ANDROUET DU CERCEAU, Jacques the Elder
(b. ca. 1515, ?, d. 1584, Annecy)

Biography

French architect and engraver, founder of a dynasty of architects and decorators which lasted almost till the mid eighteenth century. The nickname "Cerceau" comes from the emblem of a ring that appears in lieu of a signature on engravings by Jacques Androuet.

According to his eighteenth-century biographer, Dezallier d'Argenville, Jacques Androuet was enabled to go to Italy by Georges d'Armagnac, who was ambassador in Rome from 1539 to 1544. The earliest trace of Androuet du Cerceau is supplied by a permission to publish volumes of engravings which was granted to him in 1545 by Francis I. One such volume was brought out at Orleans in 1549. He was apparently still in Orleans in 1551, but his first book of architecture, which appeared in 1559, was printed in Paris and dedicated to Henry II. From this time onwards he seems to have enjoyed considerable favour at Court. For some years after 1560 he worked for Renée de France, Duchess of Ferrara, for whom he made alterations to the castle of Montargis, and who appears to have saved him from persecution on account of his Protestantism. In the 1570s he was employed by Charles IX, and was supported by Catherine de' Medici, to whom he dedicated several of his books. He is last recorded in 1584.

Though he was referred to by contemporaries as 'architecte' and was even appointed 'architecte du roi', he is remembered especially for his suites of engravings produced from 1549 (beginning with a suite of Triumphal arches) from his printshop in Orléans, which he moved to Paris in 1559, and for his notable Livre d'architecture (dedicated to Henri II, 1559). By far the greater part of his engravings are of decoration, in the form of grotesques or of designs for furniture or architectural detail. In these he was mainly inspired by Italian sources, and many of them are copies of traceable originals. They show a high degree of fantasy in the treatment both of decorative detail and of architectural elements.

His two sons Jean Baptiste Androuet du Cerceau (1544/47-1590) and Jacques Androuet du Cerceau the Younger (ca 1556-1614) worked for Henri III and Henri IV. His daughter married the architect Jean de Brosse, father of Salomon de Brosse, architect of the Palais du Luxembourg, Paris. Jean Baptiste's son, Jean Androuet du Cerceau, was an outstanding Parisian architect of his generation.