III. De Bry’s Fortificatio

Image Archive
Title: Fortificatio
Author: Theodore de Bry
Subject: star forts and bastions
Year: 1604
Source: Deutsche Fotothek

Todd van Hulzen shares his scans and files from historic archives on the subjects of architecture and the arts

Here is a collection of woodblock prints from Fortificatio, or “The Fortification”, by the Dutch-German architect Johann Theodor de Bry (1561 – 1623) and others.  It’s not just their historical value that interests me, but actually their formal characteristics.  They make me think of mandalas and rosettes and remind us of the wish of humans to create perfect symmetries, regardless of their functional value.  In fact the belief in symmetry and platonic perfection in form often went against better judgement or practical considerations.  This is of course the sign of the Artist.  It amazes me that military commanders put so much faith in form over function.  But it pleases me that such martial structures —cities really— could only be enjoyed for their perfection in the form of engravings.  If you’ve ever walked among the moats and bastions of these places (Neuf Brisach and Naarden come to mind) you can’t help but be confronted by the disconnect between their perfection as seen from the air and the confusion of elements and perspectives from the point of view of the wanderer.

Click here for the gallery

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