On ornamentation

preliminary concepts to build a theory of ornamentation


On ornamentation

  • Author: Karl Philipp MORITZ
  • Preface, translation and annotation by Clara PACQUET
  • Afterword by Danièle COHN

Ornamentation has often been too quickly considered as a peripheral and secondary manifestation of form, denuded of its independence. However, this makes it possible to question the autonomy of works of art in relation to the subjects of representation and their historical development. The design of ornaments reflects the view that was turned towards the grotesque and the décor of useful objects and sustains a more general reflection on beauty and the function of art. As such, the subject of ornamentation is essential for the anthropology of art.

These preliminary concepts to build a theory of ornamentation restore an important episode of the history of ideas as applied to artistic forms. A preface by Clara Pacquet and an afterword by Danièle Cohn, who dwelt on the status of the ornament, make it possible to situate the text of Moritz in the history of German esthetics in the 18th century.
This manuscript remains unpublished in French.

The author

Little known in France, Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-1793) is a central figure of German classicism. A prolific author, he was part of this contemporary movement of Kant that was known as “Popular Philosophy” and participated in the plan to teach a people enlightened by the establishment of a “national taste”.


  • November 14, 2008
  • Format: 19 x 20 – Number of pages:  132
  • Price: €15
  • ISBN: 978-2-7288-0411-5
  • ISSN: 1761-2160
  • Collection: « Æsthetica »
  • Co-publication of Editions rue d’Ulm (presses de l’ENS) / musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
  • Dissemination - distribution: Les Belles Lettres