One of the greatest architects of France in the pure Renaissance style, b. at Paris about 1510; d. there, 1571
Lescot, PIERRE, one of the greatest architects of France in the pure Renaissance style, b. at Paris about 1510; d. there, 1571. The very improbable report that he was never in Italy has been sufficiently refuted. Moreover, he was descended from the Italian family of Alessi. Francis I took him into his service, and, by this king and his successors, Lescot was rewarded with many honors and with a. benefice. At his death he was a commendatory abbot as well as Lord (sieur) of Clagny. With the active support of Francis I, the early Renaissance entered on a period of glorious prosperity, and in the later years of his reign displayed a distinctive character. From that time it rivalled the Italian Renaissance in its zenith, although, by meeting the demands of French taste, it became somewhat more ostentatious. Lescot proved its most brilliant exponent. For the decorations of his buildings he associated himself with the sculptor, Trebatti, a pupil of Michelangelo, and especially with the ablest plastic artist of the pure style, Jean Goujon. The perfection of their achievement depended to a great extent upon the harmonious combination of their mutual efforts. It has been thought that, even in architectural matters, Lescot was very dependent upon his friend, though the latter named him with Philibert de L’Orme as the most eminent architects of France, and the accounts for the building of the Louvre designate Lescot as the architect and Goujon as the sculptor. Francis I appointed him architect of the Louvre in 1546, and with this building his fame will always be connected. For remodeling the old bastions of the fortress into a residence, the celebrated Italian, Serlio, drew up a plan which he himself afterwards put aside in favor of Lescot’s design. Three sides of a square court were to be enclosed by living apartments of royal splendor, while the fourth or east side was probably destined to open with an arcade. Corner pavilions, remarkable for commanding height and adorned by pillars and statues, replaced the medieval towers.
The master was destined to finish only the west side and part of the south side. The building was two stories high with a richly ornamented attic crowned by a tasteful roof. In the ground story the windows were rounded; the small round windows over the portals (ails de bauf) afterwards became very popular. In the second story the windows are square and finished off with plain Renaissance pediments. Slightly projecting members and slabs of colored marble give life to the massive masonry. A peculiar effect was obtained by the sparing use of rough-hewn stone in the corner decorations. Goujon’s noble sculptures and the architectural ornaments, although numerous and splendid, were cleverly subordinated to the construction. The style corresponded to the “latest manner”
of Bramante, as it was-imitated in Italy by Sangallo, Peruzzi, Giulio Romano, etc.; it was now by Lescot, Goujon, de L’Orme, and some others, successfully adapted to French taste. The building of the Louvre was carried on with greater or less ability by several masters, and was finally completed under Napoleon I. The oldest parts of the palace are considered one of the greatest architectural achievements in France. “If among all the works of the French Renaissance we were to seek for the creations which possess in the highest degree qualities which were, so to say, the aim of the Renaissance, i.e. perfect proportion of members and details, we would always be attracted finally to Lescot’s court in the Louvre” (Geymuller). The rest of Lescot’s works are few in number; he appears not to have sought much for opportunities to build. Although, according to a poem of Ronsard, he busied himself zealously in early youth with drawing and painting, and, after his twentieth year, with mathematics and architecture, his wealth and the duties of his offices appear subsequently to have interfered with his artistic activity. His first achievements (1540-45) were the rood-screen in St-Germain-l’Auxerrois and the Hotel de Ligneris (now Carnavalet) in Paris. Here and in the design of the Fountain of Nymphs or Innocents (1547-9), he again owes a great part of his moderate success to Goujon’s assistance. The classical simplicity of this work had the misfortune to be undervalued during the barocco and rococo period, and received properrecognition only from a later age.