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Fiorillo, Johann Dominico

    Image Credit: ArchInForm

    Full Name: Fiorillo, Johann Dominico

    Other Names:

    • Johann Dominico Fiorillo

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1748

    Date Died: 1821

    Place Born: Hamburg, Germany

    Place Died: Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany


    First professor to be named to a position in art history (Göttingen); painter. Fiorillo’s family was originally from Naples, but had settled in Hamburg. He initially trained as a painter at the academy in Bayreuth. In 1761 he moved to Rome to continue his training under Pompeo Batoni and then Giuseppe Bottani. By 1765 he was working in Bologna where he was nominated to the Accademia di Belle Arti in 1769. He returned that same year to be court painter to Brunswick. In 1781 he moved to Göttingen to teach art classes and paint. The drawing lessons which he gave formed the basis to his later teachings in art history. By 1785 he had added curator duties of the Kupferstichkabinett (print collection) at Georg-August-Universität. In 1796 he was also overseeing the collection of paintings. In his connection with the museum, he researched the objects, lecturing and publishing his famous Geschichte der zeichnenden Künste von ihrer Wiederauflebung bis auf den neuesten Zeiten. In 1813 the Georg-August-Universität created the position of professor of art history for him. In 1815, Fiorillo was the first art historian to note a stylistic change in Romanesque art after the defeat of the Hungarians until roughly the reign of Henry IV. Later art historians (Franz Kugler and Gustav Friedrich Waagen) termed the period “Ottonian”. He is considered the earliest art historian to develop the concept. His appointment gained him memberships in the intellectual academies of Augsburg, Vienna, Munich, Kassel and Paris. Fiorillo stands a the beginning of art history as an academic tradition. Like Luigi Antonio Lanzi, his writing is a compilation of detailed facts about art and less interpretation. His multi-volume history of art drew on a wide range of sources which he put together in a highly innovative works, despite some stubbornness to relinquish myths. In his 1803 examination of oil painting, über das Alter der ölmahlerey, he insisted that Jan van Eyck had discovered oil painting, as Giorgio Vasari had claimed, despite the findings of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing that the technique had been known since the middle ages. His work directly affected the writings of other art writers and historians such as August Wilhelm Schlegel, Ludwig Tieck (q.v.), Karl Friedrich von Rumohr, Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, and the collector August Kestner who’s romantic vision of art history immediately followed Fiorillo.

    Selected Bibliography

    Geschichte der Zeichenenden Künste. 9 vols. 1798-1801. Specifically, Geschichte der zeichnenden Künste von ihrer Wiederauflebung bis auf die neuesten Zeiten mit einem Vorwort von Achim Hölter 6 vols., Geschichte der zeichnenden Künste in Deutschland und den vereinigten Niederlanden. 3 vols. Reprint: Sämtliche Schriften. 15 vols. Hildesheim and New York: G. Olms Verlag, 1997; Kleine Schriften artistischen Inhalts. Göttingen: H. Dieterich, 1803-06, [specifically on oil painting:] “über das Alter der ölmahlerey.” vol. 1.


    Waetzoldt,Wilhelm. Deutsche Kunsthistoriker vom Sandrart bis Justi. vol. 1 Leipzig: E. A. Seeman, 1921, p. 287; Panofsky, Erwin. “The History of Art.” The Cultural Migration: The European Scholar in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953, p. 84; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 128; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 90-92; Hölter, Achim. “Vorwort.” Johann Dominik Fiorillo: Sämtliche Schriften. vol. 1 Hildesheim: G. Olms Verlag, 1997, pp. i-xxiii; Vietta, Silvio. “J. D. Fiorillo.” Killy, Walter, ed. Literaturlexikon. vol. 3 Munich: Gutersloh, 1989, p. 384; Schrapel, Claudia. Johann Dominicus Fiorillo: Grundlagen zur wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Beurteilung der “Geschichte der zeichnenden Künste in Deutschland und den vereinigten Niederlanden.” New York: Olms, 2004; Brinkman, Pim. Het geheim van Van Eyck: Aantekeningen bij de uitvinding van het olieverven. Zwolle: Waanders, 1993, pp. 130-133.


    "Fiorillo, Johann Dominico." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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