By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli, Vol. II (of 3)
Author: Fuseli, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli, Vol. II (of 3)" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.











    "Animo vidit, ingenio complexus est, eloquentiâ illuminavit."
               _Velleius Paterculus in Ciceronem._


    VOL. II.





    Dorset Street, Fleet Street.



    I. ANCIENT ART                           Page 17

    II. ART OF THE MODERNS                        73

    III. INVENTION.--PART I.                     131

    IV. INVENTION.--PART II.                     187

    V. COMPOSITION, EXPRESSION                   237

    VI. CHIAROSCURO                              273

    VII. ON DESIGN                               303

    VIII. COLOUR.--IN FRESCO PAINTING            329

    IX. COLOUR.--OIL PAINTING                    353

    IN COPYING THE LIFE                          371


It cannot be considered as superfluous or assuming to present the reader
of the following lectures with a succinct characteristic sketch of the
principal technic instruction, ancient and modern, which we possess: I
say, a sketch, for an elaborate and methodical survey, or a plan well
digested and strictly followed, would demand a volume. These
observations, less written for the man of letters and cultivated taste,
than for the student who wishes to inform himself of the history and
progress of his art, are to direct him to the sources from which my
principles are deduced, to enable him, by comparing my authors with
myself, to judge how far the theory which I deliver, may be depended on
as genuine, or ought to be rejected as erroneous or false.

The works, or fragments of works, which we possess, are either purely
elementary, critically historical, biographic, or mixed up of all three.
On the books purely elementary, the van of which is led by Lionardo da
Vinci and Albert Durer, and the rear by Gherard Lairesse, as the
principles which they detail must be supposed to be already in the
student's possession, or are occasionally interwoven with the topics of
the Lectures, I shall not expatiate, but immediately proceed to the
historically critical writers; who consist of all the ancients yet
remaining, Pausanias excepted.

We may thank Destiny that, in the general wreck of ancient art, a
sufficient number of entire and mutilated monuments have escaped the
savage rage of barbarous conquest, and the still more savage hand of
superstition, not only to prove that the principles which we deliver,
formed the body of ancient art, but to furnish us with their standard of
style. For if we had nothing to rely on to prove its existence than the
historic and critical information left us, such is the chaos of
assertion and contradiction, such the chronologic confusion, and
dissonance of dates, that nothing short of a miracle could guide us
through the labyrinth, and the whole would assume a fabulous aspect. Add
to this the occupation and character of the writers, none of them a
professional man. For the rules of Parrhasius, the volumes of Pamphilus,
Apelles, Metrodorus, all irrecoverably lost, we must rely on the hasty
compilations of a warrior, or the incidental remarks of an orator, Pliny
and Quintilian. Pliny, authoritative in his verdicts, a Roman in
decision, was rather desirous of knowing much, than of knowing well; the
other, though, as appears, a man of exquisite taste, was too much
occupied by his own art to allow ours more than a rapid glance. In
Pliny, it is necessary, and for an artist not very difficult, to
distinguish when he speaks from himself and when he delivers an extract,
however short; whenever he does the first, he is seldom able to separate
the kernel from the husk; he is credulous, irrelevant, ludicrous. The
Jupiter of Phidias, the Doryphorus of Polycletus, the Aphrodite of
Praxiteles, the Demos of Parrhasius, the Venus of Apelles, provoke his
admiration in no greater degree than the cord drawn over the horns and
muzzle of the bull in the group of Amphion, Zetus, and Antiope; the
spires and windings of the serpents in that of the Laocoon, the effect
of the foam from the sponge of Protogenes, the partridge in his Jalysus,
the grapes that imposed on the birds, and the curtain which deceived
Zeuxis. Such is Pliny when he speaks from himself, or perhaps from the
hints of some Dilettante; but when he delivers an extract, his
information is not only essential and important, but expressed by the
most appropriate words. Such is his account of the glazing-method of
Apelles, in which, as Reynolds has observed, he speaks the language of
an artist; such is what he says of the manner in which Protogenes
embodied his colours, though it may require the practice of an artist to
penetrate his meaning. No sculptor could describe better in many words
than he does in one, the manœuvre by which Nicias gave the decided line
of correctness to the models of Praxiteles; the word _circumlitio_,
shaping, rounding the moist clay with the finger, is evidently a term of
art. Thus when he describes the method of Pausias, who, in painting a
sacrifice, foreshortened the bull and threw his shade on part of the
surrounding crowd, he throws before us the depths of the scenery and
its forcible chiaroscuro; nor is he less happy, at least in my opinion,
when he translates the deep aphorism by which Eupompus directed Lysippus
to recur to Nature, and to animate the rigid form with the air of life.

In his dates he seldom errs, and sometimes adjusts or corrects the
errors of Greek chronology, though not with equal attention; for whilst
he exposes the impropriety of ascribing to Polycletus a statue of
Hephestion, the friend of Alexander, who lived a century after him, he
thinks it worth his while to repeat that Erynna, the contemporary of
Sappho, who lived nearly as many years before him, celebrated in her
poems a work of his friend and fellow-scholar Myron of Eleutheræ. His
text is at the same time so deplorably mutilated that it often equally
defies conjecture and interpretation. Still, from what is genuine it
must be confessed that he condenses in a few chapters the contents of
volumes, and fills the whole atmosphere of art. Whatever he tells,
whether the most puerile legend, or the best attested fact, he tells
with dignity.

Of Quintilian, whose information is all relative to style, the tenth
chapter of the twelfth book, a passage on Expression in the eleventh,
and scattered fragments of observations analogous to the process of his
own art, is all that we possess; but what he says, though comparatively
small in bulk with what we have of Pliny, leaves us to wish for more.
His review of the revolutions of style in painting, from Polygnotus to
Apelles, and in sculpture from Phidias to Lysippus, is succinct and
rapid; but though so rapid and succinct, every word is poised by
characteristic precision, and can only be the result of long and
judicious inquiry, and perhaps even minute examination. His theory and
taste savour neither of the antiquary nor the mere Dilettante; he
neither dwells on the infancy of art with doating fondness, nor melts
its essential and solid principles in the crucibles of merely curious or
voluptuous execution.

Still less in volume, and still less intentional are the short but
important observations on the principals of art and the epochs of style,
scattered over nearly all the works of Cicero, but chiefly his Orator
and Rhetoric Institutions. Some of his introductions to these books
might furnish the classic scenery of Poussin with figures; and though
he seems to have had little native taste for painting and sculpture, and
even less than he had taste for poetry, he had a conception of nature;
and, with his usual acumen, comparing the principles of one art with
those of another, frequently scattered useful hints, or made pertinent
observations. For many of these he might probably be indebted to
Hortensius, with whom, though his rival in eloquence, he lived on terms
of familiarity, and who was a man of declared taste and one of the first
collectors of the time.

Pausanias, the Cappadocian, was certainly no critic, and his credulity
is at least equal to his curiosity; he is often little more than a
nomenclator, and the indiscriminate chronicler of legitimate tradition
and legendary trash; but the minute and scrupulous diligence with which
he examined what fell under his own eye, amply makes up for what he may
want of method or of judgment. His description of the pictures of
Polygnotus at Delphi, and of the Jupiter of Phidias at Olympia, are
perhaps superior to all that might have been given by men of more
assuming powers, mines of information, and inestimable legacies to our

The Heroics of the elder, and the Eicones, or Picture Galleries of the
elder and younger Philostratus, though perhaps not expressly written for
the artist, and rather to amuse than to instruct, cannot be sufficiently
consulted by the epic or dramatic artist. The Heroics furnish the
standard of form and habits for the Grecian and Troic warriors, from
Protesilaus to Paris and Euphorbus; and he who wishes to acquaint
himself with the limits the ancients prescribed to invention, and the
latitude they allowed to expression, will find no better guide than an
attentive survey of the subjects displayed in their galleries.

Such are the most prominent features of ancient criticism, and those
which we wish the artist to be familiar with; the innumerable hints,
maxims, anecdotes, descriptions, scattered over Lucian, Aelian, Athenæus,
Achilles, Tatius, Tatian, Pollux, and many more, may be consulted to
advantage by the man of taste and letters, and probably may be neglected
without much loss by the student.

Of modern writers on art, Vasari leads the van; theorist, artist,
critic, and biographer in one. The history of modern art owes no doubt
much to Vasari; he leads us from its cradle, to its maturity, with the
anxious diligence of a nurse, but he likewise has her derelictions; for
more loquacious than ample, and less discriminating styles than eager to
accumulate descriptions, he is at an early period exhausted by the
superlatives lavished on inferior claims, and forced into frigid
rhapsodies and astrologic nonsense to do justice to the greater. He
swears by the divinity of M. Agnolo. He tells us himself that he copied
every figure of the Capella Sistina and the Stanze of Raffaello; yet his
memory was either so treacherous,[1] or his rapidity in writing so
inconsiderate, that his account of both is a mere heap of errors and
unpardonable confusion; and one might almost fancy that he had never
entered the Vatican. Of Correggio he leaves us less informed than of
Apelles. Even Bottari, the learned editor of his work, his countryman
and advocate against the complaints of Agostino Carracci and Federigo
Zucchero, though ever ready to fight his battles, is at a loss to
account for his mistakes. He has been called the Herodotus of our art,
and if the main simplicity of his narrative, and the desire of heaping
anecdote on anecdote, entitle him in some degree to that appellation, we
ought not to forget, that the information of every day adds something to
the authenticity of the Greek historian, whilst every day furnishes
matter to question the credibility of the Tuscan.

What we find not in Vasari it is useless to search for amid the rubbish
of his contemporaries or followers, from Condivi to Ridolfi, and on to
Malvasia, whose criticism on the style of Lodovico Carracci and his
pupils in the cloisters of St. Michele in Bosco, near Bologna, amount to
little more than a sonorous rhapsody of ill applied or empty metaphors
and extravagant praise; till the appearance of Lanzi, who in his 'Storia
Pittorica della Italia,' has availed himself of all the information
existing in his time, has corrected most of those who wrote before him,
and though perhaps not possessed of great discriminative powers, has
accumulated more instructive anecdotes, rescued more deserving names
from oblivion, and opened a wider prospect of art than all his

The French critics composed a complete system of rules. Du Fresnoy spent
his life in composing and revising general aphorisms in Latin classic
verse; some on granted, some on disputable, some on false principles.
Though Horace was his model, neither the Poet's language nor method have
been imitated by him. From Du Fresnoy himself, we learn not what is
essential, what accidental, what superinduced, in style; from his text
none ever rose practically wiser than he sat down to study it: if he be
useful, he owes his usefulness to the penetration of his English
commentator; the notes of Reynolds, treasures of practical observation,
place him among those whom we may read with profit. What can be learnt
from precept, founded on prescriptive authority, more than on the
verdicts of nature, is displayed in the volumes of De Piles and
Felibien; a system, as it has been followed by the former students of
their academy, and sent out with the successful combatants for the
premium to their academic establishment at Rome, to have its efficiency
proved by the contemplation of Italian style and execution. The timorous
candidates for fame, knowing its rules to be the only road to success at
their return, whatever be their individual bent of character,
implicitly adopt them, and the consequence is, as may be supposed, that
technical equality, which borders on mediocrity. After an exulting and
eager survey of the wonders the place exhibits, they all undergo a
similar course of study. Six months are allotted to the Vatican, and in
equal portions divided between the Fierté of M. Agnolo, and the more
correct graces of Raffaello; the next six months are in equal intervals
devoted to the academic powers of Annibale Carracci, and the purity of
the antique.

About the middle of the last century the German critics, established at
Rome, began to claim the exclusive privilege of teaching the art, and to
form a complete system of antique style. The verdicts of Mengs and
Winkelmann became the oracles of Antiquaries, Dilettanti, and artists
from the Pyrenees to the utmost North of Europe, have been detailed, and
are not without their influence here. Winkelmann was the parasite of the
fragments that fell from the conversation or the tablets of Mengs, a
deep scholar, and better fitted to comment a classic than to give
lessons on art and style, he reasoned himself into frigid reveries and
Platonic dreams on beauty. As far as the taste or the instructions of
his tutor directed him, he is right, whenever they are, and between his
own learning and the tuition of the other, his history of art delivers a
specious system and a prodigious number of useful observations. He has
not, however, in his regulation of epochs, discriminated styles, and
masters, with the precision, attention, and acumen, which from the
advantages of his situation and habits might have been expected; and
disappoints us as often by meagreness, neglect, and confusion, as he
offends by laboured and inflated rhapsodies on the most celebrated
monuments of art. To him Germany owes the shackles of her artists, and
the narrow limits of their aim; from him they have learnt to substitute
the means for the end, and by a hopeless chace after what they call
beauty, to lose what alone can make beauty interesting, expression and
mind. The works of Mengs himself are no doubt full of the most useful
information, deep observation, and often consummate criticism. He has
traced and distinguished the principles of the moderns from those of
the ancients; and in his comparative view of the design, colour,
composition, and expression of Raffaello, Correggio and Tiziano, with
luminous perspicuity and deep precision, pointed out the prerogative or
inferiority of each. As an artist he is an instance of what
perseverance, study, experience and encouragement can achieve to supply
the place of genius.

Of English critics, whose writings preceded the present century, whether
we consider solidity of theory or practical usefulness, the last is
undoubtedly the first. To compare Reynolds with his predecessors would
equally disgrace our judgment and impeach our gratitude. His volumes can
never be consulted without profit, and should never be quitted by the
student's hand, but to embody by exercise the precepts he gives and the
means he points out.


[1] There will be an opportunity to notice that incredible dereliction
of reminiscence which prompted him to transfer what he had rightly
ascribed to Giorgione, in the Florentine edition, 1550, to the elder
Palma in the subsequent ones. See Lecture on Chiaroscuro.

[2] It ought not, however, to be disguised, that the history of art,
deviating from its real object, has been swelled to a diffuse catalogue
of individuals, who, being the nurslings of different schools, or
picking something from the real establishers of art, have done little
more than repeat or mimic rather than imitate, at second hand, what
their masters or predecessors had found in nature, discriminated and
applied to art in obedience to its dictates. Without depreciating the
merits of that multitude who strenuously passed life in following
others, it must be pronounced a task below history to allow them more
than a transitory glance; neither novelty nor selection and combination
of scattered materials, are entitled to serious attention from him who
only investigates the real progress of art, if novelty is proved to have
added nothing essential to the system, and selection to have only
diluted energy, and by a popular amalgama to have been content with
captivating the vulgar. Novelty, without enlarging the circle of fancy,
may delight, but is nearer allied to whim than to invention; and an
Eclectic system without equality of parts, as it originated in want of
comprehension, totters on the brink of mediocrity, sinks art, or splits
it into crafts decorated with the specious name of schools, whose
members, authorized by prescript, emboldened by dexterity of hand,
encouraged by ignorance, or heading a cabal, subsist on mere repetition,
with few more legitimate claims to the honours of history than a
rhapsodist to those of the poem which he recites.



    Ταυτα μεν οὐν πλαστων και γραφεων και ποιητων παιδες ἐργασονται.
    ὁ δε πασιν ἐπανθει τουτοις, ἡ χαρις, μαλλον δε ἁπασαι ἁμα,
    ὁποσαι χαριτες, και ὁποσοι ἐρωτες περίχορευοντες. τις ἀν
    μιμησασθαι δυναιτο;

               ΛΟΥΚΙΑΝΟΥ Σαμ. εἰκονες.


    Introduction. Greece the legitimate parent of the Art.--Summary
    of the local and political causes. Conjectures on the mechanic
    process of the Art. Period of preparation--Polygnotus--essential
    style--Apollodorus--characteristic style. Period of
    establishment--Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Timanthes. Period of
    refinement--Eupompus Apelles, Aristides, Euphranor.


The difficulties of the task prescribed to me, if they do not
preponderate are at least equal to the honour of the situation. If, to
discourse on any topic with truth, precision, and clearness, before a
mixed or fortuitous audience, before men neither initiated in the
subject, nor rendered minutely attentive by expectation, be no easy
task, how much more arduous must it be to speak systematically on an
art, before a select assembly, composed of _Professors_ whose life has
been divided between theory and practice, of _Critics_ whose taste has
been refined by contemplation and comparison, and of _Students_, who,
bent on the same pursuit, look for the best and always most compendious
method of mastering the principles, to arrive at its emoluments and
honours. Your lecturer is to instruct _them_ in the principles of
'composition; to form their taste for design and colouring; to
strengthen their judgment; to point out to them the beauties and
imperfections of celebrated works of art; and the particular
excellencies and defects of great masters; and finally, to lead them
into the readiest and most efficacious paths of study.'[3] If,
Gentlemen, these directions presuppose in the student a sufficient stock
of elementary knowledge, an expertness in the rudiments, not mere wishes
but a peremptory will of improvement, and judgment with docility; how
much more do they imply in the person selected to address
them--knowledge founded on theory, substantiated and matured by
practice, a mass of select and well digested materials, perspicuity of
method and command of words, imagination to place things in such views
as they are not commonly seen in, presence of mind, and that resolution,
the result of conscious vigour, which, in daring to correct errors,
cannot be easily discountenanced.--As conditions like these would
discourage abilities far superior to mine, my hopes of approbation,
moderate as they are, must in a great measure depend on that indulgence
which may grant to my will what it would refuse to my powers.

Before I proceed to the history of Style itself, it seems to be
necessary that we should agree about the terms which denote its object
and perpetually recur in treating of it; that my vocabulary of technic
expression should not clash with the dictionary of my audience; mine is
nearly that of your late president. I shall confine myself at present to
a few of the most important; the words nature, beauty, grace, taste,
copy, imitation, genius, talent. Thus, by _nature_ I understand the
general and permanent principles of visible objects, not disfigured by
accident, or distempered by disease, not modified by fashion or local
habits. Nature is a collective idea, and, though its essence exist in
each individual of the species, can never in its perfection inhabit a
single object. On _beauty_ I do not mean to perplex you or myself with
abstract ideas, and the romantic reveries of platonic philosophy, or to
inquire whether it be the result of a simple or complex principle. As a
local idea, beauty is a despotic princess, and subject to the anarchies
of despotism, enthroned to-day, dethroned to-morrow. The beauty we
acknowledge is that harmonious whole of the human frame, that unison of
parts to one end, which enchants us; the result of the standard set by
the great masters of our art, the ancients, and confirmed by the
submissive verdict of modern imitation. By _grace_ I mean that artless
balance of motion and repose sprung from character, founded on
propriety, which neither falls short of the demands nor overleaps the
modesty of nature. Applied to execution, it means that dexterous power
which hides the means by which it was attained, the difficulties it has
conquered. When we say _taste_, we mean not crudely the knowledge of
what is right in art: taste estimates the degrees of excellence, and by
comparison proceeds from justness to refinement. Our language, or rather
those who use it, generally confound, when speaking of the art, _copy_
with _imitation_, though essentially different in operation and meaning.
Precision of eye and obedience of hand are the requisites of the former,
without the least pretence to choice, what to select, what to reject;
whilst choice directed by judgment or taste constitutes the essence of
imitation, and alone can raise the most dexterous copyist to the noble
rank of an artist. The imitation of the ancients was, _essential_,
_characteristic_, _ideal_. The first cleared nature of accident, defect,
excrescence; the second found the stamen which connects character with
the central form; the third raised the whole and the parts to the
highest degree of unison. Of _genius_ I shall speak with reserve, for no
word has been more indiscriminately confounded; by genius I mean that
power which enlarges the circle of human knowledge, which discovers new
materials of nature, or combines the known with novelty, whilst _talent_
arranges, cultivates, polishes the discoveries of genius.

Guided by these preliminaries we now approach that happy coast, where,
from an arbitrary hieroglyph, the palliative of ignorance, from a tool
of despotism, or a ponderous monument of eternal sleep, art emerged into
life, motion, and liberty; where situation, climate, national character,
religion, manners and government conspired to raise it on that permanent
basis, which after the ruins of the fabric itself, still subsists and
bids defiance to the ravages of time; as uniform in the principle as
various in its applications, the art of the Greeks possessed in itself
and propagated, like its chief object Man, the germs of immortality.

I shall not detail here the reasons and the coincidence of fortunate
circumstances which raised the Greeks to be the arbiters of form.[4] The
standard they erected, the cannon they framed, fell not from Heaven: but
as they fancied themselves of divine origin, and _Religion_ was the
first mover of their art, it followed that they should endeavour to
invest their authors with the most perfect form; and as Man possesses
that exclusively, they were led to a complete and intellectual study of
its elements and constitution; this, with their _climate_, which allowed
that form to grow, and to show itself to the greatest advantage; with
their _civil_ and _political_ institutions, which established and
encouraged exercises and manners best calculated to develope its powers;
and above all that simplicity of their end, that uniformity of pursuit
which in all its derivations retraced the great principle from which it
sprang, and like a central stamen drew it out into one immense connected
web of congenial imitation; these, I say, are the reasons why the Greeks
carried the art to a height which no subsequent time or race has been
able to rival or even to approach.

Great as these advantages were, it is not to be supposed that Nature
deviated from her gradual progress in the developement of human
faculties, in favour of the Greeks. Greek Art had her infancy, but the
Graces rocked the cradle, and Love taught her to speak. If ever legend
deserved our belief, the amorous tale of the Corinthian maid, who traced
the shade of her departing lover by the secret lamp, appeals to our
sympathy, to grant it; and leads us at the same time to some
observations on the first mechanical essays of Painting, and that
_linear method_ which, though passed nearly unnoticed by _Winkelmann_,
seems to have continued as the basis of execution, even when the
instrument for which it was chiefly adapted had long been laid aside.

The etymology of the word used by the Greeks to express _Painting_
being the same with that which they employ for _Writing_, makes the
similarity of tool, materials, method, almost certain. The tool was a
style or pen of wood or metal; the materials a board, or a levigated
plane of wood, metal, stone, or some prepared compound; the method,
letters or lines.

The first essays of the art were _Skiagrams_, simple outlines of a
shade, similar to those which have been introduced to vulgar use by the
students and parasites of Physiognomy, under the name of Silhouettes;
without any other addition of character or feature but what the profile
of the object, thus delineated could afford.

The next step of the art was the _Monogram_, outlines of figures without
light or shade, but with some addition of the parts within the outline,
and from that to the _Monochrom_, or paintings of a single colour on a
plane or tablet, primed with white, and then covered with what they
called punic wax, first amalgamated with a tough resinous pigment,
generally of a red, sometimes dark brown, or black colour. _In_, or
rather _through_ this thin inky ground, the outlines were traced with a
firm but pliant style, which they called _Cestrum_; if the traced line
happened to be incorrect or wrong, it was gently effaced with the finger
or with a sponge, and easily replaced by a fresh one. When the whole
design was settled, and no farther alteration intended, it was suffered
to dry, was covered, to make it permanent, with a brown encaustic
varnish, the lights were worked over again, and rendered more brilliant
with a point still more delicate, according to the gradual advance from
mere outlines to some indications, and at last to masses of light and
shade, and from those to the superinduction of different colours, or the
invention of the _Polychrom_, which by the addition of the _pencil_ to
the style, raised the mezzotinto or stained drawing to a legitimate
picture, and at length produced that vaunted _harmony_, the magic scale
of Grecian colour.[5]

If this conjecture, for it is not more, on the process of linear
painting, formed on the evidence and comparison of passages always
unconnected, and frequently contradictory, be founded in fact, the
rapturous astonishment at the supposed momentaneous production of the
Herculanean dancers and the figures on the earthern vases of the
ancients, will cease; or rather, we shall no longer suffer ourselves to
be deluded by palpable impossibility of execution: on a ground of
levigated lime or on potters ware, no velocity or certainty attainable
by human hands can conduct a full pencil with that degree of evenness
equal from beginning to end with which we see those figures executed, or
if it could, would ever be able to fix the line on the glassy surface
without its flowing: to make the appearances we see, possible, we must
have recourse to the linear process that has been described, and
transfer our admiration, to the perseverance, the correctness of
principle, the elegance of taste that conducted the artist's hand,
without presuming to arm it with contradictory powers: the figures he
drew and we admire, are not the magic produce of a winged pencil, they
are the result of gradual improvement, exquisitely finished

How long the pencil continued only to assist, when it began to engross
and when it at last entirely supplanted the cestrum, cannot in the
perplexity of accidental report be ascertained. Apollodorus in the 93d
Olymp. and Zeuxis in the 94th, are said to have used it with freedom and
with power. The battle of the Lapithæ and the Centaurs, which according
to Pausanias, Parrhasius painted on the shield of the Minerva of
Phidias, to be chased by Mys, could be nothing but a monochrom, and was
probably designed with the cestrum, as an instrument of greater
accuracy.[6] Apelles and Protogenes, nearly a century afterwards, drew
their contested lines with the pencil; and that alone, as delicacy and
evanescent subtlety were the characteristic of those lines, may give an
idea of their mechanic excellence. And yet in their time the
_diagraphic_ process,[7] which is the very same with the _linear_ one
we have described, made a part of liberal education. And Pausias of
Sicyon, the contemporary of Apelles, and perhaps the greatest master of
composition amongst the ancients, when employed to repair the decayed
pictures of Polygnotus at Thespiæ, was adjudged by general opinion to
have egregiously failed in the attempt, because he had substituted the
pencil to the cestrum, and entered a contest of superiority with weapons
not his own.

Here it might seem in its place to say something on the Encaustic method
used by the ancients; were it not a subject by ambiguity of expression
and conjectural dispute so involved in obscurity that a true account of
its process must be despaired of: the most probable idea we can form of
it is, that it bore some resemblance to our oil-painting, and that the
name was adopted to denote the use of materials, inflammable or
prepared by fire, the supposed durability of which, whether applied hot
or cold, authorised the terms ἐνεκαυσε and _inussit_.

The first great name of that epoch of the preparatory period when facts
appear to overbalance conjecture, is that of Polygnotus of Thasos, who
painted the poecile at Athens, and the lesche or public hall at Delphi.
Of these works, but chiefly of the two large pictures at Delphi, which
represented scenes subsequent to the eversion of Troy, and Ulysses
consulting the spirit of Tiresias in Hades, Pausanias[8] gives a minute
and circumstantial detail; by which we are led to surmise, that what is
now called composition was totally wanting in them as a whole: for he
begins his description at one end of the picture, and finishes it at the
opposite extremity, a senseless method if we suppose that a central
group, or a principal figure to which the rest were in a certain degree
subordinate, attracted the eye; it appears as plain that they had no
perspective, the series of figures on the second or middle ground being
described as placed above those on the foreground, and the figures in
the distance above the whole: the honest method too which the painter
chose of annexing to many of his figures, their names in writing,
savours much of the infancy of painting.--We should however be cautious
to impute solely to ignorance or imbecility, what might rest on the firm
base of permanent principle. The genius of Polygnotus was more than that
of any other artist before or after, Phidias perhaps alone excepted, a
public genius, his works monumental works, and these very pictures the
votive offerings of the Gnidians. The art at that summit, when exerting
its powers to record the feats, consecrate the acts, perpetuate the
rites, propagate the religion, or to disseminate the peculiar doctrines
of a nation, heedless of the rules prescribed to inferior excellence and
humbler pursuits, returns to its elements, leaps strict possibility,
combines remote causes with present effects, connects local distance and
unites separate moments.--Simplicity, parallelism, apposition, take
place of variety, contrast, and composition.--Such was the Lesche
painted by Polygnotus; and if we consider the variety of powers that
distinguished many of the parts, we must incline to ascribe the
primitive arrangement of the whole rather to the artist's choice and
lofty simplicity, than want of comprehension: nature had endowed him
with that rectitude of taste which in the individuum discovers the
stamen of the genus, hence his style of design was essential with
glimpses of _grandeur_[9] and ideal beauty. Polygnotus, says Aristotle,
_improves_ the model. His invention reached the conception of
undescribed being, in the dæmon Eurynomus; filled the chasm of
description in Theseus and Pirithous, in Ariadne and Phædra; and
improved its terrors in the spectre of Tityus; whilst colour to assist
it, became in his hand an organ of expression; such was the prophetic
glow which still _crimsoned_ the cheeks of his Cassandra in the time of
Lucian.[10] The improvements in painting which Pliny ascribes to him, of
having dressed the heads of his females in variegated veils and
_bandeaus_, and robed them in lucid drapery, of having gently opened the
lips, given a glimpse of the teeth, and lessened the former monotony of
face, such improvements, I say, were surely the most trifling part of a
power to which the age of Apelles and that of Quintilian paid equal
homage: nor can it add much to our esteem for him, to be told by Pliny
that there existed, in the portico of Pompey, a picture of his with the
figure of a warrior in an attitude so ambiguous as to make it a question
whether he were ascending or descending. Such a figure could only be the
offspring of mental or technic imbecility, even if it resembled the
celebrated one of a Diomede carrying off the palladium with one and
holding a sword in the other hand, on the intaglio inscribed, I think,
with the name of Dioscorides.

With this simplicity of manner and materials the art seems to have
proceeded from Polygnotus, Aglaophon, Phidias, Panænus, Colotes, and
Evenor, the father of Parrhasius, during a period of more or less
disputed Olympiads, to the appearance of Apollodorus the Athenian, who
applied the essential principles of Polygnotus to the delineation of the
species, by investigating the leading forms that discriminate the
various classes of human qualities and passions. The acuteness of his
taste led him to discover that as all men were connected by one general
form, so they were separated each by some predominant power, which fixed
character and bound them to a class: that in proportion as this specific
power partook of individual peculiarities, the farther it was removed
from a share in that harmonious system which constitutes nature, and
consists in a due balance of all its parts; thence he drew his line of
imitation, and personified the central form of the class, to which his
object belonged; and to which the rest of its qualities administered
without being absorbed: agility was not suffered to destroy firmness,
solidity, or weight; nor strength and weight agility; elegance did not
degenerate to effeminacy, or grandeur swell to hugeness; such were his
principles of style: his expression extended them to the mind, if we may
judge from the two subjects mentioned by Pliny, in which he seems to
have personified the characters of devotion and impiety; _that_, in the
adoring figure of a priest, perhaps of Chryses, expanding his gratitude
at the shrine of the God whose arrows avenged his wrongs and restored
his daughter: and _this_, in the figure of Ajax wrecked, and from the
sea-swept rock hurling defiance unto the murky sky. As neither of these
subjects can present themselves to a painter's mind without a contrast
of the most awful and terrific tones of colour, magic of light and
shade, and unlimited command over the tools of art, we may with Pliny
and with Plutarch consider Apollodorus as the first assertor of the
pencil's honours, as the first colourist of his age, and the man who
opened the gates of art which the Heracleot Zeuxis entered.[11]

From the essential style of Polygnotus and the specific discrimination
of Apollodorus, Zeuxis, by comparison of what belonged to the genus and
what to the class, framed at last that ideal form, which in his opinion,
constituted the supreme degree of human beauty, or in other words,
embodied possibility, by uniting the various but homogeneous powers
scattered among many, in one object, to one end. Such a system, if it
originated in genius, was the considerate result of taste refined by the
unremitting perseverance with which he observed, consulted, compared,
selected the congenial but scattered forms of nature. Our ideas are the
offspring of our senses, we are not more able to create the form of a
being, we have not seen, without retrospect to one we know, than we are
able to create a new sense. He whose fancy has conceived an idea of the
most beautiful form must have composed it from actual existence, and he
alone can comprehend what one degree of beauty wants to become equal to
another, and at last superlative. He who thinks the pretty handsome,
will think the handsome a beauty, and fancy he has met an ideal form in
a merely handsome one, whilst he who has compared beauty with beauty,
will at last improve form upon form to a perfect image; this was the
method of Zeuxis, and this he learnt from Homer, whose mode of ideal
composition, according to Quintilian, he considered as his model. Each
individual of Homer forms a class, expresses and is circumscribed by one
quality of heroic power; Achilles alone unites their various but
congenial energies. The grace of Nireus, the dignity of Agamemnon, the
impetuosity of Hector, the magnitude, the steady prowess of the great,
the velocity of the lesser Ajax, the perseverance of Ulysses, the
intrepidity of Diomede, are emanations of energy that reunite in one
splendid centre fixed in Achilles. This standard of the unison of
homogeneous powers exhibited in _successive action_ by the poet, the
painter, invigorated no doubt by the contemplation of the works of
Phidias, transferred to his own art and substantiated by _form_, when he
selected the congenial beauties of Croton to compose a perfect female.
Like Phidias too, he appears to have been less pathetic than sublime,
and even in his female forms more ample and august than elegant or
captivating: his principle was epic, and this Aristotle either
considered not or did not comprehend, when he refuses him the expression
of character in action and feature: Jupiter on his throne encircled by
the celestial synod, and Helen, the arbitress of Troy, contained
probably the principal elements of his style; but he could trace the
mother's agitation in Alcmena, and in Penelope the pangs of wedded love.

On those powers of his invention which Lucian relates in the memoir
inscribed with the name of Zeuxis, I shall reserve my observations for a
fitter moment. Of his colour we know little, but it is not unreasonable
to suppose that it emulated the beauties and the grandeur of his design;
and that he extended light and shade to masses, may be implied from his
peculiar method of painting monochroms on a black ground, adding the
lights in white.[12]

The correctness of Parrhasius succeeded to the genius of Zeuxis. He
circumscribed his ample style, and by subtle examination of outline
established that standard of divine and heroic form which raised him to
the authority of a legislator from whose decisions there was no appeal.
He gave to the divine and heroic character in painting, what Polycletus
had given to the human in sculpture, by his Doryphorus, a canon of
proportion. Phidias had discovered in the nod of the Homeric Jupiter the
characteristic of majesty, _inclination of the head_: this hinted to him
a higher elevation of the neck behind, a bolder protrusion of the front,
and the increased perpendicular of the profile. To this conception
Parrhasius fixed a maximum; that point from which descends the ultimate
line of celestial beauty, the angle within which moves what is inferior,
beyond which what is portentous. From the head conclude to the
proportions of the neck, the limbs, the extremities; from the father to
the race of gods; all, the sons of one, Zeus; derived from one source of
tradition, Homer; formed by one artist, Phidias: on him measured and
decided by Parrhasius. In the simplicity of this principle, adhered to
by the succeeding periods, lies the uninterrupted progress and the
unattainable superiority of Grecian art. With this prerogative, which
evidently implies a profound as well as general knowledge of the parts,
how are we to reconcile the criticism passed on the intermediate parts
of his forms as inferior to their outline? or how could Winkelmann, in
contradiction with his own principles, explain it, by a want of anatomic
knowledge?[13] how is it possible to suppose that he who decided his
outline with such intelligence that it appeared ambient, and pronounced
the parts that escaped the eye, should have been uninformed of its
contents? let us rather suppose that the defect ascribed to the
intermediate forms of his bodies, if such a fault there was, consisted
in an affectation of smoothness bordering on insipidity, in something
effeminately voluptuous, which absorbed their character and the idea of
elastic vigour; and this Euphranor seems to have hinted at, when in
comparing his own Theseus with that of Parrhasius, he pronounced the
Ionian's to have fed on roses, his own on flesh:[14] emasculate softness
was not, in his opinion, the proper companion of the contour, or flowery
freshness of colour an adequate substitute for the sterner tints of
heroic form.

None of the ancients seem to have united or wished to combine as man and
artist, more qualities seemingly incompatible than Parrhasius.--The
volubility and ostentatious insolence of an Asiatic with Athenian
simplicity and urbanity of manners; punctilious correctness with
blandishments of handling and luxurious colour, and with sublime and
pathetic conception, a fancy libidinously sportive.[15] If he was not
the inventor, he surely was the greatest master of allegory, supposing
that he really embodied by signs universally comprehended that image of
the Athenian ΔΗΜΟΣ or people, which was to combine and to express at
once its contradictory qualities. Perhaps he traced the jarring branches
to their source, the aboriginal moral principle of the Athenian
character, which he made intuitive. This supposition alone can shed a
dawn of possibility on what else appears impossible. We know that the
personification of the Athenian Δημος was an object of sculptu and that
its images by Lyson and Leochares[16] were publicly set up; but there is
no clue to decide whether they preceded or followed the conceit of
Parrhasius. It was repeated by Aristolaus, the son of Pausias.

The decided forms of Parrhasius, Timanthes the Cythnian, his competitor
for fame, attempted to inspire with mind and to animate with passions.
No picture of antiquity is more celebrated than his immolation of
Iphigenia in Aulis, painted, as Quintilian informs us, in contest with
Colotes of Teos, a painter and sculptor from the school of Phidias;
crowned with victory at its rival exhibition, and since, the theme of
unlimited praise from the orators and historians of antiquity, though
the solidity or justice of their praise relatively to our art, has been
questioned by modern criticism. On this subject, which not only contains
the gradations of affection from the most remote to the closest link of
humanity, but appears to me to offer the fairest specimen of the limits
which the theory of the ancients had prescribed to the expression of
pathos, I think it my duty the more circumstantially to expatiate, as
the censure passed on the method of Timanthes, has been sanctioned by
the highest authority in matters of art, that of your late President, in
his eighth discourse at the delivery of the academic prize for the best
picture painted from this very subject.

How did Timanthes treat it? Iphigenia, the victim ordained by the oracle
to be offered for the success of the Greek expedition against Troy, was
represented standing ready for immolation at the altar, the priest, the
instruments of death at her side; and around her, an assembly of the
most important agents or witnesses of the terrible solemnity, from
Ulysses, who had disengaged her from the embraces of her mother at
Mycenæ, to her nearest male relations, her uncle Menelaus, and her own
father, Agamemnon. Timanthes, say Pliny and Quintilian with surprising
similarity of phrase, when, in gradation he had consumed every image of
grief within the reach of art, from the unhappy priest, to the deeper
grief of Ulysses, and from that to the pangs of kindred sympathy in
Menelaus, unable to express _with dignity_ the father's woe, threw a
veil, or if you will, a mantle over his face.----This mantle, the pivot
of objection, indiscriminately borrowed, as might easily be supposed, by
all the concurrents for the prize, gave rise to the following series of

"Before I conclude, I cannot avoid making one observation on the
pictures now before us. I have observed, that every candidate has copied
the celebrated invention of Timanthes in hiding the face of Agamemnon in
his mantle; indeed such lavish encomiums have been bestowed on this
thought, and that too by men of the highest character in critical
knowledge,--Cicero, Quintilian, Valerius Maximus, and Pliny,--and have
been since re-echoed by almost every modern that has written on the
Arts, that your adopting it can neither be wondered at, nor blamed. It
appears now to be so much connected with the subject, that the spectator
would perhaps be disappointed in not finding united in the picture what
he always united in his mind, and considered as indispensably belonging
to the subject. But it may be observed, that those who praise this
circumstance were not painters. They use it as an illustration only of
their own art; it served their purpose, and it was certainly not their
business to enter into the objections that lie against it in another
Art. I fear _we_ have but very scanty means of exciting those powers
over the imagination, which make so very considerable and refined a part
of poetry. It is a doubt with me, whether we should even make the
attempt. The chief, if not the only occasion which the painter has for
this artifice, is, when the subject is improper to be more fully
represented, either for the sake of decency, or to avoid what would be
disagreeable to be seen; and this is not to raise or increase the
passions, which is the reason that is given for this practice, but on
the contrary to diminish their effect.

"Mr. Falconet has observed, in a note on this passage in his translation
of Pliny, that the circumstance of covering the face of Agamemnon was
probably not in consequence of any fine imagination of the
painter,--which he considers as a discovery of the critics,--but merely
copied from the description of the sacrifice, as it is found in

"The words from which the picture is supposed to be taken, are these:
_Agamemnon saw Iphigenia advance towards the fatal altar; he groaned, he
turned aside his head, he shed tears, and covered his face with his

"Falconet does not at all acquiesce in the praise that is bestowed on
Timanthes; not only because it is not his invention, but because he
thinks meanly of this trick of concealing, except in instances of blood,
where the objects would be too horrible to be seen; but, says he, 'in an
afflicted Father, in a King, in Agamemnon, you, who are a painter,
conceal from me the most interesting circumstance, and then put me off
with sophistry and a veil. You are (he adds) a feeble painter, without
resources: you do not know even those of your Art. I care not what veil
it is, whether closed hands, arms raised, or any other action that
conceals from me the countenance of the Hero. You think of veiling
Agamemnon; you have unveiled your own ignorance.'

"To what Falconet has said, we may add, that supposing this method of
leaving the expression of grief to the imagination, to be, as it was
thought to be, the invention of the painter, and that it deserves all
the praise that has been given it, still it is a trick that will serve
but once; whoever does it a second time, will not only want novelty, but
be justly suspected of using artifice to evade difficulties.

"If difficulties overcome make a great part of the merit of Art,
difficulties evaded can deserve but little commendation."

To this string of animadversions, I subjoin with diffidence the
following observations:

The subject of Timanthes was the immolation of Iphigenia; Iphigenia was
the principal figure, and her form, her resignation, or her anguish the
painter's principal task; the figure of Agamemnon, however important, is
merely accessory, and no more necessary to make the subject a completely
tragic one, than that of Clytemnestra the mother, no more than that of
Priam, to impress us with sympathy at the death of Polyxena. It is
therefore a misnomer of the French critic, to call Agamemnon 'the hero'
of the subject.

Neither the French nor the English critic appears to me to have
comprehended the real motive of Timanthes, as contained in the words,
'_decere, pro dignitate_, and _digne_,' in the passages of Tully,
Quintilian, and Pliny;[17] they ascribe to impotence what was the
forbearance of judgment; Timanthes felt like a father: he did not hide
the face of Agamemnon, because it was beyond the power of his art, not
because it was beyond the _possibility_, but because it was beyond the
_dignity_ of expression, because the inspiring feature of paternal
affection at that moment, and the action which of necessity must have
accompanied it, would either have destroyed the grandeur of the
character and the solemnity of the scene, or subjected the painter with
the majority of his judges to the imputation of insensibility. He must
either have represented him in tears, or convulsed at the flash of the
raised dagger, forgetting the chief in the father, or shown him absorbed
by despair, and in that state of stupefaction, which levels all features
and deadens expression; he might indeed have chosen a fourth mode, he
might have exhibited him fainting and palsied in the arms of his
attendants, and by this confusion of male and female character, merited
the applause of every theatre at Paris. But Timanthes had too true a
sense of nature to expose a father's feelings or to tear a passion to
rags; nor had the Greeks yet learnt of Rome to steel the face. If he
made Agamemnon bear his calamity as a man, he made him also feel it as a
man. It became the leader of Greece to sanction the ceremony with his
presence, it did not become the father to see his daughter beneath the
dagger's point: the same nature that threw a real mantle over the face
of Timoleon, when he assisted at the punishment of his brother, taught
Timanthes to throw an imaginary one over the face of Agamemnon; neither
height nor depth, _propriety_ of expression was his aim.

The critic grants that the expedient of Timanthes may be allowed in
'instances of blood,' the supported aspect of which would change a scene
of commiseration and terror into one of abomination and horror, which
ought for ever to be excluded from the province of art, of poetry as
well as painting: and would not the face of Agamemnon, uncovered, have
had this effect? was not the scene he must have witnessed a scene of
blood? and whose blood was to be shed? that of his own daughter--and
what daughter? young, beautiful, helpless, innocent, resigned,--the very
idea of resignation in such a victim, must either have acted
irresistibly to procure her relief, or thrown a veil over a father's
face. A man who is determined to sport wit at the expence of heart alone
could call such an expedient ridiculous--'as ridiculous,' Mr. Falconet
continues, 'as a poet would be, who in a pathetic situation, instead of
satisfying my expectation, to rid himself of the business, should say,
that the sentiments of his hero are so far above whatever can be said on
the occasion, that he shall say nothing.' And has not Homer, though he
does not tell us this, acted upon a similar principle? has he not, when
Ulysses addresses Ajax in Hades, in the most pathetic and conciliatory
manner, instead of furnishing him with an answer, made him remain in
indignant silence during the address, then turn his step and stalk away?
has not the universal voice of genuine criticism with Longinus told us,
and if it had not, would not Nature's own voice tell us, that that
silence was characteristic, that it precluded, included, and soaring
above all answer, consigned Ulysses for ever to a sense of inferiority?
Nor is it necessary to render such criticism contemptible to mention the
silence of Dido in Virgil, or the Niobe of Æschylus, who was introduced
veiled, and continued mute during her presence on the stage.

