Skip to main content

David Pierre Giottino Humbert de Superville archive and collection

Identifier: ubl139

Scope and Contents

The drawings, prints, manuscripts and publications by D.P.G. Humbert de Superville comprise almost three quarters of the oeuvre of this artist. They are a reflection of his interests and fascinations: from the art of classical antiquity to the statues of Easter Island, from visionary architecture to monumental sculpture, from the principles at stake in arranging a print collection to the importance of art education.


  • Creation: 1781-1849

Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.

Biographical / Historical

David Pierre Giottino Humbert de Superville was born on 20 July 1770 in The Hague. He registered at the Drawing Academy of The Hague in 1781. Having won the first prize at the academy in 1788, he travelled to Italy, where a new form of art was emerging, strongly influenced by classical antiquity and Renaissance art. The works of art that he encountered in Rome, and particularly those of the early Italian artists, strongly influenced Humbert’s development as an artist and a theorist. During his stay in Italy, Humbert made various studies and sketches of ancient works of art and highly expressive portraits, such as the series of portraits of Gagliuffi. During the raids in Rome around 1798 Humbert was imprisoned for some time by the army of the pope, a period that had a devastating influence on his health. After his release and a short stay in Paris, he returned to the Netherlands in 1802. First he found a job as a drawing teacher to military students in Hoorn and Rotterdam, later, after moving to Leiden, as the director of the Leiden drawing academy, Ars Aemula Naturae. In 1825 he was appointed director and curator of the Print Room and the Cabinet of Plaster Casts of Leiden University. He further developed his theories on the historical development of art and published his Essai sur les Signes inconditionnels dans l’Art in 1827. In the last few years of his life, Humbert’s drawings acquired a very dramatic and visionary character comparable to the works of Fuseli and Blake. Humbert died on 9 january 1849.


1100 drawings (circa), 15 prints, 20 manuscripts and a few publications.

Language of Materials


Abstract in Dutch

Verzameling tekeningen, prenten, handschriften en drukken van de Nederlandse kunstenaar D.P.G. Humbert de Superville (1770-1849)

Abstract in English

Collection of drawings, prints, manuscripts and books made by the Dutch artist D.P.G. Humbert de Superville (1770-1849)

Physical Location

Leiden University

Other Finding Aids

The inventory numbers can be deduced from the online catalogue.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Although some of Humbert’s works probably never left the Print Room, most were acquired as a gift from his pupil and successor N.C. de Gijselaar or as a loan from the KNAW.. See also the collection Cremer van den Berch van Heemstede.


No additions are to be expected.

Related Materials

A large group of manuscripts by Humbert is in the Royal Library in The Hague as a loan from the KNAW. A group of early drawings, done during his stay in Italy, is kept in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice. Smaller ensembles are in other museums, notably in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where drawings by Humbert are part of a donation of the family Van Bemmelen, with whom Humbert was befriended.


  • J.T. Bodel Nijenhuis, Levensberigt, in: Handelingen der jaarlijksche algemeene vergadering der Maatschappij van Nederlandsche Letterkunde te Leiden, 21 juni, 1849, p. 129-144.
  • Biesboer, P., D. P. G. Humbert de Superville, 1770-1849, kunstenaar-geleerde. Delft 1975. [exhibition catalogue Stedelijk museum Het Prinsenhof, 1975]
  • J. Schaeps, A handlist of D.P.G. Humbert de Superville’s paintings, drawings, prints, books, manuscripts and of documents and letters concerning him, in: J. Bolten (ed.), Miscellanea Humbert de Superville, Leiden 1997, p. 127-250.


The material of this collection can be requested at the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

Except for the loan of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), that is kept separate, the prints and drawings have been integrated into the general collections of drawings and prints.

Collection guide of the David Pierre Giottino Humbert de Superville archive and collection (1781-1849)
Archief en collectie David Pierre Giottino Humbert de Superville
Jef Schaeps, 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857