French Bridge Drawings in the Cronstedt Collection

Throughout the 18th century, French engineers were well ahead of many of their European counterparts. It thus comes as no surprise to find documents in the Nationalmuseum’s architectural drawings collection testifying to the interest of Swedish directors of public works in original French bridges from the 17th and 18th centuries. As in many other fields, models were collected for the purpose of adapting proven technical solutions to local needs. This thirst for knowledge is also reflected in notebooks and sketchbooks, among them a compilation of notes in the Royal Library, Stockholm, that seems to originate from Carl Hårleman’s Parisian stay in the early 1720s, including an explanation and an exercise on how to construct long-lasting and cheaper bridges.[i] Notes from Carl Johan Cronstedt’s European studies likewise bear witness to this interest in building in and close to water, an interest probably awakened in the first year of his studies under Christopher Polhem.[ii] In two manuscripts, Cronstedt also summarises (and sometimes translates from French into Swedish) technical information on such matters as vaulting and bridges, deriving from Bélidor, Bullet, Daviler, Félibien and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and his sketchbooks record field studies of several French bridges.[iii] In the following, I will mainly examine drawings of French bridges held in the Nationalmuseum’s Cronstedt Collection, discuss their provenance, and very briefly suggest how this technical material may have been exploited.

The Pont Royal – Paris
On 28 February 1684, the Pont Rouge, facing the Louvre, was swept away during a flood; the following year, work began on the Pont Royal. The identity of its author is still discussed; the bridge has been attributed to Jacques Gabriel, Jules Hardouin Mansart, Pierre Bullet, Pierre Deslile and François Romain, possibly suggesting a collaboration between several (or all) of these contemporaries.[iv] The bridge was a pioneering achievement, in that it was built in record time (1685–88), was the first bridge spanning the Seine without the support of an island, and the first in France in which use was made of pozzolana.[v]
The Cronstedt Collection includes three series of drawings showing various stages in this project: preliminary studies, design, and the building site.
The first series, comprising three wash drawings, records pre-studies of an already built urban environment. One sheet shows the site of the old bridge and a proposal for a new one, further to the west, in line with the Tuileries Palace and the Rue du Bac (CC 270). The relief of the riverbank is shown in detail, and on the left bank the areas and owners of the built plots are specified. A second sheet shows the façades of these houses, with a text explaining that their ground floors lay below the stone-paved street of the existing quay (CC 2211), which may be interpreted as an argument for remodelling them.[vi] A third sheet presents detailed plans of the houses, as well as the abutment of the new bridge (CC 79).[vii]
The second series, a drawing and an engraving, presents the design of the bridge in elevation, plan and section (CC 622 and CC 623).[viii] The engraving indicates some hesitation, with a handwritten note saying “bridge corrected” (pont corrigé) (verso) and with the lower stones of the arches and the foundation stones of the piers coloured in red (recto) – the form of the bridge arches was discussed at the Royal Academy of Architecture. The design and the colours of the drawing also match a drawing of an anonymous bridge pier (CC 638).
