Barrière, Dominique (1618-1678)

Barrière, Dominique (1618-1678)

Described by a contemporary as ‘one of the most accomplished draughtsmen and printmakers in Rome,’ French engraver Dominique Barrière translated the works of the great masters and worked alongside architects and artisans alike.

Born in Marseille in the early 17th century, by the 1640s Barrière had moved to Rome. Here he began to produce engravings for print. Since the previous century, engravings had grown popular as a medium through which to disseminate images far and wide. An image was etched painstakingly onto a metal surface, which would then be covered in ink and pressed onto a paper surface to create the finished image.

Such work was highly skilled, requiring patience and a sure and steady hand. Some prints could take weeks, or even months, to complete. Although little is known about Barrière’s life, the extensive oeuvre of his works that remain suggests much about an artist of great ability and skill.

A large part of Barrière’s output was translating the painted works of the great masters into ink prints. This was a common way through which to disseminate these works to wider audiences. They required the engraver to be a translator, adapting great works of art into another medium.

This Barrière did with great success. His prints after the works of artists such as Titian, Lorrain, and Cortona effectively adapt each line of paint into sure and determined lines etched onto metal.

Barrière is able to capture each fine aspect of these works, from the staffage to the buildings, to the natural world sweeping across each piece. Lorrain’s glorious evocations of light are effectively translated by Barrière. His works are marvels at how seemingly easily they turn paint into ink.

Barrière was also successful in creating original engravings. He worked in collaboration with a number of antiquarians and architects such as Francesco Borromini (1599-1667) and Fioravante Martinelli to produce both topographical and pictorial views of Rome. In Borromini’s ‘Opus Architectonicum’ Barrière successfully creates grand and glorious views of the architect’s baroque buildings. Scenes of life within the city are also a feature of his oeuvre, Barrière able to furnish large scenes of piazzas with character, both in the crowds of people flocking for a celebration, and his unique, artistic hand.

Dominique Barrière would spend the rest of his life living and working in Rome. Today, he is often compared to some of the greats of his craft, such as Stefano della Bella (1610-1664) and Matthäus Merian the Elder (1593-1650). Indeed, his works speak for themselves as a demonstration of his highly skilled hand.


Born in Marseille, France.


First plate published in Famiano Strada’s ‘On the Belgian War.’


Died in Rome, Italy.

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