ARCHITRAVE – Art and Architecture in Paris and Versailles in Accounts by Baroque-Era German Travellers

Overview

Project duration: 2017 - 2021 Date coverage: 1685 - 1723 Website Contact

Digital Humanities Digital Cultural Heritage Archive Geohistory GIS / HGIS Historical Documents (e.g. Notarial sources; Census records; Ecclesiastical documents; Correspondence) Ancient Books Digitization of collections Tools for data mining/extraction Platform for data aggregation or retrieval

The project aims at scrutinizing the content of six substantial German travel accounts dating from 1685 to 1723, the earliest hitherto known, in which profound and reasoned judgements and opinions on French art and architecture have been rendered. These manuscripts and printed documents out of German public collections are partly unpublished and have never been investigated as a whole. The following sources have been treated:

  • Christoph Pitzler (1657-1707): Travel journal, 1685-1688 (Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Potsdam; photos from a lost original)
  • Ferdinand Bonaventura Graf Harrach (1637-1706): Travel journal, 1698 (Österreichisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Vienna; manuscript)
  • Lambert Friedrich (1668-1733) and Christian Heinrich Corfey (1670-1652): Reisetagebuch, 1698-1699 (ed. by Helmut Lahrkamp, Münster, Aschendorf, 1977)
  • Christian Friedrich Gottlieb von dem Knesebeck (before 1680 – after 1727): Journal relating a travel to France, around 1711-1713 (Universitätsbibliothek, Rostock; manuscript)
  • Leonhard Christoph Sturm (1669-1719): Architectonische Reise-Anmerkungen [1699], 1719 (Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Special collections; printed book)
  • Johann Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753): Letters from his travel to France, 1722/1723 (Würzburg, Staatsarchiv; modern book editions and original manuscript)

The project makes these documents available in a richly commented, comfortably researchable digital portal, aiming at a multi-layered linkage of text and image, and targeting both an academic and non-academic public in France and in German-speaking countries. Hence, the ambitions of the joint German-French research group are twofold: to merge the knowledge of French specialists on Paris and Versailles under Louis XIV with the acquaintance of their German colleagues with the chosen sources, and to demonstrate the capacities of a computer-based treatment of the texts to generate innovative and reliable ways of exploring and researching them.

The core objective of the project is to contribute to a better understanding of the modes of appreciation of an alien culture in the baroque era. Even if drawn by an inquisitive admiration, German travellers have shown long before the height of the Enlightenment a critical distance towards French art and culture. It has not yet been investigated enough to what extent the contact with French culture contributed to the development of such a faculty of independent judgement, stabilizing (and even reinforcing) inner German schemes of apprehension. Moreover, the skeptical attitude commonly discernible in these documents compared here for the first time seems to have been a fertile soil for the development of a new aesthetic paradigm at the turn of the century. Indeed, artistic eclecticism, which had emerged in the Renaissance, still prevailed. It based judgements on art on the ability of the artist to imitate and, at the best, to emulate universally appraised historical samples. But around 1700, first signs of a loosening of this paradigm became discernible, giving more space to an appreciation of individual achievements and creative genius. The part German travellers to France played in this subversive and emancipatory process will have to be investigated.

Also in regard to their literary qualities and linguistic specificities, the texts to be analysed here seem to belong to a transitory period. Research has hitherto held the view that only since the height of the Enlightenment the abilities of the travellers to formulate individual appraisals of art works, implicating a deliberately private and partial point of view, emerged. But even if in the late 17th century the traditional descriptive mode still prevailed, aiming at an allegedly objective and integral account of the art works seen, one already observes a growing ability of the travellers to focus on single aspects following their individual interests, and to express their emotions sensed. 

It is obvious that the travel accounts constitute precious factual sources too. They will not only help to better understand the appearance of numerous buildings and their interior decorations modified or destroyed by time, as well as their contemporary uses and functions. They will also provide information about the accessibility of certain fortifications, palaces, gardens, etc. and the permission to study them. The cross-case analysis of the sources can give precious indications about the personal networks tourists had to mobilise in order to organise their visits.

In conjunction with the scientific investigation, an enriched and interactively searchable bilingual digital critical edition of the six sources has been produced via Open Access. This research portal is accompanied by a web space for the wider public created on the Palace of Versailles website.

