Vitruviaanse historiografie

  • Wim Denslagen Utrecht University & Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands


In the world of Vitruvianism the study of historical architecture was completely different from what one would expect. What historiographers wanted to know had less to do with the reconstruction of a development than with reconstructing a pure beginning. All this with as a starting point the ten books on architecture written by the Roman Vitruvius in the first century BC. Writers of treatises such as Leon Battista Alberti and Sebastiano Serlio were not much interested in the history and historical development of ancient architecture, but rather in recovering the correct rules. Their manuals were lessons in building according to the directions of the classics. Although the Cours d’ Architecture by Jacques-François Blondel, of which the first part appeared in 1771, does offer a retrospective of the past, everything that does not fit in with the line leading towards his own time and particularly his own work is left out of consideration. The great exception to this tradition is Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach with his Entwurff Einer Historischen Architectur from 1721. This is the first illustrated description of architecture in all parts of the world. In addition, the book offers a survey of the studies available at that time. It is not clear why he did not include any reference to Gothic or Renaissance architecture, unless he meant his book to be a Wunderkammer in book form. It is remarkable that someone like Sir Christopher Wren, who had also studied the history of architecture, was so much less well-read than Fischer von Erlach. From a small tour of the writers on historical architecture between 1450 and 1800 it is obvious once again that this field of study could only develop after the limitations of Vitruvianism had been cleared away.


1 Leon Battista Alberti, L’Architettura (De Re Aedificatoria), Testo latino e traduzione a cura di Giovanni Orlandi. Milaan, Il Polifilo, 1966, I, 13 en Leon Battista Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Vertaald door Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach en Robert Tavernor, Cambridge 1996, 5.

2 Alberti 1996, 122.

3 Herodotus, History, vertaald door A.D. Godley, Harvard University Press 1966, Boek II, 106. Een zeer leesbare vertaling in het Nederlands door Hein L. van Dolen werd in 1995 door SUN uitgegeven.

4 George Kunoth, Die Historische Architektur Fischers von Erlach, Düsseldorf 1956, 88.

5 Cornelis de Bruyn, Reizen door de vermaardste Deelen van Klein Asia, Delft1698, 335.

6 Acton Griscom, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, London 1929, 410.

7 Inigo Jones The Most Notable Antiquity of Great Britain Vulgarly called Stone-Heng on Salisbury Plain Restored, London 1725, 1.

8 Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, ‘Eurocentrism and Art History? Universal History and the Historiography of the Arts before Winckelmann’ , Memory and Oblivion (Proceedings of the XXIXth International Congress of the History of Art held in Amsterdam in 1996), Wessel Reinink and Jeroen Stumpel (eds.), Dordrecht1999, 35-42.

9 Georg Kunoth, Die Historische Architektur, 1956, 48.

10 Kristoffer Neville, ‘The Early Reception of Fischer von Erlach’s Entwurff einer historischen Architectur’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2007), 2, 160-175.

11 Vincenzo Scamozzi, Taccuino di Viaggio da Parigi a Venezia (14 marzo-11 maggio 1600). Edizione e commento a cura di Franco Barbieri. Venetië, Istituto per la Collaborazione Culturale, 1959, 41.

12 Sir Christopher Wren, Memoirs of the Life and Works of Sir Christopher Wren ... by James Elmes, London 1823, 105.

13 Lisa Jardine, On a Grander Scale. The Outstanding Life and Tumultuous Times of Sir Christopher Wren, New York 2002, 209.

14 Lydia M. Soo, Wren’s “Tracts” on Architecture and Other Writings, Cambridge 1998.

15 Sir Christopher Wren, Parentalia: or Memories of the family of the Wrens … Londen 1750 (Reprint, Gregg Press, 1965), 353.

16 Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Harvard University Press 1957, boek VII, 491.

17 Kathleen M. Kenyon, Digging Up Jerusalem, London 1974, 226.

18 Josephus, The Jewish War. Volume III. Harvard University Press, 1961, 552.

19 Kenyon 1974, 226.

20 Klaus Jan Philipp, ‘Das Grabmal des Porsenna: Rekonstruktionen eines Mythos vom 16. bis 19. Jahrhundert’, Memory and Oblivion (Proceedings of the XXIXth International Congress of the History of Art held in Amsterdam in 1996). Wessel Reinink and Jeroen Stumpel (eds.), Dordrecht 1999, 335-346.

21 William M. Gaugler, The Tomb of Lars Porsenna at Clusium, Bangor, Maine 2002, 137.

22 John Wood, The Origin of Building or the Plagiarism of the Heathens Detected, Bath 1741, 187.

23 Hanno-Walter Kruft, A History of Architectural Theory from Vitruvius to the Present, Princeton 1994, 246(first edition: Geschichte der Architekturtheorie: von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, München1985).

24 Wood 1741, 201.

25 Robert Morris, An Essay in Defence of Ancient Architecture or a Parallel of the Ancient Buildings with the Modern: shewing the Beauty and Harmony of the Former, and the Irregularity of the Latter. With Impartial Reflections on the Reasons of the Abuses introduced by our present Builders, London 1728, 13 (Reprint Gregg Press 1971).

Biografie auteur

Wim Denslagen, Utrecht University & Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands

Prof.dr. Wim Denslagen is als architectuurhistoricus werkzaam bij de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed Amersfoort en daarnaast hoogleraar in de theorie en geschiedenis van de monumentenzorg aan de Universiteit Utrecht. Hij publiceerde onder meer Romantisch modernisme. Nostalgie in de monumentenzorg, Amsterdam 2004.

Hoe te citeren
DENSLAGEN, Wim. Vitruviaanse historiografie. Bulletin KNOB, [S.l.], p. 139-148, aug. 2009. ISSN 2589-3343. Beschikbaar op: <>. Datum gebruik: 22 mei 2018 doi: