BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
||Sagredo, Diego de
||Medidas del Romano...
||Toledo, R. de Petras, 1526
||Salamanca University Library, BG/36176(2)
The Medidas del Romano by Diego de Sagredo (1526) was the first book on architecture printed in Spanish and the first original text published on the subject outside of Italy during the Renaissance. It was also the first book to reach America and which had an influence on its architecture, as is still shown by several buildings. In addition, it was printed in two languages (Spanish and French) and published in three countries (Spain, Portugal and France) where it was progressively modified and brought up to date. Between Toledo and Paris, it initiated a type of "treatise of columns" which was to enjoy a certain success in 16th century Europe, mentioned by Pieter Coecke van Aelst in his Die inventie der colommen as early as 1539. It is for these reasons that we must speak as much of a "Spanish Sagredo" of 1526 as of a "French Sagredo" of 1536, closely linked but also different.
Diego de Sagredo, a native of Burgos, a student and graduate in arts at the University of Alcalá de Henares was a clerk in the entourage of Cardinals Cisneros and Fonseca (to whom he dedicated this book). He was the chaplain of Queen Joanna the Mad as well as prebendary, horologist and librarian at the Cathedral of Toledo. He played an architect’s role when he supervised the work intended for the archbishopric of Toledo and the temporary constructions for the liturgical celebrations of the primatial see. After he took a trip to Italy before 1522, Sagredo finished his Medidas in 1524, which was published in Toledo in May, 1526, a perfect moment to introduce the taste for Roman antiquity.
In spite of its literary and humanistic tone and structure, in the form of a dialogue between Tampeso (Sagredo himself) and Picardo (the French painter active in Burgos, Léon Picard), also mentioning the sculptor Felipe Bigarny "de Bourgogne" and the iron craftsman Cristobal de Andino, this small volume was primarily aimed at Castilian stone workers (cutters, drafters, sculptors, iron craftsmen) rather than at architects and foremen themselves. Its reputation, reception and its editorial success, in time, would be based on this emphasis. The Medidas was translated into French towards 1536 and in 1539, published in Castilian in Portugal in 1541 and 1542 (three editions in all), again in Toledo in 1549 and 1564, and again in Paris in 1542, 1550, 1555 (two editions), and finally in 1608, with the name of the long-dead Spanish author.
Sagredo’s goal was to write a manual intended less for humanists than for workers and amateurs. It would enable them to master what was considered for the most part the most important element of the Roman architecture that was being built in Italy: the types of columns. He developed a series of rules which were found neither in the texts nor were seen openly in the ruins. Starting from basic ideas, such as the mathematical foundation of architecture and human proportions, he based his work on sometimes contradictory information taken from the De architectura of the "Roman" Vitruvius (two Latin editions, towards 1486-1487 and 1511 and one Italian edition in 1521), from Pliny the Elder (through the encyclopedia by Raffaele Maffei [called il Volterrano] more than through the Natural History), from Leon Battista Alberti (De re aedificatoria, 1485 and 1512) and from Luca Pacioli (De divina proportione, 1509). All this information concerns the forms and measurements of the different elements making up the four types of columns, in a system that would become, starting in 1537, thanks to Sebastiano Serlio who gave the best example of it, the five classical orders.
In the vast context of European treatises on architecture, the Medidas are not, strictly speaking "architectonic", but somewhat "pre-architectonic", a sum total of elements that are more morphological and decorative than truly tectonic and structural, the elements contemporary architects conceived of as the domain of their real competence. Nontheless, whether it was in its Spanish or French version (more developed), Sagredo’s book played its role in the history of the definition of the system of the orders and of this type of text. Admittedly, Sebastiano Serlio gave to it its definitive form, and Vignola dominated it, but the "two Sagredo" were the first two printed links in the chain. Indeed, it was believed that Serlio himself had used not only pedestal measurements from the French edition but also the representation of "entire" orders, taken from the pedestal up to the cornice of the entablature. Similarly, it was supposed that the French treatise contained in the Codex Fol. A 45 of the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen at Kassel, attributable to the "Anonimo Mantovano A", a Flemish artist writing in French, perhaps the Frisian painter Hermann Postma (Posthumus), might have used the Spanish edition of Sagredo (the volute of the Ionic capital and profile drawings of the bases), even if it seems more logical that the second French edition of 1539 might have been used, even after Serlio’s Quarto libro was published.
As we have shown, the first French editor introduced a series of additions in the Spanish text, a series whose authors remain to be identified (these names have successively been suggested: Simon de Colines for the text and Geoffroy Tory, Mercure Jollat and Oronce Fine for the illustrations, or even Guillaume Philandrier and Jean Goujon). These additions have to do with the orders as organic units, the ratios of proportion of column spacings under entablatures or with arches, the superimposition of the orders of Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and "Tuscan" columns and the necessary optical corrections, with a new xylograph inspired by Cesare Cesariano’s edition (1521). These additions are no more than the prolongation of the line already opened up in 1526 but also enable one to compose and construct an architectural structure in a real space, measurable and understandable. There also exist a few differences between the first and second French edition, small changes in the formatting and the correction of a few misprints. Noticeable in the 1539 edition are new illustrations of bases, with a system of circles in the profiles, simplifying the perception of the cornice outlines (ff. 25-27) which seems to have been borrowed from the Quarto libro by Serlio (1537) and which accentuate the analytic character of the few additions of the first 1536 edition. In a sense, in spite of this unity, we must think practically of two "French Sagredo", and even perhaps of two French authors for the additions. A second xylograph (f. 30), which also belongs to the French additions, explains the system of the spiral’s curve in connection with the volute of the Ionic capital, also far from Serlio’s propositions. It also expresses the oblique modification of the dentils of the structure of an Ionic portal (f. Eii of 1526 and f. 41vº of 1536), an element that was taken up by the Castilian edition in 1541, renewing its illustrations based on the model of the first two French editions, but which disappeared in the following Spanish editions.
Most of these additions, once they were translated into Castilian in Portugal, constituted a part of the later editorial history of the book. They are of questionable authenticity although substantial, still problematical due to the limited number of copies of some of its editions. In other words, editions of a "Sagredo" who was no longer simply the Diego de Sagredo, native of Burgos and active in Toledo.
Fernando Marías (Universidad Autónoma, Madrid) – 2011
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