Author(s) Valladier, André
Greuter, Mathieu
Title Labyrinthe royal de l’Hercule gaulois triomphant...
Imprint Avignon, J. Bramereau, 1600
Localisation Paris, Binha, 4 Res 814
Subject Entry


     In the 16th and 17th centuries there were numerous solemn entries into Avignon : those made for the legates and vice-legates, representatives of the papal authority over the city, and those reserved for the monarchs of the powerful kingdom of France, in which the city was enclosed. The entry that the inhabitants of Avignon prepared in 1600 to celebrate Henri IV and his new bride Marie de Medici, who had just arrived in Marseille, should have been particularly ostentatious. But apparently the king was not in too much of a hurry to join the queen, and he stayed longer than planned at battle in his northern provinces. As a matter of fact, Avignon had to be satisfied with greeting the young queen alone.
The register relating this entry is extremely imposing : more than two hundred pages. The author, André Valladier, is not named, but he cites the work as his in another of his books, the Tyrannomanie estrangère, ou Pleinte libellee au Roy…(Paris, Chevallier, 1626). Born around 1565, he started in the Jesuit order in 1586 and during the entry, he was a professor of rhetoric in Avignon (where young Fabri de Peiresc was among his pupils). His Labyrinthe must have pleased Henri IV, for the king asked him to write the annals of his reign in 1607, and procured the abbey of Saint-Arnould in Metz for him after our rhetorician had left the company of the Jesuits (and not without some problems with Rome). In addition we owe him numerous books, among which a treatise on oratory art, the Partitiones oratoriae, published in 1621 in Paris by the bookseller Pierre Chevallier, who had already published a collection of sermons Les divines parallèles de la Sainte Eucharistie in 1613.
In fact from the rhetorical point of view the Labyrinthe is an opulent work. A "septénaire" work, structured in seven main sections, each dedicated to a virtue of the king put into parallel with one of the labours of Hercules and illustrated with an arch, the narration is enriched by innumerable anagrams, many French and Latin poems and official speeches, numerous digressions on the most varied subjects, the perfection of the number seven, the genealogy of the houses of France and the Medici, the history of Avignon, the praises of preceding legates, not to mention the perpetual offensive remarks addressed to the Huguenots. Valladier was rather proud of this copia verborum; after he left the Company of Jesuits, he went to visit the scholar Antoine de Laval at Moulins and according to what Laval says, he showed him "un sien œuvre sur l’entrée de la Reine-Mère du Roi venant en France l’an 1600, œuvre à dire la vérité pleine de très belles recherches d’Antiquité, embellie de toutes sortes d’érudition et de doctrine, de poésie, de devises d’emblèmes, d’énigmes, de gryphes, d’inscriptions, mais d’un langage si rempli de métaphores, de figures, si parsemé de mots transposés, qu’étant pressé par lui-même de lui en dire mon avis, je fus forcé enfin de lui répondre que si nous parlions comme il écrivait, il nous faudrait dire que Messieurs Du Perron, Amyot, Du Vair, Coeffeteau et les autres grandes lumières de notre France n’avaient pas su notre langue, puisque la sienne était du tout différente, voire contraire à la leur, ou que sa manière d’écrire était nouvelle et vicieuse, tant elle m’était nouvelle et presque étrangère" (Homélies de saint Jean Chrysostome, Paris, Cramoisy, 1621; quoted by M. Fumaroli, L’âge de l’éloquence..., p. 274.).
This criticism of Valladier’s style, which reveals his "classic" 17th century perfectly, could be applied to architectural structures no doubt also conceived by him, even if their realization had been entrusted to the painter Pierre Duplan, and the engravings to an artist from Strasbourg then working in Avignon, Mathieu Greuter. The simulated structures of the entry were built carefully and opulently : "il ne faut pas", the author specifies, "que le lecteur pense qu’il ait rien de plate peinture, aux temple (sic), tours, galeries, colonnes, piédestaux, corniches, et autres appartenances des sept arcs ; car tout était en relief de bois uni de toile par dessus, où il était de besoin peint et verni en toute sorte de marbre, jaspe et porphyre ; tous les chapiteaux et leurs bases dorées et argentées à rechange ; l’ordre des colonnes tantôt ionique, tantôt dorique, tantôt corinthe, tantôt composé, selon les occurrences, avec les convenances d’architecture gardées en tout ; les uns doubles les autres simples ; toutes les frises d’une même couleur écrites de jaune sur l’azur ; les corniches, architraves, frontispices et couronnements diversifiés de toute sorte de jaspe, marbre et porphyre, et parfois de bronze, où le cas le requerrait ; toutes lesquelles choses faisaient montre et ouvrage de grande majesté et magnificence, car c’est bien autre de voir un si grand nombre de colonnes, et d’arcs tous relevés, et à jour avec toutes leurs appartenances, que des pilastres feints en plate peinture sur des ais rapiécés l’un avec l’autre" (p. 53). But this richness goes along with a style which is still very mannerist: the liberties are numerous in the arches represented in the register, and the sources of inspiration very typical of the high style such as the waning 16th century imagined it. The first arch, at the entrance of the fortification elements of Saint-Lazare is an amplification of a model in Serlio’s Libro Extraordinario (arch XVI). The structure is characterized by two couples of columns surmounted by small pediments, segmented, and, in the center, the very Serlian strategy of interrupting the entablature with the keystone of the arch. The elocutio, of course was enriched and adapted to the necessities of the present treatise; the Doric "propre et ordinaire des guerres" replaces the Corinthian, and the warlike trophies and pontifical emblems illustrate the glory of the king and the power of the pope. But the architectural licence inherited from the mannerist style occurs frequently: in addition to the interruption of the entablature already mentioned, the triglyphs of the frieze disappear, and the top ornament consisting of two segmented half-pediments terminating in volutes clearly affirms its Michelangelesque character. The "temple de Janus" presents animal pillars, whose inspiration might well have been suggested to Valladier by the Nouveaux portraits et figures de termes by Joseph Boillot (Langres, 1592). For the other arches, the author doesn’t hesitate to place, between the capitals and the entablatures, sculptured figures, angels, volutes with lions’ or rams’ heads, or other certainly picturesque figures which were incompatible with the true architecture.
As a matter of fact, in its writing as in its architectural representations, the Labyrinthe is perfectly representative of French art under Henri IV: that period, still entirely impregnated by the style of Philibert De l’Orme and Ronsard, could not be pleasing to the contemporaries of Mansart and Boileau. The criticisms that Pierre de Laval addresses to Valladier greatly resemble those that Fréart de Chambray would address to the French architecture of the 16th century- and it is moreover very significant that the antimannerist controversy in which the latter participated touched on the construction of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis, the church of the Maison Professe of the Jesuits in Paris.