But in hiding Agamemnon's face, Timanthes loses the honour of invention,
as he is merely the imitator of Euripides, who did it before him?[18] I
am not prepared with chronologic proofs to decide whether Euripides or
Timanthes, who were contemporaries, about the period of the
Peloponnesian war, fell first on this expedient; though the silence of
Pliny and Quintilian on that head, seems to be in favour of the painter,
neither of whom could be ignorant of the celebrated drama of Euripides,
and would not willingly have suffered the honour of this master-stroke
of an art they were so much better acquainted with than painting, to be
transferred to another from its real author, had the poet's claim been
prior: nor shall I urge that the picture of Timanthes was crowned with
victory by those who were in daily habits of assisting at the dramas of
Euripides, without having their verdict impeached by Colotes or his
friends, who would not have failed to avail themselves of so flagrant a
proof of inferiority as the want of invention, in the work of his
rival:--I shall only ask, what is invention? if it be the combination of
the most important moment of a fact with the most varied effects of the
reigning passion on the characters introduced--the invention of
Timanthes consisted in showing, by the gradation of that passion in the
faces of the assistant mourners, the _reason why that of the principal
one, was hid_. This he performed, and this the poet, whether prior or
subsequent, did not and could not do, but left it with a silent appeal
to our own mind and fancy.

In presuming to differ on the propriety of this mode of expression in
the picture of Timanthes from the respectable authority I have quoted, I
am far from a wish to invalidate the equally pertinent and acute
remarks made on the danger of its imitation, though I am decidedly of
opinion that it is strictly within the limits of our art. If it be a
'trick,' it is certainly one that 'has served more than once.' We find
it adopted to express the grief of a beautiful female figure on a
basso-relievo formerly in the palace Valle at Rome, and preserved in the
Admiranda of S. Bartoli; it is used, though with his own originality, by
Michael Angelo in the figure of Abijam, to mark unutterable woe;
Raphael, to show that he thought it the best possible mode of expressing
remorse and the deepest sense of repentance, borrowed it in the
expulsion from Paradise, without any alteration, from Masaccio; and like
him, turned Adam out with both his hands before his face. And how has he
represented Moses at the burning bush, to express the astonished awe of
human in the visible presence of divine nature? by a double repetition
of the same expedient; once in the ceiling of a Stanza, and again in the
loggia of the Vatican, with both his hands before his face, or rather
with his face immersed in his hands. As we cannot suspect in the master
of expression the unworthy motive of making use of this mode merely to
avoid a difficulty, or to denote the insupportable splendour of the
vision, which was so far from being the case, that, according to the
sacred record, Moses stepped out of his way to examine the ineffectual
blaze: we must conclude that Nature herself dictated to him this method
as superior to all he could express by features; and that he recognized
the same dictate in Masaccio, who can no more be supposed to have been
acquainted with the precedent of Timanthes, than Shakspeare with that of
Euripides, when he made Macduff draw his hat over his face.

Masaccio and Raphael proceeded on the principle, Gherard Lairesse copied
only the image of Timanthes, and has perhaps incurred by it the charge
of what Longinus calls _parenthyrsos_, in the ill-timed application of
supreme pathos, to an inadequate call. Agamemnon is introduced covering
his face with his mantle, at the death of Polyxena, the captive daughter
of Priam, sacrificed to the manes of Achilles, her betrothed lover,
treacherously slain in the midst of the nuptial ceremony, by her brother
Paris. The death of Polyxena, whose charms had been productive of the
greatest disaster that could befall the Grecian army, could not perhaps
provoke in its leader emotions similar to those which he felt at that of
his own daughter: it must however be owned that the figure of the chief
is equally dignified and pathetic; and that, by the introduction of the
spectre of Achilles at the immolation of the damsel to his manes, the
artist's fancy has in some degree atoned for the want of discrimination
in the professor.

Such were the artists, who, according to the most corresponding data,
formed the style of that second period, which fixed the end and
established the limits of art, on whose firm basis arose the luxuriant
fabric of the third or the period of refinement, which added grace and
polish to the forms it could not surpass; amenity or truth to the tones
it could not invigorate; magic and imperceptible transition to the
abrupt division of masses; gave depth and roundness to composition; at
the breast of Nature herself caught the passions as they rose, and
familiarized expression: The period of Apelles, Protogenes, Aristides,
Euphranor, Pausias, the pupils of Pamphilus and his master Eupompus,
whose authority obtained what had not been granted to his great
predecessor and countryman Polycletus, the new establishment of the
school of Sicyon.[19]

The leading principle of Eupompus may be traced in the advice which he
gave to Lysippus (as preserved by Pliny), whom, when consulted on a
standard of imitation, he directed to the contemplation of human variety
in the multitude of the characters that were passing by, with the axiom,
'that Nature herself was to be imitated, not an artist.' Excellence,
said Eupompus, is thy aim, such excellence as that of Phidias and
Polycletus; but it is not obtained by the servile imitation of works,
however perfect, without mounting to the principle which raised them to
that height; that principle apply to thy purpose, there fix thy aim. He
who, with the same freedom of access to Nature as another man, contents
himself to approach her only through his medium, has resigned his
birth-right and originality together; his master's manner will be his
style. If Phidias and Polycletus have discovered the substance and
established the permanent principle of the human frame, they have not
exhausted the variety of human appearances and human character; if they
have abstracted the forms of majesty and those of beauty, Nature,
compared with their works, will point out a grace that has been left for
thee; if they have pre-occupied man as he _is_, be thine to give him
that air with which he actually _appears_.[20]

Such was the advice of Eupompus: less lofty, less ambitious than what
the departed epoch of genius would have dictated, but better suited to
the times, and better to his pupil's mind. When the spirit of liberty
forsook the public, grandeur had left the private mind of Greece:
subdued by Philip, the gods of Athens and Olympia had migrated to Pella,
and Alexander was become the representative of Jupiter; still those who
had lost the substance fondled the shadow of liberty; rhetoric mimicked
the thunders of oratory, sophistry and metaphysic debate that
philosophy, which had guided life, and the grand taste that had dictated
to art the monumental style, invested gods with human form and raised
individuals to heroes, began to give way to refinements in appreciating
the degrees of elegance or of resemblance in imitation: the advice of
Eupompus however, far from implying the abolition of the old system,
recalled his pupil to the examen of the great principle on which it had
established its excellence, and to the resources which its inexhaustible
variety offered for new combinations.

That Lysippus considered it in that light, his devotion to the
Doryphorus of Polycletus, known even to Tully, sufficiently proved. That
figure which comprised the pure proportions of juvenile vigour,
furnished the readiest application for those additional refinements of
variety, character, and fleshy charms, that made the base of his
invention: its symmetry directing his researches amid the insidious play
of accidental charms, and the claims of inherent grace, never suffered
imitation to deviate into incorrectness; whilst its squareness and
elemental beauty melted in more familiar forms on the eye, and from an
object of cold admiration became the glowing one of sympathy. Such was
probably the method formed by Lysippus on the advice of Eupompus, more
perplexed than explained by the superficial extract and the rapid phrase
of Pliny.

From the statuary's we may form our idea of the painter's method. The
doctrine of Eupompus was adopted by Pamphilus the Amphipolitan, the most
scientific artist of his time, and by him communicated to Apelles of
Cos, or as Lucian will have it, of Ephesus,[21] his pupil; in whom, if
we believe tradition, Nature exhibited, _once_, a specimen what her
union with education and circumstances could produce. The name of
Apelles in Pliny is the synonyme of unrivalled and unattainable
excellence, but the enumeration of his works points out the modification
which we ought to apply to that superiority; it neither comprises
exclusive sublimity of invention, the most acute discrimination of
character, the widest sphere of comprehension, the most judicious and
best balanced composition, nor the deepest pathos of expression: his
great prerogative consisted more in the unison than in the extent of his
powers; he knew better what he could do, what ought to be done, at what
point he could arrive, and what lay beyond his reach, than any other
artist. Grace of conception and refinement of taste were his elements,
and went hand in hand with grace of execution and taste in finish;
powerful and seldom possessed singly, irresistible when united: that he
built both on the firm basis of the former system, not on its
subversion, his well-known contest of lines with Protogenes, not a
legendary tale, but a well-attested fact, irrefragably proves: what
those lines were, drawn with nearly miraculous subtlety in different
colours, one upon the other or rather within each other, it would be
equally unavailing and useless to inquire; but the corollaries we may
deduce from the contest, are obviously these, that the schools of Greece
recognized all one elemental principle: that acuteness and fidelity of
eye and obedience of hand form precision; precision, proportion;
proportion, beauty: that it is the 'little more or less,' imperceptible
to vulgar eyes, which constitutes grace and establishes the superiority
of one artist over another: that the knowledge of the degrees of things,
or taste, presupposes a perfect knowledge of the things themselves: that
colour, grace, and taste are ornaments not substitutes of form,
expression and character, and when they usurp that title, degenerate
into splendid faults.

Such were the principles on which Apelles formed his Venus, or rather
the personification of Female Grace, the wonder of art, the despair of
artists: whose outline baffled every attempt at emendation, whilst
imitation shrunk from the purity, the force, the brilliancy, the
evanescent gradations of her tints.[22]

The refinements of the art were by Aristides of Thebes applied to the
mind. The passions which tradition had organized for Timanthes,
Aristides caught as they rose from the breast or escaped from the lips
of Nature herself; his volume was man, his scene society: he drew the
subtle discriminations of mind in every stage of life, the whispers, the
simple cry of passion and its most complex accents. Such, as history
informs us, was the suppliant whose voice you seemed to hear, such his
sick man's half-extinguished eye and labouring breast, such Byblis
expiring in the pangs of love, and above all, the half-slain mother
shuddering lest the eager babe should suck the blood from her palsied
nipple. This picture was probably at Thebes when Alexander sacked that
town; what his feelings were when he saw it, we may guess from his
sending it to Pella. Its expression, poised between the anguish of
maternal affection and the pangs of death, gives to commiseration an
image, which neither the infant piteously caressing his slain mother in
the group of Epigonus,[23] nor the absorbed feature of the Niobe, nor
the struggle of the Laocoon, excites. Timanthes had marked the limits
that discriminate terror from the excess of horror; Aristides drew the
line that separates it from disgust. His subject is one of those that
touch the ambiguous line of a squeamish sense.--Taste and smell, as
sources of tragic emotion, and in consequence of their power,
commanding gesture, seem scarcely admissible in art or on the theatre,
because their extremes are nearer allied to disgust, and loathsome or
risible ideas, than to terror. The prophetic trance of Cassandra, who
scents the prepared murder of Agamemnon at the threshold of the ominous
hall; the desperate moan of Macbeth's queen on seeing the visionary spot
still uneffaced infect her hand,--are images snatched from the lap of
terror,--but soon would cease to be so, were the artist or the actress
to inforce the dreadful hint with indiscreet expression or gesture.
This, completely understood by Aristides, was as completely missed by
his imitators, Raphael[24] in the _Morbetto_, and Poussin in his plague
of the Philistines. In the group of Aristides, our sympathy is
immediately interested by the mother, still alive, though mortally
wounded, helpless, beautiful, and forgetting herself in the anguish for
her child, whose situation still suffers hope to mingle with our fears;
he is only approaching the nipple of the mother. In the group of
Raphael, the mother dead of the plague, herself an object of apathy,
becomes one of disgust, by the action of the man, who bending over her,
at his utmost reach of arm, with one hand removes the child from the
breast, whilst the other, applied to his nostrils, bars the effluvia of
death. Our feelings alienated from the mother, come too late even for
the child, who, by his languor, already betrays the mortal symptoms of
the poison he imbibed at the parent corpse. It is curious to observe the
permutation of ideas which takes place, as imitation is removed from the
sources of nature: Poussin, not content with adopting the group of
Raphael, once more repeats the loathsome attitude in the same scene; he
forgot, in his eagerness to render the idea of contagion still more
intuitive, that he was averting our feelings with ideas of disgust.

The refinements of expression were carried still farther by the disciple
of Aristides, Euphranor the Isthmian, who excelled equally as painter
and statuary, if we may form our judgment from the Theseus he opposed to
that of Parrhasius, and the bronze figure of Alexander Paris, in whom,
says Pliny,[25] the umpire of the goddesses, the lover of Helen, and yet
the murder of Achilles might be traced. This account, which is evidently
a quotation of Pliny's, and not the assumed verdict of a connoisseur,
has been translated with an emphasis it does not admit of, to prove that
an attempt to express different qualities or passions at once in the
same object, must naturally tend to obliterate the effect of each.
'Pliny,' says our critic, 'observes, that in a statue of Paris by
Euphranor, you might discover at the same time three different
characters: the dignity of a judge of the goddesses, the lover of Helen,
and the conqueror of Achilles. A statue in which you endeavour to unite
stately dignity, youthful elegance, and stern valour, must surely
possess none of these to any eminent degree.' The paraphrase, it is
first to be observed, lends itself the mixtures to Pliny it disapproves
of; we look in vain for the coalition of 'stately dignity, stern valour,
and youthful elegance,' in the Paris _he_ describes: the murderer of
Achilles was not his conqueror. But may not dignity, elegance, and
valour, or any other not irreconcilable qualities, be visible at once in
a figure without destroying the primary feature of its character, or
impairing its expression? Let us appeal to the Apollo. Is he not a
figure of character and expression, and does he not possess all three in
a supreme degree? Will it imply mediocrity of conception or confusion of
character, if we were to say that his countenance, attitude, and form
combines divine majesty, enchanting grace, and lofty indignation? Yet
not all three, one ideal whole irradiated the mind of the artist who
conceived the divine semblance. He gave, no doubt, the preference of
expression to the action in which the god is engaged, or rather, from
the accomplishment of which he recedes with lofty and contemptuous
ease.--This was the first impression which he meant to make upon us: but
what contemplation stops here? what hinders us when we consider the
beauty of these features, the harmony of these forms, to find in them
the abstract of all his other qualities, to roam over the whole history
of his atchievements? we see him enter the celestial synod, and all the
gods rise at his august appearance;[26] we see him sweep the plain after
Daphne; precede Hector with the ægis and disperse the Greeks; strike
Patroclus with his palm and decide his destiny.--And is the figure
frigid because its great idea is inexhaustible? might we not say the
same of the infant Hercules of Zeuxis or of Reynolds? Did not the idea
of the man inspire the hand that framed the mighty child? his magnitude,
his crushing grasp, his energy of will, are only the germ, the prelude
of the power that rid the earth of monsters, and which our mind pursues.
Such was no doubt the Paris of Euphranor: he made his character so
pregnant, that those who knew his history might trace in it the origin
of all his future feats, though first impressed by the expression
allotted to the predominant quality and moment. The acute inspector, the
elegant umpire of female form receiving the contested pledge with a
dignified pause, or with enamoured eagerness presenting it to the
arbitress of his destiny, was probably the predominant idea of the
figure; whilst the deserter of Oenone, the seducer of Helen, the subtle
archer, that future murderer of Achilles, lurked under the insidious
eyebrow, and in the penetrating glance of beauty's chosen minion. Such
appeared to me the character and expression of the sitting Paris in the
voluptuous Phrygian dress, formerly in the cortile of the palace
Altheims, at Rome. A figure nearly colossal, which many of you may
remember, and a faint idea of whom may be gathered from the print among
those in the collection published of the Museum Clementinum. A work, in
my opinion, of the highest style and worthy of Euphranor, though I shall
not venture to call it a repetition in marble of his bronze.

From these observations on the collateral and unsolicited beauties which
must branch out from the primary expression of every great idea, it will
not, I hope, be suspected, that I mean to invalidate the necessity of
its unity, or to be the advocate of pedantic subdivision. All such
division diminishes, all such mixtures impair the simplicity and
clearness of expression: in the group of the Laocoon, the frigid
ecstasies of German criticism have discovered pity like a vapour
swimming on the father's eyes; he is seen to suppress in the groan for
his children the shriek for himself,--his nostrils are drawn upward to
express indignation at unworthy sufferings, whilst he is said at the
same time to implore celestial help. To these are added the winged
effects of the serpent-poison, the writhings of the body, the spasms of
the extremities: to the miraculous organization of such expression,
Agesander, the sculptor of the Laocoon, was too wise to lay claim. His
figure is a class, it characterizes every beauty of virility verging on
age; the prince, the priest, the father are visible, but, absorbed in
the man, serve only to dignify the victim of _one_ great expression;
though poised by the artist, for us to apply the compass to the face of
the Laocoon, is to measure the wave fluctuating in the storm: this
tempestuous front, this contracted nose, the immersion of these eyes,
and above all, that long-drawn mouth, are separate and united, seats of
convulsion, features of nature struggling within the jaws of death.


[3] Abstract of the Laws of the Royal Academy, article _Professors_;
page 21.

[4] This has been done in a superior manner by J. G. Herder, in his
_Ideen zur Philosophie der geschichte der Menschheit_, Vol. iii. Book
13; a work translated under the title of _Outlines of a Philosophy of
the History of Man_, 4to.

[5] This account is founded on the conjectures of Mr. _Riem_, in his
Treatise on _die Malerey der Alten_, or the _Painting of the Ancients_,
4to. Berlin, 1787.

[6] Pausanias Attic. c. xxviii. The word used by Pausanias καταγραψαι,
shows that the figures of Parrhasius were intended for a Bassorelievo.
They were in profile. This is the sense of the word _Catagrapha_ in
Pliny, xxxv. c. 8, he translates it "obliquas imagines."

[7] By the authority chiefly of Pamphilus the master of Apelles, who
taught at Sicyon. 'Hujus auctoritate,' says Pliny, xxxv. 10, 'effectum
est Sicyone primum, deinde et in tota Græcia, ut pueri ingenui ante
omnia _diagraphicen_, hoc est, picturam in buxo, docerentur,' &c.
_Harduin_, contrary to the common editions, reads indeed, and by the
authority, he says, of all the MSS. _graphicen_, which he translates:
ars 'delineandi,' desseigner, but he has not proved that graphice means
not more than design; and if he had, what was it that Pamphilus taught?
he was not the inventor of what he had been taught himself. He
established or rather renewed a particular method of drawing, which
contained the rudiments, and facilitated the method of painting.

[8] Pausan. Phocica, c. xxv. seq.

[9] This I take to be the sense of Μεγεθος here, which distinguished
him, according to Ælian, Var. Hist. iv. 3, from Dionysius of Colophon.
The word Τελειοις in the same passage: και ἐν τοις τελειοις εἰργαζετο τα
ἀθλα, I translate: _he aimed at, he sought his praise in the
representation of essential proportion_; which leads to ideal beauty.

The κρειττους, χειρους, ὁμοιους; or the βελτιονας ἠ καθ' ἡμας, ἠ και
τοιουτους, ἠ χειρονας, of Aristotle, Poetic. c. 2, by which he
distinguishes Polygnotus, Dionysius, Pauson, confirms the sense given to
the passage of Ælian.

[10] Παρειῶν το ἐνερευθες, oἱαν την Κασσανδραν ἐν τη λεσχη ἐποιησε τοις
Δελφοις. Lucian: εἰκονες. This, and what Pausanias tells of the colour
of Eurynomus in the same picture, together with the coloured draperies
mentioned by Pliny; makes it evident, that the 'simplex color' ascribed
by Quintilian to Polygnotus and Aglaophon, implies less a single colour,
as some have supposed, than that simplicity always attendant on the
infancy of painting, which leaves every colour unmixed and crudely by
itself. Indeed the _Poecile_ (ἡ ποικιλη στοα) which obtained its name
from his pictures, is alone a sufficient proof of variety of colours.

[11] Hic primus species exprimere instituit, Pliny xxxv. 36, as
_species_ in the sense Harduin takes it, 'oris et habitus venustas,'
cannot be refused to Polygnotus, and the artists immediately preceding
Apollodorus, it must mean here the subdivisions of generic form; the

At this period we may with probability fix the invention of local
colour, and tone; which, though strictly speaking it be neither the
light nor the shade, is regulated by the medium which tinges both. This,
Pliny calls 'splendour.' To Apollodorus Plutarch ascribes likewise the
invention of tints, the mixtures of colour and the gradations of shade,
if I conceive the passage rightly: Ἀπολλοδωρος ὁ Ζωγραφος Ἀνθρωπων
πρωτος ἐξευρων φθοραν και ἀποχρωσιν Σκιας, (Plutarch, Bellone an pace
Ath., &c. 346.) This was the element of the ancient Ἁρμογη, that
imperceptible transition, which, without opacity, confusion, or
hardness, united local colour, demitint, shade, and reflexes.

[12] 'Pinxit et monochromata ex albo.' Pliny, xxxv. 9. This Aristotle,
Poet. c. 6, calls λευκογραφειν.

[13] In lineis extremis palmam adeptus----minor tamen videtur, sibi
comparatus, in mediis corporibus exprimendis. Pliny, xxxv. 10. Here we
find the inferiority of the middle parts merely relative to himself.
Compared with himself, Parrhasius was not all equal.

[14] Theseus, in quo dixit, eundem apud Parrhasium rosa pastum esse,
suum vero carne. Plin. xxxv. 11.

[15] The epithet which he gave to himself of Ἁβροδιαιτος, the delicate,
the elegant, and the epigram he is said to have composed on himself, are
known: See Athenæus, l. xii. He wore, says Ælian, Var. Hist. ix. 11, a
purple robe and a golden garland; he bore a staff wound round with
tendrils of gold, and his sandals were tied to his feet and ankles with
golden straps. Of his easy simplicity we may judge from his dialogue
with Socrates in Xenophon; ἀπομνημονευατων, l. iii. Of his libidinous
fancy, besides what Pliny says, from his Archigallus, and the Meleager
and Atalanta mentioned by Suetonius in Tiberio, c. 44.

[16] In the portico of the Piræus by Leochares; in the hall of the
Five-hundred, by Lyson; in the back portico of the Ceramicus there was a
picture of Theseus, of Democracy and the Demos, by Euphranor. Pausan.
Attic. i. 3. Aristolaus, according to Pliny, was a painter, 'è

[17] Cicero _Oratore_, 73. seq.--In alioque ponatur, aliudque totum
sit, utrum _decere_ an _oportere_ dicas; _oportere_ enim, perfectionem
declarat officii, quo et semper utendum est, et omnibus: _decere_, quasi
aptum esse, consentaneumque tempori et personæ; quod cum in factis
sæpissime, tum in dictis valet, in vultu denique, et gestu, et incessu.
Contraque item _dedecere_. Quod si poeta fugit, ut maximum vitium, qui
peccat, etiam, cum probam orationem affingit improbo, stultove
sapientis: si denique pictor ille vidit, cum immolanda Iphigenia tristis
Calchas esset, mæstior Ulysses, mæreret Menelaus, obvolvendum caput
Agamemnonis esse, quoniam summum illum luctum penicillo, non posset
imitari: si denique histrio, quid deceat quærit: quid faciendum oratori

M. F. Quintilianus, l. ii. c. 14.--Operienda sunt quædam, sive ostendi
non debent, sive exprimi _pro dignitate_ non possunt: ut fecit
Timanthes, ut opinor, Cithnius, in ea tabula qua Coloten Tejum vicit.
Nam cum in Iphigeniæ immolatione pinxisset tristem Calchantem,
tristiorem Ulyssem, addidisset Menelao quem summum poterat ars efficere
mærorem, consumptis affectibus, non reperiens quo _dignè_ modo Patris
vultum possit exprimere, velavit ejus caput, et sui cuique animo dedit

It is evident to the slightest consideration, that both Cicero and
Quintilian lose sight of their premises, and contradict themselves in
the motive they ascribe to Timanthes. Their want of acquaintance with
the nature of plastic expression made them imagine the face of Agamemnon
beyond the power of the artist. They were not aware that by making him
waste expression on inferior actors at the expence of a principal one,
they call him an improvident spendthrift and not a wise œconomist.

From Valerius Maximus, who calls the subject 'Luctuosum _immolatæ_
Iphigeniæ sacrificium' instead of _immolandæ_, little can be expected to
the purpose. Pliny, with the _dignè_ of Quintilian has the same
confusion of motive.

[18] It is observed by an ingenious Critic, that in the tragedy of
Euripides, the procession is described, and upon Iphigenia's looking
back on her father, he groans, and hides his face to conceal his tears;
whilst the picture gives the moment that precedes the sacrifice, and the
hiding has a different object and arises from another impression.

       ----ὡς δ' εσειδεν Αγαμεμνων αναξ
     ἐπι σφαγας στειχουσαν εἰς ἀλσος κορην
     ἀνεστεναξε. Καμπαλιν στρεψας καρα
     Δακρυα προηγεν, ὀμματων πεπλον προθεις.

[19] Pliny, l. xxxv. c. 18.

[20] Lysippum Sicyonium--audendi rationem cepisse pictoris Eupompi
responso. Eum enim interrogatum, quem sequeretur antecedentium, dixisse
demonstrata hominum multitudine, naturam ipsam imitandam esse, non
artificem. Non habet Latinum nomen symmetria, quam diligentissime
custodivit, nova intactaque ratione quadratas veterum staturas
permutando: Vulgoque dicebat, ab illis factos, quales essent, homines: à
se, quales viderentur esse. Plin. xxxiv. 8.

[21] Μαλλον δε Ἀπελλης ὁ Ἐφεσιος παλαι ταυτην προῦλαβε την εἰκονα· Και
γαρ αὐ και οὑτος διαβληθεις προς Πτολεμαιον----

               Λουκιανού περι του μ. ῥ. Π. Τ. Δ.

[22] Apelles was probably the inventor of what artists call _glazing_.
See Reynolds on Du Fresnoy, note 37. vol. iii.

[23] In matri interfectæ infante miserabiliter blandiente. Plin. l.
xxxiv. c. 9.

[24] A design of Raphael, representing the lues of the Trojans in Creta,
known by the print of Marc Antonio Raymondi.

[25] Reynolds' Disc. V. vol. i. p. 120. Euphranoris Alexander Paris est:
in quo laudatur quod omnia simul intelligantur, judex dearum, amator
Helenæ, et tamen Achillis interfector. Plin. l. xxxiv. 8.

[26] See the Hymn (ascribed to Homer) on Apollo.




               Homer. Iliad. B. 487.


    Introduction--different direction of the art. Preparative
    style--Masaccio--Lionardo da Vinci. Style of
    establishment--Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titiano, Correggio.
    Style of refinement, and depravation. Schools--of Tuscany, Rome,
    Venice, Lombardy. The Eclectic school--Machinists. The German
    school--Albert Durer. The Flemish school--Rubens. The Dutch
    school--Rembrant. Observations on art in Switzerland. The French
    school. The Spanish school. England--Conclusion.


In the preceding discourse I have endeavoured to impress you with the
general features of ancient art in its different periods of preparation,
establishment and refinement. We are now arrived at the epoch of its
restoration in the fifteenth century of our æra, when religion and
wealth rousing emulation, reproduced its powers, but gave to their
exertion a very different direction. The reigning church found itself
indeed under the necessity of giving more splendour to the temples and
mansions destined to receive its votaries, of subduing their senses with
the charm of appropriate images and the exhibition of events and
actions, which might stimulate their zeal and inflame their hearts: but
the sacred mysteries of Divine Being, the method adopted by Revelation,
the duties its doctrine imposed, the virtues it demanded from its
followers, faith, resignation, humility, sufferings, substituted a
medium of art as much inferior to the resources of Paganism in a
physical sense as incomparably superior in a spiritual one. Those public
customs, that perhaps as much tended to spread the infections of vice as
they facilitated the means of art, were no more; the heroism of the
Christian and his beauty were internal, and powerful or exquisite forms
allied him no longer exclusively to his God. The chief repertory of the
artist, the sacred records, furnished indeed a sublime cosmogony, scenes
of patriarchal simplicity and a poetic race, which left nothing to
regret in the loss of heathen mythology; but the stem of the nation
whose history is its exclusive theme, if it abounded in characters and
powers fit for the exhibition of passions, did not teem with forms
sufficiently exalted to inform the artist and elevate the art.
Ingredients of a baser cast mingled their alloy with the materials of
grandeur and of beauty. Monastic legend and the rubric of martyrology
claimed more than a legitimate share from the labours of the pencil and
the chisel, made nudity the exclusive property of emaciated hermits or
decrepit age, and if the breast of manhood was allowed to bare its
vigour, or beauty to expand her bosom, the antidotes of terror and of
horror were ready at their side to check the apprehended infection of
their charms. When we add to this the heterogeneous stock on which the
reviving system of arts was grafted, a race indeed inhabiting a genial
climate, but itself the fæces of barbarity, the remnants of Gothic
adventurers, humanised only by the cross, mouldering amid the ruins of
the temples they had demolished, the battered fragments of the images
their rage had crushed,--when we add this, I say, we shall less wonder
at the languor of modern art in its rise and progress, than be
astonished at the vigour by which it adapted and raised materials partly
so unfit and defective, partly so contaminated, to the magnificent
system which we are to contemplate.

Sculpture had already produced respectable specimens of its reviving
powers in the basso-relievos of Lorenzo Ghiberti, some works of Donato,
and the Christ of Philippo Brunelleschi,[27] when the first symptoms of
imitation appeared in the frescoes of Tommaso da St. Giovanni, commonly
called Masaccio, from the total neglect of his appearance and
person.[28] Masaccio first conceived that parts are to constitute a
whole; that composition ought to have a centre; expression, truth; and
execution, unity: his line deserves attention, though his subjects led
him not to investigation of form, and the shortness of his life forbade
his extending those elements which Raphael, nearly a century afterward,
carried to perfection--it is sufficiently glorious for him to have been
more than once copied by that great master of expression, and in some
degree to have been the herald of his style: Masaccio lives more in the
figure of Paul preaching on the areopágus, of the celebrated cartoon in
our possession, and in the borrowed figure of Adam expelled from
paradise in the loggia of the Vatican, than in his own mutilated or
retouched remains.

The essays of Masaccio in imitation and expression, Andrea Mantegna[29]
attempted to unite with form; led by the contemplation of the antique,
fragments of which he ambitiously scattered over his works: though a
Lombard, and born prior to the discovery of the best ancient statues, he
seems to have been acquainted with a variety of characters, from forms
that remind us of the Apollo, Mercury or Meleager, down to the fauns and
satyrs: but his taste was too crude, his fancy too grotesque, and his
comprehension too weak to advert from the parts that remained to the
whole that inspired them: hence in his figures of dignity or beauty we
see not only the meagre forms of common models, but even their defects
tacked to ideal Torsos; and his fauns and satyrs, instead of native
luxuriance of growth and the sportive appendages of mixed being, are
decorated with heraldic excrescences and arabesque absurdity. His
triumphs are known to you all; they are a copious inventory of classic
lumber, swept together with more industry than taste, but full of
valuable materials. Of expression he was not ignorant: his burial of
Christ furnished Raphael with the composition, and some of the features
and attitudes in his picture on the same subject in the palace of the
Borgheses,--the figure of St. John, however, left out by Raphael, proves
that Mantegna sometimes mistook grimace for the highest degree of grief.
His oil-pictures exhibit little more than the elaborate anguish of
missal-painting; his frescoes, destroyed at the construction of the
Clementine museum, had freshness, freedom, and imitation.

To Luca Signorelli, of Cortona,[30] nature more than atoned for the want
of those advantages which the study of the antique had offered to Andrea
Mantegna. He seems to have been the first who contemplated with a
discriminating eye his object, saw what was accident and what essential;
balanced light and shade, and decided the motion of his figures. He
foreshortened with equal boldness and intelligence, and thence it is,
probably, that Vasari fancies to have discovered in the last judgment
of Michael Angelo traces of imitation from the Lunetta, painted by Luca,
in the church of the Madonna, at Orvieto; but the powers which animated
him there, and before at Arezzo, are no longer visible in the Gothic
medley with which he filled two compartments in the chapel of Sixtus IV.
at Rome.

Such was the dawn of modern art, when Lionardo da Vinci[31] broke forth
with a splendour which distanced former excellence: made up of all the
elements that constitute the essence of genius, favoured by education
and circumstances, all ear, all eye, all grasp; painter, poet, sculptor,
anatomist, architect, engineer, chemist, machinist, musician, man of
science, and sometimes empiric,[32] he laid hold of every beauty in the
enchanted circle, but without exclusive attachment to one, dismissed in
her turn each. Fitter to scatter hints than to teach by example, he
wasted life, insatiate, in experiment. To a capacity which at once
penetrated the principle and real aim of the art, he joined an
inequality of fancy that at one moment lent him wings for the pursuit of
beauty, and the next, flung him on the ground to crawl after deformity:
we owe him chiaroscuro with all its magic, we owe him caricature with
all its incongruities. His notions of the most elaborate finish and his
want of perseverance were at least equal:--want of perseverance alone
could make him abandon his cartoon destined for the great
council-chamber at Florence, of which the celebrated contest of horsemen
was but one group; for to him who could organize that composition,
Michael Angelo himself ought rather to have been an object of emulation
than of fear: and that he was able to organize it, we may be certain
from the remaining imperfect sketch in the 'Etruria Pittrice;' but still
more from the admirable print of it by Edelinck, after a drawing of
Rubens, who was Lionardo's great admirer, and has said much to impress
us with the beauties of his Last Supper in the refectory of the
Dominicans at Milano, the only one of his great works which he carried
to ultimate finish, through all its parts, from the head of Christ to
the least important one: it perished soon after him, and we can estimate
the loss only from the copies that survive.

Bartolomeo della Porta, or di S. Marco, the last master of this
period,[33] first gave gradation to colour, form, and masses to drapery,
and a grave dignity, till then unknown, to execution. If he were not
endowed with the versatility and comprehension of Lionardo, his
principles were less mixed with base matter and less apt to mislead him.
As a member of a religious order, he confined himself to subjects and
characters of piety; but the few nudities which he allowed himself to
exhibit, show sufficient intelligence and still more style: he
foreshortened with truth and boldness, and whenever the figure did admit
of it, made his drapery the vehicle of the limb it invests. He was the
true master of Raphael, whom his tuition weaned from the meanness of
Pietro Perugino, and prepared for the mighty style of Michael Angelo

Sublimity of conception, grandeur of form, and breadth of manner are the
elements of Michael Angelo's style.[34] By these principles he selected
or rejected the objects of imitation. As painter, as sculptor, as
architect, he attempted, and above any other man succeeded, to unite
magnificence of plan and endless variety of subordinate parts with the
utmost simplicity and breadth. His line is uniformly grand: character
and beauty were admitted only as far as they could be made subservient
to grandeur. The child, the female, meanness, deformity, were by him
indiscriminately stamped with grandeur. A beggar rose from his hand the
patriarch of poverty; the hump of his dwarf is impressed with dignity;
his women are moulds of generation; his infants teem with the man; his
men are a race of giants. This is the 'terribil via' hinted at by
Agostino Carracci, though perhaps as little understood by the Bolognese
as by the blindest of his Tuscan adorers, with Vasari at their head. To
give the appearance of perfect ease to the most perplexing difficulty,
was the exclusive power of Michael Angelo. He is the inventor of epic
painting, in that sublime circle of the Sistine chapel which exhibits
the origin, the progress, and the final dispensations of theocracy. He
has personified motion in the groups of the cartoon of Pisa; embodied
sentiment on the monuments of St. Lorenzo, unravelled the features of
meditation in the Prophets and Sibyls of the Sistine chapel; and in the
Last Judgement, with every attitude that varies the human body, traced
the master-trait of every passion that sways the human heart. Though as
sculptor, he expressed the character of flesh more perfectly than all
who went before or came after him, yet he never submitted to copy an
individual; Julio the second only excepted, and in him he represented
the reigning passion rather than the man.[35] In painting he contented
himself with a negative colour, and as the painter of mankind, rejected
all meretricious ornament.[36] The fabric of St. Peter, scattered into
infinity of jarring parts by Bramante and his successors, he
concentrated; suspended the cupola, and to the most complex gave the air
of the most simple of edifices. Such, take him all in all, was M.
Angelo, the salt of art: sometimes he no doubt had his moments of
dereliction, deviated into manner, or perplexed the grandeur of his
forms with futile and ostentatious anatomy: both met with armies of
copyists; and it has been his fate to have been censured for their

The inspiration of Michael Angelo was followed by the milder genius of
Raphael Sanzio,[37] the father of dramatic painting; the painter of
humanity; less elevated, less vigorous, but more insinuating, more
pressing on our hearts, the warm master of our sympathies. What effect
of human connexion, what feature of the mind, from the gentlest emotion
to the most fervid burst of passion, has been left unobserved, has not
received a characteristic stamp from that examiner of man? M. Angelo
came to nature, nature came to Raphael--he transmitted her features like
a lucid glass, unstained, unmodified. We stand with awe before M.
Angelo, and tremble at the height to which he elevates us--we embrace
Raphael, and follow him wherever he leads us. Energy, with propriety of
character and modest grace, poise his line and determine his
correctness. Perfect human beauty he has not represented; no face of
Raphael's is perfectly beautiful; no figure of his, in the abstract,
possesses the proportions that could raise it to a standard of
imitation: form to him was only a vehicle of character or pathos, and to
those he adapted it in a mode and with a truth which leaves all attempts
at emendation hopeless. His invention connects the utmost stretch of
possibility with the most plausible degree of probability, in a manner
that equally surprises our fancy, persuades our judgment, and affects
our heart. His composition always hastens to the most necessary point as
its centre, and from that disseminates, to that leads back as rays, all
secondary ones. Group, form, and contrast are subordinate to the event,
and common-place ever excluded. His expression, in strict unison with
and decided by character, whether calm, animated, agitated, convulsed,
or absorbed by the inspiring passion, unmixed and pure, never
contradicts its cause, equally remote from tameness and grimace: the
moment of his choice never suffers the action to stagnate or to expire;
it is the moment of transition; the crisis big with the past and
pregnant with the future.--If, separately taken, the line of Raphael has
been excelled in correctness, elegance, and energy; his colour far
surpassed in tone, and truth, and harmony; his masses in roundness, and
his chiaroscuro in effect--considered as instruments of pathos, they
have never been equalled; and in composition, invention, expression, and
the power of telling a story, he has never been approached.

Whilst the superior principles of the art were receiving the homage of
Tuscany and Rome, the inferior but more alluring charm of colour began
to spread its fascination at Venice, from the pallet of Giorgione da
Castel Franco[38], and irresistibly entranced every eye that approached
the magic of Titiano Vecelli of Cador.[39] To no colourist before or
after him, did Nature unveil herself with that dignified familiarity in
which she appeared to Titiano. His organ, universal and equally fit for
all her exhibitions, rendered her simplest to her most compound
appearances with equal purity and truth. He penetrated the essence and
the general principle of the substances before him, and on these
established his theory of colour. He invented that breadth of local tint
which no imitation has attained; and first expressed the negative nature
of shade: his are the charms of glazing, and the mystery of reflexes, by
which he detached, rounded, connected, or enriched his objects. His
harmony is less indebted to the force of light and shade, or the
artifices of contrast, than to a due balance of colour, equally remote
from monotony and spots. His backgrounds seem to be dictated by nature.
Landscape, whether it be considered as the transcript of a spot, or the
rich combination of congenial objects, or as the scene of a phænomenon,
dates its origin from him: he is the father of portrait-painting, of
resemblance with form, character with dignity, and costume with

Another charm was yet wanting to complete the round of art--harmony: it
appeared with Antonio Læti,[40] called Correggio, whose works it
attended like an enchanted spirit. The harmony and the grace of
Correggio are proverbial: the medium which by breadth of gradation
unites two opposite principles, the coalition of light and darkness by
imperceptible transition, are the element of his style.--This inspires
his figures with grace, to this their grace is subordinate: the most
appropriate, the most elegant attitudes were adopted, rejected, perhaps
sacrificed to the most awkward ones, in compliance with this imperious
principle: parts vanished, were absorbed, or emerged in obedience to it.
This unison of a whole, predominates over all that remains of him, from
the vastness of his cupolas to the smallest of his oil-pictures.--The
harmony of Correggio, though assisted by exquisite hues, was entirely
independent of colour: his great organ was chiaroscuro in its most
extensive sense; compared with the expanse in which he floats, the
effects of Lionardo da Vinci are little more than the dying ray of
evening, and the concentrated flash of Giorgione discordant abruptness.
The bland central light of a globe, imperceptibly gliding through lucid
demitints into rich reflected shades, composes the spell of Correggio,
and affects us with the soft emotions of a delicious dream.

Such was the ingenuity that prepared, and such the genius that raised to
its height the fabric of modern art. Before we proceed to the next
epoch, let us make an observation.

Form not your judgment of an artist from the exceptions which his
conduct may furnish, from the exertions of accidental vigour, some
deviations into other walks, or some unpremeditated flights of fancy,
but from the predominant rule of his system, the general principle of
his works. The line and style of Titian's design, sometimes expand
themselves like those of Michael Angelo. His Abraham prevented from
sacrificing Isaac; his David adoring over the giant-trunk of Goliath;
the Friar escaping from the murderer of his companion in the forest,
equal in loftiness of conception and style of design, their mighty tone
of colour and daring execution: the heads and groups of Raphael's
frescoes and portraits sometimes glow and palpitate with the tints of
Titian, or coalesce in masses of harmony, and undulate with graces
superior to those of Correggio; who in his turn once reached the highest
summit of invention, when he embodied silence and personified the
mysteries of love in the voluptuous group of Jupiter and Io; and again
exceeded all competition of expression in the divine features of his
Ecce-Homo. But these sudden irradiations, these flashes of power are
only exceptions from their wonted principles; pathos and character own
Raphael for their master, colour remains the domain of Titian, and
harmony the sovereign mistress of Correggio.

The resemblance which marked the two first periods of ancient and modern
art vanishes altogether as we extend our view to the consideration of
the third, or that of refinement, and the origin of schools. The
pre-eminence of ancient art, as we have observed, was less the result of
superior powers, than of simplicity of aim and uniformity of pursuit.
The Helladic and the Ionian schools appear to have concurred in
directing their instruction to the grand principles of form and
expression: this was the stamen which they drew out into one immense
connected web. The talents that succeeded genius, applied and directed
their industry and polish to decorate the established system, the
refinements of taste, grace, sentiment, colour, adorned beauty,
grandeur, and expression. The Tuscan, the Roman, the Venetian, and the
Lombard schools, whether from incapacity, want of education, of adequate
or dignified encouragement, meanness of conception, or all these
together, separated, and in a short time substituted the medium for the
end. Michael Angelo lived to see the electric shock which his design and
style had given to art, propagated by the Tuscan and Venetian schools,
as the ostentatious vehicle of puny conceits and emblematic quibbles, or
the palliative of empty pomp and degraded luxuriance of colour. He had
been copied but was not imitated by Andrea Vannucchi, surnamed Del
Sarto, who in his series of pictures on the life of John the Baptist, in
preference adopted the meager style of Albert Durer. The artist who
appears to have penetrated deepest to his mind, was Pelegrino Tibaldi,
of Bologna;[41] celebrated as the painter of the frescoes in the
academic institute of that city, and as the architect of the Escurial
under Philip II. The compositions, groups, and single figures of the
institute exhibit a singular mixture of extraordinary vigour and puerile
imbecility of conception, of character and caricature, of style and
manner. Polypheme groping at the mouth of his cave for Ulysses, and
Æolus granting him favourable winds, are striking instances of both:
than the Cyclops, Michael Angelo himself never conceived a form of
savage energy, with attitude and limbs more in unison; whilst the god of
winds is degraded to a scanty and ludicrous semblance of Thersites, and
Ulysses with his companions travestied by the semi-barbarous look and
costume of the age of Constantine or Attila; the manner of Michael
Angelo is the style of Pelegrino Tibaldi; from him Golzius, Hemskerk,
and Spranger borrowed the compendium of the Tuscan's peculiarities. With
this mighty talent, however, Michael Angelo seems not to have been
acquainted, but by that unaccountable weakness incident to the greatest
powers, and the severe remembrancer of their vanity, he became the
superintendant and assistant tutor of the Venetian Sebastiano[42], and
of Daniel Ricciarelli, of Volterra[43]; the first of whom, with an
exquisite eye for individual, had no sense for ideal colour, whilst the
other rendered great diligence and much anatomical erudition, useless by
meagerness of line and sterility of ideas: how far Michael Angelo
succeeded in initiating either in his principles, the far-famed pictures
of the resuscitation of Lazarus, by the first, once in the cathedral of
Narbonne, and since inspected by us all at the Lyceum here,[44] and the
fresco of the descent from the cross, in the church of La Trinità del
Monte, at Rome, by the second, sufficiently evince: pictures which
combine the most heterogeneous principles. The group of Lazarus in
Sebastian del Piombo's and that of the women, with the figure of Christ,
in Daniel Ricciarelli's, not only breathe the sublime conception that
inspired, but the master-hand that shaped them: offsprings of Michael
Angelo himself, models of expression, style, and breadth, they cast on
all the rest an air of inferiority, and only serve to prove the
incongruity of partnership between unequal powers; this inferiority
however is respectable, when compared with the depravations of Michael
Angelo's style by the remainder of the Tuscan school, especially those
of Giorgio Vasari,[45] the most superficial artist and the most
abandoned mannerist of his time, but the most acute observer of men and
the most dextrous flatterer of princes. He overwhelmed the palaces of
the Medici and of the popes, the convents and churches of Italy, with a
deluge of mediocrity, commended by rapidity and shameless 'bravura' of
hand: he alone did more work than all the artists of Tuscany together,
and to him may be truly applied, what he had the insolence to say of
Tintoretto, that he turned the art into a boy's toy.

