. Zerner, "Jean Martin et Jean Goujon en 1545. Le manuscrit de présentation du Premier livre d’Architecture de Marc Vitruve Pollion", Revue de l’Art, 149, 2005-3, pp. 27-32.

Site "Vitruvius" created by T.R. Wooldridge, December 1996: "Vitruvius, Architecture, ou Art de bien bastir traduit en français par Jean Martin, Paris, Jacques Gazeau, 1547."