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National Gallery of Art

A Tale of Two sides: Poussin between Leonardo and Desargues

Source: Studies in the History of Art, Vol. 59, Symposium Papers XXXVI: The Treatise on
Perspective: Published and Unpublished (2003), pp. 53-61
Published by: National Gallery of Art
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/42622653
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École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

A Tale of Two Sides:

Poussin between Leonardo and D

ing to Anthony Blunt, he was " extremely

letter to Abraham Bosse (1602-1676) is well unlikely to have been well informed."3 We
Even letter known,known,
to Abraham intriguing
questions Nicolas Bosse questions Poussin's (1602-1676) still (1594-1665) remain is well
still remain do not even know when Bosse asked for the
with regard to it. The fact that we only have painter's advice on his own, numerous pub-
access to it through Bosse himself, who pub- lications or on Leonardo da Vinci's Treatise
lished it in his Traité des pratiques geome- on Painting , printed in Paris in 165 1 both in
tr ales et perspectives in 1665,1 has led some Italian and in a French translation.4 Since
critics to suspect that part of the letter is a Leonardo's treatise was considered a presti-
forgery. There was a time when historians gious text, Bosse's opponents immediately
disliked the idea that at the end of his life
brought it forward to attack his teachings
Poussin might have opposed Charles Le Brunon perspective and the role he gave to it in
and his colleagues even while Poussin con-the education and training of painters. Bosse
tinued to be referred to as a prestigious model may well have intended to make use of
at the meetings of the Royal Academy ofPoussin's letter when the Royal Academy
Painting and Sculpture. Anthony Bluntstarted to move against him and his doctrines
judged it perfectly in character for Bosse to after he was authorized, thanks to his friend
have added to a genuine letter a few sentencesLaurent de La Hyre ( 1 606-1 6 5 6 ), to give some
meant to show that Poussin took Bosse's side classes on perspective in 1 648, the very year
in his quarrel with the academy, a quarrel of the academy's founding.5 Three years
that lasted for several years and eventually later, in 165 1, Bosse was admitted as anhon-
led to Abraham Bosse's dismissal from its orary member. (A mere engraver, he was not
ranks in May 1661.2 considered equal to a painter and thus had
We do not know whether Abraham Bosse no right to full membership.) As for Bosse's
ever asked Poussin's permission before pub- own publications, Poussin's acknowledg-
lishing this letter four years later in thement in his letter, benevolent as it sounds,
abovementioned book, in which he gave aamounts to no more than a formal one. After
full account of his dispute with the Royalthanking Bosse for judging him favorably
Academy and of the lectures on the theory and for considering his art in great depth, in
and practice of perspective that he delivered contrast to the usual manner of the French,
on the premises, to the outrage of the author- who, in their careless hurry, "were too often
ities, beginning in 1648. Nor do we knowmistaken," the painter stated that if Bosse
whether Poussin, who died in 1665, the yearwould send him his latest books, he would
of the book's publication, took notice of ahold them in the same esteem as the ones
book devoted to a matter about which, accord- he already possessed, "which I cherish very


