Dominicus Lampsonius has long been acknowledged as an important figure in the historiography of European art. He is perhaps best known for his role as the author of Latin inscriptions on the Effigies cycle of printed portraits of twenty-three Netherlandish painters, which he developed in partnership with Antwerp print publisher Hieronymus Cock. However, Lampsonius’s most substantial published contribution to art history – the Life of Lambert Lombard of 1565 – has received less recognition. This thirty-eight-page Latin account of the Liégeois painter, architect, and theorist Lambert Lombard is simultaneously an intellectual biography of the artist and a theoretical treatise with important philosophical and cultural agendas.
Yet, the Life of Lambert Lombard was never printed in great quantities and remained little known outside Lampsonius’s learned circle. Already forty years after its publication, the Flemish painter and art historian Karel van Mander was unable to procure a copy of the book when he compiled his Schilder-boeck of 1604, and the Dutch art theorist Franciscus Junius was apparently unaware of its existence. Although Walter Melion brought renewed attention to the Life of Lambert Lombard in his seminal Shaping the Netherlandish Canon (1991), we are still only beginning to understand the importance of this text for the emergence of a distinctly Netherlandish conception of art history.
Colette Nativel’s excellent French translation of the Life of Lambert Lombard now enables us to appreciate this source anew. Nativel’s edition is only the second full translation of the text. The first, by Jean Hubaux and Jean Puraye, published in the Revue belge d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’art in 1949, has remained a standard reference for scholars, despite its shortcomings. An Italian translation by Maria Teresa Sciolla, edited by Giann Carlo Sciolla and Caterina Volpi and published in 2001, relies heavily on Hubaux and Puraye’s expressive yet flawed rendering.
Nativel’s publication offers welcome correctives. In contrast to Puraye and Hubaux, Nativel’s painstaking translation of the Life of Lambert Lombard remains faithful to Lampsonius’s difficult prose. Where Puraye and Hubaux opted for poetic interpretations of Lampsonius’s complex constructions, Nativel adheres to the syntax of the original. In doing so, she provides readers with an accurate rendering of Lampsonius’s lengthy and intricate sentences, which are often densely packed with multiple concepts.
The side-by-side presentation of the original Latin and Nativel’s French permits readers to assess the translation and to track critical terms that Lampsonius developed, opening his text to new possibilities for close reading and interpretation.
This layout foregrounds another key strength of Nativel’s edition: its rigorously researched footnotes, which reveal the scope of Lampsonius’s own scholarly practices and enable readers to compare the sources he consulted to construct the Life of Lambert Lombard. These sources comprise classical texts, such as Pliny’s Natural History as well as more recent Italian publications, including Alberti and Vasari. Nativel’s notes further demonstrate that Lampsonius was familiar with Cinquecento trattati that already provided an alternative to the Vasarian paradigm, especially Anton Francesco Doni’s Disegno (1549) and, to a lesser extent, Lodovico Dolce’s Dialogo della Pittura (1557). Nativel’s research demonstrates how many of Lampsonius’s original insights are embedded in well-known topoi from earlier literature on art. These include motifs such as Lombard’s humble origins (like Giotto and many others), his loving nature (like Raphael), and his refusal to debase himself by painting for the market or seeking out wealthy patrons (a direct allusion to Vasari’s account of Baldassare Peruzzi).
While Nativel’s scholarly apparatus emphasizes intertextual connections between Lampsonius’s biography and his body of sources, her substantial introduction highlights the originality of the biography as an art theoretical work. Her introductory essay is divided into three parts. First she presents biographical details on Lombard’s life, filling in gaps in Lampsonius’s sparse account. Second, she offers an overview of Lampsonius’s formation and his impressive intellectual network. This study entails surveying Lampsonius’s other writings on art, which comprise poems, inscriptions, and letters, composed over decades. Here Nativel introduces Lampsonius’s collaboration with Cock on the Effigies cycle, which shares important theoretical insights with the Life of Lambert Lombard, although it did not appear in print until Cock’s widow Volcxken Diericx published it in 1572.
