Paris - The Louvre Of Lescot And Goujon
( Originally Published 1921 )
IT was a desire to make an effect before his old rival, Charles-Quint, that caused Francois I to rebuild the Louvre. The emperor was about to make a ceremonial visit to Paris, and the king resolved not to receive him in the old Tournelles, but in the ancient, historic palace of his ancestors, on the Seine. The Louvre was falling into decay and, in order to hide its decrepitude, vast sums were spent upon repainting and regilding and upon the hanging of tapestries to hide the crumbling walls. But when all was ready Francois, finding the palace still far from worthy of himself or of his illustrious guest, decided to throw down the whole structure and to rebuild, within the same limits, but on an entirely new plan.
The demolition of the grosse tour alone took five months and cost a prodigious amount of money. The tower was regretted by the populace, who missed the excitement of seeing nobles imprisoned there, and its disappearance marked an epoch in the history of France. " C'etait demolir l'histoire elle-meme," says Martin in his Histoire de France, " e'etait la monarchie de la renaissance abbatant la vielle royaute f eodale."
We are used to thinking of the approach to the Louvre as from the Place du Carrousel, from the old court of the Tuileries, now transformed into a garden. In order to see the Louvre as Francois I conceived it and to follow its growth through the centuries of its development we must quite reverse the usual process of thinking and approach the Louvre from Saint-Germain-'Auxerrois, remembering that the Cite was the centre of Paris in those days, and that neither the Tuileries, nor the garden, nor the Concorde, nor the Champs Elysees, nor the Etoile existed for Francois I and that in his day Paris was a little place and that all behind the crumbling chateau of Philippe Auguste was without the walls and open country.
This oldest part of the Louvre, this so greatly admired Renaissance facade, lies before us to the left of the central Pavilion de l'Horloge. Conceived by Francois I and completed by his son, Henri II, it is still the handsomest piece of architecture that the Louvre has to show, and it ranks as the most perfect monument of Francois' time.
The king was so pleased with it that he rewarded his architect by making him a canon of Notre-Dame, abbot of Clermont, and court counsellor.
The king's architect was Pierre Lescot's, a Frenchman of Italian origin. Lescot had travelled in Italy when Francois I engaged him. The chief sculptor was Jean Gou jon, a genius whom Lescot had discovered, it was said, at work upon the doors of Saint-Maclou, at Rouen. Henri II confirmed this excellent choice and the two artists share the honours of the original wing.
From 1540 to 1559 were erected the buildings of the southwest angle of the court with the Pavillon de l'Horloge, which Lemercier finished fifty years later. This pavilion marked the limit of Lescot's plan and joined the new palace to the remaining walls of the mediaeval chateau of Philippe Auguste, which seem to have stood until Richelieu pulled them down after deciding to quadruple the original plan.
Lescot's work consisted of two buildings, forming two angles, with a principal entrance facing the river. The elaborate facade of the main building faced the court of honour; the other side of the building, which is quite plain in comparison, belonged to the court of service. The second building formed a long wing which runs out to the quay and terminates in the two ornate balconies with grills. Lescot planned it, but Pierre Chambige carried it out, under Charles IX and Catherine de Medicis, and it is to their epoch that belongs the facade with its allegorical figures due to the chisel of Barthelemy Prieur.
The chef-d'oeuvre, then, of Lescot and Goujon is the facade of the court facing the east, in the left-hand angle of the square. It formed the model and gave the scale of the Louvre as originally planned. What Goujon modelled is worthy of close attention. He made the figures in half-relief of Mercury and Abundance, and the central group of two geniuses supporting the arms of the king, and the groups of chained slaves and the panels filled with trophies which separate the pilasters of the attic. He made the immense frieze of graceful festoons held by laughing babies, full of elegance and exquisite grace. In this facade magnificent order vies with rich decoration, Lescot seems not to have had the heart to stop the flow of the sculptor's genius which borders on the sumptuous, but the lines of the architecture which surround and frame these different morceaux from Goujon's chisel complete them so happily that one is, tempted to believe that Jean Goujon was the author of the whole plan and ensemble.
