PHILANDER, Guillaume
(b. 1505, Châtillon-sur-Seine, d. 1565, Toulouse)


Guillaume Philander (or Philandrier), French writer and architect. The son of an old Burgundian family, he received a humanist education and acquired a reputation as a scholar. In 1533 he became secretary to Georges d'Armagnac, Bishop of Rodez. He prepared an annotated edition of Quintilian's work on oratory and, at his patron's instigation, took an interest in architecture. In 1536 he accompanied d'Armagnac when he went as ambassador to Venice and there met Sebastiano Serlio, who was to have a great influence on him. D'Armagnac was subsequently appointed ambassador to Pope Paul III and in 1539 left Venice for Rome, so giving his protégé the opportunity to frequent the humanist milieu of that city.

Philander participated in the work of the Accademia della Virtu and became famous in 1544 when he published his Annotationes, an illustrated Latin commentary on the ten volumes of Vitruvius' De architectura. Philander's work was a great success and was reprinted the following year in Paris. In 1552 he brought out an extended edition, which was accompanied by Vitruvius' text; this edition was reprinted in 1586 in Lyon and Geneva. Philander undertook to correct Vitruvius' text, many passages of which had become corrupted, by comparing the available manuscripts and editions and so attempting to shed light on obscure passages. The Annotationes are the commentary of a humanist, who, not content to quote from ancient, medieval or contemporary Greek, Latin and Arab authors, also used other sources, such as the study of coins, inscriptions and archaeological evidence. The great originality of his commentary lies in the Digression that precedes the third chapter of Book III. This is a veritable syntax of the five Classical orders, directly inspired by Book IV of Serlio's treatise, but showing a more logical and orthodox approach. He also proposed a construction method for the Ionic volute, borrowed from Albrecht Dürer. A faithful expression of the artistic ideas current at that time in the circles of Vitruvius's followers in Rome, the Annotationes made a real contribution to the understanding of De architectura. Daniele Barbaro and Claude Perrault both referred to Philander's work.

Travel had given Philander first-hand knowledge, not only of the ancient monuments of Rome but also those of Naples, Verona, Ravenna and other sites. He was both curious and critical, interested in such works as Florence Cathedral and the designs of contemporary masters in Rome. He became friendly with Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and Pirro Ligorio.

In 1544 Philander returned to France with d'Armagnac, becoming canon of Rodez in 1554 and archdeacon in 1561. He continued to take an interest in architecture and apparently supervised the completion and decoration of Rodez Cathedral. The extraordinary Renaissance crown (c. 1562) of the building's principal façade is attributed to him: a complete Roman Renaissance church façade is set over the rose window of an otherwise plain Gothic west front, in total defiance of scale and context.