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much."6 Poussin had the same respect for compiled by Leonardo's pupil Francesco
Bosse's teachings at the Royal Academy: "In Melzi ( 149 i-c. 1 5 70). Regarding the content
any case, it is not necessary to write to you of this publication, one could not have put
about the lessons you deliver at the Acad- it more plainly than Poussin himself did in
emy, you are too well grounded."7 his letter to Abraham Bosse: "Anything that
Bosse's teachings surely were well is good in this book can be written on one
grounded. And so were his numerous works sheet of paper in bold letters,- and those who
on the theory and practice of perspective, believe that I approve everything in it do not
deriving as they did from the writings and know me. For I hold never to give way to
teachings of the French geometer Girard things in my profession which I know to be
Desargues (159 i-i 66 1 ), who is generally rec- poorly done and poorly expressed."13
ognized as one of the founders of modern At first glance, Poussin's denigration of
geometry. This link was established in Bosse's Leonardo's Treatise on Painting is all the
1 648 Manière universelle de Mr. Desargues, more surprising insofar as he himself took
pour pratiquer la perspective.8 It was also part in its publication. He took such a great
implicit in his 1653 Moyen universel de pra- part, in fact, that in order to benefit from
tiquer la perspective sur les tableaux ou sur- his authority, Fréart de Chambray found it
faces irrégulières ,9 not to mention his Traité appropriate to dedicate his translation of
des pratiques géométrales et perspectives of Leonardo's treatise to "the restorer of paint-
1 665, in which Poussin's letter was to appear. ing and the ornament of his century," that
To what extent Poussin knew about Des- is, to the same Poussin who supposedly
"had brought to its highest perfection this
argues' sophisticated and innovative contribu-
tions to descriptive and projective geometryrare book, which from now on must be the
is difficult to tell. In his studies on Poussin,
rule of art and the guide for all painters."14
Georges Kauffmann deals at some length But in that matter too the painter makes it
with Desargues' possible influence on Pous- very clear:
sin's art.10 But there is evidence that the
As for the book by Leonardo da Vinci, it is true
painter was aware of the geometer's existence,that I drew the human figures that are in the
just as there is evidence that the geometercopy that belongs to the chevalier du Puis
was aware of the painter's. In his 1 640 Brouil- [Cassiano Dal Pozzo]; but all the others, either
lon projet Desargues mentions a drawing, not geometrical or otherwise, are from the hand of
necessarily executed by the painter himself, a member of the Alberti family [Pier Francesco
that Poussin sent the same year from Rome Alberti], the one who designed the plates in
to Paris. In this drawing "the perspective of the book on Rome Subterranea [Rome under-
the bodies, points and sunbeams" was con-ground] and the clumsy landscapes that are
structed on the basis of ground plans andbehind the small human figures in the copy
elevations, 1 1 that is, according to a more de-that was printed by M. de Chambray, were
added by a certain Errard [Charles Errard],
manding procedure than the one Desargues
without my knowing anything of it.15
himself had demonstrated in his 1 6 3 6 Exem-
ple de Vune des manières universelles du S. We do not know the extent to which
G. D. L. [Sieur Girard Desargues Lyonnais] Poussin involved himself in the project of
touchant la pratique de la perspective.12 publishing Leonardo's Treatise on Painting
The French translation of Leonardo's Tratt- when he accompanied Chantelou to Paris in
tato della pittura was by Roland Fréart, sieur 1 640 to assume the position oí premier pein-
de Chambray (1606-1676), the brother of tre du roi , which Sublet de Noyers, the sur-
Poussin's lifelong patron and friend, Paul intendant des bâtiments , had offered him.
Fréart, sieur de Chantelou ( 1 609-1 694). And The drawings in the copy of Leonardo's trea-
it was Chantelou who in 1640 brought a tise given to Chantelou by Cassiano Dal
copy of Leonardo's Treatise back to Paris. Pozzo, today in the Hermitage in St. Peters-
Given to Chantelou by Cassiano Dal Pozzo burg, were for a long time considered to be
(1588-1657), the copy had been made after original, contrary to Poussin's explicit state-
the copy Cassiano had himself commis- ment in his letter to Bosse. Displeased with
sioned of the original manuscript in the Bar- his Parisian experience, Poussin returned to
berini Library in Rome. The latter had been Rome, and because of upheavals that took


