LE BRUN, Charles. Dissertation sur un Traité de Charles Le Brun. With text by Morel d'Arleux.  f., xxii pp. Illustrated with an engraved portrait and 37 engraved plates. Large folio, 605 x 430 mm, bound in original publisher's blue boards, paper label on spine, entirely uncut. Paris: Chalcographie du Musée Napoleon, 1806.
First Edition of Le Brun's provocative treatise on the relation of human features to animal physiognomy. This treatise illustrates Le Brun's supposition that human character can be determined by comparing a particular human face and expression to that of an animal's head which most resembles it. Many of the images are extraordinary, especially the twenty-one plates with human heads set below the animals they resemble: these include an eagle, donkey, sheep, cow, camel, cat, owl, horse, goat, lion, parrot, etc.
On March 28, 1671, Le Brun delivered a lecture at the Académie de Peinture before the all-powerful Finance Minister Colbert at a special Conférence sur la Physionomie de l'homme et ses rapports avec celle des animaux. At the lecture Le Brun demonstrated his points with a number of his original pen and ink and pencil drawings. Le Brun's original drawings have been preserved at the Louvre, but, unfortunately, the text of Le Brun's lecture does not survive.
"Le Brun was not satisfied with comparing the characteristics of the human face with those of animals in these remarkable drawings. Drawing on the work of Descartes (Passions de l'âme, 1649) which identified the pineal gland, located in the center of the brain, as the seat of the soul, he studied the lines linking different points of the head in a complex geometry which revealed the faculties of the spirit of character" (Michel Gareau, Charles Lebrun, First Painter to King Louis XIV, p. 85).
In 1670-71 Le Brun executed approximately 250 original drawings of antique Greek and Roman busts, anatomical drawings of human faces and heads, animal heads, and human heads in relation to animal heads, all of which are preserved at the Cabinet des Dessins, Louvre, in two folio albums. For the human bust portraits Le Brun had ample source material in the Royal collections of statues, busts, bas-reliefs and other antique models in bronze and plaster. For the animals it is documented that Le Brun executed a large number of his original drawings at la Ménagerie du Roi à Versailles. As an aside, many of his animal sketches were later used and incorporated into tapestries made at Gobelins. In 1806 the drawings were transferred to engraved plates by the Chalcographie du Musée Napoleon for the first time. These faithful physiognomical plates were published under the direction of Dominique V. Denon with engravings done by Louis Pierre Baltard (1764-1846) and André Legrand.
Charles Le Brun (1619- 1690), French painter and art theorist, worked under Nicholas Poussin while in Rome in the year 1642, adapting the latter's theories of art. Upon his return to Paris in 1646, Le Brun found numerous patrons, one being Nicholas Fouquet, who commissioned the artist to work on the ceiling and wall paintings in his new chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. Le Brun later joined forces with the French Minister of Finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert with whom he founded the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1648, and the Académie de France à Rome, 1666. In 1660 they set up the Gobelins factory, which at first was a great school for the manufacture, not of tapestries only, but of every class of furniture required in the Royal palaces. Le Brun finally came under the direct patronage of Louis XIV in 1662, at which time he was made the Premier Peintre du Roi. From this date onward all that was done in the royal palaces was directed by Le Brun. Binding quite worn. Some occasional light spotting, plates otherwise in fine condition in the original boards. Very rare. OCLC locates only copies at the Getty, Frick, Harvard, National Gallery and Northwestern.
Beauvais, Charles le Brun 1619-1690, Musée du Louvre Département des Arts Graphiques, nos. 2029-2290. Robert-Dumenesnil VII, 1844, 238. Brunet III, 910.
Item nr. 169162