The third series, consisting of three sketches by the Flemish monk Liévin Cruyl (c. 1640–1720), records a building site with work in progress. Like a photographer, the artist captures three moments in time, showing the hierarchy, the different tasks and tools involved in building in water, and how the workers (men and horses) were equipped. Two of the sketches are signed Liv. Cruyl auditer declineat mense octobre 1686, and all three are remains of preliminary studies for Cruyl’s famous propaganda engravings of this royal project.[ix] The first drawing bears the title Moulin à quatre ou huit chevaux pour debacqueter l’eau avec une lanterne, la roue de […] diametre, and corresponds to a detail of a coloured drawing in the Destailleur Collection at the French National Library (fig. 1).[x] Viewing the scene from the left bank, it shows two men supervising the workers: one seems to be observing, while the other is giving instructions to three men operating a crane. On a platform below the bridge abutment, three men are transporting a large stone block on a wagon, a fourth man is hammering, and a fifth one is attempting to reach a board. Another man tends the horses that are turning the wheel of the pumping engine, and four horses are drinking on the riverbank. Entitled “Water mill with two lanterns”, the second sheet also presents a detail from a drawing in the Destailleur Collection (fig. 2).[xi] This sketch once again records intense activity, but seen from the water side (the east): two men are supervising two horse-driven “lanterns”, another is stacking blocks of stone, four men are talking, and three are working on a bridge pier, two of them turning a crankshaft, with a mason building the actual pier. Neither signed nor dated, the third sheet (CC 640) is a summary sketch of a detail in one of Cruyl’s engravings from 1687, recording the “construction of the arches of the bridge at the Louvre” (fig. 3).[xii] A bird’s-eye view from the water side, it shows the centering for the construction of the three northern arches: twelve men are working on a floating platform, using four cranes to lift blocks of stone and barrels from a boat; five men on the northern bridge pier are receiving a block: two of them operate the crane, one guides it with a rope, a fourth man catches the block, and a fifth applies mortar.[xiii]
How and when did these drawings reach Stockholm? In 1919, three similar drawings of the bridge signed by Cruyl and published by Edgar Mareuse were still held at Saint-Fargeau (owned by Mme Wattine, née Lacour), the former estate of the Pelletier family.[xiv] According to Mareuse, the name Le Pelletier de Souzy was written on one of these drawings, and the same person is probably portrayed in another of Cruyl’s engravings. Claude Le Pelletier de Souzy (–1711) succeeded Colbert as contrôleur général des finances in 1683, holding the position until 1689, and was thus responsible for the construction of the Pont Royal.[xv] Cronstedt’s library at Fullerö also holds a document regarding another bridge in Lyon, présenté de la part de monsieur Le Peletier conseiller d’état et intendant des finances (17 August 1688), which like the drawings considered here may come from the archives of Le Pelletier or those of Pierre Bullet. We know that Bullet received several commissions from the Le Pelletier family, that Hårleman studied under his son Jean-Baptiste Bullet de Chamblain, and that substantial parts of Bullet’s archives are held in the Hårleman Collection (THC).[xvi] Equally, this material may originate from François Romain (–1735) or Claude Mathieu (–1732), as both men died in Paris during C. J. Cronstedt’s stay there (1732–35). This last hypothesis finds some support in the fact that Mathieu is cited in the above-mentioned Lyon document, and that there is also in the Cronstedt Collection a drawing of the Saint-Pourçain bridge in Auvergne, designed and built by Mathieu in 1687 (CC 649).[xvii] Another possibility is that (some of) the material was purchased by Tessin the Younger during his stay in Paris in 1687, since in a letter at the time he underlines the quality of Cruyl’s drawings.[xviii]
The Pont de Bâteaux – Rouen
The Cronstedt Collection also includes seven drawings of the Bridge of Boats in Rouen, which C. J. Cronstedt most probably studied in situ prior to its publication by J. Adeline in the Encyclopédie. This bridge was a vulnerable and expensive structure resting on nineteen boats, constructed in 1628–30 and improved by the Augustinian monk Nicolas Le Bourgeois in the early 18th century. Two unsigned but dated ink drawings (1 and 2 June 1708) show the bridge abutment and the quay, with explanations concerning changes suggested by Le Bourgeois (CC 615 and CC 3815).[xix] Three wash drawings (15 and 20 May 1710) specify three water levels and show the bridge abutment with a system to open and close the bridge (CC 590, CC 316 and CC 317, fig. 4). Finally, an undated and unsigned ink drawing, probably made by C. J. Cronstedt during one of his visits to Rouen, details Le Bourgeois’s machinery, with pulleys and wires (CC 3791). Swedish interest in this design can be attributed to the use of floating bridges in Sweden since the mid 17th century, which were very vulnerable to the harsh winters and spring floods. After severe flooding in 1727 and 1728, Polhem suggested an improved system that was first used for the new bridge over the river Dalälven at Husby Church (near Stjärnsund). Polhem was most probably experimenting with this system when Cronstedt was his student.[xx] 
               The Cronstedt Collection also holds a drawing of Le Bourgeois’s swing bridge at the western side of the Tuileries Gardens (1716–18), published in Jean François Blondel’s Cours d’architecture (1771, vol. 4), connecting the gardens with the Champs Elysées over a moat at the site of today’s Place de la Concorde (CC 110).[xxi] The Fullerö Collection at the Tekniska Museet (Museum of Science and Technology, Stockholm) includes a copperplate showing a water pump designed by Bourgeois, with an explanation in French and a letter written in Paris on 20 April 1761.[xxii] Ten years later F. A. U. Cronstedt, Cronstedt’s eldest son, travelled from Paris to Rome in the company of an architect named Bourgeois, the son of an “old architect in Paris who made a fortune”, which might be interpreted as a clue to how (parts of) this material arrived in Stockholm.
