Villard de Honnecourt

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Self-portrait (?) By Villard de Honnecourt (around 1230)

Villard de Honnecourt (also Wilars dehonecort or Vilars dehoncort ; * around 1200 in Honnecourt-sur-Escaut , Picardy ; † after 1235) was a French artist of the second quarter of the 13th century.


The only source of Villard's life and his work at various Gothic construction huts is the sample book he left with around 250 drawings and additional text information. His birthplace not far from Saint-Quentin , where a Gothic abbey church was built up to 1257, suggests that he received his first artistic training here. In several passages in his manuscript, he mentions stays in other countries ( Jai este en m [u] lt de tieres ), including two trips to Hungary, without giving the reason for the trip. He worked on various Gothic building projects in an unknown capacity, as shown by copying architectural drawings for the cathedrals of Reims, Chartres, Laon and Lausanne. A number of sketches “after life” ( al vif ) show his artistic training, probably as a sculptor. Other drawings include technical inventions, including a perpetual motion machine .

The sketchbook

The sketchbook, discovered around the middle of the 19th century, is in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris under the signature MS Fr 19093. The (incomplete surviving) manuscript comprises 33 parchment sheets of 235 × 155 mm in size and contains around 250 drawings. The individual sheets were only labeled at a later point in time, and probably no longer by Villard himself. Some of the drawings concern French cathedrals, which he would not have been able to copy without direct access to the architectural drawings. The most detailed are the drawings of Reims Cathedral , of which he noted elevations, cross-sections and also technical details such as the cut and laying technique of the profiled stones. Of the cathedrals of Chartres and Lausanne he drew the rose window of the Cathedral of Laon floor plan and elevation of the unusual upper tower floors. If research had concluded from contradictions and problems of representation that Villard had no direct understanding of Gothic architecture, it must be taken into account that on the one hand it is a greatly reduced copy of the original drawings that have not been preserved, and on the other hand that these are represent the earliest surviving architectural drawings from the Middle Ages. Despite all the disagreement on the part of the research about the intended use of the book as a personal sketchbook or textbook for the smelter, the manuscript represents an extraordinary compendium of artistic, architectural and technical knowledge at the time of the Gothic cathedral .


  • Carl F. Barnes: The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt. (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, MS Fr 19093). A new critical edition and color facsimile , Burlington [u. a.] 2009.
  • Carl F. Barnes: Villard de Honnecourt. The artist and his drawings a critical bibliography , Boston, Mass 1982.
  • Hans R. Hahnloser : Villard de Honnecourt. Critical complete edition of the Bauhüttenbuch ms. fr. 19093 in the Paris National Library . 2nd Edition. Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, Graz 1972, ISBN 3-201-00768-4
  • Roland Bechmann: Villard de Honnecourt. La pensée technique au XIIIe siècle at sa communication . Piccard, Paris, 1991.
  • Theodore Bowie (Ed.): The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt . Indiana University Press, Bloomington and London 1959
  • Wolfgang Schenkluhn : The floor plan figures in the construction hut book of Villard de Honnecourt . In: Helten, Leonhard (Ed.): Dispositio. The ground plan as a medium in medieval architecture [Contributions to the International Paul Frankl Colloquium on the occasion of the 100th birthday of the Halle Institute for Art History], Halle 2005, pp. 103–120, Ill. XXVI-XXXII.
  • Marco A. Sorace:  Villard de Honnecourt. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 30, Bautz, Nordhausen 2009, ISBN 978-3-88309-478-6 , Sp. 641-644.
  • Jean Wirth: Villard de Honnecourt, architecte du XIIIe siècle . Droz, Geneva 2015, ISBN 978-2-600-00558-6 . Available in the OPEN Online Library.

Web links

Commons : The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. James Bugslag: contrefais al vif: nature, ideas and the lion drawings of Villard de Honnecourt . In: Word & Image 2001 17, no.4.
  2. ^ Jean Gimpel: The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York 1976, pp. 114-146.
  3. ^ Wilhelm Schlink: "Was Villard de Honnecourt illiterate?". In: Fabienne Joubert and Dany Sandron (eds.) Pierre, lumière, couleur - études d'histoire de l'art du Moyen Age en l'honneur d'Anne Prache. Paris 1999, pp. 213-222.