In the third part of her introduction, Nativel turns to examine the Life of Lambert Lombard itself. She analyzes some of the key sources for Lampsonius’s biography of Lombard, with particular attention to texts dealing with ancient rhetoric. For Nativel, these provided the basis for Lampsonius’s theorization of Lombard’s intellectual approach to artistic imitation, invention, and execution. Nativel also unfolds the theoretical significance of key concepts in the biography, including Lombard’s “grammar,” a term that Lampsonius used to refer to a subset of Lombard’s vast corpus of figural drawings. As Nativel observes, “grammar” also figures centrally as a principle and a methodological strategy in Lombard’s quest to rediscover “rules” of ancient art that he believed had been lost or become diluted over time. All this material makes Nativel’s translation indispensable for fresh perspectives on Lampsonius’s text.
There are few points to criticize in Nativel’s meticulous translation and critical commentary. It is unfortunate that the marginal glosses present in the original publication do not appear in the current edition. Such paratextual glosses may have been a conventional feature in book publishing at the time. But they are nonetheless significant features of the published text. They evidence a literate audience that did not necessarily approach the text linearly but may have instead consulted its contents piecemeal, for reference to specific historical figures or concepts. They also provide important insights into the editorial judgments of the text’s publisher, the renowned numismatist – and fellow Lombard admirer – Hubert Goltzius, who collaborated with the cartographer Abraham Ortelius to transform Lampsonius’s manuscript into print.
What topics did Goltzius (and Ortelius) deem of sufficient interest to merit an additional gloss, and how do they compare with Lampsonius’s own agenda? My forthcoming edition of the Life of Lambert Lombard attempts to analyze these notes in the framework of Lampsonius’s ambition to compose a text that operated both as humanist biography and theoretical treatise. Many of the marginal notes contain names of individuals Lombard encountered, whether in person or through the study of their work. Printing these names in the margin calls attention to how the text foregrounds Lombard’s impressive clerical, intellectual, and artistic network, as well as some of his reading list. We find there Raphael, Michelangelo, Francesco Salviati, Baccio Bandinelli, and Vitruvius as well as northerners, such as Jan Gossart and Jan van Scorel and Lombard’s pupils Frans Floris and Willem Key.
In addition to advertising Lombard’s intellectual network, the margins of the printed book provided a space for mapping some of the biography’s core theoretical concepts, some of which were distinctive to Lampsonius’s novel Neo-Latin vocabulary. The critical terms printed in the margin include grammatica and harmoge as well as graphice. The latter term defies easy translation, but it may be one of the most important theoretical features of the biography. In her introduction, Nativel provides a footnote documenting no fewer than fifteen instances of the term, although the novelty of using this concept in relation to the visual arts remains to be examined. Nativel’s precise translation and detailed introduction are truly important contributions towards addressing the challenges of understanding the range of theoretical concepts, social networks, and cross-disciplinary professional practices that were involved in the making of one of the key sources for the emergence of a distinctively Netherlandish perspective on the history and theory of art.
University of Manchester
 Jean Hubaux and Jean Puraye, “Dominique Lampson, Lamberti Lombardi Vita: traduction et notes,” Revue belge d’Archéologie et d’histoire de l’art 18 (1949): 52-77.
 Gianni Carlo Sciolla and Caterina Volpi, Da van Eyck a Brueghel: scritti sulle arti di Domenico Lampsonio, trans. Maria Teresa Sciolla (Turin: UTET, 2001).
 See also Edward Wouk, “Pathosformel as Grammar. From Lambert Lombard to Aby Warburg,” Dutch Yearbook for Art History / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 68 (2019): 79-113.
 Ann Blair, Too much to know: managing scholarly information before the modern age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 133-60.
 Dominicus Lampsonius, The Life of Lambert Lombard and Effigies of Several Famous Painters from the Low Countries, trans. and ed. Edward Wouk (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2021, forthcoming).
 Nativel, ed., Vie de Lambert Lombard, 21-22, n. 38; Lampsonius, The Life of Lambert Lombard, esp. 25-27.