Underground of a Gothic House, from Civil Architecture

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Freemasonry was a prominent cultural movement in the France of Lequeu’s day. While he seems to have been part of the brotherhood and knew the secretive Masonic initiation rites, it is not known to which lodge he belonged.

This structure, located behind a temple devoted to Minerva (seated at right), is designed for initiations into the “Society of Sages and Most Courageous Men.” According to Lequeu’s annotations, the ritual to join the brotherhood required initiates to overcome their fear of death through trials by fire, water, and air in subterranean chambers before emerging into the light. Each chamber would be equipped with complex mechanisms meant to produce claps of thunder.

Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826)
Underground of a Gothic House, from Civil Architecture, 1804–11
Pen and brown and black ink, brown and gray wash, watercolor
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Departement des Estampes et de la photographie