Jean Baptiste Louis Georges Seroux d'Agincourt (1730-1814)

Jean Baptiste Louis Georges Seroux d'Agincourt

* 5.4.1730 in Beauvais, † 24.9.1814 in Rome
Scholar; Art critic; Art collector; General tax collector / Fermier Général (1764-1778)

Seroux d’Agincourt’s family derived from low but financially secured gentry. In Paris he met leading artists, such as Boucher and Fragonard, and art lovers of his time (de Vence, Caylus) in the Salon of Madame Geoffrin. He travelled through France (1776) and England (1777), where he studied Gothic art alongside H. Walpole; on his return he travelled through Belgium, Holland and Germany. His Grand Tour through Italy (1778) led him to Rome, where he settled (1779). There he presumably began his monumental work Historie d l’Art in 1780. Seroux d’Agincourt remained a respected scholar until he passed away in 1814 in Rome. He was befriended with A. Kauffmann, Cardinal de Bernis or Chevalier d’Azara.


Biographical Links
The Dictionary of Art Historians

Seroux d'Agincourt’s monumental Histoire de l'Art is one of the earliest art historical works to provide a general overview, and at the same time it was the first portrait of medieval art history. It was Seroux d'Agincourt’s aim to visualize art history solely through monuments, thus following in the footsteps of Winckelmann and his tradition. During his ambitious project he employed several skilled draughtsmen and engravers (amongst whom was his closest colleague G. G. Macchiavelli), as well as architects to document the monuments, which he partly drew himself. The printing of his work was postponed due to the French Revolution. In 1810-1823 Léon Dufourny organized their publication in Paris; the last volumes being published posthumously.
Seroux d’Agincourt’s main contribution consists of the survey and compilation of a large number of new publications on the entire art genres, as well as their visual systematization in large format illustrated books, in which his topographic emphasis lay on Italy. Seroux d’Agincourt’s understanding of art is based on the concept of a universal art history. Like Vasari and Winckelmann before him, he regarded art history as an advancing process, thus the time of prosperity is followed by downfall, and finally emerges into the renewal of art in the 15th and 16th century. In contrast to antiquarian concepts Seroux d’Agincourt refused to date works of art simply on the basis of iconography, thus he employed a stylistic approach to objects. (S.H. translated by A.B.)

Jean Baptiste Louis Georges Seroux d'Agincourt - digital

Seroux d'Agincourt, Jean Baptiste Louis Georges
Recueil de fragmens de sculpture antique en terre cuite
Paris, 1814

Seroux d'Agincourt, Jean Baptiste Louis Georges
Histoire de l'art par les monumens, depuis sa décadence au IVe siècle jusqu'à son renouvellement au XVIe

Further Reading

Editorial staff

Sources for the History of Art History - digital