Pierre-Jean Mariette
Pierre-Jean Mariette was a collector of and dealer in old master print
Old master print
An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition . A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term. The main techniques concerned are woodcut, engraving and etching, although there are...

s, a renowned connoisseur, especially of prints and drawings, and a chronicler of the careers of French Italian and Flemish artists. He was a central figure in the artistic culture of Paris for decades.

Mariette was born to a long-established and highly successful family of engravers, book publishers and printsellers in Paris: when his grandfather Pierre Mariette (1634–1716) bought the business from his father in 1657, it was valued at 30,000 livres. The family connections put him in contact as a young man with antiquarian
An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient objects of art or science, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts...

s such as the comte de Caylus, for whom Mariette would write his Lettre sur Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, printed as a preface to Caylus's book on Leonardo's caricatures, 1730. In 1722 he first met the immensely rich patron of the arts Pierre Crozat
Pierre Crozat
thumb|265px|[[Rembrandt]]'s painting [[Danaë |Danae]] from Crozat's collection.Pierre Crozat was a French art collector at the center of a broad circle of cognoscenti; he was the brother of Antoine Crozat....

, whom he advised, whose collection he catalogued and from whose sale he purchased outstanding drawings.

After he attended the Jesuit college in Paris, his father, Jean Mariette (1660–1742), sent him on tour in 1717, to sharpen his connoisseurship and further family connections. First he went to Amsterdam, which was the center of the art trade, and then to Germany. In Vienna Mariette catalogued the art collection of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Everywhere the affable, curious and sociable Mariette made acquaintances and formed contacts with the scholarly and artistic community in Europe, which he maintained through correspondence.

Through his artistic connections, Mariette was named a member of the prestigious Accademia delle Arti del Disegno
Accademia delle Arti del Disegno
The Accademia delle Arti del Disegno of Florence promotes the safeguard of the works of art in Italy. Founded in 1563, it was the first academy of drawing established in Europe.- History of the Accademia :...

, Florence, in 1733. His knowledge of prints and his close friendship with Caylus and the artist Charles-Antoine Coypel
Antoine Coypel
Antoine Coypel was a history painter, the more famous son of the French painter Noël Coypel.Antoine studied under his father, with whom he spent four years at Rome. At the age of eighteen he was admitted into the Académie de peinture et de sculpture, of which he became professor and rector in...

 secured him a position reorganizing the old master print
Old master print
An old master print is a work of art produced by a printing process within the Western tradition . A date of about 1830 is usually taken as marking the end of the period whose prints are covered by this term. The main techniques concerned are woodcut, engraving and etching, although there are...

 collection of the Bibliothèque Royale. In 1741 Mariette was asked to write the sale catalogue of Crozat's collection of paintings and antiquities, the first example of the modern descriptive sale catalogue. He purchased some of Crozat's drawings at the sale himself; a provenance from Mariette's collection, with its discrete collector's stamp, adds allure even to great Old Master
Old Master
"Old Master" is a term for a European painter of skill who worked before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist. An "old master print" is an original print made by an artist in the same period...

 drawings: a head by Andrea del Sarto
Andrea del Sarto
Andrea del Sarto was an Italian painter from Florence, whose career flourished during the High Renaissance and early Mannerism. Though highly regarded during his lifetime as an artist senza errori , his renown was eclipsed after his death by that of his contemporaries, Leonardo da Vinci,...

, from the collections of Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

, Crozat and Mariette fetched £6,504,000 (ca $11,740,072) at auction in 2005

Mariette engraved and printed several plates, an aspect of the family business. His engravings illustrated the Cours d'architecture qui comprend les ordres de Vignole ä ceux de Michel-Ange of Augustin-Charles d'Aviler (Paris, 1760), Before the death of his father in 1742, Mariette had already been running the family publishing and print-making business, an aspect of his career often overlooked by art historians. The firm had published Pierre Fauchard
Pierre Fauchard
Pierre Fauchard was a significant French physician, credited as being the "father of modern dentistry". He is widely known for his book, Le chirurgien dentiste, "The Surgeon Dentist" 1728, where he described the basic oral anatomy and function, signs and symptoms of oral pathology, operative...

's Le chirurgien dentiste, ou traité des dents 1728, the first modern work on dentistry and a milestone of medical history,

By 1750 he sold the family business that he had inherited in 1744, in order to purchase the office of Contrôleur Général de la Grande Chancellerie, a sinecure that allowed him to devote the rest of his life to his researches and to increasing his celebrated collection. He concentrated on prints and drawings, but also included paintings, bronzes and terracottas. Among his great drawings was a Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 study of a nude for the Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio...

. He shared Crozat's taste for the drawings of Rubens: at Crozat's sale he purchased sixty-two of the finest for his own collection . When his collections were dispersed at auction after his death, 1266 drawings were acquired by the Crown; they now form part of the collection at the Bibliothèque National. The albums of more than 3500 prints mounted on fine paper, which had been begun by his father, Jean Mariette, passed into the collection of the Earls Spencer
Earl Spencer
Earl Spencer is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain that was created on 1 November 1765, along with the title Viscount Althorp, of Althorp in the County of Northamptonshire, for John Spencer, 1st Viscount Spencer, a great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough...

. These "Spencer Albums" of Mariette's prints are one of the most important acquisitions made by the Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 Art Museums in recent years. The albums include etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

s and engraving
Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing...

s in a near-perfect state of preservation by Italian, Dutch, and Flemish printmakers, including Jacques Callot
Jacques Callot
Jacques Callot was a baroque printmaker and draftsman from the Duchy of Lorraine . He is an important figure in the development of the old master print...

