Lequeu 1
Lequeu 3
Lequeu 4

Lequeu 3


"Drawing, a Weapon" from Negotiations Towards a Self, 1770-1830

          In Lequeu's courtship, in his attempted address, all his advertisements, all his warnings, all his complaints, there is an engagement with the issues and ideas of his period. Lequeu draws on many of the sources and people of the late eighteenth century. In a very literal, frank way, Lequeu's work draws upon the images and plates that may be found in other books of the eighteenth century. His far-fetched explanation declares as much in its emphasis on imitation but at a distance. This appropriation on Lequeu's part has been well documented by others, although this has been done as a way of disparaging Lequeu's work as being "merely imitative," and not "imaginative." There are several examples of Lequeu's appropriation that may be cited/sighted. Lequeu's Monument to Athena comes from Le Lorrain's Chinea of 1746. Lequeu's Chinese drawing room is based on plate 10 of Sir William Chamber's Designs for Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils. Lequeu takes the image of the windmill used in Diderot and d'Alembert's Encyclopédie, a windmill that has been abstracted from its physical location, and Lequeu re-inscribes this windmill into its actual location in his Vertical section of the Mill at Les Verdiers.
          Lequeu draws not only on visual sources, but literary sources throughout his Architecture Civile. He draws not only on Ancient sources such as Pliny and Horace, but also on more modern sources such as Jean Doubdan's Voyage de la terre sainte and Eugène Roger's La Terre Sainte for his depictions of Nazareth. Lequeu's Nouvelle Methode draws on Caspar Lavater's theory of physiognomy for much of its text dealing with identifying attitudes and personality from the features of the face. Metken links Lequeu's Subterranean Labyrinth for a Gothic House to Abbé Terrasson's novel Séthos. Lequeu's process of cross referencing and detailed marginalia may be seen in relation to the Encyclopédie and the culture and writers surrounding this project. Lequeu's work, in its annotation, deals with issues of air circulation, clean water supplies, sanitation, functionality, and issues of an agrarian society raised by many of the treatises on health concerns, city planning concerns, and the ideology of the physiocrats, concerns that may also be seen in the work of Ledoux, among others. In these senses, Lequeu's work may be seen as addressing the issues of his age, as being very much a part of it, representing common concerns shared by others.
          This is a process of imitation, an imitation of his fellow artists, a laying fallow from his fellow artists, which Lequeu carries over to the type of subject matter he approaches and the way he organizes this subject matter. Lequeu writes on the back of some of his drawings and proposes in his Architecture Civile to depict '[b]uildings of different peoples scattered throughout the world. Architectural compositions, regular and irregular, Etruscan, Tuscan, Flemish, European, Egyptian, Chinese, Persian, Indian, Gothic, and others," repeating a popular theme for books of architectural plates during this period, and participating in an orientalism common to architecture during the eighteenth century. This occurs in the midst of his treatise whose original stated aim, an aim that is repeated on nearly every page of the first 46 plates, reads, "Drawings which represent with figures the colors and means for the tinting of plans, sections, and elevations of opaque bodies." In this concern for shading, the concern with shadows throughout his work, Lequeu may be seen repeating a concern with shades and shadows that plays such a prominent role in the work of Boullée.
          Lequeu's drawings Temple of the Earth and Temple to Sacred Equality (1793) may and has been compared with Boullée's Cenotaph to Newton, and Ledoux's Plan of the Cemetery at Chaux. In other plans, such as Second entrance to the infernal cavern of the Chinese garden and Temple embedded in mountain, Lequeu may and has been concerned with issues of constructing buildings directly out of the earth that is being worked upon, a thematics of the rock and the column, a natural architecture that is repeated in Ledoux's Entrance Door to the Salines at Chaux, Auguste Chevalle de Saint-Hebert's Elevation du projet de château d'eau, François-Joseph Bélanger's Quatre états successifs du premier projet pour le "rocher," Neuilly's La Folie Sainte-James, and Boullée's Temple Dedicated to Nature/Reason, an architecture that engages Rousseau's notion of naturalism, while Lequeu's Place of Persian prayer... may be seen as being wrapped up in Masonic symbolism and Zoroastrian imagery. This is all to say that there is a narrative that may show Lequeu as being very much a part of his time, but such a narrative only detects the sources that Lequeu draws upon, failing to take into account the distance in Lequeu's imitation, the critical distance of Lequeu's imitation, his imitation at a distance, which distances him from his contemporaries, which critiques his contemporaries, which addresses his contemporaries otherwise, sending their work away, turning their work away, making their work other. Lequeu's work draws upon the work of his contemporaries deeper than is usually acknowledged and provides a deeper critique of their work than is usually addressed, Lequeu's work always addressing in a cryptic way, through the crypt and in the crypt, at a distance, in imitation.
          In addressing Lequeu's address, in trying to locate Lequeu's address, a tradition of art history and architectural history has failed to address how Lequeu problematizes the address, of how he warns that he has changed addresses and that he is little known in the neighborhood in which he now resides. There is a whole problematics of drawing, addressing, and appropriating that has yet to be broached. I am offering only a few suggestions, suggestions around the address, on how to possibly address Lequeu's work, work which has been ab-sent, sent poorly, failed to be sent. These are problems tied up in the problems of address that Lequeu's work partakes in, as well as the problems raised by his accusations. While his drawings engage the visual thematics, while the form of his presentation mimics the ways of framing material during the period, Lequeu does this all at a distance, on the margins, belatedly, and through his content, through his writing, through very subtle maneuvers and repetitions, through not so subtle maneuvers and repetitions, Lequeu resides within the architecture of knowledge of his age as a parasitic termite, weakening the structures within which he resides by consuming voraciously these various structures.