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Müntz, Eugène

Date born: June 11, 1845

Place born: Saulz-sous-Forêt, Alsace, France

Date died: October 30, 1902

Place died: Paris, France

Documentary art historian of Roman, early Christian, and Italian Renaissance art. Müntz went to Paris in 1857 to study law, but after brief study became interested in art, and devoted the rest of his life to art-historical research. His early contributation to the journal Revue Alsacienne brought him notoriety. In 1875, he studied at the newly-founded École Française in Rome (founded by Albert Dumont), among fellow students such as father Louis Duchesne (1843-1922), later a director of the school. Making a study of the manuscripts at the Vatican Archives and Library, Müntz became fascinated with the art history of Italy. His first monograph, Les Arts à la cour des papes began appearing in 1875. It profoundly proved the role of the popes in the creation of the Italian Renaissance. He was appointed principal librarian and keeper of the archives and collections at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1876. Between Les Arts à la cour des papes Müntz issued Precurseurs de la Renaissance in 1881 and Raphael. Müntz's writing entered an English-language readership with a translation of his Raphael book the following year. Les Historiens et les critiques de Raphael published in 1884, an early historiography, in which Müntz defended his contemporary art historians against the emerging connoisseurship trend of Giovanni Morelli. He succeeded Hippolyte Taine as the chair of aesthetics in 1885, whose postitivism he had methodologically opposed (through 1892). His popular reputation as an art historian in France was made with another multi-volume work, Histoire de l'art en Italie pendant la Renaissance, beginning with Les Primitifs in 1888. The young Wilhelm Vöge met Müntz in 1893 while researching his book on sculpture. Müntz published extensively on topics ranging from Roman art to contemporary French art, however he specialized in Florentine painters such as Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. As faculty at the Sorbonne, his students include Louis Dimier. Müntz wrote several books and articles about painters, as well as collectors, including the collections of the Medici family and the Avignon Papacy. By his death in 1902, Müntz had written over 200 scholarly art-historical publications.

Müntz belongs to the school of art historians that includes Carl Justi and Max Dvořák who focused on the study of art in a cultural context in the spirit of Jacob Burckhardt, opposing positivism of Taine. Together with Gaetano Milanesi, he pioneered the modern (documentary) study of Italian art history. His knowledge of original documents, memoranda, inventories, and contracts in Italian archvies resulted in one of the first serious histories of Italian art (Gillet). The bulk of his publishing was popular and his views of artists overall was not original, the way his contemporary, John Addington Symonds was. Müntz viewed Rome center of artistic creation in the Renaissance, a view which hampered his apprecation of Venice and Siena.

Home Country: France

Sources: Gillet, Louis. "Eugène Müntz." Catholic Encylcopedia; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 91 cited, 92; 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. 146 mentioned; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 145-6; The Dictonary of Art.

Bibliography: Les Arts à la cour des papes aux XVe et XVIe siècle. 4 vols. Paris: Ernest Leroux, éditeur, 1875-1898; Raphaël, biographie critique. Paris: H. Laurens, [1881], English: Raphael: His Life, Works and Time. London: Chapman & Hall, 1882; Donatello. Paris: Librairie de l'art, 1885;L'Italie, les primitifs. 1888; Histoire de l'art pendant la Renaissance. Paris: Hachette, vol. 1 Les Primitifs, 1888, 2, L'Age d'Or, 1891, 3, La Fin de la Renaissance, 1892;. Léonardo da Vinci: l'artiste, le penseur, le savant. Paris: Hachette, 1899, English: Leonardo da Vinci: Artist, Thinker, Man of Science. 2 vols. London: Heinnemann, 1898; edited., Les Artistes célèbres. 57 vols. Paris: Librairie de l'art, 1886-1906.

Subject's name: Eugène Müntz