Whilst Michael Angelo was doomed to lament the perversion of his style,
death prevented Raphael from witnessing the gradual decay of his. The
exuberant fertility of Julio Pipi called Romano,[46] and the less
extensive but classic taste of Polydoro da Caravagio deserted indeed the
standard of their master, but with a dignity and magnitude of compass
which command respect. It is less from his tutored works in the Vatican,
than from the colossal conceptions, the pathetic or sublime allegories,
and the voluptuous reveries which enchant the palace del T, near
Mantoua, that we must form our estimate of Julio's powers; they were of
a size to challenge all competition, had he united purity of taste and
delicacy of mind with energy and loftiness of thought; as they are, they
resemble a mighty stream, sometimes flowing in a full and limpid vein,
but oftener turbid with rubbish. He has left specimens of composition
from the most sublime to the most extravagant; to a primeval simplicity
of conception in his mythologic subjects, which transports us to the
golden age of Hesiod, he joined a rage for the grotesque; to uncommon
powers of expression a decided attachment to deformity and grimace, and
to the warmest and most genial imagery the most ungenial colour.

With nearly equal, but still more mixed fertility, Francesco
Primaticcio[47] propagated the style and the conceptions of his master
Julio on the Gallic side of the Alps, and with the assistance of Nicolo,
commonly called Dell' Abbate after him, filled the palaces of Francis I.
with mythologic and allegoric works, in frescoes of an energy and depth
of tone till then unknown. Theirs was the cyclus of pictures from the
Odyssea of Homer at Fontainbleau, a mine of classic and picturesque
materials: they are destroyed, and we may estimate their loss, even
through the disguise of the mannered and feeble etchings of Theodore Van

The compact style of Polydoro,[48] formed on the antique, such as it is
exhibited in the best series of the Roman military bassrelievoes, is
more monumental, than imitative or characteristic. But the virility of
his taste, the impassioned motion of his groups, the simplicity,
breadth, and never excelled elegance and probability of his drapery,
with the forcible chiaroscuro of his compositions, make us regret the
narrowness of the walk to which he confined his powers.

No painter ever painted his own mind so forcibly as Michael Angelo
Amerigi, surnamed Il Caravaggi.[49] To none nature ever set limits with
a more decided hand. Darkness gave him light; into his melancholy cell
light stole only with a pale reluctant ray, or broke on it, as flashes
on a stormy night. The most vulgar forms he recommended by ideal light
and shade, and a tremendous breadth of manner.

The aim and style of the Roman school deserve little further notice
here, till the appearance of Nicolas Poussin[50] a Frenchman, but
grafted on the Roman stock. Bred under Quintin Varin, a French painter
of mediocrity, he found on his arrival in Italy that he had more to
unlearn than to follow of his master's principles, renounced the
national character, and not only with the utmost ardour adopted, but
suffered himself to be wholly absorbed by the antique. Such was his
attachment to the ancients, that it may be said he less imitated their
spirit than copied their relics and painted sculpture; the costume, the
mythology, the rites of antiquity were his element; his scenery, his
landscape, are pure classic ground. He has left specimens to show that
he was sometimes sublime, and often in the highest degree pathetic, but
history in the strictest sense was his property, and in that he ought to
be followed. His agents only appear, to tell the fact; they are
subordinate to the story. Sometimes he attempted to tell a story that
cannot be told: of his historic dignity the celebrated series of
Sacraments; of his sublimity, the vision he gave to Coriolanus; of his
pathetic power, the infant Pyrrhus; and of the vain attempt to tell by
figures what words alone can tell, the testament of Eudamidas, are
striking instances. His eye, though impressed with the tint, and
breadth, and imitation of Titiano, seldom inspired him to charm with
colour; crudity and patches frequently deform his effects. He is unequal
in his style of design; sometimes his comprehension fails him; he
supplies, like Pietro Testa, ideal heads and torsos with limbs and
extremities transcribed from the model. Whether from choice or want of
power he has seldom executed his conceptions on a larger scale than that
which bears his name, and which has perhaps as much contributed to make
him the darling of this country, as his merit.

The wildness of Salvator Rosa[51] opposes a powerful contrast to the
classic regularity of Poussin. Terrific and grand in his conceptions of
inanimate nature, he was reduced to attempts of hiding by boldness of
hand, his inability of exhibiting her impassioned, or in the dignity of
character: his line is vulgar: his magic visions, less founded on
principles of terror than on mythologic trash and caprice, are to the
probable combinations of nature, what the paroxysms of a fever are to
the flights of vigorous fancy. Though so much extolled and so
ambitiously imitated, his banditti are a medley made up of starveling
models, shreds and bits of armour from his lumber-room, brushed into
notice by a daring pencil. Salvator was a satyrist and a critic, but the
rod which he had the insolence to lift against the nudities of Michael
Angelo, and the anachronism of Raphael, would have been better employed
in chastising his own misconceptions.

The principle of Titiano, less pure in itself and less decided in its
object of imitation, did not suffer so much from its more or less
appropriate application by his successors, as the former two. Colour
once in a very high degree attained, disdains subordination and
engrosses the whole. Mutual similarity attracts, body tends to body, as
mind to mind, and he who has once gained supreme dominion over the eye,
will hardly resign it to court the more coy approbation of mind, of a
few opposed to nearly all. Add to this the character of the place and
the nature of the encouragement held out to the Venetian artists. Venice
was the centre of commerce, the repository of the riches of the globe,
the splendid toy-shop of the time: its chief inhabitants princely
merchants, or a patrician race elevated to rank by accumulations from
trade, or naval prowess; the bulk of the people, mechanics or artisans,
administering the means, and in their turn fed by the produce of luxury.
Of such a system, what could the art be more than the parasite? Religion
itself had exchanged its gravity for the allurements of ear and eye, and
even sanctity disgusted, unless arrayed by the gorgeous hand of
fashion.--Such was, such will always be the birth-place and the theatre
of colour: and hence it is more matter of wonder that the first and
greatest colourists should so long have foreborne to overstep the
modesty of nature in the use of that alluring medium, than that they
yielded by degrees to its golden solicitations.[52]

The principle of Correggio vanished with its author, though it found
numerous imitators of its parts. Since him, no eye has conceived that
expanse of harmony with which the voluptuous sensibility of his mind
arranged and enchanted all visible nature. His grace, so much vaunted
and so little understood, was adopted and improved to elegance by
Francesco Mazzuoli, called Il Parmegiano,[53] but instead of making her
the measure of propriety, he degraded her to affectation: in
Parmegiano's figures action is the adjective of the posture; the
accident of attitude; they 'make themselves air, into which they
vanish.' That disengaged play of delicate forms, the 'Sueltezza' of the
Italians, is the prerogative of Parmegiano, though nearly always
obtained at the expense of proportion. His grandeur, as conscious as his
grace, sacrifices the motive to the mode, simplicity to contrast: his
St. John loses the fervour of the apostle in the orator; his Moses the
dignity of the lawgiver in the savage. With incredible force of
chiaroscuro, he united bland effects and fascinating hues, but their
frequent ruins teach the important lesson, that the mixtures which
anticipate the beauties of time, are big with the seeds of premature

Such was the state of the art, when, towards the decline of the
sixteenth century, Lodovico Carracci,[54] with his cousins Agostino[55]
and Annibale, founded at Bologna that eclectic school, which by
selecting the beauties, correcting the faults, supplying the defects and
avoiding the extremes of the different styles, attempted to form a
perfect system. But as the mechanic part was their only object, they did
not perceive that the projected union was incompatible with the leading
principle of each master. Let us hear this plan from Agostino Carracci
himself, as it is laid down in his sonnet[56] on the ingredients
required to form a perfect painter, if that may be called a sonnet which
has more the air of medical prescription. 'Take,' says Agostino, 'the
design of Rome, Venetian motion and shade, the dignified tone of
Lombardy's colour, the terrible manner of Michael Angelo, the just
symmetry of Raphael, Titiano's truth of nature, and the sovereign purity
of Corregio's style: add to these the decorum and solidity of Tibaldi,
the learned invention of Primaticcio, and a little of Parmegiano's
grace: but to save so much study, such weary labour, apply your
imitation to the works which our dear Nicolo has left us here.' Of such
advice, balanced between the tone of regular breeding and the cant of an
empiric, what could be the result? excellence or mediocrity? who ever
imagined that a multitude of dissimilar threads could compose an uniform
texture, that dissemination of spots would make masses, or a little of
many things produce a legitimate whole? indiscriminate imitation must
end in the extinction of character, and that in mediocrity,--the cipher
of art.

And were the Carracci such? separate the precept from the practice, the
artist from the teacher; and the Carracci are in possession of my
submissive homage. Lodovico, far from implicitly subscribing to a
master's dictates, was the sworn pupil of nature. To a modest style of
form, to a simplicity eminently fitted for those subjects of religious
gravity which his taste preferred, he joined that solemnity of hue, that
sober twilight, the air of cloistered meditation, which you have so
often heard recommended as the proper tone of historic colour. Too often
content to rear the humbler graces of his subject, he seldom courted
elegance, but always when he did, with enviable success. Even now,
though nearly in a state of evanescence, the three nymphs in the garden
scene of St. Michele in Bosco, seem moulded by the hand, inspired by the
breath of love. Agostino, with a singular modesty which prompted him
rather to propagate the fame of others by his graver, than by steady
exertion to rely on his own power for perpetuity of name, combined with
some learning a cultivated taste, correctness, though not elegance of
form, and a corregiesque colour. Annibale, superior to both in power of
execution and academic prowess, was inferior to either in taste, and
sensibility and judgment; for the most striking proof of this
inferiority I appeal to his master-work, the work on which he rests his
fame, the gallery of the Farnese palace: a work whose uniform vigour of
execution nothing can equal but its imbecility and incongruity of
conception. If impropriety of ornament were to be fixed by definition,
the subjects of the Farnese gallery might be quoted as the most decisive
instances. Criticism has attempted to dismiss Paolo Veronese and
Tintoretto from the province of legitimate history with the
contemptuous appellation of ornamental painters, not for having painted
subjects inapplicable to the public and private palaces, the churches
and convents, which they were employed to decorate, but because they
treated them sometimes without regard to costume, or the simplicity due
to sacred, heroic or allegoric subjects: if this be just, where shall we
class him, who with the Capella Sistina, and the Vatican before his eye,
fills the mansion of religious austerity and episcopal dignity with a
chaotic series of trite fable and bacchanalian revelry, without
allegory, void of allusion, merely to gratify the puerile ostentation of
dauntless execution and academic vigour? if the praise given to a work
be not always transferable to its master; if, as Milton says, 'the work
some praise and some the architect,' let us admire the splendour, the
exuberance, the concentration of powers displayed in the Farnese
gallery, whilst we lament their misapplication by Annibale Carracci.

The heterogeneous principle of the eclectic school soon operated its own
dissolution: the great talents which the Carracci had tutored, soon
found their own bias, and abandoned themselves to their own peculiar
taste. B. Schidone died young in 1615. Barto. Schidone, Guido Reni,[57]
Giovanni Lanfranco, Francesco Albani, Domenico Zampieri, and Francesco
Barbieri, called Guercino, differed as much in their objects of
imitation as their names. Schidone, all of whose mind was in his eye,
embraced, and often to meaner subjects applied the harmony and colour of
Correggio, whilst Lanfranco strove, but strove without success, to
follow him through the expanse of his creation and masses. Grace
attracted Guido, but it was the studied grace of theatres: his female
forms are abstracts of antique beauty, attended by languishing
attitudes, arrayed by voluptuous fashions. His male forms, transcripts
of models, such as are found in a genial climate, are sometimes highly
characteristic of dignified manhood or apostolic fervour, like his Peter
and Paul, formerly in the Zampieri at Bologna: sometimes stately,
courteous, insipid, like his Paris attending Helen, more with the air of
an ambassador, by proxy, than carrying her off with a lover's fervour.
His Aurora deserved to precede a more majestic sun, and hours less
clumsy--his colour varies with his style, sometimes bland and
harmonious, sometimes vigorous and stern, sometimes flat and insipid.
Albani, chiefly attracted by soft mythologic conceits, formed nereids
and oreads on plump Venetian models, and contrasted their pearly hues
with the rosy tints of loves, the juicy brown of fauns and satyrs, and
rich marine or sylvan scenery. Domenichino, more obedient than the rest
to his masters, aimed at the beauty of the antique, the expression of
Raphael, the vigour of Annibale, the colour of Lodovico, and mixing
something of each, fell short of all; whilst Guercino broke like a
torrent over all academic rules, and with an ungovernable itch of
copying whatever lay in his way, sacrificed mind, form and costume, to
effects of colour, fierceness of chiaroscuro, and intrepidity of hand.

Such was the state of art when the spirit of machinery, in submission to
the vanities and upstart pride of papal nepotism, destroyed what yet
was left of meaning; when equilibration, contrast, grouping, engrossed
composition, and poured a deluge of gay common-place over the platfonds,
panels and cupolas of palaces and temples. Those who could not conceive
a figure singly, scattered multitudes; to count, was to be poor. The
rainbow and the seasons were ransacked for their hues, and every eye
became the tributary of the great but abused talents of Pietro da
Cortona, and the fascinating but debauched and empty facility of Luca

The same revolution of mind that had organized the arts of Italy,
spread, without visible communication, to Germany, and towards the
decline of the fifteenth century, the uncouth essays of Martin Schön,
Michael Wolgemuth, and Albrecht Altorfer, were succeeded by the finer
polish and the more dextrous method of Albert Durer. The indiscriminate
use of the words genius and talent has perhaps nowhere caused more
confusion than in the classification of artists. Albert Durer was in my
opinion a man of great ingenuity, without being a genius. He studied,
and, as far as his penetration reached, established certain proportions
of the human frame, but he did not invent a style: every work of his is
a proof that he wanted the power of imitation, of concluding from what
he saw, to what he did not see, that he copied rather than selected the
forms that surrounded him, and sans remorse tacked deformity and
meagerness to fulness, and sometimes to beauty.[59] Such is his design;
in composition copious without taste, anxiously precise in parts, and
unmindful of the whole, he has rather shown us what to avoid than what
to follow. He sometimes had a glimpse of the sublime, but it was only a
glimpse: the expanded agony of Christ on the mount of Olives, and the
mystic conception of his figure of Melancholy, are thoughts of
sublimity, though the expression of the last is weakened by the rubbish
he has thrown about her. His Knight attended by Death and the Fiend, is
more capricious than terrible; and his Adam and Eve are two common
models shut up in a rocky dungeon. If he approached genius in any part
of art, it was in colour. His colour went beyond his age, and as far
excelled in truth and breadth and handling the oil colour of Raphael, as
Raphael excels him in every other quality. I speak of easel-pictures--his
drapery is broad though much too angular, and rather snapped than
folded. Albert is called the father of the German school, though he
neither reared scholars, nor was imitated by the German artists of his
or the succeeding century. That the exportation of his works to Italy
should have effected a temporary change in the principles of some
Tuscans who had studied Michael Angelo, of Andrea del Sarto, and Jacopo
da Pontormo, is a fact which proves that minds at certain periods may be
subject to epidemic influence as well as bodies.

Lucas of Leyden[60] was the Dutch imitator of Albert; but the forms of
Aldegraver, Sebald Beheim, and George Pentz, appear to have been the
result of careful inspection of Marc Antonio's prints from Raphael, of
whom Pentz was probably a scholar; and ere long the style of Michael
Angelo, as adopted by Pelegrino Tibaldi, and spread by the graver of
Giorgio Mantuano, provoked those caravans of German, Dutch, and Flemish
students, who on their return from Italy, at the courts of Prague and
Munich, in Flanders and the Netherlands, introduced that preposterous
manner, the bloated excrescence of diseased brains, which in the form of
man left nothing human, distorted action and gesture with insanity of
affectation, and dressed the gewgaws of children in colossal shapes; the
style of Golzius and Spranger, Heynz and ab Ach: but though content to
feed on the husks of Tuscan design, they imbibed the colour of Venice,
and spread the elements of that excellence which distinguished the
succeeding schools of Flanders and of Holland.

This frantic pilgrimage to Italy ceased at the apparition of the two
meteors of art, Peter Paul Rubens,[61] and Rembrandt Van Rhyn; both of
whom disdaining to acknowledge the usual laws of admission to the temple
of fame, boldly forged their own keys, entered and took possession,
each, of a most conspicuous place by his own power. Rubens, born at
Cologne, in Germany, but brought up at Antwerp, then the depository of
western commerce, a school of religious and classic learning, and the
pompous seat of Austrian and Spanish superstition, met these advantages
with an ardour and success of which ordinary minds can form no idea, if
we compare the period at which he is said to have seriously applied
himself to painting, under the tuition of Otho Van Veen, with the
unbounded power he had acquired over the instruments of art when he set
out for Italy; where we instantly discover him not as the pupil, but as
the successful rival of the masters whose works he had selected for the
objects of his emulation. Endowed with a full comprehension of his own
character, he wasted not a moment on the acquisition of excellence
incompatible with its fervour, but flew to the centre of his ambition,
Venice, and soon compounded from the splendour of Paolo Veronese and the
glow of Tintoretto, that florid system of mannered magnificence which
is the element of his art and the principle of his school. He first
spread that ideal pallet, which reduced to its standard the variety of
nature, and once methodized, whilst his mind tuned the method, shortened
or superseded individual imitation. His scholars, however dissimilar in
themselves, saw with the eye of their master; the eye of Rubens was
become the substitute of nature: still the mind alone that had balanced
these tints, and weighed their powers, could apply them to their
objects, and determine their use in the pompous display of historic and
allegoric magnificence; for _that_ they were selected, for _that_ the
gorgeous nosegay swelled: but when in the progress of depraved practice
they became the mere palliatives of mental impotence, empty
representatives of themselves, the supporters of nothing but clumsy
forms and clumsier conceits, they can only be considered as splendid
improprieties, as the substitutes for wants which no colour can palliate
and no tint supply.

In this censure I am under no apprehension of being suspected to include
either the illustrious name of Vandyck,[62] or that of Abraham
Diepenbeck. Vandyck, more elegant, more refined, to graces, which the
genius of Rubens disdained to court, joined that exquisite taste which,
in following the general principle of his master, moderated, and adapted
its application to his own pursuits. His sphere was portrait, and the
imitation of Titiano insured him the second place in that. The fancy of
Diepenbeck, though not so exuberant, if I be not mistaken, excelled in
sublimity the imagination of Rubens: his Bellerophon, Dioscuri,
Hippolytus, Ixion, Sisyphus, fear no competitor among the productions of
his master.

Rembrandt[63] was, in my opinion, a genius of the first class in
whatever relates not to form. In spite of the most portentous deformity,
and without considering the spell of his chiaroscuro, such were his
powers of nature, such the grandeur, pathos, or simplicity of his
composition, from the most elevated or extensive arrangement to the
meanest and most homely, that the best cultivated eye, the purest
sensibility, and the most refined taste dwell on them, equally
enthralled. Shakspeare alone excepted, no one combined with so much
transcendant excellence so many, in all other men unpardonable
faults--and reconciled us to them. He possessed the full empire of light
and shade, and of all the tints that float between them: he tinged his
pencil with equal success in the cool of dawn, in the noon-day ray, in
the livid flash, in evanescent twilight, and rendered darkness visible.
Though made to bend a steadfast eye on the bolder phenomena of Nature,
yet he knew how to follow her into her calmest abodes, gave interest to
insipidity or baldness, and plucked a flower in every desert. None ever
like Rembrandt knew to improve an accident into a beauty, or give
importance to a trifle. If ever he had a master, he had no followers;
Holland was not made to comprehend his power. The succeeding school of
colourists were content to tip the cottage, the hamlet, the boor, the
ale-pot, the shambles, and the haze of winter, with orient hues, or the
glow of setting summer suns.

In turning our eye to Switzerland we shall find great powers without
great names, those of Hans Holbein[64] and Francis Mola only excepted.
But the scrupulous precision, the high finish, and the Tizianesque
colour of Hans Holbein, make the least part of his excellence for those
who have seen his Designs of the Passion, and that series of emblematic
groups, known under the name of Holbein's Dance of Death. From Belinzona
to Basle, invention appears to have been the characteristic of Helvetic
art: the works of Tobias Stimmer, Christopher Murer, Jost Amman,
Gotthard Ringgli, are mines of invention, and exhibit a style of design,
equally poised between the emaciated dryness of Albert Durer and the
bloated corpulence of Golzius.

The seeds of mediocrity which the Carracci had attempted to scatter over
Italy, found a more benign soil, and reared an abundant harvest in
France: to mix up a compound from something of every excellence in the
catalogue of art, was the principle of their theory and their aim in
execution. It is in France where Michael Angelo's right to the title of
a painter was first questioned. The fierceness of his line, as they call
it, the purity of the antique, and the characteristic forms of Raphael,
are only the road to the academic vigour, the librated style of Annibale
Carracci, and from that they appeal to the model; in composition they
consult more the artifice of grouping, contrast and richness, than the
subject or propriety; their expression is dictated by the theatre. From
the uniformity of this process, not to allow that the school of France
offers respectable exceptions, would be unjust; without recurring again
to the name of Nicolas Poussin, the works of Eustache le Sueur,[65]
Charles le Brun, Sebastien Bourdon, and sometimes Pierre Mignard,
contain original beauties and rich materials. Le Sueur's series of
pictures in the Chartreux exhibit the features of contemplative piety,
in a purity of style and a placid breadth of manner that moves the
heart. His dignified Martyrdom of St. Laurence, and the Burning of the
Magic Books at Ephesus, breathe the spirit of Raphael. The powerful
comprehension of a whole, only equalled by the fire which pervades every
part of the Battles of Alexander, by Charles le Brun, would entitle him
to the highest rank in history, had the characters been less mannered,
had he not exchanged the Argyraspids and the Macedonian phalanx for the
compact legionaries of the Trajan pillar; had he distinguished Greeks
from barbarians, rather by national feature and form than by
accoutrement and armour. The Seven Works of Charity by Seb. Bourdon teem
with surprising pathetic and always novel images; and in the Plague of
David, by Pierre Mignard, our sympathy is roused by energies of terror
and combinations of woe, which escaped Poussin and Raphael himself.

The obstinacy of national pride,[66] perhaps more than the neglect of
government or the frown of superstition, confined the labours of the
Spanish school, from its obscure origin at Sevilla to its brightest
period, within the narrow limits of individual imitation. But the degree
of perfection attained by Diego Velasquez, Joseph Ribera, and Murillo,
in pursuing the same object by means as different as successful,
impresses us with deep respect for the variety of their powers.

That the great style ever received the homage of Spanish genius, appears
not; neither Alfonso Berruguette, nor Pellegrino Tibaldi, left
followers: but that the eyes and the taste fed by the substance of
Spagnuoletto and Murillo, should without reluctance have submitted to
the gay volatility of Luca Giordano, and the ostentatious flimsiness of
Sebastian Conca, would be matter of surprise, did we not see the same
principles successfully pursued in the platfonds of Antonio Raphael
Mengs, the painter of philosophy, as he is styled by his biographer
D'Azara. The cartoons of the frescoes painted for the royal palace at
Madrid, representing the apotheosis of Trajan and the temple of Renown,
exhibit less the style of Raphael in the nuptials of Cupid and Psyche at
the Farnesina, than the gorgeous but empty bustle of Pietro da Cortona.

From this view of art on the Continent, let us cast a glance on its
state in this country, from the age of Henry VIII. to our own.--From
that period to this, Britain never ceased pouring its caravans of noble
and wealthy pilgrims over Italy, Greece, and Ionia, to pay their
devotions at the shrines of virtù and taste: not content with adoring
the obscure idols, they have ransacked their temples, and none returned
without some share in the spoil: in plaister or in marble, on canvass or
in gems, the arts of Greece and Italy were transported to England, and
what Petronius said of Rome, that it was easier to meet there with a god
than a man, might be said of London. Without inquiring into the
permanent and accidental causes of the inefficacy of these efforts with
regard to public taste and support of art, it is observable, that,
whilst Francis I. was busied, not to aggregate a mass of painted and
chiselled treasures merely to gratify his own vanity, and brood over
them with sterile avarice, but to scatter the seeds of taste over
France, by calling, employing, enriching Andrea del Sarto, Rustici,
Rosso, Primaticcio, Cellini, Niccolo; in England, Holbein and
Torregiano under Henry, and Federigo Zucchero under Elizabeth, were
condemned to gothic work and portrait painting. Charles indeed called
Rubens and his scholars to provoke the latent English spark, but the
effect was intercepted by his destiny. His son, in possession of the
cartoons of Raphael, and with the magnificence of Whitehall before his
eyes, suffered Verio to contaminate the walls of his palaces, or
degraded Lely to paint the Cymons and Iphigenias of his court; whilst
the manner of Kneller swept completely what yet might be left of taste
under his successors: such was the equally contemptible and deplorable
state of English art, till the genius of Reynolds first rescued from the
mannered depravation of foreigners his own branch, and soon extending
his view to the higher departments of art, joined that select body of
artists who addressed the ever open ear, ever attentive mind of our
Royal Founder, with the first idea of this establishment. His
beneficence soon gave it a place and a name, his august patronage,
sanction, and individual encouragement: the annually increased merits of
thirty exhibitions in this place, with the collateral ones contrived by
the speculations of commerce, have told the surprising effects: a mass
of self-taught and tutored powers burst upon the general eye, and
unequivocally told the world what might be expected from the concurrence
of public encouragement--how far this has been or may be granted or
withheld, it is not here my province to surmise: the plans lately
adopted and now organizing within these walls for the dignified
propagation and support of art, whether fostered by the great, or left
to their own energy, must soon decide what may be produced by the unison
of British genius and talent, and whether the painters' school of that
nation which claims the foremost honours of modern poetry, which has
produced with Reynolds, Hogarth, Gainsborough, and Wilson, shall submit
to content themselves with a subordinate place among the schools we have


[27] See the account of this in Vasari; vita di P. Brunelleschi, tom.
ii. 114. It is of wood, and still exists in the chapel of the family
Gondi, in the church of S. Maria Novella. I know that near a century
before Donato, Giotto is said to have worked in marble two
basso-relievoes on the campanile of the cathedral of Florence; they
probably excel the style of his pictures as much as the bronze works
executed by Andrea Pisani, from his designs, at the door of the

[28] Masaccio da S. Giovanni di Valdarno born in 1402, is said to have
died in 1443. He was the pupil of Masolino da Panicale.

[29] Andrea Mantegna died at Mantoua, 1505. A monument erected to his
memory in 1517, by his sons, gave rise to the mistake of dating his
death from that period.

[30] Luca Signorelli died at Cortona 1521, aged 82.

[31] Lionardo da Vinci is said to have died in 1517, aged 75, at Paris.

[32] The flying birds of paste, the lions filled with lilies, the
lizards with dragons' wings, horned and silvered over, savour equally of
the boy and the quack. It is singular enough that there exists not the
smallest hint of Lorenzo de Medici having employed or noticed a man of
such powers and such early celebrity; the legend which makes him go to
Rome with Juliano de Medici at the access of Leo X., to accept
employment in the Vatican, whether sufficiently authentic or not,
furnishes a characteristic trait of the man. The Pope passing through
the room allotted for the pictures, and instead of designs and cartoons,
finding nothing but an apparatus of distillery, of oils and varnishes,
exclaimed, _Oimè, costui non è per far nulla, da che comincia a pensare
alla fine innanzi il principio dell' opera!_ From an admirable sonnet of
Lionardo, preserved by Lomazzo, he appears to have been sensible of the
inconstancy of his own temper, and full of wishes, at least, to correct

Much has been said of the honour he received by expiring in the arms of
Francis I. It was indeed an honour, by which destiny in some degree
atoned to that monarch for his future disaster at Pavia.

[33] Frà Bartolomeo died at Florence 1517, at the age of 48.

[34] Michael Angelo Buonarotti, born at Castel-Caprese in 1474, died at
Rome 1564, aged 90.

[35] Like Silanion--'Apollodorum fecit, fictorem et ipsum, sed inter
cunctos diligentissimum artis et inimicum sui judicem, crebro perfecta
signa frangentem, dum satiare cupiditatem nequit artis, et ideo insanum
cognominatum. Hoc in eo expressit, nec hominem ex ære fecit sed
Iracundiam.' Plin. l. xxxiv. 7.

[36] When M. Angelo pronounced oil-painting to be _Arte da donna e da
huomini agiati e infingardi_, a maxim to which the fierce Venetian
manner has given an air of paradox, he spoke relatively to fresco: it
was a lash on the short-sighted insolence of Sebastian del Piombo, who
wanted to persuade Paul III. to have the Last Judgement painted in oil.
That he had a sense for the beauties of oil-colour, its glow, its juice,
its richness, its pulp, the praises which he lavished on Titiano, whom
he called the only painter, and his patronage of Frà Sebastian himself,
evidently prove. When young, M. Angelo attempted oil-painting with
success; the picture painted for Angelo Doni is an instance, and
probably the only entire work of the kind that remains. The Lazarus, in
the picture destined for the cathedral at Narbonne, rejects the claim of
every other hand. The Leda, the cartoon of which, formerly in the palace
of the Vecchietti at Florence, is now in the possession of W. Lock, Esq.
was painted in distemper (a tempera); all small or large oil-pictures
shown as his, are copies from his designs or cartoons, by Marcello
Venusti, Giacopo da Pontormo, Battista Franco, and Sebastian of Venice.

[37] Raphael Sanzio, of Urbino, died at Rome 1520, at the age of 37.

[38] Giorgio Barbarelli, from his size and beauty called Giorgione, was
born at Castel Franco, in the territory of Venice, 1478, and died at
Venice, 1511.

[39] Titiano Vecelli, or, as the Venetians call him, Tiziàn, born at
Cador in the Friulese, died at Venice, 1576, aged 99.

[40] The birth and life of Antonio Allegri, or, as he called himself,
Læti, surnamed Correggio, is more involved in obscurity than the life of
Apelles. Whether he was born in 1490 or 1494 is not ascertained; the
time of his death in 1534 is more certain. The best account of him has
undoubtedly been given by A. R. Mengs in his _Memorie concernenti la
vita e le opere di Antonio Allegri denominato il Correggio_. Vol. ii. of
his works, published by the Spaniard D. G. Niccola d'Azara.

[41] Pelegrino Tibaldi died at Milano in 1592, aged 70.

[42] Sebastiano, afterwards called Del Piombo from the office of the
papal signet, died at Rome in 1547, aged 62.

[43] Daniel Ricciarelli, of Volterra, died in 1566, aged 57.

[44] Now the first ornament of the exquisite collection of J. J.
Angerstein, Esq.--Since purchased for the National Gallery.--EDITOR.

[45] Giorgio Vasari, of Arezzo, died in 1584, aged 68.

[46] Julio Pipi, called Romano, died at Mantoua in 1546, aged 54.

[47] Francesco Primaticcio, made Abbé de St. Martin de Troyes, by
Francis, I., died in France 1570, aged 80.

[48] Polydoro Caldara da Caravaggio was assassinated at Messina in 1543,
aged 51.

[49] Michael Angelo Amerigi, surnamed Il Caravaggi, knight of Malta,
died 1609, aged 40.

[50] Nicolas Poussin, of Andely, died at Rome 1665, aged 71.

[51] Salvator Rosa, surnamed Salvatoriello, died at Rome 1673, aged 59.

[52] Of the portraits which Raphael in fresco scattered over the
compositions of the Vatican, we shall find an opportunity to speak. But
in oil the real style of portrait began at Venice with Giorgione,
flourished in Sebastian del Piombo, and was carried to perfection by
Titiano, who filled the masses of the first without entangling himself
in the minute details of the second. Tintoretto, Bassan, and Paolo of
Verona, followed the principle of Titiano. After these, it migrated from
Italy to reside with the Spaniard Diego Velasquez; from whom Rubens and
Vandyck attempted to transplant it to Flanders, France, and England,
with unequal success. France seized less on the delicacy than on the
affectation of Vandyck, and soon turned the art of representing men and
women into a mere remembrancer of fashions and airs. England had
possessed Holbein, but it was reserved for the German Lely, and his
successor Kneller, to lay the foundation of a manner, which, by
pretending to unite portrait with history, gave a retrograde direction
for near a century to both. A mob of shepherds and shepherdesses in
flowing wigs and dressed curls, ruffled Endymions, humble Junos,
withered Hebes, surly Allegroes, and smirking Pensierosas, usurped the
place of truth, propriety and character. Even the lamented powers of the
greatest painter whom this country and perhaps our age produced, long
vainly struggled, and scarcely in the eve of life succeeded to
emancipate us from this dastard taste.

[53] Francesco Mazzuoli, called Il Parmegiano, died at Casal Maggiore in
1540, at the age of 36. The magnificent picture of the St. John, we
speak of, was begun by order of the Lady Maria Bufalina, and destined
for the church of St. Salvadore del Lauro at Città di Castello. It
probably never received the last hand of the master, who fled from Rome,
where he painted it, at the sacking of that city, under Charles Bourbon,
in 1527; it remained in the refectory of the convent della Pace for
several years, was carried to Città di Castello by Messer Giulio
Bufalini, and is now in England. The Moses, a figure in Fresco at Parma,
together with Raphael's figure of God in the vision of Ezekiel, is said,
by Mr. Mason, to have furnished Gray with the head and action of his
bard: if that was the case, he would have done well to acquaint us with
the poet's method of making 'Placidis coire immitia.'

[54] Lodovico Carracci died at Bologna 1619, aged 64.

[55] Agostino Carracci died at Parma in 1602, at the age of 44. His is
the St. Girolamo in the Certosa, near Bologna; his, the Thetis with the
nereids, cupids, and tritons, in the gallery of the palace Farnese. Why,
as an engraver, he should have wasted his powers on the large plate from
the Crucifixion, painted by Tintoretto, in the hospitio of the school of
St. Rocco, a picture, of which he could not express the tone, its
greatest merit, is not easily unriddled. Annibale Carracci died at Rome
in 1609, at the age of 49.


     Chi farsi un buon Pittor cerca, e desia,
     Il disegno di Roma habbia alla mano,
     La mossa coll' ombrar Veneziano,
     E il degno colorir di Lombardia,

     Di Michel' Angiol la terribil via,
     Il vero natural di Tiziano,
     Del Correggio lo stil puro, e sovrano,
     E di un Rafel la giusta simetria.

       Del Tibaldi il decoro, e il fondamento,
       Del dotto Primaticcio l'inventare,
       E un po di gratia del Parmigianino.

       Ma senza tanti studi, e tanto stento,
       Si ponga l'opre solo ad imitare,
       Che qui lasciocci il nostro Niccolino.

Malvasia, author of the _Felsina Pittrice_, has made this sonnet the
text to his drowsy rhapsody on the frescoes of Lodovico Carracci and
some of his scholars, in the cloisters of St. Michele in Bosco, by
Bologna. He circumscribes the '_Mossa Veneziana_,' of the sonnet, by
'_Quel strepitoso motivo e quel divincolamento_' peculiar to Tintoretto.

[57] Guido Reni died in 1642, aged 68. Giov. Lanfranco died at Naples in
1647, aged 66. Franc. Albani died in 1660, aged 82. Domenico Zampieri,
called Il Domenichino, died in 1641, aged 60. Franc. Barbieri of Cento,
called Il Guercino, from a cast in his eye, died in 1667, aged 76.

[58] Pietro Berretini, of Cortona, the painter of the ceiling in the
Barberini hall, and of the gallery in the lesser Pamphili palace, the
vernal suavity of whose fresco tints no pencil ever equalled, died at
Rome in 1669, aged 73. Luca Giordano, nicknamed Fa-presto, or Dispatch,
from the rapidity of his execution, the greatest machinist of his time,
died in 1705, aged 76.

[59] We are informed by the Editor of the Latin translation of Albert
Durer's book, on the symmetry of the parts of the human frame,
(Parisiis, in officina Caroli Perier in vico Bellovaco, sub
Bellerophonte, 1557, fol.) that, during Albert's stay at Venice, where
he resided for a short time, to procure redress from the Signoria for
the forgery of Marc Antonio, he became familiar with Giovanni Bellini:
and that Andrea Mantegna, who had heard of his arrival in Italy, and had
conceived a high opinion of his execution and fertility, sent him a
message of invitation to Mantoua, for the express purpose of giving him
an idea of that form of which he himself had obtained a glimpse from the
contemplation of the antique. Andrea was then ill, and expired before
Albert, who immediately prepared to set out for Mantoua, could profit by
his instructions. This disappointment, says my author, Albert never
ceased to lament during his life. How fit the Mantouan was to instruct
the German, is not the question here; but Albert's regret seems to prove
that he felt a want which his model could not supply; and that he had
too just an idea of the importance of the art to be proud of dexterity
of finger or facility of execution, when employed on objects essentially
defective or comparatively trifling. The following personal account of
Albert deserves to be given in the Latin Editor's own words: 'E Pannonia
oriundum accepimus--Erat caput argutum, oculi micantes, nasus honestus
et quem Greci Τετράγωνον vocant; proceriusculum collum, pectus amplum,
castigatus venter, femora nervosa, crura stabilia: sed digitis nihil
dixisses vidisse elegantius.'

Albert Durer was the scholar of Martin Schön and Michael Wolgemuth, and
died at Nuremberg in 1528, aged 57.

[60] Lucas Jacob, called Lucas of Leyden, and by the Italians, Luca
d'Ollanda, died at Leyden in 1533.

[61] Peter Paul Rubens, of Cologne, the disciple of Adam Van Ort and
Otho Venius, died at or near Antwerp in 1641, aged 63.

See the admirable character given of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds, annexed
to his journey to Flanders, vol. ii. of his Works.

[62] Anthony Vandyck died in London, 1641, at the age of 42.--The poetic
conception of Abraham Diepenbeck may be estimated from the Temple des
Muses of Mr. de Marolles; re-edited but not improved by Bernard Picart.

[63] Rembrandt died, at Amsterdam ? in 1674, aged 68.

[64] Hans Holbein, of Basle, died in London, 1544, at the age of 46.
Peter Francis Mola, the scholar of Giuseppe d'Arpino and Franc. Albani,
was born at the village of Coldre, of the diocese of Balerna, in the
bailliage of Mendrisio, in 1621, and died at Rome in 1666.

[65] Eustache le Sueur, bred under Simon Voüet, died at Paris in 1655,
at the age of 88. His fellow-scholar and overbearing rival, Charles le
Brun, died in 1690, aged 71.

[66] For the best account of Spanish art, see Lettera di A. R. Mengs a
Don Antonio Ponz. Opere di Mengs, vol. ii. Mengs was born at Ausig, in
Bohemia, in 1728, and died at Rome in 1779.





               Homer. Odyss. A. 346.


    Introduction. Discrimination of Poetry and Painting. General
    idea of Invention--its right to select a subject from Nature
    itself. Visiones--Theon--Agasias. Cartoon of Pisa--Incendio del
    Borgo. Specific idea of Invention: Epic subjects--Michael
    Angelo. Dramatic subjects--Raphael. Historic subjects--Poussin,
    &c. Invention has a right to adopt ideas--examples. Duplicity of
    subject and moment inadmissible. Transfiguration of Raphael.


The brilliant antithesis ascribed to Simonides, that 'painting is mute
poesy and poetry speaking painting,' made, I apprehend, no part of the
technic systems of antiquity: for this we may depend on the general
practice of its artists, and still more safely on the philosophic
discrimination of Plutarch[67], who tells us, that as poetry and
painting resemble each other in their uniform address to the senses, for
the impression they mean to make on our fancy and by that on our mind,
so they differ as essentially in their _materials_ and their _modes_ of
application, which are regulated by the diversity of the organs they
address, ear and eye. _Successive action_ communicated by sounds, and
_time_, are the medium of poetry; _form_ displayed in _space_, and
momentaneous energy, are the element of painting.

As if these premises be true, the distinct representation of continued
action is refused to an art which cannot express even in a series of
subjects, but by a supposed mental effort in the spectator's mind, the
regular succession of their moments, it becomes evident, that instead of
attempting to impress us by the indiscriminate usurpation of a principle
out of its reach, it ought chiefly to rely for its effect on its great
characteristics space and form, singly or in apposition. In forms alone
the idea of existence can be rendered permanent. Sounds die, words
perish or become obsolete and obscure, even colours fade, forms alone
can neither be extinguished nor misconstrued; by application to their
standard alone, description becomes intelligible and distinct. Thus the
effectual idea of corporeal beauty can strictly exist only in the
plastic arts: for as the notion of beauty arises from the pleasure we
feel in the harmonious co-operation of the various parts of some
favourite object to one end at once, it implies their immediate
co-existence in the mass they compose; and therefore can be distinctly
perceived and conveyed to the mind by the eye alone: hence the
representation of form in figure is the _physical_ element of the Art.

But as bodies exist in time as well as in space; as the pleasure arising
from the mere symmetry of an object is as transient as it is immediate;
as harmony of parts, if the body be the agent of an internal power,
depends for its proof on their application, it follows, that the
exclusive exhibition of inert and unemployed form, would be a mistake of
the medium for the end, and that character or action is required to make
it an interesting object of imitation. And this is the _moral_ element
of the art.

Those important moments then which exhibit the united exertion of form
and character in a single object or in participation with collateral
beings, _at once_, and which with equal rapidity and pregnancy give us a
glimpse of the past and lead our eye to what follows, furnish the true
materials of those technic powers, that select, direct, and fix the
objects of imitation to their centre.

The most eminent of these, by the explicit acknowledgment of all ages,
and the silent testimony of every breast, is _invention_. He whose eye
athwart the outward crust of the rock penetrates into the composition of
its materials, and discovers a gold mine, is surely superior to him who
afterwards adapts the metal for use. Colombo, when he from astronomic
and physical inductions concluded to the existence of land in the
opposite hemisphere, was surely superior to Amerigo Vespucci who took
possession of its continent; and when Newton improving accident by
meditation, discovered and established the laws of attraction, the
projectile and centrifuge qualities of the system, he gave the clue to
all who after him applied it to the various branches of philosophy, and
was in fact the author of all the benefits accruing from their
application to society. Homer, when he means to give the principal
feature of man, calls him inventor (αλφηστης).

From what we have said it is clear that the term _invention_ never ought
to be so far misconstrued as to be confounded with that of _creation_,
incompatible with our notions of limited being, an idea of pure
astonishment, and admissible only when we mention Omnipotence: to
_invent_ is to find: to find something, presupposes its existence
somewhere, implicitly or explicitly, scattered or in a mass: nor should
I have presumed to say so much on a word of a meaning so plain, had it
not been, and were it not daily confounded, and by fashionable
authorities too, with the term creation.

Form, in its widest meaning, the visible universe that envelopes our
senses, and its counterpart the invisible one that agitates our mind
with visions bred on sense by fancy, are the element and the realm of
invention; it discovers, selects, combines the _possible_, the
_probable_, the _known_, in a mode that strikes with an air of truth and
novelty, at once. Possible strictly means an effect derived from a
cause, a body composed of materials, a coalition of forms, whose union
or co-agency imply in themselves no absurdity, no contradiction: applied
to our art, it takes a wider latitude; it means the representation of
effects derived from causes, or forms compounded from materials,
heterogeneous and incompatible among themselves, but rendered so
plausible to our senses, that the transition of one part to another
seems to be accounted for by an air of organization, and the eye glides
imperceptibly or with satisfaction from one to the other and over the
whole: that this was the condition on which, and the limits within which
alone the ancients permitted invention to represent what was strictly
speaking impossible, we may with plausibility surmise from the picture
of Zeuxis, described by Lucian in the memoir to which he has prefixed
that painter's name, who was probably one of the first adventurers in
this species of imagery.--Zeuxis had painted a family of centaurs; the
dam a beautiful female to the middle, with the lower parts gradually
sliding into the most exquisite forms of a young Thessalian mare, half
reclined in playful repose and gently pawing the velvet ground, offered
her human nipple to one infant centaur, whilst another greedily sucked
the ferine udder below, but both with their eyes turned up to a
lion-whelp held over them by the male centaur their father, rising above
the hillock on which the female reclined, a grim feature, but whose
ferocity was somewhat tempered by a smile.

