How do I write "From Life" in Latin or French?
February 6, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to add a Latin or French phrase meaning "from life" (i.e., short for "painted from life") to my signatures on paintings to differentiate my work from artists who rely on photos and video monitors instead of live models for their work. I'd like it to be pithy and idiomatic, and so I'm somewhat reluctant to rely on Google Translate . . .
posted by Toecutter to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, the Latin for "from life" is ex vivo, but I don't believe the connotation is exactly what you want here.

For your purposes, I also like memento vivere, which translates figuratively to "a reminder of life".

Sic vita est, "thus is life", may also fit your context.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 12:20 PM on February 6, 2011

There is the Latin tag "de re" meaning "of the thing itself".

Toecutter de re.
posted by tigrefacile at 12:21 PM on February 6, 2011

In biology, when an experiment is carried out in a living system, we use the term "in vivo" - so that's one people might recognize a bit more than "ex vivo".

Similarly, when something is carried out in a petri dish, it is "in vitro" meaning in glass - hence in vitro fertilization. An experiment in a plant is "in planta" and fixed tissue preserved on a slide is "in situ" (in place/location).
posted by maryr at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2011

"Vitae" is literally "from/of life."
posted by oinopaponton at 12:28 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

in vivo ("in life") is used in biology to mean that something is taking place inside a living organism, as opposed to outside the organism (ex vivo) or in an artificial environment (in vitro). Not exactly what you want, but in a literary sense it might convey that something is somehow more natural than what it is being compared to.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2011

How about the French expression inspired from Latin : "de visu"

Which means "from what we saw" (wikionnaire(fr))
posted by domi_p at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

For French I think "d'après nature" might be better -- it is an accepted artistic term and gets more hits on Google than "de visu" (which sounds more like a term used by scientists in describing the results of their experiments).
posted by clair-de-lune at 12:53 PM on February 6, 2011 [6 favorites]

First things first, vivo is either an adjective as in "living (thing)". Or it's a verb meaning "to live". If you want "life" it's vita.

In Latin, ex often has a strong sense of "(away) from/out of". As in, "We are traveling (away) from Chicago." It's because of its taking the ablative as an object, which at its core means to remove. I'm not saying that ex vita is wrong, but it gives me the wrong connotation.

I like de vita better. From my dictionary for de:

(of origin) from, of, descended from

And when you look up the English to Latin you get:

(denoting strictly descent from above, but used in other senses; subtraction; source) de

I think you mean more "painted from life (as a source)". I also think, although my French is very weak, that Latin de vivo is very close to the French phrase. Perhaps de vivre?
posted by sbutler at 12:59 PM on February 6, 2011

artis natura magistra, i'd say.
posted by Substrata at 1:17 PM on February 6, 2011

How about "sur le vif"? I'm not 100% sure of the meaning, but I think it means "from life". It's the title of a French language textbook; at one point I knew what the title translated to exactly, but it's been a while, sorry.
posted by amtho at 1:37 PM on February 6, 2011

Definitely don't use ex vivo. In biology it's talking about a sample which has been removed from something live. Examples are a tissue biopsy or blood sample from a human, less nice examples are cells or tissues taken from a now-dead animal subject. In vivo doesn't really seem right either and is not a term I'd use (as a biologist) for an observational drawing from a live subject, instead it's used for direct experiments involving those subjects.

Besides which, you're not a scientist. I think you should avoid terms which kind of sound like you are as it gives a weird impression. Instead aim for language or phrases which artists use in this situation, since that's the community you're aligning yourself with and (to a large extent) communicating too. The phrase suggested by clair-de-lune seems to fit the bill.
posted by shelleycat at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the responses. So, yes, the science terms are a bit too scientific-y. "D'apres nature" is close, and it's an art term, but it refers, I believe, more to the content of the work than the means of production -- so technically I could do a "d'apres nature" painting from a photograph. What I have in mind (now that these excellent suggestions have forced me to clarify my thinking) is a French or Latin phrase that means "the subject was in my presence when I painted it". Now if I shorten that a bit, Google Translate provides me with "en ma présence" -- but I'd hope a French speaker could confirm that that has the connotation I'm looking for.

Also, since I'm reacting crankily (like artists do) to something I've seen proliferate in the art market, I'd almost prefer a quirky neologism to an established art phrase. The phrase doesn't necessarily have to have the word "life" in it -- but it should, rather pointedly, highlight the lack of a photographic reference (but perhaps without the word photograph).
posted by Toecutter at 2:15 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmmmm . . . I think I might be mistaken about the connotation of "d'apres nature" in terms of content versus means of production. I'm gonna keep digging.
posted by Toecutter at 2:33 PM on February 6, 2011

If you're painting a landscape or an outdoor scene from life, you can use the term "en plein air."
posted by amyms at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's an article that has some more suggestions: Painting from Life...

The term painting “from life” traces back many centuries and has been used in different languages by various cultures. Northern Europeans in the 17th century used the terms ad vivum and Naer Het Leven , literally “from the life,” to describe paintings done from direct observation.
posted by amyms at 2:48 PM on February 6, 2011

- fuit hic - put it after your name, it signifies you were there in person. Van Eyck's Arnolfini portrait is signed Johannes Van Eyck fuit hic - Van Eyck was present.

- me fecit - made me

- pingebat - the imperfect verb meaning "was painting," which highlights the act of painting rather than the authorship

or my personal favourite


German, "As I can," from the medieval expression, "as I can but not as I would," an expression of pride as well as modesty in the face of your achievement. Beats getting bogged down in tit for tat about Photoshop.
posted by fire&wings at 2:58 PM on February 6, 2011

d'apres modèle?
posted by amicamentis at 8:15 PM on February 6, 2011

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