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place in France at the time of the Fronde, nelleschi's (1377-1446) painted panel of
Poussin lost contact with Fréart de Cham- the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence,
which is traditionally considered the first
bray and thus no longer had any control over
the illustrations. Within the context of Bosse's accomplishment in Renaissance perspec-
dispute with the Royal Academy, it is to be tive; and second, how to first build up or con-
noted that the engraver whom Poussin dis-struct, not a "space," in the modern sense,
missively referred to as "un certain Errard"
but the perspectivally projected scene in per-
was Charles Errard (1606-1689), himself an spective within which representation was to
illustrator and engraver, who would become take place: the setting of the stage for the
istoria , as Leon Battista Alberti ( 1404-1472)
the first director of the French Academy in
Rome and who happened to be the friend of described it in book 1 of his own treatise on
painting, De pittura.18 It is all the more
M. de Ratabon, the new director of the Royal
Academy of Painting and Sculpture, ap-symptomatic that whereas Leonardo's trea-
tise leaves no room for linear perspective,
pointed in 1 65 5, and one of Bosse's most obsti-
Fréart de Chambray, in his dedication to
nate opponents. This may have led Poussin
to take sides with Bosse. But of much more Poussin, gave credit to the same Poussin for
importance for us is Poussin's dissatisfaction "the linear demonstration of all the chap-
with the way in which Charles Errard addedters that needed to be explained and repre-
some "clumsy landscapes" to the human fig-sented with the help of figures." We know
ures Poussin had drawn. that Poussin was not the author of the opti-
Much literature has been devoted to cal diagrams since in his letter to Bosse he
explicitly ascribed them to Pierfrancesco
Poussin's borrowings from Leonardo's Trea-
tise on Painting and to the way in which sev- the artist who designed the plates
for Antonio Bosio's Roma subterranea novis-
eral figures in his paintings may be related
to the drawings pasted in Cassianosima. Dal In addition, in the drawings he made
for Cassiano
Pozzo's copy of the original manuscript, as Dal Pozzo, Poussin had no
well as to some of the drawings and engrav-
regard for any kind of figure other than the
ings that derive from them.16 But the human
mere body. The setting for the figures in
fact that Poussin criticized the addition of Poussin's drawings was reduced to a mini-
backgrounds behind his "small figures" illu-mal strip of land, while the various scenes
minates the way we are to consider his com-drawn in the more or less conspicuous per-
ments on the contents of Leonardo's Treatise spective that Charles Errard added as back-
on Painting. For in Poussin's mind what was grounds indicate a total misunderstanding
at stake in Bosse's request was the place as of Poussin's purpose.
well as the role of the theory and practice of As a matter of fact, far from considering
perspective in the art of painting. If we look Leonardo's Treatise on Painting in its
at the first paragraphs of Leonardo's Trea- entirety, in order to provide the reader with
tise, it may seem that it was in perfect accord a set of illustrations that would enlighten
with Bosse's teachings. Perspective must the most abstruse passages, Poussin con-
come first in the training of young painters centrated on the relatively small portion of
in order for them to give to each object its the text that deals with human figures, their
correct measurements. Leonardo wrote: "Try movements and actions, the relative dispo-
Science first. Then follow practice, which sition of their members, and their complex
is a consequence of science. " 1 7 But apart from attitudes in diverse circumstances, all in
some considerations on atmospheric and relation to the center of gravity. This was a
color perspective and the lighting of objects, matter of great concern to him, as many of
the Treatise on Painting in fact does not his compositions demonstrate. If every move-
contain much information about mathe- ment corresponds to a disruption of equi-
matical perspective. librium,19 the lack of balance will affect the
From their origins in modern times, per-
whole body and be reflected in all of its parts.
spective theory and practice have been
A man standing on his two feet without
moving will have all his parts disposed sym-
divided between two major trends: first, how
to draw in perspective a more or less regu-
metrically according to a vertical line. Should
he stand on one foot, the shoulder on that
lar body, as was the case with Filippo Bru-