The scenery, the colour, the chiaroscuro, the finish of the whole was no
doubt equal to the style and the conception. This picture the artist
exhibited, expecting that justice from the penetration of the public
which the genius deserved that taught him to give plausibility to a
compound of heterogeneous forms, to inspire them with suitable soul, and
to imitate the laws of existence: he was mistaken. The novelty of the
conceit eclipsed the art that had embodied it, the artist was absorbed
in his subject, and the unbounded praise bestowed, was that of idle
restless curiosity, gratified. Sick of gods and goddesses, of demigods
and pure human combinations, the Athenians panted only for what was new.
The artist, as haughty as irritable, ordered his picture to be
withdrawn; "Cover it, Micchio," said he to his attendant, "cover it and
carry it home, for this mob stick only to the clay of our art."--Such
were the limits set to invention by the ancients; secure within these,
it defied the ridicule thrown on that grotesque conglutination which
Horace exposes; guarded by these, their mythology scattered its
metamorphoses, made every element its tributary, and transmitted the
privilege to us, on equal conditions: their Scylla and the Portress of
Hell, their dæmons and our spectres, the shade of Patroclus and the
ghost of Hamlet, their naiads, nymphs, and oreads, and our sylphs,
gnomes, and fairies, their furies and our witches, differ less in
essence, than in local, temporary, social modifications: their common
origin was fancy, operating on the materials of nature, assisted by
legendary tradition and the curiosity implanted in us of diving into the
invisible;[68] and they are suffered or invited to mix with or
superintend real agency, in proportion of the analogy which we discover
between them and ourselves. Pindar praises Homer less for that 'winged
power' which whirls incident on incident with such rapidity, that
absorbed by the whole, and drawn from the impossibility of single
parts, we swallow a tale too gross to be believed in a dream; than for
the greater power by which he contrived to connect his imaginary
creation with the realities of nature and human passions;[69] without
this the fiction of the poet and the painter will leave us stupified
rather by its insolence, than impressed by its power, it will be
considered only as a superior kind of legerdemain, an exertion of
ingenuity to no adequate end.

Before we proceed to the process and the methods of invention, it is not
superfluous to advert to a question which has often been made, and by
some has been answered in the negative; _whether it be within the
artist's province or not, to find or to combine a subject from himself,
without having recourse to tradition or the stores of history and
poetry_? Why not, if the subject be within the limits of art and the
combinations of nature, though it should have escaped observation?
Shall the immediate avenues of the mind, open to all its observers, from
the poet to the novelist, be shut only to the artist? shall he be
reduced to receive as alms from them what he has a right to share as
common property? Assertions like these, say in other words, that the
Laocoon owes the impression he makes on us to his name alone, and that
if tradition had not told a story and Pliny fixed it to that work, the
artist's conception of a father with his sons, surprised and entangled
by two serpents within the recesses of a cavern or lonesome dell, was
inadmissible and transgressed the laws of invention. I am much mistaken,
if, so far from losing its power over us with its traditional sanction,
it would not rouse our sympathy more forcibly, and press the subject
closer to our breast, were it considered only as the representation of
an incident common to humanity. The ancients were so convinced of their
right to this disputed prerogative that they assigned it its own class,
and Theon the Samian is mentioned by Quintilian, whom none will accuse
or suspect of confounding the limits of the arts, in his list of primary
painters, as owing his celebrity to that intuition into the sudden
movements of nature, which the Greeks called φαντασιας, the Romans
_visiones_, and we might circumscribe by the phrase of 'unpremeditated
conceptions' the re-production of associated ideas; he explains what he
understood by it in the following passage adapted to his own profession,
rhetoric.[70] 'We give,' says he, 'the name of visions to what the
Greeks call phantasies; that power by which the images of absent things
are represented by the mind with the energy of objects moving before
our eyes: he who conceives these rightly will be a master of passions;
his is that well-tempered fancy which can imagine things, voices, acts,
as they really exist, a power perhaps in a great measure dependent on
our will. For if these images so pursue us when our minds are in a state
of rest, or fondly fed by hope, or in a kind of waking dream, that we
seem to travel, to sail, to fight, to harangue in public, or to dispose
of riches we possess not, and all this with an air of reality, why
should we not turn to use this vice of the mind?--Suppose I am to plead
the case of a murdered man, why should not every supposable circumstance
of the act float before my eyes? Shall I not see the murderer unawares
rush in upon him? in vain he tries to escape--see how pale he turns--hear
you not his shrieks, his entreaties? do you not see him flying, struck,
falling? will not his blood, his ashy semblance, his groans, his last
expiring gasp, seize on my mind?'

Permit me to apply this organ of the orator for one moment to the poet's
process: by this radiant recollection of associated ideas, the
spontaneous ebullitions of nature, selected by observation, treasured by
memory, classed by sensibility and judgment, Shakspeare became the
supreme master of passions and the ruler of our hearts: this embodied
his Falstaff and his Shylock, Hamlet and Lear, Juliet and Rosalind. By
this power he saw Warwick uncover the corpse of Gloster, and swear to
his assassination and his tugs for life; by this he made Banquo see the
weird sisters bubble up from earth, and in their own air vanish; this is
the hand that struck upon the bell when Macbeth's drink was ready, and
from her chamber pushed his dreaming wife, once more to methodize the
murder of her guest.

And this was the power of Theon;[71] such was the unpremeditated
conception that inspired him with the idea of that warrior, who in the
words of Ælian, seemed to embody the terrible graces and the
enthusiastic furor of the god of war. Impetuous he rushed onward to
oppose the sudden incursion of enemies; with shield thrown forward, and
high brandished falchion, his step as he swept on, seemed to devour the
ground: his eye flashed defiance; you fancied to hear his voice, his
look denounced perdition and slaughter without mercy. This figure,
single and without other accompaniments of war than what the havock of
the distance showed, Theon deemed sufficient to answer the impression he
intended to make on those whom he had selected to inspect it. He kept it
covered, till a trumpet, prepared for the purpose, after a prelude of
martial symphonies, at once, by his command, blew with invigorated
fierceness a signal of attack--the curtain dropped, the terrific figure
appeared to start from the canvass, and irresistibly assailed the
astonished eyes of the assembly.

To prove the relation of Ælian no hyperbolic legend, I need not insist
on the magic effect which the union of two sister powers must produce on
the senses: of what our art alone and unassisted may perform, the most
unequivocal proof exists within these walls; your eyes, your feelings,
and your fancy have long anticipated it: whose mind has not now recalled
that wonder of a figure, the misnamed gladiator of Agasias, a figure,
whose tremendous energy embodies every element of motion, whilst its
pathetic dignity of character enforces sympathies, which the undisguised
ferocity of Theon's warrior in vain solicits. But the same irradiation
which showed the soldier to Theon, showed to Agasias the leader: Theon
saw the passion, Agasias[72] its rule.

But the most striking instance of the eminent place due to this
intuitive faculty among the principal organs of invention, is that
celebrated performance, which by the united testimony of contemporary
writers, and the evident traces of its imitation, scattered over the
works of contemporary artists, contributed alone more to the restoration
of art and the revolution of style, than the united effort of the two
centuries that preceded it: I mean the astonishing design commonly
called the Cartoon of Pisa, the work of Michael Agnolo Buonarrotti,
begun in competition with Lionardo da Vinci, and at intervals finished
at Florence. This work, whose celebrity subjected those who had not seen
it to the supercilious contempt of the luckier ones who had; which was
the common centre of attraction to all the students of Tuscany and
Romagna, from Raphael Sanzio to Bastian da St. Gallo, called Aristotile,
from his loquacious descants on its beauties; this inestimable work
itself is lost, and its destruction is with too much appearance of truth
fixed on the mean villainy of Baccio Bandinelli, who, in possession of
the key to the apartment where it was kept, during the revolutionary
troubles of the Florentine republic, after making what use he thought
proper of it, is said to have torn it in pieces. Still we may form an
idea of its principal groups from some ancient prints and drawings; and
of its composition from a small copy now existing at Holkham, the
outlines of which have been lately etched. Crude, disguised, or feeble,
as these specimens are, they will prove better guides than the
half-informed rhapsodies of Vasari, the meagre account of Ascanio
Condivi, better than the mere anatomic verdict of Benvenuto Cellini, who
denies that the powers afterward exerted in the Capella Sistina, arrive
at "half its excellence."[73]

It represents an imaginary moment relative to the war carried on by the
Florentines against Pisa: and exhibits a numerous group of warriors,
roused from their bathing in the Arno, by the sudden signal of a trumpet
and rushing to arms. This composition may without exaggeration be said
to personify with unexampled variety that motion, which Agasias and
Theon embodied in single figures: in imagining this transient moment
from a state of relaxation to a state of energy, the ideas of motion, to
use the bold figure of Dante, seem to have showered into the artist's
mind. From the chief, nearly placed in the centre, who precedes, and
whose voice accompanies the trumpet, every age of human agility, every
attitude, every feature of alarm, haste, hurry, exertion, eagerness,
burst into so many rays, like sparks flying from the hammer. Many have
reached, some boldly step, some have leaped on the rocky shore; here two
arms emerging from the water grapple with the rock, there two hands cry
for help, and their companions bend over or rush on to assist them;
often imitated, but inimitable is the ardent feature of the grim veteran
whose every sinew labours to force over the dripping limbs his clothes,
whilst gnashing he pushes the foot through the rending garment. He is
contrasted by the slender elegance of a half averted youth, who, though
eagerly buckling the armour to his thigh, methodizes haste; another
swings the high-raised hauberk on his shoulder, whilst one who seems a
leader, mindless of dress, ready for combat, and with brandished spear,
overturns a third, who crouched to grasp a weapon--one naked himself,
buckles on the mail of his companion, and he, turned toward the enemy,
seems to stamp impatiently the ground.--Experience and rage, old vigour,
young velocity, expanded or contracted, vie in exertions of energy. Yet
in this scene of tumult one motive animates the whole, eagerness to
engage with subordination to command; this preserves the dignity of
action, and from a straggling rabble changes the figures to men whose
legitimate contest interests our wishes.

This intuition into the pure emanations of nature, Raphael Sanzio
possessed in the most enviable degree, from the utmost conflict of
passions, to the enchanting round of gentler emotion, and the nearly
silent hints of mind and character. To this he devoted the tremendous
scenery of that magnificent fresco, known to you all under the name of
the _Incendio del Borgo_, in which he sacrificed the historic and mystic
part of his subject to the effusion of the various passions roused by
the sudden terrors of nocturnal conflagration. It is not for the faint
appearance of the miracle which approaches with the pontiff and his
train in the back-ground, that Raphael invites our eyes; the
perturbation, necessity, hope, fear, danger, the pangs and efforts of
affection grappling with the enraged elements of wind and fire,
displayed on the foreground, furnish the pathetic motives that press on
our hearts. That mother, who but half awake or rather in a waking
trance, drives her children instinctively before her; that prostrate
female half covered by her streaming hair, with elevated arms imploring
Heaven; that other who over the flaming tenement, heedless of her own
danger, absorbed in maternal agony, boldly reaches over to drop the babe
into the outstretched arms of its father; that common son of nature, who
careless of another's woe, intent only on his own safety, liberates a
leap from the burning wall; the vigorous youth who followed by an aged
mother bears the palsied father on his shoulder from the rushing wreck;
the nimble grace of those helpless females that vainly strive to
administer relief--these are the real objects of the painter's aim, and
leave the pontiff and the miracle, with taper, bell and clergy--unheeded
in the distance.

I shall not at present expatiate in tracing from this source the novel
combinations of affection by which Raphael contrived to interest us in
his numerous repetitions of Madonnas and Holy Families, selected from
the warmest effusions of domestic endearment, or in Milton's phrase,
from "all the charities of father, son, and mother." Nor shall I follow
it in its more contaminated descent, to those representations of local
manners and national modifications of society, whose characteristic
discrimination and humorous exuberance, for instance, we admire in
Hogarth, but which, like the fleeting passions of the day, every hour
contributes something to obliterate, which soon become unintelligible by
time, or degenerate into caricature, the chronicle of scandal, the
history-book of the vulgar.

Invention in its more specific sense receives its subjects from poetry
or authenticated tradition; they are _epic_ or sublime, _dramatic_ or
impassioned, _historic_ or circumscribed by truth. The first
_astonishes_; the second _moves_; the third _informs_.

The aim of the epic painter is to impress one general idea, one great
quality of nature or mode of society, some great maxim, without
descending to those subdivisions, which the detail of character
prescribes: he paints the elements with their own simplicity, height,
depth, the vast, the grand, darkness, light; life, death; the past, the
future; man, pity, love, joy, fear, terror, peace, war, religion,
government: and the visible agents are only engines to force _one_
irresistible idea upon the mind and fancy, as the machinery of
Archimedes served only to convey _destruction_, and the wheels of a
watch serve only to tell _time_.

Such is the first and general sense of what is called the _sublime_,
epic, allegoric, lyric substance. Homer, to impress one forcible idea of
_war_, its origin, its progress, and its end, set to work innumerable
engines of various magnitude, yet none but what uniformly tends to
enforce this and only this idea; gods and demigods are only actors, and
nature but the scene of war; no character is discriminated but where
discrimination discovers a new look of war; no passion is raised but
what is blown up by the breath of war, and as soon absorbed in its
universal blaze:--As in a conflagration we see turrets, spires, and
temples illuminated only to propagate the horrors of destruction, so
through the stormy page of Homer, we see his heroines and heroes but by
the light that blasts them.

This is the principle of that divine series of frescoes, with which
under the pontificates of Julius II. and Paul III. Michael Angelo
adorned the lofty compartments of the _Capella Sistina_, and from a
modesty or a pride for ever to be lamented, only not occupied the
_whole_ of its ample sides. Its subject is _theocracy_ or the empire of
religion, considered as the parent and queen of man; the origin, the
progress, and final dispensation of Providence, as taught by the sacred
records. Amid this imagery of primeval simplicity, whose sole object is
the relation of the race to its Founder, to look for minute
discrimination of character, is to invert the principle of the artist's
invention: here is only God with man. The veil of eternity is rent;
time, space, and matter teem in the creation of the elements and of
earth; life issues from God and adoration from man, in the creation of
Adam and his mate; transgression of the precept at the tree of knowledge
proves the origin of evil, and of expulsion from the immediate
intercourse with God; the œconomy of justice and grace commences in the
revolutions of the Deluge, and the covenant made with Noah; and the
germs of social character are traced in the subsequent scene between him
and his sons; the awful synod of prophets and sibyls are the heralds of
the Redeemer, and the host of patriarchs the pedigree of the Son of Man;
the brazen serpent and the fall of Haman, the giant subdued by the
stripling in Goliath and David, and the conqueror destroyed by female
weakness in Judith, are types of his mysterious progress, till Jonah
pronounces him immortal; and the magnificence of the Last Judgment, by
showing the Saviour in the judge of man, sums up the whole, and reunites
the Founder and the race.

Such is the spirit of the Sistine Chapel, and the outline of its
_general_ invention with regard to the cycle of its subjects--as in
their choice they lead to each other without intermediate chasms in the
transition; as each preceding one prepares and directs the conduct of
the next, this the following; and as the intrinsic variety of all,
conspires to the simplicity of one great end. The _specific_ invention
of the pictures separate, as each constitutes an independent whole,
deserves our consideration next: each has its centre, from which it
disseminates, to which it leads back all secondary points; arranged,
hid, or displayed, as they are more or less organs of the inspiring
plan: each rigorously is circumscribed by its generic character; no
inferior, merely conventional, temporary, local, or disparate beauty,
however in itself alluring, is admitted; each finally turns upon that
transient moment, the moment of suspense, big with the past, and
pregnant with the future; the action nowhere expires, for action and
interest terminate together. Thus in the Creation of Adam, the Creator
borne on a group of attendant spirits, the personified powers of
Omnipotence, moves on toward his last, best work, the lord of his
creation: the immortal spark, issuing from his extended arm, electrifies
the new-formed being, who tremblingly alive, half raised, half reclined,
hastens to meet his Maker. In the formation of Eve, the astonishment of
life, just organised, is absorbed in the sublimer sentiment of
adoration; perfect, though not all disengaged from the side of her
dreaming mate, she moves with folded hands and humble dignity towards
the majestic Form whose half raised hand attracts her--what words can
express the equally bland and irresistible velocity of that mysterious
Being, who forms the sun and moon, and already past, leaves the earth,
completely formed, behind him? Here apposition is the symbol of

From these specimens of invention exerted in the more numerous
compositions of this _sublime_ cycle, let me fix your attention for a
few moments on the powers it displays in the single figures of the
Prophets, those organs of embodied sentiment: their expression and
attitude, whilst it exhibits the unequivocal marks of inspired
contemplation in all, and with equal variety, energy, and delicacy,
stamps character on each; exhibits in the occupation of the present
moment the traces of the past and hints of the future. Esaiah, the
image of _inspiration_, sublime and lofty, with an attitude expressive
of the sacred trance in which meditation on the Messiah had immersed
him, starts at the voice of an attendant genius, who seems to pronounce
the words, "to us a child is born, to us a son is given." Daniel, the
humbler image of eager _diligence_, transcribes from a volume held by a
stripling, with a gesture natural to those who, absorbed in the progress
of their subject, are heedless of convenience; his posture shows that he
had inspected the volume from which now he is turned, and shall return
to it immediately. Zachariah personifies _consideration_; he has read,
and ponders on what he reads. _Inquiry_ moves in the dignified activity
of Joel, hastening to open a sacred scroll, and to compare the
scriptures with each other. Ezechiel, the fervid feature of _fancy_, the
seer of resurrection, represented as on the field strewn with bones of
the dead, points downward and asks, "can these bones live?" the
attendant angel, borne on the wind that agitates his locks and the
prophet's vestments, with raised arm and finger, pronounces, they shall
rise: last, Jeremiah, subdued by _grief_ and exhausted by lamentation,
sinks in silent woe over the ruins of Jerusalem. Nor are the sibyls,
those female oracles, less expressive, less individually marked--they
are the echo, the counterpart of the prophets; Vigilance, Meditation,
Instruction, Divination, are personified. If the artist who, absorbed by
the uniform power and magnitude of execution, saw only breadth and
nature in their figures, must be told that he has discovered the least
part of their excellence; the critic who charges them with affectation,
can only be dismissed with our contempt.

On the immense plain of the Last Judgment, Michael Angelo has wound up
the destiny of man, simply considered as the subject of religion,
faithful or rebellious; and in one generic manner has distributed
happiness and misery, the general feature of passions is given, and no
more.--But had Raphael meditated that subject, he would undoubtedly have
applied to our sympathies for his choice of imagery; he would have
combined all possible emotions with the utmost variety of probable or
real character: a father meeting his son, a mother torn from her
daughter, lovers flying into each other's arms, friends for ever
separated, children accusing their parents, enemies reconciled; tyrants
dragged before the tribunal by their subjects, conquerors hiding
themselves from their victims of carnage; innocence declared, hypocrisy
unmasked, atheism confounded, detected fraud, triumphant resignation;
the most prominent features of connubial, fraternal, kindred
connexion.--In a word, the heads of that infinite variety which Dante
has minutely scattered over his poem--all domestic, politic, religious
relations; whatever is not local in virtue and in vice: and the
sublimity of the greatest of all events, would have been merely the
minister of sympathies and passions.[76]

If opinions be divided on the respective advantages and disadvantages of
these two modes; if to some it should appear, though from consideration
of the plan which guided Michael Angelo I am far from subscribing to
their notions, that the scenery of the Last Judgment might have gained
more by the dramatic introduction of varied pathos, than it would have
lost by the dereliction of its generic simplicity; there can, I believe,
be but one opinion with regard to the methods adopted by him and
Raphael in the invention of the moment that characterises the creation
of Eve: both artists applied for it to their own minds, but with very
different success: the elevation of Michael Angelo's soul, inspired by
the operation of creation itself, furnished him at once with the feature
that stamps on human nature its most glorious prerogative: whilst the
characteristic subtilty, rather than sensibility of Raphael's mind, in
this instance, offered nothing but a frigid succedaneum; a symptom
incident to all, when after the subsided astonishment on a great and
sudden event, the mind recollecting itself, ponders on it with
inquisitive surmise. In Michael Angelo, all self-consideration is
absorbed in the sublimity of the sentiment which issues from the august
Presence that attracts Eve; "her earthly," in Milton's expression, "by
his heavenly overpowered," pours itself in _adoration_: whilst in the
inimitable cast of Adam's figure, we trace the hint of that half
conscious moment when sleep began to give way to the vivacity of the
dream inspired. In Raphael, creation is complete--Eve is presented to
Adam, now awake: but neither the new-born charms, the submissive grace
and virgin purity of the beauteous image: nor the awful presence of her
Introductor, draw him from his mental trance into effusions of love or
gratitude; at ease reclined, with fingers pointing at himself and his
new mate, he seems to methodize the surprising event that took place
during his sleep, and to whisper the words "flesh of my flesh."

Thus, but far better adapted, has Raphael personified _Dialogue_, moved
the lips of _Soliloquy_, unbent or wrinkled the features and arranged
the limbs and gesture of _Meditation_, in the pictures of the Parnassus
and of the school of Athens, parts of the immense allegoric drama that
fills the stanzas, and displays the brightest ornament of the Vatican;
the immortal monument of the towering ambition, unlimited patronage, and
refined taste of Julius II. and Leo X., its cycle represents the origin,
the progress, extent, and final triumph of _church empire_, or
ecclesiastic government; in the first subject, of the Parnassus, Poetry
led back to its origin and first duty, the herald and interpreter of a
first Cause, in the universal language of imagery addressed to the
senses, unites man, scattered and savage, in social and religious bands.
What was the surmise of the eye and the wish of hearts, is gradually
made the result of reason, in the characters of the school of Athens, by
the researches of philosophy, which from bodies to mind, from corporeal
harmony to moral fitness, and from the duties of society, ascends to the
doctrine of God and hopes of immortality. Here revelation in its
stricter sense commences, and conjecture becomes a glorious reality: in
the composition of the Dispute on the Sacrament, the Saviour after
ascension seated on his throne, the attested Son of God and Man,
surrounded by his types, the prophets, patriarchs, apostles and the
hosts of heaven, institutes the mysteries and initiates in his sacrament
the heads and presbyters of the church militant, who in the awful
presence of their Master and the celestial synod, discuss, explain,
propound his doctrine. That the sacred mystery shall clear all doubt and
subdue all heresy, is taught in the miracle of the blood-stained wafer;
that without arms, by the arm of Heaven itself, it shall release its
votaries, and defeat its enemies, the deliverance of Peter, the
overthrow of Heliodorus, the flight of Attila, the captive Saracens,
bear testimony; that Nature itself shall submit to its power and the
elements obey its mandates, the checked conflagration of the Borgo,
declares; till hastening to its ultimate triumphs, its union with the
state, it is proclaimed by the vision of Constantine, confirmed by the
rout of Maxentius, established by the imperial pupil's receiving
baptism, and submitting to accept his crown at the feet of the mitred

Such is the rapid outline of the cycle painted or designed by Raphael on
the compartments of the stanzas sacred to his name. Here is the mass of
his powers in poetic conception and execution; here is every period of
his style, his emancipation from the narrow shackles of Pietro Perugino,
his discriminations of characteristic form, on to the heroic grandeur of
his line. Here is that master-tone of fresco painting, the real
instrument of history, which with its silver purity and breadth unites
the glow of Titiano and Correggio's tints. Everywhere we meet the
superiority of genius, but more or less impressive, with more or less
felicity in proportion as each subject was more or less susceptible of
dramatic treatment. From the bland enthusiasm of the Parnassus, and the
sedate or eager features of meditation in the School of Athens, to the
sterner traits of dogmatic controversy in the dispute of the sacrament,
and the symptoms of religious conviction or inflamed zeal at the mass of
Bolsena. Not the miracle, as we have observed, the fears and terrors of
humanity inspire and seize us at the conflagration of the Borgo: if in
the Heliodorus the sublimity of the vision balances sympathy with
astonishment, we follow the rapid ministers of grace to their revenge,
less to rescue the temple from the gripe of sacrilege, than inspired by
the palpitating graces, the helpless innocence, the defenceless beauty
of the females and children scattered around; and thus we forget the
vision of the labarum, the angels and Constantine in the battle, to
plunge in the wave with Maxentius, or to share the agonies of the father
who recognizes his own son in the enemy he slew.

With what propriety Raphael introduced portrait, though in its most
dignified and elevated sense, into some compositions of the great work
which we are contemplating, I shall not now discuss; the allegoric part
of the work may account for it: he has, however, by its admission,
stamped that branch of painting at once with its essential feature,
character, and has assigned it its place and rank: ennobled by
character, it rises to dramatic dignity; destitute of that, it sinks to
mere mechanic dexterity, or floats, a bubble of fashion. Portrait is to
historic painting in art, what physiognomy is to pathognomy in science;
_that_ shows the character and powers of the being which it delineates,
in its formation and at rest: _this_ shows it in exertion. Bembo,
Bramante, Dante, Gonzaga, Savonarola, Raphael himself may be considered
in the inferior light of mere characteristic ornament; but Julius the
Second authenticating the miracle at the mass of Bolsena, or borne into
the temple, rather to authorize than to witness the punishment inflicted
on its spoiler; Leo with his train calmly facing Attila, or deciding on
his tribunal the fate of the captive Saracens, tell us by their presence
that they are the heroes of the drama, that the action has been
contrived for them, is subordinate to them, and has been composed to
illustrate their character. For as in the epic, act and agent are
subordinate to the maxim, and in pure history are mere organs of the
fact; so the drama subordinates both fact and maxim to the agent, his
character and passion: what in them was end is but the medium here.

Such were the principles on which he treated the beautiful tale of Amor
and Psyche: the allegory of Apuleius became a drama under the hand of
Raphael, though it must be owned, that with every charm of scenic
gradation and lyric imagery, its characters, as exquisitely chosen as
acutely discriminated, exhibit less the obstacles and real object of
affection, and its final triumph over mere appetite and sexual instinct,
than the voluptuous history of his own favourite passion. The faint
light of the maxim vanishes in the splendour which expands before our
fancy the enchanted circle of wanton dalliance and amorous attachment.

But the power of Raphael's invention exerts itself chiefly in subjects
where the drama, divested of epic or allegoric fiction, meets pure
history, and elevates, invigorates, impresses the pregnant moment of a
_real_ fact, with character and pathos. The summit of these is that
magnificent series of coloured designs commonly called the Cartoons, so
well known to you all, part of which we happily possess; formerly when
complete and united, and now, in the copies of the tapestry annually
exhibited in the colonnade of the Vatican, they represent in thirteen
compositions the origin, sanction, economy, and progress of the
Christian religion. In whatever light we consider their invention, as
parts of _one whole_ relative to each other, or independent _each of the
rest_, and as single subjects, there can be scarcely named a beauty or
a mystery of which the Cartoons furnish not an instance or a clue; they
are poised between perspicuity and pregnancy of moment; we shall have
opportunities to speak of all or the greater part of them, but that of
Paul on the Areopagus will furnish us at present with conclusions for
the remainder.

It represents the Apostle announcing his God from the height of the
Areopagus. Enthusiasm and curiosity make up the subject; simplicity of
attitude invests the speaker with sublimity; the parallelism of his
action invigorates his energy; situation gives him command over the
whole; the light in which he is placed, attracts the first glance; he
appears the organ of a superior Power. The assembly, though selected
with characteristic art for the purpose, are the natural offspring of
place and moment. The involved meditation of the Stoic, the Cynic's
ironic sneer, the incredulous smile of the elegant Epicurean, the eager
disputants of the Academy, the elevated attention of Plato's school, the
rankling malice of the Rabbi, the Magician's mysterious glance, repeat
in louder or in lower tones the novel doctrine; but whilst curiosity and
meditation, loud debate and fixed prejudice, tell, ponder on, repeat,
reject, discuss it, the animated gesture of conviction in Dionysius and
Damaris, announce the power of its tenets, and hint the established
belief of _immortality_.

But the powers of Raphael in combining the drama with pure historic
fact, are best estimated when compared with those exerted by other
masters on the same subject. For this we select from the series we
examine that which represented the Massacre, as it is called, of the
Innocents, or of the infants at Bethlem; an original, precious part of
which still remains in the possession of a friend of art among us. On
this subject Baccio Bandinelli, Tintoretto, Rubens, Le Brun, and
Poussin, have tried their various powers.

The Massacre of the Infants by Baccio Bandinelli, contrived chiefly to
exhibit his anatomic skill, is a complicated tableau of every contortion
of human attitude and limbs that precedes dislocation; the expression
floats between a studied imagery of frigid horror and loathsome

The stormy brush of Tintoretto swept individual woe away in general
masses. Two immense wings of light and shade divide the composition,
and hide the want of sentiment in tumult.

To Rubens, magnificence and contrast dictated the actors and the scene.
A loud lamenting dame, in velvet robes, with golden locks dishevelled,
and wide extended arms, meets our first glance. Behind, a group of
steel-clad satellites open their rows of spears to admit the nimble,
naked ministers of murder, charged with their infant prey, within their
ranks, ready to close again against the frantic mothers who pursue them:
the pompous gloom of the palace in the middle ground is set off by
cottages and village scenery in the distance.

Le Brun surrounded the allegoric tomb of Rachel with rapid horsemen,
receiving the children whom the assassins tore from their parents' arms,
and strewed the field with infant slaughter.

Poussin tied in one vigorous group what he conceived of blood-trained
villany and maternal frenzy. Whilst Raphael, in dramatic gradation,
disclosed all the mother through every image of pity and of terror;
through tears, shrieks, resistance, revenge, to the stunned look of
despair; and traced the villain from the palpitations of scarce
initiated crime to the sedate grin of veteran murder.

History, strictly so called, follows the drama: fiction now ceases, and
invention consists only in selecting and fixing with dignity, precision,
and sentiment, the moments of _reality_. Suppose that the artist choose
the death of Germanicus--He is not to give us the highest images of
_general_ grief which impresses the features of a people or a family at
the death of a beloved chief or father; for this would be epic imagery:
we should have Achilles, Hector, Niobe. He is not to mix up characters
which observation and comparison have pointed out to him as the fittest
to excite the gradations of sympathy; not Admetus and Alceste, not
Meleager and Atalanta; for this would be the drama. He is to give us the
idea of a Roman dying amidst Romans, as tradition gave him, with all the
real modifications of time and place, which may serve unequivocally to
discriminate that moment of grief from all others. Germanicus,
Agrippina, Caius, Vitellius, the legates, the centurions at Antioch; the
hero, the husband, the father, the friend, the leader, the struggles of
nature and sparks of hope must be subjected to the physiognomic
character and the features of Germanicus, the son of Drusus, the Cæsar
of Tiberius. Maternal, female, connubial passion, must be tinged by
Agrippina, the woman absorbed in the Roman, less lover than companion of
her husband's grandeur: even the bursts of friendship, attachment,
allegiance, and revenge, must be stamped by the military, ceremonial,
and distinctive costume of Rome.

The judicious observation of all this does not reduce the historic
painter to the anxiously minute detail of a copyist. Firm he rests on
the true basis of art, imitation: the fixed character of things
determines all in his choice, and mere floating accident, transient
modes and whims of fashion, are still excluded. If defects, if
deformities are represented, they must be permanent, they must be
inherent in the character. Edward the First and Richard the Third must
be marked, but marked, to strengthen rather than to diminish the
interest we take in the man; thus the deformity of Richard will add to
his terror, and the enormous stride of Edward to his dignity. If my
limits permitted, your own recollection would dispense me from
expatiating in examples on this more familiar branch of invention. The
history of our own times and of our own country has produced a specimen,
in the death of a military hero, as excellent as often imitated, which,
though respect forbids me to name it, cannot, I trust, be absent from
your mind.

Such are the stricter outlines of general and specific invention in the
three principal branches of our art; but as their near alliance allows
not always a strict discrimination of their limits; as the mind and
fancy of men, upon the whole, consist of mixed qualities, we seldom meet
with a human performance exclusively made up of epic, dramatic, or pure
historic materials.

Novelty and feelings will make the rigid historian sometimes launch out
into the marvellous, or warm his bosom and extort a tear; the dramatist,
in gazing at some tremendous feature, or the pomp of superior agency,
will drop the chain of sympathy and be absorbed in the sublime; whilst
the epic or lyric painter forgets his solitary grandeur, sometimes
descends and mixes with his agents. Thus Homer gave the feature of the
drama in Hector and Andromache, in Irus and Ulysses; the spirit from the
prison-house stalks like the shade of Ajax, in Shakspeare; the daughter
of Soranus pleading for her father, and Octavia encircled by centurions,
melt like Ophelia and Alceste, in Tacitus; thus Raphael personified the
genius of the river in Joshua's passage through the Jordan, and again at
the ceremony of Solomon's inauguration; and thus Poussin raised before
the scared eye of Coriolanus, the frowning vision of Rome, all armed,
with her attendant, Fortune.

These general excursions from one province of the art into those of its
congenial neighbours, granted by judicious invention to the artist, let
me apply to the grant of a more specific licence[77]: Horace, the most
judicious of critics, when treating on the use of poetic words, tells
his pupils, that the adoption of an old word, rendered novel by a
skilful construction with others, will entitle the poet to the praise of
original diction. The same will be granted to the judicious adoption of
figures in art.

Far from impairing the originality of invention, the unpremeditated
discovery of an appropriate attitude or figure in the works of
antiquity, or of the great old masters after the revival, and its
adoption, or the apt transposition of one misplaced in some inferior
work, will add lustre to a performance of commensurate or superior
power, by a kind coalition with the rest, immediately furnished by
nature and the subject. In such a case it is easily discovered whether a
subject have been chosen merely to borrow an idea, an attitude or
figure, or whether their eminent fitness procured them their place. An
adopted idea or figure in a work of genius is a foil or a companion of
the rest; but an idea of genius borrowed by mediocrity, tears all
associate shreds, it is the giant's thumb by which the pigmy offered the
measure of his own littleness. We stamp the plagiary on the borrower,
who, without fit materials or adequate conceptions of his own, seeks to
shelter impotence under purloined vigour; we leave him with the full
praise of invention, who by the harmony of a whole proves that what he
adopted might have been his own offspring though anticipated by another.
If he take now, he soon may give. Thus Michael Angelo scattered the
Torso of Apollonius in every view, in every direction, in groups and
single figures, over the composition of the Last Judgment; and in the
Lunetta of Judith and her Maid gave an original turn to figures adopted
from the gem of Pier Maria da Pescia: if the figure of Adam dismissed
from Paradise, by Raphael, still own Masaccio for its inventor, he can
scarcely be said to have furnished more than the hint of that enthusiasm
and energy which we admire in Paul on the Areopagus: in the picture of
the covenant with Noah, the sublimity of the vision, and the graces of
the mother entangled by her babes, find their originals in the Sistine
Chapel, but they are equalled by the fervour which conceived the
Patriarch, who, with the infant pressed to his bosom, with folded hands,
and prostrate on his knees, adores. What figure or what gesture in the
Cartoon of Pisa has not been imitated? Raphael, Parmegiano, Poussin,
are equally indebted to it; in the Sacrament of Baptism, the last did
little more than transcribe that knot of powers, the fierce feature of
the veteran, who, eager to pull on his clothes, pushes his foot through
the rending garment.--Such are the indulgences which invention grants to
fancy, taste, and judgment.

But a limited fragment of observations must not presume to exhaust what
in itself is inexhaustible; the features of invention are multiplied
before me as my powers decrease: I shall therefore no longer trespass on
your patience, than by fixing your attention for a few moments on one of
its boldest flights, the transfiguration of Raphael; a performance
equally celebrated and censured; in which the most judicious of
inventors, the painter of propriety, is said to have not only wrestled
for extent of information with the historian, but attempted to leap the
boundaries, and, with a less discriminating than daring hand, to remove
the established limits of the art, to have arbitrarily combined two
actions, and consequently two different moments.

Were this charge founded, I might content myself with observing, that
the Transfiguration, more than any other of Raphael's oil-pictures, was
a public performance, destined by Julio de Medici, afterward Clement
VII. for his archi-episcopal church at Narbonne; that it was painted in
contest with Sebastian del Piombo, assisted in his rival picture of
Lazarus by Michael Angelo; and thus, considering it as framed on the
simple principles of the monumental style, established in my first
discourse on the pictures of Polygnotus at Delphi, I might frame a
plausible excuse for the modern artist; but Raphael is above the
assistance of subterfuge, and it is sufficient to examine the picture,
in order to prove the futility of the charge. Raphael has connected with
the transfiguration not the _cure_ of the maniac, but his _presentation
for it_; if, according to the [78]Gospel record, this happened at the
foot of the mountain, whilst the apparition took place at the top, what
improbability is there in assigning the _same moment_ to both?

Raphael's design was to represent Jesus as the Son of God, and at the
same time as the reliever of human misery, by an unequivocal fact. The
transfiguration on Tabor, and the miraculous cure which followed the
descent of Jesus, united, furnished that fact. The difficulty was how to
combine two successive actions in one moment: he overcame it by
sacrificing the moment of the cure to that of the apparition, by
implying the lesser miracle in the greater. In subordinating the cure to
the vision he obtained sublimity, in placing the crowd and the patient
on the foreground, he gained room for the full exertion of his dramatic
powers; it was not necessary that the dæmoniac should be represented in
the moment of recovery, if its certainty could be expressed by other
means: it is implied, it is placed beyond all doubt by the glorious
apparition above; it is made nearly intuitive by the uplifted hand and
finger of the apostle in the centre, who without hesitation, undismayed
by the obstinacy of the dæmon, unmoved by the clamour of the crowd and
the pusillanimous scepticism of some of his companions, refers the
father of the maniac in an authoritative manner for certain and speedy
help to his master[79] on the mountain above, whom, though unseen, his
attitude at once connects with all that passes below; here is the point
of contact, here is that union of the two parts of the fact in one
moment, which Richardson and Falconet could not discover.


[67] Ὑλῃ και τροποις μιμησεως διαφερουσι.

               Πλουταρχ Π. Αθ. κατα Π. ἠ καθ' ἐ. ἐνδ.

See Lessing's Laokoon. Berlin, 1766. 8vo.

[68] All minute detail tends to destroy terror, as all minute ornament,
grandeur. The catalogue of the cauldron's ingredients in Macbeth,
destroys the terror attendant on the mysterious darkness of
preternatural agency; and the seraglio trappings of Rubens, annihilate
his heroes.

[69] Ἐγω δε πλεον ἐλπομαι
     Λογον Ὀδυσσεος, ἠ παθεν,
     Δια τον ἁδυεπη γενεσθ' Ὁμηρον
     Ἐπει ψευδεεσσιν oἱ ποτανᾳ γε μαχανα
     Σεμνον ἐπεστι τι. σοφια δε
     Κλεπτει παραγοισα μυθοις.

               Πινδαρ. Νεμ. Ζ.

[70] M. F. Quintilianus, l. xii. 10.--Concipiendis visionibus
(quas ΦΑΝΤΑΣΙΑΣ vocant) Theon Samius--est præstantissimus.

At quomodo fiet ut afficiamur? neque enim sunt motus in nostra
potestate. Tentabo etiam de hoc dicere. Quas φαντασιας Græci vocant, nos
sanè visiones appellamus; per quas imagines rerum absentium ita
repræsentantur animo, ut eas cernere oculis ac præsentes habere
videamur: has quisquis bene conceperit, is erit in affectibus
potentissimus. Hunc quidam dicunt εὐφαντασιωτον, qui sibi res, voces,
actus, secundum verum optume finget: quod quidem nobis volentibus facile

Nam ut inter otia animorum et spes inanes, et velut somnia quædam
vigilantium, ita nos hæ de quibus loquimur, imagines persequuntur, ut
peregrinari, navigare, prœliari, populos alloqui, divitiarum quas non
habemus, usum videamur disponere; nec cogitare, sed facere: hoc animi
vitium ad utilitatem non transferemus? ut hominem occisum querar, non
omnia quæ in re præsenti accidisse credibile est, in oculis habebo? non
percussor ille subitus erumpet? non expavescet circumventus? exclamabit,
vel rogabit, vel fugiet? non ferientem, non concidentem videbo? non
animo sanguis, et pallor et gemitus, extremus denique expirantis hiatus

               Idem, l. vi. c. 11.

Theon, numbered with the 'Proceres' by Quintilian, by Pliny with less
discrimination is placed among the 'Primis Proximos;' and in some
passage of Plutarch, unaccountably censured for impropriety of subject,
ἀτοπια, in representing the madness of Orestes.

[71] Αιλιανου ποικ. ἱστορ. l. ii. c. 44. Θεωνος του Ζωγραφου πολλα μεν
και ἀλλα ὁμολογει την χειρουργιαν ἀγαθην οὐσαν, ἀταρ οὐν και τοδε το
γραμμα.----Και εἰπες ἀν αὐτον ἐνθουσιᾶν, ὡσπερ εξ Ἀρεος μανεντα.----Και
σφαττειν βλεπων, και ἀπειλῶν δι' ὁλου του σχηματος, ὁτι μηδενος

[72] The name of Agasias, the scholar or son of Dositheos, the Ephesian,
occurs not in ancient record; and whether he be the Egesias of
Quintilian or of Pliny, or these the same, cannot be ascertained; though
the style of sculpture and the form of the letters in the inscription
are not much at variance with the character which the former gives to
the age and style of Calon and Egesias; "Signa--duriora et Tuscanicis
proxima." The impropriety of calling this figure a gladiator has been
shown by Winkelmann, and on his remark, that it probably exhibits the
attitude of a soldier, who signalized himself in some moment of danger,
Lessing has founded a conjecture, that it is the figure of Chabrias,
from the following passage of Corn. Nepos: "Elucet maxime inventum ejus
in prœlio, quod apud Thebas fecit, cùm Boetiis subsidio venisset. Namque
in eo victoriæ fidente summo duce Agesilao, fugatis jam ab eo
conductitiis catervis, reliquam phalangem loco vetuit cedere; obnixoque
genu scuto, projectaque hasta, impetum excipere hostium docuit. Id novum
Agesilaus intuens, progredi non est ausus, suosque jam incurrentes tubâ
revocavit. Hoc usque eo in Græcia famâ celebratum est, ut illo statu
Chabrias sibi statuam fieri voluerit, quæ publicè ei ab Atheniensibus in
foro constituta est. Ex quo factum est, ut postea athletæ, _cæterique
artifices_ his statibus in statutis ponendis uterentur, in quibus
victoriam essent adepti?"

On this passage, simple and unperplexed, if we except the words
"cæterique artifices," where something is evidently dropped or changed,
there can, I trust, be but one opinion--that the manœuvre of Chabrias
was defensive, and consisted in giving the phalanx a stationary, and at
the same time impenetrable posture, to check the progress of the enemy;
a repulse, not a victory was obtained; the Thebans were content to
maintain their ground, and not a word is said by the historian, of a
pursuit, when Agesilaus, startled at the contrivance, called off his
troops: but the warrior of Agasias rushes forward in an assailing
attitude, whilst with his head and shield turned upwards he seems to
guard himself from some attack above him. Lessing, aware of this, to
make the passage square with his conjecture, is reduced to a change of
punctuation, and accordingly transposes the decisive comma after
"scuto," to "genu," and reads "obnixo genu, scuto projectâque
hastâ,--docuit." This alone might warrant us to dismiss his conjecture
as less solid than daring and acute.

The statue erected to Chabrias in the Athenian forum was probably of
brass, for "statua" and "statuarius," in Pliny at least, will, I
believe, always be found relative to figures and artists in metal; such
were those which at an early period the Athenians dedicated to Harmodios
and Aristogiton: from them the custom spread in every direction, and
iconic figures in metal, began, says Pliny, to be the ornaments of every
municipal forum.

From another passage in Nepos, I was once willing to find in our figure
an Alcibiades in Phrygia, rushing from the flames of the cottage fired
to destroy him, and guarding himself against the javelins and arrows
which the gang of Sysamithres and Bagoas showered on him at a distance.
"Ille," says the historian, "sonitu flammæ excitatus, quod gladius ei
erat subductus, familiaris sui subalare telum eripuit et--flammæ vim
transit. Quem, ut Barbari incendium effugisse viderunt, telis eminus
missis, interfecerunt. Sic Alcibiades annos circiter quadraginta natus,
diem obiit supremum."

Such is the age of our figure, and it is to be noticed that the right
arm and hand, now armed with a lance, are modern; if it be objected,
that the figure is iconic, and that the head of Alcibiades, cut off
after his death, was carried to Pharnabazus, and his body burned by his
mistress; it might be observed in reply, that busts and figures of
Alcibiades must have been frequent in Greece, and that the expression
found its source in the mind of Agasias. On this conjecture, however, I
shall not insist: let us only observe that the character, forms and
attitude, might be turned to better use than what Poussin made of it. It
might form an admirable Ulysses bestriding the deck of his ship to
defend his companions from the descending fangs of Scylla, or rather,
with indignation and anguish, seeing them already snatched up and
writhing in the mysterious gripe:

     Ἀυταρ ἐγω καταδυς κλυτα τευχεα, και δυο δουρε
     Μακρ' ἐν χερσιν ἑλων, εἰς ἰκρια νηος ἐβαινον
     Πρωρης----ἐκαμον δε μοι ὀσσε
     Παντῃ παπταινοντι προς ἦεροειδεα πετρην
     Σκεψαμενος δε----
     Ἠδη των ἐνοησα ποδας και χειρας ὑπερθεν
     Ὑψος ἀειρομενων.----

               Odyss. M. 238. seq.

