Order Nr. 139439 ON PAINTING. Leon Batista Alberti.


(Allix, Susan).
  • London: Susan Allix, 1999.
  • square 4to
  • full leather, clamshell box
  • 113 pages

Price: $6,200.00  other currencies

Order Nr. 139439

Privately printed in an edition of 22 copies, of which this is one of 10 copies printed on Richard de Bas hand made Blanc Narcisse 180 gsm paper and contain an additional watercolor and pencil paintings on Japanese paper between each of the three of Alberti's "Books". Prospectus loosely inserted. A fine copy in fine clamshell box.

All copies have additional sheets of Japanese paper in colors of terracotta, greys and blues. This small limited edition of the famous early Renaissance work is newly translated and abridged from the original Italian. Printed by letterpress, with hand made papers, it iincludes etchings and other intaglio prints in a rich variety of colors and techniques.

On Painting was composed in 1435 by Leon Battista Alberti, a scholar of wide interests who, upon returning from exile to his native city of Florence and seeing the work of a new generation of Renaissance artists, was inspired to write a highly original work on the art of painting.

It was composed originally in Latin and translated into 'Tuscan' (Italian) a year later by Alberti, and was intended for an audience not only of artists but also of educated collectors. It discusses fundamental ideas on the theory and practice of painting, and how each artist can develop his own individual talent.

Alberti was born in 1404 of a Florentine family. He was educated in Padua and attended the University of Bologna from where he graduated in canon law in 1428. He went to Rome where he became a secretary in the Papal Chancery and it was from the church that he obtained an income. In 1434 he returned to Florence where, excited by the work of Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio, he wrote On Painting in which he "set forth the principles to be followed by the painter." He then turned to architecture, the subject for which he is today most well known, writing De Re Aedificatoria and accepting commissions for actual building projects. His wide knowledge of the classical past combined with an original eye for contemporary change enabled him to produce, throughout his life, a stream of writning on a variety of subjects, including sculpture, poetry, prose, matthematics, engineering, family life... He died in Rome in 1472.

Alberti dedicates his Tuscan translation of On Painting to Brunelleschi, and acknowledges the inspiration of the early Florentines in their re-invention of the visual arts. In best Renaissance style he investigates the properties of painting in the light of the new invention of perspective; he is concerned with the study of nature as the basis of art, and while he acknowledges the importance of the arts of the ancient world he places power in the hands of the artist for making images of today. It is Alberti's acumen in being able to see and describe the most basic attributes of painting that made his work more than merely an interesting piece of Renaissance art theory.

On Painting is written in a conversational and personal style. Alberti was both an observer of artists and an artist himself whenever he had "leisure from other affairs", becoming so absorbed in his painting that he remarks, "I can hardly believe that three or even four hours have gone by." He divides the work into three parts or "books". The first is "Mathematical", dealing with form and proportion and how they are related in nature. Starting from the single point it continues through planes, space and color, taking in perspective on the way.

In the second book Alberti "puts the art into the hands of the artist". He shows the painter how he can use these elements in drawing, composition, the use of light and shade and the placing of tones and colors; all in ways appropriate to the subject matter.

Book III is about the artists themselves, their personalities, their gifts, their imagination and how they "may acquire perfection in painting".

This edition contains 28 intaglio prints. They are the result of four years of sketch book observation and drawing, plate-making and reworking the plates. The prints were made from copper, zinc and perspex plates, and contain a wide variety of techniques. There is etching, drypoint and mezzotint, often in combination, and also open bite, aquatint, sand grain and carborundum. The plates have been printed in black and white and color in intaglio, relief and blind. All the inks are made from pure pigments ground in copperplate oil, so interleaving sheets are necessary to stop the plates offsetting. As each plate is hand inked and printed separately, complete uniformity is not possible, so each page is individual. 20 of the prints are in color, 7 in black and white, 1 in blind, and many have extra hand-coloring on the prints or the type.

The typeface is Caslon Old Face Roman, in 22pt and 18pt, with 48pt Roman and 42pt Italic. It was printed letterpress on damp paper on an 1837 Albion handpress. The page size is 13 x 11 inches (33 x 27 cm).

Born in 1934, Susan Allix attended the Royal College of Art to become skilled in bookbinding and typesetting. Her book art is held in many public and private collections worldwide, with the most concentrated collections being held in the UK, at Yale, and at the Smithsonian.