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THE EARLIEST ART HISTORY
GAURICO, Pomponio. De sculptura. Nuremberg, Johannes Petreius, 1542.
4to., (47) ff. Bound in modern boards. Minor repair on title page, library stamp of the University of Jena on f. a2; generally excellent.
$3,850 Rare early edition of this famous work on sculpture, perspective and the aesthetic theory of the plastic arts, of particular importance for the diffusion of perspective theory to the north of Florence according to Kemp, who characterises the work’s technical innovations as “a curious mélange of the Albertian method, using an intersecting plane (the central vertical), and the ‘workshop’ method which depends on the diagonal point(s).” -- Science of Art, p. 42 and following for Gaurico’s foreshortening method.)
Midway between Alberti and Vasari, Gaurico's treatise also documents the tremendous increase in cultural prestige which painting underwent during the fifteenth century: the incomparable outpouring of masterpieces of that century stilled the old debates about the dignity of painting and its status as one of the liberal arts. This prestige is here reflected in art criticism as a broad discipline in accord with a humanistic concept of culture, with its emphasis on history and informed evaluative judgement.
Gaurico's treatise is very much the culmination of this cultural shift. Although treating for the most part traditional technical questions (line, perspective etc.), he does so in a wide-ranging way. Its most notable contributions include the creation of a system of descriptive categories and a more formal consideration of physiognomy as a topic of aesthetic consideration. The work is also the principal source for many important biographical facts in the lives of artists. Gaurico's standard of taste is basically that of the cultivated humanist of the day with a penchant for stylish classicizing (Mantegna).
The work first appeared in 1504 (Florence), and again in 1528 (Antwerp); it proved particularly popular in German-speaking countries, as this imprint from the home of Dürer attests. All early editions are quite rare. The work became an instant "classic" in aesthetics and was often anthologized into the 17th century.
Pomponio Gaurico (1482-1530) was Prof. of Philology at the University of Naples, poet and humanist par excellence. His brother Luca was a celebrated mathematician, and made an influential Latin translation of Peckham's treatise on perspective.
* Vagnetti EIIb1; Schlosser-Magnino, pp. 235-239; Kemp, Science of Art, pp. 40-41; modern ed. by A. Chastel & R. Klein (1969).
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