(Polychrome Ornament) Paris : Firmin-Didot, (1869-1873) (1885-1887)
This reference work “created to render major services to our industrial arts” brings the archeological art and polychromy of the past to the architects, artists and decorators of his time.
It was published in two volumes; the first 100 plates were published in ten installments between 1869 and 1873, shortly after published as a volume in 5000 copies, a second edition was printed in 1875. The second volume containing 120 plates was published between 1885 and 1887.
The years from 1845 to 1890 were marked by the renewed interest in the classicism; a major role was played by the neoclassical artists Percier and Fontaine influenced by the work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and supported by architects such as Hittorf and Viollet-le-Duc. It is in 1851 that Jacques Hittorf publishes L’Architecture polychrome chez les Grecs (Polychrome Architecture in Ancient Greece) at the same time Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, inspector of Monuments historiques et des Cultes, p roposes restorations and decorations similar to the ornaments presented by Racinet in his publication.
This revival of the Hellenistic art was not a matter of copying and imitating; it was, for them, the start of a new era in the decorative arts. They believed that a better understanding of the past would help to create beauty in the arts in the present. During the second part of the 19 th century this concept was gradually enlarged to include the Middle Age and the Renaissance, later criticized for the eclecticism that characterizes the period.
The work of Auguste Racinet supplied the needed information on those archeological arts at the time when polychromy was at the base of the architectural and decorative information.
Under the artistic direction of Racinet, many of the time distinguished commercial artists contributed to the creation of the plates.
The artists that contributed their work for the first volume are: Bauer, Daumont, Dufour, Jeanningros, Launay, Laval, Lebreton, Mathieu, Picard, Pralon, F. Durin, Gandon, Jetot, Kraatz, Laugier, Bailly, Lemoine, Leveil, Ligogne, Painlevé, Sulpis, Sanier, Wolfart.
The artists that contributed their work for the second volume are: Bauer, Bérnard, Brandin, Charpentier, Chataignon, Cottelot, Debénais, Dreux, F. Durin, Gaulard, Gautier, St Elme, Guesnu, Lemoine, P. Lestel, Manoury, Mathieu, Mauler, Méheux, Nordmann, Picard, Schmidt, Spiégel, Taillefer, Waret.
Albert Charles Auguste Racinet
Paris, July 20, 1825 – Monfort-l’Amaury, October 29, 1893
Artist, designer lithographer, director of publishing, art historian.
His early formation was with his father, a printer lithographer (also named Charles Auguste), he studied at the School of Design of the City of Paris (l’École de dessin de la Ville de Paris). He exhibited his painting at the Salons from 1849 to 1874, but his work as painter was always inspired by ancient manuscripts from la Bibliothèque Nationale, or related to architectural studies and projects of stained glass. Some of his paintings, mainly of scenes from the life of Charles VI and Jacques Coeur are at the Musée Draguignan.
His early years of learning with the father and his ability in reproducing ancient work directed his interests in the sector of the arts education and in the participation in scholarly works, anthologies, model textbooks, etc.
In the 1840s, he works on the boards of a publication by the painter Ferdinand Séré and writer Charles Louandre to be named Histoire du costume et de l’ameublement au Moyen Âge (History of costume and furniture in the Middle Ages). The premature death of Séré delayed the publication and it was only in 1858 that the project was revived by the lithographer publisher-editor-Shed Maugé who drew from Séré and Louandre work for the publication of the four volumes of Arts Somptuaires, Histoire du costume et de l'ameublement et des arts et industries (Sumptuary Arts, History of Costume and Furniture and the Arts and Industries); Published with the assistance of Claudius Ciappori, a painter expert in archeological studies.
Part of the Séré and Louandre’s project had already been published in 1847-1851 by Paul Lacroix under the title Le Moyen Âge et la Renaissance, histoire et description des mœurs et usages, du commerce et de l’industrie, des sciences, des arts, des littératures et des beaux-arts en Europe (The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, A History and Description of Mores and Customs, Commerce and Industry, Art, Literature and the Fine Arts in Europe) and in 1852 in the publication Costumes historiques de la France d’après les monuments les plus authentiques, précédé de l’histoire de la vie privée des Français depuis l’origine de la monarchie jusqu’à nos jours. (Historic Costumes of France according to the most Authentic Monuments, preceded by the History of the Private Lives of the French from the Origin of the Monarchy to the Present Day).
It is the starting point for Auguste Racinet of his career in scholarly art publishing; a career summarized in the administrative dossier that was compiled for his nomination of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in1878. This dossier mentions that Racinet “designer and publicist” is the author of L’Ornement polychrome, traduced in English and German.
He is the art director of various sets of engravings: La Céramique japonaise (Japanese Ceramics), published in English and French, La Collection archaéologique du Prince Saltykoff (The Archeological Collection of Prince Saltykoff), Le XVIIIe siècle (The 18th Century) by Paul Lacroix, and L'Iconographie de la Sainte Vierge (The Iconography of the Holy Virgin) by Abbé Meynard. It is mentioned also his collaboration for the illustration of L’Âne d’or d’Apulée (Apuleius's Golden Ass), at the edition of Arts somptuaires ( Sumptuary Arts) and of L’Institution de l’ordre du Saint-Esprit (The Institution of the Order of the Saint Esprit) published by Godefroy Engelmann. The dossier refers also that Racinet served as Secretary to the Drawing Schools Jury for the exhibitions at the Union Centrale for the years 1874-1876.
After his death on October 29 1893 Racinet will be remembered for his two major works: L'Ornement polychrome (Polychrome Ornament) and Le Costume Historique (Costume History) 1876-1888. Le Costume Historique (Costume History) was published by the editor Ambroise Firmin-Didot (1790-1876), printer of the Institut de France, distinguished expert of the Hellenist period, member of the l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, collector of manuscripts and rare books. Ambroise Firmin-Didot had published various archeological works about Egypt, Greece, Pompeii and other periods; Auguste Racinet refers often to this works for the preparation of the Ornement polychrome “.
Most of the reference material used to prepare the above information is from the INHA (Institut national d’histoire de l’art)