The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt is a collection of drawings by this itinerant artist and architect, considered by many as the precursor of the great Leonardo da Vinci. This is the only known piece by Villard de Honnecourt, hence why very little is known about him. The distinctive trait of his drawings is what made him famous, and we are lucky enough to witness his art thanks to a manuscript belonging to a period where a lot went missing.
Postcards from the Gothic construction sites
The Album de dessins et croquis of Villard de Honnecourt contains 66 pages of illustrations and descriptions regarding different categories: geometry, zoology, architectural practices and the mechanics related to the mysterious art of building cathedrals.
The portfolio was originally entirely devoted to sketches, but then also became an actual manual with written descriptions devoted to technical procedures, mechanical devices and suggestions on how to draw human and animal figures, as well as notes on the buildings and monuments he had seen during his trips to Switzerland, France and Hungary, like Chartres, Lausanne or Reims.
The sketches and notes show that de Honnecourt was well acquainted with the great churches that were built during the Gothic period. He also provides an explanation for the spread of the Gothic architecture in Europe.
A miscellaneous collection of travel notes
Within the portfolio we count 250 drawings on parchment dating back to the beginning of the 13th Century. It is believed the parchment leaves were sourced in different occasions, hence why they are of different qualities, sizes and textures.
It is therefore misleading to consider the work an actual sketchbook, because this concept would imply the use of uniform sheets bound together. In the case of de Honnecourt, instead, parchment leaves are loose and contained in a supple, dark pigskin portfolio.
It fell into different hands during the centuries, and names of different possessors can be identified on the parchment. It entered the Bibliothèque National de France between December 1795 and February 1796.
Dark pigskin portfolio.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt": Manuscrito de Villard de Honnecourt facsimile edition, published by Siloé, arte y bibliofilia, 2019Request Info / Price