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Quatremère de Quincy, Antoine [Chrysôthome]

Date born: October 28, 1755

Place Born: Paris, France

Date died: December 28, 1849

Place died: Paris, France

Leader of the French Académie under Napoleon; theorist and historian of 18th century French art; artistic biographer. Quatremère initially studied law before taking courses in art and history at the Collège de Louis-le-Grand.  He also trained as a sculptor by Guillaume Coustou and Pierre Julien. After visiting Naples with Jacques-Louis David, and later Rome, Quatremère became interested in Classical Greek sculpture and architecture. He wrote several essays on architectural theories, winning a competition sponsored by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1785.  Based on his belief that style and function were inseparable in architecture, Quatremère orchestrated the renovation of the Parisian church of St. Genevieve into the Panthéon, France’s national mausoleum. He also advocated the use of the Neo-Classical style in other buildings. The events of the French Revolution caused him to become an advocate for artistic freedom and copyright.  He was elected a deputy to the Legislative Assembly in 1791, but during the Reign of Terror imprisoned for two years, and nearly executed twice (1793 and1795). After being exiled to Germany in 1797, Quatremère began reading the works of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), and Gotthold Lessing, subsequently incorporating their philosophical ideas into his own theories on aesthetics.  As a member of the Council of the 500 in 1797, he served both there and later as a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in 1804.  In 1815, as the Intendant Général des Arts et Monuments Publics, he published a critical evaluation of French museum practices aimed at the practices of the museum builder Alexandre Lenoir, entitled Considérations Morales. While serving as the Secrétaire Perpétuel to the Académie des Beaux-Arts from 1816-1839, Quatremère gave funeral orations of Académie members. His important essay on the fine arts, Essai sur la nature, le but et les moyens de l'imitation dans les beaux-arts, was published in 1823 and translated into English by 1837.  Quatremère was instrumental in assisting the career of Guillaume-Abel Blouet by convincing the Académie Royale d’Architecture to publish Blouet's important report on monuments restoration, Restauration des thermes d’Antonin Caracalla à Rome in 1828. During this time Quatremère published biographies of several Italian artists, including Antonio Canova (1823), Raphael (1824), and Michelangelo (1835).

Quatremère's theories epitomized the Académie's stance of the Greco-Roman style as the only appropriate building type for architects. This would be challenged in succeeding generations by architectural historians such as Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Quatremère was the last "armchair" archaeologist, eschewing the excavation site for personal and sometimes romantic interpretations of art (Greenhalgh and de Grummond).  However, Quatremère strongly argued for keeping works of art in situ and against Napoleon's conglomerate museum. His work caught the attention of many subsequent scholars, including René.Schneider, who wrote his thesis on him.

Home Country: France

Sources: Schneider, René. L'esthétique classique chez Quatremère de Quincy (1805-1823).  Paris: Hachette, 1910; Kultermann, Udo.  Geschichte der Kunstgeschichte:  Der Weg einer Wissenschaft.  2nd ed.  Frankfurt am Main:  Ullstein, 1981, pp. 120-22; Watkin, David. The Rise of Architectural History. London: Architectural Press, 1980, p. 24; Bazin, Germain.  Histoire de l'histoire de l'art; de Vasari à nos jours.  Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 467; Luke, Yvonne. "Quatremère de Quincy, Antoine." Dictionary of Art 25: 798-799;  The Guardian (London), December 17, 1996; Greenhalgh, Michael, and de Grummond, Nancy. "Quatremère de Quincy, Antoine-Chrysôthome." Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 942-43; Lavin, Sylvia. Quatremère de Quincy and the Invention of a Modern Language of Architecture.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.

Bibliography: [Kulterman lists Quatremère de Quincy's works extensively, p.122]; Histoire de la vie et des ouvrages des plus célèbres architectes du XIe siècle jusqu' à la fin du XVIIIe, accompagnée de la vie du plus remarquable édifice de chacun d'eux. 2 vols. Paris: Renouard, 1830;  Déotte, Jean Louis, ed. Considérations morales sur la destination des ouvrages de l'art; suivi de, Lettres sur l'enlèvement des ouvrages de l'art antique à Athènes et à Rome.  Paris: Fayard, 1989; Dictionnaire historique d'architecture: comprenant dans son plan les notions historiques, descriptives, archaeologiques, biographiques, théoriques, didactiques et pratiques de cet art. 2 vols.  Paris: Librairie d'Adrien le Clere, 1832;  Lo studio delle arti e il genio dell'europa: Scritti di A.C. Quatremère de Quincy e di Pio VII Chiaramonti (1796-1802).  Bologna: Nuova Alfa, 1989; Essai sur la nature, le but et les moyens de l'imitation dans les beaux-arts. Paris: J. Didot, 1823, English, An Essay on the Nature, the End, and the Means of Imitation in the Fine Arts.  London: Smith, Elder, 1837.

Subject's name: Antoine Quatremère de Quincy