Author(s) Barbet, Jean
Bosse, Abraham
Title Livre d’architecture d’autels, et de cheminees
Imprint Paris, M. Tavernier, 1633
Localisation Paris, Binha, 4 Res 100
Subject Altars, Chimneys


     Jean Barbet (1605- before 1654), no doubt a native of Normandy, had a relatively fertile career as a builder, working mainly on building sites of the Loire close to Jacques Lemercier, Cardinal Richelieu’s architect. In 1633 he signed a contract with the Cardinal as “maître maçon à Paris” for the construction of thirty-two houses in Richelieu, where his presence was attested in 1634 as “entrepreneur des bastiments de ladite ville”. During the same years, he also worked in Saumur, on the site of Notre-Dame des Ardilliers, where, under the direction of Pierre Lemercier, he carried out the plans of Jacques, Pierre Lemercier’s half-brother. From 1643 on he was still working for the Lemercier clan in Orléans, where he had a dispute with the architect concerning the construction of the spire of Sainte-Croix. Starting in 1636 he also worked for Gaston d’Orléans in Blois.
The project of the Livre d’architecture was perhaps linked to the construction site of Notre-Dame des Ardilliers, which Richelieu had decided to renovate in 1632. In fact, the high altar of the sanctuary, finished in 1634, presents a few similarities with some of the models drawn by Barbet, who might have had the idea for them. But according to sources identified by Alexandre Gady, the true author of the work was Jacques Lemercier. Nevertheless, it is possible to think that, in dedicating the collection to Richelieu, the master mason was in a way applying for a position, in giving a demonstration of his talents in drawing chimney pieces (“Ayant passé quelque temps à desseigner ce qu’il y a de beau dans Paris, je me suis exercé depuis a faire ce petit Ouvrage, que je vous donne”), and a sort of catalogue of high altar projects, from which the Cardinal could have chosen a model for Saumur.
The conditions of publication of the Livre d’architecture are well known, all of which is exceptional for a work of this type during this period. In the contract of February 25, 1630 (Arch. Nat., Minutier central, VI, 206 – Fleury, p. 652), Barbet was committing himself to work for two years for Melchior II Tavernier, with board and lodging provided by the editor, for a salary of 650 livres payable during the two years.. The copper plate engravings were done by the finest engraver of the period, Abraham Bosse, who continued to collaborate with his former employer. The work was reprinted later by Tavernier, still with the date 1633, but his address doesn’t include the final note “au coin de la rue Harlay”; the plate numbers lacking in the first edition were added. According to P. Führing (p. 430) this reprint was apparently done between 1638, the date Tavernier settled at La Sphère Royale, and 1644, when he discontinued his activity. But Tavernier was already set up at La Sphère Royale in 1637 as was attested by the publication of a map of antique Greece. Then, Pierre II Mariette, who bought a part of Tavernier’s business un 1644, made a reprint without changing the date of 1633, being satisfied to change
The work is located in a tradition of collections of models, a tradition inaugurated in the 16th century by Sebastanio Serlio and Jacques Androuet du Cerceau and perpetuated in Italy by Giovanni Battista Montano (Diversi ornamenti capricciosi per depositi e altari, published by Soria Rome, 1625) or Bernardo Radi (Varie Inventioni per depositi..., Rome, 1625). It was illustrated in France in the 17th century by Pierre Collot the same year, 1633, then by Jean Marot (Livre des cheminées, Paris, 1661) or Jean Lepautre (Cheminées à la moderne, Paris, 1661). Other similar enterprises had come into being in Flanders or in Germany, in particuliar the Etliche architectischer Portalen, Epitafien, Caminen und Schweyffen, published in Cologne in 1596 by Veit Ecken, where, for the first time one could find, together , doors, chimney pieces, altars and tombs, as in Barbet’s book.
Doubtless Barbet’s book had some repercussions in practice, at least for chimney pieces. As examples, those at the châteaux de Cheverny, Richelieu, or at the château of Skokloster in Sweden. In 1957 the Musée des Beax-Arts in Tours acquired a chimney piece made by an anonymous cabinetmaker which is very similar to the one represented on plate 7; it was placed in the Louis XIII salon in the museum.
The collection was published twice in Holland, once in 1641 by Cornelis Danckerts and a second time the same year, distributed by Frederick de Widt. It was published in Germany in 1645. But it had its greatest success in England with two editions in the 17th century and one in 1706.
After seventeen plates designed by Barbet, the present copy consists of a group of engravings of diverse origins, of which one, numbered “7”, comes from the Pièces d’architecture by Pierre Collot (Paris, M. Van Lochom, 1633).

Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2008

Critical bibliography

A. Blum, L’œuvre gravé d’Abraham Bosse, Paris, Morancé, 1924.

G. Duplessis, "Catalogue de l’œuvre de Abraham Bosse", Revue universelle des arts, Paris, 1859, n° 338-355.

P. Fuhring, "Jean Barbet’s ‘Livre d’architecture, d’autels et de cheminées’ : Drawing and Design in Seventeenth Century France", Burlington Magazine, 1203, June 2003, pp. 421-430.

A. Gady, Jacques Lemercier. Architecte et ingénieur du Roi, Paris, Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2005.

M. Grivel, Le commerce de l’estampe à Paris au XVIIe siècle, Geneva, Droz, 1986, pp. 350-351, 378.

S. Join-Lambert, "Planches pour Barbet, Livre d’architecture, d’autels et de cheminées, 1633", catalogue notes Abraham Bosse savant graveur, Tours, vers 1604-1676, Paris, S. Join-Lambert & M. Préaud (ed.), Paris/Tours, Bibliothèque nationale de France/Musée des Beaux-Arts of Tours, 2004, p. 129.
(notes on line on the BnF site,

Y. Pauwels, "Francine, Collot, Barbet : recueils de modèles ou exercices de style ?", J.-P. Garric, É. d'Orgeix & E. Thibault (ed.), Le livre et l’architecte, Wavre, Mardaga, 2011, pp. 161-171.

R.-A. Weigert, Inventaire du fonds français. Graveurs du XVIIe siècle, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, 1939, 1, p. 494.