Baroque engraving of allegorical figures representing various forms of human inquiry grouped around a seated elder and a young man whom he presumably is instructing. The title, which translates as "Each man is led by his own taste," is a line from The Eclogues, a poem by Virgil. In the distance are Roman ruins, alluding to the importance of the study of Antiquity to a well-educated individual. Surrounding the elder and the youth are figures holding an armillary (representing astronomy), a globe (geography), an open Bible (religion), and a stack of books with one labeled "Homer" (classic literature). The symbolism of the other figures is less obvious to contemporary eyes though relate to education – a woman holding a book and quill pen, one wearing a crown and holding a scroll depicting rows of shields and another with a linear diagram, a winged female figure holding a book with a bearded man with a scepter reclining in her lap, and two figures with exotic headdresses standing behind the man and youth.
The engraving is after a work by Picart dated 1716. It was engraved by one of Picart’s pupils, Jacob Folkema, as the frontispiece for Volume 1 of an encyclopedic work published in Amsterdam in various editions between at least 1723 and 1752, La Science des Personnes de Cour, d’Epée et de Robe [The Science of People of Court, of the Sword and of the Cloth]. Volume 1 contains an introduction to the work as a whole and sections on religions of the world and astronomy.
Bernard Picart was a painter, draftsman and engraver. He was part of a French family of artists that includes his father, the engraver and print publisher Etienne Picart, who taught him engraving. Bernard Picart also studied at the Académie Royale and with Benoît Audran and Sébastien Leclerc. By 1710 Picart was living in the Netherlands, where he remained until his death. He is best known today for his comprehensive and innovative work on world religions, Cérémonies et Coutumes Religieuses de Tous les Peuples du Monde (1723-1743), comprised of 10 volumes of text and engravings.
Jacob Folkema, was a Dutch printmaker and draftsman. He was taught by his father Johannes Folkema, a goldsmith, and by the engraver Bernard Picart. His output consists mostly of drawings and etchings: portraits, topographical views, frontispieces, book illustrations and vignettes. Folkema produced a set of illustrations to Cervantes after his own drawings, but usually engraved works by other artists, including Old Master works published as part of Dresden Gallery.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear.
"Bernard Picart." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Online at Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/06/0673/T067313.asp (12 January 2010).
"Jacob Folkema." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Online at Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/02/0287/T028747.asp (12 January 2010).