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References are given in the DPV edition.

[253] is noted (DPV XIV 253)

Grimm's interventions, which do not appear in DPV, are noted in italics.


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Diderot, Denis (1713-1784), , mis en ligne le 11/04/2022, URL :


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176. The High Priest Corésus immolates himself to save Callirhoé.

It is impossible for me, my friend, to talk to you about this painting ; you know that it was no longer at the Salon1, when the general sensation it made2, called me there. It's your business to report on it; we'll talk about it together; it will be all the better for perhaps discovering why, after an initial tribute of praise paid to the artist, after the first exclamations, the public seemed to go cold. Any composition whose success is not sustained3 lacks real merit. But to fill out this Fragonard article, I'll share with you a rather strange vision with which I was tormented the night after a day in which I'd spent the morning looking at paintings and the evening reading some Dialogues of Plato.

Plato's lair.

It seemed to me that I was enclosed in the place called the lair of this philosopher4. It was a long, dark cavern. There I sat among [254] a multitude of men, women and children. We all had our hands and feet chained and our heads so tightly gripped between wooden splints5 that it was impossible for us to turn them. But what astonished me was that most of them drank, laughed, sang, without seeming to be embarrassed by their chains, and that you would have said, to see them, that this was their natural state; it even seemed to me that those who made any effort to recover the freedom of their feet, hands and heads were looked upon with an evil eye ; that they were called odious names, that they were shunned as if infected with a contagious disease, and that when disaster struck the cave, they were always blamed for it. Equipped as I've just told you, we all had our backs turned to the entrance to this dwelling, and could only look at the back, which was lined with an immense canvas6.

Behind us were kings, ministers7, priests, doctors8, apostles, prophets, theologians, politicians, rascals, charlatans, makers of illusions9 and the whole troop of merchants of hopes and fears10. Each of them had a supply of small transparent and colored figures peculiar to his condition, and all these figures were so well made, so well painted, in such great numbers and so varied, that there were enough to supply the representation of all the comic, tragic and burlesque scenes of life.

These charlatans, as I next saw, placed between us and the entrance to the cavern, had behind them a large lamp suspended, in the light of which they exposed their little figures whose shadows carried over our heads and growing larger as they went would come to rest on the canvas stretched at the back of the cavern and form scenes there, but scenes so natural, so real, that we took them for real, and [255] sometimes laughed out loud at them, sometimes cried our eyes out at them, which will seem all the less strange to you, as there were other subordinate rascals behind the canvas, in the pay of the former, who lent these shadows the accents, the speeches, the real voices of their roles.

Despite the prestige11 of this primer, there were a few of us in the crowd who suspected12, who occasionally shook their chains and had the best urge to get rid of their splints and turn their heads ; but instantly one or other of the charlatans we had at our backs would start shouting in a loud, terrible voice: Don't turn your head! Woe betide anyone who shakes his chain! I'll tell you another time what happened to those who disregarded the advice of the voice, the perils they ran into, the persecutions they had to suffer; that's for when we do philosophy. Now that we're talking about paintings, I'd rather describe some of the ones I saw on the big canvas; I swear they were as good as the best in the Salon. On this canvas, everything seemed disjointed at first13; we wept, we laughed, we played, we drank, we sang, we bit our fists, we tore our hair, we caressed each other, we whipped each other ; Just as one was drowning, another was being hanged, a third lifted up on a pedestal; but in the long run, everything came together, became clearer and more understandable. Here's what I saw happen there at different intervals, which I'll bring together for the sake of brevity.

First14 it was a young man, his long priestly garments15 in disarray, his hand armed with a thyrse16, his brow crowned with ivy, pouring streams of wine from a great antique vase into wide, deep goblets which he carried to the mouths of some haggard-eyed [256] and dishevelled-headed women. He would get drunk with them, they would get drunk with him, and when they were drunk, they would get up and run through the streets uttering mixed cries of fury and joy. The people, struck by these cries, would shut themselves away in their houses, fearing to stand in their way; they could tear to pieces any daredevil they met, and I saw that they sometimes did. Well, my friend, what do you say?