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side will be lower than the other one. If he the work." One had only to rely on Girard
carries a stone, the weight-bearing shoulderDesargues' Méthode universelle , based as it
will always be higher. Thus, in order to showwas on the use of scales that determined the
the body in action, from the simplest move-progressive diminution of lengths seen at a
ments to the most " composed" ones, thegreater distance from the picture plane for
painter must know how to place its partsa given position of the eye. Bosse is referring
and how to give his figures the attitude thathere to the specific example Desargues pro-
will allow the viewer to understand what is posed for the Méthode universelle : "The
represented.20 Constrained as they were by subject in this example is a cage simply made
the time of exposure, the early photographersof lines, square [that is, cubic] and whose sides
had to conform to the same canons as the are of equal width, up to a certain level, from
painters, and it is not a coincidence that which it ends in a point, in the same way as
many of their "academic studies" directly a building with a pyramidal roof, situated in
echo Poussin's exercises in movement.21 an open field, perpendicular to the ground,
Not until the development of computerand dug out down to a level inferior to the
graphics a century later would it be possiblesurrounding land."25
to show the body in motion in a new way, Of course, the "subject" in Desargues'
with no need for photography, film, or any example had nothing to do with the Carte-
physical record and with no reference, othersian one, the subject of the cogito. We have
than an implicit one, to the ground on which to read it as one would read a recipe in a
the figure actually stood or danced or to theFrench cookbook that advises the reader to
choose fish or meat - un sujet de bonne
grid that still constitutes the ultimate frame
of reference.22 grosseur. But the fact that the subject in
In his reading of Leonardo's Treatise onquestion - a cube with a pyramidal top -
Painting Poussin apparently was more inter- would break through the limit that corre-
ested in the precise notations regarding thesponds to the ground plane of perspective
representation of bodies than in the gener-construction confirms J. V. Field's interpre-
alities about how to draw a landscape or set tation of Desargues' innovations. According
the stage for the figures. So was Bosse him- to Field, whereas all ancient geometers pre-
self, as we may infer from his Sentiments ferred to reduce their problems to the plane,
sur la distinction des diverses manières de Desargues directly attacked them in a three-
dimensional way,26 the traditional checkered
peinture , dessin et gravure: "The rule of per-
spective," Bosse wrote, "will give those who pattern, or grid, being reduced to a strictly
metric function. It is true that we do not know
have been trained in the tracing and pro-
portioning of visible or invented bodies the who Desargues' intended readers were; it is
general knowledge of how to represent all difficult to believe that he really expected
the bodies that are imaginable in nature, be artists to have a sufficiently good grasp of
mathematics to understand how this tech-
it in perspective or with respect to their rel-
ative dimensions, in such a way that the pic-nique could apply to other cases, including
ture will produce, in the eye of the viewer, nonplanar projections of the kind Bosse dealt
the same impression as the bodies them- with in his Moyen universel of 1 6 5 3 .27 This
selves."23 In the same way, two centuries
may not apply to Bosse or to Laurent de La
earlier, Antonio di Tucci Manetti had claimed Hyre, who directly profited from Desargues'
in his Vita di Filippo Brunelleschi that when lessons. But what about Poussin, who at best
the view of the Baptistery of San Giovanni, may have read some parts of Bosse's writ-
which had been painted in perspective, was ings and looked at their numerous and fine
observed in a mirror through a hole pierced illustrations?
in the panel, it appeared to be "true," or real The story of Abraham Bosse's dispute with
("pareva che si vedessi '1 proprio vero").24 the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculp-
According to Bosse, there was no need for ture a is all the more paradoxical since even
mirror or a hole to obtain this effect. Nor though he was only an honorary member, a
was it necessary for the painter to establishmere craftsman, he would act or perform as
a view, or distance point, that would lie out-one of the contemplatifs , or theoreticians,
side the limits of the picture or the "field of
to whom the final page of Desargues' Exem-


