8vo. (5) ff. including half-title and title, 213, (1) pp., (3) ff. Bound in contemporary Italian stiff vellum, title gilt, some worming in spine. Ex libris of Ludwig Ficker inside cover. Some foxing on title and prelims, and some toning on scattered leaves, but otherwise good.
First edition of this polemical work attacking the highly controversial Réflexions critiques sur les différentes écoles de Peinture (1751), by the Marquis d’Argens, the polymath chamberlain of Frederic II, who advised the latter on a number of topics, among them art. He introduced Frederic to a number of French painters, brought van Looy to his court, and he is usually credited, whether apocryphally or not, with coining the name Sans Souci for Frederic’s most famous residence. The Réflexions offered a sustained comparison of French and Italian/Northern European painters (Michelangelo vs. Le Brun, Leonardo vs. Cousin, Rubens vs. Le Moine), arguing, rather outrageously for the time, for the superiority of French painting. According to Vissiere, it was written at a time when Frederic’s traditional allegiance to French painting began to wane and he began to acquire Italian pictures for Sans Souci and Potsdam. Needless to say, d’Argens critical evaluation was viewed as a great scandal by Italian antiquarians such as Venuti, and the present work was in addition attacked twice by Francesco Algarotti, Saggio sopra la pittura,/I> (1756), and Essai sur l’Académie de France à Rome (1763). D’Argens replied to these criticisms in an augmented edition in 1768, published under the title Examen critique. Of interest for the state of art historical criticism in mid-18th-century Rome.
Published anonymously and in a relatively obscure locale owing to the level of polemic, Venuti’s authorship was revealed by Lanzi. Venuti (1705-63) was an archaeologist and preceded Winckelmann as prefect of Roman antiquities under Benedict XIV (see Art in Rome in the 18th century, p. 102). He was also connected to the Accademia de San Luca, to whom the work is dedicated.
OCLC lists Columbia, Yale, UCLA, UC and Harvard among American libraries.
* Cicognara 201; not in Schlosser-Magnino or Arntz/Rainwater; François Moureau, ‘D’Argens et la peinture,’ in Jean-Louis Viddiere, ed., Le Marquis d’Argens. Centre Aixois d’Etudes et Recherches sur le XVIIIe Siècle (1990) pp. 73-92. Elsie Johnston, Le Marquis d’Argens (1928; repr. 1971).