Grimm. I say here are two rather nice paintings, roughly of the same kind17.

Diderot. Here's a third of a different kind. The young priest who led these furies was of the handsomest figure ; I noticed him, and it seemed to me, in the course of my dream, that plunged into a drunkenness more dangerous than that of wine, he addressed himself with the most passionate and tender face, gesture and speeches to a young girl whose knees he vainly kissed and who refused to hear him18.

Grimm. This one19, for having only two figures, wouldn't be any easier to make.

Diderot. Especially if they had to be given the strong expression and unusual character they had on the cave canvas.


While this priest was uselessly soliciting the inflexible youth, all of a sudden I heard shouts, laughter, howls from the depths of the dwellings, and saw fathers, mothers, wives, daughters, children coming out. Fathers rushed at their daughters, who had lost all sense of modesty, mothers at their sons, who ignored them20, children of different sexes mixed together, confused, rolling on the ground ; it was a spectacle of extravagant joy, of unbridled license, of inconceivable [257] drunkenness and fury. Ah, if I were a painter! I still have all those faces in my mind.

Grimm. I know a little about our artists, and I swear there isn't one in a state to sketch21 this painting.

Diderot. In the midst of this tumult, some old men whom the epidemic had spared, their eyes bathed in tears, prostrate in a temple struck the earth with their foreheads, kissed the god's altars in the most suppliant manner, and I hear very distinctly the god or perhaps the subaltern rascal who was behind the canvas, saying: Let her die, or let another die for her.

Grimm. But, my friend, of the train you dream of, do you know that one of your dreams would be enough for an entire gallery?

Diderot. Wait, wait, you're not there. I was in a state of extreme impatience to find out what would be the outcome of this fateful oracle, when the temple opened up to my eyes again22. The pavement was covered with a large red carpet edged with a wide gold fringe; this rich carpet and the fringe fell below a long step that reigned all along the façade. To the right, near this step, was one of those great vessels23 of sacrifice destined to receive the blood of victims. On either side of the part of the temple I was discovering, two large columns of transparent white marble seemed to be reaching for the vault. To the right, at the foot of the foremost column, a black marble urn had been placed, partly covered with the cloths appropriate to bloody ceremonies. On the other side of the same column was a candelabra24 of the noblest form; it was so high, that it hardly reached the [258] capital of the column. In the gap between the two columns on the other side was a large triangular altar or tripod, on which the sacred fire was lit. I could see the reddish glow of the blazing braziers, and the smoke of the incense hid part of the inner column from my view. Here was the scene of one of the most terrible and touching representations that had been performed on the canvas of the cavern during my vision.

Grimm. But, tell me, my friend, have you entrusted your dream to no one?

Diderot. No. Why are you asking me this question?

Grimm. It's because the temple you've just described is exactly the scene in Fragonard's painting.


Diderot. It could be. I'd heard so much about this painting in previous days, that having to make a temple in my dream, I would have made his25. Be that as it may, as my eyes wandered over this temple and the preparations26 that foreshadowed I know not what my heart was oppressed by, I saw a young acolyte27 dressed in white arrive alone; he looked sad. He went to crouch at the foot of the candelabra and rested his arms on the protruding base of the inner column. A priest followed. This priest had his arms crossed over his chest, his head quite bowed, he seemed absorbed28 in pain and deepest reflection; he advanced with slow steps. I waited for him to raise his head; he did so, turning his eyes skyward and uttering the most painful exclamation, which I myself accompanied by a cry when I recognized this priest. It was the same one I'd seen a few moments earlier pressing the inflexible young woman with such urgency and so little success; he was also dressed in white; still handsome, but grief had made a deep impression on his face. His forehead was crowned with ivy, and in his right hand he held the sacred knife. He went to stand [259]at some distance from the young acolyte who had preceded him. There came a second acolyte, dressed in white, who stopped behind him.

