Editing and Publishing the Conférences de l’Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (1648-1793)

Editing and Publishing the Conférences de l’Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (1648-1793)

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Les Conférences de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1648–1793

Jacqueline Lichtenstein and Christian Michel(eds.), Paris: Beaux-Arts de Paris éditions, 2007–2015, books I–VI, 12 vol.


The Research and Editing Project at the German Center for Art History Paris

The research project, which began in 2002, is dedicated to the entire body of lectures given at the the Parisian Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture—founded in 1648 and closed in 1793—collectively referred to in art historiography as the conférences. The lectures were the starting point for discussions involving theoretical and practical questions of art, many of which were quite intense. The majority of the preserved manuscripts are located in the archives of the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris as well as in several French university libraries, primarily in Paris.

The task of the project was to identify each of the roughly 400 conférences mentioned in the academy’s transcripts—the procès verbaux; in the case of altered or lost manuscripts, the reconstruction of the original texts; and the transcription of the texts, including all linguistic and academic notes. Furthermore, each text is accompanied by an analysis of its historical and art theoretical context. In doing so, for the first time, this edition contributes to the existing research by providing a comprehensive overview of the debates on the theoretical and practical aspects of art at the Parisian academy that shaped the artistic centers of Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

This work was issued by the publishing department of the Beaux-Arts de Paris editions of the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris was also supported by the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France. Divided into six books and twelve volumes according to the tenure of the directors of the academy and those of the Bâtiments du Roi, the critical edition introduces the lectures with commentaries that embed them in the academy’s history and the art theoretical debates of the time. Each conférence is introduced by an editorial apparatus that provides a description of the source text and its context according to the following criteria: preserved manuscripts and their variations or tertiary sources used to recreate the original text, identification according to the procès-verbaux of the academy, contemporary and subsequent editions, bibliographic information, the provenance of the artworks discussed, editorial notes on the condition and selection of the manuscript, and content-related comments. The transcription of the source texts largely follows the stipulations put forth by the Académie Française and carefully modernizes the language in an attempt to improve the comprehensibility; documentation of these interventions is also provided. Obvious errors in orthography and punctuation have been silently corrected.

Lengthier conférences were occasionally structured typographically and through the addition of distinguishing […] section titles for the sake of comprehension. In the case of multiple manuscripts, noteworthy versions are indicated in the transcription and deviations among them are documented in the philological apparatus. Original comments and marginalia in the source texts are provided in the edition as footnotes “numbered” with letters (a, b, c…). Content-related notes added by the editors are found in the numbered footnotes (1, 2, 3…) and are aimed at improving comprehension of the historical coherences and serve to explain dated or problematic terminology. The philological comments document variations to the source texts, uncertainties in transcription, as well as the altering of names, particularly of artists. They are provided as endnotes at the end of the respective conférence text.

The headers provide both the name of the author and the title (even pages) as well as the date (uneven pages) of the conférence. Each book ends with a bibliography, a concordance of the chronology of the conférences, and an index of proper names. Extensive documentation of the edition guidelines can be found in book I, volume 1, p. 42–62.

The project carried out at the DFK Paris was supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation in Düsseldorf and was concluded with the publication of the last of the twelve volumes in 2015.

Direction: Jacqueline Lichtenstein (Université Paris-Sorbonne), Christian Michel (Université de Lausanne), and Thomas W. Gaehtgens (Getty Research Institute)

Coordination: Markus A. Castor (DFK Paris)

Research Fellows: Bénédicte Gady, Lauren Laz, Marie-Pauline Martin, Claire Mazel, Anne Perrin-Khelissa, Laëtitia Pierre, Isabelle Tillerot, Jan Blanc, Frédéric Bussmann, Jean-Gérald Castex, Karim Haouadeg, with the support of Françoise de La Moureyre

Cooperation Partners: Gerda Henkel Foundation, Düsseldorf and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris

Scientific advisory board


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