Author(s) Perret, Jacques
Leu, Thomas de
Title Des fortifications et artifices...
Imprint [Paris, 1601]
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les. 1698
Subject Churches, Domestic architecture, Military architecture, Urbanism


     The work of Jacques Perret Des fortifications et artifices. Architecture et perspective appeared for the first time in 1601. Its author, a “gentilhomme savoysien” from Chambéry, was listed as early as 1568 in the archives of Savoy as a “lecteur ès arts d'arithmétique et géométrie” at the Jesuit college of the town of his birth. Perret is also often mentioned in bibliographical notes as a military engineer, a responsibility shared with other contemporary mathematics teachers such as Guillaume Flamant and Renaut Sedanois. Although no other source can confirm this hypothesis, his work shows that he was learned in modern military science; he was acquainted with the principles and the most important classic authors (Vegetius and Frontinus). According to Patricia Grady, Perret was active in Savoy until 1575, and probably moved to Paris at the end of the 16th century after he converted to Protestantism. Under the protection of Catherine de Parthenay and her son the duc de Rohan whose coat of arms appears on fifteen plates of his treatise, he was able to publish his book. The remainder of his career is not known but the dates of his activity, ascertaining his birth somewhere between 1540 and 1545 allow one to suggest that he died between 1610 and 1619, before the very mediocre new edition of his treatise came out in 1620, one that he clearly had not checked.
Four main editions Des fortifications et artifices were respectively published in 1601, 1602, 1613 and 1620. The first, which appeared without the place or date of publication, includes only a dedication to the king dated July 1, 1601. It was quickly followed by a second edition printed in Paris accompanied by a royal privilege, July 4 of the same year. These two publications dated 1601 are very similar. They are composed of a frontispiece and a dedication introducing twenty-six plates engraved by Thomas de Leu (active from 1576 to 1614) and seventeen annotations by Jacques Perret. The plates, framed with quotations from the Old Testament, represent in plan and in perspective models of fortifications and particular buildings. In 1602, Perret's book was simultaneously reprinted in German and in French in Frankfurt by Theodore de Bry's widow and two sons. Although faithful to the 1601 text, these two editions present a new series of twenty-eight plates. In 1613, the de Bry brothers published a new abridged version in German printed by Hieronymus Galler in Oppenheim. Lastly, a last very incomplete French edition appeared in 1620 (dedication to the king July 1, 1620). Texts and illustrations are incomplete and their organization corresponds to no known editorial logic. Except for these works, European libraries do contain some copies whose organization corresponds to none of the great editions mentioned. This is especially the case with those at the library of the château de Pau and in the cabinet des Estampes of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
In relation to the original edition, the only changes brought to the copy now in the library of the Ensba are the dedication to the king put at the end of the volume, the order of the plates (the perspectives are placed before the ground plans) and a double (plate 20 is produced twice at ff. 57 and 62). In spite of the rather mediocre quality of the plates, it nonetheless remains one of the only complete copies of the first edition of Perret's work in Parisian collections.
The work is divided into three great themes: ideal fortified cities and citadels, religious architecture and private architecture. Perret first proposes a series of five regular fortified cities made up of different types of organization, ranging from a square to polygons of five to twenty-three bastions. Accompanied by plans and large-scale urban perspectives which he calls “perspective du dehors” and “perspective du dedans”, this work presents an iconography of ideal cities in which all the constructions are repeated identically. Although his plans grow successively larger and more complex, for each of them he uses a combination of similar urban elements composed of corner pavilions, row houses, terraces linked together and arcades. This systematization of regular fortifications and of architectural constructions in series is interesting. It takes its inspiration at the same time from major military treatises of the 16th century such as those of Pietro Cataneo I quattro primi libri di archittura (1554) and of Girolamo Maggi and Giacomo Castriotto Delle fortificazione della citta (1583), from iconic achievements like the citadels of Turin and of Milan (which he mentions in his text) and from royal urban programs initiated during the reign of Henri IV. This last point placed Perret at the heart of contemporary urban research which would be confirmed by the realization of the royal Parisian squares. The second part of Perret's treatise, devoted to religious architecture, is dedicated to Huguenot temples. Just as for the series of ideal fortified cities, Perret gives three models in several dimensions (small, medium and large) and accompanies each one with short annotations. This mixture of types, military and religious architecture, has no precedent in the history of treatises on fortifications and, if one considers that Perret's treatise was published three or four years after the Edict of Nantes, it has the merit of a manifesto. The precision of its perspectives, closer visually to “vues” than to plans was certainly also part of his will to legitimize the Protestant religion.
The last part of the treatise concerns different types of private architecture: smallholdings, dwellings, houses, châteaux and the royal pavilion. Since his plans are developed along vertical lines, with numerous window openings and clearly individualized levels, the influence of the reformed countries, notably the Netherlands, the cities of the Hanseatic League and of England, is shown. Nonetheless, the structuring of Perret's discourse, organized according to the social status of the occupants, also reminds one of some of Serlio's concerns about domestic architecture. Lastly, the wish to create a type of collective architecture inspired by the communal Protestant dwellings, in which several proprietors lived in one house with a single front door shared by all, is not too different from some dwelling models of the Livre d'architecture of Jacques Androuet de Cerceau which appeared in 1559.
Perret's treatise represents a work separate from the French military writing of the first half of the 17th century. Its title, that of a military opus dedicated to the art of modern fortifications, has served it badly. Whereas the first half of the 17th century constitutes a turning point for the implementation of new systems of strongholds “à la française”, tested by Jean Errard de Bar-le-Duc, a contemporary of Perret, and immediately taken up and adapted by Blaise de Pagan, Jean Fabre and Antoine Deville, Des fortifications et artifices appeared like a hybrid and superfluous work. The extremely sophisticated drawings of Perret “inventor”, which Thomas de Leu's engravings show to advantage, also added to this current of opinion. The regularity of his fortified cities and the pictorial quality of his perspectives, notably those in “haulte assiette”, close to the scenographiae of du Cerceau, quickly caused his work to be classified as an architectural “curiosité”, valued in princely collections for its exceptional engravings, with none paying tribute to the very personal vision of this utopian Huguenot mathematician.

