The Eye-as-Legend

Print Pedagogies in the Seventeenth Century

  • Caroline Fowler (Autor/in)


René Descartes is famous for his epistemological search for ‘clear and distinct’ ideas. As Descartes observed the relationship between his own perception and the objects of the world, printed drawing manuals also confronted the connection between a subject’s perception and objects. Driven by the medium of print, seventeenth-century artistic pedagogical methods paralleled Descartes’s own pursuit after transparency. Comparing two versions of an important printed drawing manual, Jean Cousin’s L’art de portraiture, one version from 1595 and the other from 1685, this article demonstrates how print publishers developed pedagogical methods that, like Descartes’s investigation, conveyed information clearly and distinctly. Drawing pedagogies moved away from an interweaving of Platonic solids and a sensual investigation of the world to a utilization of geometry that allowed students to visibly and immediately grasp the perceptual relation between objects and bodies.