The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Idea of the Temple of Painting

Idea of the Temple of Painting

Giovan Paolo Lomazzo, Edited and translated by Jean Julia Chai
  • Copyright: 2013
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10
  • Page Count: 276 pages
  • Illustrations: 39 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05953-2
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-05954-9
“Chai’s nuanced introductory essay deftly places this late effort by the blind artist into both the context of Lomazzo’s life and interests (the mascot of his deliberately unfashionable academy was a wine porter), and the complicated strands of 16th-century society and books. An abstruse author with a taste for allegory and the occult, Lomazzo, hitherto scarcely available in English, is presented with sympathy and clarity. Highly recommended.”
“Carefully edited and practically organized, [Idea of the Temple of Painting] aims at opening the writings of Lomazzo to new audiences, and opens fresh avenues to approach this versatile author’s ideas.”
“What is startlingly new in both the Trattato and the Idea is Lomazzo’s theory of human movement and expressive emotions, and this contribution is expertly evaluated by Chai. She rightly says that Lomazzo’s ‘choosing the right expression’ in his theory of ‘represented emotions’ ‘was not just a matter of proper decorum; it included dialoguing with the divine’. . . . Today, with Chai’s guidance, we can read this author as an artist fascinated by the imagined and represented human body—and its subtle control through the pseudosciences of astrology and physiognomy—and the artistic and ecclesiastical decorum of the day.”

Perhaps the most imaginative writer on art in the sixteenth century, Giovan Paolo Lomazzo was also an ambitious painter, well-informed critic, and sarcastic wit: he proved a lively adversary for Vasari, Dolce, and even Aretino. His greatest contribution to the history of art is his special treatment of expression and, in its more mature form, self-expression. The image of the Temple of Painting embodies all his essential thoughts about art. Housing statues of Michelangelo, Gaudenzio Ferrari, Polidoro da Caravaggio, Leonardo, Raphael, Mantegna, and Titian—paradigms of style and, for Lomazzo, the seven greatest painters in the world—it guides the novice in the discovery of a unique style that matches his own temperament. Idea of the Temple of Painting (1590), written as a pithy introduction to the encyclopedic Trattato dell’arte della pittura, demonstrates why art is all about expressing an individual style, or maniera. Neither spontaneous nor unconscious, style reflects the rational process of adapting all the elements of painting into a harmonious whole. This treatise also represents a rare historical document. Presiding over an original confraternity of artists and humanists, Lomazzo actively participated in the Milan art scene, which is vividly brought to life by his personal commentaries. This is the first translation of any of his treatises into English.

Jean Julia Chai is a translator and lives in Paris. She received her Ph.D. in art history from Harvard University.


List of Illustrations


On the Translation


1 The Temple of Painting: A Mnemonic Image

2 Artist, Academician, and Dreamer

3 Discernment in Painting

4 From Moto to Maniera

5 An Aesthetics of Fascination

6 The Delayed Reaction

Idea of the Temple of Painting




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