French architect Pierre Lescot was one of the most famous architects practicing during the French Renaissance, and is often remembered as the man responsible for realizing ‘pure and correct’ classical architecture in France. He is most famous for his designs for the Louvre, a section now referred to as the Lescot Wing.
Born into an extremely wealthy family of lawyers, Lescot was afforded the ability to pursue his dreams outright, studying drawing and painting as a child, and then mathematics and architecture beginning in his twenties. A common argument arises about whether he was ever in Italy as an apprentice, an issue that is still hotly debated by art historians. It doesn’t help that there is very little documentation on Lescot’s life. But unlike most architects of the day, he was not born into a family of masons, but rather an upper-class lifestyle.
During the early part of his career, from around 1540 to 1545, Lescot proved himself with projects such as the rood screen in the Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, on which he collaborated with the sculptor Jean Goujon, and the Hôtel de Ligneris (now the Musée Carnavalet). In 1546, he was rewarded for all of his hard work when Francois I appointed him as the architect of the Louvre.
This was quite a feat, as the competition to become the chief architect of the Louvre was fierce. Italian architects were in vogue at the time, and for Francois I to favor Lescot over prominent Italians such as Sebastiano Serlio was an achievement in and of itself. Lescot’s plan, in which apartments would enclose three sides of a square court, while the fourth side, featuring an arcade, would be more open to the city.
Lescot’s design would inform French classicism for generations. Again, collaborating with Goujon, who provided many sculptural and ornamental elements that decorated the facade, Lescot endorsed recessed and rounded windows on the ground floor to give the impression of an arcade and crowned the structures with a sloping roof that was indicative of French sensibilities.
Unfortunately, Lescot would not live long enough to witness the completion of his design, passing away in 1751 of natural causes. Fellow architects such as Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau continued the construction of the Louvre, and of course, many architects would continue to add elements to the Louvre into the 20th Century. But it’s undeniable that it’s thanks to Lescot that the Louvre is the icon it is today.