Allegory in Honor of Jean-Baptiste Colbert

Charles Errardabout 1672

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

This highly finished ink and wash drawing prepares the dedication plate for Giovanni Pietro Bellori's Le Vite dei pittori più eccellenti (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters), first published in 1672. Seated on an antique bas-relief and crowned with laurel, the winged figure may represent Fame or even Clio, the muse of history and presiding spirit for a book like Bellori's. She gestures to a coat of arms that features a writhing serpent and a shield decorated with the order of the Saint-Esprit. These are the arms of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), the most powerful minister at the court of Louis XIV. Published under Colbert's protection, Bellori's Vite helped cement the art historical lineage of the new brand of classicism advanced by the French Academy and endorsed by the French crown. Colbert had appointed Errard as the first director of the French Academy in Rome in 1666, and the artist likely collaborated with Jean-Baptiste Corneille, an early fellow of the Academy, on his thirty-eight illustrations to Bellori’s book. Of these designs, the dedication plate is by far the most richly detailed. Each feather on each wing and each fold in each piece of drapery is described with deft and graceful pen work. Delicately applied washes create a subtle bas-relief effect echoed in the dainty image-within-the image portraying an antique sacrifice at lower left. The warm tone of the sheet overall can be explained by the application of red chalk to the verso in the process of transferring the design from the scored sheet to the engraver’s copper plate.


  • Title: Allegory in Honor of Jean-Baptiste Colbert
  • Creator: Charles Errard, Jean-Baptiste Corneille
  • Date Created: about 1672
  • Location Created: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 17.4 × 13 cm (6 7/8 × 5 1/8 in.)
  • Type: Drawing
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Pen and brown ink with brown wash over black chalk (recto), incised for transfer; red chalk (verso)
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 2018.61
  • Culture: French
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Thierry
  • Creator Display Name: Charles Errard (French, 1606 - 1689) with Jean-Baptiste Corneille (French, 1649 - 1695)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

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