Excerpts from Cennino Cennini’s Handbook
Three manuscript copies of what has been called Cennino’s Craftsman’s Handbook survive. Giorgio Vasari and others referred to it into the seventeenth century. The text was then forgotten until its rediscovery in the early nineteenth century.
The first chapter of the first section of this book
In the beginning, when Almighty God created heaven and earth, above all animals and foods he created man and woman in his own image, endowing them with every virtue. Then, because of the misfortune which fell upon Adam, through envy, from Lucifer, who by his malice and cunning beguiled him—or rather, Eve, and then Eve, Adam—into sin against the Lord’s command: because of this, therefore, God became angry with Adam, and had him driven, him and his companion, forth out of Paradise, saying to them: ‘Inasmuch as you have disobeyed the command which God gave you, by your struggles and exertions you shall carry on your lives.’ And so, Adam, recognizing the error which he had committed, after being so royally endowed by God as the source, beginning and father of us all, realized theoretically that some means of living by labor had to be found. And so he started with the spade, and Eve, with spinning. Man afterward pursued many useful occupations, differing from each other; and some were, and are, more theoretical than others; they could not all be alike, since theory is the most worthy. Close to that, man pursued some related to the one which calls for a basis of that, coupled with skill of hand: and this is the occupation known as painting, which calls for imagination, and skill of hand, in order to discover things not seen, hiding themselves under the shadow of natural objects, and to fix them with the hand, presenting to plain sight what does not actually exist. And it justly deserves to be enthroned next to theory, and to be crowned with poetry. The justice lies in this: that the poet, with his theory, though he have but one, it makes him worthy, is free to compose and bind together, or not, as he pleases, according to his inclination. In the same way, the painter is given freedom to compose a figure, standing, seated, half-man, half-horse, as he pleases, according to his imagination.
Fundamental provisions for anyone who enters this profession, Chapter III.
You, therefore, who with lofty spirit are fired with this ambition, and are about to enter the profession, begin by decking yourselves with this attire: Enthusiasm, Reverence, Obedience, and Constancy. And begin to submit yourself to the direction of a master for instruction as early as you can; and do not leave the master until you have to.
Cennino d’Andrea Cennini, The Craftsman’s Handbook, trans. Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. (New York: Dover), pp. 1–2, 3.