Leaning on the relief map of Tournai, in the basement of the museum usually reserved for exhibitions, the curator Anne Courcelle, pass the brush on the reproduction, dating from 1701, of this city, today belgian. “Look, this thoroughly unbelievable, even the smallest pad is represented! It is the infinitely small and the infinitely great”, says she. The restoration team, composed of fifteen persons, is working since may to restore a youthful look “to this outstanding collection in the history of Europe”, according to Bruno Girveau, director of the Palais des beaux-arts, Lille.

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“They have long been classified as military secret, because they were objects of intelligence”

Nathalie Dereymaeker, historian belgian

But how and why to design such models, up to 40 square meters, which asked more than three years of work, weighing several tonnes and of which the hundred listed cost the trifling sum “of 10% of the building of the palace of Versailles”, after Florence Raymond, director of this collection? “In the good sense of the minister of war Louvois, Louis XIV wanted to materialize all the conquered cities, in the context of successive wars”, she explains.

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In an era where the aerial views did not exist, cartoonists, cartographers, and military engineers were thus a grand statement of the city, with its elevations and its vegetation, carefully noting each material. Then carpenters, and designers were, in their turn, a relief in wood with a variety of materials (cardboard, sand, wool, silk…). Object of military strategy and prestige, these plans-reliefs were transported sometimes on the back of a mule to be presented to the Sun King in the hall of mirrors of Versailles, in a desire for actual representation of the kingdom of France, the most powerful in Europe.

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[Agenda] 2 events around des PLANS-RELIEFS in the framework of the edition 2018 @Citephilo at the museum : Special TOUR of the restoration project on wireframes on Tuesday 13/11, 19.30 reservationpba@mairie-lille.fr ROUND TABLE “plans-reliefs or the territory dominated” Tuesday 20/11, 19: 30 We found it ? #plansreliefs2019 #PassionPlansReliefs #SagaPlansReliefs #PBALille

A publication that is shared by the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille (@pbalille) on 10 Nov. 2018 1 :32 PST

“They have long been classified as military secret, because they were objects of intelligence,” observes the historian of the belgian Nathalie Dereymaeker. Thus, the edge of the relief map corresponded to the exact range of the artillery of the time. The most striking feature in these fifteen plans showing seven French cities (Calais, Lille, Bergues…), seven belgian (Namur, Charleroi, Ypres,…) and a Dutch (Maastricht) is the density of these cities often fortified, as in Lille and its islets are saturated with housing.

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After it was shown at Versailles and the Louvre, they were transported under Louis XVI at the hôtel des Invalides… he slips slowly into oblivion until the “battle of the plans-reliefs” in the 1980s. Pierre Mauroy, former prime minister and mayor emblematic of Lille, discovers that “these fragile scale models from paper, silk and wood slept in oblivion, and the dust of the attics of the Disabled,” he wrote in his Memoirs . In the name of cultural decentralization, the government transfers to Lille… But Philippe de Villiers, the secretary of State for Culture in 1986 and 1987, wants to turn back, fearing that the cities “claim for their model”, which would lead to “a disintegration of a collection that is recognised throughout the world as being unique”.

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Shot for the gorgeous photos of @jbcagny What a beautiful setting in value of the plans-reliefs ! Thank you ! #PBALille #plansreliefs2019 #SagaPlansReliefs #PassionPlansReliefs #museedesplansreliefs #restore #restorative #picoftheday #photographylovers #photodemusee #museumlovers

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“the battle of The Invalids”, “the heist” plans-reliefs”, headlined the newspaper. Pierre Mauroy comes to place day and night of the municipal police, where are stored the plans, warning that in the case of “operation force” to recover “the population will be immediately informed by the sirens”… Finally, in march 1987, the government of Chirac entrusted to Lille part of the collection representing the Northern cities with the promise to finance the renovation of the museum. After six years of work, the Palace of fine arts will re-open in 1997… with the plans-reliefs. In an atmosphere more peaceful, the reopening to the public of the salle des plans-reliefs of 1300 square meters is scheduled for march 2019, with the establishment of headlands to admire them better.