The Pont de Neuilly – Paris
In C. J. Cronstedt’s handwritten notes on building technologies, the Pont de Neuilly outside Paris is used to illustrate stone bridges. The text and drawings describe the building site with work in progress in 1771: “The whole bridge is built only with cut stone, bonded with cement. The mortar is not mixed with water, but the slack-lime is taken fresh and mixed with sand.”[xxiii] Cronstedt further refers to a drawing “in my papers” and describes a machine for lifting beams, facilitating the construction of centering.[xxiv] No drawing of such a contrivance has been found, but the collection does include drawings of an odomètre[xxv] and a mechanical saw (CC 636, CC 642 and CC 1189, fig. 5). Other sheets represent Jean-Rodolphe Perronet’s hanging centering (CC 310) and his camion prismatique (CC 339), which were published ten years later in his book Pont de Neuilly (1782).[xxvi] The collection also holds projects for two of Perronet’s never-executed bridges: the Pont aux Fruits in Melun from 1772 (CC 2889) and a wooden bridge close to the Salpêtrière (1773) in Paris (CC 3804 and CC 637, fig. 6).
In his Memoires, Perronet relates how his project for a 150-foot arch, approved by the French Royal Academy of Sciences, was sent to most of the learned societies in Europe.[xxvii] As he was elected a member of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Sciences on 27 October 1772, the drawings may have been part of his application. According to Bengt Ferner, Cronstedt translated most speeches held by non-Swedish members of the Academy, which could explain how the documents reached his collection.[xxviii] Cronstedt and Perronet may also have met in Paris in the early 1730s, as the French engineer worked for the Parisian city architect Jean Baptiste Augustin Beausire from 1725 to 1735. In 1771, moreover, F. A. U. Cronstedt tells his father how he, his brother Sven and a man called Ehrencrona walked to a bridge “under construction opposite the Tuileries outside the city”;[xxix] and two months later he reports a day trip with Jacques Germain Soufflot to observe the setting up of centering for the Pont de Neuilly. He further explains how he copied drawings of these bridges, to show his father how they “build in a light and dreadful manner nowadays, but also what precautions they take in the choice of the materials”.[xxx]
            The drawings of French bridges in the Cronstedt Collection thus reflect research into pioneering solutions.[xxxi] Although Cronstedt’s work is often overshadowed by more ambitious contemporary architects and masons, it is clear that (as Director of Public Works, 1753–67) he actively worked to improve and modernise these complex structures that were of benefit to the public. He contributed drawings for several bridges: Tullbron in Falkenberg, Norrbro in Stockholm, Nykvarnsbro in Uppsala, Fittjabro, a drawbridge in Jönköping and Kvistrumsbro in Göteborg, which, if they were built, were rarely attributed to him.[xxxii]

Grateful thanks to Count and Countess Carl Johan Cronstedt, for their kind permission to study the fascinating documentation kept at Fullerö. This article presents some of the results of broader, ongoing research projects funded by the B. Wallenberg, B. & G. Rausing and R. & T. Söderberg Foundations, which have been greatly facilitated by the Nationalmuseum’s recent digitisation of the Cronstedt C

[i] KB (Royal Library, Stockholm), S 33, Överintendenten riddaren Fredenheim, traités manuscrits sur l’architecture et sur la méchanique, tirés de la collection des livres, des desseins et des estampes de feu Monsieur Le baron de Hårleman, den 4 mars 1729. Two of the texts dealing with bridges are written by Pierre Bullet (according to Juliette Hernu-Bélaud).
