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Ripa, Cesare

    Full Name: Ripa, Cesare

    Other Names:

    • Giovanni Campani

    Gender: male

    Date Born: c. 1560

    Date Died: c. 1623-1625

    Place Born: Perugia, Perugia, Umbria, Italy

    Place Died: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): iconography


    Compiler of a famous early iconographic dictionary, the Iconologia. Little is known about Giovanni Campani, who wrote under the name of Ceasare Ripa. He was not a professional scholar, although he was associated with literary academies in Siena and Perugia. Ripa wrote as a leisure pursuit when not working as majordomo to Cardinal Antonio Maria Salvini (1537-1602). Ripa’s fame rests solely on one dictionary of iconographic forms that was used heavily in the baroque world. In 1593, Ripa published a manual in Rome called Iconologia, alphabetically arranging classical and baroque symbolism. The first edition appeared without illustrations. By the second edition of 1603, his categories of personifications, which were composed of over 700 concepts, formed a complete array of allegory to be observed in the art of the seventeenth century. The Iconologia was used both by viewers of art as well as by artists wishing to employ complex iconography in their work. The book was proscriptive, carefully outlining the decorum of image use as much as its meaning. Ripa had compiled his work from a variety of mythological manuals, emblemata (emblem books), archaeological compendia and discussions of numismatics. He was the first to consult a wide variety of media, including sculpture, medals, coins, waxes and engravings, although often the examples he cited had been gleaned only from other books. His printed sources, though unmentioned, included the mythological dictionary, Le imagini de i dei of 1556 by Vincenzo Cartari (b. ca. 1500) and the Hieroglyphica of 1556 by Pierio Valeriano (1477-1558). Although Ripa claimed his personifications were derived from antiquity and elsewhere, most of his examples were drawn from more modern sources. The Etruscan scholar Pietro Leone Casella (c.1540-c.1620) issued an amplified edition of the Iconologia, which thereafter saw numerous editions. Ripa fell out of favor during the Enlightenment era when the excesses of the baroque were disparaged. The art historian Émile Mâle rediscovered Ripa, at least for art history, in 1932. Today Ripa’s Iconologia is an essential primary source for how baroque symbolism was understood. Although it is clear that artists used his interpretations liberally and sometimes not at all, other subsequent artistic compositions can be traced directly to Ripa. Giovan Francesco Guerrieri’s paintings in the Palzzo Borghese in Rome and Francesco Pianta’s carvings in the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice are peculiar representations that are taken directly from Ripa (Praz). Art historians and archaeologists use the Iconologia both as proof that specific symbols held specific meaning and as a paradigm for how personifications were transmitted.

    Selected Bibliography

    [comprehensive bibliography:] Praz, Mario. Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery. 2 vols. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1964-74, pp. 472-75; Iconologia, overo, Descrittione dell’ imagini universali cavate dall’antichità, et da altri lvoghi. Rome: Per gli Heredi di Gio. Gigliotti, 1593; 2nd. ed., Iconologia, overo Descrittione di diverse imagini cauate dall’antichità, & di propria inuentione. Rome: Appresso Lepido Facij., 1603; [the various editions include,] German, Pars I[-X] des berühmtem italiänische: Ritters, Caesaris Ripae, allerleÿ Künsten, und Wissenschafften, dienlich seÿender Sinnbildern, und Gedancken, welchen jedesmahlen eine hierzu taugliche Historiam oder Gleichnis, [etc.]. Augspurg: J.G. Hertel 1760; English Iconology: or, A Collection of Emblematical Figures. 2 vols. George Richardson, trans. London: G. Scott, 1777-79; Iconologia; or Moral emblems. Tempest, Pierce, translator, Fuller, Isaac, illustrator. London: B. Motte, 1709; Baroque and Rococo Pictorial Imagery: The 1758-60 Hertel Edition of Ripa’s Iconologia. Introduction and translation by Edward A. Maser. New York: Dover, 1971.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 60; McGrath, Elizabeth. “Ripa, Cesare.” Dictionary of Art; Maser, Edward A., “Introduction.” Ripa, Cesare. Baroque and Rococo Pictorial Imagery: The 1758-60 Hertel Edition of Ripa’s Iconologia: Edited by Edward A. Maser. New York: Dover, 1971, pp. vii-xix; Praz, Mario. Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1964-74, vol. 1, esp. p. 201, note 1; Mâle, Emil. L’art religieux après le Concile de Trente: étude sur l’iconographie de la fin du XVIe siècle, du XVIIe, du XVIIIe siècle: Italie, France, Espagne, Flanders. Paris: Colin, 1932, pp. 383-428; Stefani, Chiara. “Cesare Ripa: New Biographical Evidence.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 307-12; Witcombe, Chris. “Cesare Ripa and the Sala Clementina.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 55 (1992): 277-82; McGrath, Elizabeth. “Ripa, Cesare.” Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 960-61.


    "Ripa, Cesare." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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