Jérôme Richard (d. ca. 1790), Description historique et critique de l’Italie (1761/1766)

Jérôme Richard is not a well-known figure today, but his book (Description historique et critique de l’Italie) allows us to glean that he was a learned man, greatly interested in providing in-depth knowledge about Italy. Almost like a handbook on Italy, the book discusses both ancient and modern Italy while giving practical information such as the route from France. Richard even includes the chronology of the Roman emperors to provide exact historical information in volume 1, and volume 3 begins with a chronology of the different painting schools of Italy. At the Camposanto, it seems that Buffalmacco’s “Triumph of Death” impressed him most. He describes in detail the three coffins and the three noblemen looking at the coffins. The effect of the holy earth on corpses is not stated, as is the case with many other travel accounts from the early and mid-eighteenth century. / DJ

Description_historique_et_critique_de_l (excerpt)

Source: Jérôme Richard, Description Historique Et Critique De L’italie, Ou Nouveaux Mémoires Sur L”Etat Actuel De Son Gouvernement, Des Sciences, Des Arts, Du Commerce, De La Population Et De L’histoire Naturelle, 5 vols. (Dijon/Paris: Desventes-Lambert, 1766), 3:261-262.

Transcription

Le campo santo, ou cimetiere général, est un très-grand édifice public ou cloître bâti en quarré long & environné de portiques: il est entierement de marbre à l’intérieur & e à l’extérieur: on y voit quelques tombeaux antiques, d’autres que l’on peut appeller modernes, quoiqu’ils soient déjà très-anciens et traités de bon goût. Le cloître à l’intérieur est tout couvert de peintures fort anciennes, qui ont été faites peu de temps après la construction, qui est de la même date que l’église, la tour & e le baptistere. On y voit l’histoire de Job en six tableaux, par le Giotto. Le jugement dernier, par Orcagna. L’histoire de saint Rainier, par Simon Memmi. A côté du tableau du jugement universel, est représenté la mort de l’homme et l’état où tombent les cadavres: on voit trois tombeaux ouverts; dans l’un est un corps qui commence à se corrompre; dans l’autre il est presque entierement corrompu et il commence à se dépouiller de ses chairs; dans le troisiéme il n’y a plus que des os secs. Plusieurs cavaliers qui paroissent d’un rang distingué, examinent ces cadavres; l’un d’eux se bouche le nez; on voit qu’ils raisonnent sur l’effet de la terre de ce cimetiere, que l’on dit avoir été apportée de Jérusalem et avoir servi à lester quarante ou cinquante galeres des Pisans: dévotion singuliere, mais bien dans le goût du douziéme siécle. De toutes les puissances maritimes de ce temps-là, les Pisans sont les seuls qui ayent imaginé de transporter chez eux une partie du sol des lieux saints.

Translation

The Campo Santo, or general cemetery, is a very large public building, or cloister, built in a long quadrangle and surrounded by porticoes: it is made entirely of marble inside and outside. We see some ancient tombs along with others which may be called modern, although they are already very old and made in good taste. The cloister inside is entirely covered with very old paintings, which were done shortly after the construction, which is of the same date as the church, tower and baptistery. We see six paintings of the story of Job by Giotto, the Last Judgment by Orcagna, the Story of Saint Rainier by Simon Memmi. Next to the painting of universal judgment, the death of man and the state of their corpses is represented: we see three open graves; in one is a body that is beginning to corrupt; in the other the body is almost completely corrupted and begins to shed its flesh; in the third there are only dry bones. Several horsemen, who appear to be of distinguished rank, examine these corpses; one of them is covering his nose. We see that the scene is based on the effect of this cemetary’s earth, which is said to have been brought from Jerusalem and to have been used to ballast forty or fifty galleys of the Pisans; a singular devotion, but very much in the taste of the twelfth century. Of all the maritime powers of that time, the Pisans are the only ones who imagined transporting soil from holy places to their own country.