Project XXX-XXXI (fols. 33v-35r)
Once again Serlio signifies a single project with two numbers. Like the previous project, this too was apparently presented to François I as a pavilion. Whilst the forms of the elevation appear on the one hand more adapted to the architectural tradition of Fontainebleau, on the other the building in itself seems less appropriate as a pavilion. It is presented rather as a bizarre ‘small villa’ in which French and Italian (notably Roman, Mantovan and Venetian) elements are not so much fused as juxtaposed in a laborious manner, culminating in the colossal pyramidal roof which even Serlio is conscious is extraordinary, particularly from a constructional point of view. Serlio also underlines the carpentry element of the project, including the addition of a Vitruvian gloss (II.ix) with his advice about the use of deal and larch as opposed to different sorts of oak. The plan repeats with very few variations Project VIII, Serlio’s most typically Venetian ‘small villa’. The elevation however appears as an anthology of the author’s most diverse architectural experiences, all applied to an exceedingly original building. The large terrace above the Rustic portico/atrium, revealing (only on the first storey) the building’s fundamental structure of corps-de-logis with projecting wings, transforms the ground floor into a sort of gigantic pedestal, an impression which is intensified on the front by the Rustic Order and the modulation of its forms. The central motif of this façade, derivative as it is of the Palazzo del Te and Sansovino’s Venetian Palazzo Cornaro, is paralleled (even in its function as open atrium) by two of Palladio’s well known ‘lesser’ villas, the villa Pisani at Bagnolo begun in 1561 and Villa Caldogno at Caldogno, completed before 1570. The complex ornamentation, with niches and panels, of the ends to the loggia is a variation of a model of Rustic ornament in Book IV for a ‘façade of a building without any openings’, where Serlio states that ‘statues or other remains’ could be placed; obviously a clear reference to the taste of the circle around Raphael. The corresponding rear façade is however typically French with a syncopated rhythm of tall, narrow windows (with a width/height ration of 1:2.5, a ratio which Serlio expressly declares is ‘the custom in these parts’). This rear façade recalls in style, if not in detail, De l’Orme’s St. Maur.
However beyond these varied proposals (for the most part decorative) there are two striking overall features:
the importance of the terrace (enclosed within the corps-de-logis and the projecting wings), 15.5 feet deep - in other words a quarter of the depth of the whole building;
and the consequent clear division of the elevation into two distinct bodies, upper and lower.
Without in this case looking for a specific precedent, the project derives a Leonardo-esque air from these characteristics. Indeed it is very reminiscent of the studied urban solutions in codex B, where the clear distinction between the different levels of the buildings, with terraces/courtyards on varying levels, corresponds to the divers street levels and the complex urban system of canals/streets – see particularly fol.16r.
The longitudinal section illustrates Serlio’s great freedom and elasticity in dealing with the sizes of the rooms, making the most of the space available within the fixed floor heights by skilful playing with the room dimensions and by varying the heights of the floors of the mezzanines. This figure also reveals his ability to make the most of the typically French proportion of the large windows and the corresponding small windows, with their cross mullions of Gothic origin, to give the impression (without rhythmic breaks) of regularity on the façade masking the differing levels of the large rooms and the mezzanines. Indeed it is clear that some of the squares of the mullions of the windows correspond not to the rooms but to the infill of the lesser floors between the rooms and the mezzanines.
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