Turgot’s Map of Paris 1734

One page from Turgot’s Map of Paris

Michel-Etienne Turgot was the provost of the Merchants (the equivalent of Mayor) of Paris in 1734. During this time, he wanted to create a legacy while promoting his beloved city. This was about 50 years before the French Revolution, so the city looked a little different. He enlisted the help of Louis Bretez, a professor of perspective and member of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Turgot granted entry into private spaces to make sure the series was as accurate as possible. Bretez spent two years creating the most accurate studies of every building, garden, church, landmarks, and surrounding countryside. This taxing endeavor may have caused the death of both Bretez and one of his assistants, both of whom died towards the end of the project. In 1736, Antoine Coquart and Charles Lucas, both master engravers, received the rights to turn Turgot’s comprehensive project into plates for printing.

Michel-Etienne Turgot
Michel-Etienne Turgot source: pbslearningmedia.org
The project was executed with a scale 1:400 and as if the viewer were facing east. Once unbound and formed into one map, the piece measures 8 by 10.5 feet. The techniques used for this perspective is one of the reasons this series is so renowned. The series used axonometric projection, where the “lines of sight new perpendicular to the plane of projection, and the object is rotated around one or more of its axes to reveal multiple sides.” The perspective is also considered “cavalier” which is a “tool which makes it possible to represent 2-dimensional objects which exist in a 3-dimensional field. There is no vanishing point and the size of objects does not decrease when they move away.” This idea was seen as outdated because it had no regard for the conventional perspective, but Turgot felt that it was the best way to represent the city.
With our scanning capabilities, we can create different color reproductions of this beautiful series.
Once printed, the volumes were presented to the King, dignitaries, and members of the Academy of Painting. Very few volumes were created, which makes this series even more coveted. The original plates are now kept in the Lourve’s archives. If you would like to see more of these, swing by our shop to check out this colossal series!
To learn more about this series and perspective, you can visit these sites:
http://www.library.priceton.edu/news/2012-07-18/tour-paris-1730s
http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~ramesh/teaching/course/48-175/lectures/10.AxonometricProjections.pdf
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cavalier%20projection

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