[73] Sebbene il divino Michel Agnolo fece la gran Cappella di Papa
Julio, dappoi non arrivò a questo segno mai alla metà, la sua virtù non
aggiunse mai alla forza di quei primi studi. Vita di Benvenuto Cellini,
p. 13.--Vasari, as appears from his own account, never himself saw the
cartoon: he talks of an "infinity of combatants on horseback,"[74] of
which there neither remains nor ever can have existed a trace, if the
picture at Holkham be the work of Bastiano da St. Gallo. This he saw,
for it was painted, at his own desire, by that master, from his small
cartoon in 1542, and by means of Monsignor Jovio transmitted to Francis
I. who highly esteemed it; from his collection it however disappeared,
and no mention is made of it by the French writers for near two
centuries. It was probably discovered at Paris, bought and carried to
England by the late Lord Leicester. That Vasari, on inspecting the copy,
should not have corrected the confused account he gives of the cartoon
from hearsay, can be wondered at only by those who are unacquainted with
his character as a writer. One solitary horse and a drummer on the
imaginary background of the groups engraved by Agostino Venetiano, are
all the cavalry remaining of Vasari's squadrons, and can as little
belong to Michel Agnolo as the spot on which they are placed.

[74] The following are his own words: "Si vedeva dalle divine mani di
Michelagnolo chi affrettare lo armarsi per dare ajuto a'compagni, altri
affibbiarsi la corazza, e molti metter altre armi indosso, ed infiniti
combattendo a cavallo cominciare la zuffa."

               Vasari, Vita di M. A. B. p. 183. ed. Bottari.

[75] Ὁ δε πως μεγεθυνει τα Δαιμονια;----Την ὁρμην αὐτων κοσμικῳ
διαστηματι καταμετρει.

               Longinus, § 9.

[76] Much has been said of the loss we have suffered in the marginal
drawings which Michael Angelo drew in his Dante. Invention may have
suffered in being deprived of them; they can, however, have been little
more than hints of a size too minute to admit of much discrimination.
The true terrors of Dante depend as much upon the medium in which he
shows, or gives us a glimpse of his figures, as on their form. The
characteristic outlines of his fiends, Michael Angelo personified in the
dæmons of the Last Judgment, and invigorated the undisguised appetite,
ferocity or craft of the brute, by traits of human malignity, cruelty,
or lust. The Minos of Dante, in Messer Biagio da Cesena, and his Charon,
have been recognized by all; but less the shivering wretch held over the
barge by a hook, and evidently taken from the following passage in the
xxiid of the Inferno:--

     Et Graffiacan, che gli era più di contra
     Gli arroncigliò l'impegolate chiome;
     E trasse 'l sù, che mi parve una lontra.

None has noticed as imitations of Dante in the xxivth book, the
astonishing groups in the Lunetta of the brazen serpent; none the
various hints from the Inferno and Purgatorio scattered over the
attitudes and expressions of the figures rising from their graves. In
the Lunetta of Haman, we owe the sublime conception of his figure to the
subsequent passage in the xviith c. of Purgatory:

     Poi piobbe dentro al' alta phantasia
     Un Crucifisso, dispettoso e fiero
     Nella sua vista, e lo qual si moria.

The basso-relievo on the border of the second rock, in Purgatory,
furnished the idea of the Annunziata, painted by Marcello Venusti from
his design, in the sacristy of St. Giov. Lateran, by order of Tommaso
de' Cavalieri, the select friend and favourite of Michael Angelo.

We are told that Michael Angelo represented the Ugolino of Dante,
inclosed in the tower of Pisa: if he did, his own work is lost; but if,
as some suppose, the basso-relievo of that subject by Pierino da Vinci
be taken from his idea, notwithstanding the greater latitude, which the
sculptor might claim, in divesting the figures of drapery and costume;
he appears to me to have erred in the means employed to rouse our
sympathy. A sullen but muscular character, with groups of muscular
bodies and forms of strength, about him, with the allegoric figure of
the Arno at their feet, and that of famine hovering over their heads,
are not the fierce Gothic chief, deprived of revenge, brooding over
despair in the stony cage; are not the exhausted agonies of a father,
petrified by the helpless groans of an expiring family, offering their
own bodies for his food, to prolong his life.

[77] Dixeris egregiè, notum si callida verbum
     Reddiderit junctura novum.----

               Q. Horat. Flacci de A. P. v. 47.

[78] Matt. xvii. 5, 6. See Fiorillo, geschichte, &c. 104. seq.

[79] The vision on Tabor, as represented here, is the most
characteristic produced by modern art. Whether we consider the action of
the apostles overpowered by the divine effulgence, and divided between
adoration and astonishment, or the forms of the prophets ascending like
flame, and attracted by the lucid centre, or the majesty of Jesus
himself, whose countenance is the only one we know expressive of his
superhuman nature. That the unison of such powers should not, for once,
have disarmed the burlesque of the French critic, rouses equal surprise
and indignation.





               ΠΙΝΔΑΡ. ΝΕΜ. ΕΙΔ. Δ.


    Choice of subjects; divided into positive, negative,
    repulsive.--Observations on the Parerga, or Accessories of


The imitation of Nature, as it presents itself in space and figure,
being the real sphere of plastic Invention, it follows, that whatever
can occupy a place and be circumscribed by lines, characterised by form,
substantiated by colour and light and shade, without provoking
incredulity, shocking our conception by absurdity, averting our eye by
loathsomeness or horror, is strictly within its province: but though all
Nature seem to teem with objects of imitation, the "Choice" of subjects
is a point of great importance to the Artist; the conception, the
progress, the finish, and the success of his work depend upon it. An apt
and advantageous subject rouses and elevates Invention, invigorates,
promotes, and adds delight to labour; whilst a dull or repulsive one
breeds obstacles at every step, dejects and wearies--the Artist loses
his labour, the spectator his expectation.

The first demand on every work of art is that it constitute one whole,
that it fully pronounce its own meaning, that it tell itself; it ought
to be independent; the essential part of its subject ought to be
comprehended and understood without collateral assistance, without
borrowing its commentary from the historian or the poet; for as we are
soon wearied with a poem whose fable and motives reach us only by the
borrowed light of annexed notes, so we turn our eye discontented from a
picture or a statue whose meaning depends on the charity of a Cicerone,
or must be fetched from a book.

As the condition that each work of art should fully and essentially tell
its own tale, undoubtedly narrows the quantity of admissible objects,
singly taken, to remedy this, to enlarge the range of subjects,
Invention has contrived by a Cyclus or series to tell the most important
moments of a long story, its beginning, its middle, and its end: for
though some of these may not, in themselves, admit of distinct
discrimination, they may receive and impart light by connection.

Of him who undertakes thus to personify a tale, the first demand is,
that his Invention dwell on the firm basis of the story, on its most
important and significant moments, or its principal actors. Next, as the
nature of the art which is confined to the apparition of single moments
forces him to leap many intermediate ones, he cannot be said to have
invented with propriety, if he neglect imperceptibly to fill the chasm
occasioned by their omission; and, finally, that he shall not interrupt
or lose the leading thread of his plan in quest of episodes, in the
display of subordinate or adventitious beauties. On the observation of
these rules depends the perspicuity of his work, the interest we take in
it, and, consequently, all that can be gained by the adoption of a
historic series.

When form, colour, with conception and execution, are deducted from a
work, its subject, the unwrought stuff only, the naked materials remain,
and these we divide into three classes.

The first are positive, advantageous, commensurate with and adapted for
the art. The whole of the work lies prepared in their germ, and
spontaneously meets the rearing hand of the Artist.

The second class, composed of subjects negative and uninteresting in
themselves, depends entirely on the manner of treating; such subjects
owe what they can be to the genius of the Artist.

The repulsive, the subjects which cannot pronounce their own meaning,
constitute the third class. On them genius and talent are equally
wasted, because the heart has no medium to render them intelligible.
Taste and execution may recommend them to our eye, but never can make
them generally impressive, or stamp them with perspicuity.

To begin with advantageous subjects, immediately above the scenes of
vulgar life, of animals, and common landscape, the simple representation
of actions purely human, appears to be as nearly related to the art as
to ourselves; their effect is immediate; they want no explanation; from
them, therefore, we begin our scale. The next step leads us to pure
historic subjects, singly or in a series; beyond these the delineation
of character, or, properly speaking, the drama, invites; immediately
above this we place the epic with its mythologic, allegoric, and
symbolic branches.

On these four branches of Invention, as I have treated diffusely in the
lecture published on this subject, and since successively in these
prelections, I shall not at present circumstantially dwell, but as
succinctly as possible remind you only of their specific difference and

The first class, which, without much boldness of metaphor, may be said
to draw its substance immediately from the lap of Nature, to be as
elemental as her emotions, and the passions by which she sways us, finds
its echo in all hearts, and imparts its charm to every eye; from the
mutual caresses of maternal affection and infant simplicity, the
whispers of love or eruptions of jealousy and revenge, to the terrors of
life, struggling with danger, or grappling with death. The Madonnas of
Raphael; the Ugolino, the Paolo and Frances of Dante; the Conflagration
of the Borgo; the Niobe protecting her daughter; Hæmon piercing his own
breast, with Antigone hanging dead from his arm,[80] owe the sympathies
they call forth to their assimilating power, and not to the names they
bear: without names, without reference to time and place, they would
impress with equal energy, because they find their counterpart in every
breast, and speak the language of mankind. Such were the Phantasiæ of
the ancients, which modern art, by indiscriminate laxity of application,
in what is called Fancy-Pictures, has more debased than imitated. A
mother's and a lover's kiss acquire their value from the lips they
press, and suffering deformity mingles disgust with pity.

Historic Invention administers to truth. History, as contradistinguished
from arbitrary or poetic narration, tells us not what might be, but what
is or was; circumscribes the probable, the grand, and the pathetic, with
truth of time, place, custom; gives "local habitation and a name:" its
agents are the pure organs of a fact. Historic plans, when sufficiently
distinct to be told, and founded on the basis of human nature, have
that prerogative over mere natural imagery, that whilst they bespeak our
sympathy, they interest our intellect. We were pleased with the former
as men, we are attracted by this as members of society: bound round with
public and private connections and duties, taught curiosity by
education, we wish to regulate our conduct by comparisons of analogous
situations and similar modes of society: these History furnishes;
transplants us into other times; empires and revolutions of empires pass
before us with memorable facts and actors in their train--the
legislator, the philosopher, the discoverer, the polishers of life, the
warrior, the divine, are the principal inhabitants of this soil: it is
perhaps unnecessary to add, that nothing trivial, nothing grovelling or
mean, should be suffered to approach it. This is the department of
Tacitus and Poussin. The exhibition of character in the conflict of
passions with the rights, the rules, the prejudices of society, is the
legitimate sphere of dramatic invention. It inspires, it agitates us by
reflected self-love, with pity, terror, hope and fear; whatever makes
events, and time and place, the ministers of character and pathos, let
fiction or reality compose the tissue, is its legitimate claim: it
distinguishes and raises itself above historic representation by laying
the chief interest on the _actors_, and moulding the _fact_ into mere
situations contrived for their exhibition: they are the end, this the
medium. Such is the invention of Sophocles and Shakspeare, and uniformly
that of Raphael. The actors, who in Poussin and the rest of historic
painters shine by the splendour of the fact, reflect it in Raphael with
unborrowed rays: they are the luminous object to which the action

Of the epic plan, the loftiest species of human conception, the aim is
to astonish whilst it instructs; it is the sublime allegory of a maxim.
Here Invention arranges a plan by general ideas, the selection of the
most prominent features of Nature, or favourable modes of society,
visibly to substantiate some great maxim. If it admits history for its
basis, it hides the limits in its grandeur; if it select characters to
conduct its plan, it is only in the genus, their features reflect, their
passions are kindled by the maxim, and absorbed in its universal blaze:
at this elevation heaven and earth mingle their boundaries, men are
raised to demigods, and gods descend. This is the sphere of Homer,
Phidias, and Michael Agnolo.

Allegory, or the personification of invisible physic and metaphysic
ideas, though not banished from the regions of Invention, is equally
inadmissible in pure epic, dramatic, and historic plans, because,
wherever it enters, it must rule the whole.[81] It rules with propriety
the mystic drama of the Vatican, where the characters displayed are
only the varied instruments of a mystery by which the church was
established, and Julio and Leone are the allegoric image, the
representatives of that church; but the epic, dramatic, and historic
painter embellish with poetry or delineate with truth what either was or
is supposed to be real; they must therefore conduct their plans by
personal and substantial agency, if they mean to excite that
credibility, without which it is not in their power to create an
interest in the spectator or the reader.

That great principle, the necessity of a moral tendency or of some
doctrine useful to mankind in the _whole_ of an epic performance,
admitted, are we therefore to sacrifice the uniformity of its parts, and
thus to lose that credibility which _alone_ can impress us with the
importance of the maxim that dictated to the poet narration and to the
artist imagery? Are the agents sometimes to be real beings, and
sometimes abstract ideas? Is the Zeus of Homer, of whose almighty will
the bard, at the very threshold of his poem, proclaims himself only the
herald, by the purblind acuteness of a commentator, to be turned into
æther; and Juno, just arriving from her celestial toilet, changed into
air, to procure from their mystic embraces the allegoric offspring of
vernal impregnation? When Minerva, by her weight, makes the chariot of
Diomede groan, and Mars wounded, roars with the voice of ten thousand,
are they nothing but the symbol of military discipline, and the sound of
the battle's roar? or Ate, seized by her hair, and by Zeus dashed from
the battlements of heaven, is she only a metaphysic idea? Forbid it,
Sense! As well might we say, that Milton, when he called the porteress
of hell, Satan's daughter, _Sin_, and his son and dread antagonist,
_Death_, meant only to impress us with ideas of privation and nonentity,
and sacrificed the real agents of his poem to an unskilful choice of
names? Yet it is their name that has bewildered his commentator and
biographer in criticisms equally cold, repugnant and incongruous, on the
admissibility and inadmissibility of allegory in poems of supposed
reality. What becomes of the interest the poet and the artist mean to
excite in us, if, in the moment of reading or contemplating, we do not
believe what the one tells and the other shows? It is that magic which
places on the same basis of existence, and amalgamates the mythic or
superhuman, and the human parts of the Ilias, of Paradise Lost, and of
the Sistine Chapel, that enraptures, agitates, and whirls us along as
readers or spectators.

When Poussin represented Coriolanus in the Volscian camp, he placed
before him in suppliant attitude his mother, wife, and children, with a
train of Roman matrons kneeling, and behind them the erect and frowning
form of an armed female, accompanied by another with streaming hair,
recumbent on a wheel. On these two, unseen to all else, Coriolanus,
perplexed in the extreme, in an attitude of despair, his sword half
drawn, as if to slay himself, fixes his scared eyes: who discovers not
that he is in a trance, and in the female warrior recognises the
tutelary genius of Rome, and her attendant Fortune, to terrify him into
compliance? Shall we disgrace with the frigid conceit of an allegory the
powerful invention which disclosed to the painter's eye the agitation in
the Roman's breast and the proper moment for fiction? Who is not struck
by the sublimity of a vision which, without diminishing the credibility
of the fact, adds to its importance, and raises the hero, by making him
submit not to the impulse of private ties, but to the imperious destiny
of his country?

Among the paltry subterfuges contrived by dulness to palliate the want
of invention, the laborious pedantry of emblems ranks foremost, by which
arbitrary and conventional signs have been substituted for character and
expression. If the assertion of S. Johnson, that the plastic arts "can
illustrate, but cannot inform," be false as a general maxim, it gains an
air of truth with regard to this hieroglyphic mode of exchanging
substance for signs; and the story which he adds in proof, of a young
girl's mistaking the usual figure of Justice with a steel-yard for a
cherry-woman, becomes here appropriate. The child had seen many stall
and market-women, and always with a steel-yard or a pair of scales, but
never a figure of Justice; and it might as well be pretended that one
not initiated in the Egyptian mysteries should discover in the Scarabæus
of an obelisk the summer solstice, as that a child, a girl, or a man not
acquainted with Cæsar Ripa, or some other emblem-coiner, should find in
a female holding a balance over her eyes, in another with a bridle in
her hand, in a third leaning on a broken pillar, and in a fourth loaded
with children, the symbols of Justice, Temperance, Fortitude and
Charity. If these signs be at all admissible, they ought, at least, to
receive as much light from the form, the character, and expression of
the figures they accompany, as they reflect on them, else they become
burlesque, instead of being attributes. Though this rage for emblem did
not become epidemic before the lapse of the sixteenth century, when the
Cavalieri of the art, the Zucchari, Vasari and Porta's undertook to
deliver more work than their brains could furnish with thought, yet even
the philosophers of the art, in the classic days of Julio and Leo,
cannot be said to have been entirely free from it. What analogy is there
between an ostrich at the side of a female with a balance in her hand,
and the idea of Justice? Yet thus has Raphael represented her in a
stanza of the Vatican. Nor has he been constant to the same emblem, as
on the ceiling of another stanza, he has introduced her with a scale,
and armed with a sword. The _Night_ of M. Agnolo, on the Medicean tombs,
might certainly be taken for what she professes to be, without the
assistance of the mask, the poppies, and the owl at her feet, for the
dominion of sleep is personified in her expression and posture: perhaps
even her beautiful companion, whose faintly stretching attitude and
half-opened eyes express the symptoms of approaching _morn_, might be
conceived for its representative;[82] but no stretch of fancy can, in
their male associates, reach the symbols of _full day_ and _eve_, or in
the females of the monument of Julio II. the ideas of _contemplative_
and _active life_.

To means so arbitrary, confused and precarious, the ancients never
descended: their general ideas had an uniform and general typus, which
invention never presumed to alter or to transgress; but this typus lay
less in the attributes than in the character and form. The inverted
torch and moon-flower were the accompaniments, and not the substitutes,
of _Death_ and _Sleep_; neither _Psyche_ nor _Victory_ depended on her
wings. Mercury was recognized without the caduceus or purse, and Apollo
without his bow or lyre; various and similar, the branches of one
family, their leading lines descended from that full type of majesty
which Phidias, the architect of gods, had stamped on his Jupiter.
Whether we ought to consider the son of Charmidas as the inventor or the
regulator of this supreme and irremovable standard, matters not, from
_him_ the ancient writers date the epoch of mythic invention; no
revolutions of style changed the character of his forms, talent only
polished with more or less success what his laws had established.
Phidias, says Quintilian, was framed to form gods; Phidias, says Pliny,
gave in his Jupiter a new motive to religion.

Whether or not, after the restoration of art, the Supreme Being, the
eternal essence of incomprehensible perfection, ought ever to have been
approached by the feeble efforts of human conception, it is not my
office to discuss, perhaps it ought not--but since it has, as the Roman
Church has embodied divine substance, and called on our arts for an
auxiliary, it was to be expected that, to make assistance effectual, a
full type, a supreme standard of form, should have been established for
the author and the agents of the sacred circle: but, be it from the
tyranny of religious barbarians, or inability, or to avoid the
imputation of copying each other, painters and sculptors, widely
differing among themselves in the conception of divine or sainted form
and character, agree in nothing but attributes and symbols: triangular
glories, angelic ministry and minstrelsy, the colours of the drapery;
the cross, the spear, the stigmata; the descending dove; in implements
of ecclesiastic power or instruments of martyrdom.

The Biblic expression, as it is translated, "of the Ancient of
Days"--which means, "He that existed before time," furnished the
primitive artists, instead of an image of supreme majesty, only with the
hoary image of age: and such a figure borne along by a globe of angels,
and crowned with a kind of episcopal mitre, recurs on the bronzes of
Lorenzo Ghiberti. The sublime mind of M. Agnolo, soaring beyond the idea
of decrepitude and puny formality, strove to form a type in the
elemental energy of the Creator of Adam, and darted life from His
extended hand, but in the Creator of Eve sunk again to the idea of age.
Raphael strove to compound a form from M. Angelo and his predecessors,
to combine energy and rapidity with age: in the Loggia he follows M.
Agnolo, in the Stanza the prior artists; here his gods are affable and
mild, there rapid, and perhaps more violent than energetic. After these
two great names, it were profanation to name the attempts of their

The same fluctuation perplexes the effigy of the Saviour. Lionardo da
Vinci attempted to unite power with calm serenity, but in the Last
Supper alone presses on our hearts by humanity of countenance. The
Infant Christ of M. Agnolo is a superhuman conception, but as man and
Redeemer with his cross, in the Minerva, he is a figure as mannered in
form and attitude, as averting by stern severity; and, as the Judge of
Mankind in the Last Judgment, he seems to me as unworthy of the artist's
mind as of his master-hand. The Christs of Raphael, as infants, are
seldom more than lovely children; as a man, the painter has poised His
form between church tradition and the dignified mildness of his own

Two extremes appear to have co-operated to impede the establishment of a
type in the formation of the Saviour: by one He is converted into a
character of mythology, the other debases Him to the dregs of mankind.

"The character corresponding with that of Christ," says Mengs,[83]
"ought to be a compound of the characters of Jupiter and of Apollo,
allowing only for the accidental expression of the moment." What magic
shall amalgamate the superhuman airs of Rhea's and Latona's sons, with
patience in suffering and resignation? The critic in his exultation
forgot the leading feature of his Master--condescending humility. In the
race of Jupiter majesty is often tempered by emanations of beauty and of
grace, but never softened to warm humanity. Here lies the knot:--

The Saviour of mankind extending his arm to relieve, without visible
means, the afflicted, the hopeless, the dying, the dead, is a subject
that visits with awe the breast of every one who calls himself after His
name; the artist is in the sphere of adoration.

An exalted sage descending to every beneficent office of humanity,
instructing ignorance, not only forgiving but excusing outrage,
pressing his enemy to his breast, commands the sympathy of every man,
though he be no believer; the artist is in the sphere of sentiment.

But a mean man, marked with the features of a mean race, surrounded by a
beggarly, ill-shaped rabble and stupid crowds--may be mistaken for a
juggler, that claims the attention of no man. Of this let Art beware.

From these observations on positive we now proceed to the class of
_negative_ subjects. Negative we call those which in themselves possess
little that is significant, historically true or attractive, pathetic or
sublime, which leave our heart and fancy listless and in apathy, though
by the art with which they are executed they allure and retain the eye:
here, if ever, the artist creates his own work, in raising, by ingenious
combination, that to a positive subject which in its parts is none, or
merely passive.

The first rank among these claims that mystic class of monumental
pictures, allusive to mysteries of religion and religious institutions,
asylums, charities; or votive pictures of those who dedicate offerings
of gratitude for life saved or happiness conferred: in these the male
and female patrons of such creeds, societies and persons, prophets,
apostles, saints, warriors and doctors, with and without the donor or
the suppliant, combine in apposition or groups, and are suffered to
flank each other without incurring the indignation due to anachronism,
as they are always placed in the presence of the Divine Being, before
whom the distance of epochs, place and races, the customs, dress and
habits of different nations, are supposed to vanish; and the present,
past and future to exist in the same moment.

These, which the simplicity of primitive art dismissed without more
invention than elevating the Madonna with the infant Saviour, and
arranging the saints and suppliants in formal parallels beneath, the
genius of greater masters often, though not always, transformed to
organs of sublimity, or connected in an assemblage of interesting and
highly pleasing groups, by inventing a congruous action or scenery,
which spread warmth over a subject that, simply considered, threatened
to freeze the beholder. Let us give an instance.

The Madonna, called Dell' Impannato, by Raphael, is one of these: it is
so called because he introduced in the back-ground the old Italian
linen or paper window. Maria is represented standing or raising herself
to offer the Infant to St. Elizabeth, who stretches out her arms to
receive him. Mary Magdalen behind, and bending over her, points to St.
John, and caresses the child; he with infantine joy escapes from her
touch, and looking at her, leaps up to his mother's neck. St. John, as
the principal figure, is placed in the fore-ground on a leopard's skin,
and with raised hand seems to prophesy of Christ; he appears to be eight
or ten years old, Christ scarcely two. At this anachronism, or the much
bolder one committed in the admission of M. Magdalen, who was probably
younger than Christ, those only will be shocked who have not considered
the nature of a votive picture: this was dedicated to St. John, as the
tutelary saint of Florence, and before it was transferred to the Pitti
Gallery, was the altar-piece in a domestic chapel of the Medicean

The greater part of this audience are acquainted, some are familiar,
with the celebrated painting of Correggio, formerly treasured in the
Pilotta of Parma; transported to the Louvre and again replaced. In the
invention of this work, which exhibits St. Jerome, to whom it is
dedicated, presenting his translation of the Scriptures, by the hand of
an angel, to the infant seated in the lap of the Madonna, the patron of
the piece is sacrificed in place to the female and angelic group which
occupies the middle. The figure that chiefly attracts, has, by its
suavity, for centuries attracted, and still absorbs the general eye, is
that charming one of the Magdalen, in a half kneeling, half recumbent
posture, pressing the foot of Jesus to her lips. By doing this, the
painter has, undoubtedly, offered to the Graces the boldest and most
enamoured sacrifice which they ever received from art. He has been
rewarded, accordingly, for the impropriety of her usurping the first
glance, which ought to fix itself on the Divinity, and the Saint
vanishes in the amorous gaze on her charms. If the Magdalen has long
possessed the right of being present where the Madonna presides, she
ought to assist the purpose of the picture in subordinate entreaty; her
action should have been that of supplication; as it is, it is the
effusion of fondling, unmixed love.

The true medium between dry apposition and exuberant contrast, appears
to have been kept by Titian, in an altar-piece of the Franciscans, or
Frati, in spite of French selection, still at Venice; and of which the
simple grandeur has been balanced by Reynolds against the artificial
splendour of Rubens in a similar subject. It probably was what it
represents, the thanks-offering of a noble family, for some victory
obtained, or conquest made in the Morea. The heads of the family, male
and female, presented by St. Francis, occupy the two wings of the
composition, kneeling, and with hands joined in prayer, in attitudes
nearly parallel. Elevated in the centre, St. Peter stands at the altar,
between two columns, his hand in the Gospel-book, the keys before him,
addressing the suppliants. Above him, to the right, appears the Madonna,
holding the infant, and with benign countenance, seems to sanction the
ceremony. Two stripling cherubs on an airy cloud, right over the centre,
rear the cross; an armed warrior with the standard of victory, and
behind him a turbaned Turk or Moor, approach from the left and round the

Such is the invention of a work, which, whilst it fills the mind,
refuses utterance to words; of which it is difficult to say, whether it
subdue more by simplicity, command by dignity, persuade by propriety,
assuage by repose, or charm by contrast. A great part of these groups
consists of portraits in habiliments of the time, deep, vivid,
brilliant; but all are completely subject to the tone of gravity that
emanates from the centre; a sacred silence enwraps the whole; all gleams
and nothing flashes. Steady to his purpose, and penetrated by his
motive, though brooding over every part of his work, the artist appears

Next to this higher class of negative subjects, though much lower, may
be placed the magnificence of ornamental painting, the pompous machinery
of Paolo Veronese, Pietro da Cortona, and Rubens. Splendour, contrast,
and profusion, are the springs of its invention. The painter, not the
story, is the principal subject here. Dazzled by piles of Palladian
architecture, tables set out with regal luxury, terrasses of plate,
crowds of Venetian nobles, pages, dwarfs, gold-collared Moors, and
choirs of vocal and instrumental music, embrowned and tuned by meridian
skies, what eye has time to discover, in the brilliant chaos, the visit
of Christ to Simon the Pharisee, or the sober nuptials of Canah? but
when the charm dissolves, though avowedly wonders of disposition,
colour, and unlimited powers of all-grasping execution, if considered in
any other light than as the luxurious trappings of ostentatious wealth,
judgment must pronounce them ominous pledges of irreclaimable depravity
of taste, glittering masses of portentous incongruities and colossal

The next place to representation of pomp among negative subjects, but
far below, we assign to Portrait. Not that characteristic portrait by
which Silanion, in the face of Apollodorus, personified habitual
indignation; Apelles, in Alexander, superhuman ambition; Raphael, in
Julio the IId., pontifical fierceness; Titian, in Paul IIId., testy age
with priestly subtlety; and in Machiavelli and Cæsar Borgia, the wily
features of conspiracy and treason.--Not that portrait by which Rubens
contrasted the physiognomy of philosophic and classic acuteness with
that of genius in the conversation-piece of Grotius, Meursius, Lipsius,
and himself; not the nice and delicate discriminations of Vandyk, nor
that power which, in our days, substantiated humour in Sterne, comedy in
Garrick, and mental and corporeal strife, to use his own words, in
Samuel Johnson. On that broad basis, portrait takes its exalted place
between history and the drama. The portrait I mean is that common one,
as widely spread as confined in its principle; the remembrancer of
insignificance, mere human resemblance, in attitude without action,
features without meaning, dress without drapery, and situation without
propriety. The aim of the artist and the sitter's wish are confined to
external likeness; that deeper, nobler aim, the personification of
character, is neither required, nor, if obtained, recognised. The better
artist, condemned to this task, can here only distinguish himself from
his duller brother by execution, by invoking the assistance of
back-ground, chiaroscuro and picturesque effects, and thus sometimes
produces a work which delights the eye, and leaves us, whilst we lament
the misapplication, with a strong impression of his power; him we see,
not the insignificant individual that usurps the centre, one we never
saw, care not if we never see, and if we do, remember not, for his head
can personify nothing but his opulence or his pretence; it is furniture.

If any branch of art be once debased to a mere article of fashionable
furniture, it will seldom elevate itself above the taste and the caprice
of the owner, or the dictates of fashion; for its success depends on
both; and though there be not a bauble thrown by the sportive hand of
fashion which taste may not catch to advantage, it will seldom be
allowed to do it, if fashion dictate the mode. Since liberty and
commerce have more levelled the ranks of society, and more equally
diffused opulence, private importance has been increased, family
connections and attachments have been more numerously formed, and hence
portrait painting, which formerly was the exclusive property of princes,
or a tribute to beauty, prowess, genius, talent, and distinguished
character, is now become a kind of family calendar, engrossed by the
mutual charities of parents, children, brothers, nephews, cousins, and
relatives of all colours.

To portrait painting, thus circumstanced, we subjoin, as the last branch
of uninteresting subjects, that kind of landscape which is entirely
occupied with the tame delineation of a given spot; an enumeration of
hill and dale, clumps of trees, shrubs, water, meadows, cottages, and
houses, what is commonly called Views. These, if not assisted by nature,
dictated by taste, or chosen for character, may delight the owner of the
acres they enclose, the inhabitants of the spot, perhaps the antiquary
or the traveller, but to every other eye they are little more than
topography. The landscape of Titian, of Mola, of Salvator, of the
Poussins, Claude, Rubens, Elzheimer, Rembrandt and Wilson, spurns all
relation with this kind of map-work. To them, nature disclosed her bosom
in the varied light of rising, meridian, setting suns; in twilight,
night and dawn. Height, depth, solitude, strike, terrify, absorb,
bewilder in their scenery. We tread on classic or romantic ground, or
wander through the characteristic groups of rich congenial objects. The
usual choice of the Dutch school, which frequently exhibits no more
than the transcript of a spot, borders, indeed, nearer on the negative
kind of landscape; but imitation will not be entitled to the pleasure we
receive, or the admiration we bestow, on their genial works, till it has
learnt to give an air of choice to necessity, to imitate their hues,
spread their masses, and to rival the touch of their pencil.

Subjects which cannot in their whole compass be brought before the eye,
which appeal for the best part of their meaning to the erudition of the
spectator and the refinements of sentimental enthusiasm, seem equally to
defy the powers of invention. The labour of disentangling the former,
dissolves the momentary magic of the first impression, and leaves us
cold: the second evaporates under the grosser touch of sensual art. It
may be more than doubted whether the resignation of Alcestis can ever be
made intuitive: the pathos of the story consists in the heroic
resolution of Alcestis to save her husband's life by resigning her own.
Now the art can show no more than Alcestis dying: the cause of her
death, her elevation of mind, the disinterested heroism of her
resolution to die, are beyond its power.

Raffaelle's celebrated Donation of the Keys to St. Peter in the Cartoon
before us, as ineffectually struggles with more than the irremovable
obscurity, with the ambiguity of the subject: a numerous group of grave
and devout characters, in attitudes of anxious debate and eager
curiosity, press forward to witness the behests of a person who, with
one hand, seems to have consigned two massy keys to their foremost
companion on his knees, and with the other hand points to a flock of
sheep, grazing behind. What associating power can find the connection
between those keys and the pasturing herd? or discover in an obtrusive
allegory the only real motive of the emotions that inspire the apostolic
group? the artist's most determined admirer, if not the slave of
pontifical authority, ready to transubstantiate whatever comes before
him, must confine his homage to the power that interests us in a
composition without a subject.

Poussin's extolled picture of the Testament of Eudamidas is another
proof of the inefficacy to represent the enthusiasm of sentiment by the
efforts of art. The figures have simplicity, the expression energy, it
is well composed, in short, it possesses every requisite but that which
alone could make it what it pretends to be:--you see an elderly man on
his death-bed; a physician, pensive, with his hand on the man's breast,
his wife and daughter desolate at the foot of the bed; one, who
resembles a notary, eagerly writing; a buckler and a lance on the wall;
and the simple implements of the scene, tell us the former occupation
and the circumstances of Eudamidas;--but his legacy--the secure reliance
on the friend to whom he bequeaths his daughter--the noble acceptance
and magnanimity of that friend,--these we ought to see, and seek in vain
for them; what is represented in the picture may be as well applied to
any other man who died, made a will, and left a daughter and a wife, as
to the Corinthian Eudamidas.

This is not the only instance in which Poussin has mistaken erudition
and detail of circumstances for evidence. The Exposition of Infant Moses
on the Nile, is a picture as much celebrated as the former: a woman
shoves a child placed in a basket from the shore. A man mournfully
pensive walks off followed by a boy who turns towards the woman and
connects the groups; a girl in the back-ground points to a distance,
where we discover the Egyptian princess, and thus anticipate the fate of
the child. The statue of a river god recumbent on the sphinx, a town
with lofty temples, pyramids and obelisks, tell Memphis and the Nile;
and smoking brick-kilns still nearer allude to the servitude and toil of
Israel in Egypt: not one circumstance is omitted that could contribute
to explain the meaning of the whole; but the repulsive subject
completely baffled the painter's endeavour to show the _real_ motive of
the action. We cannot penetrate the _cause_ that forces these people to
expose the child on the river, and hence our sympathy and participation
languish, we turn from a subject that gives us danger without fear, to
admire the expression of the parts, the classic elegance, the harmony of
colours, the mastery of execution.

       *       *       *       *       *

The importance of some secondary points of invention, of scenery,
back-ground, drapery, ornament, is frequently such, that, independent
of the want of more essential parts, if possessed in a very eminent
degree, they have singly raised from insignificance to esteem, names
that had few other rights to consideration; and neglected, in spite of
superior comprehension, in the choice or conception of a subject, in
defiance of style and perhaps of colour, of expression, and sometimes
composition, often have left little but apathy to the contemplation of
works produced by men of superior grasp and essential excellence. Fewer
would admire Poussin were he deprived of his scenery, though I shall not
assert with Mengs, that in his works the subject is more frequently the
appendix than the principle of the back-ground; what right could the
greater part of Andrea del Sarto's historic compositions claim to our
attention, if deprived of the parallelism, the repose and space in which
his figures are arranged, or the ample draperies that invest them, and
hide with solemn simplicity their vulgarity of character and limbs: it
often requires no inconsiderable degree of mental power and technic
discrimination to separate the sublimity of Michael Agnolo, and the
pathos of Raffaelle from the total neglect or the incongruities of
scenery and back-ground, which frequently involve or clog their
conceptions, to add by fancy the place on which their figures ought to
stand, the horizon that ought to elevate or surround them, and the
masses of light and shade indolently neglected or sacrificed to higher
principles. How deeply the importance of scenery and situation, with
their proper degree of finish, were felt by Tiziano, before and after
his emancipation from the shackles of Giov. Bellino, every work of his
during the course of nearly a centenary practice proves: to select two
from all, the Martyrdom of the Dominican Peter, that summary of his
accumulated powers, and the Presentation of the Virgin, one of his first
historic essays, owe, if not all, their greatest effect, to scenery:
loftiness and solitude of site assist the sublimity of the descending
vision to consecrate the actors beyond what their characters and style
of limbs could claim, and render the first an object of submissive
admiration, whilst its simple grandeur renders the second one of
cheerful and indulgent acquiescence; and reconciles us to a detail of
portrait-painting, and the impropriety of associating domestic and
vulgar imagery with a consecrated subject.

It is for these reasons that the importance of scenery and back-ground
has been so much insisted on by Reynolds; who frequently declared, that
whatever preparatory assistance he might admit in the draperies or other
parts of his figures, he always made it a point to keep the arrangement
of the scenery, the disposition and ultimate finish of the back-ground
to himself.

By the choice and scenery of the back-ground we are frequently enabled
to judge how far a painter entered into his subject, whether he
understood its nature, to what class it belonged, what impression it was
capable of making, what passion it was calculated to rouse: the sedate,
the solemn, the severe, the awful, the terrible, the sublime, the
placid, the solitary, the pleasing, the gay, are stamped by it.
Sometimes it ought to be negative, entirely subordinate, receding or
shrinking into itself; sometimes more positive, it acts, invigorates,
assists the subject, and claims attention; sometimes its forms,
sometimes its colour ought to command.--A subject in itself bordering
on the usual or common, may become sublime or pathetic by the
back-ground alone, and a sublime or pathetic one may become trivial and
uninteresting by it: a female leaning her head on her hand on a rock
might easily suggest itself to any painter of portrait, but the means of
making this figure interesting to those who are not concerned in the
likeness, were not to be picked from the mixtures of the palette:
Reynolds found the secret in contrasting the tranquillity and repose of
the person by a tempestuous sea and a stormy shore in the distance; and
in another female contemplating a tremulous sea by a placid moonlight,
he connected elegance with sympathy and desire.

Whatever connects the individual with the elements, whether by abrupt or
imperceptible means, is an instrument of sublimity, as, whatever
connects it in the same manner with, or tears it from the species, may
become an organ of pathos: in this discrimination lies the rule by which
our art, to astonish or move, ought to choose the scenery of its
subjects. It is not by the accumulation of infernal or magic machinery,
distinctly seen, by the introduction of Hecate and a chorus of female
demons and witches, by surrounding him with successive apparitions at
once, and a range of shadows moving above or before him, that Macbeth
can be made an object of terror,--to render him so you must place him on
a ridge, his down-dashed eye absorbed by the murky abyss; surround the
horrid vision with darkness, exclude its limits, and shear its light to

This art of giving to the principal figure the command of the horizon,
is perhaps the only principle by which modern art might have gained an
advantage over that of the ancients, and improved the dignity of
composition, had it been steadily pursued by its great restorers, the
painters of Julio II. and Leone X., though we find it more attended to
in the monumental imagery of the Capella Sistina than in the Stanze and
the Cartoons of Raffaello, which being oftener pathetic or intellectual
than sublime, suffered less by neglecting it.

The same principle which has developed in the cone, the form generally
most proper for composing a single figure or a group, contains the
reason why the principal figure or group should be the most elevated
object of a composition, and locally command the accidents of scenery
and place. The Apollo of Belvedere, singly or in a group, was surely not
composed to move at the bottom of a valley, nor the Zeus of Phidias to
be covered with a roof.

The improprieties attendant on the neglect of this principle are,
perhaps, in no work of eminence more offensively evident than in the
celebrated Resuscitation of Lazarus by Sebastian del Piombo, whose
composition, if composition it deserved to be called, seems to have been
dictated by the back-ground. It usurps the first glance; it partly
buries, everywhere throngs, and in the most important place squeezes the
subject into a corner. The horizon is at the top, Jesus, Maria, and
Lazarus at the bottom of the scene. Though its plan and groups recede in
diminished forms, they advance in glaring opaque colour, nor can it
avail in excuse of the artist, to say that the multitude of figures
admitted are characters chosen to show in different modes of expression
the effect of the miracle, whilst their number gives celebrity to it and
discriminates it from the obscure trick of a juggler: all this, if it
had been done, though perhaps it has not, for by far the greater part
are not spectators, might have been done with subordination: the most
authentic proof of the reality of the miracle ought to have beamed from
the countenance of Him who performed it, and of the restored man's
sister.--In every work something must be first, something last; that is
essential, this optional; that is present by its own right, this by
courtesy and convenience.[86]

The rival picture of the resuscitation of Lazarus, the Transfiguration
of Christ by Raffaello, avoids the inconvenience of indiscriminate
crowding, and the impertinent _luxuriance_ of scenery which we have
censured, by the artifice of escaping from what is strictly called
back-ground, and excluding it altogether: the action on the fore-ground
is the basis and Christ the apex of the cone, and what they might have
suffered from diminution of size is compensated by elevation and
splendour. In sacrificing to this principle the rules of a perspective
which he was so well acquainted with, Raffaello succeeded to unite the
beginning, the middle, and the end of the event which he represented in
one moment; he escaped every atom of common-place or unnecessary
embellishment with a simplicity and so artless an air, that few but the
dull, the petulant, and the pedant, can refuse him their assent,
admiration and sympathy; if he has not, strictly speaking, embodied
possibility, he has perhaps done more, he has done what Homer did, by
hiding the unmanageable but less essential part of his materials, he has
transformed it to probability.

I have said that by the choice of scenery alone we may often, if not
always, judge how far an artist has penetrated his subject, what emotion
in treating it he meant to excite. No subjects can elucidate this with
so much perspicuity as those generally distinguished by the name of
Madonnas: subjects stamped with a mystery of religion, and originally
contrived under the bland images of maternal fondness to subdue the
heart. In examining the considerable number of those by Raffaello, we
find generally some reciprocal feature of filial and parental love, "the
charities of father, son, and mother," sometimes varied by infant play
and female caresses, sometimes dignified by celestial ministry and
homage; the endearments of the nursery selected and embodied by forms
more charming than exalted, less beautiful than genial--accordingly the
choice of scenery consists seldom in more than a pleasing accompaniment:
the flower and the shrub, the rivulet and grove, enamel the seat or
embower the repose of the sacred pilgrims under the serenity of a placid
sky, expanded or breaking through trees, or sheltering ruins; whilst in
those surrounded by domestic scenery, a warm recess veils the mother,
now hiding her darling from profane aspect, now pressing him to her
bosom, or contemplating in silent rapture his charms displayed on her
lap--accompaniments and actions, though appropriate, without allusion to
the mysterious personages they profess to exhibit--to discriminate them
the chair, the window, the saddle on which Joseph sits in one, the
flowers which he kneeling presents in another, the cradle, the bath,
are called on. Raffaello was less penetrated by a devout than by an
amorous principle; his design was less to stamp maternal affection with
the seal of religion than to consecrate the face he adored; his Holy
Families, with one exception, are the apotheosis of his Fornarina.

This exception, as it proves what had been advanced of the rest, so it
proves likewise that the omission of its beauties in them was more a
matter of choice than want of comprehension. Than the face and attitude
of the Madonna of Versailles, known from a print by Edelinck, copied by
Giac. Frey, nature and art combined never offered to the sense and heart
a more exalted sentiment, or more correspondent forms. The face still,
indeed, offers his favourite lines, lines not of supreme beauty, but
they have assumed a sanctity which is in vain looked for in all its
sister faces: serious without severity, pure without insipidity, humble
though majestic, charming and modest at once, and without affectation
graceful: face and figure unite what we can conceive of maternal beauty,
equally poised between effusion of affection and the mysterious
sentiment of superiority in the awful Infant, whom she bends to receive
from his slumbers.

