L.42 Rosso? Pavillon des Poêles

c. 1537-1539

Château, Fontainebleau

The exterior dimensions of the plan of the building at ground level, without the original attached staircase tower at the west end of the north wall and without the Galerie Basse on the south side, were approximately 22 by 11 meters; the Galerie Basse measured about 22 by 6.6 meters.1

The Pavillon des Poêles was situated at the south end of the east wing of the château; it was destroyed in 1738 and replaced by the existing Gros Pavillon.2  It balanced the slightly larger Tour du Jardin at the north end of the east wing (A.3).  If, as seems likely, the Tour du Jardin was built around 1530-1531, then the Pavillon des Poêles, the east façade of which has the same design, was built to match it.  The later pavilion was similarly planned to provide views over the grounds of the château.

The earliest document related to the Pavillon des Poêles is for the decoration of its Grande Salle des Poêles (see L.45).  In the Comptes this record of payment falls within the period 1538-1540 and appears immediately before a record of payments for the festival decorations erected on the occasion of Charles V’s visit to Fontainebleau during the last week of 1539.  The document related to the Grande Salle mentions the pavilion as “fait de neuf.”  It was in this building that the emperor lodged; the author of the Cronique du Roy Françyos believed that it was actually built for his visit.3  Although it was probably finished quickly – but not completely decorated as it would be – so that it would be ready to serve the emperor, it must have been begun well before the king invited him to France in August 1539.4  It was almost certainly built first of all to continue the plan of the east wing of the château and may have been begun around 1537.5  Its name derives from the stoves (poêles) that were used to heat the first floor room called the Grande Salle des Poêles, and, it would seem, other rooms of the pavilion.

The appearance of the exterior of the pavilion in the sixteenth century is known from five views of Fontainebleau by Du Cerceau: four prints of 1579 from Le second volume des plus excellents bastiments de France (Fig.Du Cerceau Print View) and a contemporary drawing in the British Museum (Fig.Du Cerceau BM Drawing).6  It is also known from a tapestry cartoon in reverse in the Barberini Collection in Rome that shows the whole of the Cour de la Fontaine (Fig.Barberini Tapestry Cartoon reversed).7  Du Cerceau’s two printed plans also of 1579 (Fig.Du Cerceau Plan Extended; Fig.Du Cerceau Engraving Plan) give the arrangement of the ground floor around that time.  The views all show the Pavillon des Poêles after the small cabinet of Henry II was added by Philibert de l’Orme in the mid-1550s to the east end of the terrace above the Galerie Basse.8  Du Cerceau’s views and plans show the pavilion with the ground floor and first floor of the Gallery of Ulysses joining the west end of the Galerie Basse and the terrace above it.  However, his view of the front of the east wing of the château facing the Basse Cour (Fig.Du Cerceau, Basse Cour, East Front) does not include any part of the Gallery of Ulysses, nor any indication of the Galerie Basse, which belonged entirely to the south side of the Pavillon des Poêles.  The east wing is shown as an entirely independent block framed at the far left by the Tour du Jardin and at the far right by the Pavillon des Poêles.9  Furthermore, this view shows a round instead of a square staircase tower attached to the Pavillon des Poêles, although Du Cerceau’s plans and his panoramic printed view from the north show it correctly square and with a spiral stair within.10 Du Cerceau’s prints show the pavilion attached to the three levels of the east wing to the north, while at the time the pavilion was built there was behind it only a ground floor supporting a terrace that extended to the Gallery of Francis I, matching the ground floor and terrace to the south of the Tour du Jardin.11  Several seventeenth and eighteenth century views verify what appears in Du Cerceau’s print and give certain smaller details, although these views show modifications, some actual and built since the time of the original construction, but some made by the printmakers themselves.12  All but one show the Pavillon des Poêles after the large Salle de Billard was attached to its west end in 1654, covering part of the pavilion itself.13