If this facade of the Louvre is Lescot's master-piece, it was on this palace also that Goujon displayed his greatest genius. The two continued their work throughout the reign of Francois I and during the twelve years' reign of Henri II, making the Louvre as beautiful within as it was without. In the Salle des Cent Suisses, where Francois I installed the antiques brought by Primaticcio, is the beautiful tribune with its ornaments, held up by four caryatids about thirteen feet high, considered one of the greatest works of Goujon. He decorated the Escalier Henri II, just without this fine room, with the chiffre, the arms, and the emblems of the king. Everywhere it is the device of Henri II and not that of his father which we see—the H with the two slender crescents in honour of Diane de Poitiers, the king's mistress. As Henri finished his father's work he stamped it with his mark.
Goujon is the great figure of the sculpture of the French Renaissance. The facts of his life are vague, but he seems to have been born in Paris in the first year of the reign of Francois I, to have studied in France and to have travelled in Italy, and his art is the most direct reflection of the opulent age which gave him birth.
The work attributed to him upon the exquisite Saint-Maclou, at Rouen, makes largely the sculptural distinction of that edifice. If Goujon did it, it would be his earliest known sculpture. His best-known work is his allegorical portrait of Diane de Poitiers, the favourite of two generations of kings, for the story goes that Francois loved her before Henri chose her for his favourite. Henri not only gave her Chenonceau, the most beautiful of the chateaux of the Loire, he built for her the Chateau d'Anet, whose beautiful facade is one of the cherished exhibits of the court of the Beaux-Arts, another object saved by Lenoir from the madness of the Revolution.
This portrait statue was one of a pair made by Goujon for the court of the Chateau d'Anet. Lenoir brought it to Paris and it is now in the Louvre (Salle Jean Goujon). It shows Diana, the huntress, reclining upon her stag, while her favourite dogs, Procion and Syrius, play about her. The urn upon which she lies stood, in its original setting, upon a pedestal flanked by four bronze dogs, and occupied the middle of a basin from which a fountain sprang.
Since the Greeks no sculptor had treated the nude with such science, such refinement, such souplesse. The head alone inspires a great eulogium. The arrangement of the beautiful hair, the finely chiselled profile, the expressive eyes, the ravishing drawing of the mouth and chin, and the delicately cut ear, all bespeak the utmost art. The body is distinctly that of a goddess—smooth, lithe, and long-limbed, it seems like that of some slender faun, alert and graceful, fitted for the fleetest chase, gifted with supernatural sense of the approach of quarry. Does she not even resemble her companion the stag? One must not seek in this statue the portrait of the mistress of the chateau—flattery cannot be pushed so far. The Duchess of Valentinois, whose face even in youth was not attractive, must at this time have passed her fiftieth year.
In the same room in the Louvre are the panels —the Descent from the Cross, and the Evangelists, from the rood-loft of Saint-Germain-'Auxerrois, destroyed in the XVIIIth century; and a bust of Henri II.
Goujon decorated the Chateau d'Ecouen, the Hotel Carnavalet, the Hotel de Ville, and the Porte Saint-Antoine, which contained the four reliefs representing la Seine, la Marne, l'Oise, and Venus born of the waves. These reliefs, after having figured for a time on Beaumarchais' house, are now in the Louvre.
The Louvre also contains the original sculpture from the celebrated Fountain of the Innocents, in which we see again the combined genius of Pierre Lescot and Jean Goujon. Originally placed against the Church of the Innocents, it formed a sort of tribune to celebrate the entrance of Henri II into Paris, upon his accession to the throne. It had then but three arcades, between which were the six familiar panels with the low reliefs of water nymphs to whom the fountain was dedicated. Each arcade was surmounted by a frieze in relief, while under the whole the water flowed in a thin sheet over another band of sculpture composed of tritons and genies of the sea.
It is this under frieze which the Louvre treasures, together with the panels of the original nymphs, for when the fountain was changed to its present form the reliefs were found to be menaced by the humidity and were taken to the museum. Modified in the form of a square pavilion or loggia, the fountain still stands in the centre of the Square des Innocents, in the Rue Saint-Denis. Pajou made the fourth face. The great beauty of the panels popularized the name of Goujon and established his supremacy in the art of low relief. The movement of the mythical figures of the frieze is joyous and abandoned, the composition is elegant and the drawing and modelling at once virile and suave.
