Sebastiano Serlio

From Academic Kids

Sebastiano Serlio (Bologna 1475 – Fontainebleau ca 1554), the Italian Mannerist architect, was part of the Italian team building Fontainebleau. Serlio helped canonize the classical orders of architecture in his influential treatise, Tutte l'opere d'archittura et prospetiva.

Serlio went from Bologna to Rome in 1514, and worked in the atelier of Baldassare Peruzzi, where he stayed until the Sack of Rome in 1527 put all architectural projects on hold for a time. Like Peruzzi, he began as a painter. He lived in Venice from 1527 to 1540 but left little mark on the city.

Missing image
Serlio's church facade of 1537 crystallized a format that lasted into the 18th century

The first volume of his treatise appeared in Venice in 1537. A measure of the influence that Serlio exerted through the examples in his treatise can be taken by the church facade (illustration, right) in the first published volume. It was a regularized version, cleaned up and made more classical, of the innovative method of providing a facade to a church with a high vaulted nave flanked by low side aisles, a classical face to a Gothic form, first seen in Alberti's Santa Maria Novella in Florence (ca. 1458). The idea was in the air in the 1530s: several contemporary churches compete for primacy: but Serlio's woodcut put the concept in every architect's hands.

It was the first volume, rather than any spectacular executed work, that attracted the attention of Francois I. Serlio's career took off when he was invited to France by Francis I, to advise on the construction and decoration of the Chⴥau of Fontainebleau, where a team of Italian designers and craftsmen were assembled. Serlio took several private commissions, but the only one that has survived in any recognizable way is the Chateau of Ancy-le-Franc (see below), built about 1546 near Tonnerre in Burgundy.

Serlio?s major contribution, however, remained his practical treatise on architecture. Serlio pioneered the use of high quality illustrations to supplement the text. Five books of his Architettura were published at intervals from 1537; two more (out of an intended eight) were published after his death. Intended as an illustrated handbook for architects, Serlio's volumes were highly influential in France, the Netherlands, and England, as a conveyor of the Italian Renaissance style. A version of his treatise was translated from a Dutch translation as The Five Books of Architecture and printed in London, 1611. Its example countered the influence of the engravings of Antwerp Mannerism that were the main inspiration for Jacobean architecture. Later Serlio's book was in the libraries of Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Woods, the entrepreneur who laid out Bath.

Serlio's treatise was translated into Spanish in 1552 and published in Toledo by Juan de Ayala with the same illustrations as the original Italian editions. Serlio's plans and elevations of many Roman buildings, provided such a useful repertory of classical images that it was reprinted in 1563 and in 1572.

He published several books of woodcuts of designs for stage setting (Scenographies) in Paris 1545, exercises in dramatic perspectives.


1 External link

Serlio's treatise

Serlio at Fontainebleau


Though Ancy-le-Franc has been partly remodelled, it is the only surviving building outside Fontainebleau where Serlio was in charge.


  • Sebastiano Serlio, Robert Peake, translator, The Five Books of Architecture, 1611, is available in a Dover reprint (1982).
  • Sebastiano Serlio, Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks translators, Sebastiano Serlio on Architecture, Volume 1: (Yale University) 1996. (Described (
  • Sebastiano Serlio, Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks translators, Sebastiano Serlio on Architecture, Volume 2: Books VI-VII of "Tutte l'opere d'architettura et prospetiva" with "Castrametation of the Romans" and "The Extraordinary Book of Doors", (Yale University), 2001. (First translation of Books VI and VI and the later works. ( ISBN 0300085036

A manuscript of Serlio's treatise is in the Avery Architectural Library, Columbia University.

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