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able, but necessarily with some periphrasis, I consulted a learned friend upon it, who was pleased to approve the version, and to elucidate the text in the following manner : “ Cognita," (the things known,) in line 45, refers to “ Nosse quid in natura pulchrius," (the thing to be learned,) in line 38: the main thing is to know what forms are most beautiful, and to know what forms have been chiefly reputed such by the ancients. In these, when once known," i. e. attended to and considered, the mind of course takes a pleasure, and thus the conscious soul becomes enamoured with the object, &c. as in the paraphrase.
NOTE VII. VERSE 79.
The power of expressing these transitory beauties is perhaps the greatest effort of our art, and which cannot be attained till the student has acquired a facility of drawing nature correctly in its inanimate state.
NOTE VIII. VERSE 81.
Where purblind practice only points the way. Practice is justly called purblind; for practice, that is tolerable in its way, is not totally blind: an imperceptible theory, which grows out of, accompanies, and directs it, is never wholly wanting to a sedulous practice; but this goes but a little way with the Painter himself, and is utterly inexplicable to others.
To become a great proficient, an artist ought to see clearly enough to enable him to point out to others the principle on which he works; otherwise he will be confined, and what is worse, he will be uncertain. A degree of mechanical practice, odd as it may seem, must precede theory. The reason is, that if we wait till we are partly able to comprehend the theory of art, too much of life will be passed to permit us to acquire facility and power : something therefore must be done on trust, by mere imitation of given patterns before the theory of art can be felt. Thus we shall become acquainted with the necessities of the art, and the very great want of Theory, the sense of which want can alone lead us to take pains to acquire it: for what better means can we have of knowing to a certainty, and of imprinting strongly on our mind our own deficiencies, than unsuccessful attempts ? This Theory will be best understood by, and in, practice. If Practice advances too far before Theory her guide, she is likely to lose her way; and if she keeps too far behind, to be discouraged. NOTE IX. Verse 90. 'Twas not by words Apelles charm'd mankind. As Fresnoy had condescended to give advice of a prudential kind, let me be permitted here to recommend to the artist to talk as little as possible of his own works, much less to praise them; and this not so much for the sake of avoiding the character of vanity, as for keeping clear of a real detriment; of a real productive cause which prevents his progress in his art, and dulls the edge of enterprize.
He who has the habit of insinuating his own excellence to the little circle of his friends, with whom he comes into contact, will grow languid in his exertions to fill a larger sphere of reputation : He will fall into the habit of acquiescing in the partial opinions of a few; he will grow restive in his own: by admiring himself, he will come to repeat himself, and then there is an end of improvement. In a painter it is particularly dangerous to be too good a speaker ; it lessens the necessary endeavours to make himself master of the language which properly belongs to his art, that of his pencil. This circle of selfapplause and reflected admiration, is to him the world, which he vainly imagines he has engaged in his party, and therefore supposes that further enterprize becomes less necessary.
Neither is it prudent, for the same reason, to VOL. III.
talk much of a work before he undertakes it, which will probably thus be prevented from being ever begun. Even showing a picture in an unfinished state makes the finishing afterwards irksome; the artist has already had the gratification which he ought to have kept back, and made to serve as a spur to hasten its completion. - R.
NOTE X. VERSE 101.
Supremely fraught with grace and majesty. . It is a matter of great judgment to know what subjects are or are not fit for painting. It is true that they ought to be such as the verses here direct, full of grace and majesty ; but it is not every such subject that will answer to the painter, . The painter's theme is generally supplied by the poet or historian : but as the painter speaks to the eye, a story in which fine feeling and curious sentiment is predominant, rather than palpable situation, gross interest and distinct passion is not suited to his purpose.
It should be likewise a story generally known; for the painter, representing one point of time only, cannot inform the spectator what preceded the event, however necessary, in order to judge of the propriety and truth of the expression and character of the actors. It may be remarked that action is the principal requisite in a subject for
historian.ne is general, to the paine
history-painting ; and that there are many subjects which, though very interesting to the reader, would make no figure in representation : such are those subjects which consist in any long series of action, the parts of which have very much dependency each on the other; or where any remarkable point or turn of verbal expression makes a part of the excellence of the story; or where it has its effect from allusion to circumstances' not actually present. An instance occurs to me of a subject which was recommended to a painter by a very distinguished person, but who, as it appears, was but little conversant with the art; it was what passed between James II, and the old Earl of Bedford in the Council which was held just before the Revolution.* This is a very striking piece of history ; but so far from being a proper subject, that it unluckily possesses no one requisite necessary for a picture; it has a retrospect to other circumstances of history of a very complicated nature; it marks no general or intelligible action or passion; and it is necessarily deficient in that variety of heads, forms, ages, sexes, and draperies, which sometimes, by good management, supply by picturesque effect the want of real interest in a history.
* Dalrymple's Memoirs, i. 168. This writer has quoted do authority for the remarkable anecdote here alluded to; an inexcusable omission,