27 - BEAULIEU, Sébastien de Pontault de
The glorious conquests of Louis XIV. Sébastien de Pontault, known as Sieur de Beaulieu (c. 1612-1678), was a French military engineer who stood out as the founder of military topography. Beaulieu started his military career during the times of Louis XIII and participated in the 1642 siege of Perpignan, of which the king commissioned an engraving. Given his prowess and the fact that he counted on royal favour, in 1647 he obtained from Louis XIV the privilege of publishing either on loose sheets or in books the plans and views of sieges and battles. This production was promoted by the French crown as propaganda to the greater glory and praise of the king. Beaulieu’s work is represented in various atlases and sets in small formats, known as Petits Beaulieu – two of them devoted to Catalonia – and a big format posthumous compendium – Grand Beaulieu – published in 1694 and called Les glorieuses conquestes de Louis Le Grand roy de France et de Navarre dediées au roy. The engraving of the 1651-1652 siege of Barcelona appears in this work, an episode from the Reaper’s War that reflected badly on the French army, finishing with the surrender of the City to the besieging Hispanic troops of Juan José of Austria.
The false impression of the perspective. The main characteristic of this fantastic engraving – one of the biggest from the Grand Beaulieu – lies in the combination of the plan of the territory and the elevation of some of the elements of the topography. This, along with the lack of uniform scale, creates a false impression of the perspective. Half of the engraving is occupied by the scene of the siege of Barcelona, from Montjuïc and the mouth of the River Llobregat, to the mouth of the River Besos, where Badalona is misplaced on the right bank of the river. Delimiting this area are the profiles of both Montjuïc Mountain and the Sierra de Collserola, which becomes the engraving’s background. The plain shows the layout of Felipe IV’s troops laying siege; they also surrounded the city at sea thanks to their fleet. Totally out of proportion, the right half of the engraving contains all the territory between Maresme and Cap Creus, as well as an explanatory cartouche. The detail of some places and villas contrasts with the general impression of the rest of the territory, where some summits such as Sierra del Montseny also appear in profile. This type of engraving does not claim to be a faithful representation of the territory but the explanation of a historic fact framed by a plausible topography, understandable by people little accustomed to cartographic codes.
The first printed plan of Barcelona? The plan of Barcelona that appears in this engraving is considered to be the first printed plan of the City. Until this date, no engraving had appeared, or at least there is no evidence of one, representing the layout of the City. For the representation of Barcelona, Beaulieu combines again the elements of the layout ( perimeter and a web of streets ) with the side view of the walls and some emblematic buildings such as the Dockyards, Cathedral, Santa Maria del Pi or Santa Clara and the windmills of Rec Comtal. Despite the lack of precision, the engraving clearly contains the essential urban lines of the City and created a school among latter artists that based their works on it.