Tabulae Anatomicae…
Venice, 1627. Copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine.
Giulio Casserio
(ca. 1552-1616)
Odoardo Fialetti

Wilde je tot in de 20ste eeuw een professionele schilder, beeldhouwer of prentenmaker worden dan moest je eerst leren tekenen. Leren tekenen was tot in de vroege zeventiende eeuw je in een atelier van een kunstenaar laten aannemen -vaak nog als kind- en de schetsen en tekeningen van de meester copiëren, of tekenen naar plaasteren en levende modellen.
Dat veranderde in 1608 toen de Italiaanse (Venetiaanse) schilder en prentenmaker Odoardo Fialetti zijn eerste teken-schilder-instructie gids publiceerde.
Met dat boek waren leerlingen in staat om zonder hulp van de meester, leraar of academie te leren tekenen.

The practice of the Arts
Cornelis Cort (h. 1533-1578)
Joannes Stradanus (1523-1605)
Madrid, MNP, Gabinete de Dibujos y Estampas

Er waren wel voorlopers van Fialetti’s schildersboek. Zo was er een verhandeling van Albrecht Dürer in 1528 over tekenen en tevens verscheen in 1543 Andreas Vesalius’ anatomie-boek waarmee kunstenaars inzicht konden verwerven in de menselijke figuur.
Handboeken die het menselijk lichaam in full-pages met ongecompliceerde tekeningen in verschillende onderdelen behandelden waren goedkoper,breed verspreid en praktischer dan het toenmalige instructie-materiaal.
Ze werden bekend als handboeken met basisbeginselen en bestonden uit gravures en etsen van meester-kunstenaars.
Gezien hun fragiele constructie , dunne papieren covers, eenvoudig gebonden en intensief gebruik, zijn goed geconserveerde exemplaren nog moeilijk te vinden.
De meeste komen uit collecties van eigen museum-bibliotheken.

Livre de Pourtraicture, [s.l.: s.n., s.a.]
Jean Cousin (h. 1522-1594)
Madrid, MNP, Biblioteca, Bord/65

By the end of the Renaissance, the ability to draw was a prized sign of social status. Fialetti’s book and others like it democratized the practice of drawing, allowing aspiring artists to learn at home and at their own pace. Drawing books spread like wildfire through the region: soon Flemish, French, and Spanish versions emerged that looked to the Italian originals, but added regional touches. For example, in 1629 Flemish publisher Pieter de Jode swapped figures from Agostino Carracci’s 1609 book for heads and limbs inspired by Peter Paul Rubens (who published his own drawing book in 1640). The most successful drawing books were reprinted decade after decade, and some were so popular that pirated editions were produced.

Geometrical schemata for constructing the heads of children, seen from various angles; after Odoardo Fialetti. c.1650-1706

Drawing books promoted their creators’ artworks across borders, and established artistic lineages. The Master of Paper features anonymous Spanish, French, and Flemish sketches based on the Spanish painter José de Ribera’s 1622 designs, which in turn are indebted to Leonardo and Giovan Bernardino Azzolino’s influence. Additional manuals quote from works by Renaissance masters like Raphael and Guido Reni. The sketches made from these and other drawing books were viewed as simple daily exercises, and were not intended to be kept or displayed. However, they attest to the popularity of drawing and the styles typical of these books.

Modelos de narices y bocas
José de Ribera (1591-1652)
Private collection

Etching and engraving are precise, multi-step processes. They’re fitting mediums for these systematic drawing guides, which emphasize repetition and accuracy over exploration or expression. That said, the books’ creators kept aesthetics in mind. Bulging eyes, gaping mouths, warts, wrinkles, and other disembodied expressions or body parts are arranged in elaborate configurations that are at once delightful and disconcerting. Male and female figures appear equally across the pages, presenting both as valid subjects of study. And María del Carmen Saiz’s 1816 drawing book — the only one by a woman — is a reminder of how these books might have made drawing more accessible to women across Europe, even if their creations remain largely anonymous or forgotten.

María del Carmen Saiz (1789-1868), Cabezas de las obras del Rafael de Urbino (Madrid: Se venden en la Cava baxa frente la Posada de las Casti.s, 1816), Madrid, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Gr-29

(bron: How Europe learned tot draw, Lauren Moya Ford, Januari 2020, Hyperallercic naar aanleiding van een tentoonstelling:
Master of Paper: Drawing Books from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries continues at the Museo Nacional del Prado (Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23, Madrid, Spain) through February 2, 2020.)

