Jules Labarte

Jules Labarte

The nineteenth-century publications of Jules Labarte (1797–1880) are not only fundamental for the study of the Byzantine minor arts, which he calls “industrial arts,” but they also document the growing interest in the subject as well as the evolution of art and archaeological illustration in the nineteenth century.

As an aspiring lawyer, Labarte married the daughter of wealthy collector Louis-Fidel Debruge-Dumenil (1788–1838). By the time of Debruge-Dumenil’s death, the collection contained more than 15,000 items representing the history of art, including a very large number of Byzantine, western medieval, and Renaissance objects. The heirs sold some of the collection but tasked Labarte with selecting, classifying, and identifying the remaining objects, a job he did with great meticulousness. To educate himself, he visited libraries, museums, and private collections throughout Europe, attended lectures and meetings of various societies, and researched the history of various media extensively.

For the catalog, which was published in 1847, Labarte wrote an introduction that was more than 400 pages and that included histories of sculpture, painting, calligraphy, engraving, enamels, metalwork, ceramics, glass, jewelry, locks, clocks, furniture, and liturgical equipment. Woodcut illustrations were interspersed throughout the text. Although not as luxuriously illustrated or elaborately published as other catalogs, Labarte’s work was well-received, and the erudite introduction became one of the fundamental works on the subject of the minor arts.

 
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