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

Critical bibliography

L. Brièle, La bibliothèque d’un Académicien au XVIIe siècle. Inventaire et prisée des livres rares et des manuscrits de Jean Ballesdens, suivi de son testament, Paris, Imprimerie nationale, 1885.

F. de Forbin, "Le Labyrinthe royal de l’entrée triomphante…", F. de Forbin (ed.), Les entrées solennelles à Avignon et Carpentras. XVIème-XVIIIème siècles, Exhibition catalogue, Avignon, Bibliothèque Municipale, sept-oct 1997, [Paris], Direction du Livre et de la Culture, 1997, pp. 57-59.

M. Fumaroli, L’âge de l’éloquence. Rhétorique et « res littéraria » de la Renaissance au seuil de l’époque classique, Paris, Albin Michel, 1994, pp. 274-276 (1st ed.: Geneva, Droz, 1980).

M. McGowan, "Les Jésuites à Avignon : les fêtes au service de la propagande politique et religieuse", J. Jacquot & É. Koningston (ed.), Les fêtes de la Renaissance, 3, Paris, CNRS, 1975, pp. 153-171.

Y. Pauwels, "Les entrées : la fête, l’architecture, le livre", F. de Forbin (ed.), Les entrées solennelles à Avignon et Carpentras. XVIème-XVIIIème siècles, Exhibition catalogue, Avignon, Bibliothèque Municipale, sept-oct 1997, [Paris], Direction du Livre et de la Culture, 1997, pp. 13-29.