I next saw a young girl enter; she was similarly dressed in white, a crown of roses girdling her head. The pallor of death covered her face, her trembling knees buckled beneath her; scarcely did she have the strength to reach the feet of the one she was adored by, for it was she who had so proudly disdained his tenderness and wishes. Though all was silent29, one had only to look at each other and recall the words of the oracle, to understand that this was the victim and he was to be the sacrificer. When she was close to the high priest, her unhappy lover - ah! a hundred times more unhappy than she - her strength left her altogether, and she fell backwards onto the bed, or the very place where she was to receive the mortal blow. Her face was turned towards heaven, her eyes were closed, her two arms, which life seemed to have already left, hung at her sides, the back of her head almost touched the clothes of the high priest her sacrificer and lover; the rest of her body was stretched out, only the acolyte, who had stopped behind the high priest, held it up a little.

While the unfortunate destiny of men and the cruelty of the gods or their ministers, for the gods are nothing, occupied me and I wiped a few tears that had escaped from my eyes, a third acolyte had entered, dressed in white like the others and his forehead crowned with roses. How handsome this young acolyte was! I don't know if it was his modesty, his youth, his gentleness, his nobility that interested me, but he seemed to outshine the high priest himself. He had crouched down some distance from the fainting victim, and his tender eyes were fixed on her. A fourth acolyte30, also in white garb, came to stand beside the one supporting the victim, put one knee on the ground, and on his other knee placed a large basin which he took by the edges, as if to present it to the blood that was about to flow. This basin, the place of this acolyte and his [260] action all pointed too much to the cruel function. However, many other people31 had rushed into the temple. Men, born compassionate, seek in cruel spectacles the exercise of this quality32.

I distinguished towards the back, close to the inner column on the left side, two elderly priests, standing and remarkable for the irregular garment with which their heads were wrapped, as for the severity of their character and the gravity of their bearing.

Almost to the outside, against the front column on the same side, was a lone woman; a little further on and further out, another woman, her back leaning against a bollard, with a young naked child on her lap. The beauty of this child, and perhaps even more so the singular effect of the light that illuminated him and his mother, fixed them in my memory. Beyond these women, but inside the temple, two other spectators. In front of these spectators, precisely between the two columns, opposite the altar and its blazing brazier, an old man whose character and grey hair struck me. I have no doubt that the more remote space was full of people, but from the place I occupied in my dream and in the cavern, I could see nothing more.


Corésus et Callirhoé - Fragonard
Corésus et Callirhoé - Fragonard

Grimm. It's that there was nothing more to see, that these are all the characters in Fragonard's painting; and that they found themselves in your dream placed just as they were on his canvas.

Diderot. If that is, oh the beautiful painting Fragonard has done! But listen to the rest. The sky was shining with the purest clarity; the sun seemed to be rushing all the mass of its light into the temple and delighting in gathering it over the victim, when the vaults darkened with thick darkness which spreading over our heads and mingling with the air, with the light, produced a sudden [261]horror. Through this darkness I saw an infernal genius hovering, I saw him: haggard eyes protruded from his head; he held a dagger in one hand, with the other he shook a burning torch; he screamed. He was Despair, and Love, the dreaded Love, was carried on his back. Instantly the high priest draws the sacred knife, he raises his arm; I think he's going to strike the victim with it, that he's going to thrust it into the bosom of the one who has scorned him and whom Heaven has delivered to him; not at all, he strikes himself with it33. A general scream pierces and tears the air. I see death and its symptoms wandering over the cheeks, over the forehead of the tender and generous unfortunate; his knees fail, his head falls back, one of his arms is hanging down, the hand whose knife he seized still holds it pressed into his heart. All eyes focus on him, or fear to do so; everything is a sign of sorrow and fear. The acolyte at the foot of the candelabra has his mouth half-open, and looks on in terror; the one supporting the victim turns his head and looks on in terror; the one holding the fatal basin raises his frightened eyes; the face and outstretched arms of the one who seemed so beautiful to me show all his pain and terror; these two elderly priests, whose cruel gazes must so often have feasted on the vapor of the blood they have sprinkled on the altars, cannot help but feel pain, commiseration and dread; they pity the unfortunate man, they suffer, they are frightened; this lone woman leaning against one of the columns, seized with horror and dread, suddenly turns around; and this other woman, who had her back against a bollard, has fallen backwards, one of her hands has gone to her eyes, and her other arm seems to be pushing this frightening spectacle away from her; surprise and fright are painted on the faces of the spectators far away from her; but nothing matches the dismay and pain of the grey-haired old man, his hair raised on his forehead, I think I can still see him, the light of the blazing brazier illuminating him, and his arms stretched out over the altar: I see his eyes, I see his mouth, I see him lunge, I hear his cries, they wake me, the canvas folds and the cavern disappears. [262]

Grimm. Here is Fragonard's painting, here it is with full effect.

