September 01, 2004

Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes

Among the books that have been digitised and presented on-line by Le Conservatoire numérique des Arts & Métiers (CNUM, for short) is a 1615 treatise by the engineer and architect Salomon de Caus (1576-1626) entitled Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes, avec diverses machines tant utiles que puissantes, auxquelles sont adjoints plusieurs dessings de grotes & fontaines, from which I have snipped the images that follow below…

Title page from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

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'To represent the song of a bird in natural sound through the medium of water', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

I first learned of de Caus from Frances Yates’s book The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Yates writes that de Caus was an ‘extremely brilliant garden-architect, and hydraulic engineer’, and that he was on intimate terms with the architect Inigo Jones, with whom he worked in the service of King James VI & I’s son and heir, Prince Henry, who:

…had been deeply interested in Renaissance garden design, in mechanical fountains which could play musical tunes, in speaking statues, and other devices of this kind, the taste for which had been stimulated by the recent recovery of ancient texts describing such marvels by Hero of Alexandria and his school.
'Machine of great service, for boring wooden pipes.', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

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'Machine with figure of Galatea pulled through the water by 2 dolphins...', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

After Henry’s early death (aged only eighteen), de Caus enetered the service of the Elector Palatine, Frederick V, and his wife Princess Elizabeth, Henry’s sister. He was installed at Frederick’s palace at Heidelberg, where he began work, ca 1614, on what was to become his masterpiece, the spectacular garden known as the Hortus Palatinus. Work on this formal garden, and its elaborate fountains and artificial grottoes continued until Frederick’s political ambitions were decisively defeated in 1620. The Hortus was thereafter reduced to ruins, but, more recently there has been some partial reconstruction work done following the detailed plans left by de Caus in a 1620 publication (also called Hortus Palatinus) that was bound with later editions of Les Raisons….

'Another manner for augmenting the power of the preceding fountain', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

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'Design of a Mt. Parnassus...', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

After 1620, de Caus returned to his native France, from which he had fled, as a Hugenot refugee, many years earlier. He died in Paris. As well as Les Raisons and Hortus Palatinus, de Caus also published a treatise on perspective, La Perspective, Avec la Raison des Ombres et Miroirs (1612) and a work on sundials: La Pratique et Demonstration des Horloges Solaires (1624).

'Design of a grotto with a ball suspended by the force of water.', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

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'Design of a fountain in the shape of a Cupid...', illustration from de Caus' 'Les Raisons des Forces Mouvantes'.

Click on the images to see them enlarged.

Posted by misteraitch at September 1, 2004 02:08 PM | TrackBack