Folio [41.5 x 28.5 cm], (72) printed leaves, of which 5 are folded double leaves signed as single leaves, final leaf blank; with the overslip tipped to C3v. Bound in contemporary limp vellum. Right edge of D2 a bit frayed and soiled, barely affecting one edge of the image; light scattered foxing, some leaves browned. A tall, wide-margined, genuine copy.
A very attractive copy of the first edition of this rare work on perspective, which Updike calls “one of the handsomest volumes of its time.” It is through this work that Jean Cousin became known as the major theorist of artists' perspective in sixteenth-century France, and was credited with perfecting the tiers points technique that was somewhat confusingly described by Pelerin at the beginning of the century. In his hands the tiers point technique “became a reliable, comprehensive and substantially accurate method for tackling the construction of space and the foreshortening of solid bodies” (Kemp, The Science of Art).
The large woodcut frontispiece of the Livre de perspective is well known and often reproduced. It is “singularly inventive with its foreshortened perspective, displaying five polyhedrons set in a framework supported by acrobatic nudes. Later generations elaborated such frameworks in the painting of baroque ceilings. While the woodcut's architectonic perspective gives it added dimension in depth, it suggests the decorative schemes in wood, paint and plaster relief of Rosso and Primaticcio at Fontainebleau, or an engraving of a ceiling by a follower, Fantuzzi” (Wick, Sixteenth Century Architectural Books 30).
Jean Cousin the Elder (1501- c.1560) was also a painter of considerable significance: “the most important of the painters working independently of the Fontainebleau school” (Blunt, Art and Architecture in France p. 112). A native of Sens, he was active in Paris by 1538, where he enjoyed considerable success as a painter and designer of stained glass. Works securely attributed to him include Eva Prima Pandora (now in the Louvre), the tapestries of the life of St. Mammes in the Cathedral of Langres, and at least two of the windows in the Cathedral of Sens. His advanced knowledge of Italian painting (again Rosso, but also Leonardo) seems to have been acquired directly rather than through the intermediary of the Ecole de Fontainebleau.
* Mortimer 157; Berlin Kat. 4690; Millard 57; Didot, Cousin, pp. 113-118; Morison, Four Centuries of Fine Printing, with reproductions of no fewer than 6 leaves.