Il vero modo et ordine per dissegnar tutte le parte et membra del corpo humano eyes plate 2 etching 1608

Any aspiring artist in whatever discipline inevitably began his or her studies with the practice of drawing. Through the few surviving visual examples depicted in rare, mid-16th-century prints which show scenes in the studio we know that the youngest apprentices devoted their time to repetitively memorising and copying teaching models provided by their masters, either in the form of prints or drawings. As these students advanced in manual dexterity and quality they moved on to exercises of copying plaster casts and drawing from life. With the appearance of drawing books this praxis was partly modified as supervision by the master no longer had to be so direct and first-hand. An even more interesting consequence was the significant rise in the number of people wishing to learn to draw as the teaching process ceased to be limited to artists’ direct circles or studios and now extended to amateurs and private individuals who could learn to draw at home by simply following the guidelines and instructions in these manuals. The notion of “learning to draw without a teacher” thus became possible.

Odoardo Fialetti
Drawing Manual : plate 21 : Feet
British Museum

Uit de lage landen een bijdrage:
‘Eerste Beginselen Der Teken-Kunst, Vervattende in haar veelerlei Oogen, Neusen, Monden, Ooren…, Amsterdam: By de Wed[uwe] J. Ottens, en Zoone, h. 1720 [primera edición de 1650-56]
Abraham Bloemaert (1566-1651)

Eerste Beginselen Der Teken-Kunst, Vervattende in haar veelerlei Oogen, Neusen, Monden, Ooren…, Amsterdam: By de Wed[uwe] J. Ottens, en Zoone, h. 1720 [primera edición de 1650-56]

In the space of barely a decade the first three drawing books were published in Italy which gave rise to this teaching method. While all of them are based on the same premise, that of learning to draw from the particular to the general, in other words from the face to the complete human figure, their approaches and methods are notably different. Odoardo Fialetti opted for a system based on line in which the use of a succession of strokes enabled the student to memorise each element in order to create the desired model. In contrast, the Carracci introduced a method through which the student started with the outlines of the figures, drawing only their linear elements, and having mastered that aspect then moved on to achieve the desired volumes. Finally, Giacomo Franco and Palma Giovane proposed a more visually crowded method in which the models were clustered together to occupy the entire composition, meaning that the student was required to carefully observe the figures and memorise the forms in order to be able to draw with them without recourse to the manual. The three systems were extremely successful and subsequent drawing books published in Italy imitated all these methods. While they differed in nature the three coincided in establishing and disseminating the same canons of proportion and beauty.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Paulus Pontius (1603-1658), Petrvs Pavlvs Rvbbens delineavit (Antverpiae [Antwerp]: Alexander Voet, 1640 and 1652), Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, Library, Bord/178

From the time of their first appearance drawing books achieved a significant presence on an international level. With regard to the rapid dissemination of Italian models throughout Europe, it is evident that they arrived almost immediately and simultaneously in the different countries of this region. Flemish and Italian artists were the first to engrave and publish this educational material, closely followed by French ones. While all these books reveal evident Italian influences, the stylistic characteristics of each place and the unique traits of the different artists are also evident. In addition to the effectiveness of the method, key factors that explain this successful reception include the promotional aspect, as it is not surprising that throughout Europe there was a desire to learn to draw in the manner of celebrated Italian artists such as Guercino, Della Bella and Palma Giovane, among others. Drawing books allowed a common methodology to extend across Europe which favoured the internationalisation of a teaching method based on the power of images.

Della Nobilitá del disegno, diviso in due libri, nel primo, si può imparar`a disegnare con facilità… secondo, si veggono in oltre alcuni camei, trionfi, ornamenti, et animali cavati da gemme et p… (Texte imprimé)
De Excellentia et nobilitate delineation
Giacomo Franco
París, Bibliothèque nationale de France

Hebben sommige prenten een ‘leuke’ combinatie gemaakt tussen anatomie en vormleer, met het uitgeven van deze tekenmanuelen wordt ook de belangstelling voor allerlei andere wetenschappen gewekt. De tekenaar, de schilder, kortom de kunstenaar komt ‘in de wereld’ terecht, blijft niet in het cenakel van het atelier maar door zijn belangstelling voor de nog onbekende werkelijkheden wordt hij tevens de illustrator van nieuwe wetenschappelijke ontdekkingen.
Dat hij tevens tekenaar, kunstenaar blijft, blijkt uit leuke combinaties waarin de nieuwe wetenschappen op een ‘onderhoudende’ manier aan het publiek worden voorgesteld.

Tabulae Anatomicae…
Venice, 1627. Copperplate engraving. National Library of Medicine.
Giulio Casserio
(ca. 1552-1616)
Odoardo Fialetti
Some of Casserio’s plates stage a not-so-subtle flirtation. Here the model coyly hides behind a veil of his own body tissue as he bares his innards.
l vero modo et ordine per dissegnar tutte le parti et membra del corpo humano
Odoardo Fialetti
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, Biblioteca


  1. Hoe het tegenwoordig is weet ik niet maar wij kregen nog tekenles op het VWO.
    Dank voor dit geweldige artikel.


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