Lead partners of the project:

Project partners

Lead partners

  • 0011t00000TzaQCAAZ

Public datasets

ARCHITRAVE [map visualization : data & software]

The dataset includes cartographic visualization data and software designed, implemented, and published for the ARCHITRAVE research project website. The research focused on the edition, executed in German and French, of six travelogues by German travelers of the Baroque period who visited Paris and Versailles. The edited texts are published in the Textgrid repository. For all further information on the content and objectives of the research, please refer to the website (https://architrave.eu/) and given literature. Three visualizations were created for the website: the travel stops of five of the travelers on their way to Paris and Versailles the sites in Europe mentioned in the six travelogues the sites in Paris described by the six travelers The visualizations were implemented with Leaflet.js. The dataset contains scripts for data crunching processed geodata scripts for leaflet.js License README

License: CC BY-NC-SA

Briefe der Parisreise von Balthasar Neumann, 1723 (Letters from his travel to France, 1722/1723)

The letters that Balthasar Neumann sent to his employer, the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, during his trip to France between January and April 1723 are particularly informative because they reveal the diplomatic skills of the Franconian Baroque architect who later became famous. Neumann had been sent to France to present his plans for the Würzburg Residence, which had been in planning since the turn of 1719/20, to the first royal architect, Robert de Cotte. But in addition to de Cotte, Neumann also sought the advice of Germain Boffrand, the "premier architecte" of the Dukes of Lorraine. In the 19 letters that have been preserved, most of which summarise his conversations, Neumann is open to the design and taste preferences of his French colleagues, but he persistently tries not to deny his own planning ideas. A latent resistance to French architectural ideas - as far as façade designs and interior distributions are concerned - is at the same time counterbalanced by a sincere admiration for the new French interior decoration and the French decorative arts. This ambivalence makes Neumann's letters, which have never been fully translated into French and have not yet received sufficient attention in French research, particularly meaningful - especially with regard to the artistic interactions between Germany and France during the Régence and the early reign of Louis XV.

License: CC BY-NC-SA

Reiseanmerkungen von Leonhard Christoph Sturm, 1719 (Travel Journal of Leonhard Christoph Sturm)

Leonhard Christoph Sturm's publication is of particular value because of its frankly expressed, strikingly critical attitude towards French art and architecture: as if in a burning glass, it makes visible the Franco-German competitive relationship that became increasingly evident in the High Baroque, and which existed not only on a political-military but also on a cultural level. The thoroughly admired French model is subjected to systematic scrutiny and even "corrected" several times. The German architectural theorist and strict pietist passes partly merciless judgements on what he considers to be unsuccessful building designs: He castigates any deviation from the mathematical principles and laws of proportion of architecture that he considers fundamental, since he derives their irrefutability from biblical revelation. The Architectonische Reise-Anmerckungen thus turn out to be a didactic textbook with a cultural-political impact, aimed at aspiring architects from the German-speaking world. By no means should the Reise-Anmerckungen be misunderstood as a mere inventory of French architecture around 1700, even though the book is based on independent, authentic travel impressions. Christian Friedrich Gottlieb von dem Knesebeck's travel journal seems to be a precursor to Sturm's publication.

License: CC BY-NC-SA

Reisebeschreibung von Christian Friedrich Gottlieb von dem Knesebeck, um 1711-1713 (Itinerary of Christian Friedrich Gottlieb von dem Knesebeck)

Christian Friedrich Gottlieb von dem Knesebeck's treatise has the same somewhat opinionated tone and didactic impetus as Leonhard Christoph Sturm's Architectonische Reise-Anmerckungen. In fact, Knesebeck's Kurtze Beschreibung einer Tour durch Holland nach Franckreich, von Braunschweig is directly related to Sturm's book, which was published in its first edition in 1719: most likely, Knesebeck's manuscript is a copy of Sturm's compiled travel notes, which he compiled after his journeys to the Netherlands, Flanders and France in 1696, 1699 and 1712 and then used to write his printed work. However, Sturm's original notes are lost today, so that in Knesebeck's copy we possess the only original copy of Sturm's travel notes found to date. We can only speculate about the circumstances surrounding the creation of this copy: Around 1713, Sturm once again turned to publishing projects and may have asked Knesebeck to transcribe his travel notes and drawings into the original. However, Knesebeck is also known to have undertaken a journey to France between 1711 and 1713, albeit one that is hardly documented. In preparation for this trip, he may have asked Sturm to copy the notes. Since Knesebeck's manuscript differs in numerous points from Sturm's printed version of the book, researchers have a unique opportunity to trace the editorial processes that turned a travel description into a didactically oriented yet literarily appealing textbook: Individual proposals that were provocative in terms of art policy, such as the improvement of the Versailles Mirror Gallery, were omitted from the book version, but can still be found in Knesebeck's manuscript.

