« ForrigeFortsett »
and affectation as is in the highest degree unnatural and disgustful.
There is another circumstance, which though not improper in single figures, ought never to be practised in historical pictures: that of representing any figure as looking out of the picture, that is looking at the person who views the picture. This conduct in history gives an appearance to that figure of having no connexion with the rest; and ought therefore never to be practised except in ludicrous subjects.
It is not certain that the variety recommended in a single figure, can with equal success be extended to colouring. The difficulty will be in diffusing the colours of the drapery of this single figure to other distant parts of the picture, for this is what harmony requires; this difficulty, however, seems to be evaded in the works of Titian, Vandyck, and many others, by dressing their single figures in black or white. · Vandyck, in the famous portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio, was confined in his dress to crimson velvet and white linen : he has, therefore, made the curtain in the back-ground of the same crimson colour, and the white is diffused by a letter which lies on the table; and a bunch of flowers is likewise introduced for the same purpose. R.
NOTE XXX. VERSE 275.
But well reliev'd by gentle light and shade. The disposing of the drapery so as to appear to cling close round the limbs, is a kind of pedantry which young painters are very apt to fall into, as it carries with it a relish of the learning acquired from the ancient statues; but they should recollect there is not the same necessity for this practice in painting as in sculpture.
NOTE XXXI. VERSE 297. But sparingly thy earth-born stores unfold, · Nor load with gems, nor lace with tawdry gold.
Finery of all kinds destroys grandeur, which in a great measure proceeds from simplicity; it may, however, without impropriety be introduced into the ornamental style, such as that of Rubens and Paolo Veronesse.
NOTE XXXII. VERSE 307.
That majesty, that grace, so rarely given
To mortal man, nor taught by art, but heaven. It is undoubtedly true, and perfectly obvious, that every part of the art has a grace belonging to it, which, to satisfy and captivate the mind, must be superadded to correctness. This excellence, however expressed, whether we call it genius, taste, or the gift of heaven, I am confident may be acquired : or the artist may certainly be put into that train by which it shall be acquired; though he must, in a great measure, teach himself by a continual contemplation of the works of those painters, who are acknowledged to excel in grace and majesty: this will teach him to look for it in nature, and industry will give him the power of expressing it on canvass.
NOTE XXXIII. VERSE 315.
Thy last, thy noblest task remains untold,
Passion to paipt, and sentiment unfold. This is truly the noblest task, and is the finishing of the fabric of the art: to attempt this summit of excellence, without having first laid the foundation of habitual correctness, may indeed be said to build castles in the air.
Every part which goes to the composition of a picture, even inanimate objects, are capable to a certain degree of conveying sentiment, and contribute their share to the general purpose of striking the imagination of the spectator. The disposition of light, or the folding of drapery, will give sometimes a general air of grandeur to the whole work.
NOTE XXXIV. VERSE 325. By tedious toil no passions are exprest, ¡His hand who feels them strongest paints them best.
A painter, whatever he may feel, will not be able to express it on canvass, without having recourse to a recollection of those principles by which the passion required is expressed. The mind thus occupied, is not likely at the same time to be possessed with the passion which he is representing. An image may be ludicrous, and in its first conception make the painter laugh as well as the spectator; but the difficulty of his art makes the painter, in the course of his work, equally grave and serious, whether he is employed on the most ludicrous, or the most solemn subject.
However, we may, without great violence, suppose this rule to mean no more, than that a sensibility is required in the Artist, so that he should be capable of conceiving the passion properly before he sets about representing it on canvass.
NOTE XXXV. VERSE 325. By tedious toil no passions are exprest, His hand who feels them strongest paints them best. “ The two verses of the text, notwithstanding the air of antiquity which they appear to have, seem most probably to be the author's own,” says the late French editor : but I suppose, as I did on a similar adage before, that the thought is taken from antiquity. With respect to my translation, I beg leave to intimate, that by feeling the passions strongest, I do not mean that a passionate man will make the best painter of the passions, but he who has the clearest conception of them, that is, who feels their effect on the countenance of other men, as in great actors on the stage, and in persons in real life strongly agitated by them : perhaps my translation would have been clearer and more consonant with the above judicious explication of Sir Joshua Reynolds, if it had run thus :
He who conceives them strongest paints them best. M.
NOTE XXXVI. VERSE 348.
For perish'd art;The later French editor, who has modernized the style of Du Piles's translation, says here, that “ he has taken the liberty to soften this passage, and has translated Nil superest, by presque rien, instead of Du Piles's version, Il ne nous a rien resté de leur peinture, being authorised to make this change by the late discoveries of an ancient painting at Herculaneum ;" but I scarce think that, by these discoveries, we have retrieved any thing of ancient colouring, which is the matter here in question, therefore I have given my translation that turn.