[ii] See one of Carl Johan Cronstedt’s notebooks (Tekniska Museet) and Linnéa Rollenhagen Tilly, “Carl Johan Cronstedt in Paris (1732–35): Instruction, Contacts and Purchases”, in Art Bulletin of Nationalmuseum Stockholm, vol. 15, 2008, pp. 101–108.
[iii] Cronstedt’s library holds two unpublished manuscripts: Mémoires sur l’architecture and C. J. Cronstedts egenhändiga anteckningar om byggnadsteknik. See Rollenhagen Tilly, “Knowledge of Architecture and Building Technologies in 18th Century Sweden”, in Robert Carvais, André Guillerme, Valérie Nègre and Joël Sakarovitch, Nuts and Bolts of Construction History, Paris, 2012, vol. 1, pp. 409–417.

[iv] Isabelle Dérens, “Pont-Royal”, in Alexandre Gady (ed.), Jules Hardouin-Mansart – 1646–1708, Paris, 2010, pp. 540–544.

[v] “Pozzolana [...] en slags rödaktig Sand eller Jord, som finnes kring om Neapel och Rom, hwilken hafwer den egenskapen med sig, at då den blandas med Kalk, blifwer den icke allenast hård uti Murning, Öfwer Watn utan ock inunder Watnet, och binder sig mycket starkt tillsammans med Sten, af hvad slag denna må; [...] Det vore til Önskandes at en sådan slags Sand kunde upfinnas här i Sverige, til främjande af all Watn-Wärks, såsom Dammars, Broars och Slussars bygnader” (Cronstedt, Tal om sten-hus bygnad, KVA [Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences], 1741 and 1755).
[vi] “La ligne jaune marque le dessus du pavé du quay comme il est aujourd’huy élevé de 7 pi[eds] au dessus du rez de chaussée de la maison.”
[vii] On the verso of this plan are the words: “Maisons du Mr Hulot au bout du pont du Louvre”.
[viii] This engraving is also held in the Hårleman Collection (THC), but without corrections and on thicker paper (thanks to Wolfgang Nittnaus for this information).
[ix] A series of seven views of the Pont Royal executed during its construction (1685–89): two in the Wattinne Collection (Edgar Mareuse, “Trois vues de Paris de Liévin Cruyl en 1686”, in Bulletin de la société de l’histoire de Paris, 1919, pp. 64–71), two at the Louvre (Frits Lugt, Musée du Louvre. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord. Ecole flamande, I, Paris, 1949, nos. 549–50), and two in the Bibliothèque nationale (F. Lugt, Bibliothèque nationale. Cabinet des Estampes. Inventaire général des dessins des écoles du Nord, Paris, 1936, nos. 277–78).
[x] Livinus Cruyl PBR fecit 1686, Destailleur, t. 6, 1091(BnF).
[xi] Livinus Cruyl PBR fecit 1686, Destailleur, t. 6, 1093 (BnF).
[xii] Construction des arches du pont du Louvre (1687), engraving by Cruyl (Mareuse, op. cit.).
[xiii] Destailleur, t. 4, 1093 BnF. A sheet of tracing paper at the Tekniska Museet shows a detail of a horse mill and/or piledriver, which may correspond to another, unidentified, Cruyl drawing.
[xiv] Ink and wash drawings dated from 1686 and 1687 (Mareuse, op. cit.).
[xv] Engraving signed Liévin Cruyl and dated 1687 (Mareuse, op. cit.).
[xvi] åke Stavenow, Carl Hårleman. En studie i frihetstidens arkitekturhistoria, 1927. Erik Langenskiöld, Pierre Bullet, the Royal Architect, 1959. Runar Strandberg, Pierre Bullet et J-B. de Ch. à la lumière des dessins de la collection Tessin-Hårleman du Musée National de Stockholm, 1971.
