Karel van Mander and his Foundation of the Noble, Free Art of Painting

First English Translation, with Introduction and Commentary


Written by the poet-painter Karel van Mander, who finished it in June 1603, the Grondt der edel, vry schilderconst (Foundation of the Noble, Free Art of Painting) was the first systematic treatise on schilderconst (the art of painting / picturing) to be published in Dutch (Haarlem: Paschier van Wes[t]busch, 1604). This English-language edition of the Grondt, accompanied by an introductory monograph and a full critical apparatus, provides unprecedented access to Van Mander’s crucially important art treatise. The book sheds light on key terms and critical categories such as schilder, manier, uyt zijn selven doen, welstandt, leven and gheest, and wel schilderen, and both exemplifies and explicates the author’s distinctive views on the complementary forms and functions of history and landscape.
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Walter S. Melion is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Art History at Emory University in Atlanta, where he directs the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry (Emory’s institute for advanced study in the humanities). He is author of three monographs and over eighty articles, co-author of two exhibition catalogues, and editor or co-editor of more than twenty volumes.
“Walter Melion is the ideal scholar, if not the only scholar, one would want to produce an English-language edition of Karel van Mander’s foundational treatise on the art of painting. From the rich and erudite introduction to the lively and eminently readable translation, this book — an invaluable resource for future scholarship — at last brings one of the key art-theoretical texts of the early modern Netherlands to a wider audience.”
Marisa Bass, Yale University

“Walter Melion’s superlative translation of Karel van Mander’s Foundation of the Noble, Free Art of Painting is cause for celebration, bringing us at long last an authoritative English critical edition of this singularly influential text. With deep erudition and sensitivity to Van Mander’s interconnected literary and artistic preoccupations, Melion reveals anew the originality of the great Flemish painter-poet and the ongoing salience of his work today.”
Celeste Brusati, University of Michigan

List of Illustrations
About the Author

 1 The Intertextual Network of Dedicatory Epistles and Prefaces
 2 The Sources, Title-Page, and Scope of the Grondt
 3 Laying a Comparative Foundation for the Schilder-Boeck
 4 Key Terms and Critical Categories
 5 Ekphrastic Usage in the Schilder-Boeck
 6 Landschap and byvoechsel: Van Mander on Landscape and History, Simulation and Dissimulation
 7 Précis of the Poem’s Fourteen Chapters

Den Grondt: The Foundation of the Noble, Free Art of Painting: In which her form, origin, and nature are placed before the eyes of inquisitive Youth, in discrete Parts, in Rhymed Verse.

“Prefaces and Selected Preliminary Poems”

Chapter 1: “Exhortation, or Admonition to up and coming young Painters”

Chapter 2: “On Drawing, or the Art of Delineating”

Chapter 3: “Analogy, Proportion, or Measurement of the Parts of the Human Body”

Chapter 4: “On the Attitude, Decorum, and Decorous Motion of a Human Figure”

Chapter 5: “On the Ordonnance and Invention of Histories”

Chapter 6: “Portrayal of the Affects, Passions, Desires, and Sorrows of Persons”

Chapter 7: “On Reflection, Reverberation, re-reflected luster, or re-reflection”

Chapter 8: “On Landscape”

Chapter 9: “On Cattle, Animals, and Birds”

Chapter 10: “On Fabrics or Drapery”

Chapter 11: “On Sorting and Combining Colors”

Chapter 12: “On Painting Well, or Coloring”

Chapter 13: “On the Origin, Nature, Force, and Effect of Colors”

Chapter 14: “On the Interpretation of Colors, and What They Can Signify”

Register of Commonplaces: “Table of the Foundation of the Art of Painting”


Art Historians, Literary Historians, students of Dutch and Flemish art of the fifteenth to early seventeenth centuries (both graduate and undergraduate), and the general public interested in art of the Low Countries.
Keywords: Art Theory and Practice, Art History, Poetry and Poetics, Rhetoric, Dutch and Flemish Art, Art of the Low Countries, Karel van Mander, Giorgio Vasari, Lodovico Dolce, Gian Paolo Lomazzo, Schilder (painter / picturer), Schilderconst (art of painting / picturing), Teyckenconst (art of drawing / delineation), Manier (manner), Handelingh (handling), Uyt zijn selven doen (from out of one’s self), Leven and Gheest (life and spirit), Welstandt (Concinnity), Wel schilderen (Painting expertly).
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