Author(s) Sambin, Hugues
Title Œuvre de la diversite des termes...
Imprint Lyon, J. Durand, 1572
Localisation Paris, Ensba, 1491 F 0051 F°
Subject Atlants, Caryatids, Orders, Terms


     Several exhibitions, in Dijon and then at the Musée de la Renaissance in Écouen, have familiarized us with Hugues Sambin’s original work. He was active in Dijon during the second half of the 16th century. He was a joiner and an architect, trained in the very fertile environment at Fontainebleau and at other places, and familiar with the work of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau. He carried out some significant buildings in Dijon (Maison Milsand) and in Besançon (the façade of the town hall).
The Œuvre de la diversite des termes is entirely devoted to anthropomorphic supports. Although Vitruvius mentions the caryatids and the atlantes in book I, the “termes” are rather rare in classical architectural theory; Vignola and Palladio did not mention them. On the other hand, they appeared frequently in Italian mannerist decoration (the “grotesques” made use of them readily, as did Lombard architecture of the second half of the 16th century) and they abound in the Fontainebleau variant (atlantes in the Grotte des Pins). Serlio gave some examples in the Quarto libro (1537) in the context of fireplaces alone. They became more numerous in the doors of the Extraordinario libro (1551) which was created in the French atmosphere of the first half of the 16th century. Androuet du Cerceau made use of them rarely during his whole career. And one is acquainted with the fate of the theme in northern Europe in the work of Vredeman de Vries, Dietterlin or Shute.
Sambin’s book, preceded by a collection engraved by Androuet du Cerceau, truly reveals the French architectural aesthetic of the period of the Pléiade. In fact he confronts two almost contradictory principles: a cult of invention, of creative “fureur”, of varied abundance, and a very strict demand to control this very free, multiform material. As in the work of Serlio, Bullant and du Cerceau, the tools of “mise en ordre” of diversity are precisely the “orders” of architecture. Here they play the role of “lieux communs” of ancient rhetoric. Thus the terms are classified according to the five categories henceforth considered classic: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and composite. But Sambin goes beyond the composite to “surcomposer”, proposing a sixth category which claims to create new forms by combining elements taken from the first five orders, including the “composite”, up until then considered perfectly equivalent to the others (p. 68). This method of creation founded on the principle of melding, mescolenza, is, other things being equal, Michaelangelo’s method, and also the one that Serlio attributes to the “fureur architectique” in the Extraordinario libro, and the one that De l’Orme practices with delight.
Six categories then for Hugues Sambin, six stylistic degrees which go crescendo from Tuscan simplicity to the extreme refinement of the “composé”. In each one, Sambin proposes three “termes” systematically, which means for him a couple formed by a masculine term and a feminine term. These eighteen couples are presented strictly: two engravings are matched on the back of the page and the first side of the following page, then a brief comment is printed on the back of that page, opposite a blank page which enables Sambin to create another verso/recto couple with the following “terme”. It only remains to account for the classifying, that is to understand which elements allowed the author to place his representations in such or such category. If it is easy to understand why the first terms, very rustic, belong to the Tuscan order (terms 1 to 3), if one is sometimes able to identify entablature decorations which evoke a triglyph and remind one of the Doric order (terms 4 to 6), if it is clear that the decorative abundance and the formal complexity continue to increase, it is on the other hand impossible to distinguish exactly what in the last couples indicates a Corinthian essence - composite or composed- all the more so since certain details like the drops of the architrave, a priori Doric, often reappear in the Ionic or Corinthian orders. In fact, the strict arrangement disappears under the new details of the forms: sculpture wins out over architecture, and in the entablatures, the Vitruvian ornamental repertoire gives way to a confusing syntactical freedom.
The Œuvre de la diversite des termes has not been reedited, even if not all the copies are perfectly identical. The book was no doubt used by many ornament-workers, joiners and chest-carvers; its direct impact on fine architecture nevertheless appears limited. It was still being quoted in 1624, next to Boillot’s book on terms, in the Architecture françoise des bastimens particuliers of Louis Savot and the Traité de l’architecture by Nicolas Catherinot (1688°. But the esthetics behind it, that of a sublime ideal founded on abundance, opulence, which, in embryonic form in Ronsard, becomes exaggerated in Jodelle and at the end of the century, was hardly in place in architecture at the time when Salomon de Brosse was building the Luxembourg.

Yves Pauwels (Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) - 2004

Critical bibliography

E. Berckenhagen, "Hugues Sambin und der Anonymus Destailleur", Berlineer Museen, 2, 1969, pp. 65-74.

A. Erlande-Brandenburg et al. (ed.), Hugues Sambin. Un créateur au XVIe siècle (vers 1520-1601), Les Cahiers du Musée National de la Renaissance, I, Paris, RMN, 2001.

E. Forssman, Säule und Ornament. Studien zur Problem des Manierismus in den nordischen Säulenbücher und Vorlageblättern des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, Stockholm/Uppsala, Almqvist & Wiksell, 1956.

M. Guillaume et al. (ed.), Hugues Sambin, catalogue of the exhibition of the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Dijon, Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1989.

H.-S. Gulczynski, L’architecture à Dijon de 1540 à 1620, Diss., Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1997.

H.-S. Gulczynski, "L’Œuvre de la Diversité des Termes, de Hugues Sambin à Lyon en 1572", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire vive, 2004, pp. 462-465.

J. Thirion, "Les termes de Sambin, mythe et réalité", Art, objets d’art, collections. Hommage à Hubert Landais, [Paris], Blanchard, 1987, pp. 151-159.

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

Y. Pauwels, "Vitruvianisme et ‘réduction’ architecturale au XVIe siècle", H. Vérin & P. Dubourg-Glatigny (ed.), Réduire en Art. La technologie de la Renaissance aux Lumières, Paris, Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme, 2008, pp. 97-114.

Y. Pauwels, Aux marges de la règle. Essai sur les ordres d’architecture à la Renaissance, Wavre, Mardaga, 2008, pp. 109-111.