Database designed by Flore César,
drawn up by Mathilde Bert, Anaïs Carvalho, Élodie Cayuela, Flore César, Alexander Dencher, Antonella Fenech, Marianne Freyssinet, Pierrick Grimaud, Flora Herbert, Julia Kleinbeck, Matthieu Lett, Marije Osnabrugge, Léonard Pouy, Aude Prigot and Stéphanie Trouvé
under the direction of Michèle-Caroline Heck

The LexArt database, dedicated to art theory and more specifically to painting, is a tool designed by LexArt and developed by the Kompetenzzentrum für elektronische Erschließungs-und Publikationsverfahren in den Geisteswissenschaften | Trier Center for Digital Humanities of Trier University (Germany), especially by Radoslav Petkov.

A documentary and conceptual tool

The LexArt database aims to offer a targeted reading of European art theory texts published between 1600 and 1750 in France, Germany, England and the Netherlands, in a diachronic and synchronic perspective.
The database is thus documentary, and gathers all data allowing a study of the various terms and concepts (a critical apparatus, a bibliography, references to authors, painters and art works cited), and an access to a digital library consisting of all the books studied with their translation.
But the database is also intended to be conceptual. It is designed and is to be used as a research tool. Its aim is to initiate an innovative study on artistic terminology and to renew our approach of art theory texts. The specificity of LexArt is to concern a multilingual corpus from which we have taken up definitions to allow a mapping of the various themes that cross the writings on art. To this end, the tool gathers definitions or meaningful evocations of terms and notions transcribed in their original language, with their translation for rare languages (Dutch). All the studied books are available in a digital library.
Early translations are important for our purpose. They are often in conformity with the general use of the word, but divergences or disjunctions of meaning very often appear. Without however being transcribed, these translations are integrated into the database with their precise location and direct access to the PDF file of the book, so that the reader can easily find them.
Indeed, the vocabulary studied is shifting according to authors, geographical areas and chronology; the database has to be able to highlight these variations and not to reduce them. In this perspective, we wanted to show the more complex relationships that bind them. We have therefore formed three distinct networks:
  • a lexical field which includes close and approximate synonyms and antonyms as well as all words (and verbal forms) related to the same idea
  • a linguistic field (French / English / Dutch / German, and in some cases Latin and Italian)
  • a conceptual field consisting of ten key concepts.
These three fields link the different notions, allowing the production of new knowledge in all these different registers.

Limitations of content and basic biases

We have strictly limited ourselves to writings of art theory published between 1600 and 1750 and devoted to painting. We also deliberately excluded from our corpus certain specific fields: artists' biographies, unpublished writings by artists, descriptions of cities and collections, dictionaries, all of which are or may be the subject of ongoing or future independent research programmes.
The LexArt database can in no case be used for a statistical purpose, nor for a search by occurrences. Indeed, the content of the database is targeted, defined by the choice of each researcher. Above all, it is intended to be significant and not to be exhaustive in any way. A search based on a statistical principle would thus produce totally false results. Moreover, the content is not focused on one or a few texts, but, within the limits of the project, is intended to be as diverse as possible. This treatment, which favours a corpus of texts rather than an in-depth study of a single text, naturally leads to a particular methodology that had to be invented.
By the diversity of data, and by their integration and articulation in different networks, the LexArt database has for essential objective to make emerge new research questions, and to create new knowledge. This heuristic dimension should not make us forget, however, that the LexArt database does not produce a finished result, but remains a research tool that allows a critical examination on its content.


The source files of these books will be delivered by the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA, Paris), Gallica (BNF, Paris), Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), Universiteit van Amsterdam, Berlin Staatsbibliothek, Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Munchen, Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, Niedersächsische Staats-und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, Stadtbibliothek Halle, Universitäts-Und Landesbibliothek Sachsen–Anhalt, Halle, Die Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB), Bodleian libraries, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL), Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht, Universities of California Libraries (UCLA), Haarlem – NH Archief, Noord – Hollands Archief, Universitätsbibliothek Rostock.


We wanted to open this base to the public as quickly as possible. It deserves improvements and corrections that will be made. This database is intended to be open and may be supplemented by other texts. Any suggestions from users are welcome at the following address: contact.lexart@univ-montp3.fr