The bland imagery of Raffaello was exalted to a type of devotion by M.
Angelo, and place and scenery are adjusted with allegoric or prophetic
ornament: thus in the picture painted for Angelo Doni, where the
enraptured mother receives the Infant from the hands of Joseph, the
scene behind exhibits the new sacrament in varied groups of Baptists,
immersing themselves or issuing from the fount. In another, representing
the annunciation, we discover in the awful twilight of a recess, the
figure of Moses breaking the tables he received on Sinai, an allusion to
the abolition of the old law--an infringement of Jewish habits, for the
figure is not an apparition, but a statue, readily forgiven to its
allegoric beauty. Even in those subjects relating to Christ and his
family, where the back-ground is destitute of allusive ornament, it
appears the seat of meditation or virgin purity, and consecrates the
sentiment or action of the figures, as in the salutation of St. Giovanni
in Laterano, and in that where Maria contemplates her son spread in her
lap, and seems to bend under the presentiment of the terrible moment
which shall spread him at her feet, under the cross; but in that
monumental image of Jesus expired on the cross, with the Madonna and
John on each side, what is the scenery but the echo of the subject? The
surrounding element sympathises with the woe of the sufferers in the two
mourning Genii emerging from the air--a sublime conception, which Vasari
fancied to have successfully imitated and perhaps improved, when in a
repetition of the same subject, he travestied them to Phœbus and Diana
extinguishing their orbs, as symbols of sun and moon eclipsed.[87]

What has been said of the luxuriance of Poussin's scenery, leads to that
intemperate abuse which allots it a greater space, a more conspicuous
situation, a higher finish and effect than the importance of the subject
itself permits--by which, unity is destroyed, and it becomes doubtful to
what class a work belongs, whether it be a mixture of two or more, or
all, where portrait with architecture, landscape with history for
"mastery striving, each rules a moment." It cannot be denied that some
of the noblest works of art are liable to this imputation, and that the
fond admiration of the detailed beauties in the scenery of the Pietro
Martire of Titian, if it does not detract from the main purpose for
which the picture was or ought to have been painted, certainly adds
nothing to its real interest--nature finishes all, but an attempt to
mimic nature's universality palsies the hand of art; the celebrated
"Cene," or Supper-Scenes of Paolo Cagliari can escape this imputation
only by being classed as models of ornamental painting; and were it not
known, that notwithstanding their grandeur, propriety, and pathos of
composition, the Cartoons of Raffaello had been originally destined
still more for popular amusement than the poised admiration of select
judges, it would be difficult to excuse or to account for the
exuberance, not seldom the impropriety of accompaniment and of scenery,
with which some of them are loaded: in the Cartoon of the miraculous
draught of fishes, perhaps Giovanni d'Udine would not have been allowed
to treat us with fac-similes of the herons of the lake on its
fore-ground; in that of Paul on the Areopagus, there would probably have
been less agglomeration of finished, unfinished, or half demolished
buildings; in the Miracle of Peter and John, the principal agents would
scarcely have been hemmed in by a barbaric colonnade, loaded with
profane ornament; or in the Massacre of the Infants, the humble cottages
of Bethlehem been transformed to piles of Ionian architecture, girt with
gods in intercolumnar niches, and the metropolitan pomp of Rome.


[80] The group in the Ludovisi, ever since its discovery, absurdly
misnamed Pætus and Arria, notwithstanding some dissonance of taste and
execution, may with more plausibility claim the title of Hæmon and

[81] The whole of the gallery of Luxemburg by Rubens is but a branch of
its magnificence: general as the elements, universal and permanent as
the affections of human nature, allegory breaks the fetters of time, it
unites with boundless sway mythologic, feodal, local incongruities,
fleeting modes of society and fugitive fashions: thus, in the picture of
Rubens, Minerva, who instructs, the Graces that surround the royal
maiden at the poetic fount, are not what they are in Homer, the real
tutress of Telemachus, the real dressers of Venus, they are the symbols
only of the education which the princess received. In that sublime
design of Michael Agnolo, where a figure is roused by a descending
genius from his repose on a globe, on which he yet reclines, and with
surprise discovers the phantoms of the passions which he courted,
unmasked in wild confusion flitting round him, M. Agnolo was less
ambitious to express the nature of a dream, or to bespeak our attention
to its picturesque effect and powerful contrasts, than to impress us
with the lesson, that all is vanity and life a farce, unless engaged by
virtue and the pursuits of mind.

[82] L'Aurora Sonnacchiosa.

[83] Speaking of the figure of Christ by Raphael in the Madonna del
Spasimo, he calls it "Una Figura d'un Carattere fra quel di Giove, e
quello d'Apollo; quale effettivamente deve esser quello, che corrisponde
a Cristo, aggiungendovi soltanto l'espressione accidentale della
passione, in cui si rappresenta." Opere 11. 83.

[84] It is engraved by Villamena.

[85] The composition, and in some degree the lines, but neither its tone
nor effect, may be found among the etchings, of Le Fevre.

[86] I cannot quit this picture without observing, that it presents the
most incontrovertible evidence of the incongruities arising from the
jarring coalition of the grand and ornamental styles. The group of
Lazarus may be said to contain the most valuable relic of the classic
time of modern, and perhaps the only specimen left of M. Agnolo's
oil-painting; an opinion which will scarcely be disputed by him who has
examined the manner of the Sistine Chapel, and in his mind compared it
with the group of the Lazarus, and that with the style and treatment of
the other parts.

[87] In a picture which he painted at Rome for Bindo Altoviti, it
represented "Un Cristo quanto il vivo, levato di croce, e posto in terra
a' piedi della Madre; e nell' aria Febo, che oscura la faccia del sole,
e Diana quella della Luna. Nel paese poi, oscurato da queste Tenebre, si
veggiono spezzarsi alcuni monti di pietra, mossi dal terremoto, e certi
corpi morti di santi risorgendo, uscire de sepolcri in vari modi; il
quale quadro, finito che fu, per sua grazia non dispiacque al maggior
pittore, scultore, e architetto, che sia stato a' tempi nostri passati?"
The compliment was not paid to M. Agnolo himself, for the word "passati"
tells that he was no more, but it levied a tribute on posterity.

               Vita di Giorgio Vasari.



              ΠΟΛΛΑ Δ' ΕΝ

               ΠΙΝΔΑΡ. ΟΛΥΜΠ. Π.


    Elements of Composition; Grouping; M. Agnolo; Correggio;
    Raffaello; Breadth;--Expression; its Classes, its Limits.


Invention is followed by Composition. Composition, in its stricter
sense, is the dresser of Invention, it superintends the disposition of
its materials.

Composition has physical and moral elements: those are Perspective and
Light with shade; these, Unity, Propriety and Perspicuity; without Unity
it cannot span its subject; without Propriety it cannot tell the story;
without Perspicuity it clouds the fact with confusion; destitute of
light and shade it misses the effect, and heedless of perspective it
cannot find a place.

Composition, like all other parts of style, had a gradual progress; it
began in monotony and apposition, emerged to centre and depth,
established itself on harmony and masses, was debauched by contrast and
by grouping, and finally supplanted by machinery, common-place, and

Of sculpture, as infant painting had borrowed its first theory of forms,
so it probably borrowed its method of arranging them; and this is
Apposition, a collateral arrangement of figures necessary for telling a
single or the scattered moments of a fact. If statuary indulged in the
combination of numerous groups, such as those of the Niobe, it might
dispose them in composition, it might fix a centre and its rays, and so
produce an illusion as far as colourless form is capable of giving it.
But sculpture, when it was first consulted by painting, was not yet
arrived at that period which allowed the display of such magnificence; a
single figure or a single group could not sufficiently inform the
painter; he was reduced to consult basso-relievo, and of that,
Apposition is the element.

And in this light we ought to contemplate a great part of the Capella
Sistina. Its plan was monumental, and some of its compartments were
allotted to Apposition, not because M. Agnolo was a sculptor, but
because it was a more comprehensive medium to exhibit his general plan
than the narrower scale of composition. He admitted and like a master
treated composition, whenever his subject from the primeval simplicity
of elemental nature retreated within the closer bounds of society: his
Patriarchs, his Prophets and his Sibyls, singly considered or as groups,
the scenery of the Brazen Serpent, of David and of Judith, of Noah and
his sons, are models of the roundest and grandest composition. What
principle of composition do we miss in the creation of Adam and of Eve?
Can it grasp with more unity, characterise with more propriety, present
with brighter perspicuity, give greater truth of place or round with
more effect? If collateral arrangement be the ruling plan of the Last
Judgment, if point of sight and linear and aerial perspective in what is
elevated, comes forward or recedes, if artificial masses and
ostentatious roundness, on the whole, be absorbed by design or
sacrificed to higher principles, what effects has the greatest power of
machinery ever contrived to emulate the conglobation of those struggling
groups where light and shade administered to terror or sublimity? What,
to emulate the boat of Charon disemboguing its crew of criminals, flung
in a murky mass of shade across the pallid concave and bleak blast of
light that blows it on us? A meteor in the realms of chiaroscuro which
obscures whatever the most daring servants of that power elsewhere

If the plan of M. Agnolo must be estimated by other principles, his
process must be settled by other rules than the plan and process of
Correggio at Parma. Though the first and greatest, Correggio was no more
than a Machinist. It was less the Assumption of the Virgin, less a
monument of triumphant Religion he meditated to exhibit by sublimity of
conception or characteristic composition, than by the ultimate powers of
linear and aerial perspective at an elevation which demanded eccentric
and violent fore-shortening, set off and tuned by magic light and shade,
to embody the medium in which the actors were to move; and to the
splendour and loftiness of that he accommodated the subject and
subordinated the agents. Hence his work, though moving in a flood of
harmony, is not legitimate Composition. The synod that surrounds the
glory, the glory itself that embosoms the Virgin and her angelic choir,
Christ who precipitates himself to meet the glory, are equally absorbed
in the _bravura_ of the vehicle, they radiate, reflect and mass, but
show us little more than limbs. This makes the cupola of Correggio less
epic or dramatic than ornamental. The technic part of Composition alone,
though carried to the highest pitch of perfection, if its ostentation
absorb the subject, stamps inferiority on the master. Take away Homer's
language, and you take much, but you leave the epic poet unimpaired;
take it from Virgil, strip him of the majesty, the glow, the propriety
of his diction, and the remainder of his claim to epic poetry will
nearly be reduced to what he borrowed from Homer's plan. What is it we
remember when we leave the cupolas of Correggio? what when we leave the
Chapel of Sixtus? There, a man who transferred to a colossal scale the
dictates of his draped or naked model, applied them with a comprehensive
eye and set them off by magic light and shade and wide expanded harmony
of tone; here an epic plan combined and told in simple modes of
grandeur. Each man gave what he had: Correggio, limbs and effect; M.
Agnolo, being, form and meaning. If the cupola of Correggio be in its
kind unequalled by earlier or succeeding plans, if it leave far behind
the effusions of Lanfranchi and Pietro da Cortona, it was not the less
their model; the ornamental style of machinists dates not the less its
origin from him.

Various are the shapes in which Composition embodies its subject and
presents it to our eye. The cone or pyramid, the globe, the grape, flame
and stream, the circle and its segments, lend their figure to elevate,
concentrate, round, diffuse themselves or undulate in its masses. It
towers in the Apollo, it darts its flame forward in the warrior of
Agasias, its lambent spires wind upward with the Laocoon; it inverts the
cone in the Hercules of Glycon, it doubles it or undulates in Venus and
the Graces. In the bland central light of a globe imperceptibly gliding
through lucid demi-tints into rich reflected shades, it composes the
spell of Correggio, and entrances like a delicious dream; whilst like a
torrent it rushes from the hand of Tintorett over the trembling canvass
in enormous wings of light and shade, and sweeps all individual
importance in general effects. But whether its groups be imbrowned on a
lucid sky, or emerge from darkness, whether it break like a meridian sun
on the reflected object with Rubens, or from Rembrandt, flash on it in
lightning, whatever be its form or its effect, if it be more or less
than what it ought to be--a vehicle, if it branch not out of the subject
as the produce of its root, if it do not contain all that distinguishes
it from other subjects, if it leave out aught that is characteristic and
exclusively its own, and admit what is superfluous or common-place--it
is no longer composition, it is grouping only, an ostentatious or
useless scaffolding about an edifice without a base; such was not the
Composition of Raffaello.

The leading principle of Raffaello's composition is that simple air,
that artlessness which persuades us that his figures have been less
composed by skill than grouped by Nature; that the fact must have
happened as we see it represented. Simplicity taught him to grasp his
subject, propriety to give it character and form, and perspicuity to
give it breadth and place. The School of Athens in the Vatican, the
Death of Ananias, and the Sacrifice at Lystra, among the Cartoons, may
serve as instances.

A metaphysical composition, if it be numerous, will be oftener mistaken
for dilapidation of fragments than regular distribution of materials.
The School of Athens communicates to few more than an arbitrary
assemblage of speculative groups. Yet if the subject be the dramatic
representation of Philosophy, as it prepares for active life, the parts
of the building are not connected with more regular gradation than those
groups. Archimedes and Pythagoras, Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and
Democritus, Epictetus, Diogenes and Aristippus, in different degrees of
characteristic modes, tell one great doctrine, that, fitted by physical
and intellectual harmony, man ascends from himself to society, from
society to God. For this, group balances group, action is contrasted by
repose, each weight has its counterpoise; unity and variety shed harmony
over the whole.

In the Cartoon of Ananias, at the first glance, and even before we are
made acquainted with the particulars of the subject, we become partners
of the scene. The disposition is amphitheatric, the scenery a spacious
hall, the heart of the action is the centre, the wings assist,
elucidate, connect it with the ends. The apoplectic man before us is
evidently the victim of a supernatural power, inspiring the apostolic
figures, who on the raised platform with threatening arm pronounced, and
with the word enforced his doom. The terror occasioned by the sudden
stroke is best expressed by the features of youth and middle age on each
side of the sufferer; it is instantaneous, because its shock has not yet
spread beyond them, a contrivance not to interrupt the dignity due to
the sacred scene, and to stamp the character of devout attention on the
assembly. What preceded and what followed is equally implied in their
occupation, and in the figure of a matron entering and absorbed in
counting money, though she approaches the fatal centre, and whom we may
suppose to be Sapphira, the accomplice and the wife of Ananias, and the
devoted partner of his fate. In this composition of near thirty figures,
none can be pointed out as a figure of common place or mere convenience;
legitimate offsprings of one subject, they are linked to each other and
to the centre by one common chain, all act and all have room to act;
repose alternates with energy.

The Sacrifice at Lystra, though as a whole it has more of collateral
arrangement than depth of Composition, as it traces in the moment of its
choice the motive that produced and shows the disappointment that checks
it, has collected actors and faces the most suitable to express both:
actors and features of godlike dignity, superstitious devotion and eager
curiosity: the scene is the vestibule of the temple of Hermes, and Paul,
the supposed representative of that deity, though not placed in the
centre or a central light, by his elevation, gesture, and the whole of
the composition streaming toward him, commands the first glance. At the
very onset of the ceremony the sacrificer is arrested in the act of
smiting the victim, by the outstretched arm of a young man bursting
through the hymning throng of priests and victimarii, observing Paul
indignant rending his garment in horror of the idolatrous perversion of
his miracle.[88] The miracle itself is personified in that
characteristic figure of the healed man, who with eyes flashing joy and
gratitude on the Apostle, and hands joined in adoration, rushes in,
accompanied by an aged man of gravity and rank, who, lifting up part of
the garment that covered his thigh, attests him to have been the identic
owner of those crutches that formerly supported him, though now as
useless thrown on the pavement.

Among the Cartoons which we do not possess, and probably exist only in
the tapestries of Rome and Madrid, and engravings copied from them, the
Resurrection of Christ and his Ascension, equally mark Raphael's
discriminative powers in their contrasted compositions. The Resurrection
derives its interest from the convulsive rapidity, the Ascension from
its calmness of motion. In that, the hero like a ball of fire shoots up
from the bursting tomb and sinking cerements, and scatters astonishment
and dismay. What apprehension dared not to suspect, what fancy could not
dream of, no eye had ever beheld and no tongue ever uttered, blazes
before us: the passions dart in rays resistless from the centre. Fear,
terror, conviction, wrestle with dignity and courage in the centurion;
convulse brutality, overwhelm violence, enervate resistance, absorb
incredulity in the guard. The whole is tempestuous. The Ascension is
the majestic last of many similar scenes: no longer with the rapidity of
a conqueror, but with the calm serenity of triumphant power, the Hero is
borne up in splendour, and gradually vanishes from those who by repeated
visions had been taught to expect whatever was amazing. Silent and
composed, with eyes more absorbed in adoration than wonder, they follow
the glorious emanation; till addressed by the white-robed messengers of
their departed king, they relapse to the feelings of men.

We have considered hitherto the mental part of Raffaello's composition,
let us say a word of the technic. His excellence in this is breadth of
masses, and of positive light and shade.

Breadth, or that quality of execution which makes a whole so predominate
over the parts as to excite the idea of uninterrupted unity amid the
greatest variety, modern art, as it appears to me, owes to M. Agnolo.
The breadth of M. Agnolo resembles the tide and ebb of a mighty sea:
waves approach, arrive, retreat, but in their rise and fall, emerging or
absorbed, impress us only with the image of the power that raises, that
directs them; whilst the discrepance of obtruding parts in the works of
the infant Florentine, Venetian and German schools, distracts our eye
like the numberless breakers of a shallow river, or as the brambles and
creepers that entangle the paths of a wood, and instead of showing us
our road, perplex us only with themselves. By breadth the artist puts us
into immediate possession of the whole, and from that, gently leads us
to the examination of the parts according to their relative importance:
hence it follows, that in a representation of organized surfaces,
breadth is the judicious display of fullness, not a substitute of
vacuity. Breadth might be easily obtained if emptiness could give it.
Yet even in that degraded state, if gratification of the eye be a first
indispensable duty of an art that can impress us only by that organ, it
is preferable to the laboured display of parts ambitiously thronging for
admittance at the expense of the whole; to that perplexed diligence
which wearies us with impediment before we can penetrate a meaning or
arrive at the subject, whose clear idea must be first obtained before we
can judge of the propriety or impropriety of parts. The principle which
constitutes the breadth of Raphael was neither so absolute nor so
comprehensive as that of M. Agnolo's. But his perspicacity soon
discovered, that great, uninterrupted masses of light and shade,
bespeak, satisfy, conduct and give repose to the eye; that opposition of
light and shade gives perspicuity. Convinced of this, he let their mass
fall as broad on his figures as their importance, attitude and relation
to each other permitted, and as seldom as possible, interrupted it.
Masses of shade he opposed to light, and lucid ones to shade. The strict
observation of this rule appears to be the cause why every figure of
Raffaello, however small, even at a considerable distance, describes
itself, and strikes the eye with distinctness; so that even the
comparatively diminutive figures of his Loggia are easily discriminated
from the Cortile below. To this maxim he remained faithful in all his
works, a few instances excepted, when instead of light and shade he
separated figures by reflexes of a different colour; exceptions more
dictated by necessity than choice, and which serve rather to confirm
than to impair the rule.

It cannot be denied that, if this positive opposition gave superior
distinctness, it occasioned sometimes abruptness. Each part is broad,
but separation is too visible. Reflexes he uniformly neglects, and, from
whatever cause, is often inattentive to transition; he does not
sufficiently connect with breadth of demi-tint the two extremes of his
masses; and, though much less in fresco than in oil, seems not always to
have had a distinct idea of the gradations required completely to round
as well as to spread a whole; to have been more anxious to obtain
breadth itself than its elemental harmony.

It does not appear that the great masters of legitimate composition in
the sixteenth century attended to or understood the advantages which
elevation of site and a low horizon are capable of giving to a subject.
They place us in the gallery to behold their scenes; but, from want of
keeping, the horizontal line becomes a perpendicular, and drops the
distance on the foreground; the more remote groups do not approach, but
fall or stand upon the foremost actors. As this impedes the principles
of unity and grandeur in numerous compositions, so it impairs each
individual form; which, to be grand, ought to rise upward in moderate
foreshortening, command the horizon, or be in contact with the sky.
Reverse this plan in the composition of Pietro Martyre by Tizian, let
the horizontal line be raised above the friar on the fore-ground, space,
loftiness, and unity, vanish together. What gives sublimity to
Rembrandt's Ecce Homo more than this principle?--a composition, which
though complete, hides in its grandeur the limits of its scenery. Its
form is as a pyramid whose top is lost in the sky, as its base in
tumultuous murky waves. From the fluctuating crowds who inundate the
base of the tribunal, we rise to Pilate, surrounded and perplexed by the
varied ferocity of the sanguinary synod, to whose remorseless gripe he
surrenders his wand; and from him we ascend to the sublime resignation
of innocence in Christ, and regardless of the roar below, securely
repose on his countenance. Such is the grandeur of a conception, which
in its blaze absorbs the abominable detail of materials too vulgar to be
mentioned; had the materials been equal to the conception and
composition, the Ecce Homo of Rembrandt, even unsupported by the magic
of its light and shade, or his spell of colours, would have been an
assemblage of superhuman powers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Far, too far, from having answered all the demands of composition, my
limits force me, and my subject requires, to give a faint sketch of the
most prominent features of Expression, its assistant and interpreter.
They interweave themselves so closely with each other, and both with
Invention, that we can scarcely conceive one without supposing the
presence of the rest, and applying the principles of each to all; still
they are separate powers, and may be possessed singly. The figure of
Christ by M. Agnolo in the Minerva, embracing his cross and the
instruments of suffering, is sublimely conceived, powerfully arranged;
but neither his features nor expression are those of Christ.

Expression is the vivid image of the passion that affects the mind; its
language, and the portrait of its situation. It animates the features,
attitudes, and gestures, which Invention selected, and Composition
arranged; its principles, like theirs, are simplicity, propriety, and

It is important to distinguish the materials and the spirit of
expression. To give this we must be masters of the forms and of the hues
that embody it. Without truth of line no true expression is possible;
and the passions, whose inward energy stamped form on feature, equally
reside, fluctuate, flash or lower on it in colour, and give it energy by
light and shade.

To make a face speak clearly and with propriety, it must not only be
well constructed, but have its own exclusive character. Though the
element of the passions be the same in all, they neither speak in all
with equal energy, nor are circumscribed by equal limits. Though joy be
joy, and anger anger, the joy of the sanguine is not that of the
phlegmatic, nor the anger of the melancholy that of the fiery character;
and the discriminations established by complexion are equally
conspicuous in those of climate, habit, education, and rank. Expression
has its classes. Decebalus and Syphax, though both determined to die,
meet death with eye as different as hues. The tremulous emotion of
Hector's breast when he approaches Ajax, is not the palpitation of Paris
when he discovers Menelaus; the frown of the Hercynian Phantom may
repress the ardour, but cannot subdue the dignity of Drusus; the fear of
Marius cannot sink to the panic of the Cimber, who drops the dagger at
entering his prison, nor the astonishment of Hamlet degenerate into the
fright of vulgar fear.

Le Sueur was not aware of this when he painted his Alexander. Perhaps no
picture is, in spite of common sense, oftener quoted for its expression
than Alexander sick on his bed, with the cup at his lips, observing the
calumniated physician. The manner in which he is represented is as
inconsistent with the story as injurious to the character of the
Macedonian hero. The Alexander of Le Sueur has the prying look of a spy.
He who was capable of that look would no more have ventured on quaffing
a single drop of the suspected medicine, than on the conquest of the
Persian empire. If Alexander, when he drank the cup, had not the most
positive faith in the incorruptibility of Philippus, he was more than an
idiot, he was a felon against himself and a traitor to his army, whose
safety depended on the success of the experiment. His expression ought
to be open and unconcerned confidence--as that of his physician, a
contemptuous smile, or curiosity suspended by indignation, or the
indifference of a mind conscious of innocence, and fully relying on its
being known to his friend. Le Sueur, instead of these, has given him
little more than a stupid stare and vulgar form.

The emanations of the passions, which pathognomy has reduced to the four
principal sources of _calm emotion_, _joy_, _grief simple, or with
pain_, and _terror_;--may be divided into internal and external ones:
those hint their action only, they influence a feature or some
extremity: these extend their sway over the whole frame--they animate,
agitate, depress, convulse, absorb form. The systematic designers of
pathognomy have given their element, their extremes, the mask; the
ancients have established their technic standard, and their degrees of
admissibility in art. The Apollo is animated; the Warrior of Agasias is
agitated; the dying Gladiator or herald suffers in depression; the
Laocoon is convulsed; the Niobe is absorbed. The greater the mental
vigour, dignity, or habitual self-command of a person, the less
perceptible to superficial observation or vulgar eyes will be the
emotion of his mind. The greater the predominance of fancy over
intellect, the more ungovernable the conceits of self-importance, so
much the more will passion partake of outward and less dignified energy.
The Jupiter of Homer manifests his will and power by the mere
contraction of his eyebrows; Socrates in the School of Athens only moves
his finger, and Ovid in the Parnassus only lays it over his lips, and
both say enough; but Achilles throws himself headlong, and is prevented
from slaying himself by the grasp of his friend. Only then, when passion
or suffering become too big for utterance, the wisdom of ancient art has
borrowed a feature from tranquillity, though not its air. For every
being seized by an enormous passion, be it joy or grief, or fear sunk to
despair, loses the character of its own individual expression, and is
absorbed by the power of the feature that attracts it. Niobe and her
family are assimilated by extreme anguish; Ugolino is petrified by the
fate that swept the stripling at his foot, and sweeps in pangs the rest.
The metamorphoses of ancient mythology are founded on this principle,
are allegoric. Clytia, Biblis, Salmacis, Narcissus, tell only the
resistless power of sympathetic attraction.

Similar principles award to Raffaello the palm of expression among the
moderns: driven to extremes after his demise by Julio Romano and a long
interval of languor, it seemed to revive in Domenichino; I say seemed,
for his sensibility was not supported by equal comprehension, elevation
of mind, or dignity of motion; his sentiment wants propriety, he is a
mannerist in feeling, and tacks the imagery of Theocritus to the
subjects of Homer. A detail of petty though amiable conceptions, is
rather calculated to diminish than to enforce the energy of a pathetic
whole: a lovely child taking refuge in the lap or bosom of a lovely
mother, is an idea of nature, and pleasing in a lowly, pastoral or
domestic subject; but, perpetually recurring, becomes common-place, and
amid the terrors of martyrdom is a shred sewed to a purple robe. In
touching the characteristic circle that surrounds the Ananias of
Raffaello, you touch the electric chain, a genuine spark irresistibly
darts from the last as from the first, penetrates, subdues; at the
Martyrdom of St. Agnes by Domenichino, you saunter among the
adventitious mob of a lane, where the silly chat of neighbouring gossips
announces a topic as silly, till you find with indignation, that instead
of a broken pot or a petty theft, you are to witness a scene for which
heaven opens, the angels descend, and Jesus rises from his throne.

It is however but justice to observe, that there is a subject in which
Domenichino has not unsuccessfully wrestled, and, in my opinion, even
excelled Raffaello; I mean the demoniac boy among the series of frescoes
at Grotto Ferrata: that inspired figure is evidently the organ of an
internal, superior, preternatural agent, darted upward without
contortion, and considered as unconnected with the story, never to be
confounded with a merely tumultuary distorted maniac, which is not
perhaps the case of the boy in the Transfiguration; the subject too
being within the range of Domenichino's powers, domestic, the whole of
the persons introduced is characteristic: awe, with reliance on the
Saint who operates the miracle or cure, and terror at the redoubled fury
of his son, mark the rustic father; nor could the agonizing female with
the infant in her arm, as she is the mother, be exchanged to advantage,
and with propriety occupies that place which the fondling females in the
pictures of St. Sebastian, St. Andrew, and St. Agnes only usurp.

The Martyrdom, or rather the brutally ostentatious murder of St. Agnes
leads us to the _limits_ of expression: sympathy and disgust are the
irreconcileable parallels that must for ever separate legitimate terror
and pity from horror and aversion. We cannot sympathise with what we
detest or despise, nor fully pity what we shudder at or loathe. So
little were these limits understood by the moderns, M. Agnolo excepted,
that even the humanity and delicacy of Raffaello did not guard him from
excursions into the realms of horror and loathsomeness: it is difficult
to conceive what could provoke him to make a finished design of the
inhumanities that accompany the martyrdom of St. Felicitas at which even
description shudders; a design made on purpose to be dispersed over
Europe, perpetuated and made known to all by the graver of Marc Antonio:
Was it to prove to Albert Durer and the Germans of his time that they
had not exhausted the sources of abomination? He made an equal mistake
in the Morbetto, where, though not with so lavish a hand as Poussin
after him, instead of the moral effects of the plague, he has
personified the effluvia of putrefaction. What _he_ had not penetration
to avoid, could not be expected to be shunned by his scholars. Julio
Romano delighted in studied images of torture as well as of the most
abandoned licentiousness. Among his contemporaries, Correggio even
attempted to give a zest to the most wanton cruelty by an affectation of
grace in the picture of the Saints Placido and Flavia: but the enamoured
trance of Placido with his neck half cut, and the anthem that quivers on
the lips of Flavia whilst a sword is entering her side, in vain bespeak
our sympathy, for whilst we detest the felons who slaughter them, we
loathe to inspect the actual process of the crime; mangling is
contagious, and spreads aversion from the slaughterman to the victim. If
St. Bartholomew and St. Erasmus are subjects for painting, they can only
be so before, and neither under nor after the operation of the knife or
windlass. A decollated martyr represented with his head in his hand, as
Rubens did, and a headless corpse with the head lying by it, as
Correggio, can only prove the brutality, stupidity, or bigotry of the
employer, and the callus or venality of the artist.

The gradations of expression within, close to, and beyond its limits
cannot perhaps be elucidated with greater perspicuity than by
comparison; and the different moments which Julio Romano, Vandyke and
Rembrandt, have selected to represent the subject of Samson betrayed by
Delilah, offers one of the fairest specimens furnished by art.
Considering it as a drama, we may say that Julio forms the plot, Vandyke
unravels it, and Rembrandt shows the extreme of the catastrophe.

In the composition of Julio, Samson, satiated with pleasure, plunged
into sleep, and stretched on the ground, rests his head and presses with
his arm the thigh of Delilah on one side, whilst on the other a nimble
minion busily, but with timorous caution, fingers and clips his locks;
such is his fear, that, to be firm, he rests one knee on a foot-stool
tremblingly watching the sleeper, and ready to escape at his least
motion. Delilah, seated between both, fixed by the weight of Samson,
warily turns her head toward a troop of warriors in the back ground,
with the left arm stretched out she beckons their leader, with the
finger of the right hand she presses her lip to enjoin silence and
noiseless approach. The Herculean make and lion port of Samson, his
perturbed though ponderous sleep, the quivering agility of the curled
favourite employed, the harlot graces and meretricious elegance
contrasted by equal firmness and sense of danger in Delilah, the
attitude and look of the grim veteran who heads the ambush, whilst they
give us the clue to all that followed, keep us in anxious suspense, we
palpitate in breathless expectation; this is the plot.

The terrors which Julio made us forebode, Vandyke summons to our eyes.
The mysterious lock is cut; the dreaded victim is roused from the lap of
the harlot-priestess. Starting unconscious of his departed power, he
attempts to spring forward, and with one effort of his mighty breast and
expanded arms to dash his foes to the ground and fling the alarmed
traitress from him--in vain; shorn of his strength he is borne down by
the weight of the mailed chief that throws himself upon him, and
overpowered by a throng of infuriate satellites. But though overpowered,
less aghast than indignant, his eye flashes reproach on the perfidious
female whose wheedling caresses drew the fatal secret from his breast;
the plot is unfolded, and what succeeds, too horrible for the sense, is
left to fancy to brood upon, or drop it.

This moment of horror the gigantic but barbarous genius of Rembrandt
chose, and, without a metaphor, _executed_ a subject, which humanity,
judgment and taste taught his rivals, only to _treat_; he displays a
scene which no eye but that of Domitian or Nero could wish or bear to
see. Samson, stretched on the ground, is held by one Philistine under
him, whilst another chains his right arm, and a third clenching his
beard with one, drives a dagger into his eye with the other hand. The
pain that blasts him, darts expression from the contortions of the mouth
and his gnashing teeth to the crampy convulsions of the leg dashed high
into the air. Some fiend-like features glare through the gloomy light
which discovers Delilah, her work now done, sliding off, the shears in
her left, the locks of Samson in her right hand. If her figure, elegant,
attractive, such as Rembrandt never conceived before or after, deserve
our wonder rather than our praise, no words can do justice to the
expression that animates her face, and shows her less shrinking from
the horrid scene than exulting in being its cause. Such is the work
whose magic of colour, tone and chiaroscuro irresistibly entrap the eye,
whilst we detest the brutal choice of the moment.[89]

Let us in conclusion contrast the stern pathos of this scenery with the
placid emotions of a milder subject, in the celebrated pictures which
represent the Communion or death of St. Jerome by Agostino Caracci and
his scholar Domenichino--that an altar-piece in the Certosa near
Bologna, this in the church of St. Girolamo della Carità at Rome; but
for some time both exhibited in the gallery of the Louvre at Paris. What
I have to say on the Invention, Expression, Characters, Tone and Colour
of either is the result of observations lately made on both in that
gallery, where then they were placed nearly opposite to each other.

In each picture, St. Jerome, brought from his cell to receive the
sacrament, is represented on his knees, supported by devout attendants;
in each the officiating priest is in the act of administering to the
dying saint; the same clerical society fills the portico of the temple
in both, in both the scene is witnessed from above by infant angels.

The general opinion is in favour of the Pupil, but if in the economy of
the whole Domenichino surpasses his master, he appears to me greatly
inferior both in the character and expression of the hero. Domenichino
has represented Piety scarcely struggling with decay, Agostino
triumphant over it, his saint becomes in the place where he is, a
superior being, and is inspired by the approaching god: that of
Domenichino seems divided between resignation, mental and bodily
imbecility and desire. The saint of Agostino is a lion, that of
Domenichino a lamb.

In the sacerdotal figure administering the viaticum, Domenichino has
less improved than corrected the unworthy choice of his master. The
priest of Agostino is one of the Frati Godenti of Dante, before they
received the infernal hood; a gross, fat, self-conceited terrestrial
feature, a countenance equally proof to elevation, pity or thought. The
priest of Domenichino is a minister of grace, stamped with the sacred
humility that characterized his master, and penetrated by the function
of which he is the instrument.

We are more impressed with the graces of youth than the energies of
manhood verging on age: in this respect, as well as that of contrast
with the decrepitude of St. Jerome, the placid contemplative beauty of
the young deacon on the foreground of Domenichino, will probably please
more than the poetic trance of the assistant friar with the lighted
taper in the foreground of Agostino. This must however be observed, that
as Domenichino thought proper to introduce supernatural witnesses of the
ceremony in imitation of his master, their effect seems less ornamental,
and more interwoven with the plan, by being perceived by the actors

If the attendant characters in the picture of Agostino are more
numerous, and have on the whole, furnished the hints of admission to
those of Domenichino, this, with one exception, may be said to have used
more propriety and judgment in the choice. Both have introduced a man
with a turban, and opened a portico to characterize an Asiatic scene.

With regard to composition, Domenichino undoubtedly gains the palm. The
disposition on the whole he owes to his master, though he reversed it,
but he has cleared it of that oppressive bustle which rather involves
and crowds the principal actors in Agostino than attends them. He
spreads tranquillity with space, and repose without vacuity.

With this corresponds the tone of the whole. The evening-freshness of an
oriental day tinges every part; the medium of Agostino partakes too much
of the fumigated inside of a Catholic chapel.

The draperies of both are characteristic, and unite subordination with
dignity, but their colour is chosen with more judgment by Domenichino;
the imbrowned gold and ample folds of the robe of the administering
priest are more genial than the cold blue, white and yellow on the
priest of his master; in both, perhaps, the white draperies on the
foreground figures have too little strength for the central colours, but
it is more perceived in Carracci than in Domenichino.

The forms of the saint in Carracci are grander and more ideal than in
the saint of Domenichino; some have even thought them too vigorous:
both, in my opinion, are in harmony with the emotion of the face and
expression of either. The eagerness that animates the countenance of the
one may be supposed to spread a momentary vigour over his frame. The
mental dereliction of countenance in the other with equal propriety
relaxes and palsies the limbs which depend on it.

The colour of Carracci's saint is much more characteristic of fleshy
though nearly bloodless substance than that chosen by his rival, which
is withered, shrivelled, leathery in the lights, and earthy in the
shades; but the head of the officiating priest in Domenichino, whether
considered as a specimen of colour independent of the rest or as set off
by it, for truth, tone, freshness, energy, is not only the best
Domenichino ever painted, but perhaps the best that can be conceived.


[88] A miracle means an act performed by virtue of an unknown law of

[89] The form, but not the soul, of Julio's composition has been
borrowed by Rubens, or the master of the well-known picture in the
gallery of Dulwich college. Few can be unacquainted with the work of
Vandyke, spread by the best engravers of that school. The picture of
Rembrandt is the chief ornament of the collection in the garden-house of
the Schönborn family, in one of the suburbs of Vienna: has been etched
on a large scale, and there is a copy of it in the gallery at Cassel. A
circumstantial account of it may be found in the Eighth Letter, vol.
iii. of Kütner's Travels.



    Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem.

               Horat. de Arte Poet. L. 143.


    Definition.--Lionardo da Vinci.--Giorgione.--Antonio da


The term Chiaroscuro, adopted from the Italian, in its primary and
simplest sense means the division of a single object into light and
shade, and in its widest compass comprises their distribution over a
whole composition: whether the first derive its splendour by being
exposed to a direct light, or from colours in its nature luminous; and
whether the second owe their obscurity directly to the privation of
light, or be produced by colours in themselves opaque. Its exclusive
power is, to give substance to form, place to figure, and to create
space. It may be considered as legitimate or spurious: it is legitimate
when, as the immediate offspring of the subject, its disposition,
extent, strength or sweetness are subservient to form, expression, and
invigorate or illustrate character, by heightening the primary actor or
actors, and subordinating the secondary; it is spurious when from an
assistant aspiring to the rights of a principal, it becomes a substitute
for indispensable or more essential demands. As such, it has often been
employed by the machinists of different schools, for whom it became the
refuge of ignorance, a palliative for an incurable disease, and the
asylum of emptiness; still, as even a resource of this kind proves a
certain vigour of mind, it surprises into something like unwilling
admiration and forced applause.

Of every subject Unity is the soul: unity, of course, is inseparable
from legitimate chiaroscuro: hence the individual light and shade of
every figure that makes part of a given or chosen subject, whether
natural or ideal, as well as the more compound one of the different
intermediate groups, must act as so many rays emanating from one centre
and terminate, blazing, evanescent, or obscured, in rounding it to the

Truth is the next requisite of chiaroscuro, whatever be the subject.
Some it attends without ambition, content with common effects; some it
invigorates or inspires: but in either case, let the effect be that of
usual expanded day-light, or artificial and condensed, it ought to be
regulated by truth in extent, strength, brilliancy, softness, and above
all, by simplicity in its positive and purity in its negative parts. As
shade is the mere absence of light, it cannot, except from reflexes,
possess any hue or colour of its own, and acquires all its charms from

But to the rules which art prescribes to Chiaroscuro, to round each
figure of a composition with truth, to connect it with the neighbouring
groups, and both with the whole--it adds, that all this should be done
with strict adherence to propriety, at the least possible expense of the
subordinate parts, and with the utmost attainable degree of effect and
harmony--demands which it is not my duty to inquire, whether they
entered ever with equal evidence the mind of any one artist, ancient or
modern: whether, if it be granted possible that they did, they were ever
balanced with equal impartiality; and grant this, whether they ever were
or could be executed with equal felicity. A character of equal
universal power is not a human character--and the nearest approach to
perfection can only be in carrying to excellence one great quality with
the least alloy of defects. Thus in the School of Athens, Raffaello's
great aim being to embody on the same scene the gradations, varieties
and utmost point of human culture _as it proceeds from the individual to
society, and from that ascends to God_; he suffered expression and
character to preponderate over effect and combination of masses, and
contriving to unite the opposite wings with the centre by entrance and
exit at each extremity, as far as expression could do it, succeeded, to
make what in itself is little more than apposition of single figures or
detached groups, one grand whole.--I say, as far as expression could
satisfy a mind qualified to contemplate and penetrate his principle,
however unsatisfied a merely picturesque eye might wander over a
scattered assemblage of figures equally illuminated and unconnected by a
commanding mass of light and shade.

From this deficiency of effect in the composition we speak of, it is
evident, that mere natural light and shade, however separately or
individually true, is not always legitimate Chiaroscuro in art. Nature
sheds or withholds her ray indiscriminately, and every object has what
share it can obtain by place and position, which it is the business of
art to arrange by fixing a centre and distributing the rays according to
the more or less important claims of the subject: as long as it
regulates itself by strict observance of that principle, it matters not
whether its principal mass radiate from the middle, wind in undulating
shapes, dart in decided beams from the extremities; emanate from one
source, or borrow additional effect from subordinate ones: let it mount
like flame or descend in lightning; dash in stern tones terror on the
eye, emergent from a dark or luminous medium; through twilight immerse
itself in impenetrable gloom or gradually vanish in voluptuous repose,
guided by the subject the most daring division of light and shade
becomes natural and legitimate, and the most regular, spurious and
illegitimate without it.

To attain in the execution the highest possible and widest expanded
effect of light, with equal depth and transparence in the shade,
brilliancy of colour is less required than unison: a sovereign tone must
pervade the whole, which, though arbitrary and dependent on choice,
decides all subordinate ones, as the tone of the first instrument in a
regular concert tunes all the rest; their effect entirely depends on
being in unison with it, and discord is produced whenever they revolt:
by thus uniting itself with the whole, the simplest tone well managed
may become, not only harmonious, but rich and splendid, it is then the
tone of Nature: whilst the most brilliant one, if contradicted or
disappointed by the detail of the inferior, may become heavy, leathern,
and discordant.

Though every work of Correggio is an illustration of this principle, and
none with brighter evidence than his "Notte," in which the central light
of the infant irradiates the whole; perhaps the most decisive, because
the most appropriate proof of it, is in its companion the less known
picture of St. Sebastian, at Dresden; in which the central light of a
glory, not only surprises the eye with all the splendour of a sun,
though its colour is a yellow comparatively faint, and terminates in
brown, but tinges the whole, perfectly transparent, with its emanation.

That not before the lapse of two hundred years after the resurrection of
Art, the discovery of Chiaroscuro, as a principle of beauty in single
figures and of effect in composition, should be awarded to Lionardo da
Vinci, a patriarch of that school which time has shown of all others the
least inclined to appreciate its advantages, is at once a proof of the
singularity that marks the local distribution of powers, and of the
inconceivable slowness which attends human perception in the progress of
study: but without generally admitting what has been said with more
energy than judgment or regard to truth, that modern art literally
sprang from the loins of Lionardo, it must be granted that no work
anterior or contemporary with his essays in Chiaroscuro now exists to
disprove his claim to the first vision of its harmony; its magic lent
the charm, by which his females allure, to forms neither ideal nor much
varied; sisters of one family, they attract by the light in which they
radiate, by the shade that veils them--for the features of Giotto's or
Memmi's Madonnas or virgin-saints floating in the same medium, would
require little more to be their equals.

This principle Lionardo seems seldom if ever to have extended to relieve
or recommend his larger compositions and male figures, if we except the
group of contending horsemen which made or was intended for some part of
his rival Cartoon in the Sala del Consiglio: a knot of supreme powers in
Composition and Chiaroscuro: though, as we know it chiefly from a copy
of P. P. Rubens engraved by Edelinck, the gross evidence of Flemish
liberties taken with the style, makes it probable that the original
simplicity of light and shade has been invigorated by the artificial
contrasts of the copyist. Lionardo's open scenery, tinged with the
glareless evenness of plain daylight, seldom warrants effects so
concentrated. Unostentatious gravity marks the characters of his Last
Supper, and in sober evening tones marked probably the Chiaroscuro of
the groups and scenery, if we may be allowed to form our judgment from
the little that remains unimpaired by the ravages of time and the more
barbarous ones of renovators.

To the discovery of central radiance the genius of Lionardo with equal
penetration added its counterpart, _purity_ of shade and the
coalescence of both through imperceptible demi-tints. Whatever tone of
light he chose, he never forgot that the shade intended to set it off
was only its absence, and not a positive colour, and that both were to
be harmonized by demi-tints composed of both; a principle of which no
school anterior to him has left a trace.

That the discovery of a principle big with advantages as obvious as
important to art should have been reserved for the penetration of
Lionardo, however singular, is less strange than that, when discovered
and its powers demonstrated, it should, with the exception of one name,
have not only met with no imitators, but with an ambiguous and even
discouraging reception from the pupils of his own school, and some next
allied to it. Vasari, his panegyrist rather than biographer, talks of it
more as a singular phænomenon than as an evident principle, and avowing
that he introduced a certain depth of shade into oil-painting, which
enabled succeeding artists to relieve their figures more forcibly,[90]
persevered to discolour walls and pannels with washy flat insipidity.
Bartolomeo della Porta alone appears to have had sufficient compass of
mind to grasp its energy and connect it with colour: from him, through
Andrea del Sarto down to Pietro Berettini, who owed his effects rather
to opposition of tints than to legitimate Chiaroscuro, the Tuscan school
gradually suffered it to dwindle into evanescence. Unless we were to
consider its astonishing effects in some of Michael Angelo's works in
the light of imitations rather than as emanations of his own genius;
which perhaps we are the less warranted to presume, as he seems to have
paid no attention to Lionardo's discovery in its brightest period; for
the groups of his celebrated cartoon exhibit little more than individual
light and shade.