Diderot. In truth?

Grimm. It's the same temple, the same order, the same characters, the same action, the same characters, the same general interest, the same qualities, the same flaws. In the cave, you saw only the simulacra of beings, and Fragonard on his canvas would have shown you only the simulacra. It's a beautiful dream you've had, it's a beautiful dream he's painted. When you lose sight of your painting for a moment, you always fear that his canvas will fold up like yours, and that those interesting and sublime34 ghosts will have vanished like those of the night. If you had seen his painting, you would have been struck by the same magic of light and the way in which darkness merged with it, by the gloom that this mixture carried in every point of his composition; you would have felt the same commiseration, the same dread ; you would have seen the mass of this light, strong at first, degrade with surprising speed and art; you would have noticed the echoes35 playing superiorly between the figures. That old man whose piercing cries awakened you, he was there in the same place and as you saw him, and the two women and the young child, all dressed, lit, frightened as you said. It's the same elderly priests with their broad, tall, picturesque head drapery, the same acolytes with their white, priestly vestments, spread precisely over his canvas as they are over yours. The one you found so handsome, he was handsome in the painting as in your dream, receiving the light through his back, consequently having all his anterior parts in half-tone or shadow, a painting effect easier to dream than to produce, and which had robbed him of neither his nobility nor his expression.

Diderot. What you're telling me would almost make me believe that I, who [263] don't believe in it during the day36, am in commerce with it at night. But the gruesome moment of my dream, the one where the sacrificer thrusts the dagger into his breast, is therefore the one that Fragonard has chosen37 ?

Grimm. Certainly. We only observed in the painting that the high priest's clothes were a little too much like a woman's.


Diderot. Wait... But it's just like in my dream.

Grimm. That these young acolytes, as noble, as charming as they were, were of an indecisive sex, species of hermaphrodites.

Diderot. It's still just like in my dream.

Grimm. That the victim, well reclined, well fallen, was perhaps a little too tightly squeezed from below by his clothes.


Diderot. I noticed it in my dream too; but I gave her credit for being decent, even in that moment.

Grimm. That her head weak of color, unexpressive, without hues, without passages38, was rather that of a slumbering woman than a fainting one.

Diderot. I dreamt her with these flaws.

Grimm. For the woman holding the child in her lap, we found her superiorly painted and fitted, and the escaped ray of light illuminating her, to make illusion; the reflection of the light on the anterior column, of the last truth; the candelabra, of the most beautiful form and doing gold well. It took figures as vigorously colored as Fragonard's to support themselves above this red carpet edged with gold fringe. The heads of the old men seemed to us to be made of mood and well marking surprise and fright; the geniuses well furious, well aerial, and the [264] black vapor they brought with them well scattered and adding a terrible astonishment to the scene; the masses of shadow raising in the strongest and most piquant way the dazzling splendor of the clear ones. And then a unique interest. No matter which side of the stage you looked, you'd find fear in every character: it sprang from the high priest, it spread and grew through the two geniuses, through the obscure vapor that accompanied them, through the dark glow of the braziers. It was impossible to deny one's soul to such a repeated impression. It was as in popular riots, where the passion of the many seizes us even before the motive is known. But in addition to the fear that at the first sign of the cross all these beautiful simulacra would disappear, there are judges of severe taste who thought they sensed something theatrical in the whole composition that displeased them. Whatever they say, believe you've had a beautiful dream and Fragonard a beautiful painting. It has all the magic, all the intelligence and all the machine39 picturesque40. The ideal part is sublime in this artist, who lacks only a truer color and a technical perfection, which time and experience can give him.

