Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Charles-Louis Clérisseau in Rome

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Forum of Nerva, Rome
ca. 1750-55
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Arch of the Money-changers, Rome
ca. 1760
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

French artist Charles-Louis Clérisseau lived to be 99 years old. He was born in Paris in 1721 and died there in 1820, but in between he spent many years in Italy (along with crowds of other Northern European artists) recording and/or inventing the highly marketable "views" of Roman antiquities and ruins that were bought up in their uncountable thousands (yet each one technically unique) by generations of wealthy foreign tourists. All the examples seen here were carried back to Russia by courtiers and agents of Catherine the Great and her coterie  to warm them during long nights in their cold barbaric empire.

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Arch of Constantine, Rome
1781
gouache
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Colosseum, Rome
ca. 1750-55
watercolor
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Colosseum, Rome
1760s
gouache
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Arch of Septimus Severus, Rome
ca. 1783
gouache
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Arch of Titus, Rome
ca. 1781
gouache
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Arch of Titus, Rome
ca. 1750-55
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Capriccio with statue of Terpsichore, Rome
1760s
gouache
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Capriccio with Tomb
1760s
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Capriccio with Sarcophagus
1760s
gouache
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Capriccio with Obelisk
1760s
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Pantheon interior, Rome
ca. 1750-55
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Pantheon interior, Rome
1760s
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Charles-Louis Clérisseau
Villa Madama interior, Rome
ca. 1750-55
wash drawing
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"An edifice is, moreover, so excellent that Aristotle argues: if a building were a natural thing, it would be executed by nature no differently than it would be by architecture, and nature would be constrained to use the same rules to give it perfection; just as the very abodes of the gods were devised by poets with the skill of architects, arrayed with arches and columns, which is how they described the royal palace of the Sun and of Love, transporting architecture to heaven. Thus the ancient cultivators of wisdom formed this Idea and deity of beauty in their minds by observing always the most beautiful parts of natural things, for that other Idea, which is largely formed on the basis of experience, is most ugly and vile, and Plato holds that the Idea must be perfect knowledge of the thing, based on nature. . . . On the other hand, those who glory in the name of naturalists do not propose any Idea whatever for themselves in their minds; they copy the defects of bodies and inure themselves to ugliness and faults; they too swear by the model as their teacher; and when it is taken out of their sight, all their art goes with it. . . . Since the common people refer everything to the sense of sight, they praise things that are painted from nature because they are accustomed to seeing them made so; they appreciate beautiful colors, not beautiful forms which they do not understand; they are bored by refinement and approve of novelty; they disdain reason, follow opinion, and turn away from the truth of art, upon which, as on its proper base, the most noble simulacrum of the Idea stands consecrated."

 from The Lives of the Modern Painters, Sculptors and Architects by Giovan Pietro Bellori (1672) translated and edited by Alice Sedgwick Wohl and Hellmut Wohl (Cambridge University Press, 2005)