What the Tuscan school treated with neglect, the Roman appears not to
have been eager to adopt: if Raffaello did not remain a stranger to the
theories of Lionardo and Frà Bartolomeo, he suffered the principle to
lie dormant; for no production of his during his intercourse with them
is marked by concentration of light or purity of shade or subordinate
masses: nor is the interval between his last departure from Florence
and his entrance of the Vatican discriminated by any visible progress in
massing and illuminating a whole: the upper and lower parts of the
Dispute on the Sacrament, cut sheer asunder, as a whole, are little
relieved in either; and if the Parnassus and the School of Athens have
the beginning, middle, and end of legitimate composition, they owe it to
expression and feeling; nor can the more vigorous display of Chiaroscuro
in the works of the second stanza, the Deliverance of Peter, the Fall of
Heliodorus, the Attila, the Mass of Bolsena be referred to a principle
of imitation, when we see it neglected in a subject where it might have
ruled with absolute sway, in the Incendio del Borgo, and on the whole in
every Composition of the third and fourth stanza; a series of evidence
that Raffaello considered Chiaroscuro as a subordinate vehicle, and
never suffered its blandishments or energies to absorb meaning or to
supplant expression and form:[91] but the harmony which immediately
after him Giulio Pipi, and Polydoro only excepted, the rest of his
pupils had sacrificed or consecrated to higher beauties, their
successors, the subsequent Roman school from the Zuccari through
Giuseppe Cesari down to C. Maratta, if they did not entirely lose in a
heavy display of academic pedantry, or destroy by the remorseless
"bravura" of mannered practice, the uniformly polluted by bastard
theories and adulterated methods of shade.

When I say that the Roman school uniformly erred in their principle of
shade, I have not forgot M. Angelo da Caravaggio, whose darks are in
such perfect unison with the lights of his chiaroscuro, that A. Caracci
declared he did not grind colour but flesh itself for his tints ("che
macinava carne"), and whom for that reason and on such authority I
choose rather to consider as the head of his own school than as the
member of another: in some of his surviving works, but far more
frequently in those which without sufficient authenticity are ascribed
to him, an abrupt transition from light to darkness, without an
intervening demi-tint, has offended the eye and provoked the sarcasm of
an eminent critic: but as long as the picture of the Entombing of Christ
in the Chiesa Nuova at Rome may be appealed to; as long as the Pilgrim's
kneeling before the Madonna with the child in her arms, of St. Agostino
at Rome, shall retain their tone; or the Infant Jesus, once in the Spada
palace, crushing the serpent's head, shall resist the ravages of
time--it will be difficult to produce in similar works of any other
master or any other school, from Lionardo down to Rembrandt, a system of
chiaroscuro which shall equal the severe yet mellow energy of the first;
the departing evening ray and veiled glow of the second; or, with
unimpaired harmony, the bold decision of masses and stern light and
shade of the third.

The homage sparingly granted or callously refused to chiaroscuro by the
two schools of design was with implicit devotion paid to it by the nurse
of colour, the school of Venice. Whether as tradition, on the authority
of Vasari, maintains, they received it as a principle of imitation from
the perspicacity, or as a native discovery from the genius of Giorgione
Barbarelli, though from what has been advanced on both sides of the
question, it would be presumptuous positively to decide on either, it
must be allowed, that if the Venetian received a hint from the
Florentine, he extended it through a system, the harmony of which was
all his own, and excelled in breadth and amenity the light which it
could not surpass in splendour, added transparence to purity of shade,
rounded by reflexes and discovered by the contrast of deep with aerial
colour, that energy of effect which mere chiaroscuro could not have
reached, and which was carried near perfection by Paolo Cagliari.

Among the varied mischief poured into this country by the rapacious
sophistry of traders and the ambitious cullibility of wealthy
collectors, no fraud perhaps has been more destructive to the genuine
appreciation of original styles than the baptism of pictures with names
not their own: by this prolific method worse ones than those of Luini,
Aretusi, Timoteo della Vite, Bonifacio, are daily graced with the
honours due to Lionardo, Correggio, Raffaello, Tizian; though none have
suffered more by the multiplication than Giorgione, whom shortness of
life, a peculiar fatality of circumstances, and the ravages of time,
have conspired to render one of the scarcest as well as least
authenticated artists even in Italy: to whom his earliest and latest
biographers have been as critically unjust as chronologically
inattentive; Vasari by transferring to another his principal work;
Fiorillo by making him paint the portrait of Calvin the Reformer.[92]

To form our opinion therefore of Giorgione's chiaroscuro from a few
portraits or single figures, if legitimate, often restored, or from the
crumbling remnants of his decayed frescoes, would be to form an estimate
of a magnificent fabric from some loose fragment or stone: to do full
justice to his powers we must have recourse to his surprising work in
the School of S. Marco at Venice; a composition whose terrific graces
Vasari descants on with a fervour inferior only to the artist's own
inspiration, though he unaccountably ascribes it to the elder Palma.[93]

"In the School of S. Marco he painted the story of the ship which
conducts the body of St. Mark through a horrible tempest, with other
barges assailed by furious winds; and besides, groups of aërial
apparitions, and various forms of fiends who vent their blasts against
the vessels, that by dint of oars and energy of arms strive to force
their way through the mountainous and hostile waves which threaten to
submerge them. You hear the howling blast, you see the grasp and fiery
exertion of the men, the fluctuation of the waves, the lightning that
bursts the clouds, the oars bent by the flood, the flood broke by the
oars, and dashed to spray by the sinews of the rowers. What more? In
vain I labour to recollect a picture that equals the terrors of this
whose design, invention, and colour make the canvass tremble! Often when
he finishes, an artist, absorbed in the contemplation of parts, forgets
the main point of a design, and as the spirits cool, loses the vein of
his enthusiasm; but this man, never losing sight of the subject, guided
his conceit to perfection."

The effect of this work, when it drew such a stream of eulogy from lips
else so frugal in Venetian praise, may be guessed at from the impression
it makes in its present decay--for even now, it might defy the
competition of the most terrific specimens in chiaroscuro, the boat of
Charon in M. Angelo's Last Judgment, perhaps, only excepted. Yet its
master was defrauded of its glory by his panegyrist, whilst it was
exciting the wonder and curiosity of every beholder: Lanzi is the only
historian who notices its remains, and the real author;[94] we look in
vain for it in Ridolfi, who in his Life of Giorgione treats us instead
of it with a delectable account of a night-piece which he painted,
exhibiting the tragi-comedy of castrating a cat.

It has been treated as a mistake to confine the chiaroscuro of a subject
exclusively to one source; nor can it be doubted that often it is and
has been proved to be both necessary and advantageous to admit more;
this is however a licence to be granted with considerable caution, and
it appears to be the privilege of superior powers to raise a subject, by
the admission of subordinate, sometimes diverging, sometimes opposite
streams of light, to assist and invigorate the effect of the primary
one, without impairing that unity which alone can ensure a breadth to
effect, without which each part, for mastery striving, soon would be
lost in confusion, or crumble into fragments. The best instances of the
advantages gained by the superinduction of artificial light, appear to
be the Pietro Martire and the S. Lorenzo of Tiziano: if selection can be
made from the works of a master, where to count is to choose. In the
first, the stern light of evening far advanced in the background, is
commanded by the celestial emanation bursting from above, wrapping the
summit in splendour, and diffusing itself in rays more or less devious
over the scenery. The subject of S. Lorenzo, a nocturnal scene, admits
light from two sources--the fire beneath the Saint, and a raised torch:
but receives its principal splendour from the aërial reflex of the
vision on high, which sheds its mitigating ray on the martyr.

The nocturnal studies of Tintoretto from models and artificial groups
have been celebrated: these, prepared in wax or clay, he arranged,
raised, suspended, to produce masses, foreshortening, and variety of
effect: it was thence he acquired that decision of chiaroscuro unknown
to more expanded daylight, by which he divided his bodies, and those
wings of obscurity and light by which he separated the groups of his
composition, though the mellowness of his eye nearly always instructed
him to connect the two extremes by something intermediate that partook
of both, as the extremes themselves by reflexes with the back-ground or
the scenery. The general rapidity of his process, by which he baffled
his competitors and often overwhelmed himself, did not indeed always
permit him to attend deliberately to this principle, and often hurried
him into an abuse of practice, which in the lights turned breadth into
mannered or insipid flatness, and in the shadows into total extinction
of parts: of all this, he has in the schools of S. Rocco and Marco given
the most unquestionable instances; the Resurrection of Christ and the
Massacre of the Innocents, comprehend every charm by which chiaroscuro
fascinates its votaries: in the Vision, dewy dawn melts into deep but
pellucid shade, itself rent or reflected by celestial splendour and
angelic hues: whilst in the Infant-massacre at Bethlehem alternate
sheets of stormy light and agitated gloom dash horror on the astonished

He pursued, however, another method to create, without more assistance
from chiaroscuro than individual light and shade, an effect equivalent
and perhaps superior to what the utmost stretch of its powers could have
produced, in the Crucifixion of the Albergo, or Guest-room of S. Rocco,
the largest and most celebrated of his works. The multitudinous rabble
dispersed over that picture, (for such, rather than composition, one
group excepted, that assemblage of accidental figures deserves to be
called,) he connected by a sovereign tone, ingulphing the whole in one
mass of ominous twilight, an eclipse, or what precedes a storm, or
hurricane, or earthquake; nor suffering the captive eye to rest on any
other object than the faint gleam hovering over the head of the Saviour
in the centre, and in still fainter tones dying on the sainted group
gathered beneath the Cross. Yet this nearly superhuman contrivance,
which raises above admiration a work whose incongruous parts else must
have sunk it beneath mediocrity, Agostino Carracci, in his print, with
chalcographic callus, has totally overlooked; for notwithstanding the
iron sky that overhangs the whole, he has spread, if not sunshine, the
most declared daylight from end to end, nor left the eye uninformed of
one motley article, or one blade of grass.

With Iacopo Robusti may be named, though adopted by another school,
Belisario Corenzio, an Achæan Greek, his pupil, his imitator in the
magic of chiaroscuro, and with still less compunction his rival in
dispatch and rapidity of hand: the immense compositions in which he
overflowed, he encompassed, and carried to irresistible central
splendour by streams of shade, and hemmed his glories in with clouds, or
showery, or pregnant with thunder. The monasteries and churches of
Naples and its dependencies abound in his frescoes.

The more adscititious effects of chiaroscuro produced by the opposition
of dark to lucid, opaque to transparent bodies, and cold to warm tints,
though fully understood by the whole Venetian school, were nearly
carried to perfection by Paolo Cagliari. There is no variety of
harmonious or powerful combination in the empire of colour, as a
substitute of light and shade, which did not emanate from his eye,
variegate his canvass, and invigorate his scenery. Many of his works,
however, and principally the masses scattered over his Suppers, prove
that he was master of that legitimate chiaroscuro which, independent of
colour, animates composition: but the gaiety of his mind, which inspired
him with subjects of magnificence and splendour, of numerous assemblies
canopied by serene skies or roving lofty palaces, made him seek his
effects oftener in opposed tints, than in powerful depths of light and

But all preceding, contemporary, and subsequent schools, with their
united powers of chiaroscuro, were far excelled both in compass and
magnitude of its application by the genius of Antonio Allegri, from the
place of his nativity surnamed Correggio. To them light and shade was
only necessary as the more or less employed, or obedient attendant on
design, composition, and colour. But design, composition, and colour,
were no more than the submissive vehicles, or enchanted ministers of its
charms to Correggio. If, strictly speaking, he was not the inventor of
its element, he fully spanned its measure, and expanded the powers of
its harmony through Heaven and earth; in his eye and hand it became the
organ of sublimity; the process of his cupolas made it no longer a
question whether an art circumscribed by lines and figure could convey
ideas of reality and immensity at once. Entranced by his spell, and
lapped in his elysium, we are not aware of the wide difference between
the conception of the medium, the place, space, and mode in which
certain beings ought, or may be supposed to move, and that of those
beings themselves; and forget, though fully adequate to the first, that
Correggio was unequal to the second; that though he could build Heaven,
he could not people it. If M. Agnolo found in the depth of his mind and
in grandeur of line the means of rendering the immediate effect of will
and power intuitive in the Creation of Adam, by darting life from the
finger of Omnipotence, the coalition of light and darkness opened to the
entranced eye of Correggio the means of embodying the Mosaic "Let there
be light," and created light in that stream of glory which, issuing from
the divine Infant in his Notte, proclaims a God. If Thought be
personified in the Prophets and Sibyls of the Sistine Chapel, he has
made Silence audible in the slumbering twilight that surrounds the
Zingara; and filled the gloom which enbosoms Jupiter and Io, with the
whispers of Love.

And though perhaps we should be nearer truth by ascribing the cause of
Correggio's magic to the happy conformation of his organs, and his calm
serenity of mind, than to Platonic ecstasies, a poet might at least be
allowed to say "that his soul, absorbed by the contemplation of
infinity, soared above the sphere of measurable powers, knowing that
every object whose limits can be distinctly perceived by the mind, must
be within its grasp; and however grand, magnificent, beautiful, or
terrific, fall short of the conception itself, and be less than
sublime."--In this, from whatever cause, consists the real spell of
Correggio--which neither Parmegiano nor Annibale Carracci seem to have
been able to penetrate: the Bolognese certainly not; for if we believe
himself in his letters to Ludovico, expressive of his emotions at the
first sight of Correggio's cupolas, he confines his admiration to the
foreshortening and grace of forms, the successful imitation of flesh,
and rigorous perspective.

Of Correggio's numerous pretending imitators Ludovico Carracci appears
to be the only one who penetrated his principle: the axiom, that the
less the traces appear of the means by which a work has been produced,
the more it resembles the operations of nature, is not an axiom likely
to spring from the infancy of art. The even colour, veiled splendour,
the solemn twilight; that tone of devotion and cloistered meditation,
which Ludovico Carracci spread over his works, could arise only from the
contemplation of some preceding style, analogous to his own feelings and
its comparison with nature; and where could that be met with in a degree
equal to what he found in the infinite unity and variety of Correggio's
effusions? They inspired his frescoes in the cloisters of St. Michele in
Bosco: the foreshortenings of the muscular Labourers at the Hermitage,
and of the ponderous Dæmon that mocks their toil, the warlike splendour
in the homage of Totila, the nocturnal conflagration of Monte Cassino,
the wild graces of deranged beauty, and the insidious charms of the
sister nymphs in the garden-scene, equally proclaim the pupil of

His triumph in oil is the altar-piece of St. John preaching, in a
chapel of the Certosa at Bologna, whose lights seem embrowned by a
golden veil, and the shadowy gleam of Vallombrosa; though he sometimes
indulged in tones austere, pronounced, and hardy: such is the
Flagellation of Christ in the same church, whose tremendous depth of
flesh-tints contrasts the open wide-expanded sky, and less conveys than
dashes its terrors on the astonished sense.

The schools of Bologna, Parma, Milano, with more or less geniality,
imitated their predecessors, but added no new features to the theory of
light and shade. As to its progress on this side of the Alps, it is
better to say nothing than little on the wide range of Rubens, and the
miracles of Rembrandt.


[90] Nella arte della pittura aggiunse costui alla maniera del colorire
ad olio, una certa oscurità; donde hanno dato i moderni gran forza e
rilievo alle loro figure. Vasari vita di Lion. da Vinci, p. 559. ed.

[91] In the greater part of the Cartoons, it does not appear that
chiaroscuro had more than an ordinary share of attention.

In the Miraculous Draught plain day-light prevails.

In the Miracle at the Temple-gate a more forcible and more sublime
effect would have been obtained from a cupola-light and pillars darkened
on the foreground.

In the Excecation of Elymas, composition and expression owe little of
their roundness and evidence to chiaroscuro.

Apposition seems to have arranged the Sacrifice at Lystra.

If Dionysius and Damaris, in the cartoon of the Areopagus, had more
forcibly refracted by dark colours or shade, the light against the
speaker, effect and subject would have gained.

Considered individually or in masses, the chiaroscuro in the cartoon of
Ananias appears to be perfect; but the Donation of the Keys owes what
impression it makes on us in a great measure to the skillful
distribution of its light and shade.

[92] In the following absurd description of the well-known picture in
the Palace Pitti: "It consists of three half-figures, one of which
represents Martin Luther in the habit of an Augustine Monk, who plays on
a harpsichord: Calvin stands by him in a chorister's dress, with a
violin in his hand: opposite you see a young lively girl in a bonnet
with a plume of white feathers; by her Giorgione meant to represent the
noted Catharine, Luther's mistress and wife," &c. Fiorillo, vol. ii. p.
63. To expose the ignorant credulity which dictated this passage, it is
sufficient to observe, that Giorgione died 1511, and that Calvin was
born 1508.

[93] In every edition of the Vite subsequent to his own of 1550. The
following passage deserves to be given in his own words: "Giorgione di
Castel franco; il quale sfumò le sue pitture e dette una terribil'
movenzia a certe cose come è una storia nella Scuola di San Marco a
Venezia, dove è un tempo turbido che tuona, et trema il dipinto, et le
figure si muovono & si spiccano da la tavola per una certa oscurità di
ombre bene intese."--Proemio della terza Parle delle Vite, p. 558.

[94] A la Scuola di S. Marco la Tempestà Sedata dal Santo, ove fra le
altre cose sono tre remiganti ignudi, pregiatissimi pel disegno, e per
le attitudini. Lanzi Storia, &c. Tomo II. parte prima. Scuola Veneta.




It is perhaps unnecessary to premise, that by the word Design I mean
here not what that word denotes in a general sense, the plan of a whole,
but what it applies in its narrowest and most specific sense, the
_drawing_ of the figures and component parts of the subject. The Arts of
Design have been so denominated from their nearly exclusive power of
representing Form, the base and principal object of plastic in
contradistinction to vocal imitation. In forms alone the idea of
existence can be rendered intuitive and permanent. Languages perish;
words succeed each other, become obsolete and die; even colours, the
dressers and ornaments of bodies, fade; Lines alone can neither be
obliterated nor misconstrued; by application to their standard alone,
discrimination takes place, and description becomes intelligible. Here
is the only ostensible seat of corporeal Beauty; here only it can
strictly exist; for, as the notion of Beauty arises from the pleasure we
feel in the harmonious co-operation of the component forms of some
favourite object towards _one_ end at _once_--it implies their immediate
co-existence in the mass they compose; and as that immediately and at
once can be perceived and conveyed to the mind by the eye alone,--Figure
is the legitimate vehicle of Beauty, and Design the physical element of
the Art.

Of Design, the element is correctness and style; its extinction,
incorrectness and manner. On the first principle of correctness, or the
power of copying and drawing with precision the proportions of any
object singly, or in relation with others,--as it may be considered in
the light of an elementary qualification without which none would
presume to enter himself a student of the Academy,--I should perhaps
forbear to speak, did I not consider it as the basis of _Design_, and
were I not apprehensive that from the prevalent bend of the reigning
taste, you do not lay on it all the stress you ought, and that, if you
neglect the acquisition of the power to _copy_ with purity and
precision any given object, you will never acquire that of _imitating_
what you have chosen for your model.

Our language generally confounds, or rather those who use it, when they
speak of the art, the two words _copy_ and _imitation_, though
essentially different in their operation, as well as their meaning. An
eye geometrically just, with a hand implicitly obedient, is the
requisite of the former, without all choice, without selection,
amendment, or omission; whilst choice, directed by judgment and taste,
constitutes the essence of imitation, and raises the humble copyist to
the noble rank of an artist.

Those who have stopped short at the acquisition of the former faculty
have made a means their end, have debased the designer to the servile
though useful draughtsman of natural history: and those who have aspired
to the second without gaining the first, have substituted air for
substance, and attempted to raise a splendid fabric on a quicksand: the
first have retarded the progress of the art; the second have perverted
its nature: each has erred, to prove that the coalition of both is

It has been said by a high authority within these walls, and indeed in
the whole province of modern art, that as painting is the student's
ultimate aim, the sooner you acquire the power of using the pencil, the
better; but I am persuaded that we should pervert the meaning of the
great artist we speak of, were we to conclude, that by this observation
rather than precept, he meant to discourage the acquisition of
correctness. The zealous votary of M. Agnolo could never mean this; he
was too well acquainted with the process of that great man's studies,
who placed the compass in the eye, not to find in the precision with
which he had traced the elements, the foundation of his style. His
breadth, he knew, was only the vehicle of his comprehension, and not
vacuity; for breadth might easily be obtained, if emptiness can give it.
All he meant to say was, that it mattered not whether you acquired
correctness by the pencil, the crayon, or the pen, and that, as the
sculptor models, the painter may paint his line; for though neither he
who anxiously forms lines without the power of embodying them, nor he
who floats loosely on masses of colour, can be said to design, this
being merely the slave of a brush, that of a point, yet both tools may
serve alternately or indiscriminately the purposes of the real designer.
It is with the same intention of emancipating your practice from an
exclusive and slavish attachment to any particular tool, that you are
reminded by the same authority of the proverbial expression "Io tengo il
disegno alle punta dei pennelli," "My design is at the point of my
brush;"--though I am afraid the expression is dignified with the great
name of Correggio through a lapse of memory, as it appears from Vasari
that it was the petulant effusion of Girolamo da Trevigi, an obscure
painter, in derision of the elaborate cartoon prepared by Pierino del
Vaga for his fresco-painting in the great saloon of the Palace Doria at

The same authority has repeatedly told us, that if we mean to be
correct, we must scrutinize the principles on which the ancients reared
their forms. What were those principles?

I shall not digress in search of them to that primitive epoch when the
cestrum performed the functions of light and shade, and perhaps supplied
linear painting with the faint hues of a stained drawing; nor yet to the
second period, when practice had rendered the artist bolder, and the
pencil assisted the cestrum; when Parrhasius, on the subtile examination
of line and outline, established the canon of divine and heroic form; we
shall find them acknowledged with equal submission in the brightest æra
of Grecian execution, and the honour of exclusively possessing them
contested by the most eminent names of that æra, Apelles and Protogenes.
The name of Apelles, in ancient record, is the synonyme of unrivalled
and unattainable excellence--he is the favourite mortal in whom, if we
believe tradition, Nature exhibited _for once_ a specimen of what her
union with education and circumstances could produce; though the
enumeration of his works by Pliny points out the modification which we
ought to apply to the idea of that superiority. It consisted more in the
union than in the extent of his powers; he knew better what he could do,
what ought to be done, at what point he could arrive, and what lay
beyond his reach, than any other artist. Grace of conception and
refinement of taste were his elements, and went hand in hand with grace
of execution and taste in finish. That he built both, not on the
precarious and volatile blandishments of colour, or the delusive charms
of light and shade, but on the solid foundation of form, acquired by
precision and obedience of hand--not only the confessed inability of
succeeding artists to finish his ultimate Venus, but his well-known
contest of lines with Protogenes (the correctest finisher of his time),
not a legendary tale, but a well attested fact, irrefragably proves. The
panel on which they were drawn made part of the Imperial collection in
the Palatium, existed in the time of Pliny, and was inspected by him;
their evanescent subtilty, the only trait by which he mentions them, was
not, as it appears, the effect of time, but of a delicacy, sweep, and
freedom of hand nearly miraculous. What they were, drawn in different
colours, and with the point of a brush, one upon the other, or rather
within each other, it would be equally unavailing and useless for our
purpose to enquire; but the corollaries we may deduce from the contest
are obviously these: that all consists of elements; that the schools of
Greece concurred in one elemental principle, fidelity of eye, and
obedience of hand; that these form _precision_, precision
_proportion_,[95] proportion _symmetry_, and symmetry _Beauty_: that it
is the "little more or less," imperceptible to vulgar eyes, which
constitutes _Grace_, and establishes the superiority of one artist over
another: that the knowledge of the degrees of things, or _Taste_,
presupposes a comparative knowledge of things themselves: that colour,
grace, and taste are companions, not substitutes of form, expression,
and character, and, when they usurp that title, degenerate into splendid

This precision of hand and eye presupposed, we now come to its
application and object, Imitation, which rests on Nature.

Imitation is properly divided into Iconic and Ideal. Iconic imitation is
confined to an individuum or model, whose parts it delineates according
to their character and essence, already distinguishing the native and
inherent, from the accidental and adventitious parts. By the first it
forms its standard, and either omits or subordinates the second to them,
so as not to impede or to affect the harmony of a whole. This is
properly the province of the Portrait and the strictly Historic
painter, whose chief object and essential requisite is Truth. Portrait
in general, content to be directed by the rules of Physiognomy, which
shows the animal being it represents at rest, seldom calls for aid on
Pathognomy, which exhibits that being agitated, or at least animated and
in motion; but when it does--and, though in a gentler manner than
History, it always ought to do it--it differs in nothing from that, but
in extent and degree, and already proceeds on the firm _permanent basis

By Nature, I understand the general and permanent principles of visible
objects, not disfigured by accident or distempered by disease, not
modified by fashion or local habits. Nature is a collective idea, and
though its essence exist in each individual of the species, can never
_in its perfection_ inhabit a _single_ object: our ideas are the
offspring of our senses; without a previous knowledge of many _central_
forms, though we may copy, we can no more imitate, or, in other words,
rise to the principle of action and penetrate the character of our
model, than we can hope to create the form of a being we have not seen,
without retrospect to one we have. Meanness of manner is the infallible
consequence that results from the exclusive recourse to one model: why
else are those who have most closely adhered to, and most devoutly
studied the model, exactly the most incorrect, the most remote from the
real human form? Can there be any thing more disgusting to an eye
accustomed to harmony of frame, than the starveling forms of Albert
Durer, unless it be the swampy excrescences of Rembrandt? the figures of
the former, proportions without symmetry; those of the Dutch artist,
uniform abstracts of lumpy or meagre deformity: and yet the German was a
scientific man, had measured, had in his opinion reduced to principles,
the human frame; whilst the Dutchman, form only excepted, possessed
every power that constitutes genius in art, seldom excelled in invention
and composition, and the creator of that magic combination of colour
with chiaroscuro, never perhaps before, and surely never since attained.
And did not the greatest master of colour but one, Tintoretto, if we
believe his biographer Ridolfi, declare, that "to design from natural
bodies, or what is the same, from the model, was the task of men
experienced in art, inasmuch as those bodies were generally destitute
of grace and a good form." We are informed by the Latin Editor of Albert
Durer's book on the Symmetry of the Human Body, that during his stay at
Venice he was requested by Andrea Mantegna, who had conceived a high
opinion of his execution and certainty of hand, to pay him a visit at
Mantoua, for the express purpose of giving him an idea of that form, of
which he himself had had a glimpse from the contemplation of the
Antique. Andrea was then ill, and expired before Albert could profit by
his instructions:[96] this disappointment, says the author of the
anecdote, Albert never ceased to lament during his life. How fit the
Mantouan was to instruct the German, is not the question here; the fact
proves that Albert felt a want which he found his model could not
supply, and had too just an idea of the importance of the art to be
proud of dexterity of finger or facility of execution, when exerted
only to transcribe or perpetuate defects--though these defects, almost
incredible to tell, soon after invaded Italy, gave a check to the
imitation of M. Agnolo, supplanted his forms, and produced a temporary
revolution of style in the Tuscan School, of which the frescoes of
Andrea del Sarto and Franciabigio in S. Giovanni dei Scholchi, and the
latter productions of Jacopo da Puntormo are indisputable proofs. But
without recurring to other proofs, the method adopted by the Academy in
the process of study, appears to be founded on the insufficiency of the
model for attaining correctness. Why has it decreed that the student,
before he be permitted to study life, should devote a certain period to
the study of the Antique? If you fancy the motive lay in the comparative
facility of drawing from a motionless object, you lend your own
misconception to the Academy; for, though in general it be undoubtedly
more easy to draw an immoveable object than one that, however
imperceptibly, is in perpetual motion, and always varies its points of
sight, it cannot be the case when applied to the Antique; for where is
the great name among the moderns that ever could reach the line and the
proportions of the ancients? M. Agnolo filled part of the Capella
Sistina with imitations, and sometimes transcripts of the Torso,--will
any one stand forth and say that he reached it? Compare the Restoration
of Montorsoli, Giacomo della Porta and Bernini, or Baccio Bandinello's
Laocoon, with the rest of the figures, or the original, and deplore the
palpable inferiority. What was it that the Academy intended by making
the Antique the basis of your studies? what? but to lead you to the
sources of Form; to initiate you in the true elements of human essence;
to enable you to judge at your transition from the marble to life what
was substance and possession in the individual, and what excrescence and
want, what homogeneous, what discordant, what deformity, what beauty. It
intended, by making you acquainted with a variety of figures, to qualify
you for classing them according to character and function, what
exclusively belongs to some or one, and what is the common law of all;
to make you sensible that the union of simplicity and variety produces
harmony, and that monotony or confusion commences where either is
neglected, or each intrudes upon the other; in short, to supply by its
stores, as far as time and circumstances permitted, what the _public_
granted to the artists of Greece; what Zeuxis demanded and obtained from
the people of Croton; what Eupompus pointed out to Lysippus; what
Raffaello, with better will than success, searched in his own mind; and
what Andrea Mantegna, however unqualified to find himself, desired to
impress on the mind of Albert Durer--a standard of FORM.[97]

I shall not here recapitulate the reasons and the coincidence of
fortunate circumstances which raised the Greeks to the legislation of
form: the standard they erected, the canon they set, fell not from
heaven; but as they fancied themselves of divine origin, and religion
was the first mover of their art, it followed that they should endeavour
to invest their authors with the most perfect forms, and finding _that_
the privilege of man, they were led to a complete and reasoned study of
his elements and constitution; this with their climate, which allowed
that form to grow and to show itself to the greatest advantage, with
their civil and political institutions, which established and
encouraged exercises, manners, and opportunities, of all others best
calculated to rear, accomplish, and produce that form, gave in
successive periods birth to that style which beginning with the
_essence_, proportion, proceeded to _character_, and rose to its height
by uniting both with Beauty. Of all three classes specimens in
sufficient numbers have survived the ravages of time, the most
considerable of which, accumulated within these walls, form the ample
stores of information which the Academy displays before its students;
but--I say it with reluctance, though as teacher my office, as your
reader my duty, demand it--displays not always with adequate success.
Too often the precipitation with which admission from the Plaster to the
Life-room is solicited; the total neglect of the Antique after they have
once invaded the model, and the equally slovenly, authoritative, and
uninformed manner of drawing from it, prove the superficial impression
of the forms previously offered to their selection. The reason of all
this lies perhaps in a too early admission to either room. They enter
without elements, and proceed without success; they are set to arrange
and polish before they are acquainted with the rough materials. To one
or both of these causes it is probably owing, that some consider it
still as an undecided question whether the student, when admitted to
draw from the living model, should confine himself to drawing
punctiliously what he sees before him, or exercise that judgment which
his course in the Antique Academy has matured, and draw forms
corresponding with each other. To me, after considering carefully what
has been advanced on either side, it appears demonstrated, that the
student is admitted to the life to avail himself of the knowledge he
acquired from the previous study of classic forms. Here the office and
the essential duties of the _visitor_, I speak with deference, begin, to
confirm him where he is right, to check presumption, to lend him his own
eyes, and, if it be necessary, to convince him by demonstration and
example. But the human system cannot be comprehended by mere
contemplation, or even the copy of the surface. The centre of its motion
must be fixed, justly to mark the emanation of the rays. The
uninterrupted undulation of outward forms, the waves of life, originate
within, and, without being traced to that source, instruct less than
confound. The real basis of sight is knowledge, and that knowledge is
internal; for though, to speak with Milton, in Poetry gods and demigods,
"vital in every part, all heart, all eye, all ear, as they please limb
themselves, and colour, shape, and size assume as likes them best;" in
Art their substance is built on the brittle strength of bones, they act
by human elements, and to descend must rise: hence, though a deep and
subtle knowledge of _anatomy_ be less necessary to the painter than to
the physician or surgeon; though the visible be his sphere and determine
his limits, a precise and accurate acquaintance with the skeleton, the
basis of the machine, is indispensable; he must make himself master of
the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that knit the bones or cover and
surround them, their antagonismus of action and reaction, their issues,
their insertions, and the variety of shapes which they assume, when
according to their relative foreshortenings, laxity, position, they
indicate energy or slackness of action or of frame, its greater or less
elasticity, furnish the characters of the passions, and by their
irritability in louder or fainter tones become the echoes of every

Nor can _Physiognomy_, the companion of Anatomy, which from the measure
of the _solid_ parts ascertains the precise proportion of the
_moveable_, be dispensed with. There have been, perhaps there are,
teachers of art, who, whilst they admit physiognomy in the mass, refuse
to acknowledge it in detail, or in other words, who admit a language,
and reject its elements: as if the whole harmony of every proportionate
object did not consist in the correspondence of singly imperceptible, or
seemingly insignificant elements, and would not become a deformed mass
without them. Let the twelfth part of an inch be added to, or taken
from, the space between the upper lip of the Apollo, and the God is

The want of this necessary qualification is one of the chief causes of
MANNER, the capital blemish of Design, in contradistinction to Style:
Style pervades and consults the subject, and co-ordinates its means to
its demands; Manner subordinates the subject to its means. A Mannerist
is the paltry epitomist of Nature's immense volume; a juggler, who
pretends to mimic the infinite variety of her materials by the vain
display of a few fragments of crockery. He produces, not indeed the
monster which Horace recommends to the mirth of his friends, the
offspring of grotesque fancy, and rejected with equal disdain or
incredulity by the vulgar and refined, but others not less disgusting,
though perhaps confined to a narrower circle of judges.

Mannerists may be divided into three classes:

1st. Those who never consult Nature, but at second hand; only see her
through the medium of some prescription, and fix her to the test of a
peculiar form.

2ndly. Those who persevere to look for her or to place her on a spot
where she cannot be found, some individual one or analogous models; and

3rdly. Those who, without ascending to the principle, content themselves
with jumbling together an aggregate of style and model, tack deformity
to beauty, and meanness to grandeur.

Of all Taste, the standard lies in the middle between extravagance and
scantiness; the best becomes a flaw, if carried to an extreme, or
indiscriminately applied. The Apollo, the Hercules of Glycon, and the
figure misnamed Gladiator, are each models of style in their respective
classes; but their excellence would become a flaw if indiscriminately
applied to the distinct demand of different subjects. Neither the
Apollo, the Hercules, nor the Gladiator, can singly supply the forms of
a Theseus, Meleager, or Achilles, any more than the heroes on Monte
Cavallo theirs. It must however be owned, that he would commit a more
venial error, and come nearer to the form we require in the Achilles of
Homer, who should substitute the form of the Apollo or Hercules with the
motion of the Gladiator to the real form, than he who should copy him
from the best individual he could meet with: the reason is clear, there
is a greater analogy between their form and action and that of Achilles,
than between him and the best model we know alive. From the same
principle, he who in a subject of pure history would attempt to
introduce the generic and patriarchal forms in the Capella Sistina would
become ludicrous by the excess of contrast; for to him the organic
characteristics of national proportion are little less essential than to
the draughtsman of natural history or the portrait painter. The skull
of an European, though tinged with African hues, will not assimilate
with the legitimate skull of a negro, nor can the foot of Meleager, or
even of the Laocoon, ever be exchanged for that of a Mongul or Chinese;
and he has probably mistaken his information, who fancies that the
expression, gait, and limbs of the Apollo can find their counterpart on
the Apalachian mountains, or are related to the unconquered tribes of

The least pardonable of all Mannerists appears to be he who applies to
meanness to furnish him with the instruments to dignity and grandeur. He
who relies for all upon his model, should treat no other subject but his
model; and I will venture to say, that even the extravagant forms, and,
if you will, caricatures of Goltzius seduced by Spranger are preferable
to those of Albert Durer or Caravaggio, though recommended by the
precision of the one and the chiaroscuro of the other, when applied to a
pure heroic or symbolic subject; for though eccentric and extreme, they
are eccentricities and extremes of the great style, in which meanness of
conception is of all other blemishes the least excusable. From this
blemish the mighty genius of Raffaello, before it emerged from the dregs
of Pietro Perugino, was not entirely free;--whether from timidity or
languor of conception, the Christ in the Dispute on the Sacrament,
though the principal figure, the centre from which all the rest like
radii emanate and ought to emanate in due subordination, is a tame, mean
figure, and, the placidity of the face perhaps excepted, for even that
has a tincture of meanness, inferior to all the patriarchs and doctors
of that numerous composition.

The _third_ class, or those who mix up a motley assemblage of ideal
beauty and common nature, such as was pounded together by Pietro Testa
and Gherard Lairesse, and from which neither Guido nor Poussin were
entirely free--though perhaps not strictly chargeable with the absolute
impropriety of the first and the lowness of the second class, must be
content with what we can spare of disapprobation from either: they
surprise us into pleasure by glimpses of character and form, and as
often disappoint us by the obtrusion of heterogeneous or vulgar forms.
But this disappointment is not so general, because we want that critical
acquaintance with the principles of ancient art which can assign each
trunk its head, each limb its counterpart: a want even now so frequent,
notwithstanding the boasted refinements of Roman and German criticisms,
that a Mercury, if he have left his caduceus, may exchange his limbs
with a Meleager, and he with an Antinous; perhaps a Jupiter on Ida his
torso with that of a Hercules anapauomenos, an Ariadne be turned into
the head of a hornless Bacchus, and an Isis be substituted for every
ideal female.


[95] Analogia. Vitruv. Commensio?

[96] If this happened at all, it must have happened before 1505, at
least before the expiration of that year: Giov. Bellino, with whom the
author of the preface makes Albert acquainted too, died in 1512. Albert
Durer was born in 1471.

[97] Idealismus.




The Painter's art may be considered in a double light, either as
exerting its power over _the senses_ to reach the intellect and heart,
or merely as their handmaid, teaching its graces to charm their organs
for their amusement only: in the first light, the senses, like the rest
of its materials, are only a vehicle; in the second, they are the
principal object and the ultimate aim of its endeavours.

I shall not enquire here whether the Arts, as mere ministers of sensual
pleasure, still deserve the name of liberal, or are competent
exclusively to fill up the time of an intellectual being. Nature, and
the masters of Art, who pronounce the verdicts of Nature in Poetry and
Painting, have decided, that they neither can attain their highest
degree of accomplishment, nor can be considered as useful assistants to
the happiness of society, unless they subordinate the vehicle, whatever
it be, to the real object, and make sense the minister of mind.

When this is their object, _Design_, in its most extensive as in its
strictest sense, is their basis; when they stoop to be the mere
playthings, or debase themselves to be the debauchers of the senses,
they make _Colour_ their insidious foundation.

The greatest master of Colour in our time, the man who might have been
the rival of the first colourists in every age, Reynolds, in his public
instruction uniformly persisted to treat Colour as a subordinate
principle. Though fully aware that, without possessing at least a
competent share of its numberless fascinating qualities, no man, let his
style of design or powers of invention be what they may, can either hope
for professional success, or can even properly be called a painter, and
giving it as his opinion, on the authority of tradition, the excellence
of the remaining monuments in sculpture, and the discovered though
inferior relics of ancient painting, that, if the coloured masterpieces
of antiquity had descended to us in tolerable preservation, we might
expect to see works designed in the style of the Laocoon, painted in
that of Titian;--he still persisted in the doctrine that even the colour
of Titian, far from adding to the sublimity of the Great style, would
only have served to retard, if not to degrade, its impression. He knew
the usurping, the ambitious principle inseparable from Colour, and
therefore thought it his duty, by making it the basis of ornamental
styles, not to check its legitimate rights, but to guard against its
indiscriminate demands.

It is not for me, (who have courted and still continue to court Colour
as a despairing lover courts a disdainful mistress,) to presume, by
adding my opinion, to degrade the great one delivered; but the
attachments of fancy ought not to regulate the motives of a teacher, or
direct his plan of art: it becomes me therefore to tell you, that if the
principle which animates the art gives rights and privilege to Colour
not its own; if from a medium, it raises it to a representative of all;
if what is claimed in vain by form and mind, it fondly grants to
colour; if it divert the public eye from higher beauties to be absorbed
by its lures--then the art is degraded to a mere vehicle of sensual
pleasure, an implement of luxury, a beautiful _but trifling_ bauble, or
a splendid fault.

To Colour, when its bland purity tinges the face of innocence and
sprouting life, or its magic charm traces in imperceptible transitions
the forms of beauty; when its warm and ensanguined vigour stamps the
vivid principle that animates full-grown youth and the powerful frame of
manhood, or in paler gradations marks animal decline; when its varieties
give truth with character to individual imitation, or its more
comprehensive tone pervades the scenes of sublimity and expression, and
dictates the medium in which they ought to move, to strike our eye in
harmony;--to Colour, the florid attendant of form, the minister of the
passions, the herald of energy and character, what eye, not tinged by
disease or deserted by Nature, refuses homage?

But of Colour, when equally it overwhelms the forms of infancy, the
milky germ of life, and the defined lines of manhood and of beauty with
lumpy pulp; when from the dresser of the Graces it becomes the handmaid
of deformity, and with their spoils decks her limbs--shakes hands with
meanness, or haunts the recesses of loathsomeness and horror[98]--when
it exchanges flesh for roses, and vigour for vulgarity--absorbs
character and truth in hues of flattery, or changes the tone demanded by
sublimity and pathos into a mannered medium of playful tints;--of Colour
the slave of fashion and usurper of propriety, if still its charms
retain our eye, what mind unseduced by prejudice or habit can forbear to
lament the abuse?

The principles of Colour, as varied, are as immutable as those of
Nature. The gradations of the system that connects _light_ with _shade_
are immense, but the variety of its imitation is regulated by the result
of their union, Simplicity--Clearness if obtained by Harmony!

Simplicity represents of every individual its unity, its whole. Light,
and its organ the eye, show us the whole of a being before its parts,
and then diffuse themselves in visual rays over the limbs. Light with
its own velocity fixes a point, the focus of its power; but as no
central light can be conceived without radiation, nor a central form
without extension, their union produces that immutable law of harmony
which we call breadth.

One point is the brightest in the eye as on the object; this is the
point of light: from it in all directions the existent parts advance or
recede, by, before, behind each other; the two extremes of light and
shade make a whole, which the local or essential colour defines,--its
coalition with the demi-tint, the shade and reflexes, rounds,--and the
correspondence of each colour with all, tunes.

The principles that regulate the choice of colours are in themselves as
invariable as the light from which they spring, and as the shade that
absorbs them. Their economy is neither arbitrary nor phantastic. Of this
every one may convince himself who can contemplate a prism. Whatever the
colours be, they follow each other in regular order; they emerge from,
they flow into each other. No confusion can break or thwart their
gradations, from blue to yellow, from yellow to red; the flame of every
light, without a prisma, establishes this immutable scale.

From this theory you will not expect that I should enter into chemic
disquisitions on the materials, or into technic ones on the methods of
painting. When you are told that _simplicity and keeping_ are the basis
of purity and harmony, that _one_ colour has a greater power than a
combination of two, that a mixture of three impairs that power still
more, you are in possession of the great elemental principles necessary
for the economy of your palette. Method, handling, and the modes of
execution are taught by trial, comparison, and persevering practice, but
chiefly by the nature, of the object you pursue. The lessons of
repetition, disappointment, and blunder, impress more forcibly than the
lessons of all masters. Not that I mean to depreciate or to level the
comparative value or inferiority of materials, or that instruction which
may shorten your road to the essential parts of study; but he is as far
from Nature who sees her only through the medium of his master, as he
from colour who fancies it lies in costly, scarce, or fine materials,
in curious preparations, or mouldy secrets, in light, in dark, in
smooth, in rough, or in absorbent grounds: it may be in all, but is in
none of these. The masters of ancient colour had for their basis only
four, and this simplicity made Reynolds conclude that they must have
been as great in colour as in form. He who cannot make use of the worst
must disgrace the best materials; and he whose palette is set or
regulated by another's eye, renounces his own, and must become a
mannerist. There is no compendious method of becoming great; the price
of excellence is labour, and time that of immortality.

Colour, like Design, has two essential parts, Imitation and Style. It
begins in glare, is caught by deception, emerges to imitation, is
finished by style, and debauched by manner.

Glare is always the first feature of a savage or an infant taste. The
timid or barbarous beginner, afraid of impairing the splendour by
diminishing the mass, exults in the Egyptian glare which he spreads over
a surface unbroken by tint and not relieved by shade. Such are in
general the flaming remnants of feudal decoration. This is the stage of
missal painting; what Dante called "alluminar," the art of Cimabue; its
taste continued, though in degrees less shocking, to the time of M.
Agnolo and Raffaello. Gods, and mothers of Gods, Apostles and Martyrs,
attracted devotion in proportion to the more or less gaudy colours in
which they were arrayed. It was for this reason that Julius the Second
wished M. Agnolo had added to the majesty of the Patriarchs and Sibyls
by gold and lapis lazuli.