Émilie d’Orgeix (Docomomo International,
Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine) – 2006

Critical bibliography

E. Balmas, "Jacques Perret architetto riformato", Protestantesimo, 1, 1950, pp. 15-34; 1958, pp. 22-28.

E. Balmas, "La citta ideale di Jacques Perret", Studi di Letteratura francese, 2, 1969, pp. 3-45.

D. W Booth, Architecture and its Image, Montreal, Éditions du CCA, 1991, p. 183; cat. 19.1, 19.2.

G. Germann, "Un épisode de la vie du duc Henri de Rohan révélé par ses armoiries", Archives héraldiques suisses, 2004-2, pp. 168-172.

G. Germann, "Les temples protestants dans les traités d¹architecture du XVIIe siècle", Bulletin de la Société de l¹Histoire du Protestantisme en France, 152, 2006, pp. 345-362.

J. de Laprade, "Un architecte méconnu du temps d’Henri IV: Jacques Perret et son ouvrage Des fortifications et artifices. Architecture et perspective, Paris, 1601", Revue française d’histoire du livre, 25, 1979, pp. 867-896.

M. Ng, "Collage, Architectural Inscription, and the Aesthetics of Iconoclasm in Jacques Perret’s Des foritfications et artifices (1601)", Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 45-3, September 2015, pp. 573-584.

P. M. O’Grady, An investigation into Jacques Perret’s 'Des fortifications et artifices. Architecture et perspective', Ph.D., University of Toronto, 1993.

P. M. O’Grady, "Des Fortifications et artifices. Architecture et Perspective de Jacques Perret, à Paris en 1601", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004, pp. 472-473.

M. Pollak, Military Architecture, Cartography and the Representation of Early Modern European City. A checklist of Treatises on Fortification in the Newberry Library, Chicago, The Newberry Library, 1991, pp. 80-81.

D. Thomson, "Protestant Temples in France c. 1566-1623. A pilot study", J. Guillaume (ed.), L’église dans l’architecture de la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1995, pp. 245-256.

N. Westphal, "La place du temple dans un modèle de ville protestante : les propositions de Jaques Perret dans son traité Des fortifications et artifices (1601)", Bulletin de la Société de l¹Histoire du Protestantisme en France, 152, 2006, pp. 263-374.

Y. Krumenacker, "Les temple protestants français, XVIe-XVIIe siècles", Chrétiens et sociétés, special issue, 1, 2011, pp. 131-154.

D. Wiebenson & C. Baine (ed.), The Mark J. Millard Architectural Collection. French Books, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1993, pp. 401-402.