Jakob Burckhardt (May 25, 1818 - August 8, 1897) was a Swiss writer on art.
He was born at Basel, educated there and at Neuchâtel, and, till 1839, was intended to be a pastor. In 1838 he made his first journey to Italy, and also published his first important articles, Bemerkungen über schweizerische Kathedralen. In 1839 he went to the University of Berlin, where he studied till 1843, spending part of 1841 at Bonn, where he was a pupil of Franz Kugler, the art historian, to whom his first book, Die Kunstwerke der belgischen Städte (1842), was dedicated. He was professor of history at the university of Basel (1845-1847, 1849-1855 and 1858-1893) and at the federal polytechnic school at Zürich (1855-1858).
In 1847 he brought out new editions of Kugler's two great works, Geschichte der Malerei and Kunstgeschichte, and in 1853 published his own work, Die Zeit Constantins des Grossen. He spent the greater part of the years 1853-1854 in Italy, where he collected the materials for one of his most famous works, Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens, which was dedicated to Kugler and appeared in 1855 (7th German edition, 1899).
This work, which includes sculpture and architecture, as well as painting, became indispensable to the art traveller in Italy. About half of the original edition was devoted to the art of the Renaissance, so that Burckhardt was naturally led on to the preparation of his two other celebrated works, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860, English translation, by SGC Middlemore, in 2 vols., London, 1878), and the Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien (1867). In 1867 he refused a professorship at the University of Tübingen, and in 1872 another (that left vacant by Ranke) at Berlin, remaining faithful to Basel.