The fountain itself stands in a shabby neighbourhood, off the beaten track of tourists, and is often overlooked, but is so fine that one feels well rewarded for the effort to look it up. Time and exposure have given to the stone a warm patine which adds greatly to its charm.
The environment gains also in significant memory as having been the scene of the assassination of Henri IV, who was killed by Ravaillac, while driving in an open carriage through the Rue de la Feronnerie, in the immediate vicinity, and the cemetery, upon the site of the present square, formed a sort of Campo-Santo, where, during six centuries, more than half the population of Paris was interred. Rich and poor seem to have been buried here, the rich in monumental tombs above ground but the poor were carried into deep vaults underground, sometimes twenty-five feet in depth and containing as many as fifteen hundred cadavers. La Fontaine was interred in this place, and here Madame de Pompadour's body was laid for a time. When the cemetery was suppressed, in the interest of the public health, the coffin of Louis XV's mistress was found and her family removed it to the new cemetery without the walls —the catacombs—where, says Soulavie, elle fut con fondue avec toes les morts.
We are constantly filled with admiration for the French spirit of reconnaissance—the word seems stronger than its English equivalents, which are not wholly equivalent—whereby old memories are conserved in the names of the streets. A church dedicated to the Holy Innocents, built under Louis le Gros, and torn down just previous to the Revolution, gives the clue to the name of the square and the street which runs along its southern boundary. The cemetery had existed from before the time of Philippe Auguste. The church and the cemetery with its cloisters, which served as charnel houses, presented a bizarre combination of Gothic arcades, chantry chapels, crosses, tombs, monumental tab-lets and frescoes. The church was closed in 1786 and the Marche aux Innocents camped upon the site of the cemetery, adapting the charnel houses as market stalls. Some of them still exist as taverns and stables. The Marche is now blotted out by the vast buildings of the modern Halles Centrales. The Rue Pierre Lescot runs past the west side of the Square des Innocents. The name ties together the association of the architect with the old fountain, the sole tangible survivor of the past.
The chevalier Bernin considered the fountain the most beautiful morceau in France, as much for its true proportions, the relation between architecture and figures, as for the delicacy of its abandoned naiads.
We have seen at Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois the Gothic choir modernized by the vandal architect, Bacarit, in 1715. At this time the noble rood-loft, designed by Pierre Lescot and sculptured by Jean Goujon was removed. Nothing remains of it but the panels contained in the museum of the Louvre.
The two artists worked together with singular felicity. After Francois I died, Henri II kept them on continuing the building and embellishment of the Louvre, and in 1548 the palace was so advanced that Henri II adopted it as the residence of the court. The palace was still small; it consisted of the original angle on the court, carried to its full height, and of the wing which runs out to the Seine, which had only one storey —the Galerie d'Apollon over it was added by Henri IV.
There is an entrance under the Pavilion de l'Horloge which conducts the visitor at once into the oldest part of the building. It stands unique and apart and commends itself as a complete little visit. Through a vestibule devoted to the inevitable checking of sticks and umbrellas, one passes at once into the famous Salle des Cariatides, in which Francois I installed the antiques which Primaticcio brought him from Italy. Francois intended it as a great low-celled room after the style of the ancients.
It was begun about 1546 by Pierre Lescot on the site of the chapel and grand' salle of Saint-Louis, where this prince condemned Euguerrand de Coucy to pay a penalty of twelve thousand livres parisis. The caryatids from which the room takes its name were ordered from Goujon in 1550, and were completed before the work on the room was abandoned, for this room was not carried out as first planned, but left unfinished until 1806, when Napoleon's architects, Percier and Fontaine, developed it into the highly ornate apartment it has now become. It is very grand and very consistent, but possibly Lescot's design gave more relief to the caryatids, which are clearly the feature.
During the reign of Henri II and the regency of Catherine de Medicis it served as antichambre to the queen's apartments and from its size and magnificence was the scene of many important events. Here, on August 19, 1572, Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Henri II and Catherine, was married to the young Protestant king, Henri of Navarre, afterwards Henri IV. Admiral Coligny and many other Huguenot leaders were present at the ceremony.
