We use cookies to improve your experience online. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our cookies policy.

Following recent government announcements, we’re planning our reopening and will announce details of exhibitions and ticket availability very soon! For any ticket enquiries please email tickets@royalacademy.org.uk

Histoire De L'Art Chez Les Anciens. Par M.r J. Winckelmann, Président des Antiquités à Rome, membre de la Société Royale des Antiquités de Londres, de l'Académie de Peinture de St. Luc à Rome, et de l'Académie Etrusque de Cortone, &c. Ouvrage Traduit De L'Allemand. Tome Premier. (Second.)

Johann Joachim Winckelmann

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Uniform Title

[Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums., French., 1766.]


A Paris:: Chez Saillant, rue S. Jean de Beauvais., MDCCLXVI.

Physical Description

2 vols. [v.I: [4], lvi, 360 p.:illus. - v.II: [2], xxviii, 343 p: illus.]; 199 mm. (Octavo).


Vol. I: Préface; Table des Auteurs cités; Table Des Articles. - Première Partie: 1. L'Art Considéré Dans Sa Nature: De La Forme Primitive De L'Art; Des Différentes Matières Employées Par La Sculpture; Des Causes Des Différences De L'Art Chez Les Différentes Nations. - 2. De l'Art chez les Egyptiens, les Phéniciens & les Perses - 3. De l'Art chez les Etrusques. - 4. De l'Art chez les Grecs: Des Raisons Et Des Causes De La Perfection De L'Art Chez Les Grecs; De L'Essentiel De L'Art. - Vol. II: Explication Des Planches (1-22). - Des Progrès Et De La Décadence De L'Art Chez Les Grecs; De La Partie Méchanique De La Sculpture Grecque; De La Peinture Des Anciens Grecs. - 5. Histoire de l'Art chez les Romains. - Seconde Partie: Du Sort De L'Art Chez Les Grecs: Depuis Les Temps Les Plus Reculés Jusqu'à Phidias; De Phidias Jusqu'à Aléxandre; Après Aléxandre, Et De Sa Décadence; De L'Art Grec Chez Les Romains Sous Les Empéreurs; Décadence De L'Art Sous Septime Sévère.

Responsibility Note

No engraving is credited, apart from the title page vignette, signed as drawn and engraved by N. v. Frankendaad.


R.M. Fridrich, 'Sehnsucht nach dem Verlorenen': Winckelmanns Ästhetik und ihre frühe Rezeption (2003); Ancient art and its historiography, ed. A.A. Donohue and M.D. Fullerton (2003); F. Testa, Winckelmann e l'invenzione della storia d'arte: i modelli e la mimesi (1999); A. Potts, Flesh and the ideal: Winckelmann and the origins of art history (1994); V.H. Minor, Art history's history (1994); S. Howard, 'Albani, Winckelmann and Cavaceppi: the transition from amateur to professional antiquarianism', in Journal of the history of collections 4:1 (1992), p. 27-38; E. Pommier, Winckelmann: la naissance de l'histoire de l'art (1991); D. Constantine, Early Greek travellers and the Hellenic ideal (1984), p. 85-146; J. J. Winckelmann, Winckelmann: writings on art, ed. D. Irwin (1972); E.M. Butler, The tyranny of Greece over Germany (1935); W. Pater, 'Winckelmann', in Studies in the history of the Renaissance (1873); J.W. von Goethe, Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert (1805).

For a study of the French translations see P. Griener, L'esthétique de la traduction: Winckelmann, les langues et l'histoire de l'art, 1755-1784 (1998).

Summary Note

In the same year the work was published in Amsterdam by Evert van Harrevelt (2 vols., 8vo.). (In 1781 a new French translation, Histoire De L'Art De L'Antiquité, was published in Leipzig.)

This, Winckelmann's most influential work, was first published in German in 1764. As early as 1755, before leaving Germany, he had issued his essay, Gedanken über die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke in der Malerey und Bildhauerkunst (Reflections on the imitation of Greek works in painting and sculpture), finding in ancient Greek art an 'edle Einfalt und stille Grosse' (noble simplicity and quiet grandeur). In the History he combines attention to the minutiae of art with an overview of Greek and Roman art as a process of rise and decline, in which he differentiates eras on stylistic grounds. Like Vasari, he sees European art as declining from the time of Constantine, indeed as declining from the fifth century B.C. through the Hellenistic and Roman periods. He is like Vasari, too, in taking as his criterion of good art the degree to which it is based on naturalistic representation and attains beauty - though like other theorists who allow a place for the 'sublime' he accords the 'serious' style of Greek art a higher place than that of the 'beautiful'. He also touches on the influence of climate and location on artistic creativity and the relation of creativity to political freedom. Above all by his infectious enthusiasm he turned European art-lovers from their adulation for the arts of Rome to an adulation for those of ancient Greece. In Goethe's estimation Winckelmann's works with all their learning were written 'as something living for the living, and not for those entombed in the dead letter'.

The text is illustrated with twenty-two engravings (vignettes, headpieces and tailpieces) showing ancient gems and sculpture (some in the Stosch or Albani collections) representing ancient gods, heroes and ceremonies.


Purchased by 1780.. Recorded in Catalogue Of The Library In The Royal Academy, London, 1802.

Copy Note

Imperfect; lacking the half-titles and pages [xxvii]-xl of Volume I ('Table des auteurs cités').

Binding Note

18th-century calf; with royal arms and 'R.A.' gilt-stamped on upper cover; red morocco spine-labels, lettered, 'Winckelman Hist: De L'Art Che Les Ancien'.


Art, ancient - Art, Greek - Art, Roman - Sculpture, Greek - Sculpture, Roman - Greece - Rome - History
Art history - Art criticism - Germany - France - 18th century - Neoclassical
Translations from German - Translations into French - France - 18th century
Pictorial works - France - 18th century
Armorial bindings - Great Britain - 18th century


Charles Saillant, 1716-1786, publisher
Gottfried Sellius, , translator
Nicolaas Van Frankendaal, act. 1765, draughtsman, engraver