The Turgot plan

The Turgot plan

Map of Paris, known as the Turgot map

© RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / All rights reserved

Publication date: December 2016

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

A prestigious order

Made during the first half of the 18th centurye century, the plan of Paris known as “Plan of Turgot” owes its name to Michel-Étienne Turgot (1690-1751), father of the future Controller general of finances of Louis XVI. Finally, a precise mention that the engraving was completed in 1739.

Fieldwork was carried out between 1734 and 1736 by the geographer Louis Bretez, member of the Académie de Saint-Luc. The toponyms which indicate the streets and the main buildings are produced by the so-called Aubin.

In total, the plan is distributed on twenty-one copper plates preserved in the Chalcography collection of the Louvre museum. Twenty boards form the plan itself and the last corresponds to an assembly board, with a Warning written by Lucas: "We felt it necessary, for ease of use, to have this twenty-first plate engraved in which this shot is reduced in small size following the same line of perspective that we observed in the large one. »From 1738, the office of the city of Paris signed a contract with the printer Pierre Thévenard for the distribution of the plates in two forms: sheets bound in a folio volume in red or green morocco, or sheets assembled and glued. to form a large plan sold in a roll.

Image Analysis

The capital seen from a bird's eye view

First drawn in pencil by Louis Bretez, the plates are sharpened in India ink, then copied with a burin by the engravers, with a view to printing on "Grand Aigle" paper. The first four boards (row at the top of the assembled plan) measure 48 cm by 80 cm, against 40 cm by 80 cm for the other boards. The scale is approximately 1/400e, a report which allows a very detailed analysis of the different districts of the capital. This work is a great success, particularly in connection with the context of "cartomania" of the XVIIIe century. By its cost and its resolutely artistic representation, as Jean-Yves Sarazin observes, this plan is intended for a small number of readers, “the plan of Paris commissioned by Turgot shows an exceptional city for exceptional people. ". The chosen orientation is based on the model of the oldest plans of the capital, because the north is on the left of the plan which is cut by the Seine from top to bottom. The cartographer therefore breaks with the convention introduced at the end of the 17th century.e century, when the Paris meridian served as a point of reference for French cartographers.

Other biases are adopted by the cartographer who seeks to produce an aesthetic work more than geometric, even if he is the author of a learned treatise published in 1706 under the title The practical perspective of architecture. The angle of view adopted is zenital, in low angle from the lower left angle (north-west / south-east axis). The streets are widened disproportionately, in order to observe the elevation of the facades and to embrace the diversity of the city. This approach is justified in the dedication: "We proposed by having this Plan of the City of Paris engraved, to show at a single glance, all the buildings, and all the Streets it contains, which could only be carried out by taking a few licenses, which the austere Rules of Geometry and Perspective condemn; but without these licenses, we would have lost some of the most interesting Objects, which would have been hidden by others, or completely disfigured. "


The embellishments of the City of Lights

Carrying out a plan constitutes an identity mark by the Parisian officials. The provost of the merchants Turgot is therefore in line with his predecessors, such as Étienne de Montmirail who ordered the so-called Gouache plan in the mid-16th century.e century. In 1737, he also ordered the purchase by the municipality of the so-called “Tapestry” plan made a century and a half earlier, thus confirming his attachment to urban representations. Thus, Turgot's plan constitutes a prime source for knowledge of the capital during the 1730s, before the major works of the rest of the century, such as the demolition of the houses on the bridges over the Seine or the transfer of the cemetery of the Holy Innocents. This inventory is, however, based on a frozen and idealized view of the city which is devoid of events or construction sites, although there were many during the same period.

This plan gives pride of place to the emblematic monuments of the capital where the patronage of the monarchy is omnipresent. On each board, the gaze is focused on the major buildings, to represent the embellishments undertaken by the municipality, such as the construction of new docks or the lighting of the streets. Thus, plate 6 shows in particular the Small and the Large Arsenal, the fortress of the Bastille and the Place des Vosges. Plate 11 includes Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Palace of the Parliament, the Place Dauphine, the Pont Neuf and the Luxembourg Palace. Plate 16 shows the many private mansions on the left bank, such as those on rue de Varenne which ends at the Invalides built on the order of Louis XIV, on the border between built space and the rural world. Plate 19 evokes the extension of urbanization to the west, with mansions in the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, such as the Hôtel d'Evreux (future Elysée Palace). While Place Vendôme can be seen, Place de la Concorde has not yet been mapped out, even if the prospect of Avenue des Tuileries is already open (future Avenue des Champs Élysées).

  • Paris
  • town planning
  • plan
  • cards
  • Turgot (Anne Robert Jacques)


Jean BOUTIER, Plans of Paris, from its origins (1493) to the end of the 18th century: Study, carto-bibliography and collective catalog, Paris, National Library of France, 2002.

Jean CHAGNIOT, Paris in the 18th century: New history of Paris, Paris, Hachette, 1988.

Alfred FIERRO, Jean-Yves SARAZIN, The Paris of the Lights according to the plan of Turgot (1734-1739), Paris, Meeting of National Museums, 2005.

Pierre LAVEDAN, New history of urban planning in Paris, Paris, Hachette, 1993.

Michel LE MOËL, Paris à vol d'oiseau, Paris, Delegation for artistic action of the city of Paris, 1995.

Pierre PINON, Paris maps: History of a capital, Paris, Le passage, 2004.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "The Turgot plan"

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