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Dissertation Sur Un Traité De Charles Le Brun, Concernant Le Rapport De La Physionomie Humaine Avec Celle Des Animaux; Ouvrage Enrichi De La Gravure Des Dessins Tracés Pour La Demonstration De Ce Système.

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Paris,: A La Calcographie Du Musée Napoléon. De L'Imprimerie De L.P. Dubray, Imprimeur Du Musée Napoléon, Rue Ventadour., 1806.

Physical Description

[ii], xxii p., frontis. (port.), 37 [i.e. 58] pl.; 660 mm.

General Note

There are bis pl. 13-33 (each pair of plates being printed on one sheet).


[T.p., frontis.] - Dissertation - Système De Charles Le Brun Sur La Physionomie - Extrait Du troisième Discours Académique de Henri Testelin, sur l'expression générale et particulière - Table Des Planches gravées d'après les Dessins de Le Brun, pour son Traité du rapport de la Figure Humaine avec celle des Animaux - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

The text is ascribed by J. Montagu to L.-J.-M. Morel d'Arleux, curator of drawings and prints at the Musée du Louvre (then Musée Napoléon).

The frontispiece (portrait of Charles Le Brun) is signed as painted by N. de Largilliere and engraved by G. Edelinck. The numbered plates are unsigned, but the 'Tables Des Planches' states that the first eleven were engraved by Baltard, and the rest by André Le Grand.


M. Pinault Sørensen, De la physionomie humaine et animale: dessins de Charles Le Brun gravés pour la Chalcographie du Musée Napoléon en 1806 [exhibition catalogue] (2000); J. Montagu, The expression of the passions: the origin and influence of Charles Le Brun's 'Conférence sur l'expression générale et particulière' (1994); T. Kirchner, 'Physiognomie als Zeichen: die Rezeption von Charles Le Bruns Mensch-Tier-Vergleichen um 1800', in Frankreich 1800, ed. G. Gersmann and H. Kohle (1990), p.34-48; J. Wechsler, A Human comedy: physiognomy and caricature in 19th-century Paris (1982); G. Sircello, Mind and art: an essay on the varieties of expression (1972); O.K. Bouwsma, 'The expression theory of art', in Aesthetics and language, ed. W. Elton (1954), p.73-99.

Summary Note

In 1668 and 1671 Charles Le Brun, founding member of the Académie Royale in Paris, gave illustrated lectures on physiognomy to the Académie, comparing facial expressions of humans and other animals and applying Descartes' theory of the brain as the seat of the soul to the connection between facial expression and psychology. His thoughts on expression were published in 1698 as Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions proposée dans une conférence sur l'expression générale et particulière (translated into English in 1701 as Conference of Monsieur Le Brun ... upon expression, general and particular). Possibly in response to the writings of J.C. Lavater, interest in the subject became widespread in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The plates are listed in the 'Table Des Planches' as showing: 1. Têtes d'homme; 2. Têtes de Jupiter et d'Hercule; 3. Têtes de Jupiter et de lion; 4. and 5. Têtes d'Antonin et de Néron; 6. Rapport de la figure humaine avec celle de l'âne; 7. du boeuf; 8. chat; 9. lion; 10. singe; 11. Têtes de différens boeufs, têtes de lion et de cheval avec des yeux humains; 12. Rapport de figure humaine avec celle de l'aigle; 13. l'âne; 15. bélier; 16. boeuf; 17. chameau; 18. chat; 19. chat-huant; 20. cheval; 21. chèvre; 22. cochon; 23. corbeau; 24. la fouine; 25. du lapin; 26. lièvre; 27. loup; 28. loup-cervier; 29. ours; 30. perroquet; 31. renard; 32; sanglier; 33. singe; 34. Yeux d'homme, de singe, de chameau; 35. de tigre, loup-cervier, chat; 36. de loup, renard, pourceau; 37. de bouc, bélier, mouton. The frontispiece is a portrait of Charles Le Brun.

The original drawings are preserved in the Louvre. Some are thought to draw on G.B. Della Porta's De humana physiognomia (French translation 1655-6).


The 1806 engravings can be viewed online at: http://www.maitres-des-arts-graphiques.com/-EXB.html

Binding Note

19th-century half red morocco, marbled-papered boards; spine lettered 'Physiognomy Le Brun' and 'R.A.'

Name as Subject


Physiognomy - People - Animals - Expression - Theory
Drawings, French - 17th century
Dissertations - Treatises - Lectures - France - 17th century - 19th century
Pictorial works - France - 19th century