“Painting and Poetry are two Sisters, which are so like in all things, that they mutually lend to each other both their Name and Office. One is call’d a dumb Poesy, and the other a speaking Picture”


682G Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy 1611-1688

De arte graphica. The art of painting, by C.A. Du Fresnoy. With remarks. Translated into English, together with an original preface containing a parallel betwixt painting and poetry. As also a short account of the most eminent painters, both ancient and modern, continu’d down to the present times, according to the order of their succession. By another hand.

London: J. Heptinstall for W. Rogers, at the Sun against St. Dunstan’s church in Fleetstreet, 1695                                             $2,200

DSC_0084Quarto 8 1/8 X 6 in [ ]2, (a-h)4, B-Z4, Aa-Yy4, Zz2. Internally, this copy is in very clean.


This copy is the first edition of the text in English translation. This copy is bound in contemporary paneled calf it is a very clean large copy.; .(Issued with this edition was the first appearance of Richard Graham’s biographical chronology of famous artists, from Ardices the Corinthian to John Riley, court painter to Charles II, under a separate title page).

Dufresnoy was raised in Paris, France, and studied under Francois Perrier before attending Simon Vouet’s celebrated atelier. “His progress in his studies was more than usually promising; he soon became well versed in the classics, and at an early period of his life showed a mark genius for poetry” (Bryan’s D-96). He was a working artist who established himself within a circle of peers that inlcuded Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and, close friend, Pierre Mignard who spent several years with him in Italy. Dufresnoy and Mignard were involved in copying Annibale Caracci’s frescoes into the Farnese Palace. However, “Dufresnoy was before all things a critic, and his best known work is not a painting, but a book, “De Arte Graphica”, a manual written in extremely elegant Latin verse…and reprinted for a hundred years as a masterpiece” (CE vol.X, p.289).

“Expression and all that belongs to words, is that in a poem which coloring is in a picture. The colors well chosen in their proper places, together with the lights and shadows which belong to them, lighten the design, and make it pleasing to the eye. The words, the expressions, the tropes and figures, the versification, and all other elegancies of sound… perform exactly the same office both in dramatic and epic poetry.”


The academic and creative impact Dufresnoy’s book had was great; his influence reverberated across the artistic community. This is particularly clear within his circle of friends, “this rare amateur wielded a great educational influence over Mignard, and made him acquainted with Venice and its incomparable school, which our classic art had professed to despise” (CE).   Lowndes describes the book as “a work of established reputation” (p. 163) and the text itself includes Dufresnoy’s explanation of the art of painting. Examples of some topics covered include “The motions of the hands and head must agree”, “The conduct of the tones of Light and Shadows”, “The reflection of colours”, “Things which are vicious in painting to be avoided”. There is also an interesting account of “the most eminent painters, both ancient and modern” by his personal judgement (includes articles on Vouet, Caravaggio, his hero, Titian, and others).“Painting and Poetry are two Sisters, which are so like in all things, that they mutually lend to each other both their Name and Office. One is call’d a dumb Poesy, and the other a speaking Picture” (from pg. 3 of “De Arte Graphica”). Dufresnoy and Dryden helped assure this filial association between the two popular arts of painting and poetry. This text laid the groundwork for Jonathan Richardson’s seminal “Essay on the Theory of Painting” published in 1715 – a work that has been hailed as the “starting point for the classical school of art criticism in Britain” and the study of aesthetics. “ (Prince, “Aesthetics: Sources in the Eighteenth Century”).

Wing D-2458 ; H. Macdonald’s “Dryden Bibliography” 139a (p. 175)


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