Georg Matthaüs Seutter (1678–1757) founded one of the two most prominent German publishing houses of the 18th century; he was apprenticed to Johann Baptist Homann, founder of the other publishing house, in 1697, before setting up his own firm.
In this map, Seutter has recast typical contemporary town plans into an allegorical map of the siege of the Castle of Love. Unusually for a map of love, the plan is drawn from a male perspective: the Castle of Love is the male heart, while it is the women who are shown trying to break through the male’s outer defences.
The male heart is shown in the keep of a fortified town. This is reminiscent of the siege maps from the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), which would have been very familiar to a contemporary audience. The keep is surrounded by a moat, labvelled ‘La Mer Glacee Sans Passion’ (‘Frozen Sea without Passion’). Like the title, the key alludes to the many (military) stratagems that the (male) defender might employ to defend his heart against the advances of (female) attackers (‘Methode pour defender et conserver son Coeur contre les attaques de l’amour’). Around the castle are arrayed the female forces of love, represented by the artillery batteries on the mainland and the naval forces on the glacial sea, bombarding the defences with such surprises as ‘regards languissant’ (‘languishing looks’). Each of the guns has an individual female charm: ‘Enchantment’, ‘Tendresse’, ‘Un certain je ne Sais quoi’, ‘Surprises’, and ‘Charmes’ (a full list is given in the key) while the defenders shelter in their bastions – among them ‘Precaution’, ‘Prudence’, ‘Experience’, ‘Indifference’ and ‘Resolution’. The attacking forces are commanded from their headquarters at bottom left, labelled the ‘Camp de l’Amour’, wherein are the tents of its ‘General Cupido’, settled in with his forces until the defences are breached and the besieged brought to surrender.
As the defences are slowly breached by female wiles, the defender is forced to retreat out of the keep through the Gates of Wisdom, to successive hideouts along the lake: ‘Conseil des fideles amis’ (‘Counsel of faithful friends’), ‘Deliberation’ and ‘Inspiration de nos propres sens’ (‘Inspiration of our right senses’) onward to the ‘Jardin de Plaisir…’ where the first pleasant meeting takes place. Then finally, in desperation, he takes flight by an underground way to ‘Le Palais de L’Amour’ (‘the Palace of Love’), lured by the song of the Sirens who inhabit the lake, where the final surrender to the lady takes place. From here there is no return without loss of liberty.
All this is expanded in the detailed key along the lower border of the map, while Venus (or Aphrodite in Greek mythology), the goddess of love, in her chariot, looks down on the campaign from the finely engraved title cartouche at top right.