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Cultural uses of the term “design” in French.

Academic research

Cultural uses of the term “design” in French

Bruno Remaury —

In his Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellents peintres anciens et modernes (Interviews on the lives and work of the most excellent ancient and modern painters), published between 1666 and 1688, André Félibien, Louis XIV’s historiographer and Secretary of the Academy of Architecture regularly uses the term “desseigner” to mean “dessiner” (drawing), a spelling that in the 18th century Furetière would have qualified as rare but still appears under the letter D in his dictionary a few lines before “dessein” and “dessiner”. In the same way, the pages in Diderot’s Encyclopaedia on drawing bear the legends “Dessein” – both words are based on the Latin designare that means “to represent in concrete terms” a term that passed in to Italian at the Renaissance as disegnare, literally meaning “to trace the contours of something” or figuratively to “form a project”. This double dimension is present at the origins of the word, that of “dessin à des- sein”, a meaning that has been lost in the French but has remained in English from drawing to design.

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