, Jusepe de Ribera, and Adriaen van Ostade
Adriaen van Ostade
Adriaen van Ostade was a Dutch Golden Age painter of genre works.-Life:...


Mariette also collected contemporary French paintings, Although he was immune to the forceful realism of Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities...

 , the more sentimental charm of Greuze found a place on his walls: Greuze's Young Peasant Boy, shown at the Salon of 1763
Paris Salon
The Salon , or rarely Paris Salon , beginning in 1725 was the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Between 1748–1890 it was the greatest annual or biannual art event in the Western world...

 had already been purchased by Mariette, together with its pendant, before it was exhibited.

Mariette's further published works were not many. In 1750 he published a Traité historique des pierres gravées du Cabinet du Roi, on the hardstone carvings in the royal collection. His reputation as a connoisseur, who laid down the principles by which the hands of Italian master drawings could be ascertained, led to him being made an associate, then an honorary (1757) member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture
Académie de peinture et de sculpture
The Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture , Paris, was founded in 1648, modelled on Italian examples, such as the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. Paris already had the Académie de Saint-Luc, which was a city artist guild like any other Guild of Saint Luke...


In 1764-65 he got into a public dispute in the pages of the Gazette littéraire de l'Europe with Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric "prisons" .-His Life:...

, whom Mariette admired greatly as an artist, over Piranesi's polemical stand that the magnificence of Roman art derived from its Etruscan roots, rather than from its Greek borrowings

Mariette's dictionary of artists

His major ambition was to write a history of engraving and a dictionary of artists. In preparation, he compiled numerous annotations to the Abecedario pittorico (1704) of Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi
Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi
Pellegrino Antonio Orlandi was an Italian writer and art historian, author of the Abecedario pittorico .Born in Bologna, Orlandi joined the city’s Carmelite convent of San Martino...

. His father's notes on artists, accumulated in the course of the art trade, and his own wide experience and correspondence among the cognoscenti, were the basis of these projects, none of which, however, ever came to fruition. Caylus used Mariette's notes on Vasari's Lives
Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects
The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times, or Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri, as it was originally known in Italian, is a series of artist biographies written by 16th century...

for his manuscript Vies d’artistes du XVIIIe siècle.

Fortunately a corpus of Mariette's assembled materials— pamphlets, manuscripts, salon and exhibition catalogues, including the salon criticism of Diderot
Denis Diderot
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent person during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie....

—came into the hands of Charles-Nicolas Cochin
Charles-Nicolas Cochin
Charles-Nicolas Cochin was a French engraver, designer, writer, and art critic. To distinguish him from his father of the same name, he is variously called Charles-Nicolas Cochin le Jeune , Charles-Nicolas Cochin le fils , or Charles-Nicolas Cochin II.-Early life:Cochin was born in Paris, the son of...

, an artist and guiding spirit of Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

, and, greatly augmented, was deposited in 1880 at the Bibliothèque Nationale

Not until 1851 were Mariette's notes and anecdotes entered in the Abecedario compiled by Philippe de Chennevières and Anatole de Montaiglon, in the six volumes of Abecedario de P.J. Mariette et autres notes inédites de cet amateur sur les arts et les artistes (Paris, 1851–60).

Mariette's circle of friends was large, broad enough almost to define the state of art connoisseurship in France during his time, beginning with the circle he met at the houses of the prodigious collection Pierre-Antoine Crozat, where besides artists like Antoine Watteau
Antoine Watteau
Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French painter whose brief career spurred the revival of interest in colour and movement...

 and the classicizing sculptor Edmé Bouchardon
Edmé Bouchardon
Edmé Bouchardon was a French sculptor, esteemed in his day as the greatest sculptor of his time and valued as a draughtsman as well.-Biography:...

, Mariette met the abbé de Maroulle and the comte de Caylus,, who helped sharpen his eye.

Mariette married Angélique-Catherine Doyen in 1724. He acquired a country house at Croissy, which he named "Le Colifichet" was ennobled during the reign of Louis XV, and honored with the Order of the Saint-Esprit
Order of the Holy Spirit
The Order of the Holy Spirit, also known as the Order of the Knights of the Holy Spirit, was an Order of Chivalry under the French Monarchy. It should not be confused with the Congregation of the Holy Ghost or with the Order of the Holy Ghost...


An exhibition at the Musée du Louvre in 1967 drew together materials to honour his memory, occasioning a rich catalogue and a vita
A biography is a detailed description or account of someone's life. More than a list of basic facts , biography also portrays the subject's experience of those events...

by the editor of The Burlington Magazine
The Burlington Magazine
The Burlington Magazine is a monthly academic journal that covers the fine and decorative arts. It is the longest running art journal in the English language and it is a charitable organisation since 1986. It was established in 1903 by a group of art historians and connoisseurs which included Roger...

; it provoked a resurgence of scholarly interest in the history of taste and the role of other Parisian taste-makers, such as the marchands-merciers
A marchand-mercier is a French term for a type of entrepreneur working outside the guild system of craftsmen but carefully constrained by the regulations of a corporation under rules codified in 1613.. The reduplicative term literally means a merchant of merchandise, but in the 18th century took...

, like Edme-François Gersaint
Edme-François Gersaint
Edme-François Gersaint was a Parisian marchand-mercier who was a central figure in the development of the art market and the luxury trades during the era of the Régence and the rule of the rococo style...

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