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

Elevation of the Château de Charleval

c. 1570
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Androuet du Cerceau's last years must have been largely occupied with the preparation of the two volumes by which he is best known, Les plus excellents Bastiments de France, published in 1576 and 1579. They are our best source of information for many sixteenth-century houses that have since been altered or destroyed, although Androuet du Cerceau is often unreliable in completing unfinished buildings according to his own fancy and in adding ornament of his own invention to existing structures. This beautiful publication, which was dedicated to the Queen Mother, was highly influential over a long period. The original drawings for it, carefully executed on vellum, are in the British Museum. The book illustrates a number of earlier chateaux, including even medieval monuments like Vincennes and Creil, but its chief importance lies in recording sixteenth-century buildings which were later altered or never built. To these categories belong two schemes for Charleval and Verneuil. Charlevar was begun for Charles IX as a 'Maison de chasse' in 1570, but almost nothing was actually built.

The elevations of both Chareleval and Verneuil are in the highest degree fantastic. Classical forms are used in the most wanton manner. Windows or niches interrupt entablatures, pediments are broken in varied ways, voussoirs are twisted, rustication spreads over pilasters, and the whole surface is covered with grotesque ornament.

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