Dan said the Pavillon des Poêles was originally constructed of mortar and pebble masonry (moillon); Guilbert gave its construction as of mortar and pebble masonry and brick (moëlon & brique).14  This would seem to indicate plastered walls with brick pilasters, architraves, cornices, and frames resembling the still existing original north side of the Basse Cour.  In Du Cerceau’s view of the château from the Basse Cour (Fig.Du Cerceau, Basse Cour, East Front) the west front of the pavilion appears identical to that of the Tour du Jardin.15  The ground floor was unarticulated except for a base and a cornice.  The first story was divided into three sections by four pilasters with a window entirely filling the area in the center.  The second story was an arcade of three arches flanked by four pilasters.  Du Cerceau shows a winged putto’s head above each arch as in his depiction of the Tour du Jardin.  The steep pointed attic had one dormer window flanked by pilasters and with a pediment.  Originally to the right at ground level was the west wall of the Galerie Basse, probably with a door in the center, similar to the door with a cornice shown by Du Cerceau at the east end.

The east side was almost identical to the west and hence was unlike the east side of the Tour du Jardin.  The only difference shown in Du Cerceau’s view of the Pavillon des Poêles from the east (Fig.Du Cerceau Print, Cour de la Fontaine) was the ground floor of the main block that had three large rectangular framed windows, the one in the center twice as wide as those at its sides.  To the left was the east wall of the Galerie Basse, its door elaborated with a cornice.  Du Cerceau shows the dormer in the attic without pilasters but with a pediment.

The broad south front facing the lake was the most elaborate façade and the one that most revealed the intentions of the pavilion.  Its appearance is most completely shown in Du Cerceau’s printed view of the château from the south (Fig.Du Cerceau Print View).16  At ground level the main block of the building had before it the Galerie Basse, the foundation of which was set on the edge of the lake.  The front of the gallery was divided into five bays by six pilasters set upon high plinths.  The three center bays had open arches closed with a parapet to the level of the top of the plinths.  The end bays were walled with a framed door in the center of each crowned by a simple cornice.  There was a framed oculus above each door.  The west door opened onto a small landing from which extended a wooden walkway that was carried over the edge of the lake to stairs that led to the land.  The east door opened onto a small flight of stairs that descended directly into the lake.  The interior of the Galerie Basse was about 19.3 meters long and about 4.8 wide.  It contained twenty columns shown on the plans, which were fluted according to Dan (see L.44; Fig.Du Cerceau, Galerie Basse, Plan).  A pair was set before each pier of the south side and before each of an equal number of shallow piers across from them that were attached to the north wall.  There was also a column in each corner, those on the north side set also before attached piers but narrower than the others of this wall.  The columns were probably set on plinths and were probably as high as the piers to the level of the springing of the arches.  On the north wall the four large piers must have carried a blind arcade.  The end bays may also have had blind arches on the north and the south sides.  Dan indicated that the columns carried vaults as well as an arcade.  On the plan in the Morgan Library17 one broad arch is indicated for each set of paired columns crossing from the south to the north side.  An arch half as wide spanned the ends of the gallery between the single columns in the corners.  The plan gives no indication of other vaults although groin vaults are regularly shown elsewhere on the plans of the same set in the Morgan Library of other areas of the château.  It seems then that the arches (somewhat flattened?) and their spandrels carried a flat ceiling and this arrangement allows for the figures by Primaticcio, known from drawings and prints, in the spandrels that Dimier assigned to this room.  Its decoration was begun by Rosso (see L.44).  There was a door in the center of each end wall.  The oculi above the two doors in the south side would have illuminated the end bays.  Du Cerceau’s plans show no doorways leading from the Galerie Basse to the ground floor of the pavilion behind it.  The piers, columns, and arches of the Galerie Basse supported the terrace that was accessible from the first floor.

