On Painting. Translated from the original Italian, abridged and accompanied with etchings by Susan Allix.
London: Susan Allix, 1999. One of twenty-two copies, numbered and signed by the author on the colophon. With nineteen intaglio prints (including one two-page print), which are the result of four years of sketch book observation and drawing, platemaking, and reworking the plates. Many have extra hand-coloring on the prints or the type. The prints were made from copper, zinc, and perspex plates, and were executed using techniques including 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 laid in. As each plate is hand inked and printed separately, complete uniformity is not possible, so each page is individual. Some light scuffing to case, but overwise a fine copy. Full red calf with large cream goatskin onlay abstractly dyed in color. Textured endpapers in red and brown. In the tan cloth clamshell case, lined with suede, and decorated with colorful calf onlay. Folio. Unpaginated. Item #16926
Alberti was born in 1404 of a Florentine family…He returned to Florence [from Rome] where, excited by the work of Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Masaccio, he wrote On Painting, in which he ‘set forth principles to be followed by the painter.’ He then [turned his attention to] architecture, the subject for which he is the 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 writing on a variety of subjects, including sculpture, poetry, prose, mathematics, engineering, family life…He died in Rome in 1472. “Ever since its first appearance [in 1435], Alberti’s work has been studied by successive generations of artists. Highly influential in the early Renaissance, its ideas remained current for many centuries and it has been on and out of favor until it has finally become the preserve of art historians...the vitality and interest of Alberti lies in his ability to see those essential combinations of eye and hand that sometimes even painters forget...This translation of On Painting is a painter's translation and includes those parts that seem to hold, for the present, the most important of Alberti's ideas…It aims to be as clear and literal as possible, but, of necessity, it has been extensively abridged to prevent it from becoming several volumes. Many of Alberti's historical references and descriptions have been omitted, not because they are of no importance, but because they are not particularly helpful concerning painting today. Much that is repetitious, and also some long and complicated descriptions, especially on perspective, which can tangle and confuse the reader, or interrupt the flow of ideas, have not been included. The translation is based on the Italian text published in L.B. Alberti, Opere Volgari, Volume Terzo, edited by C. Grayson,” (from the prospectus).
In a letter to us, Susan Allix wrote, “On Painting took me years. It was difficult to get right. One day I started to read Alberti’s book and was astounded at his idea that everything begins with a dot. I spent a long time struggling away with fifteenth century Tuscan (helped with a more modern translation), but present Italian hasn’t altered so much and I did find it readable. I wanted my own translation. Slightly unprofessionally some of this was done in the afternoon quiet of an Italian camping site. One interesting page is where I followed Alberti’s instructions on how to achieve a squared pavement. So complicated, I never believed it would work, but lo and behold the perspective of the squared pavement appeared! I put it in a drawing I had made in Murano, at Venice.”.