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pie is explicitly addressed. At the same time, related to the construction of the perspec-
his colleagues of a higher rank, the so-called tive stage. Rather, the various operations
masters, contented themselves with a more and transformations that took place in the
traditional and empirical, not to say mechan- field dealt with objects or figures in projec-
ical , approach to their art. Bosse may well tion. Thanks to Abraham Bosse and, in par-
have made a tactical mistake in attempting ticular, to the elaborate illustrations that
to expand the substance of Desargues' brief abound in his books, Poussin may well have
pamphlets into numerous, lengthy treatises had some idea of it. The fragments of columns
for the use of artists who were jealous of their that lie in the foreground of the Landscape
social and intellectual privileges but who in with St. John on Patmos in reality may be
fact were not concerned with ideas that went strictly cylindrical; represented as they are
far beyond their trade.28 under various visual angles, their sections
In the same passage of his Exemple Desar- no longer appear circular but ellipsoidal. The
gues refers to perspective as "an anthill of same transformation occurs in the repre-
great propositions" (une fourmilière de sentation of conics. The most interesting
grandes propositions) that are relevant for case, as Jean Dhombres justly points out,31
other matters.29 Descartes praised Desargues is the one in which several conic sections
for his contribution to the science of geom- are drawn together, thus giving the impres-
etry and what he called its "metaphysics," sion of one curve evolving into another
related as it was to the issue of infinity. through a form of "baroque" transition, or
Obviously, Poussin had a great concern for transformation, as is the case with the dis-
the "metaphysics" of painting, but it is dif-mantled shafts in Poussin's Landscape with
ficult to decide to what extent such a con- St. John on Patmos.
cern is reflected in his use of perspective. Of still greater importance is the fact that
With some of Poussin's pictures in mind, Desargues'
I "example" is strictly dependent
would be tempted to make use of J. V. Field'supon the tracing of a frame that corresponds
statement that Desargues did not look at per-to the first step of the perspective construc-
spective "as a procedure that 'degrades' but tion as described by Leon Battista Alberti in
merely as one that transforms, leaving cer-the De pictura. That first step was the trac-
tain relationships [the ones we now call ing of the boundaries of the surface on which
"projective properties"] the same."30 Thethe "subject" was to be painted and the sub-
idea that what matters in a picture is lesssequent division of the baseline into equal
what it represents than what it transformssegments corresponding in the scale of the
may sound anachronistic. Nonetheless, this picture to a braccio , that is, to one-third of
a man's height.32 Such preliminary steps
conception derives directly from that "anthill
of great propositions" to which perspective had the same aim as Desargues' manière: to
amounted, according to Desargues. As provide a the painter with a practical but at
result, the notion of transformation assumesthe same time rational, "demonstrative"
a decidedly spatial connotation. The picture,method for the diminution of lines and vol-
or "work," is considered, to use Desargues'
umes according to the distance. Based as it
own term, as a "field" (champ de l'ouvrage).was on the tracing of the checkered pave-
The notion of the field might seem as if it ment of the scene in perspective, the clas-
were drawn from a more modern state of sical system of representation nevertheless
science than the one current in Poussin's implied the positioning of at least one point
day, but we cannot ignore that the field outside
in of the picture - the distance point -
question was strictly limited since what thein order for the painter to be able to draw
French then called a field had a decidedly the successive horizontals of the pavement
finite connotation, whether it was usedattocorresponding levels. On the contrary,
designate the champ clos of a duel or the Desargues' manière did not call for any point
unified field of the picture. to be located "outside the frame" (hors du
But what really matters is that the very champ de l'ouvrage). Nor did it imply the
tracing of a checkered scene as a preliminary
notion of the field, whether considered finite
or infinite, closed' or open, implicitly called
stage for the representation of bodies seen
for a definition of space that was no longerin perspective. Desargues' method of having

damisch 57

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the "subject" break through the ground is a an unlimited space that allows for endless
parallel to Poussin's decision to deal with transformations, starting with the grid itself,
balanced or unbalanced bodies strictly accord- which is no longer contained within a frame
ing to their position, with no more precise but still functions, in spite of constant dis-
reference to the background than a narrow placements and distortions, as the ultimate
stretch of ground and a few accompanying frame of reference. By internalizing the frame
details. The present-day return of the grid of reference and inscribing it within the lim-
in computer graphics does not represent a its of the "field," Desargues paved the way
regression to a state of geometry prior to for such an opening of the field itself. So did
Desargues but corresponds to new uses of Poussin when establishing the figures he
the scheme, or pattern, in relation to devel- drew for Leonardo's Treatise on Painting in
opments in projective geometry that were an undefined setting, submitted to the laws
initiated by Desargues himself. The "field" of gravity, but with apparently no more
is no longer conceived as finite, enclosed regard at this point for the scene of classical
within strict frontiers that define it but as representation.