This marriage, Catherine pretended, was to crown and consummate the reconcilement of the two religions, but there is too much reason to believe that the king and his mother had from the first suggested this union with no other object than that of drowning the day of its celebration in the blood of their unsuspecting subjects.
As the day on which the marriage was to take place approached, the Huguenot gentlemen, and even numbers of the humbler orders who belonged to that persuasion, flocked to Paris from all quarters; and by the middle of August the capital had collected within its walls nearly all the persons of consequence in France attached to the new faith.
On the evening of Sunday the 17th the espousals of the royal pair were celebrated with becoming festivities in the ante-room of the apartments of the dowager queen; and on the following morning the marriage ceremony was performed on an elevated platform erected before the great central door of Notre-Dame, in the presence of a splendid company composed of both Catholics and Protestants. The celebrated De Thou, who was then a young man of nineteen and had come to Paris in the suite of the king of Navarre, was present on this occasion, as he has mentioned both in his Life and in his great historical work.
After the ceremony the bride and those of the company who were Catholics advanced to the high altar to hear mass, while Henri, Coligny, and the rest of the Protestants retired into the choir. On leaving the church the party repaired to the bishop's palace, beside the cathedral, where they dined and in the evening a supper and masked ball again collected the revellers in the grand hall of the Louvre, though most of the Protestants were restrained by the severity of their religious principles from attending this festivity.
Five days later, on the eve of Saint Bartholomew, the storm broke with the assassination of Admiral Coligny and at midnight on the 23rd Catherine precipitated the massacre by ordering the signal to be sounded from the belfry of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. The order was given in this room.
After the death of Henri IV his effigy in wax, then his body enclosed in its coffin, was exposed in the Salle des Cariatides. Under Louis XIII comedians, coming to France from Florence, gave performances and ballets in this room; here also (luring the regency of Anne d'Autriche a theatre was installed and, on October 24, 1658, Nicomede of Corneille, and Le Docteur Amoureux, of Moliere, a piece never printed and today lost, were presented. Moliere played the role of the doctor. After this performance Louis XIV authorized Moliere's troupe to take the name troupe de Monsieur, and to play in the Salle du Petit-Bourbon alternately with the Italian comedians.
After the death of Henri II, Catherine de Medicis conceived a horror of the old Tournelles, near which the king had been wounded, and in which he had breathed his last. The Tournelles appears to have been the alternative residence of the reigning monarch and would have been the logical dwelling of the dowager, a state of dubious importance to which the proud daughter of Lorenzo de Medicis looked forward as of probable long duration, since she was only forty years old at the time of the tragedy. She at once set about providing herself with a palace which should vie with the splendours of the palace of the reigning monarch, and in the meantime established herself with her children—there were seven living—in the Louvre. Francois II, a frail youth of sixteen years, was made the official king, while Catherine became the power behind the throne, exercising it the more mercilessly because of her long years of insignificance as the consort of a monarch whose whole life was bound up in his infatuation for another.
During the twenty-six years of her marriage with Henri II Catherine lived abandoned in the midst of the court. Finding no place in the heart of her spouse, which was completely dominated by the Duchess of Valentinois, she hoped as mother to gain her just ascendency ; but during ten years she hoped in vain, in complete sterility ; then she gave in rapid succession ten children to the king, without exercising the least influence over him. Her position was deplorable, in the constant presence of her rival, of whom the king made a third at their table. The queen suffered this indignity in silence. She had, on the other hand, a powerful adversary in Montmorency, the old high constable. So long as she had no children he urged Henri to repudiate her; when she be-came a mother he tried to rouse suspicions in the king as to her fidelity.
The death of the king opened to his widow a career of vengeance, but she knew how to restrain herself to the advantage of her ultimate interests. Diane de Poitiers was still an important figure, as mother-in-law to one of the princes of Lorraine, and Catherine wished to be at peace with this powerful family, allied to her own by the marriage of the reigning king, Francois II, with Mary Stuart, a niece of the Guises. Catherine contented herself for the moment with merely demanding of her old rival the choice chateau of Chenonceau on the Cher, giving her Chaumont in exchange. Towards Montmorency she preserved the same temperate attitude, biding her time.
