A Cosmology Seeded in Salt?
It is, I admit, mere imagination; but how often is imagination the mother of truth?--Sherlock Holmes
I've written a little earlier in this blog about the beautiful Claude-Nicolas-Ledoux (1736 —1806) being the 18th century Marcel Duchamp (or vice versa). I was struck by this image by the master--a depiction of the Earth nestled in clouds amongst other planets in exceptionally close proximity. There was evidently very little explanation to go along with this idea, except that it was inspired by his utopian plan for the saltworks of the factory-village at Chaux. On the face of it there seems to be no physical connection between the two--it must be the philosophical connection that Ledoux was thinking about. From my point of view the idea for the city of Chaux was of course idealistic, perfect, communal, with a vast sense of fairness and correctness, and of great sensibility. It was a "gathering of brothers" as Ledoux wrote, a city of lodges of workers, gathered together for mutual profit.
Perhaps this vision of cushioned planets was a larger expression by Ledoux of heavenly gratuity?
Anthony Vidler points out (in his book The Writing of the Walls) that Ledoux described his utopian Chaux as a "galaxy of...utopian forms" (page 101). Since Ledoux also described the architect as the "delegate of the Creator", perhaps he reverse-engineered a cosmology describing a mutually beneficial community of planets from a community of brotherhood gathered around the (admittedly important in 1780) production of salt.
Or perhaps not--this may just be way to simple and, well, just wrong.
NOTE: I do just want to point out here (and discuss at another time) that Ledoux was by no means the first to describe multiple-world systems. One of the prettiest of the earlier attempts, for example, belongs to Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle who published this delightful rendition of an extra solar-systemic galaxy in 1682 in his Entretriens sur la pluralite des mondes. This sort of thinking was somewhat well-established by the time Ledoux offered his idea around the time of the turn of the 18th century.
Should we not come to the rescue of a cosmic phenomenon trying to reveal itself in a sea of errors? Peter van de Kamp (1983)
For a beautiful romp, have a look at Ledoux's L'Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l'art, des mœurs et de la législatio. I've included a short list of projects (with links) in the expanded reading section below.
Projects of Ledoux
- Château de Mauperthuis (Seine-et-Marne), 1763 (destroyed)
- Hôtel du président Hocquart, 66 rue de la Chaussée d'Antin, Paris, 1764-1765 (destroyed)
- Hôtel d'Hallwyll, 28 rue Michel-le-Comte and 15 rue de Montmorency, Paris, 1766: It is the only private construction of Ledoux which remains in the capital.
- Hôtel d'Uzès, rue Montmartre, Paris, 1767 (détruit vers 1870): The boiseries du salon de compagnie have been conserved since 1968 at the Carnavalet Museum.
- Château de Bénouville, Bénouville, Calvados (near Caen), 1768-1769: Property of the general council of the Calvados, at the present it houses the chambre régionale des comptes.
- Hôtel de la présidente de Gourgues, 53 rue Saint-Dominique, Paris (reconstructed)
- Maison de Mlle Guimard, Chaussée d'Antin, Paris (destroyed)
- Maison de Mlle Saint-Germain, rue Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1769-1770 (destroyed)
- Pavillon Saint-Lambert, Eaubonne (destroyed)
- Pavillon d'Attilly, faubourg Poissonnière, Paris, 1771 (destroyed)
- Pavillon de musique de Mme du Barry, Louveciennes, 1770-1771
- Hôtel de Montmorency, intersection of rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin and boulevard, Paris, 1772 (destroyed) : The woodwork of the circular salon are preserved at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
- Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans (1774-1779) (classified as monuments historiques of France and a World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 1982)
- Théâtre de Besançon, 1778-1784
- Hôtel Thélusson, rue de Provence, Paris, 1778 (destroyed in 1826 at the time the prolongation of rue Laffitte)
- Hôtel de Mme d'Espinchal, rue des Petites-Écuries, Paris (destroyed)
- Parc de Bourneville, La Ferté-Milon (Aisne)
- Grenier à sel de Compiègne (OiseÂ)
- Siège de la Ferme générale, rue du Bouloi, Paris
- Pavillons et barrières de l'Octroi de Paris (see Wall of the Farmers-General) (1785).
- Decoration of Café militaire (or Café Godeau), rue Saint-Honoré, Paris, 1762 (Musée Carnavalet, Paris)