Project XXIX (fols. 31v-33r)

The final series of seven projects for the King’s villas is without doubt the most inventive and fantastical of the whole book. And this arises most of all from the mixture of elements typical of French taste of the early 16th century (examples of which could be found on the oldest parts of Fontainebleau) with suggestions for the most outrageous Mannerism of the second half of the 16th century. Added to these features, there is here (more than anywhere else in the book) the most clearly demonstrable references to Leonardo’s architectural ideas.

These complex elements can be typically summed up in the bath pavilion ‘in the form of a grotto’ which was to have been built (according to Du Colombier/D’Espezel) on a bridge in the ‘Grand Jardin’ in Fontainebleau (the only element which would correspond to Serlio’s garden/fruit garden). There is no doubt that the plan is derived from designs by Leonardo, namely, those at the top of fol.270v in the Arundel codex, a folio which clearly deals with the projects for the château at Romorantin (1517-18), as stated in my discussion in Chapter II, note 5. This demonstration of Serlio’s use of Leonardo here confirms the soundness of Heydenreich’s theory that Leonardo’s sketches are of case…trasmutate (transmutated…houses), as Leonardo’s annotations on the same folio attest. These sketches show moveable, prefabricated wooden pavilions for use by the Court in the great park around Romorantin created from the draining of the land between the Beuvron, the Sauldre and the Cher. Heydenreich correctly connects these sketches both with the ‘pavilions’ designed by Leonardo for the Court of Lodovico ‘il Moro’, for which there are many designs in codices B,H and the Atlanticus, and with garden pavilions, evidence for which is the wooden pavilion in the centre of the ‘Jardin de la Reine’ in Blois, a pavilion with a marble fountain inside it and built as early as 1503 (cf. Gebelin, F., op. cit., p.56). Similarly the designs of a plan and a section in Cod. B fol.12r (which Leonardo describes generically as for a ‘garden of the Duchess of Milan’ and for the ‘maze of the Duke of Milan’) are generally seen as referring to the bath pavilion with small cupola built in the garden of the Castello di Pavia.

[Figure 178 - Leonardo, Cod. Arundel 270v (part: from Pedretti)]

The specific use of the term ‘pavilion’ as an architectural word, embracing even wooden structures but beyond the definition as military tent, is significant also from the perspective of the history of the language. Whilst the word ‘pavilion’ develops in a parallel manner (from the Latin term papilio) in both Italy (‘padiglione’) and France (‘pavillon’ or ‘pavelion’), and is used to mean the great tent of the sovereign


or military leader, the change of meaning (clearly linked to a specific change in Court life in northern Italy and in France) occurs first in Italy with Leonardo, followed by Serlio and Vasari (the first two texts to be cited in Tommaseo-Bellini) and subsequently in France where the architectural use of the world ‘pavillon’ is recorded in Godefroy, in a document in Valenciennes in 1566, and in Du Cerceau (1576).

Thus Serlio, basing himself on an exceedingly novel idea of Leonardo’s for the park at Romorantin, in fact returns to the original model, in other words he unites a pavilion with a bath house. And with this Serlio took a step which was to have a decisive influence on French Court style in the second half of the 16th century. This linking of the pavilion to the Roman ‘grotto’ marks in fact the transition from an architecture which was characteristically temporary and tied to carpentry, to a solid Rustic structure, extremely ‘picturesque’ in the full Mannerist style. The stufette (‘bath houses’), nympheums and grottoes built during Raphael’s time in Rome, of which the garden in the Palazzo del Te was the extraordinary prototype, appear at Fontainebleau, in their most typical form, in the Grotte des Pins and, in pavilion form, in Serlio’s design. As for the Grotte de Pins, whilst comparison with the pavilion argues to some extent in favour of Serlio’s authorship, a strong argument against this is the fact that Primaticcio was well qualified having learnt his art in the sale under construction at the Palazzo del Te. As for the pavilion in its graphic form, it must indeed have struck the imagination of the artists of the School of Fontainebleau. This is proved by, amongst other things, its appearance (in various forms which barely diverge from Serlio’s design) in the Augustus and the Sibyl by Antoine Caron held in the Louvre.

[Figure 179 - A. Caron, Augustus and the Sibyl, Paris, Louvre]

[F/note: It is not clear whether the fact that Caron lards his pictures with convex/concave flights of steps (Chastel, A., op. cit., p.28) should be attributed to Serlio’s influence or to knowledge of the Château of Anet. It is however very probable that the Serlian influence on Caron’s architectural scenographies came directly via Serlio himself or indirectly via Paris Bordon (cf. Chapter I).]

The details of the project are extremely refined. Noteworthy, for instance, is Serlio’s accurate study of the various functions of the different rooms, his consummate use of available space, and the precise calculation of the internal circulation (the baths proper, to the right of the central axis, and the rooms for resting, to the left). The authentic character of the Roman ‘grotto’ is present in the treatment of the central sala, as a direct result of the atmospheric lighting from above through the chamfered windows in the podium of the cupola of the pavilion. Serlio makes a slight error in the commentary on fol.32v in defining the section E as being of the hot room. E is in fact the disrobing room.



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