BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
Van de Velde, Frans
|Arcus triumphales quinque...
|Antwerp, H. Liefrinck, 1549
|Ghent, Universitary Library, BIB.G.014010/4
The “triumphal” tour that Charles V undertook in order to present his son and heir Prince Philip to the Low Countries before abdicating was the occasion for several “joyous entries” into the cities of the Seventeen Provinces. The entry into Antwerp is well known thanks to the long account related by Cornelis de Schryvers, published by Pieter Coecke in 1550. The one into Ghent is mainly known thanks to five engravings published in 1549 by Hans Liefrinck, an engraver and publisher of German origin, settled in Antwerp, (who would publish the first French translation of the treatise by Hans Blum in 1551), and a booklet written by a humanist from Ghent, Jean Otho, the Brevis descriptio eor. quæ a S.P.Q. Gand. Philippo Austr. Carlo V. Cæsar. Princip. Flandriar. Filio et hæredi et futuro Principi Flandriar. exhibita fuere Gandavi printed in 1549 in Ghent by Cornelius Manilius.
Much more brief than the entry into Antwerp, this collection, the only known copy of which is in the University Library in Ghent, is made up of five xylographs representing five triumphal arches, preceeded by a short presentation in Latin and in Dutch. The plates are signed “Franciscus Veldius architectus”, the last one specifying “geographus et architectus”, as well as the place (Ghent) and the date (1549). Frans van de Velde left very few traces; an analysis of his images is proof of an indisputable historical and linguistic culture, and the fact that he calls himself “architectus” is confirmed by the great relevance in the architectural forms he presented. In spite of being so brief, the collection is an unquestionably very erudite work bringing together wide-spread knowledge. The five arches marking the prince’s route through the city were created according to the chronology which represents five tableaux -perhaps “tableaux vivants” during the ceremony- dramatizing the king and his son, historical prefigurations of the event which then concerned Charles V and the future Philip II. First we see David and Solomon, with texts in Hebrew from the Book of Kings, then Philip of Macedonia and Alexander, with maxims in Classical Greek. Next come the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus, then Charlemagne crowning Louis the Pious, with commentary in Low Franconian (supposedly the language of the Franks), and finally the Count of Flanders, Thierry of Alsace, who is shown granting his son Philip the regency at the moment he leaves for the Crusades in Jerusalem. This scene is annotated by texts in Flemish.
The retrospective, which starts with the Old Testament and ends with the history of the county of Flanders, is written in architectural forms which give an even richer meaning to it. In fact they follow in order the five canonical orders, from the Tuscan for the Hebrew arch to the Composite for the Flemish arch, such as the one Sebastiano Serlio exhibits in his Quarto libro, which Pieter Coecke had published in Antwerp in Dutch (1539). This book, as well as Terzo libro, translated in 1546 by the same Coecke, provided Veldius with most of the structures in his compositions. The lower level of the Tuscan arch repeats the model of folio B2 of the 1539 edition. The one of the Doric arch was very probably inspired by the Roman arches represented in Terzo libro, just like the Corinthian and Composite arches. He turned again to Quarto libro, more precisely the Serlian windows of the façade of folio H2, which he copied for the upper level of the Ionic arch.
This formal origin is not surprising, for Serlio also inspired Pieter Coecke for the entry archways into Antwerp, and inspired Jean Goujon and Jean Martin for those of Henri II’s entry into Paris that same year, 1549. Here, an additional semantic dimension is added to resumption of the basic Serlian structures: the historical chronology of the scenes represented is annotated by that of architectural history. We have known since Alberti that the Tuscan is taken to be the oldest of the orders; the Composite created by the Romans is the most recent, and in the meantime the Greeks successively invented the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Architectural history thus embraces the history of empires, and its culminating point, the Composite, the Roman triumphal order, flatters the Flemish arch and the city of Ghent, which one can see through the opening. At the same time, another structure underlies this a priori linear evolution. The two extreme arches, the Tuscan/Hebrew and the Composite/Flemish consist of two levels of equal width; the architecture presents remarkable fullness. On the other hand, the Doric/Greek and the Corinthian/Flemish arches have an upper part which is narrower, with a single bay flanked by triangular consoles. The central arch, Ionic and Roman, is the narrowest one, with a lower level reduced to a single bay. The five arches are presented according to archlike structures, no longer following a linear process but a symmetrical one, reducing the majesty of the architecture in the succession of Israel to Rome, and amplifying it again from Rome to Ghent, as though the sequence of emperors and kings was becoming weaker and then coming to life again. Finally Ghent joins Jerusalem in prestige, when Rome is at its lowest point. In other words, the kingdom of the Old Testament rejoins the Christian empire after the pagan decadence of Greece and Rome, then the pious renewal initiated by Charlemagne.
Thus there is an implicitly complex and learned demonstration given in the five engravings created by Van de Velde, which finally proves to have more meaning than the long and often wordy account of the entrance into Antwerp. It remains to be seen if the person addressed, Prince Philip, was capable of reading this very mannerist historico-architectural lesson. Now, the king he became was interested in the art of building and his library had a wealth of treatises on architecture. Van de Velde’s discourse was probably understood.
Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2014
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Y. Pauwels, “Propagande architecturale et rhétorique du Sublime: Serlio et les ‘Joyeuses entrées’ de 1549”, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 137, May-June 2001, pp. 221-236.
Y. Pauwels, “Fête, propagande et image imprimée: les ‘Joyeuses entrées’ de Gand et d’Anvers (1559)”, R. Crescenzo (ed.), Espaces de l’image, Nancy, Université de Nancy 2, 2002, pp. 167-188.
Y. Pauwels, “Prince Philip’s Entry into Ghent, 1549 : History, Language, Architecture”, M. McGowan, M. Shewring, R. Mulryne & M.-C. Canova-Green (ed.), Charles V, Prince Philip and the Politics of Succession: Imperial Festivities in Mons and Hainault, 1549, London, Routledge, to be published.
S. van Sprang, “Les décors des Joyeuses Entrées gantoises du XVIe siècle”, Annales d'histoire de l'art et d'archéologie de l'Université libre de Bruxelles, XII, 1990, pp. 73-89.