Re-reading Leonardo: The Treatise on Painting across Europe, 1550–1900

One of Ashgate’s bestselling Art books this year has been Re-reading Leonardo: The Treatise on Painting across Europe, 1550–1900, Edited by Claire Farago.

‘This collection – concerning the historical fortunes and effects of Leonardo’s Treatise on Painting – is long overdue. Importantly, this volume turns our attention to the reception of Leonardo in a pan-European context, making the treatise of interest not only to Renaissance and early modern art historians, but to those who study later periods.’

Lyle Massey, University of California, Irvine, USA

‘These essays offer a well-rounded analysis of the reception of Leonardo’s Treatise by tracing trajectories of its development through a variety of cultural, historical, social, technical, critical, nationalistic, and reappropriated forms. It is the first book to address, within its historical framework, the diverse network of cultural interchange about the value of ideas associated (directly and remotely) with Leonardo da Vinci and the traditions of his time. A compelling feature of this approach is the way in which it involves this diverse network of professionals over the centuries, including not only painters, sculptors, illustrators, printmakers, and architects, but also biographers, theorists, natural philosophers, translators, astronomers, publishers, engineers, theologians, aristocrats, lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and collectors.’

Matthew Landrus, Rhode Island School of Design, USA

For nearly three centuries Leonardo da Vinci’s work was known primarily through the abridged version of his Treatise on Painting, first published in Paris in 1651 and soon translated into all the major European languages. Here for the first time is a study that examines the historical reception of this vastly influential text. This collection charts the varied interpretations of Leonardo’s ideas in French, Italian, Spanish, English, German, Dutch, Flemish, Greek, and Polish speaking environments where the Trattato was an important resource for the academic instruction of artists, one of the key sources drawn upon by art theorists, and widely read by a diverse network of artists, architects, biographers, natural philosophers, translators, astronomers, publishers, engineers, theologians, aristocrats, lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and collectors. The cross-cultural approach employed here demonstrates that Leonardo’s Treatise on Painting is an ideal case study through which to chart the institutionalization of art in Europe and beyond for 400 years.

The volume includes original essays by scholars studying a wide variety of national and institutional settings. The coherence of the volume is established by the shared subject matter and interpretative aim: to understand how Leonardo’s ideas were used. With its focus on the active reception of an important text overlooked in studies of the artist’s solitary genius, the collection takes Leonardo studies to a new level of historical inquiry.

Leonardo da Vinci’s most significant contribution to Western art was his interpretation of painting as a science grounded in geometry and direct observation of nature. One of the most important questions to emerge from this study is, what enabled the same text to produce so many different styles of painting?

Contents: Introduction: the historical reception of Leonardo da Vinci”s abridged Treatise on Painting, Claire Farago. Section 1 The Italian Reception: What might Leonardo”s own Trattato have looked like? And what did it actually look like up to the time of the editio princeps?, Martin Kemp and Juliana Barone; Leonardo and the Florentine Academy, Robert Williams; Who abridged Leonardo da Vinci”s Treatise on Painting?, Claire Farago; On the movement of figures in some early apographs of the abridged Trattato, Michael Cole; Zaccolini and the Trattato della Pittura of Leonardo da Vinci, Janis C. Bell; The first Italian publication of the Treatise on Painting: book culture, the history of art, and the Naples edition of 1733, Thomas Willette. Section 2 The French Reception: The Vita of Leonardo da Vinci in the Du Fresne edition of 1651, Catherine M. Soussloff; Poussin as engineer of the human figure: the illustrations for Leonardo”s Trattato, Juliana Barone; ”A chaos of intelligence”: Leonardo”s Traité and the perspective wars at the Académie Royale, Martin Kemp; Perspective and the Paris Academy, J.V. Field; Leonardo”s theory of aerial perspective in the writings of André Félibien and the paintings of Nicolas Poussin, Pauline Maguire Robison; Between academicism and its critics: Leonardo da Vinci”s Traité de la Peinture and 18th-century French art theory, Thomas Kirchner. Section 3 The Spanish Reception: The Trattato in 17th- and 18th-century Spanish perspective and art theory, Javier Navarro de Zuvillaga; Pacheco, Velázquez, and the legacy of Leonardo in Spain, Charlene Villaseñor Black. Section 4 The Dutch, German and Flemish Reception: The reception of Leonardo da Vinci”s Trattato della Pittura or Traité de la Peinture in 17th-century Northern Europe, Michèle-Caroline Heck; ”This art embraces all visible things in its domain”: Samuel van Hoogstraaten and the Trattato della Pittura, Thijs Weststeijn; Rubens and Leonardo on motion: figures, inscriptions, and texts, Juliana Barone. Section 5 The English Reception: The 1721 English Treatise of Painting: a Masonic moment in the culture of Newtonianism, Richard Woodfield; The Trattato della Pittura and Leonardo”s reputation in 18th-century British art and aesthetics, Geoff Quilley. Section 6 The Greek and Slavic Reception: The translation and critical fortuna of Leonardo”s Trattato in Greece and the Balkans: the manuscript translations of Panagiotis Doxaras, Chrysa Damianaki; The fortuna of Leonard”s Trattato della Pittura in 19th-century Poland, Marcin Fabianski; Bibliography of printed editions of Leonardo da Vinci”s Treatise on Painting, Mario Valentino Guffanti; Index.

About the Editor: Claire Farago is Professor of Early Modern Art, Theory, and Criticism at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

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