Caylus [Tubières de Grimoard de Pestels de Lévis], Anne-Claude-Philippe de, Comte
Date born: 1692
Place born: Paris, France
Date died: 1765
Place died: Paris, France
French antiquarian; early classifier of ancient works by subject matter. Caylus was born to an old noble family and was exposed to the privileges that aristocratic life offered. He traveled as a boy with the French ambassador to Constantinople and later to Italy and Asia Minor. He spent time in the military as a successful officer, but at the death of Louis XIV in 1715, he resigned his commission to devote himself to art. In 1716, he visited the perilous ancient sites of Smyrna, Ephesos, Colophon and Troad, seldom visited by Europeans. Returning to Paris permanently in 1719, he dabbled in engraving, and through the wealthy collector Pierre Crozat (1661-1740), met the painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Caylus was exceedingly close to the artist, collecting the infamous "morceaux," (clandestine, perhaps erotic drawings of Watteau, now destroyed), and engaging in generally dissipate activities with the artist and others. Caylus' own renderings included the Roman coins and gems in the royal collection. He was admitted to the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1731. His graphic work continued to document the major ancient monuments in France. Caylus assisted the careers of Hubert Robert (1733-1808) and Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809) by advising their ancient landscapes. Between 1744 and 1765, Caylus lectured at the Académie des inscriptions on ancient art techniques and processes. He also used this position to advocate a return to history painting. Using Pliny's account of encaustic painting, Caylus rediscovered the process, which Vien demonstrated by producing a picture. In 1752, Caylus' Recueil d'antiquités égyptiennes, étruscanes, grecques et romaines, a seven-volume work began to appear. The Recueil addressed the tastes and styles of Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Etruscans in a meaningful way, and like Johann Joachim Winckelmann (q.v.) made use of minor objects, not simply the "great works of ancient art" to create his art history. He helped fund the production Les Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce, 1758, by Julien-David Le Roy (q.v.), the first book using serious measurements on Greek architecture. Caylus' power in the Academy attracted a bitter enmity with the encyclopedist Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and Diderot's followers. Diderot, the Baron Friedrich Melchior von Grimm (1723-1807), Jean-François Marmontel (1723-1799) and Charles-Nicolas Cochin the Younger (1715-1790) engaged in a bitter attack (well before Diderot's Salon Criticism) portraying Caylus as a privileged hack and a dictator of taste. They argued vigorously against Caylus' theories on the encaustic process (history vindicated Caylus). A long illness gradually took him in 1765, with Mariette at his side.
Comte de Caylus' fame rests with his emphasis on the archaeological object itself as the basis for understanding the work. He developed a historical approach to the periods and styles of the objects he wrote about, laying a basis for modern art histories. His works were translated into English and German shortly after their appearances in French. Like many informed classicists of his age, (including Winckelmann, etc.), he never made a trip to mainland Greece.
Home Country: France
Sources: Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 60 mentioned; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 95-98; "Caylus, Anne Claude Philippe, Comte de." Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 261-2; Goncourt, Edmond de, and Goncourt, Jules de. Portraits intimes du XVIIIe siècle: études nouvelles d'après les lettres autographes et les documents inédits. Paris: E. Dentu, 1857, pp. 10-42; Rice, Danielle. "Caylus, Comte de." Dictionary of Art.
Bibliography: [complete works:] Oeuvres badines complettes, du comte de Caylus. 12 vols. Amsterdam and Paris: Visse, 1787; Recueil d'antiquités égyptiennes, étruscanes, grecques et romaines. 7 vols. Paris: Desaint & Saillant,1752-67; and Majault, Michel Joseph. Mémoire sur la peinture a l'encaustique et sur la peinture a la cire. Paris: Pissot, 1755, English, Encaustic: or, Count Caylus's method of painting in the manner of the ancients. Müntz, Jean-Henri, trans. London: Printed for the author, 1760; Nouveaux sujets de peintre et de sculpture. Paris: Duchesne, 1755; Vie d’Antoine Watteau. Académie de peinture & de sculpture, le 3 février, 1748. Paris, l'Académie de peinture & de sculpture, 1748, pp. -25.