The Works Of Anthony Raphael Mengs First Painter to his Catholic Majesty Charles III. Translated from the Italian Published by the Chevr. Don Joseph Nicholas D'Azara Spanish Minister at Rome. Vol. I. (II.)

Anton Raphael Mengs

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Uniform Title

[Works., English., 1796.]

Variant Title

Riflessioni su la Bellezza e sul Gusto della Pittura
Frammento di un Discorso sopra i mezzi per far fiorire le Belle Arti in Spagna
Ragionamento su l'Accademia delle Belle Arti di Madrid
Gedanken über die Schönheit und über den Geschmack in der Malerey
Reflections upon beauty and taste in painting


London: 1796., Printed for R. Faulder, New Bond Street & G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster Row.

Physical Description

2 vols. in one; 216 mm. (Quarto).

General Note

Vol. I: 5, [1], iv, 73, [1], 225, [1] p., engr. - Vol. II.: [2], 153, 162, [2] p., engr. (It may be noted that in the second volume the last page of the 'Letter ... on the rise, progress and decay of the art of designing' (p.153) ends, 'End Of The Second Volume'; and the words, 'Vol. III.' appear at the foot of the following p.17 - but the 'Contents' and 'Errata' list works under the heads 'Vol. II.' and 'III.', implying that parts II and III are here bound together. And in the Academy's copy there is no engraved title-plate for a Volume III. It appears that the translation may have been projected as a three-part or three-volume work, yet issued as two volumes (often found bound as one). However, Cambridge University has a catalogue entry describing the work as in three volumes.)


Vol. I: [Engr.] - Preface [by the Translator] - Paintings done for England by A.R. Mengs - Contents - [Text]. - Vol. II: [Engr.] - Contents - [Text] - Errata.

Responsibility Note

According to the Dictionary of National Biography it was Revd. Robert Darley Waddilove who 'translated A.R. Mengs's Essay on Painting (2 vols., 1796)'. In the original editing of Mengs's works for the Italian edition Azara was assisted by Francesco Milizia. It appears that Azara, not Mengs, was the author of the Frammento d'un discorso sopra i mezzi di far fiorire le belle arti nella Spagna (see the Azara-Bodoni correspondence edited by Ciavarella).

The title-plate vignette (portrait of Mengs) is unsigned.


ESTC, T124072
S. Roettgen, Anton Raphael Mengs 1728-1779 and his British patrons (1993)
R. Cioffi Martinelli, La ragione dell'arte: teoria e critica in Anton Raphael Mengs e Johann Joachim Winkelmann (1981)
A.D. Potts, 'Greek sculpture and Roman copies, I: Anton Raphael Mengs and the eighteenth century', in J. Warburg & Courtauld Inst., 43 (1980), p. 150-173
De Azara-Bodoni [correspondence], ed. A. Ciavarella (1979)
T. Pelzel, Anton Raphael Mengs and Neoclassicism (1979)
M. Sutter, Die kunsthistorischen Begriffe des Malerphilosophen Anton Raphael Mengs (1968)
G. L. Bianconi, Elogio storico del Cavaliere Antonio Raffaello Mengs (Milan, 1780)
M. Crawford Volk, 'The Madrid Academy', in A. Bull., LXI (1979), p. 627
I. Henares Cuéllar, La teoria de las artes plásticas en España en la segunda mitad del siglo XVIII (1977).

Summary Note

The first volume contains 'Memoirs of the life of Anthony Raphael Mengs', 'List of Paintings done in Spain by Anthony Raphael Mengs', and Mengs's 'Reflections upon Beauty and Taste in Painting' (translated from 'Riflessioni su la Bellezza, e sul Gusto della Pittura', originally published in 1762 as 'Gedanken über die Schönheit und über den Geschmack in der Malerei')

The second volume contains 'Fragment of a Discourse upon the means of making the polite arts flourish in Spain' (translated from 'Frammento di un Discorso sopra i mezzi per far fiorire le Belle Arti in Spagna', first published in 1766), letters to Falconet, Fabroni and Ponz, 'Description of the principal paintings in the Royal Palace at Madrid' (from 'Descrizione de' principali Quadri del Palazzo Reale di Madrid'), a 'Letter to a Friend, on the Rise, Progress, and Decay, of the art of Designing' ('sopra il Principio, Progresso, e Decadenza dell' Arti del Disegno'), 'Memoirs concerning the life and works of ... Correggio', and 'Reflections upon the excellence of Correggio', with 'Annotations', a 'Discourse upon the academy of fine arts at Madrid' (from 'Ragionamento su l'Accademia delle Belle Arti di Madrid', published in 1766), and 'Practical Lessons upon Painting' (from 'Lezioni pratiche di Pittura', published in 1766.)

There are no illustrations; but the engraved title-plate includes a vignette in the form of a medal carrying on its obverse a portrait-bust of Mengs.

In his Riflessioni su la bellezza, while owing something to earlier theorists such as Lomazzo and Bellori, Mengs draws much from rhetorical theory, and categorises the visual arts under such concepts as the elevated, the beautiful, the charming, the significant, the natural. He argues that beauty is an imperfect manifestation of divine perfection; and that art may surpass nature by synthesising particulars into an ideal - thus echoing ideas anciently attributed to Zeuxis. His letter to Fabroni is interesting as stressing the fact that many of the best-known ancient statues are copies.

Mengs received commissions from all over Europe, including several from British patrons. By the late eighteenth century his devotion to Raphael, Correggio and Titian and his reworking of canonic models became unfashionable, but his exposition of painting techniques was valued far into the nineteenth century.


An electronic reproduction was published in 2003 (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale). A copy was microfilmed in 1986 (Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications Inc.).


The front pastedown carries the armorial bookplate of Lancelot Charles Lee; and a front endpaper is inscribed in ink, 'Lancelot Charles Lee New College Oxford 1802'.

Binding Note

18th-century mottled calf; rebacked in 20th century, red morocco spine-label lettered 'Mengs's Works'.

Name as Subject


Art - Aesthetics - Painting - Taste (aesthetics) - Theory - Connoisseurship
Paintings, European - Patronage - Academies (organizations) - Art education - Schools - Teaching - Spain - History - 18th century
Art history - Art criticism - Essays - Manuals - Europe - Great Britain - 18th century - Neoclassical