BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
| Androuet du Cerceau, Jacques
| Leçons de perspective positive
| Paris, M. Patisson, 1576
| Paris, Ensba, Les 1171
The author tells
us that the Leçons de perspective positive was published
in 1576, as a sort of accompaniment to the collection of the Plus
excellents bâtiments de France. They are made up of sixty
lessons set out on twelve pages and a plate of illustrations for each
one. A second known edition, dated 1676, apparently was printed as a
reissue of the first, no later than the last years of the 16th century.
This work was not widely circulated during its period, or during later
ones. It was translated only into English, by John Thorpe, during the
first half of the 17th century; and at that it remained handwritten.
Egnatio Danti mentions the author among those who wrote about perspective,
under the Italianised name Andreotti, but does not take advantage of
the subject matter of his work.
The author dedicates
his labours to Catherine de'Medici and he hopes that "[son] œuvre
[…lui] sera agréable et de plaisir". What could be
more strange for a book on perspective, a subject which was often rebuffed
by the artists themselves! Nevertheless he considers, as for several
of his other treatises, that his book has a didactic reach and would
allow "par soi et sans autre maître que ce livre, [d'] apprendre
aisément les principes de cet art". Thus he hopes to set
out the "principes et leçons familières de l'art
et secrets de perspective", making no mention of the geometric
and Euclidian foundations of its practice. Moreover the Leçons
contain no summary of the notions of geometry used and in fact the terms
employed are not always mathematical ones. He also expresses his desire
to explain publicly the method used for the illustrations in the Plus
excellents bâtiments coming out then. It is not easy to determine
the text's public: it is a text of workshop practices but whose publication
seems to be necessary due to the impossibility of learning these practices
in workshops, or in some workshops.
du Cerceau intends that perspective should be used for drawing and for
figurative arts in general. For him, it does not have much application
in the domaine of practical architecture even if there "y a une
grande affinité entre ces sciences d'architecture et de perspective",
which he does not demonstrate otherwise. Perspective is in fact the
"vrai truchement et juge de l'œuvre de portraiture",
and it permits the painter to come to the end of his idea, to verify
the conformity of his work. It offers the painter the occasion to "observer
la raison et ordonnance de perspective". It "n'est pas un
miroir […qui] fait les choses[…] meilleures ou pires qu'elles
ne sont mais seulement représente au vrai […] les choses
telles qu'elles apparaissent à l'œil". Du Cerceau does
not clam the scientific character of perspective, on the contrary he
affirms its positive, therefore practical, aspect; he uses its verifiable
character and therefore judges that it serves to gauge the appropriateness
of the work with the mimetic dogmas in force at that time.
The method presented,
for here there is only one, that of the "tiers-points" is
a universal method which would permit its readers "ayant bien
entendu ce petit livret, [d’avoir] l’intelligence de tous
les livres de ceux qui en ont écrit". We owe it to Egnatio
Danti in his opinion, still very widespread today, that the methods
put forth by Androuet du Cerceau and Jean Cousin come from Serlio who
apparently learned them from Baldassare Peruzzi. It is true that Serlio
shows a "pratique" using two "tiers points" equidistant
from the principal point on the horizon. However, Viator seems to be
the most immediate source. Du Cerceau also borrows a good part of his
vocabulary from him. The interest in the little collection of perspective
plates of Toul continued, moreover, in the French milieus, as the translation
of père Martellange (Paris, BnF, Fr. ms. 19065), published in
1626, attests. He attaches considerable importance to the point of view
and puts forth his methods of representation according to what he calls
"l'assiette", that is, eye level: "haute, moyenne et
basse, ainsi nommées au respect de l'oeil du spectateur".
He shows the objects in four views: straight on, a side view, a right
angle, a left angle. In his vocabulary one will also take note of the
appearance of the term "fuyant" (22 to 25 and 50 to 53). In
translating Serlio, Jean Martin had used the expression "figure
fuyante" as a simple synonym of "figure en raccourci".
Androuet du Cerceau
is also well known for having been among the first to apply a method
of formulating parallel perspective. It is found particularly in the
plates of the Plus excellents bastiments de France in the overhead
view of the estates which introduces each illustrated description. But
he says nothing about this method in his treatise on perspective. Even
the last lesson, devoted to "dessins de bâtiments et paysages"
makes use of the central perspective developed all through his remarks.
Let us finally notice that Serlio had outlined its main features in
1545 (Book II, f. 38).
(Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Centre Koyré, Paris)
J. Androuet du Cerceau, Les plus excellents bastiments de France...,
Paris, D. Thomson (ed.), Paris, Sand & Conti, 1988 (Documentary
chronology and general bibliography, pp. 310-316).
J. Androuet du Cerceau, Lecciones de perspectiva positiva,
translated by L. Casado, Madrid, Xarait Ediciones, 1980.
H. von Geymüller, Les Du Cerceau. Leur vie et leur œuvre
d’après les nouvelles recherches, Paris/London, Rouam/Wood & Co, 1887, pp. 162-176.
K. J. Höltgen, "An unknown manuscript translation by John
Thorpe of du Cerceau’s Perspective", E. Chaney & P. Mack (ed.), England and the
Continental Renaissance, Essays in honour of J. B. Trapp, Woodbridge, Boydel Press, 1990, pp. 215-228.