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Description

A rare view by Sébastien Pontault de Beaulieu, depicting the action around the fortress of Salses-le-Château in Roussillon during the Franco-Spanish War.

Salses-le-Château (called Salces in both Spanish and Catalan) was, until the mid-17th Century, a Spanish garrison town on the border of Spanish Catalonia and France. It is located on the side of a saltwater lagoon, near the Mediterranean Sea. From 1496 to 1502, Ferdinand II ordered that a large stone fortress be constructed on the site. Occupying the center of the present view, this castle, which survives to this day, is considered to be architecturally highly unusual, a cross between Medieval Spanish and French Renaissance styles.

During the Franco-Spanish War (1635-59), Spain and France contested their border along the Pyranees. Specifically, the scene portrayed here depicts the first Siege of Salces, on September 1, 1639, during which the French took the castle. As shown, much of the surrounding town was destroyed, and the Spanish garrison departed. However, the Spanish would return, and during the Second Siege of Salces, on January 6, 1640, they retook the castle. However, by 1659, France had triumphed in the broader war, and at the Treaty of the Pyranees, Roussilon (including Salces) was ceded by Spain to France. The town remains a part of France to this day, and acquired its current name of Salces-le-Château during the Napoleonic Wars.

The present view is by Sébastien Pontault de Beaulieu (c.1612-74), a prominent military engineer in the service of Louis XIV and highly talented artist of topographical views. His view of Salces was drafted while he served on the Catalan front during the war against Spain. Many of his views were engraved by Adam Perelle (1640-95), both before and after Beaulieu's death.

This view is from Beaulieu's Les plans et profils des principales villes et lieux considérables de la principauté de Catalogne…du comté de Roussillon, Conflant & Cerdagne (Paris, undated, but circa 1670), a rare work focusing on the Franco-Spanish War. Further views were posthumously published as part of Beaulieu's Les glorieuses Conquêtes de Louis-le-Grand, 2 vols. (1694).