Lettre sur la sculpture … — Amsterdam 17691.200 €
Lettre sur la sculpture, à monsieur Théod. de Smet … — Amsterdam, Marc Michel Rey, 1769.
4to (261 x 210 mm). (2) leaves, 31 pp., 3 folding plates with engravings of Hemsterhuis; engraved vignette on title, page 1, and page 31, all signed F. Hemsterhuis or F. H. inv. et fecit and J. V. Schley sculp. Conteporary boards, rubbed along spine and egdes.
This is the only work of Hemsterhuis, which he seemingly had not bound by his binders Christiaan Micke or Thomas van Os – only one copy is known in a fine contemporary binding; see Storm van Leeuwen, F. Hemsterhuis‘ binders, in: The Book Collector, vol. 50 no. 2, London 2001. p. 203. – Stoddard no. 2.
Theodoor de Smeth (1710-1772) was an Amsterdam banker and art lover who had collected an excellent collection of ancient gems. Hemsterhuis first writing Lettre sur une pierre antique from 1762 describes a gem cut from an amethyst of the De Smeth collection, a gem which he was able to acquire on the advice and through the intermediation of Hemsterhuis from Lorenz Natter (1705-1763), and which is shown on the title page of this short first publication. Both collections can be seen in the Royal Coin Cabinet in Den Haag.
Like the publication of 1762, the present one about art in general and in a second part about sculpture – incorporating thoughts of Winckelmann, Addison (On genius), Hume, Home, Montesquieu – has the form of a letter to de Smeth, as does the third, Lettres sur les desirs from 1770. It is quite possible that Hemsterhuis did not initially think of a publication, since the work was already completed in November 1765; a decision to publish it took him four years.
„The Lettre sur la scultpure is in line with an esthetic paganism that extends in Germany from Winckelmann into the twentieth century, and it is partly in the context of the ‚tyranny of Greece of Germany‘ “ … two observations made in the Letter, – the tendency of the human mind to strive for a maximum of ideas in a minimum of time, and the blunting of our preception of beautiful objects by constant exposure to them – furnished the point of departure for Hemsterhuis next publication, the Lettre sur les désirs ... The maximum-minimum formula became a leitmotiv of Hemsterhuis thought …“ (Moenkemeyer, F. H., Boston 1975, p. 32ff.)