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i. Abraham Bosse, Traité des pratiques géómétrales

et perspectives enseignées dans l'Académie royale de
la peinture et sculpture par A.B. (Paris, 1665), 128.
Poussin's letter is reproduced in Nicolas Poussin,
Correspondance de Nicolas Poussin, ed. Charles
Jouanny (Paris, 1968), 419-421. That Poussin refers
to Bosse as actually lecturing at the Royal Academy
indicates that the letter was written before Bosse's
dismissal in 166 1.

2. Walter Friedländer and Anthony Blunt, The

Drawings of Nicolas Poussin: Catalogue raisonné
(London, 1963), 30. Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-
Antoine Prat, in their Catalogue raisonné des
dessins de Poussin, 2 vols. (Paris, 1994), 1:240,
simply dismiss the possibility of a forgery, partial
or not.

3. Friedländer and Blunt 1963, 30.

4. The French translation was Traité de la peinture

de Léonard de Vinci donné au public et traduit en
français par R. F. D. C. [Roland Fréart De
Cham bray] ( Paris, 1651).

5 . We know from Bosse himself that he did not

hesitate to send a copy of Poussin's letter to Le Brun,
a move that was considered inappropriate (Abraham
Bosse, "A. Bosse au lecteur/' in Le peintre converti
aux précises et universelles règles de son art [Paris,
1667], aii [sic]).

6. "J'ai eu quelquefois du plaisir et ai profité des

divers jugements que l'on a fait de moi ainsi à la
hâte, comme ont accoutumé de le faire nos Français,
qui en cela se trompent trop souvent; je vous suis
redevable d'en avoir jugé favorablement. Si vous me
régalez de vos derniers ouvrages, j'en ferai la même
estime que des autres que j'ai de vous, que je tiens
très chers" (Jouanny 1968, 420).

7. "Au demeurant, il n'est pas besoin de vous écrire

touchant les leçons que vous donnez en l'Académie,
vous êtes trop bien fondé" (Jouanny 1968, 421).

8. Abraham Bosse, Manière universelle de Mr.

Desargues pour pratiquer la perspective par petit-
pied, comme le Geometral: ensemble les places et
proportions des fortes é) foibles touches, teintes ou
couleurs (Paris, 1648).
9. Abraham Bosse, Moyen universel de pratiquer la
perspective sur les tableaux ou surfaces irrégulières,
ensemble quelques particularités concernant cet art
et celui de la gravure en taille-douce (Paris, 1653).

10. Georges Kauffmann, Poussin- Studien (Berlin,

i960), 66-82.
il. "Ensemble de celles des ombres et des ombrages
qui se font en campagne à la lumière du soleil, dont
la perspective se fait d'une manière autrement aisée
que celle d'une figure que Monsieur Poussin très
excellent peintre français a envoyée cette année de
Rome pour faire voir à Paris, en laquelle ces
ombrages étaient représentés au moyen de la
perspective du corps du soleil, des points de sa
surface dont les rayons illuminent le sujet, et de celle


