Project XXXIX (fols. 40v-42r)

I have already mentioned that Serlio here mistakenly leaps from XXXIV to XXXIX.

It appears that this project is a synthesis of all the preceding projects, a luxuriant hybrid, ranging from French and Italian styles to extreme Gothic and Mannerism. The beginning of the commentary lists these features, features which are suitable for the solemnity of ‘people of importance’, combining the quintessentially 16th century Italian concept of ‘look[ing] beautiful from a distance’ (think merely of Palladio) with the evocation of a fantastical crown of roofs, towers and cupolas, features which immediately call to mind Chambord. The project is a full realisation of such ideas. Typical of Serlio’s imagination is the imposing octagonal central body containing a single sala whose height corresponds to that of two stories, illuminated from above by Serlianas which give onto terraces on the first floor, and the third-floor sala supported on reinforced beams and covered with a segmented cupola. These ideas were only to find concrete application in the late Baroque.

The plan is an extension (with the addition of a further ring of structures emerging from the terrace/platea) of Project XXXII but surrounded by a square of low buildings for the Court, borrowed ‘lock, stock and barrel’ from the previous project. The elevation repeats the scheme of XXX-XXXI with the separation of the Rustic ground floor/pedestal from the bodies of the building placed on top of it, but all however centralised in a square. Thus wings project both at the front and to the rear, whilst the corners of the larger square of the base are marked by scalar turrets with hemispherical cupolas. This architectural discussion fits for the plan and the elevation of the ground floor, the form of which is clearly changed to autonomous structures on the platea. The basic plan is once again a ‘variant’ of the Poggio Reale type, with Rustic porticoes stretched out between the scalar turrets on the corners. The visual connection between the ground floor and the upper bodies of the building is in fact these square towers and, more subtly, the central sala, whose height of two floors is revealed by the large Serlianas. But the fundamental distributive impression is one of the superimposition of a complex building with a limited perimeter upon a building with a square base, opened to a great degree by its porticoes but strengthened by its Rusticity. It is almost as if a proto-Renaissance French château like La Muette in St Germain was placed on top of the Palazzo del Te.

[Figure 186 - P. Chambige, La Muette (from Du Cerceau)]

Heydenreich first noted an anticipation of the ornamental forms of the Palazzo del Te in an architectural project by Leonardo (Windsor 12591 r, plan and ‘cavalier’ section). This design shows the superimposition of a sort of small square castle on the terrace/platea of a larger square building bounded by circular corner towers. It appears clear that Serlio’s project is derived from this or some similar design. Pedretti, developing an idea of Clark’s, dates the design to 1507 and refers to the period in which Leonardo was designing the villa in Milan for Charles d’Amboise and when he met Florimond Robertet, the future builder of Bury.

[F/note: Pedretti, C., Chronology…, pp. 49-52. Leonardo’s project has a precedent (or parallel) on fol.116v of Codex K, in which the upper building is crowned in turn by a pavilion. Heydenreich also dates the Windsor design to around 1505.]

The similarity between the project by Leonardo and that by Serlio even goes as far as the slightly raised level on which the whole edifice is to be built, reached by semi-circular flights of steps in Leonardo’s drawing and by a concave/convex flight of steps in Serlio’s.

[Figure 187 - Leonardo, Windsor design 12591 r (part: from Pedretti)]



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