Du Cerceau’s plans of the ground floor of the main block of the building behind the Galerie Basse cannot show the original disposition of the spaces on this floor.  The plans indicate two rooms, the largest, at the east, square with its sides as long as the breadth of the block and with three windows facing east, which appear in Du Cerceau’s view from that direction (Fig.Du Cerceau Print, Cour de la Fontaine).  It had a door at the east end of its north wall that is shown also in the same view from the east.  If there was originally no entrance from the Galerie Basse then it is likely that this door is part of the original plan.  A fireplace was set against the north wall and what would seem to be its chimney can be seen in that same view by Du Cerceau.  A door at the north end of the room led to a smaller square room which had a fireplace against its east wall with what seems to be its chimney visible also in the same exterior view.  There was a door in the center of the south wall that gave access to a narrow corridor that had a small spiral staircase (in a square cage in Du Cerceau’s plan) at its east end that would have led to the first floor.  It is unlikely that this arrangement is original as no stairway would have entered at this location the Grande Salle des Poêles above if that room occupied the entire first floor, as seems likely. It would appear, then, that the corridor and small stairway were added when the first floor was divided into two rooms (see L.45) and that originally the ground floor had only one room illuminated by the three windows at the east.  However, it is possible that there were from the first two rooms and that the second had a window in the center of its west wall.  When the second room was made square either the original window was moved to the center of its west wall or a window was introduced in this wall for the first time, which, in either case, would not have been centered on the exterior of this wall.  Du Cerceau’s plans do not show an entrance into the small ground floor room from the large staircase tower against the north wall of the east room, although it was apparently possible to enter this tower at ground level through a door in its north side.  Hence it is possible that the ground floor could originally have been entered here.  No evidence survives to indicate that the ground floor was decorated.

There is no sixteenth century plan of the first floor but it is likely that it contained only one room, the Grande Salle des Poêles.  The dimensions of its interior plan would have been about 19.3 by 8.8 meters.  It had before it the terrace supported by the Galerie Basse. This terrace had a low wall on its southside.  The front of the Grande Salle des Poêles was also divided into five bays by six pilasters on plinths.  There were no arches.  Windows were fitted into the center three bays above a low wall as high as the plinths of the pilasters.  The end bays had doors with frames and cornices that opened onto the terrace.  The east and west walls had a large window.  The original appearance of the north wall cannot be known for sure.  Toward the west end there would have been the entrance from the stairway tower across from the second bay of the south side.  In the matching position toward the east end there would probably have been the entrance from the terrace to the north that led to the Gallery of Francis I.18  The three center bays were probably not pierced.  The room, which had a flat and probably coffered ceiling made of wood, may have been decorated by Rosso (see L.45).

The second story was completely occupied by the Salle Haute with arches on three sides; it was almost identical to the top story of the Tour du Jardin, the broad front of which faced north.  The south front of the Salle Haute was divided by six pilasters on plinths into five bays.  These pilasters framed arches.  Du Cerceau’s printed view of this front shows a winged putto’s head over each arch.  A parapet enclosed the room to the upper level of the plinths.  As described above, the east and west sides had the same design but only three bays.  The effect of this room was meant to be of an entirely open belvedere, and so it appears in Du Cerceau’s views and in the Barberini cartoon.  But it is known from the specifications of 1542 for its woodwork that it had casement windows (see L.43).  The interior of the Salle Haute would have had the same dimensions as the Grande Salle des Poêles on the floor beneath.  From Vasari’s description of Rosso’s decoration of this room and from Dan’s comments, it appears that it presented a series of arches and piers without pilasters and with a band of wall above.  The north wall probably had a blind arcade.  The entrance from the staircase tower would have been in the second bay from the west end.19  The ceiling would have been flat.

The attic level had three dormers of the same design as those at the east and west.  The original plan of its interior is not known.  It was entered from the stairway tower.

