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Éméric-David, T.-B.

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    Full Name: Éméric-David, T.-B.

    Other Names:

    • Toussaint-Bernard Éméric-David

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1755

    Date Died: 1839

    Place Born: Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): Classical and sculpture (visual works)


    Classical sculpture writer and critic. Éméric-David gained a law degree at the university at Aix-en-Provence in 1775. He moved to Florence and Rome were he became enthralled with art. In 1787 he inherited his father’s printing business, necessitating a move back to Aix. He was elected mayor of Aix in 1791, but as the French Revolution worsened for public officials, he moved to Paris and then briefly into hiding during the Reign of Terror. Paris became his new home and he resolved to be an art historian. In 1796 he published Musée olympique de l’école vivante des beaux-arts. The book attacked current art institutions such as the Salon, the Institut de France and the Louvre citing the lack of coverage they gave to modern artists. Éméric-David’s notion helped establish the Musée du Luxembourg exhibitions. In 1799, the Institut de France chose as its essay topic, “What were the reasons behind the perfection of antique sculpture, and how might it be achieved?” Éméric-David’s entry, his 1805 Recherches sur l’art statuaire, framed Greek art as the product of an indigenous tradition of artistic principles and rules of excellence connected to the master-pupil relationship. For Éméric-David, evolution in art derived from the artist and not from institutional strictures. He denied the argument of Johann Joachim Winckelmann that the Greek’s ideal beauty existed beyond natural observation. Greek art was perfect, he argued, because it was true to nature. Such notions caused both immense popularity and disagreement: it was counter to the writings of Antoine Quatremère de Quincy; sculptors and art students, however, took the Recherches as their guide. Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy resulted in ancient statuary, later Classical antiquities, coming to the Louvre. Much of the contemporary writing found these statues were inferior (Winckelmann for example saw is as the decline of the genre). Éméric-David’s proved himself a visionary for the less-appreciated art of Rembrandt, writing approvingly in Le musée français of the thirty-six works the Musée Napoléon (Louvre) mounted in 1807. His interpretation of Greek sculpture attributed the 3rd century BC era as one of further refinements, thus again drawing public approval for his theories. Éméric-David collaborated with Ennio Guirino Visconti to further alter the assumption of a 5th and 4th centuries decline. Emeric-David’s focused his attention on medieval art, long neglected in France and elsewhere. Though lacked any understanding of the objects, his interest in the genre introduced a nationalism into art history. His catalog of the Louvre collection with Visconti (1803-9). The Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres elected him a member in 1816. In 1823 he completed the manuscript of Jean-Baptiste Séroux d’Agincourt, who had died in 1814, publishing this joint art history, Histoire de l’art par les monumens, depuis sa décadence au IVe siècle jusqu’à son renouvellement au XIVe He also contributed information on artists for the Biographie universelle. An American edition of his essays, A Series of Studies, was brought out in English in Bost in 1875.Éméric-David’s ability to both reflect and make popular taste makes important for art history. His endorsement of Rembrandt in 1807 came at a time when the painter was much less appreciated than Rubens or Van Dyck. His writings on ideal beauty as the product of visible reality refined through careful selection, strongly endorsed the realistic tendencies of the new art of his era. The book’s detailed instructions on achieving perfection in art were used by both connoisseurs and art students.

    Selected Bibliography

    Jupiter: Recherches sur ce dieu, sur son culte, et sur les monumens qui le représentent. Ouvrage précédé d’un essai sur l’esprit de l religion grecque. 2 vols. Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1833; and Séroux d’Agincourt, Jean-Baptiste, and Dufourny, Léon, and Feuillet, Laurent François, and La Salle, Achille étienne Gigault de. Histoire de l’art part les monuments depuis sa décadence au IVe siècle jusqu’à son renouvellement au XVIe siècle. 6 vols. Paris: Treuttel et Würtz, 1811-1820; and Croze-Magnan, S. C., and Robillard-Pe´ronville, and Visconti, Ennio Quirino, and. Laurent, Henri. Le Muse´e francçais: recueil complet des tableaux, statues et bas-reliefs, qui composent la collection nationale: avec l’explication des sujets, et des discours historiques sur la peinture, la sculpture et la gravure. Paris: Imprimerie de L.-E. Herhan, 1803-1809; Suite d’e´tudes calque´es et dessine´es d’après cinq tableaux de Raphaël: accompagne´es de gravures de ces tableaux et de notices historiques et critiques. Paris: C. Bance et Aumont, 1818, English, A Series of Studies: Designed and Engraved after Five Paintings by Raphael. Boston: J. R. Osgood and Company, 1875; Histoire de la peinture au Moyen A´ge: suivie de l’histoire de la gravure, du discours sur l’influence des arts du dessin, et du Muse´e Olympique. Paris: imprimerie Èdouard Blot, s.d.; Recherches sur l’art statuaire: conside´re´ chez les anciens et chez les modernes, ou, Me´moire sur cette question propose´e par l’Institut National de France: Quelles ont e´te´ les causes de la perfection de la sculpture antique, et quels seroieut les moyens d’y atteindre?. Paris: la veuve Nyon aine´, 1805; Muse´e Olympique de Le´cole vivante des beaux arts: ou conside´rations sur la ne´cessite´ de cet e´tablissement, et sur les moyens de le rendre aussi utile qu’il peut l’être. Paris: Plassan, s. d.[1796].


    Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, p. 130.


    "Éméric-David, T.-B.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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