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de ces mêmes rayons. . . . Cette perspective du soleil Achademia Leonardi Vinci: Journal of Leonardo
vient en des figures si diverses que de vouloir qu'on Studies and Bibliography of Vinciana 5 (1992),
pratique la perspective de ces ombrages en cette 78-96.
manière, c'est multiplier grandement l'embarras de
17. "Le jeune peintre doit premièrement apprendre la
cet art aux ouvriers, au lieu que sur un autre
perspective, pour savoir donner à chaque chose sa
fondement aussi démonstratif que celui-là, cette
juste mesure" (Fréart De Chambray 1651, chap. 1,
manière de pratiquer la perspective a pour ces
"Quelle est la première étude que doit faire un jeune
ombrages une règle universelle que les ouvriers
peintre," fol. 1). "Etudiez premièrement la science, et
peuvent entendre et pratiquer avec plus d'avance en
puis suivez la pratique qui est un effet de la science"
un jour qu'en quinze à la façon de cette figure
(chap. 7, "De la manière d'étudier," fol. 3).
envoyée de Rome" (Girard Desargues, Brouillon
projet d'exemple d'une manière universelle du S. G. 18. Leon Battista Alberti, De pictura (1434),
D. L. [Sieur Girard Desargues Lyonnais] touchant la translated by Cecil Grayson under the title On
pratique du trait à preuves pour la coupe des pierres Painting (London, 1972), book 1.
en l'architecture -, et de l'éclaircissement d'une
19. "Tout mouvement est produit par la rupture de
manière de réduire au petit pied en perspective
l'équilibre, c'est-à-dire, de l'égalité, parce qu'il n'y a
comme au géométral, et de tracer tous quadrants
aucune chose qui se meuve d'elle-même sans qu'elle
plats d'heures égales au soleil [Paris, 1640], in
sorte de son équilibre, et le mouvement est d'autant
Oeuvres de Desargues réunies et analysées par M.
plus prompt que la chose se retire davantage de son
Poudra , comp. Noël Germinal Poudra, 2 vols. [Paris,
équilibre" (Fréart De Chambray 1651, chap. 208, "Du
1864], 1:313-314).
mouvement qui est produit par la destruction de
12. Girard Desargues, Exemple de l'une des manières l'équilibre," fol. 69).
universelles du S. G. D. L. [Sieur Girard Desargues
20. "Il faut que les attitudes des figures avec tous
Lyonnais] touchant la pratique de la perspective
leurs membres, soient tellement disposées, et aient
sans emploier aucun tiers point, de distance ni
une telle expression, que par elles on puisse juger ce
d'aucune autre nature, qui soit en dehors du champ
qu'elles veulent représenter" (Fréart De Chambray
de l'ouvrage (Paris, 1636).
1651, chap. 216, "De l'attitude des hommes," fol.
13. "Tout ce qu'il y a de bon en ce livre se peut écrire 71).
sur une feuille de papier en grosse lettre,- et ceux qui
21. See Emmanuel Schwartz, "L'école des beaux-arts
croient que j'approuve tout ce qui y est ne me
au XIXe siècle et l'enseignement 'd'après le
connaissent pas,- moi qui professe de ne donner
modèle,'" in L'art du nu au XIXe siècle: le
jamais le lieu de franchise aux choses de ma
photographe et son modèle, ed. Sylvie Aubenas et al.
profession que je connais être mal faites et mal dites"
[exh. cat., Bibliothèque Nationale de France] (Paris,
(Jouanny 1968, 421).
1998), 12-23. Marconi's Academic Study (cat. no.
14. "Le restaurateur de la peinture, et l'ornement de 179, fig. 3, page 14) directly echoes Poussin's
son siècle," Poussin "a donné la dernière perfection à rendering of a man carrying a stone, but the
ce rare livre, qui doit être dorénavant la règle de l'art photograph shows no difference in level between the
et le guide de tous les peintres" (Roland Fréart De two shoulders.
Chambray, "A Monsieur Lepoussin Premier Peintre
22. See, for instance, Lifeforms, a computer program
du Roi," in Fréart De Chambray 1651, fol. iii).
for choreographic composition designed for Merce
15. "Pour ce qui concerne le livre de Léonard Vinci, il Cunningham by the University Simon Fraser in
est vrai que j'ai dessiné les figures humaines qui sont Vancouver. See also David Vaughan, Merce
en celui que tient monsieur le chevalier du Puis,- Cunningham: Fifty Years (New York, 1997), 268-269.
mais toutes les autres, soit géométrales ou
23. "La règle de la perspective donnera la
autrement, sont d'un certain de Gli Alberti, celui-là
connaissance universelle à celui qui sera exercé à
même qui a tracé les plantes qui sont au Livre de la
celle du trait et proportion des corps visibles de la
Rome Souterraine; et les gaufes paysages qui sont au
nature et aussi d'en composer de son invention ... de
derrière des figurines humaines de la copie que
représenter tous les corps imaginables de la nature,
monsieur de Chambray a fait imprimer y ont été
tant en géométral qu'en particulier, afin que la copie
adjoints par un certain Errard, sans que j'en aie rien
du tableau qui s'en fera, fasse aux yeux de ceux qui
su" (Jouanny 1968, 420-421). Friedländer and Blunt
les regarderont autant que l'art et la capacité de
(1963) have identified the artist referred to as "un
l'ouvrier le peut permettre, la même sensation de
certain degli Alberti" as Pierfrancesco Alberti, the
vision que feraient les dits corps" (Abraham Bosse,
author, not of the plantes (plants), but of the Sentiments sur la distinction des diverses manières
planches (engraved plates), in Alberto Bosio's Roma
de peinture, dessin et gravure, et des originaux
Subterranea novissima, a book that certainly was of
use to Poussin.
d'avec leurs copies [Paris, 1664], 100).
24. Antonio di Tucci Manetti, Vita di Filippo
16. See Friedländer and Blunt 1963, 26-30; and
Brunelleschi, ed. D. Robertis et G. Tanturili (Milan,
Rosenberg and Prat 1994, 1:240-241. For a full
1976), 59-
bibliography and interesting comments, see
Francesca Fiorani, "Abraham Bosse e le prime 25. "Le sujet en cet exemple est une cage bâtie
critiche al Trattato della Pittura di Leonardo," simplement de lignes, carrée et d'égale grosseur