Although Rosso designed the decoration of at least two and possibly three of the interiors of the Pavillon des Poêles, it is not documented that he had anything to do with the design of the building itself.20  However, Guillaume’s attribution of the Tour du Jardin to him seriously raises the probability that Rosso would also have had a hand in the conception and design of the Pavillon des Poêles.  It would have been planned in response to the Tour du Jardin and the west façades of both pavilions were identical.  Both had a belvedere at the top, which Guillaume recognized as an Italian feature which would have been introduced by Rosso.  There was also the open Galerie Basse set in front of the building’s south side.  This, too, seems especially Italian, not only in its openness but also in its direct access to the lake, an arrangement that suggests Venice, which Rosso had visited just before coming to France.  The interior of the Galerie Basse was very richly articulated with paired fluted columns and arches.  This richness brings to mind that of the exterior staircase and portico in the Cour Ovale (A.2; Fig.Bray Elevation) that Chastel attributed to Rosso.  Again, as with the Tour du Jardin, it may not be possible to attribute to Rosso the idea for a pavilion on this site.  Nor would he on his own necessarily have devised the Grande Salle des Poêles on the first floor, for the origins of such a room for heat stems from the climate and culture of northern Europe.  But as “capo generale sopra tutte le fabriche” at Fontainebleau, as Vasari says he was, it is very likely that the Pavillon des Poêles, begun just as the decoration of the Gallery of Francis I was coming to an end, was built from designs by him and under his direction.

On the relation of the Pavillon des Poêles to the Gallery of Ulysses to which it became connected, see L.46.


1 These measurements are calculated from Morgan, 1956, 31, “Rez de Chaussée de la Cour des Fontaines,” in toises (1 toise = 1.949 meters).  These measurements are slightly larger than those that can be calculated from the two plans of the château at Fontainebleau in Du Cerceau, 1579 (Fig.Du Cerceau Engraving Plan; Fig.Du Cerceau Plan Extended), which give around 19.5 x 9.7 meters for the main block and 19.5 x 7 meters for the Galerie Basse.  Guillaume, 1985, 12, n. 5, Figs. 6a and 6b, 13-14, stated that the most detailed plans of the Galerie Basse are found in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Département des Etampes, Va 446, and a part in Paris, Archives Nationales, 01 1421-1433; the plans he illustrates are from Archives Nationales 01 1459 of 1733, which are almost identical to those of Morgan, 1956, 31.

2 Dimier, 1900, 319, stated that it was demolished at the same time as the Gallery of Ulysses, the destruction of which Guillaume, 1985, 7, placed in 1739.  Claude Lauriol, in EdF, 1972, 482, stated that the Pavillon des Poêles was destroyed with the creation of the Gros Pavillon in 1750.  This was also indicated by Bottineau, 1962, 44, n. 104, with reference to the Galerie Basse.  Reiset, 1859, 205, thought it was destroyed in 1703.  For an over-all account of the Pavillon des Poêles, see Roy, 1929, 246-249.

3 Guiffrey, Cronique, 1860, 290.

4 The emperor first accepted Francis I’s invitation on 22 October 1539; see Knecht, 1982, 295-296.

5 Dimier, 1898, 91, 107-127; 1900, 253-254; and 1928, 109, thought it was built around 1535, and pointed out that Guilbert, 1731, I, 1, must have meant 1535 for its construction, and not 1545 as he stated – Guilbert said around 1545 and that it was one of Francis I’s last works – because he also commented that Charles V was lodged there in 1539.  See also Roy, 1929, 284, and Herbet, 1937, 109.  Claude Lauriol, in EdF, 1972, 482, gave its construction as c. 1535.  Pressouyre, 1974, 31, n. 29, as built around 1535.  Guillaume, 1985, 26, 30, n. 53, 39, thought it was built in 1536 or 1537.  Prinz and Kecks, 1985, 423, 425, as built c. 1535-1537.  Babelon, 1989, 204, 433, 434, Fig., 520, Fig.  See also Pozzo-Müntz, 1866, 266, 290-291.

