Regole per imparar a disegnar i corpi humani. [and others]

Venice, appresso Marco Sadeler, 1636, 1644


Folio, etched title page to each part of the Regole. 75 etched plates in good impression; 55 full page, 20 half page and mounted. Some plates printed or partly coloured in sepia. Wide margins a bit browned in places. Faint water stain affecting first 21 plates, one plate detached, one small tear not affecting image, one plate with shaved margins. Interesting example in reversed calf over pasteboards very worn, traces of a blind tooled panel design. Spine cracked in one compartment, worn at head and tail. Contemporary manuscript on front pastedown “Ce presen livres appartien a Louis Le Doux, peintre et doreur demeurante en beauvais. Ce qt octobre 1694″.

Extensive composite collection of etched anatomical and figurative plates in mannerist style from at least four different drawing manuals, displaying details of varied body parts and faces of men and women in different stages and states of life, wearing different expressions and costumes. It is difficult to determine the correct census and order of the plates even in the original editions, as they are not numbered and as plates were often appropriated into other’s work or copied without any of the modern sense of plagiarism (see Dr. Laura M. Walters cit. infra). Many of the 75 plates here are signed and though similar in subject, present 4 distinctive styles. They were clearly bought together by the first owner

The first set of etchings corresponds to the 14 issued under the title given to the whole book, “Regole per imparar a disegnar”,  attributed to drawings by the famous painter Giacomo Palma and engraved by Giacomo Franco. This edition of 1636 is a reprint of some of the plates, all by Franco, but without the mythological and historical (such as Dalila on Sanson’s horse).

The second set of etchings comes from a work attributed to Agostino Carracci, “Scuola perfetta per imparare a disegnare tutto il corpo umano”, with engravings from pictures of the painter himself, executed by Pietro Stefanoni (signature P.S.F.) and Luca Ciamberlano (Luca da Urbino), printed in Rome in the 1600s.

The third set resembles the style of Stefanoni, but all the plates have been cut and mounted and there are no visible signatures.

The last plate probably comes from “Le livre original de la portraiture pour la jeunesse”, which saw the collaboration of three artists, whose signatures can be found on the image: Ferdinand (pseudonym of Louis Elle), F.L.D. Ciartres (Francois Langlois) and Bologna (Francesco Primaticcio)

This heterogeneous collection is typical of the considerable vogue for drawing manuals in the late 16th– early 17th century, initiated by the Carracci brothers with the renewed emphasis on drawing as the basis for painting. These manuals soon stopped being practical drawing aids and soon became statements of culture for noble gentlemen and ladies and art lovers of the time. It is indicative that any kind of text has disappeared, leaving room for a series of drawings of interlaced limbs and gentle faces, more examples of artistic virtuosity than anatomical models to be copied.

Luis le Doux came from a family of well known painters in Mons (Belgium) and was himself sculptor and architect.

Bartsch, vol. XVI, 288. Cicogna, vol. V, pp 432-434. Cicognara, 342. Berlin cat. 4763.
Laura M. Walters, Odoardo Fialetti (1573-c. 1638): the interrelation of Venetian art and anatomy, and his importance in England, unpublished PhD dissertation (St. Andrew’s University, 2009). Catherine Whistler, Learning to draw in Venice: the role of drawing manuals, essay (McGill Queen’s University Press, 2013).


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