Jean Seznec

Jean Seznec Joseph ( born March 19, 1905 in Morlaix, Brittany, France, † November 22, 1983 in Chipping Norton, Oxford, England) was a French art and literary historian who has dealt in particular with the mythography the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.


Seznec grew up the son of a teacher couple in Morlaix, where he made ​​friends at school with the Breton painter and ceramist Pierre Cavellat. Subsequently, he studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. In 1929 he became a member of the Académie de France à Rome, and has worked with Émile Mâle whose methodology he guessed. From 1930 to 1933 he was lecturer in French literature at the University of Cambridge, in 1934 teacher of classical languages ​​and French at the Lycée Thiers in Marseille. In the same year he was first editor, then deputy director of the Institut Français de Florence. When France entered the Second World War in 1939, Seznec returned to fight as an officer in the Mountain. In the same year his major work La survivance des dieux antiques was printed in a small edition in Gap, but not published until after the liberation. For this work it the Académie des Inscriptions et des Belles Lettres in 1948 awarded the Prix Fould. After the war, Seznec took a position in the Department of Romance Languages ​​and Literatures at Harvard University, which he headed from the following year. During this time he has discovered a series of drawings by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, he in a catalog and an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC made available to the public. In 1950 he was appointed as the successor of Gustave Rudler ( 1872-1957 ) Marshal Foch Professor of French for Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of All Souls College, where he studied until 1972, and taught.

Seznec was married since 1954 to his second wife Simone Lee. His son Alain Seznec, a professor at Cornell University.

Seznec has received the following awards: Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Medieval Academy of America, a Fellow of the British Academy, an officer of the Légion d' Honneur, Prix du Français Rayonnement the Académie française in 1972, Commander of the Ordre national Order of Merit in 1973.


In his major work The survival of the ancient gods Seznec shows how the gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans continued to live in the written and pictorial tradition of the Middle Ages in various forms until it " again received their classical form " in art and literature of the Renaissance. This research paper was written under the influence of the scholars of the Warburg Institute, namely: Fritz Saxl, Erwin Panofsky and Aby Warburg itself

In 1957 Seznec has begun with Jean Adhemar, to comment on the salons, the literary and artistic criticism that Diderot had written 1759-1781, issue and, and thus has made ​​a significant contribution to understanding the history of taste.

During his time at Oxford was Seznec Member of the Editorial Board, then the Advisory Board of the journal French Studies.

Publications (selection)

  • La survivance des dieux antiques. Essai sur le rôle de la tradition mythologique dans l' humanisme et dans l' art de la Renaissance ( Studies of the Warburg Institute, 11), London: The Warburg Institute in 1940; 2nd edition, Paris: Flammarion, 1980, nachgedr. 1993 English translation: The survival of the pagan gods. The mythological tradition and its place in Renaissance humanism and art. Translator's Barbara F. Sessions, New York 1953, nachgedr. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton UP 1972, 1995
  • German translation: The survival of the ancient gods. The mythological tradition of humanism and the Renaissance art. From the French of Heinz Jatho, Munich: Fink, 1990, ISBN 3-7705-2632-5
  • Spanish translation: Los dioses de la Edad Media y Antigüedad en la en el Renacimiento. Translator's Juan Aranzadi, Taurus, Madrid 1983.
  • Japanese:?

Literature (selection )


  • The Artist and the writer in France: essays in honor of Jean Seznec, ed Francis Haskell, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974
  • Jean Adhemar: A Personal Postscript, in: The Artist and the Writer in France: Essays in Honor of Jean Seznec, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974, 173-77

Obituaries and short biographies

  • Professor Jean Seznec, in: The Times (London), November 22, 1983, 14
  • Jean Seznec (1905-1983), in: French Studies 38.4, 1984, 505-506
  • AHT Levi and Francis Haskell: Jean Joseph Seznec, in: Proceedings of the British Academy 73, 1987, 643-56
  • Richard John: Jean Seznec, in: Dictionary of Art (online version )