6 London, British Museum, inv. no. 1972 U. 1354, pen and ink and wash, 50.5 x 74.

7 This cartoon was kindly brought to my attention by Candice Adelson.

8 Roy, 1929, 248.

9 See Guillaume, 1979, 225, 228, Fig. 4, and Guillaume, 1985, 30-36, on the original separate conception of this east wing from the south side of the Basse Cour that became the Gallery of Ulysses.  This seems to be reflected in Du Cerceau’s print, although it was made well after the gallery was built.

10 As pointed out by Guillaume, 1979, 238, n. 7, who also said that originally it contained a square staircase and not the circular one that is shown in one of Du Cerceau’s plans.

11 On the terrace to the north of the Pavillon des Poêles, see Dimier, 1898, 108-109, and Roy, 1929, 256.  Guillaume, 1986, 36-41, seems to indicate also construction behind this pavilion begun about the same time with a terrace on either side.

12 The prints known to me from reproductions are:

Israël Sylvestre, inscribed “Veue de la Cour des Fontaines et du Jardin de l’estang,” from Divers veues du chasteau et des bastiments de Fontainebleau, published by Israël Henriet in 1649; Guillaume, 1985, 16, Fig. 11 (detail; Fig.Sylvestre, Ulysse); J.-P. Samouyault, in EdF, 1972, 328, no. 427b, and Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 221, and II, 100, no. 427b, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Topographie Va 336 T II.  This view shows the pavilion before the Salle de Billard was built, which is visible in another view by Sylvestre (see below).  The Galerie Basse appears with four open arches while there were only three.

Israël Sylvestre, inscribed “Veüe de l’Estang de Fontainebleau,” Cox-Rearick, 1972, 49, Fig., Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale (Fig.View of the Lake).  This view shows the Pavillon with the large Salle de Billard at the south end of the façade.

Perelle, inscribed “Veuë de la Cour des Fontaines de Fontainebleau à main gauche de l’Estang,” Blomfield, 1911, Pl. X.  This view shows the south front of the pavilion with only three bays.

Perelle, inscribed “Veuë de l’Etang, du Jardin, et de la Cour des Fontaines, à Fontaine-bleau,” Brion-Guerry, 1955, 40, Fig.

Pierre Alexander Aveline, inscribed “Veüe et perspective du Jardin de l’Etang et de la Cour des fontaines de Fontainebleau,” Dimier, 1925, 47, Fig.  This view shows the south front of the pavilion with only four bays.

P.-A. Aveline, inscribed “Veuë de la Cour du cheval blanc à Fontaine-bleau,” Dimier, 1925, 52, Fig.  The west front of the pavilion shows the addition of niches and a door.

Rigaud, inscribed “Veuë d’une Aile du Chateau de Fontainebleau prise de la cour des Fontaines,” Dimier, 1925, 42, Fig. Babelon, 1989, 434, Fig., reproduces a seventeenth century drawing by Van der Meulen (Mobilier national, dessin 170) of the Pavillon des Poêles.

13 See Guillaume, 1985, 12-13.

14 Dan, 1642, 128; Guilbert, 1731, II, 1-2; see also Pressouyre, 1974, 29, n. 17, on the use of “moëlon et brique” by Le Breton.  Both Dan and Guilbert stated that the building was faced with cut stone under Charles IX; Guilbert said this was done around 1565.

15 Du Cerceau’s plans show a window just left of center on the ground floor that would be blocked from view by the bridge crossing the moat in his view from the Basse Cour.  But this window may belong to a later modification (see below).

16 The comparable drawing in the British Museum (Fig.Du Cerceau BM Drawing) is slightly less detailed.

17 See n. 1.

18 On the subsequent re-building of this part of the château, see Roy, 1929, 255-259, 282-284.

19 The window in the north wall shown in Du Cerceau’s view from the east was probably added when this wall was met by the wing adjoining it and/or when the Salle Haute was divided around 1577 (see L.43).

20 Knecht, 1982, 296; 1994, 392, noted that Rosso and Primaticcio decorated this pavilion where Charles V was given accommodations.