HUMBERT DE SUPERVILLE, David Pierre Giottino
(b. 1770, Den Haag, d. 1849, Leiden)


Dutch painter and printmaker. He was a draughtsman, lithographer, etcher, and portrait painter, and also wrote treatises on art, including the influential work Essai sur les signes inconditionnels dans l'art (Leiden, 1827).

Humbert de Superville was a son of Jean Humbert, a Dutch painter of Swiss and French extraction. His brother, military engineer Jean Emile Humbert, is credited with rediscovering the lost city of Carthage. Humbert de Superville's assumed name of Giottino was originally a nickname he was given in Italy because his work showed similarities with the Italian master Giotto. He also took the last name de Superville after his grandmother Emilie de Superville, daughter of the eminent French Calvinist theologian Daniel de Superville, who had fled to the Dutch republic in 1685.

He left the Netherlands for Rome from 1789 and lived there until 1800, when the Papal State was restored and Humbert de Superville was forced to leave the city because he had supported the 1798 occupation of Rome by French revolutionary troops. In 1812 he settled in the Dutch town of Leiden and became a lecturer at the University of Leiden. He served as head of the Leiden drawing academy Ars Aemula Naturae (1814-1823) and as first director of the Leiden cabinet of prints, drawings and plaster statues (1825-1849).

His 1801 etching Allegory may have been a direct visual inspiration for Paul Gauguin's Spirit of the Dead Watching. Although no direct connection has been made, de Superville had been cited by Albert Aurier as one of the forerunners of Symbolist painting and de Superville's book Unconditional Signs in Art (1827-32) was widely known to that group.