So far, my dear Philosopher, I've let you say and spoken as you pleased. You have done well to stop at this painting by Fragonard, which has principally fixed the public's attention, less still by its own merit than perhaps by the need we have to find a successor to Carle Vanloo and Deshays41. When one thinks of this crowd of young people returning from Rome42 and approved by the Academy43, without giving the slightest hope, we can't augur well for the glory of the French School, which is already quite disparaged. We only have one promising Fragonard against this crowd of Briard, Brenet, Lépicié, Armand, Taraval, who will certainly never do anything. I don't think Fragonard's painting is without merit, far from it; but we'll have to wait for the next Salon to see what this artist will become. It wouldn't be the first time we've seen a painter, newly arrived from Rome44 and with his head full of the riches of Italy, start out brilliantly enough, and then fade and fade from Salon to Salon. What gives me some doubt about Fragonard's genius is that, when I compare the effect of his painting with the pathos of his subject, I don't think he achieves it. If the victim seems to you to be asleep rather than unconscious, the priest seems to me to be cold and characterless: his sex is as indecisive as that of his acolytes; we don't know whether he's male or female, and the fault lies not only with his clothes, but with his head and his whole body. You've done a very ingenious job of pointing out what gives all these figures the air of ghosts and spectres rather than real characters: after all, all that beautiful dream you've just told me about, you had at the Salon, contemplating Fragonard's painting, and most of the time, if I remember correctly, I had the pleasure of sitting next to you and hearing you dream aloud. But count on your dream being more beautiful than his painting, and on us risking nothing by waiting until the next Salon to take our side on this artist.

By the way, an echo45 is a reflected sound: an echo of light is reflected light. So light that falls strongly on one body, from which it is reflected on another, which is brightly enough illuminated to reflect it on a third, and from this third on a fourth, etc., forms echoes on these different objects, like a sound that repeats itself from mountain to mountain. The term is technical, and it's in this sense that artists use it.


Fragonard would be exempted from a second painting in order to become an academician. The tapestry, which was to form part of the Tenture des Amours des dieux, was never woven.

Passages de lumiere, se dit d'une ombre ou demi-teinte extrèmement légere, placée entre des masses de lumieres, & qui far de les séparer semblent les réunir, en servant comme de route à l'œil pour passer facilement de l'une à l'autre.

Passage de couleur, se dit de l'espace qui se trouve dans un tableau entre deux couleurs différentes, & qui par degrés insensibles participe autant de l'une que de l'autre. It should be noted that passage, in this case, would only be color melt, if these colors that form it, were not what we call beautiful tones. We never use the term passage, without the epithet of beau ; thus beautiful passages, in this case, always mean cast or passage of beautiful color tones.

Passage de couleur, se dit encore de celles qui restent distinctes, ne se perdant pas ensemble par degrés insensibles, & qui par leur accord, font l'œil de l'une à l'autre d'une façon satisfaisante." (Encyclopédie, 1765, XII, 121)


Diderot doesn't exactly say he hasn't seen it: he hasn't seen it anymore. See, however, Grimm's denial at the end of the article.


In the Mercure de France of October 1765, we read: "We know that not only did it obtain all the votes, but that M. le Marquis de Marigny, always attentive to the encouragement of Artists, retained from then on this painting for the King's account. This piece appeared to be a phenomenon of progress, worthy of being exhibited at the moment to the onlookers, under whose eyes it remained for some time. It's the same one we saw at the Salon. The painting, commissioned from Fragonard by the Manufacture des Gobelins for use as a tapestry cartoon, was presented by the painter to the Académie on March 30, 1765, for approval, i.e. permission to exhibit at the Salon. The painting causes a sensation, and we understand from the Mercure that the public is allowed to come and see it, as early as spring. In August, it was transferred to the Salon carré, where it was the highlight of the exhibition. Did Marigny have it removed before the end of the Salon to transfer it to Louis XV's collections? Or was Diderot simply making it up? In any case, Diderot had plenty of time to see it, as Grimm attests at the end of the article, and as his very precise description of it shows...


Does not last.


Reference to the myth of the cave, in Book VII of Plato's The Republic.


