Diderot distinguished between
two types of cross-reference: to things, and to words. Cross-references to things throw light on the object, indicating its close relationship to others immediately concerning it, or more distant relationships to others which might seem only remotely connected with it: they call up relevant notions, associations, analogous principles; add weight to cause and effect, and so to speak unite the branch to its trunk and confer on the whole that unity which makes for conviction and truth. When need arises, however, cross-references will produce quite the opposite effect, opposing one notion to another, contrasting different principles, attacking, shaking and overthrowing various ridiculous opinions which no one dares openly to despise. In an impartial author they will always serve the double function of confirming or refuting, disturbing or reconciling. The use of the latter type of cross-reference demands great skill, but can prove most rewarding. Entire works may draw inner strength from it, and achieve that unpretentious reliability whose slow but sure effect becomes more marked with the passage of time. . . .
There is a third kind of cross-reference, not to be completely yielded to or completely rejected: those cross-references which bring together certain relationships in the sciences or analogous qualities in natural substances and which may lead either to new speculative truths or to improvements in the known arts, to the invention of new ones or to the reanimation of arts that have been lost. Such associations are the creation of men of genius. Happy is the man who has the gift of perceiving new analogies, who has that faculty of association, that peculiar instinct which I defined in some of my Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature. . . .
Finally, a fourth and last kind of cross-reference, which may be to either thing or word, consists of those which I would not hesitate to describe as satirical or epigrammatic. I would not entirely outlaw such cross-references, as on occasion they can be useful. These can be secretly aimed at certain absurdities, just as philosophical allusions may help us to attack various preconceived ideas. These can be sometimes a polite and harmless device for warding off an attack, but without being too obviously on the defensive or tearing the mask off those long-faced hypocrites qui curios simultant et bacchanalia vivunt [who feign fasts and who live orgies]. . . .
Through the medium of encyclopaedic order, of universal knowledge and of frequent cross-references, relations are multiplied, connecting links are thrown out in all directions, the power of demonstration is increased, nomenclature is extended, whole areas of knowledge are brought more closely together and strengthen one another; we learn to see the continuity or the gaps in our system more clearly and identify those points where it is weak or strong, and to see at a glance which themes we must develop, whether for our own glory or that of the human race.
Encyclopaedic order, with its system of renvois or cross-references, as outlined by Diderot, is the task of the 'man of genius', the 'uncommon man',--the guise in which Lequeu chose to appear, always mindful of Diderot's warning that:
The works of such a man will necessarily be monstrous productions, as genius and good taste are two widely different qualities. Nature creates the one in a few moments, but the other is the product of centuries. Such monsters are destined to become national models and to determine the taste of an entire people.
One could quote the whole of Diderot's article Encyclopédie in the present
context, as it provides a key to all the work of Lequeu - the 'sovereign judge'
as he defined himself in his own 'farfetched explanation', the 'Censor'
described by Diderot at the end of that highly important article:
The man I would choose for an author would be firm, well educated and well informed, honest and truthful, without country or sect or class, who would tell about the times he lives in as though he were a thousand years away, and about the place he lives in as if he were two thousand leagues away.
We must therefore regard and read Lequeu's entire work as being a frivolous supplement to the Encyclopedic of Diderot and d' Alembert. His 'architectural compositions' give shape to the encyclopaedic 'City' of Diderot's metaphor, with its houses and pavilions empty except for the sovereign spirit of Writing--for Lequeu's avalanche of comments is a constant accompaniment to his deliberately tropological space. Lequeu's unattainable architectural combinations are the compositions of an architectural draughtsman designing architectural fictions. In accordance with--and against--the precepts of the Encyclopédie (precepts which are the point of departure for the modern social organization of the architect's work), he is constructing a universal language, with the firm intention of making us fully aware of its inadequacy. According to the Encyclopédie,
The tropes of Monsieur Dumarsais are figures of speech by means of which we can make a word assume a meaning other than its proper meaning. These figures of speech are known as tropes . . . because whenever we take a word in its figurative sense we are 'turning' it, so to speak, in such a way as to make it mean what it does not mean according to its proper sense.
Lequeu's jeu souverain or 'sovereign game', the complex and carefully planned system governing all his works, is always based on bookish sources and references which stress and circumscribe his own area of existence: libraries. 'Among the books to be considered indispensable,' said Diderot, 'we must count the catalogues of the great libraries, for that is where we find the sources from which we must draw.'
Lequeu frequently insisted on his debt to books. In a typical passage of the Nouvelle méthode he tells us:
In our libraries are found the works of numerous painters who have left a wide range of information about many aspects of their art. ... It is known that Frontinus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, Cassidorus, Fussius, Varro, Septinius, Cassius, Cossistius wrote on architecture etc., and everybody knows that Brunelleschi, Daniele Barbaro, Poliphilus, Philander, Vicenzo Scamozzi, Palladio, Vignola, Albert, Delorme, Serlio, Chambray, Derand, Buchotte, Boffrand, Du Cerceau, Lemuet, Perrault, Desgodetz, Bullet, Mesange, Laugier, Daviler, Le Camus and others, etc.
