Author(s) Félibien, André
Title Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture et de la peinture...
Imprint Paris, J.-B. I Coignard, 1676
Tours, Université F. Rabelais, FB 1816
Subject Architecture
Transcribed version of the text


     Settled in Paris after staying in Rome where he became familiar with antique architecture, André Felibien had a typical career in Colbert's service: he was a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1663, historiographer to the king in 1666 and first perpetual secretary of the Academy of Architecture in 1671. Nonetheless he published numerous works of art criticism exalting Louis XIV's patronage at the same time as the Academy's doctrine. He published in particular the Entretiens sur la vie et sur les ouvrages des plus excellents peintres (1666-1688) and also descriptions of the arch on the Place Dauphine (1660), of the château (1674) and the grotto at Versailles (1674, 1676, 1679),), as well as accounts of royal entries and festivities (Relation de la feste de Versailles, 1668, Les divertissements de Versailles, 1676). It was the latter accounts which led him to write the Principes : “noticing that several people did not understand certain words that I was forced to use […] I thought it useful to create a collection of those used only in this sort of encounter” (Preface). In this way the work is presented as an annotated encyclopedia of the three principal arts, first architecture, then sculpture (p. 298) and painting (p. 390), but also as a dictionary (which begins on page 457).
The first part which concerns the art of building came before d’Aviler's Cours d’architecture (1691). After an introduction on the five orders, derived from Palladio's models, Félibien deals with marble and stone, with accounts on the workers and the machines, then deals with military architecture, carpentry and roofing before dealing with the finishing works: plumbing, woodframing, iron work, glaziery and gilding, specifying the nature of the techniques for each field of interest and giving details in engraved plates of the shapes and usage of the necessary tools. Thereupon he demonstrates an interest in the artisanal aspects and materials of architecture which supplements the purely theoretical and aesthetic approach. It evokes, almost a century earlier, the spirit of Diderot's Encyclopédie. The Principes was republished in 1690, 1697 and 1699.

Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2013

Critical bibliography

A. Félibien, Entretiens sur les vies et les ouvrages des plus excellents peintres anciens et modernes. Entretiens I et II, Introduction, textual criticism and notes by R. Demoris, Paris, Les Belles-Lettres, 1987.

C. Fricheau, A. Cauquelin, D. Dauvois, R. Démoris, Félibien. La beauté classique, special edition of the Nouvelle revue d’esthétique, 2009-2.