The Canal du Midi from Pierre-Paul Riquet

The Canal du Midi from Pierre-Paul Riquet

  • Pierre-Paul Riquet, engineer, creator of the Deux-Mers canal (Canal du Midi) (1604-1680)

    ANONYMOUS

  • The royal canal of Languedoc for the junction of the two seas, Ocean and Mediterranean

    FER Nicolas de (1647 - 1720)

To close

Title: Pierre-Paul Riquet, engineer, creator of the Deux-Mers canal (Canal du Midi) (1604-1680)

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1651 -

Dimensions: Height 86.5 cm - Width 68 cm

Technique and other indications: oil on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 10-538811 / MV5526

Pierre-Paul Riquet, engineer, creator of the Deux-Mers canal (Canal du Midi) (1604-1680)

© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

To close

Title: The royal canal of Languedoc for the junction of the two seas, Ocean and Mediterranean

Author : FER Nicolas de (1647 - 1720)

Creation date : 1716

Date shown: 1716

Dimensions: Height 23 cm - Width 32.5 cm

Technique and other indications: print on paper

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Picture reference: 01-012679 / collection of engravingsGrosseuvre54

The royal canal of Languedoc for the junction of the two seas, Ocean and Mediterranean

© RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Gérard Blot

Publication date: March 2019

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

Monsieur Riquet's canal

A great servant of the state exercising a series of public offices, as the black dress in this portrait suggests, Riquet was not a pioneer in the construction of a canal in Languedoc. Undated, it seems to have been copied from a painting by the painter Florent de La Mare-Richart (c. 1630-1718), also declined in engraving in 1672.

The map by geographer Nicolas de Fer (1646-1720) shows the extent of the canal. The title block and the caption describe the content: “Le Canal Royal de Languedoc, for the Junction of the two Seas, Ocean and Mediterranean. In Paris, Chez le Sr de Fer in the Isle of the Palace on the Quai de l'Horloge at the Royal Sphere with Privilège du Roy. 1716 ”. The upper part of the engraving contains the route of the work, with the communities served which benefit from new economic benefits.

Image Analysis

A showcase for French engineering

The Languedoc canal project illustrates the late but real know-how of French engineers in the construction of artificial waterways, on the model of the Italian or Flemish canals. On the technical level, the Languedoc project involves several challenges taken up by Riquet and his assistant François Andréossy (1633-1688). Indeed, the canal has a particular configuration, because it is devoid of a supply by tributary rivers or ponds, which implies the design of basins. The engineering measure is the collection of water from the Black Mountain in the Naurouze basin, shown on the map, and installed at the watershed, which ensures the navigability of the structure in all seasons.

With a length of 240 kilometers, the canal comprises a total of about sixty works of art which make it a masterpiece of architecture and technicality. The map of Nicolas de Fer contains seven innovative buildings. The Malpas tunnel, the Repudre canal bridge or the Agde round lock contribute to the reputation of the building and the technicians who design them. This card maintains a glory on which the royal power capitalizes, with the support of multiple communication media: paintings, medals or engravings. This is how another map of the building appears prominently on the board.Henri Testelin for the reception of Louis XIV at the Royal Academy of Sciences, in testimony of the knowledge acquired by French scientists. For the central state, it is also a way of reducing the influence of the Languedoc assembly and returning the bulk of the initiative to the king, while the province contributes financially to the operation.

Interpretation

Waterways policy

Along with the Palace of Versailles, the Royal Canal of Languedoc, now Canal du Midi, is one of the emblematic sites of the reign of Louis XIV, hence the need to recall the grandeur of the project. Its realization is attached to the name of the Languedoc entrepreneur Pierre-Paul Riquet (1609-1680). Baron de Bonrepos, great traveler and general farmer of Fermes du Languedoc. He became the promoter of the canal to the monarchy, before taking over the management of the works. More than the administrator, this portrait pays tribute above all to the genius designer and technician who thus obtained an official stature and a reputation that far exceeded the limits of Languedoc.

The map of the building promotes the investment policy of the monarchy in favor of waterways in the 17th century.e century. In this area, a first experiment was launched during the reign of King Henri IV and ended in 1642. The Briare canal then provided the junction between the Loire and the Seine, with the expansion of the commercial area of ​​the two rivers. At the start of the reign of Louis XIV, the waterway remained popular. The political and economic context is favorable, thanks to the return of peace and to the mercantilist reforms of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683). The representation of Nicolas de Fer gives an idea of ​​the immensity of the irrigated territory opened up by the canal, which forms an economic artery of first choice.

On November 15, 1662, Riquet presented his plan to Colbert. Its feasibility is examined for two years, with an overall estimate estimated at 5 million pounds. In 1665, experimental work was launched and the following year, a royal edict authorized the construction of the building. Connected to the “two seas”, the canal opens up numerous outlets for local productions, while securing trade routes which thus avoid the Strait of Gibraltar. However, these two works hide the many problems posed by the site. The digging is slow, because it is accompanied by multiple resistance and financial difficulties. In addition, Riquet died on 1er October 1680, eight months before the completion of the work which was completed by his son Jean-Mathias, for a total budget now approaching 20 million pounds!

  • Languedoc
  • channel
  • navigation
  • engineer
  • Mediterranean
  • Garonne
  • lock
  • cards
  • portrait
  • Colbert (Jean-Baptiste)
  • Louis XIV
  • trade

Bibliography

Antoine-François ANDRÉOSSY, History of the Canal du Midi, or Canal de Languedoc, Paris, Imprimerie de Crapelet, 1804.

Michel COTTE, The Canal du Midi: "Wonder of Europe", Paris, Belin-Herscher editions, 2003.

Monique DOLLIN from FRESNEL, The incredible adventure of the Canal des Deux-Mers, Bordeaux, South West editions, 2012.

Pierre PINON, Channels: Rivers of Men, Paris, Rempart-Desclée de Brouwer, 1995.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "The Canal du Midi by Pierre-Paul Riquet"


Video: Francia - Canal du Midi - AHR