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jusqu'à un certain endroit depuis lequel elle aboutit 29. "En ce reste de place les contemplatifs auront
en pointe massive, à la manière d'un bâtiment quelques propositions lesquelles peuvent être
couvert en pavillon, assis en rase campagne, élevé sur énoncées autrement pour diverses matières, mais
terre à plomb, creusé dans oeuvre plus bas que le elles sont accommodées ici pour la perspective. . . .
niveau du terrain d'alentour" (Desargues, Exemple, Il est vrai qu'enfin c'est une fourmilière de grandes
quoted in Bosse 1648, 323). propositions, abondantes en lieux" (Desargues,
Exemple , quoted in Bosse 1648, 333).
26. J. V. Field, The Invention of Infinity:
Mathematics and Art in the Renaissance (Oxford, 30. Field 1997, 202.
1997), 205.
31. See his contribution to this volume, "Shadows of
27. Field 1997, 195. a Circle, or What Is There to Be Seen? Some
Figurative Discourses in the Mathematical Sciences
28. Nathalie Heinich recognizes in this apparent
during the Seventeenth Century."
paradox the proof that things had drastically changed
since the early Renaissance: in the seventeenth 32. "Let me tell you what I do when I am painting,"
century the "nobleness" of painting and the painter's wrote Alberti. "First of all, on the surface on which I
right to a specific approach of his art were so well am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size
established that being interested in such a technical I want . . . and I decide how large I wish the human
matter as perspective appeared to be mere figures in the painting to be. I divide the height of
dissipation, with the risk that the artist might lose this man into three parts, which will be proportional
his social position (Nathalie Heinich, "La perspective to the measure commonly called a 'braccio.' . . . With
académique, peinture et tradition lettrée: la référence this measure I divide the bottom line of my rectangle
aux mathématiques dans les théories de l'art au into as many parts as it will hold; and this bottom
XVIIème siècle," Actes de la Recherche en Sciences line of the rectangle is for me proportional to the
Sociales 49 [September 1983], 47-70). nearest transverse equidistant quantity seen on the
pavement" (Grayson 1972, 54).

damisch 61

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