Charles Sterling  

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"A still life painting was originally designated in Greek by the term "rhopography" (i.e. depiction of insignificant objects, of odds and ends); then, forcing the pejorative nuance a little, it was mockingly baptized '"rhyparography" (i.e. painting of the sordid) […] Now too the term "megalography" (i.e. large-scale painting) was coined in contradistinction to rhopography. But it was not so much a matter of size as of the nature of the subject, the latter category corresponding to our minor genre as contrasted with the grand manner."--Still Life Painting: From Antiquity to the Twentieth Century (1952:27), Charles Sterling

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Charles Sterling (5 September 1901, in Warsaw – 1991) was a Polish art historian mainly active in France. He is perhaps best-known for hist study Still Life Painting: From Antiquity to the Twentieth Century (1952).


Aged 19, he fought in the Polish–Soviet War in defence of newly-gained Polish independence and was decorated several times. He then graduated in law in 1924 before turning to art history in Germany, Great Britain and finally in Paris from 1925 to 1928, under the direction of Gaston Brière at the École du Louvre and at the same time on Henri Focillon's course at the Sorbonne. He specialised in the French 'primitives' (notably the Moulins Master) and the Caravaggisti. From 1929 to 1961 he was curator of the department of paintings at the Louvre.


La liste de ses écrits a été établie par l'auteur lui-même dans les Études d'art français offertes à Charles Sterling, Paris, Ed. Presses universitaires de France, 1975, elle a été complétée par Philippe Lorentz et publiée dans le catalogue de l'exposition : Hommage à Charles Sterling, Des primitifs à Matisse, elle comporte 189 références.

  • La peinture française : les primitifs. Paris: Librairie Floury, 1938
  • Charles Jacques : Les Peintres du Moyen Âge. Paris, 1941
  • La nature morte de l'antiquité à nos jours. Paris: P. Tisné, 1952
  • La peinture médiévale à Paris : 1300-1500. 2 vols. Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1987

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