Paris, Nicolas Langlois, .
12mo [147 x 88 mm] of: I/ (14) pp., pp. 15 to 140, (1) bl.l.; II/ (1) l., 38 pp., (1) l. Bound in contemporary red full morocco, gilt fillet on covers, large gilt crowned monogram stamped in the center, spine ribbed and decorated with gilt panels, edges gilt. Back cover slightly stained. Contemporary binding.
First edition, first issue of this treatise on painting by Roger de Piles, a renowned theoretician of art from the age of Louis XIV, and the artistic adviser of the duke of Richelieu, the dedicatee of the work. Cicognara, 180; Barbier, I, 1084.
The present work, in which the author confesses his great admiration for Rubens, is composed of two parts: the first one contains a Dissertation on the great masters followed by a description of eleven paintings by Rubens belonging to the duke of Richelieu; the second part is a Vie de Rubens. Roger de Piles was the artistic adviser of the duke of Richelieu.
« The duke of Richelieu first settled in the hotel of the place Royale, which his great-uncle had left him with a large number of paintings, statues, cabinets and furniture. As a true painting lover he had first a passion for Poussin; his gallery of the place Royale contained fifteen paintings by the hand of his favourite master and eight paintings by various artists. Unfortunately, the duke liked the real tennis as much as painting; one day as he was playing with the king, he risked all his paintings on a game and lost. The king estimated the gallery by Le Brun, who priced it 150 000 livres; Colbert received the order to pay and the paintings left the place Royale to enter the King’s Cabinet. Once he lost his first gallery, the duke started collecting again and, this time, advised by Roger de Piles, threw himself into Rubens. De Piles printed a catalogue of this collection, entitled ‘Dissertation sur les ouvrages des plus fameux peintres, dédiée à Monseigneur le Duc de Richelieu, 1681’. The description of the painting ‘La Chute des réprouvés’ is made by the duke himself. » (Bonnaffé, Dictionnaire des amateurs français, pp. 274-276).
« Roger de Piles, a painter, engraver and man of letters (1635-1709), published a few treatises on painting that made him estimated and sought-after by the famous artists and amateurs. De Piles was the secretary at the embassy of Venice. Then he went to Lisbon in 1685 and to Switzerland in 1689. Later, Louvois sent him to The Hague in order to deal in secret with the people who wished to turn the Dutch away from the great alliance. He was discovered and held prisoner during five years. It is while he was held that he spent his time writing his Vies des peintres. De Piles had the qualities that make love and value… he was honoured with the title of adviser –amateur– of the painting and sculpture society. His admiration for Rubens’ paintings was extreme. He looked like this painter regarding his enthusiasm for his art. He had a good head for colours and chiaroscuro. » (Biographie universelle, X, p. 119).
Piles had a fondness for Rubens and the colourists. In the second half of the 18th century in Paris, a lively dispute brings into conflict two conceptions of painting: the supporters of colour, in favour of the great Flemish master Rubens, and the supporters of drawing, attached to the Italian models such as Raphael and Nicolas Poussin. This debate had taken on new dimensions adopting a polemical form with the publication of satirical tracts. The quarrel ended to the benefits of the supporters of colour and Roger de Piles.
A precious copy bound as soon as published in red morocco with the crowned monogram of the dedicatee, Armand-Jean de Vignerot du Plessis (1631-1715), prince of Mortagne, duke of Fronsac and duke of Richelieu, great-nephew of the cardinal, who offered it right away to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, as the handwritten ex-libris shows on the title: « Bibliotheca Colbertina ».
Provenance: Armand-Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, duke of Richelieu (crowned monogram on the covers), Jean-Baptiste Colbert (handwritten ex libris on the title), Alphonsine Dusillion (handwritten ex libris dated 1812 on the last blank leaf), Léon Galicia (ex libris at the beginning of the volume).