Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Decorative Etchings from 18th-century Europe

Alexis Peyrotte
Acanthus-leaf Design
1740
etching
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

Alexis Peyrotte
Winged Griffon on Rocaille Bracket
1745
etching
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

"Men that do not perversely use their Words, or on purpose set themselves to cavil, seldom mistake in any Language which they are acquainted with the Use and Signification of the names of simple Ideas. White and Street, Yellow and Bitter carry a very obvious meaning with them, which every one precisely comprehends, or easily perceives he is ignorant of, and seeks to be informed.  But what precise Collection of simple Ideas Modesty or Frugality stand for in another's use is not so certainly known.  And however we are apt to think we well enough know what is meant by Gold or Iron, yet the precise complex Idea others make them signs of, is not so certain:  And I believe it is very seldom that in Speaker and Hearer, they stand for exactly the same Collection."

Laurent Cars after Hyacinthe Rigaud
Portrait of artist Sébastien Bourdon
 1733
etching
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Jacques-Philippe Lebas after Gian Paolo Panini
Grecian Ruins
before 1783
etching
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Jean-Jacques Flipart
Competition for the French Acadamy Prize
for Studies of Heads and Expressions

1763
etching, engraving
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Johann August Corvinus
Firework display on the River Elbe
behind the Holländisches Palais

10 September 1719
etching
Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden

Daniel Marot
Library with Busts
1712
etching
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"He that hath Names without Ideas wants meaning in his Words and speaks only empty Sounds.  He that hath complex Ideas without Names for them, wants Liberty and Dispatch in his Expressions, and is necessitated to use Periphrases.  He that uses his Words loosely and unsteadily will either be not minded, or not understood.  He that applies his Names to Ideas different from their common use wants Propriety in his Language, and speaks Gibberish.  And he that hath Ideas of Substances disagreeing with the real Existence of Things, so far wants the Materials of true Knowledge in his Understanding, and hath, instead thereof, Chimeras."

"In our notions concerning Substances, we are liable to all the former Inconveniencies – 1. He that uses the word Tarantula without having any Imagination or Idea of what it stands for, pronounces a good Word, but so long means nothing at all by it.  2. He that in a new-discovered Country shall see several sorts of Animals and Vegetables unknown to him before, may have as true Idea of them as of a Horse or a Stag, but can speak of them only by a description till he shall either take the Names the Natives call them by or give them Names himself.  3. He that uses the word Body sometimes for pure Extension and sometimes for Extension and Solidity together, will talk very fallaciously.  4. He that gives the Name Horse to that Idea which common usage calls Mule talks improperly and will not be understood.  5. He that thinks the Name Centaur stands for some real  Being imposes on himself and mistakes Words for Things."

Dominique Vivant-Denon
Nuptials of the Fifty Daughters of King Thespius
1793
etching
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Nymph and two Satyrs as Cameo in Landscape
1763
etching
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

Jean-Antoine Pierron after Carlo Maratti
Allegory on artist Gerard de Lairesse
1791
etching
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Bernard Picart
Europa in a Library
1718
etching
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Names therefore, that stand for Collections of Ideas which the Mind makes at pleasure must needs be of doubtful signification when such Collections are nowhere to be found in Nature nor any Patterns to be shewn whereby Men may adjust them.  What the word Murther or Sacrilege signifies can never be known from Things themselves.  There be many of the parts of those complex Ideas which are not visible in the Action itself.  The intention of the Mind, or the Relation of holy Things, which make a part of Murther or Sacrilege, have no necessary connexion with the outward and visible Action of him that commits either.  And the pulling the Trigger of the Gun, with which the Murther is committed, and is all the Action that perhaps is visible, has no natural connexion with those other Ideas that make up the complex one named Murther.  They have their union and combination only from the Understanding which unites them under one Name: but uniting them without any Rule or Pattern, it cannot be but that the signification of the Name, that stands for such voluntary Collections, should be often various in the Minds of different Men, who have scarce any standing Rule to regulate themselves and their Notions by in such arbitrary Ideas."

Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki
Cecilia seated, with a man speaking to her
(illustration to Fanny Burney's novel)

1787
etching
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Caspar Luyken
The Poet
1711
etching
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Johannes Körnlein
Woman playing the clavecin
1767
soft-ground etching
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

 quoted passages are from the section called Imperfection of Words in An Essay concerning Human Understanding (4th edition, 1700) by John Locke