"Splinter, is also a small very loose ais [= a very thin board], that Surgeons who think [bandage] some limb where there has been fracture, apply to it to support it. Ferula. Her arm is not well healed, we have not yet removed the éclisses." (Trévoux)


The prisoners turn their backs to the cave entrance and are forced to look at the canvas stretched at the back.


Placed between kings and priests, ministers can refer both to ministers of worship (the classical sense first) and ministers of state in the service of the government.


In classical language, taken absolutely a doctor is a doctor of theology.


Diderot literally translates Plato's term in the myth of the cave, θαυματοποιοί, which probably refers to puppet-showmen. See Republic, VII, 514b: "Or, between this fire and the prisoners, imagine the rise of a road, across which you must imagine that a small wall has been raised to bar it, similar to the partition that the puppet-showmen place din front of the men who maneuver this one, and above which they present these puppets (τὰ θαύματα) to the audience's gaze. " (trans. L. Robin, Pl. I, 1102)


As we'll see from the next sentence, this is a false enumeration: all the "ministers, priests, doctors, apostles, prophets, theologians, politicians" placed behind the prisoners are "rascals, charlatans, makers of illusions"(predicates)and constitute"the whole troop of merchants of hopes and fears"(judgment).


" Prestige, s. m. This word is Latin, & means, Illusion by sortilége. Præstigia. The devil cannot work true miracles; he only prestiges. There's prestige to that. The miracles of the Magicians of Egypt were nothing but prestiges & illusions." (Trévoux)


who suspected the prestige of this primer, the artifice of this staging.


This is the first painting.


Diderot actually starts his second painting here, for which he draws inspiration from Euripides' Bacchantes.


"The sacerdotal vestments are those with which the Priests are clothed when they celebrate." (Trévoux)


" Thyrse, s. m. Poetic term. This is the scepter that the ancient Poets gave to Bacchus, with which the Maenads also armed themselves in their Bacchanalia. Thyrsus, Baculus bachicus. It was a spear or dart wrapped in pampers & vine leaves." (Trévoux)


In the first painting, the juxtaposed heteroclite actions make no sense; in the second, the disjointedness of the first makes sense as a bacchanal.


In the Correspondance littéraire, this formula is reversed: "who refused to hear him and whose knees he vainly kissed". It's more decent, but less logical!


This one: this painting.


Who no longer recognized them as their mothers.


21" Ebauche, ébaucher en Peinture, is to arrange with colors the objects one has proposed to represent in a painting, & which are already drawn on a printed canvas, without giving to each the degree of perfection one believes oneself capable of giving them, in finishing them. Painters ébaucher more or less arrested; there are some which are only a light wash of color & turpentine, or even grisaille or camayeu. Sculptors also say, ébaucher a figure, a bas-relief.(R)" (Encyclopédie, 1755, V, 213, article by Paul Landois)


Fourth-wall effect: the viewer is outside the temple, yet sees what's going on inside.


" Vessel, s. m. That which can contain something, & especially liquor [liquid]. Vas. Un muid, une cuve, un boisseau, sont des vaisseaux à mettre le vin, le blé, &c." (Trévoux) This is the copper basin posed in the right foreground on Fragonard's painting.


" Candelabrum, s. m. This is a large hall candelabra having several branches, made in the manner of the ancients. Candelabrum." (Trévoux) In fact, antique-style candelabras don't have branches: they're made of a column topped by a bowl where a flame is lit (#021469).


Diderot seems to claim that he imagined his painting from the descriptions made to him of Fragonard's, but without having seen the painting himself.


" Apprest. s. m. That which is prepared for some ceremony, rejoicing or feast. Apparatus, apparatio." (Trévoux)


" Acolyte. s. m. Cleric promoted to one of the four Minors, whose office is to carry the candles, prepare the fire, censer, wine & water, & serve the Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon. To perform the duties of Acolyte at a high Mass". (Académie, 1694) There is no entry for Acolyte in Trévoux's dictionary.


On the motif of absorption, which takes on decisive importance in the mid-eighteenth century, see Michael Fried, La Place du spectateur, trans. fr. Claire Brunet, Gallimard, 1990, chap. 1, p. 23sq.


