BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
Eleven years after the first edition of the annotated and illustrated translation of Vitruvius published in 1673 at the presses of Jean-Baptiste Coignard, Claude Perrault offered to the public an enlarged and enriched edition, quite as luxurious as the preceding one. Meanwhile he had published the Abrégé by Vitruvius (1674) and the Ordonnance des cinq espèces de colonnes (1683) which had allowed him to answer his detractors, in particular François Blondel who had certainly criticized him in his Cours d'architecture (1675). Perrault's unconventional position on the artificial character of architectural proportions and his irrevocable condemnation of the Vitruvian optical corrections had in fact caused him to be hated by people in the profession. The second edition offered him a new forum to respond notably to the Director of the Académie d'Architecture (p. 205, n. 1). Moreover he refers the reader to the Ordonnance (p. 3, n. 6 ; p. 82, n. 24 ; p. 205, n. 1...), but also to his Essais de physique which had both come out in the meanwhile (p. 158, n. 8 ; p. 161, n. 15 ; p. 258, n. 14...). It was also the occasion to bring his notes up to date and to introduce three new copperplates (indicated in the Foreword). The captions of the existing plates were developed (p. 33, pl. V ; p. 42, pl. VI ; p. 106, pl. XXIII) and the plates themselves were enriched with supplementary figures (p. 58, pl. VII ; p. 82, pl. XVII). More rarely does Perrault correct a previous interpretation (p. 31, n. 4). It was also in a more delicate way the possibility of refining his conception of architecture, by criticizing contemporary or past practices while at the same time praising the work with which he himself was associated (Colonnade du Louvre, 1667-68 ; Observatoire, 1667-72 ; arc de triomphe for the place du Trône, partially completed). He scoffs at Gothic architecture for its fantastic element, with its columns "très-longues & tres-menuës, pour soutenir de grandes voutes qui retombent sur des impostes en cul-de-lampe suspendües en l'air" (p. 42, n. 2). The doubling of columns censured by Blondel (1675, IIIrd part, l. I, ch. 10-12, pp. 228-240) thus gives rise to a very long note (pp. 79-80, n. 16) which responds to the justifications presented the preceding year in the Ordonnance. It is not a matter of a "licence" but on the contrary of a modern invention. For the doubling of the support allows the establishment of a sixth arrangement, which must be added to the the five described by Vitruvius: pycnostyle, systyle, eustyle, diastyle and aræostyle (pp. 78-80, n. 16). Moreover the "Moderns", the Italian and French, liked them (p. 80, n. 16). The Ancients did not adopt them for the sole reason that they did not have access to the technical means to implement architraves with long spans, nor machines allowing them to transport stones, raise them or position them smoothly (p. 339, n. 4).
Frédérique Lemerle (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
G. Germann, Vitruve et le vitruvianisme. Introduction à l'histoire de la théorie architecturale, Lausanne, Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, 1991 (1st ed.: Darmstadt, 1987).
W. Herrmann, La théorie de Claude Perrault, Brussels/Liège, Mardaga, 1980 (1st ed.: London, Zwemmer, 1973).
F. Lemerle, La Renaissance et les antiquités de la Gaule, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005, pp. 103-104.
F. Lemerle, "Vitruve, Vignole, Palladio et les autres: traductions, abrégés et augmentations au XVIIe siècle", Architecture et théorie. L'héritage de la Renaissance, Tours, Cesr, June 3-4, 2009/Paris, École d'architecture de Paris-Malaquais, June 5, 2009.
F. Lemerle, "D'un Parallèle à l'autre. L'architecture antique: une affaire d'État", Revue de l'Art, 170, 2010-4, pp. 31-39.
F. Lemerle, "La face cachée du Vitruve de Claude Perrault (1673, 1684)", M. Chaufour & S. Taussig (eds.), La cause en est cachée, Études offertes à Paulette Choné par ses élèves, ses collègues et ses amis, Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, pp. 447-455.
A. Picon, Claude Perrault, 1613-1688 ou la curiosité d'un classique, Paris, Picard, 1988.