Deception follows glare; attempts to substitute by form or colour the
image for the thing, always mark the puerility of taste, though
sometimes its decrepitude. The microscopic precision of Denner, and even
the fastidious, though broader detail of Gherard Douw, were symptoms of
its dotage. The contest of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, if not a frolic, was
an effort of puerile dexterity. But Deception, though at its ultimate
pitch never more than the successful mimicry of absent objects, and for
itself below the aim of art, is the mother of Imitation. We must
penetrate the substances of things, acquaint ourselves with their
peculiar hue and texture, and colour them in detail, before we can hope
to seize their principle and give their general air.

Tiziano laboured first to make facsimiles of the stuffs he copied,
before he changed them into drapery, and gave them local value and a
place; he learnt first to distinguish tint from tint, and give the
skeleton of colour, before he emboldened himself to take the greatest
quantity of colour in an object for the whole; to paint flesh which
abounded in demi-tints, entirely in demi-tints, and to deprive of all,
that which had but a few. It was in the school of Deception he learnt
the difference of diaphanous and opaque, of firm and juicy colour; that
this refracts and that absorbs the light, and hence their place; those
that cut and come forward, first, and those which more or less partake
of the surrounding medium in various degrees of distance. It was here he
learnt the contrast of the tints, of what is called warm and cold, and
by their balance, diffusion, echo, to poise a whole. His eye as musical,
if I may be allowed the metaphor, as his ear, abstracted here, that
colour acts, affects, delights, like sound; that stern and deep-toned
tints rouse, determine, invigorate the eye, as warlike sound or a deep
bass the ear; and that bland, rosy, gray, and vernal tints soothe,
charm, and melt like a sweet melody.

Such were the principles whose gradual evolution produced that coloured
imitation which, far beyond the fascination of Giorgione, irresistibly
entranced every eye that approached the magic of Tiziano Vecelli. To no
colourist before or after him, did Nature unveil herself with that
dignified familiarity in which she appeared to Tiziano. His organ,
universal and equally fit for all her exhibitions, rendered her simplest
to her most compound appearances with equal purity and truth. He
penetrated the essence and the general principle of the substances
before him, and on these established his theory of colour. He invented
that breadth of local tint which no imitation has attained, and first
expressed the negative nature of shade: his are the charms of glazing,
and the mystery of reflexes, by which he detached, rounded, corrected or
enriched his objects. His harmony is less indebted to the force of light
and shade, or the artifices of contrast, than to a due balance of
colour equally remote from monotony and spots. His tone springs out of
his subject, solemn, grave, gay, minacious, or soothing; his eye tinged
Nature with gold without impairing her freshness: she dictated his
scenery. Landscape, whether it be considered as the transcript of a
spot, or the rich combination of congenial objects, or as the scene of a
phenomenon, as subject and as background, dates its origin from him. He
is the father of portrait-painting, of resemblance with form, character
with dignity, and costume with subordination.

Colour may be considered relatively to the whole or the detail of the
parts that compose a picture. In that point of view it depends on the
choice of a sovereign tone; in this on the skilful disposition,
gradation, rounding, and variety of the subordinate tones, their
principal light, the local colour, the half tints, the shades, and the

The general regulation of the primary tone, and the specific arrangement
of the subordinate ones for the rounding of every figure, is the same.
In both, the attention is to be directed to obtain a principal mass of
light, and a predominant colour. This is to be supported by the mutual
assistance and reciprocal relief of secondary ones, must be associated
with the demi-tint and the shades, and recalled and relieved by the

When treating on Chiaroscuro, we have observed what may now be applied
to Colour, that the primary tone depends on choice, and is arbitrary;
but it decides all the rest, as the tone of the first violin in a
regular concert tunes all the voices and all the instruments. Its effect
entirely depends on the union of the surrounding tones with it, and has
no other value but what it derives from contrast. By this the simplest
tone, well managed, may become rich, splendid, and harmonious; it is
then the tone of nature; whilst the most brilliant colour, if
contradicted or disappointed by the detail of inferior ones, may become
heavy, leathern, and discordant.

The best illustration of these principles is in the celebrated Notte of
Correggio, where the Infant from the centre tinges the whole with his
rays; but perhaps still more in its companion at Dresden, the less known
picture of St. Sebastian; for to produce union and tone in the nearly
equilateral composition of a votive picture, required a deeper
comprehension and a steadier eye. Like the picture of Raffaello at
Foligno, it represents the Madonna with the Infant in her arms, throned
on clouds, in a central glory of sunny radiance, attended by angels, and
surrounded by angelic forms: below are St. Geminian with a maiden by his
side, St. Rocco and Sebastian tied to a tree. The first surprise is
caused by the central light of the glory, which has all the splendour of
a sun, though its colour is a yellow comparatively faint, and terminates
in brown. The Madonna, dressed in a robe of glowing lake and a dark blue
mantle, seems to start from this body of light as from a sombre ground,
and as the Infant from her. The carnation of both is of a low tint, to
support the keeping of their distance. The two angels at her side, in
tints reflected from the centre, address the Saints below, and connect
the upper with the lower part of the picture, which emerges from the
darksome clouds on which they stand, and gathers its tones of light from
the emanations of the central one, but in subordinate flashes, vanishing
from twilight into massy shade. By those who have not seen this picture,
a faint idea of its tone may be formed from the votive one of
Parmegiano, at the Marquis of Abercorn's, which, had it received its
last harmony, would probably have emulated the principle of that we have

The tones fit for Poetic painting are like its styles of design, generic
or characteristic. The former is called negative, or composed of little
more than chiaroscuro; the second admits, though not ambitiously, a
greater variety and subdivision of tint. The first is the tone of M.
Agnolo, the second that of Raffaello. The sovereign instrument of both
is undoubtedly the simple, broad, pure, fresh, and limpid vehicle of
Fresco. Fresco, which does not admit of that refined variety of tints
that are the privilege of oil painting, and from the rapidity with which
the earths, its chief materials, are absorbed, requires nearly immediate
termination, is for those very reasons the immediate minister and the
aptest vehicle of a great design. Its element is purity and breadth of
tint. In no other style of painting could the generic forms of M. Agnolo
have been divided, like night and day, into that breadth of light and
shade which stamps their character. The silver purity of Correggio is
the offspring of Fresco; his oil paintings are faint and tainted
emanations of the freshness and "limpidezza" in his Frescoes. Oil, which
rounds and conglutinates, spreads less than the sheety medium of Fresco,
and if stretched into breadth beyond its natural tone, as the spirits
which are used to extenuate its glue escape, returns upon itself, and
oftener forms surfaces of dough, or wood, or crust, than fleshy fibre.
Oil impeded the breadth even of the elemental colours of Tiziano in the
Salute. The minute process inseparable from oil, is the reason why M.
Agnolo declared oil painting to be a woman's method, or of idle men. The
master of the colour we see in the Sistina could have no other: for
though colour be the least considerable of that constellation of powers
that blaze in its compartments, it is not the last or least
accomplishment of the work. The flesh of the academic figures on the
frames of the ceiling is a flesh even now superior to all the flesh of
Annibale Carracci in the Farnese, generally pale though not cold, and
never bricky though sometimes sanguine. The Jeremiah among the Prophets,
glows with the glow of Tiziano, but in a breadth unknown to Giorgione
and to him. The Eve under the Tree has the bland pearly harmony of
Correggio; and some of the bodies in air on the lower part of the Last
Judgement, less impaired by time or accident than the rest, for juice
and warmth may still defy all competition. His colour sometimes even
borders on characteristic variety, as in the composition of the Brazen
Serpent. That a man who mastered his materials with such power, did
reject the certain impediments and the precarious and inferior beauties
of oil, which Sebastian del Piombo proposed for the execution of the
Last Judgement, and who punished him for the proposal with his disdain
for life, cannot be wondered at. If I have mentioned particular beauties
of colour, it was more for others than to express what strikes _me_
most. The parts, in the process of every man's work, are always marked
with more or less felicity; and great as the beauties of those which I
distinguished are, they would not be beauties in my eye, if obtained by
a principle discordant from the rest.

The object of my admiration in M. Agnolo's colour is the tone, that
comprehensive union of tint and hue spread over the whole, which seems
less the effect of successive labour than a sudden and instantaneous
exhalation, one principle of light, local colour, demi-tint and shade.
Even the colours of the draperies, though perhaps too distinct, and
often gayer than the gravity of their wearers or the subject allowed,
are absorbed by the general tone, and appear so only on repeated
inspection or separation from the rest. Raffaello did not come to his
great work with the finished system, the absolute power over the
materials, and the conscious authority of M. Agnolo. Though the august
plan which his mind had conceived, admitted of lyric and allegoric
ornament, it was, upon the whole, a drama and characteristic: he could
not therefore apply to its mass the generic colour of the Sistina. Hence
we see him struggling at the onset between the elements of that tone
which the delineation of subdivided character and passions demanded, and
the long imbibed habits and shackles of his master. But one great
picture decided the struggle. This is evident from the difference of the
upper and lower part of the Dispute on the Sacrament. The upper is the
summit of Pietro Perugino's style, dignified and enlarged; the lower is
his own. Every feature, limb, motion, the draperies, the lights and
shades of the lower part, are toned and varied by character. The florid
bloom of youth tinged with the glow of eagerness and impatience to be
admitted; the sterner and more vigorous tint of long initiated and
authoritative manhood; the inflamed suffusion of disputative zeal; the
sickly hue of cloistered meditation; the brown and sun-tinged hermit,
and the pale decrepit elder, contrast each other; but contrasted as they
are, their whole action and colour remain subordinate to the general hue
diffused by the serene solemnity of the surrounding medium, which is
itself tinctured by the effulgence from above. A sufficient balance of
light and shade maintains the whole, though more attention be paid to
individual discrimination than masses. In the economy of the detail we
find the lights no longer so white, the local colour no longer so crude,
the passages to the demi-tints not so much spotted with red, nor the
demi-tints themselves of so green a cast as in the four Symbolic
Pictures on golden grounds of the ceiling.

It appears to me upon the whole, that for a general characteristic tone,
Raffaello has never exceeded the purity of this picture. If in the
School of Athens he has excelled it in individual tints, in tints that
rival less than challenge the glow and juice of Titian, they are
scattered more in fragments than in masses, and at the expense or with
neglect of general unison, if we except the central and connecting
figure of Epictetus. The predominance of tender flesh, and white or
tinted drapery on the foreground, whilst the more distant groups are
embrowned by masculine tints and draperies of deeper hue, prove, that if
Raffaello could command individual colour, he had not penetrated its
general principle.

The Parnassus in the same room has a ruling tone, but not the tone of a
poetic fancy. Aërial freshness was his aim, and he is only frigid. Its
principal actors are ideals of divine nature, and ought to move in a
celestial medium, and Raffaello had no more an adequate colour than
adequate forms for either. But whatever is characteristic, from the
sublimity of Homer to the submissive affable courtesy of Horace and the
directing finger of Pindar, is inimitable and in tune.

The ultimate powers of Raffaello, and, as far as I can judge, of Fresco,
appear to me collected in the astonishing picture of the Heliodorus.
This is not the place to dwell on the loftiness of conception, the
mighty style of design, the refined and appropriate choice of character,
the terror, fears, hopes, palpitation of expression, and the far more
than Corregiesque graces of female forms; the Colour only, considered as
a whole or in subordination, is our object. Though by the choice of the
composition the back-ground, which is the sanctuary of the temple,
embrowned with gold, diffuses a warmer gleam than the scenery of the
foreground, its open area, yet by the dexterous management of opposing
to its glazed cast a mass of vigorous and cruder flesh tints, a fiercer
ebullition of impassioned hues,--the flash of steel and iron armour, and
draperies of indigo, deep black and glowing crimson, the foreground
maintains its place, and all is harmony.

Manifold as the subdivisions of character are, angelic, devout,
authoritative, violent, brutal, vigorous, helpless, delicate; and
various as the tints of the passions that sway them appear, elevated,
warmed, inflamed, depressed, appalled, aghast, they are all united by
the general tone that diffuses itself from the interior repose of the
sanctuary, smoothens the whirlwind that fluctuates on the foreground,
and gives an air of temperance to the whole.


[98] S. Bartolomeo del Spagnuoletto. S. Agatha Martirizzata nelle poppe
di Seb. del Piombo. Il Porco Sventrato di Ostade. Il Macello dei
Carracci. La Caccia Pidocchi di Murillo.




Having finished the preceding lecture with observations on Fresco, a
method of painting almost as much out of use as public encouragement,
and perhaps better fitted for the serene Italian than the moist air of
more northern climates, I now proceed to Oil Painting. The general
medium of paint is Oil; and in that, according to the division of our
illustrious commentator on Du Fresnoy, "all the modes of harmony, or of
producing that effect of colours which is required in a picture, may be
reduced to three, two of which belong to the Grand style, and the other
to the Ornamental. The first may be called the Roman manner, where the
colours are of a full and strong body, such as are found in the
Transfiguration. The next is that harmony which is produced by what the
ancients called the _corruption_[99] of the colours, by mixing and
breaking them till there is a general union in the whole, without any
thing that shall bring to your remembrance the painter's palette or the
original colours: this may be called the Bolognian style, and it is this
hue and effect of colours which Ludovico Carracci seems to have
endeavoured to produce, though he did not carry it to that perfection
which we have seen since his time in the small works of the Dutch
school, particularly Jan Steen, where art is completely concealed, and
the painter, like a great orator, never draws the attention from the
subject on himself. The last manner belongs properly to the ornamental
style, which we call the Venetian, being first practised at Venice, but
is perhaps better learned from Rubens: here the brightest colours
possible are admitted, with the two extremes of warm and cold, and these
reconciled by being dispersed over the picture, till the whole appears
like a bunch of flowers."

As I perfectly coincide with this division, and the practical
corollaries deduced from it, what I have to say relatively to each of
these classes or styles will rather be a kind of commentary on it than a
text containing a doctrine of my own.

If the Roman style of Historic colour be the style of Raffaello in the
Transfiguration, it died with him; it is certainly not that Roman style
which distinguishes that school from Giulio Romano to Carlo Maratti.

Though the Transfiguration be more remarkable for the characteristic
division of its parts than for its masses, yet it has more than the
breadth, a closer alliance and larger proportion of correspondent
colours, and a much purer theory of shade than we meet with in the
subsequent pictures of the same school; the picture at Genoa of the
Lapidation of St. Stephen, by Giulio Romano, only excepted, which was
probably soon after framed on the principles of the Transfiguration.

The crudeness of colour and asperity of tone observable in the Roman
School, though founded on simplicity, is perhaps a greater proof of
their want of eye and taste than of a pure historic principle. Harmony
of colour consists in the due balance of all, equally remote from
monotony and from spots. Though each part of Roman pictures be painted
with sufficient breadth of manner, their discordance is such that they
do not coalesce into one whole, but appear unconnected fragments in
apposition. Their theory of shade is so defective, that the parts
deprived of light of the same body, or the same piece of drapery, are
not effaced, but coloured. If the positive reds and blues of the Roman
school invigorate the eye, they likewise command it, and counteract the
grandeur of History in a degree not much inferior to the bad effect
produced by the imitation of stuffs discriminated according to their
texture; their bright asperity, and bleak purity, equally pervert the
negative and subordinate character of drapery, and attract a larger
share of attention from the beholder than they deserve. A Madonna in the
hands of Carlo Maratti, and sometimes even of Raffaello, at least in his
earlier productions, is the least visible part of herself. The most
celebrated Madonna of Andrea del Sarto, though in Fresco, is certainly
more indebted to her drapery than her face, perhaps still more to the
sack on which her husband rests, and from which the picture got its

From this censure we ought to except M. Angelo Caravaggi, and Andrea
Sacchi, whose works, though else so dissimilar in principle and
execution, coincide in reducing colour frequently to little more than
chiaroscuro; the one for melancholy and forcible, the other for
visionary or devotional effects.

The Pilgrims adoring the Madonna with the Infant in St. Agostino, by the
former, seem not painted but tinged in the last golden ray of departing
eve; whilst the Vision of St Romualdo, by the latter, surrounds us with
gray twilight and gradual evanescence.

A general style of colours thus amalgamated, appears to me a principle
much superior to that of _corruption_ of them, which Plutarch mentions
as the invention of Apollodorus the Athenian, when painting had scarcely
emerged from the linear process, and it required some courage to wield a
brush. If the ancients ever possessed the Bolognese corruption of
colours, it must have been in periods of refinement. The Φθορα of
Apollodorus was probably the invention of demi-tints, the effect of
which is produced by "corrupting" or lowering the elemental purity of
the two of which it is composed. The axiom, that the less the traces
appear of the means by which a work has been produced, the more it
resembles the operations of nature,--is not an axiom likely to spring
from the infancy of Art.

The even colour, veiled splendour, the solemn twilight, that tone of
devotion and cloistered meditation which Lodovico Carracci spread over
his works, could arise only from the contemplation of various preceding
styles, or their comparison with nature and the object of his choice.

The ideal of his style is a harmony equally remote from affected
brilliancy and vulgar resemblance of tints. Its element is gravity, and
whenever this inspires not its imitation, it will be less serious than
sullen, flat not even, heavy without vigour, and the despatching tool of

If this be that dignified colour of Lombardy, recommended by Agostino
Carracci, his own picture of the Communion of St. Jerome, and the Dead
Christ among the Maries by Annibale, (which we have seen here,)
excepted, its principle was not adopted by that third ruler of the
Carracci school, nor any of its pupils.

Annibale, from want of feelings, changed the mild evening ray of his
Cousin to the sullen light of a cloudy day, and in the exultation of
mechanic power swims on his work like oil: Guido was too gay and
affected; Guercino too cutting and vulgar; Albano too airy and
insubstantial for it. Under the hand and guided by the sensibility of
Lodovico, it communicated itself even to the open silvery tone of

In the cloisters of St. Michele in Bosco, it equally moderates the
deep-toned tints of the muscular labourers of the hermitage and of the
ponderous demon who mocks their toil, the warlike splendour in the
homage of Totila, the flash of the nocturnal conflagration, and the
three insidious Nymphs in the garden scene, who even now, though nearly
in a state of evanescence, seem moulded by the hand and tinged by the
breath of Love; all are sainted by this solemn tone.

Its triumph in Oil is the altar-piece of St. John preaching, in a
chapel of the Certosa, whose lights seem embrowned by a golden veil, and
the shadowy gleam of Valombrosa; but Lodovico sometimes indulged in
tones austere, pronounced, and hardy. Such is the Flagellation of Christ
in the same church, of which the tremendous depth of flesh-tints
contrasts the open, wide-expanded sky, and less conveys, than dashes its
terrors on the astonished sense.

The third, or Ornamental style, could scarcely arise in any other state
of Italy than Venice. Venice was the centre of commerce, the repository
of the riches of the globe, the splendid toy-shop of the time: its chief
inhabitants princely merchants, or a patrician race elevated to rank by
accumulations from trade or naval prowess; the bulk of the people
mechanics or artisans, administering the means, and, in their turn, fed
by the produce of luxury. Of such a system, what could the Art be more
than the parasite? Religion itself had exchanged its gravity for the
allurements of ear and eye, and even sanctity disgusted, unless arrayed
by the gorgeous hand of fashion. Such was, such will always be the
birth-place and the theatre of Colour; and hence it is more matter of
wonder that the first and greatest colourists should so long have
foreborne to overstep the modesty of Nature in the use of that alluring
medium, than that they sacrificed, _in part_, propriety to its golden

I say _in part_, for Tiziano perhaps never, Paolo and Tintoretto, though
by much too often, yet not always, spread the enchanting nosegay, which
is the characteristic of this style, with indiscriminate hand. The style
of Tiziano may be divided into three periods: when he copied, when he
imitated, when he strove to generalize, to elevate, or invigorate the
tones of Nature. The first is anxious and precise, the second beautiful
and voluptuous, the third sublime. In the second the parts lead to the
whole, in this the whole to the parts; it is that master-style which in
discriminated tones imparts to ornament a monumental grandeur. It gave
that celestial colour which consideration like an angel spread over the
Salutation in St. Rocco; the colour that wafts its wide expanse and
elemental purity over the primitive scenes of his Abel, Abraham, and
David, in the Salute; the colour that tinged with artless solemn majesty
the Apotheosis of the Virgin in the church de' Frati, embodied
adoration in its portraits, and changed the robes of pomp and warlike
glitter to servants of simplicity. Such is the tone which diffuses its
terrors and its glories in Pietro Martyre over the martyred hermits of
the mountain forest, and taught the painter's eye to "glance from heaven
to earth, from earth to heaven." If this be ornament, what but the
Vatican can the schools of Design oppose to its grandeur and propriety!

If all ornament be allegoric, if it imply something allusive to the
place, the person, or the design for which it is contrived, from that of
a public building or a temple, to that of a library or the decorations
of a toilette, how have the schools of Design, after the demise of M.
Agnolo and Raffaello, observed its principle? Annibale Carracci, with
the Capella Sistina and the Vatican before his eye, has filled the
mansion of Episcopal dignity with a chaotic series of trite fable and
bacchanalian revelry, without allegory, void of allusion, merely to
gratify the puerile ostentation of dauntless execution and academic
skill. And if we advert to a greater name, that of Pellegrino Tibaldi,
is it easy to discover what relation exists between the adventures of
Ulysses and the purposes and pursuits of the academical Institute of
Bologna? and is it sufficient to exculpate him from impropriety of
choice in his plan, if we say that the ceiling of Pellegrino Tibaldi is
a doctrine of style, and that design and style are the principal pursuit
of the students?

But perhaps it is not to Tiziano, but to Tintoretto and Paolo Cagliari,
that the debaucheries of Colour and blind submission to fascinating
tints, the rage of scattering flowers to no purpose, are ascribed. Let
us select from Tintoretto's most extensive work the Scola of St. Rocco,
the most extensive composition, and his acknowledged masterpiece, the
Crucifixion, and compare its tone with that of Rubens and of Rembrandt
for the same subject. What impression feels he, who for the first time
casts a glance on the immense scenery of that work? a whole whose
numberless parts are connected by a lowering, mournful, minacious tone.
A general fearful silence hushes all around the central figure of the
Saviour suspended on the cross, his fainting mother, and a group of male
and female mourners at his foot:--a group of colours that less imitate
than rival Nature, and tinged by grief itself; a scale of tones for
which even Tiziano offers to me no parallel: yet all equally overcast by
the lurid tone that stains the whole, and like a meteor hangs in the
sickly air. Whatever inequality or derelictions of feeling, whatever
improprieties of common place, of local and antique costume, the
master's rapidity admitted to fill his space, and they are great, all
vanish in the power which compresses them into a single point, and we do
not detect them till we recover from our terror.

The picture of Rubens, which we oppose to Tintoretto, was painted for
the church of St. Walburgha at Antwerp, after his return from Italy, and
has been minutely described, and as exquisitely criticised by Reynolds:
"Christ," he says, "is nailed to the cross, with a number of figures
exerting themselves to raise it. The invention of throwing the cross
obliquely from one corner of the picture to the other, is finely
conceived; something in the manner of Tintoretto:" so far Reynolds. In
Tintoretto it is the cross of one of the criminals that they attempt to
raise, who casts his eye on Christ already raised. The body of Christ is
the grandest, in my opinion, that Rubens ever painted; it seems to be
imitated from the Torso of Apollonius, and that of the Laocoon. How far
it be characteristic of Christ, or correspondent with the situation, I
shall not here enquire; my object is the ruling tone of the whole, and
of this the criticism quoted says not a word, though much of local
colour and gray and ochry balance. Would so great a master of tone as
Reynolds have forgot this master-key, if he had found it in the picture?
The fact is, the picture has no other than the painter's usual tone:
Rubens came to his work with gay technic exultation, and, by the magic
of his palette, changed the terrors of Golgotha to an enchanted garden
and clusters of flowers. Rembrandt, though on a smaller scale of size
and composition, concentrated the tremendous moment in one flash of
pallid light. It breaks on the body of Christ, shivers down his limbs,
and vanishes on the armour of a crucifix; the rest is gloom.

Of Paolo Veronese, who was by far the most intemperate and florid of
ornamental masters, the political allegories on the platfonds and
compartments of the Ducal Palace, and the religious legends painted in
the refectories of the convents, or as altar-pieces in the churches of
Venice, differ materially in tone and style. Those were painted for the
Senate, these for the people; and the superior orders were supposed to
be better judges of real grandeur and propriety, than monastic ignorance
and the bigoted and vulgar majority of the crowds that thronged the

If, therefore, I were able to dissent in any thing relative to Colour
from the great Master whose classification I comment, I should probably
hesitate on the advice of adopting the palette of Rubens for the
regulation of the tones that compose the Venetian style, of which his
flowery tint formed but a part. What has been said of M. Agnolo in FORM,
may be said of Rubens in COLOUR: they had but one. As the one came to
Nature, and moulded her to his generic form, the other came to Nature
and tinged her with his colour--the colour of gay magnificence. He
levelled his subject to his style, but seldom if ever his style with his
subject; whatever be the subject of Rubens, legend, allegoric, stem,
mournful, martyrdom, fable, epic, dramatic, lyric, grave or gay--the
hues that embody, the air that tinges them, is indiscriminate expanse of
gay magnificence. If the economy of his colours be that of an immense
nosegay, he has not always connected the ingredients with a prismatic
eye; the balance of the iris is not arbitrary, the balance of his colour
often is. It was not to be expected that correctness of form should be
the object of Rubens, though he was master of drawing, and even
ambitious in the display of anatomic knowledge; but there is no mode of
incorrectness, unless what directly militated against his style, such as
meagreness, of which his works do not set an example. His male forms,
generally the brawny pulp of slaughtermen; his females, hillocks of
roses in overwhelmed muscles, grotesque attitudes, and distorted joints,
are swept along in a gulph of colours, as herbage, trees and shrubs are
whirled, tossed, and absorbed by inundation.

But whenever a subject comes genially within the vortex of his manner,
such as that of the Gallery of Luxembourg, it then is not only
characteristically excellent, but includes nearly a superhuman union of
powers. In whatever light we consider that astonishing work, whether as
a series of the most sublime conceptions, regulated by an uniform
comprehensive plan, or as a system of colours and tones, exalting the
subject, and seconded by magic execution, whatever may be its Venetian
or Flemish flaws of mythology and Christianity, ideal and contemporary
costume promiscuously displayed, it leaves all plans of Venetian
allegory far behind, and rivals all their execution; if it be not equal
in simplicity, or emulate in characteristic dignity, the plans of M.
Agnolo and Raffaello, it excels them in the display of that magnificence
which no modern eye can separate from the idea of Majesty.


[99] Φθορα.




The methods of fixing a standard and defining the proportions of the
human frame, are either _analytic_ or _synthetic_, from the whole to the
parts, or from the parts to the whole, and have been promiscuously
adopted. The human is the measure of perfection in Vitruvius; he applies
its rules to architecture, and indeed to every object of taste.

The length of human proportion in Vitruvius, measured by a
perpendicular, or a horizontal, from the middle finger points of both
arms extended, is ten heads, the head measured from the chin to the
hair-roots of the front; and eight if the head be measured from the
extremity of the chin to the vertex of the crown. Three is the favourite
number by which the theorists of proportion have divided the human
structure, as containing a beginning, a middle, and an end; and Pliny
observes that we attain the half of our growth in the third year. The
body, as well as all its members, consists of three main parts, which
correspond with each other, in the same proportion as the parts of the
subordinate members among themselves: the head and body are in the same
unison of measure with the thighs and legs, as the thighs with the legs
and feet, or the upper part of the arm to the elbow and the hand. Thus
the face is divided into three parts, or three times the length of the
nose: never into four, as some have imagined; for the upper part of the
head, from the hair-roots on the front to the top, measured
perpendicularly, has only three-fourths of the nose length, or is in
proportion to the nose as nine to twelve.

The rules of proportion originated, probably, with sculpture, but in the
progress of art received their final determination from the painter:
this is the praise of Parrhasius, and Praxiteles applied to Nicias for
the ultimate decision and refinement of his forms. The foot was the main
medium of ancient measurement; and six feet, according to Vitruvius,
became the measured length of proportion for their statues. Measure is
the method of ascertaining an unknown quantity from a known one; and the
proportion of the foot is subject to less variation than the head or
face. Lomazzo, when he makes the foot of Hercules the seventh part of
his length, and fixes ten faces as the standard of ancient proportion
for a Venus, nine for a Juno, and eight for Neptune, talked from fancy,
and relied on the credulity of his reader.

This relation of the foot to the whole fabric, as established by Nature,
the ancients regulated according to ideal or divine, and human or
characteristic proportions. Of the Apollo, whose height is somewhat more
than seven heads, the standing foot is three inches of a Roman palm
longer than the head. The Medicean Venus, however 'suelt,' however small
her head, has in length no more than seven heads and a half; and yet her
foot measures a palm and a half, and the whole height of the figure six
palms and a half.

Of such observations on proportion it would be easier to continue a long
series than to make them intelligible or useful without actual
demonstration or figures. From Vitruvius with his commentators, and
Lionardo da Vinci, to Albert Durer, Lomazzo, and Jerome Cardan, from the
corrected measurements of Du Fresnoy and De Piles, to Watelet,
Winkelman, and Lavater, it would be easy to show that the mass of
variance, peculiarity, and contradiction, greatly overbalances the
coincidence of experiment and measure. "The descriptions of the
proportions of the human frame," says Mengs, "are infinite, but seldom
agree among themselves. Some are too obscure to give the artist a clear
idea; some have too much limited the combinations which might produce,
or are capable of, proportions homogeneously uniform: others, on the
contrary, have, like Albert Durer, displayed a great quantity and
variety of proportions, to little purpose for any one who should not
choose to imitate his taste. The ordinary method is that of dividing the
figure into a fixed number of heads or faces; but this division is of
more use to the sculptor than the painter, who never can see the just
size of the head, because perspective hides at least a third of the
upper fourth; nor does the breadth of the limbs, in painting, admit of
sculpture measure, as they would appear meagre and scanty on a flat
surface, in comparison of the mass they circumscribe in perspective;
because the habit of looking at objects with both eyes swells their mass
beyond its just diameter, in reality as well as in sculpture. This
difference of limbs the ancients observed in their best basso-relievoes;
they exceed in volume the limbs of their statues. Such are the forms of
the sacrificing group in the gardens of the Medicean Villa at Rome,
represented in the Admiranda of Santes Bartoli, and imitated by
Raffaello in the Cartoon of the Sacrifice at Lystra."

The painter is infinitely more in want of variety than the sculptor, and
consequently cannot submit to the same restriction of rule. Raffaello,
who in a certain sense did no more than multiply the antique style of
the second order, uniting it with a certain air of truth not within the
reach of sculpture, whether from rule or taste, made use of every kind
of proportion without a seeming predilection for any. There are figures
of his which have little more than six heads and a half: such as the
St. Peter in the Cartoon of the Temple Gate; a proportion insufferable
in any other painter but Raffaello.

It is reasonable to suppose, that in endeavouring to form a standard or
a canon of proportion for the human figure, the Greeks began with the
head, its form, its position, the manner in which it is attached to the
trunk; they found that man alone carries his head erect, and that thence
he derives a face and a countenance. Of all the brute creation, what is
called the head is only an extremity of the horizontal body, whose under
parts are shoved forward to seek food or seize prey; front and upper
part are driven back, are shortened, and, in more than one genus, hardly
perceivable. The more the brute is raised before and erects the neck,
the more it gains variety of aspect; still it hangs forward, an appendix
to the trunk: it cannot be properly said to have a head; the etymology
of the word implies an erect position. A head, strictly speaking, is the
prerogative of man, formed beneath a skull which rounds the forehead and
determines the face. The more the front recedes and inclines to the
horizontal, so much the nearer a head approaches the form of a brute;
the more it inclines to the perpendicular, the more it gains of man.
This observation has been demonstrated in the least fallible manner by
Camper, the anatomist, who, by a contrivance equally ingenious and
unequivocal, appears to have ascertained, not only the difference of the
_faceal_ line in animals, but that which discriminates nations. Placing
the skull or head to be measured into a kind of sash or frame, pierced
at equidistant intervals to admit the plummet and horizontal and
perpendicular threads, he draws a straight line from the aperture of the
ear to the under part of the nose, and another from the utmost
projection of the frontal bone to the most prominent part of the upper
jaw. The whole is divided into ninety or even one hundred degrees, from
the actual maximum and minimum of Nature to those of Art. Birds describe
the smallest angles, which widen in proportion as the animal approaches
the human form: the heads of apes reach from forty-two to fifty degrees,
which last approaches man. The Negro and Kalmuck reach seventy, the
European eighty; the ancient Roman artists ascended to ninety-five, the
Greeks raised the ideal _from ninety_ to one hundred degrees. What goes
beyond this line becomes portentous; the head appears misshapen, and
assumes the appearance of a hydrocephalus. It is the limit set by Art,
and established on this physical principle: that the more the form of
the head reclines to the horizontal or overshoots the given
perpendicular, the more the maxillæ are protruded or the more the front,
the less it retains of the true human form, and degenerates into brute
or monster.

From a head so determined, arose an harmonious system of features. Under
a front as full as open, the frontal muscles assumed the seat of
meaning; the cavity of the eyes became deeper, and took a regular and
equal distance from the centre of the nose, a feature of which few of
the moderns ever had a distinct idea; the mouth and lips were shaped for
organs of command and persuasion, rather than appetite; and the apodosis
of the whole, resolution and support, was given in the chin.

From a head so regulated, and placed on the most beautiful of all
columns, the neck, the thinking artist could not fail to conclude to the
rest of the body. As the under parts of the head were subordinate to
the front, so was the lower part of the torso to the breast. The organs
of mere nutrition, or appetite, and secretion, receded and were
subjected to the nobler seats of action and vigour. Such harmony of
system was not only the result of numeric proportion, of length and
breadth of parts; it was the conception of one indivisibly connected
whole, variously uniform:--god, goddess, hero, heroine, male, female,
infancy, youth, virility and age, majesty, energy, agility, beauty,
character, and passions, directed the method of treatment, and formed

The sculptured monuments left by the ancients, that have escaped the
wreck of time and compose the magnificent collections of the Academy and
the Museum, amply prove that these assertions are not the visionary
brood of fancy and sanguine wishes, whilst they offer to the student
advantages which, perhaps, no ancient, certainly no modern schools ever
could or can offer to theirs, not even that of formerly the real and
still the nominal metropolis of Art--Rome.

These monuments may be aptly divided into three classes:

1st. Imitations, not seldom transcripts of _Essential Nature_.

2nd. Homogeneous delineations of _Character_; and

3rd. The highest and last--_Ideal_ Figures.

The first shows to advantage what exists or existed; the second collects
in one individual, what is scattered in his class; the third
subordinates existence and character to beauty and sublimity.

The astonishing remains of gods, demigods, and heroes treasured in the
Museum, from the Parthenon and the Temple of Phigalia, constitute the
first epoch. They establish the elements of proportion, they show what
is essential in the composition and construction of the human frame. The
artist's principle remained, however, negative; he understood the best
he saw, but did not attempt to add, or conclude from what was, to what
might be. These works are commonly considered as the produce of the
school of Phidias, and the substantiation of his principles: if they
are, and there can be little doubt but they are, it must be owned, that
the eulogies lately lavished on them, as presenting, even on their
mutilated and battered surfaces, more of the real texture of the human
frame, a better discrimination of bone, muscle, and tendon, than most of
the works ascribed to more advanced periods, little agree with the
verdict of the ancients, as pronounced by Pliny, on the real character
of Phidias, the architect of gods, fitter to frame divinities than men,
and leave him little more share in the formation of our figures than the
conception. In beholding them, we say, such is man, real unsophisticated
man, man warm from the hand of Nature, but not yet distinguished by her
endless variety and difference of character. The Dioscuri of the
Quirinal, the Lapithæ in conflict with the Centaurs from the Parthenon,
and the heroes from the fabric of Ictinus, are brothers, and only differ
in size and finish; whilst the Panathenaic processions offer the
unvaried transcript of Athenian youth.

Delineation of character forms the second class of the figures in our
possession, and the distinguishing feature of its artists. They found
that, as _all_ were connected by the genus and a central principle of
form, so they were divided into classes, and from each other separated
by an individual stamp, by _character_: to unite this with the
simplicity of the _generic_ principle was their aim; the symmetry
prescribed by general proportion was modified and adapted, not
sacrificed, to the demands of the peculiar quality which distinguished
the attribute they undertook to personify. Thus the Hercules of Glycon,
though the symbol of absolute, irresistible, and uniform strength,
appears to be swift as a stag and elastic like a ball; and thus Agasias,
the author of what the barbarity of custom still continues to misname
the "Fighting Gladiator," though its style, evidently Iconic, be more
connected with individual than generic nature, has spread over its whole
the rapidity of lightning, and substantiated in its _motion_ all Homer
says of Hector rushing through the shattered portals of the Grecian
wall--that, at that instant, nothing could have stopped him but a God.

The wounded Cornicularius, known by the name of the Dying Gladiator, the
Savage whetting his knife to excoriate Marsyas, the enraged Shepherd Boy
ludicrously transformed to a young Patroclus, are too undisguised
portraits to deserve being ranked with this higher class of
characteristic delineation. We with more exultation subjoin to it the
Pathetic Groups which, to the historic artist, at once disclose the
whole _extent_ and _limits_ of dramatic composition--the agonies of
Niobe and her Progeny; the pangs of the Laocoon; Menelaus raising
Patroclus slain by Hector; the Warrior who deserves to be called Hæmon,
with Antigone, self-slain, hanging on his arm--the softer and more
familiar expression of Æthra and Theseus, maternal enquiry and filial
simplicity; Orestes and Pylades pouring libations to Agamemnon's shade;
Venus expostulating with Amor, Amor embracing Psyche: works of different
periods and different styles, but true to the same unerring
principles,--principles not abandoned in the lascivious dream of the
Hermaphrodite, the gross sonorous repose of the Faun, and the tottering
inebriety of Hercules.

The artists of the third epoch concluded from existence to possibility.
The simple purity of the first, and the energetic harmonious variety of
the second period, were its bases; it amalgamated their artless angular
line and rigid precision with the suavity of undulating contours,
elegance of attitude, the soft inflexions of flesh: and created a
standard of ideal beauty which regulated the whole, from the most
prominent, conspicuous, and interesting, to the most remote and minute
parts. The Apollo, the Venus, the Torso, arose to prove that in the same
degree as in an image of art the idea of _simplicity_, or of _one_,
predominates, it will partake of _grandeur_; and that in the degree as
the idea of _variety_ prevails, it will partake of _beauty_: variety
leads to simplicity in images of beauty, simplicity to variety in images
of grandeur, and the union of both produces the sublime.

Such are the splendid, and I repeat it, unparalleled advantages that
surround you; but lest, by their specious display, I should be suspected
of more enthusiasm than becomes the sober office of a teacher, and you
be led to delusive expectations and false conclusions, remember that,
though even the best directed labour cannot supply what Nature has
refused, still it remains an experiment uniformly sanctioned by time,
that without unwearied toil, obstinate perseverance, and submissive
resignation, neither the theory nor the practice of the art can be
fully acquired, and that without them genius is a bubble and talent a

And now permit me to finish this fragment of observations on Design with
a few remarks on our mutual situation, as teachers and as pupils of this
Institution: if the advancement of art be the cause and the ultimate aim
of its foundation.

When in recommending the antique as the student's guide in copying the
life, I comparatively might have seemed to depreciate the servile
adherence to the model, I was perfectly aware that the use of life alone
can supply the artist with the real expression, and consequently the
real appearances of bones and muscles in varied action. It will not be
suspected, I trust, that I meant to recommend the frigid introduction of
that marble style, that pedantic stiffness, which, under the abused name
of correctness, frequently disfigures the labours of those who, at too
late a period for successful attempts at changing their manner, abjure
or lose the courage to use what they had learnt before, and content
themselves with being the tame transcribers of the dead letter, instead
of the spirit of the ancients, and importers of nothing but forms and
attitudes of stone.

It is to life we must recur,--to warm, fleshy, genial life,--for
animated forms. To Nature and life Zeuxis applied, to embody the forms
of Polycletus and Alcamenes: and what was the prerogative of Lysippus,
but to give the air, the "morbidezza," the soft transitions, the
illusions of palpitating life, to bronze and marble? The pedantry of
geometrically _straight_ lines is not only no idealism, it is a solecism
in Nature. _Organization_, your object, is inseparable from _life_;
_motion_ from organization: where organization and life are, there is a
seat of life, a _punctum saliens_, acting through veins and branching
arteries, consequently with _pulsation_, and by that, undulating and
rounding the passages of parts to parts. Of the milliards of commas, or
points, that Nature mediately or immediately produces, no two are alike:
how, then, could she produce straight lines, which are all similar, and
by their nature cut, divide, interrupt, destroy?

The province delegated by the Academy to its teachers must be,--where
hope promises success and sparks of genius appear, to foster, to
encourage; but where necessity commands, rather to deter than to delude,
and thus to check the progress of that compendiary method, which,
according to your late President, has ruined the Arts of every country,
by reducing execution to a recipè, substituting manner for style,
ornament for substance, and giving admission to mediocrity.

If the students of this Academy must be supposed to have overcome the
rudiments, and to be arrived at that point from which it may be
discovered whether Nature intended them for mere craftsmen or real
artists, near that point, where, in the phrase of Reynolds, "genius
begins and rules end," it behoves us not to mistake the mere children of
necessity, or the pledges of vanity, for the real nurselings of public
hope, or the future supporters of the beneficent establishment that
rears them. Instruction, it is true, may put them in possession of every
attainable part of the Art in a decent degree; they may learn to draw
with tolerable correctness, to colour with tolerable effect, to put
their figures together tolerably well, and to furnish their faces with a
tolerable expression--it may not be easy for any one to pick any thing
intolerably bad out of their works; but when they have done all
this--and almost all may do all this, for all this may be taught--they
will find themselves exactly at the point where all that gives value to
Art begins--Genius, which cannot be taught--at the threshold of the Art,
in a state of mediocrity. "Gods, men, and fame," says Horace, "reject
mediocrity in poets." Why? Neither Poetry nor Painting spring from the
necessities of society, or furnish necessaries to life; offsprings of
fancy, leisure, and lofty contemplation, organs of religion and
government, ornaments of society, and too often mere charms of the
senses and instruments of luxury, they derive their excellence from
novelty, degree, and polish. What none indispensably want, all may wish
for, but few only are able to procure, acquires its value from some
exclusive quality, founded on intrinsic or some conventional merit, and
that, or an equal substitute, mediocrity cannot reach: hence, by
suffering it to invade the province of genius and talent, we rob the
plough, the shop, the loom, the school, perhaps the desk and pulpit, of
a thousand useful hands. A good mechanic, a trusty labourer, an honest
tradesman, are beings more important, of greater use to society, and
better supporters of the state, than an artist or a poet of mediocrity.
When I therefore say that it is the duty of the Academy to deter rather
than to delude, I am not afraid of having advanced a paradox hostile to
the progress of real Art. The capacities that time will disclose, genius
and talents, cannot be deterred by the exposition of difficulties, and
it is the interest of society that all else should.




    Dorset Street, Fleet Street.

       *       *       *       *       *


Obvious typos have been silently corrected.

Idiosyncratic spellings have been left unchanged. This includes
inconsistent spellings of proper names, oe ligatures and capitalisation.

There are numerous Greek quotations, in which accents and smooth
breathings are used only occasionally, and rough breathings are always
marked. Missing accents and breathings have NOT been added, but two
errant smooth breathings (in footnotes 21 and 75) have been deleted. A
few amendments are noted below.

Italicised words and phrases are marked _like this_.

The following corrections are worth special note:

p. 19: "Alcibides" changed to "Alcibiades".

p. 33 footnote 9: "ἡ καθ'" (rough breathing) changed to "ἠ καθ'" (smooth
breathing), and "ἠκαι" changed to "ἠ και".

p. 43 footnote 15: "Ἀβροδιαιτος" (smooth breathing) changed to
"Ἁβροδιαιτος" (rough breathing).

p. 143: "præliari" changed to "prœliari".

p. 145 footnote 71: "ἀ ταρ" changed to "ἀταρ".

p. 150 footnote 72: line reference corrected from 328 to 238.

p. 159: "Goliah" changed to "Goliath".

p. 161 footnote 75: "Ὁρμην" changed to "ὁρμην".

p. 284: "Fra." changed to "Frà".

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Life and Writings of Henry Fuseli, Vol. II (of 3)" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.