[xvii] Claude Mathieu was architecte ordinaire des bâtiments du roi and ingénieur du roi. From 1683, he was responsible for the Ponts et chaussées in Lyon, Moulins, Riom and parts of Bourges and Orléans (Jean Mesqui, Le Pont en France avant le temps des ingénieurs, 1986, p. 189).
[xviii] Mareuse (op. cit.). One of these drawings was sold in London on 7 July 2009 and another is today the property of a Parisian art gallery; for the latter, see the cover illustration of Carvais et al., op. cit., vol. 3 (thanks to R. Carvais for this information).
[xix] Jacques Tanguy:
[xx] “... parboliske eller rättare en kjedje figurs skapnad ock flyter på vattet tjenlig att lägga öfver en ström” and “en dämning att lägga öfver hamnar af träf ock som leder sig både verticalt ock horizontalt” (in C. J. Cronstedts egenhändiga ..., Fullerö), referring to KVA, vol. 4, p. 21, and vol. 14, p. 48. Also see Rudolf Kolm, “Flottbroar över Daläven”, in Fornvännen, 1963, pp. 30–43.
[xxi] A sketchbook from Cronstedt’s study trip (Fullerö) also records a swing bridge in Venice and two floating bridges between Manheim and Mayence (both resting on 44 boats).
[xxii] Tekniska Museet 7404 J.
[xxiii] “Uti hela bron är ej annat än huggen sten nytjades, som är med siment murades. Alt bruket blandas ej med vaten utan släkta kalken tages färsker ock blandas med sand” (C. J. Cronstedts egenhändiga ..., Fullerö).
[xxiv] Letter from F. A. U. Cronstedt, 20 June 1771 (Fullerö).
[xxv] See Perronet, Moyen proposé pour faire les épuisements à la tâche, Paris, 1752. 
[xxvi] Camion prismatique, developed to transport materials for the Pont de Neuilly.
[xxvii] “On ne saurait trop y réfléchir avant que de renoncer à l’arche de 150 pieds dont la gravure a été envoyée avec les œuvres du sieur Perronet, approuvées par l’Académie des sciences à Paris, à presque toutes les compagnies savantes de l’Europe, pour qu’une grande nation, telle que la France, qui doit favoriser le progrès des arts pour sa propre illustration, ne soit pas taxée de trop de crainte et de timidité, ou de manquer d’ingénieurs qui soient en état d’entreprendre de pareils grands travaux” (J. Förstel, Perronet et la Seine,, p. 13).
[xxviii] “... när någon utländsk ledamot höll sit inträdestal i academien på sit modersmål var gref Cronstedt strax färdig at öfversätta det på svenska språket til allmän uplysning fär at kunna införas i academiens handlingar om det fans nyttigt” (Bengt Ferrner, “Åminnelse-tal, öfver grefven herr Carl Johan Cronstedt”‎, in K.wet: acad: åminnelse-tal, T.6: 1798); and Emilie Sottiau, Les réseaux de relations d’un homme de science au siècle des Lumières: Jean-Rodolphe Perronet (1708–1794), Université de Marne la Vallée, 2007.
[xxix] Letter from F. A. U. Cronstedt, 4 April 1771 (Fullerö).
[xxx] “... för att roa min far ... att se med hvad legeretet ock hardiesse de nu för tiden bygga, men ock vad precautioner i materialerna de bruka” (letter from F. A. U. to Carl Johan, 20 June 1771, Fullerö).
[xxxi] The Cronstedt Collection also holds drawings of other unidentified (French) stone and wooden bridges, see CC 618, CC 625, CC 629, CC 646, CC 652 and CC 653.
[xxxii] I discuss these bridges further in a forthcoming biography describing Cronstedt’s education, career and contribution to Swedish urban infrastructure (houses, churches and bridges).   

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Digitaliserat C.J. Cronstedt material