It was in treatises by such authors that Lequeu sought material for his 'compositions'. For instance, in applying his technique of 'mesures rapprochees' or 'close measurements' in one of his plates in the Architecture Civile he used at least two works as literary sources on the Christian archaeology of the Bethlehem grotto and the Virgin's house in Nazareth. These were Jean Doubdan's Voyage de la terre sainte, published in Paris in 1657, and the Récollet friar Eugene Roger's La Terre Sainte, a 'topographical account of the Holy Places in the Promised Land, with a Treatise on the Four Nations of different religions dwelling therein. . .and a Discourse on the principal tenets of the Koran; the Story of the Life and Death of Emir Fechredden, Prince of Ethiopia; and a True Account of Zaga Christ, Prince of the Druses; published in Paris in 1646.'
A skilful job of cutting, assembling and collage gave Lequeu material for both drawings and writings:
Plan and section of the little house of the Famous Sibyl of the desert of the anchorites, imitated from a grotto of Nazareth, which means 'Flower', according to the combined measurements of Doubdan
The delightful Interior of the modest dwelling in which Mary lived in peace and quiet, humbly praying and keeping vigil with her son, Jesus, the artisan who is said to have toiled with his Father on a valley-board of the Synagogue. This Evangelical teacher departed from her in his thirtieth year to journey in wisdom as so many other philosophers have done, and taking with him Holy women to serve him.
-- or again:
Plan and section of the Stable in the Valley of Adam's Figtrees, etc. . . . and also all covered with little mossy groves: The blissful dwelling of the Shepherd Quarryman is made in imitation of a grotto at Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah, also city of David the king, known as the fruitful.
There is also a
Section of the Grotto to which St Joseph and St Mary withdrew for four or five days, before renting the humble lodging in which they remained 40 days after the census.
The 'tropological space' and the 'Chinese encyclopaedia' are accompanied here, apart from other things, by a guessing-game or riddle to which the answer is not only mysterious but, unfortunately, multiple. Lequeu writes:
Nazareth is about 30 leagues from Bethlehem of the tribe of Judah, and 28 from Jerusalem, a city which was then as populous as Paris now is.
What if Jerusalem stood for Paris, and Nazareth for Rouen? Then would not Bethlehem be Aubevoie, in the Eure, where there is a 'Bethlehem Grotto' with the inscription 'Here Christ was born'? The riddle is in fact autobiographical. We are in 'The year 3932 of the earthly creation; St Mary is twelve years of age; has red hair'! According to Lequeu,
This first Christian martyr was brother to St James, known as the Just, who was slain in the same city by a blow from a fuller's hammer, 27 years after the death of Jesus who was 34 years old, St James being 62 years old, and St Mary their (tender) mother died there (in her real building) at the age of 60.
Here Lequeu identifies himself with Jesus. As he constantly affirms, he had the same social origins: for instance, on plate 33 (the age at which Christ died) and figure IOO (cent = sang = blood) in his Architecture Civile the caption reads:
Tomb of the author, brother of Jesus, who bore his cross all his life.
Philippe Duboy, Lequeu: An Architectural Enigma (1986), pp. 19-26.
[I]t was in this spirit [i.e., the notion of a museum of architecture in book form,] that Boullee collected his exemplary designs and, before his death, wrote his commentary on them. Ledoux, similarly assembling his engraved works for publication, considered the result an "Encyclopedia or Architectural museum" in his 1800 description. Durand published in his remarkable successful Recueil et Parallele des Edifices de tout Genre a "complete and inexpensive table of architecture," which artists and the students of the Ecole polytechnique "could look through quickly, examine without difficulty, and study fruitfully." As we have seen, Lequeu adopted this course in his isolation, preparing, in conjunction with lessons in rendering shadows, a collection of "a number of buildings of different peoples disseminated through the world."
These architectural "museums," visual counterparts of the Encyclopedic discourse, were for the most part conceived systematically rather than historically. Stressing classification and comparison, their implied method was that of the natural scientist, not the antiquarian. Boullée stressed the need for comparison; Ledoux spoke of "abbreviating the annals of time"; Durand insisted on "Classifying the buildings and monuments according to type" and drawing them to the same scale.
Anthony Vidler, The Writing of the Walls (Princeton, Princeton Architectural Press, 1987), p.166.
In Rowe's criticism of Stirling's museum, however, the demand was not necessarily for a body but rather for a face, which, with its direct appeal to the notion of a facade, implies a more figurative and mimetic correspondence than one based simply on abstract qualities of height, weight, stability, instability, and the like. Looking for a more direct understanding of the face/facade analogy, we might find it in the more precise physiognomical analyses of the late eighteenth century that compared, sometimes all too literally, a building's front to a human face. We might think of the theories of writers from Le Camus de Mézières to Humbert de Superville, the projects of Ledoux and Lequeu, and, in the later nineteenth century, of Charles Blanc and his disturbing comparison of racial physiognomies with regional styles.4
4. There has been no comprehensive study of the idea of physiognomy in architecture; for a brief sketch see my The Writing of the Walls: Architectural Theory in the Late Enlightenment (Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 1987), pp. 118ff.
Anthony Vidler, "Losing Face" in The Architectural Uncanny - Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992), p. 85-99.
The Secret/The Impossible
Lequeu's work offers up secrets, but the secrets it reveals are frivolous, are not the secrets that interpretation wants to consume, the inability to consume the other precisely being the point to the origin of drawing, an origin that is always a re-drawing, a re-drawing which like Lequeu's re-drawing of Paris, a set of horse heads, which un-veils "nothing, from any angle," a statement that bugs interpretation's attempt to de-bug Lequeu, to place a bug in Lequeu's work, to listen in on secret conversations, a statement that appears on the back of a drawing of bugs, of insects, but a drawing that does not offer a fly on the wall with which to see and hear Lequeu's secret....