Author(s) Le Muet, Pierre
Traicté des cinq ordres d’architecture, desquels se sont seruy les Anciens. Traduit du Palladio Augmenté de nouuelles inuentions pour l’art de bien bastir…
Imprint Paris, F. Langlois, 1645
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les 646
Subject Carpentry, Doors, Orders


     Pierre Le Muet was the first person to distribute Palladio's treatise in France. Contrary to Fréart de Chambray in 1650, he did not give an integral translation of the Italian architect's treatise, but only a translation of the first book, revised and corrected (Traicté des cinq ordres... Traduit du Palladio Augmenté de nouvelles inventions pour l’art de bien bastir). This handy manual, like his small Vignola published a few years earlier (1632), intended for practitioners, is a small format (octavo) and no longer a folio. Its publication was entrusted to François
The work opens on a dedication to Jacques Tubeuf, advisor to the king, superintendant and controller-general of the queen's buildings, and continues with the chapters of the first of the Quattro libri over to the orders (chapters 12-19). It also includes chapter 20 on abuses ("Degli abusi"). The dedication, the foreword to Palladio's readers and the chapters on materials were logically deleted. The second part, with a distinct title page, sets the text of chapters 21 to 29 in the French manner. They treat galleries, entrances, halls, chambers, doors and windows, fireplaces, etc. In the word to the reader Le Muet justifies his choice, "pource que j’ay reconnu que les mesures qu’il [Palladio] prescript en beaucoup de choses sont extremement differentes de celles qu’on pratique aujourd’huy en France, au lieu de traduire precisement ce qu’il dict, et qui seroit ce me semble inutile, je te donne seulement les reigles et preceptes de ce qui est en usage parmy nous" (p. 115). Le Muet thus suggests a partial version and a French interpretation of the technical chapters, in one word a "Palladio à l'usage des Français". His translation is nonetheless literal and precise: the interpreter annotates only by adding traditional French terms. The word "orlo" is thus often translated by the sequence "orle, ourlet ou plinte", etc.
All the illustrations were reengraved; moreover, inverted in relation to the original Italian edition. Because of the small format Le Muet was obliged to add distinct plates for the variations of the members suggested on either side of the main illustration of the pedestal and the base in the original folio. Likewise he deleted the measurements in the plates illustrating the capital and entablature and repeated them in the following plate where he reproduced separately the entablature without ornament and the capital. For the Corinthian and composite orders, he simplified the engravings of the entablature and the capital: he extracted from them the details of the soffit and the ichnograph of the half-capital, devoting a particular plate to them which this time precedes the main plate.
The second part of the treatise touches on the last nine chapters of book I, which successively deal with loggias, entrances, halls and chambers (chap. 21), floors and ceilings (chap. 22), ceiling heights of chambers (chap. 23), various kinds of vaults (chap. 24), doors, windows (chap. 25) and their ornamentation (chap. 26), fireplaces (chap. 27), stairways (chap. 28), and finally roofings (chap. 29). It is a freely adapted translation, as Le Muet had indicated in his word to the reader, since residences and construction practices were not the same in France and Italy. In addition, all of Palladio's chapters are subdivided into several chapters, for the text was considerably enlarged and abundantly illustrated. The original version is in fact less corrected than developed. Probably the orientation, the measurements of the galeries, the proportions of the halls and of the chambers were purely and simply revised according to French customs; nevertheless Palladio's treatise furnishes the framework and the fundamental precepts. But Le Muet was not satisfied to substitute French traditions for Italian customs when there was a difference of practice and technique; he reasoned above all as a French architect. The layout of the main building is a French invention, with the decoration subordinate to it. The living space is thus organized around the hall and the apartments of the master and the mistress of the residence. Whereas the rooms described by Palladio are quite undifferentiated, paved with tiles or stone, and vaulted in various ways, the French apartment, connected to the hall, brings together rooms of variable size and plan (chamber, antichamber, cabinet). A long development on room proportions with five illustrated examples follows, preceded itself by a brief chapter on the proportion of the antichamber. The rooms have wooden flooring and a wooden ceiling, paving being reserved rather for galeries and vestibules. Thus quite naturally Palladio's text putting the accent on tiling and vaults was considerably rearranged (pp. 128-130). The two chapters on doors and windows (I, 25) and their ornamentation (I, 26) were considerably filled out. After page 166, Le Muet enriched especially his text, with a series of fifteen plates ("Portes et Croisees selon les cinq ordres d’Andre Palladio").
He treated the fireplaces, less necessary in Italy because of the climate, according to their location (chamber, cabinet and wardrobe); the technical aspects were not forgotten (flues). Le Muet illustrates the roofing called "à la française", made of tile and especially slate. The following plates, extremely detailed, representing attics, inhabitable or not, and the plate with a half-timbered house were taken from his Maniere de bastir (1623). The Frenchman added more modern models of mansard roofs called "à la Mansart", which he had adopted himself a few years earlier. When it comes down to it, Palladio's chapter on stairways- the last one in book I- is the only chapter to have been followed rather faithfully. For the format requirements already mentioned above, Le Muet had to isolate the different types brought together on two plates in Palladio's work. The only precision that Le Muet added- a fundamental one: the location of the stairway in the building.
This partial translation of Palladio's Book I was reissued two years later in 1647, at Pierre Mariette's printing shop. Three Dutch counterfeit editions published in Amsterdam in 1646, 1679 and 1682 certified its success. As early as 1646 the book was translated into Dutch; it was also published in London in 1663 and then incessantly reissued (1668, 1676, 1683, 1700, etc.). The fate of the work of Palladio and Le Muet in Northern Europe can probably be explained by its very particularity: revised and corrected in the French style, this version was more appropriate than the Italian one for practitioners whose ideas and techniques, owing to the climate, were close.

Frédérique Lemerle (Centre nationale de la recherche scientifique,
Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2008

Critical bibliography

M. Préaud, P. Casselle, M. Grivel & C. Le Bitouzé, Dictionnaire des éditeurs d’estampes à Paris sous l’Ancien Régime, Paris, Promodis, 1987, pp. 378-379.

F. Lemerle, "L’Accademia di architettura e il trattato di Palladio (1673-1674)", Annali di architettura, 12, 2000, pp. 117-122.

F. Lemerle, "Vitruve, Vignole, Palladio et les autres: traductions, abrégés et augmentations au XVIIe siècle", Architecture et théorie. L'héritage de la Renaissance, Tours, Cesr, June 3-4, 2009/Paris, École d'architecture de Paris-Malaquais, June 5, 2009.

F. Lemerle, "À l’origine du palladianisme européen : Pierre Le Muet et Roland Fréart de Chambray", Revue de l’art, 178, 2012-4, p. 43-47.

F. Lemerle & Y. Pauwels, Architectures de papier. La France et l’Europe (XVIe -XVII e siècles), Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, p. 116.

C. Mignot, "Palladio et l’architecture française du XVIIe siècle", Annali di architettura, 12, 2000, pp. 107-115.