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De arte graphica, a Latin didactic poem on the art of painting, by Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy was first printed in Paris in 1668.(1) Though largely forgotten today except by art historians, the poem circulated widely among artists in England in the eighteenth century. By the early eighteenth century two editions had appeared in England, one of 1695 and another of 1716. The frontispiece to the first English edition (1695), with a prose translation by the poet John Dryden, was designed by Henry Cooke and engraved by Simon Gribelin and showed Minerva presenting De arte graphica to "Painting."(2) The second English edition, a revised version of the first, appeared in 1716; it was produced under the patronage of Alexander Pope and contained a new frontispiece, this time designed as well as engraved by Simon Gribelin [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED].(3) In this paper I will discuss, first, the iconography of the scene depicted in the 1716 engraving and, second, the relation of the image in this engraving to the matter of Dufresnoy's poem.
The new frontispiece presents, within an oval frame, an image of the origin of drawing (or painting) in the legend of the Corinthian Maid first found in the elder Pliny's Natural History at 35.151. Beneath the frame, at either end of a plinth, rest the emblems of painting and sculpture respectively, while inscribed on the plinth is the Latin title of Dufresnoy's poem on the art of painting. According to the legend, drawing was discovered by the daughter of a Corinthian potter. About to be separated from her lover, she discovered that she could preserve his likeness by tracing the outline of his shadow cast on the wall. The potter's daughter came to be known variously as the Corinthian Maid or Dibutades, her name being confused with that of her father.
The date of the image in the 1716 frontispiece is significant, for the subject of the invention of painting by the Corinthian Maid did not became popular in painting until the later eighteenth century. John Mortimer's Origin of Drawing (ca. 1771), Alexander Runciman's Origin of Painting (1773),(4) David Allan's Invention of Painting (1775), and Joseph Wright's Corinthian Maid (ca. 1782-85) are well-known examples, all produced in a short space of time. In contrast, in the early eighteenth century, artistic representations of the subject matter in any medium were uncommon. The early dating, together with the ubiquity of the edition of De arte graphica that contained the new frontispiece, means that Gribelin's 1716 engraving played an important role in disseminating the legend and its iconography in England.(5)
A second significant feature of the image concerns a detail of its iconography. In the 1716 engraving, Cupid is shown guiding the Corinthian Maid's hand. I will propose a specific source for the depiction of Cupid as the Corinthian Maid's teacher, as well as a close connection between the first appearance of this motif in art, in 1668 [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED], and Gribelin's 1716 print.
That the legend we are discussing was first illustrated in 1668 - somewhat earlier than previously acknowledged - in Charles Perrault's La peinture was made known in 1992 by Jean-Luc Gautier-Gentes in his edition of this poem.(6) In his pioneering article on the representation of the origin of painting, Robert Rosenblum had identified an engraving by Joachim von Sandrart of 1675 as the earliest, while demonstrating that before 1770 illustrations of the Corinthian Maid legend were rare.(7) George Levitine's "Addenda" to Rosenblum's essay drew attention to two previously unmentioned French prints depicting this legend, widely separated in date.8 The first he identified as an engraving by Francois Chauveau (made "before 1676"(9)), based on a drawing by Charles Le Brun. The second was an illustration engraved by Benoit Louis Prevost and based on a drawing by Charles Nicolas Cochin ills for Antoine Maron Le Mierre's La peinture, poeme en trois chants, published in Paris in 1769.(10)
Although Levitine had correctly identified the Chauveau-Le Brun print as an early representation of the story, he was not aware of its original publication in 1668. Following Henry Jouin's 1889 study of Charles Le Brun, he assumed the print had appeared in Charles Perrault's Le cabinet des beaux arts, but he did not realize that it had already been used in an earlier work by the same author. It is clear that neither Levitine nor Jouin had seen the engraving in either of its original contexts. Jouin had inferred that the print had been the frontispiece for Charles Perrault's Le cabinet des beaux arts. Levitine himself thought - correctly, as it now turns out - that the Chauveau-Le Brun print was more likely to be the tailpiece of this work.(11) At any rate, on the basis of the evidence available to him, Levitine conjectured that the English eighteenth-century representation of the legend derived from "continental" sources, which he was not in a position to define. He identified the essential elements of this eighteenth-century representation, however, as …