While awaiting the construction of the Tuileries, which was to furnish her an abode whose dignity should express her own, the queen mother proceeded to enlarge the Louvre in a style commensurate with the large family it now contained. During the reign of her second son, Charles IX, the work was pushed actively by Pierre Chambige. It was at this epoch that was commenced the facade with the sculptures by Prieur, as well as the Petite Galerie (today the Galerie d'Apollon) and the Grande Galerie, parallel to the Seine, which is attributed to Thibaut Metezeau. Chambige erected a portico with rooms above it along the quay, connected with the original buildings by means of the one-storey wing which Lescot had planned. This wing served as a communication between the old logis de la reine and the new apartments of Catherine, under the Grande Galerie.
At the extremity of this wing opens the famous so-called balcony of Charles IX, facing the quay, where tradition says he fired upon the Huguenots, who, refusing to believe in the complicity of the king, were about to cross. the river and offer him their aid. The balcony bears the monogram of Louis XIII and Anne d'Autriche, and did not exist at the time of the massacre, but with its beautiful grills, its sculptured arch, its general air of antiquity, it will never shed completely the tradition of this horror.
The palace seems to have been filled with confusion and terror. Marguerite de Valois has given us in her memoirs an account of so much of the tragedy as fell under her own observation. While she lay asleep in her apartment, she was awakened by a violent knocking at the door, and a voice crying out, " Navarre! Navarre ! " " My nurse," says the queen, " thinking it was the king, my husband, ran quickly to the door. Upon opening it a gentleman rushed into the room, bleeding from wounds in different parts of his person, and pursued by four soldiers. Seeking frantically a place of refuge, he threw himself on the bed where I lay. I, feeling myself caught hold of by the man, threw myself out of the bed on the floor, he falling with me and continuing to clasp me around the body. I knew not whether it was he or I that the soldiers wished to kill; we both cried out, and the one was as much frightened as the other. At last, by the mercy of God, M. de Nancy, the captain of the guards, made his appearance, and finding me in this condition, even while he had compassion on me, could not restrain himself from laughing. He reproved the soldiers for their violence, made them leave the apartment, and upon my entreaties granted the life of the poor man who had hold of me and whom I caused to be put to bed and taken care of in my closet. For myself, having changed my chemise, which was covered with blood, and put on a nightgown, I passed more dead than alive into the apartment of my sister, Madame de Lorraine. While I was entering the ante-chamber, the doors of which were thrown open, a gentleman named Bourse, running from the soldiers who pursued him, was pierced by a halbert three paces from me."
Lescot seems to have dropped out of the work on the Louvre under Catherine de Medicis, but Jean Goujon continued his embellishments until the day of his death, which occurred on the fateful day of the massacre. The fact alone comes down to us, with no reliable account of the affair. One tradition makes the sculptor die of a shot from an arquebus upon the scaffolding of the Grande Galerie, chisel in hand ; another in the Cimitiere des Innocents, retouching the sculpture of his fountain. But the fountain had been finished years before, and it seems unlikely that Goujon, who was a Huguenot, would have ex-posed himself upon the Louvre, which men of his religion were fleeing for their lives, while others were being cut down under the eye of the king himself, and so the manner of his end remains a mystery.
Of this first great flowering of the Renaissance, in France, Jean Goujon stands out as the most expressive figure. We have said that he submitted his art to the taste of the reign which brought him into prominence. As the great unknown Gothic sculptors reflected the mystery and spiritual influences of their time, so Jean Goujon was caught up with the growing opulence and power of the court. His individuality seems merged with that of Francois I, of Henri II, of Diane de Poitiers.
He had an exquisite sentiment of elegance and of feminine grace, of the luxuriant forms of infants, and of the allure of youth. His instinct was strong for monumental decoration, which he conceives in his own way. His work has character, poetry, sentiment, sumptuous beauty, appealing charm. In it is no trace of definite influence. He had no master, followed no tradition, belonged to no school.