Diderot imagines an entirely silent stage. In Destouches' opera Callirhoé (1713), Pierre-Charles Roy, author of the libretto, has Corésus say, "Troubles secrets dont l'horreur me dévore, | Que ne me laisseer un moment, | Je suis prêt d'immoler le Rival que j'abhore, | Sa mort, loin de calmer l'excès de mon tourment, | Ne fait que l'irriter encore." Roy's version also features a third character, Agénor, Callirhoé's lover, who has generously offered to die in place of his beloved. Fragonard, whom Diderot follows, returns to the ancient version of the myth, as reported by Pausanias (Itinerary of Greece, VII, 21, 1).


In Fragonard's painting, the fourth acolyte is not placed behind the second, as Diderot imagines, but behind the third: he recoils in fright at the spectacle before him and takes refuge with the two old priests in the background.


Impersonal turn of phrase: Many other people had come running.


This quality: compassion. The idea would be taken up and developed in the Salon de 1767, at the fourth site of the Promenade Vernet: "Il est beau, il est doux de compatir aux malheureux. It is beautiful, it is sweet to sacrifice oneself for them. [...] Who will not desire his mistress in the midst of the flames, if he can promise to rush in like Alcibiades, and save her in his arms. We prefer to see the good man suffering on stage than the bad man punished; and on the theater of the world, on the contrary, the bad man punished than the good man suffering." (DPV XVI 196-197)


In Destouches' opera, Callirhoé and her lover Agénor on their knees before Corésus make a show of generosity to whoever will die to save the other: "Callirhoé and Agénor repeating these two verses together to Corésus. | Your outraged love demands my torment; I am the one who must be punished. By immolating them I cannot punish them! | Callirhoé and Agenor. Frape, here is my heart, who can hold you back? Corésus. Agenor, I applaud the ardour that animates you, I honour your virtue, your wishes will be satisfied. He draws the sacred iron. é, to Corésus. Ah! je frémis; frape, il est temps. Corésus, en séparant. | Arrêtez. It is for me to choose the victim. I frape. | Callirhoé. | You die. | Corésus. | I save your days. | Of your misfortunes, of mine I end the course. | You weep. I die content. My fires shall trouble you no more; Come near: in dying let my hand unite you: Remember Coresus. On l'emmeine." In the final scene, Bacchus appears and orders Coresus's tomb to become his temple, of which Agenor will be the priest.


Fantôme, in classical language is understood in two senses, as representation (in the etymological Greek sense that Diderot would take up in the Preamble to the Salon of 1767) and as spectre (Grimm later uses the term). Compare this, a few lines above, with simulacra.


Grimm defines this term at the end of the article.


Understand: I who do not believe in God during the day.


Diderot here poses the question of the choice of moment, for him decisive since what he wrote about it in the Encyclopédie at the article Composition, en Peinture.


" Passage, se diten Peinture, de la lumiere & des couleurs: on dit ces passages de couleur, de lumieres, sont charmans; de beaux passages.


Machine, (Painting.) term used in Painting, to indicate that there is a beautiful intelligence of lumiere in a picture. We say voilà une belle machine; this painter means well the machine. And when we say une grande machine, it means not only belle intelligence de lumieres, but also grande ordonnance, grande composition.


Proper to painting.


Jean-Baptiste Deshays died on February 10, 1765, and Carle Vanloo on July 15.


The Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture organized an annual Prix de Rome, whose winners were offered a pension and a two- to four-year stay at the Palazzo Mancini in Rome (not yet, at the time, at the Villa Medici). There they were supposed to complete their training as painters in contact with the classical models of Roman antiquity and the Italian Renaissance.


It was generally on their return from Rome that young artists applied to the Académie for approval, presenting one or more of the paintings they had produced in Italy.


Fragonard had stayed at the Académie de France in Rome from 1756 to 1761, then toured Italy with his patron the abbé de Saint-Non, until 1765.


Diderot wrote above, about the treatment of light in Fragonard's painting: "you would have noticed the echoes playing superiorly between the figures".


Les Salons de Diderot (édition)

Salon de 1763

Salon de 1765

Salon de 1767