License: CC BY-NC-SA

Reisebeschreibung von Christoph Pitzler (Itinerary of Christoph Pitzler)

Christoph Pitzler's notes - written in the mid-1680s during a stay of several years in Paris - are among the earliest substantial surveys of French architecture under the rule of Louis XIV that have come to light from the pen of a contemporary German architect. Pitzler is neither brilliant in his judgement nor in his drawing skills. Nevertheless, his travel notes on France, which comprise about 140 pages and are characterised by a close interweaving of sketches and explanatory texts, constitute a fund that provides information on numerous buildings and interiors not otherwise recorded by any other traveller: For example, Pitzler was the first to note and draw some of the marble floors in the king's Grand appartement in the Palace of Versailles; his cursory renderings of the façade and floor plan of the Hôtel particulier in the Rue de l'Université in Paris, where the Hereditary Prince Johann Georg of Saxony (later Elector Johann Georg IV) lodged during his stay in the French metropolis, are also singular. But Pitzler's illustrated account of the workings of the Marly machine - that universally admired pumping station on the Seine - is also unique among the surviving testimonies of German travellers of the time because of its detail. Despite all the coincidences that may have conditioned the selection, Pitzler's notes thus show what an architect from the German provinces considered noteworthy in Paris and the surrounding area in the 1680s. How he incorporated the inspiration from France into his architectural œuvre, although it is limited in size, has not yet been sufficiently investigated.

License: CC BY-NC-SA

Reisejournal von Lambert Friedrich Corfey, 1698-1699 (Travel Journal of Lambert Friedrich Corfey)

The travel journal of Lambert Friedrich Corfey still belongs to the long tradition of humanistic travel descriptions, whose essential features include the enumeration of curiosities and oddities and, above all, the passionately meticulous recording of Latin inscriptions on buildings and monuments. However - and this is what makes this source so special - Lambert Friedrich and his younger brother Christian Heinrich Corfey, who travelled with him, also describe their individual travel impressions in addition to the buildings and technical achievements that interested them: Country and people, landscapes, religious customs are already given a place in the travelogue. Lambert Friedrich Corfey's journal thus displays a hybridity that seems to be a characteristic of the transitional phase between late humanism and the early Enlightenment, without research having recognised this sufficiently so far.

License: CC BY-NC-SA

Tagebuch des Grafen Ferdinand Bonaventura I. von Harrach, 1697-1698 (Travel Journal Ferdinand Bonaventura I Count von Harrach)

The pages that Ferdinand Bonaventura Count von Harrach devotes to France within his personally written journal of 1698 are among the most original and revealing sources in the history of the perception and judgement of French art around 1700 - for the following reasons: Firstly, a high-ranking Habsburg nobleman and diplomat, who as a builder and collector of paintings was able to develop a pragmatic gift for judgement, coupled with an incorruptible eye for quality, is judging here. On the other hand, the language used by the Count is matter-of-fact and sober, which enables him to critically question individual French art productions in a concise and yet never disparaging form. Moreover, the Count, although actually incognito in Paris, has access to many princely palaces and private hôtels particuliers due to his rank: some of his descriptions of these interiors are among the only ones we have from the pen of a traveller of the time.

License: CC BY-NC-SA

With financial support by

ANR-DFG Funding Programme for the Humanities and Social Sciences Since 2007, the agreement between the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) in France and the DFG on research cooperation in the humanities and social sciences has enabled the funding of integrated German-French research projects.The funding programme is designed to expand and intensify German-French cooperation in the humanities and social sciences. There are no specifications as to research topics. Proposals for projects with components of data-related infrastructures are also possible. This creates the basis for long-term German-French collaborations and networks. As well as the general intensification of German-French research cooperation, the programme also has two other goals. By bringing together national scholarly traditions in certain fields of research, it aims to encourage the humanities and social sciences in both countries to produce results that are relevant to important social or political problems that cross borders. It is also intended to leverage and demonstrate the advantages of multilingualism in science and academia in fields where German and French are still important languages of scholarship. Special attention is given to the integrated character of proposed projects, from the concept to the work plan. Funding is only available for projects which involve a convincing collaboration between the German and French partners and for which the anticipated research benefit is clearly outlined. Projects can be funded for a period of up to three years.

Since 2007, the agreement between the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) in France and the DFG on research cooperation in the humanities and social sciences has enabled the funding of integrated German-French research projects.The funding programme is designed to expand and intensify German-French cooperation in the humanities and social sciences. There are no specifications as to research topics. Proposals for projects with components of data-related infrastructures are also possible. This creates the basis for long-term German-French collaborations and networks. As well as the general intensification of German-French research cooperation, the programme also has two other goals. By bringing together national scholarly traditions in certain fields of research, it aims to encourage the humanities and social sciences in both countries to produce results that are relevant to important social or political problems that cross borders. It is also intended to leverage and demonstrate the advantages of multilingualism in science and academia in fields where German and French are still important languages of scholarship. Special attention is given to the integrated character of proposed projects, from the concept to the work plan. Funding is only available for projects which involve a convincing collaboration between the German and French partners and for which the anticipated research benefit is clearly outlined. Projects can be funded for a period of up to three years.