A Design for a Frontispiece: ‘Viridarium sacrae ac profanae eruditionis’

Grégoire Huretabout 1632

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

This refined red chalk drawing is a preparatory design for the frontispiece of Viridarium sacrae ac profanae eruditionis [Garden of Sacred and Profane Knowledge] (1632), a posthumously-published collection of writings by the Jesuit Francisco de Mendoça (1580-1626). Epitomizing Grégoire Huret's erudition and skill, the frontispiece is designed as a decorative frame (its center left blank for the title) introducing the themes of Mendoça's text. The top register shows a garden, referring to the "Garden of Knowledge," guarded by an angel armed with a flaming sword. Huret, who was fascinated by the science of perspective, used strong diagonals and decreasing scale to suggest the remote reaches of the garden. Dampened red chalk deepens the illusion of space and volume, both in the landscape and in the details of the figures. The center of the design is flanked by the personifications of Sacred and Profane Knowledge, who together raise a banderole. Profane Knowledge, at left, carries a cornucopia over her shoulder, while Sacred Knowledge wears a crown and holds a book. In the lowest section, set between two landscape cartouches, appears a portrait of Mendoça, his quill poised as if mid-sentence.
The drawing is incised for transfer, though the final print diverges from its design in various details - most notably in the addition of an architectural framework and a series of inscriptions that clarify the iconography. The more restrained arrangement of the engraving suppresses some of the drawing's more charming details; gone are the cobweb above Profane Knowledge, the angel's swooping pose, the playful interactions between figure and frame that make the drawing appear fresh and free. Such marked differences between drawing and print suggest that there may have been an intermediate design stage between the two. The drawing, hence, may represent a comparatively early phase of Huret's process, but it nevertheless demonstrates the extraordinary care he took to work up every corner of the composition.


  • Title: A Design for a Frontispiece: ‘Viridarium sacrae ac profanae eruditionis’
  • Creator: Grégoire Huret
  • Date Created: about 1632
  • Location Created: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 31.7 × 21.2 cm (12 1/2 × 8 3/8 in.)
  • Type: Drawing
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Red chalk and wash, incised for transfer, with red chalk framing lines
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 2020.23
  • Culture: French
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Disegno Group
  • Creator Display Name: Grégoire Huret (French, 1606 - 1670)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

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