ever is got this way may be said to be properly made our own; it becomes a part of ourselves, and operates unperceived. The mind acquires by such exercise a kind of instinctive rectitude which supersedes all rules.


NOTE LIV. Verse 733.

See Raffaelle there his forms celestial trace,

Unrivalld sovereign of the realms of grace. The pre-eminence which Fresnoy has given to those three great painters, Raffaelle, Michel Angelo, and Giulio Romano, sufficiently points out to us what ought to be the chief object of our pursuit. Though two of them were either totally ignorant of, or never practised any of those graces of the art which proceed from the management of colours, or the disposition of light and shadow, and the other (Raffaelle) was far from being eminently skilful in these particulars, yet they all justly deserve that high rank, in which Fresnoy has placed them; Michel Angelo, for the grandeur and sublimity of his characters, as well

as for his profound knowledge of design; Raffaelle | for the judicious arrangement of his materials, for

the grace, the dignity, and the expression of his characters; and Giulio Romano, for possessing the true poetical genius of painting, perhaps, in a higher degree than any other painter whatever... In heroic subjects it will not, I hope, appear too great a refinement of criticism to say, that the want of naturalness or deception of the art, which give to an inferior style its whole value, is no material disadvantage: the Hours, for instance, as represented by Giulio Romano, giving provender to the horses of the sun, would not strike the imagination more forcibly from their being coloured with the pencil of Rubens, though he would have represented them more naturally: but might he not possibly, by that very act, have brought them down from the celestial state to the rank of mere terrestrial animals? In these things, however, I admit there will always be a degree of uncertainty. Who knows that Giulio Romano, if he had possessed the art and practice of colouring like Rubens, would not have given to it some taste of poetical grandeur not yet attained to?: The same familiar naturalness would be equally an imperfection in characters which are to be represented as demi-gods, or something above humanity.

Though it would be far from an addition to the merit of those two great painters to have made their works deceptions, yet there can be no reason why they might not, in some degree, and with a judicious caution and selection, have availed themselves of many excellencies which are found in the Venetian, Flemish, and even Dutch schools, and which have been inculcated in this poem. There are some of them which are not in absolute con..

with the misture:29, not in producer of the age of

tradiction to any style; the happy disposition, for instance, of light and shade; the preservation of breadth in the masses of colours : the union of these with their grounds; and the harmony arising from a due mixture of hot and cold hues, with many other excellencies, not inseparably connected with that individuality which produces deception, would surely not counteract the effect of the grand style; they would only contribute to the ease of the spectator, by making the vehicle pleasing by which ideas are conveyed to the mind, which otherwise might be perplexed and bewildered with a confused assemblage of objects; they would add a certain degree of grace and sweetness to strength and grandeur. Though the merits of those two great painters are of such transcendency as to make us overlook their deficiency, yet a subdued attention to these inferior excellencies, must be added to complete the idea of a perfect painter.

Deception, which is so often recommended by writers on the theory of painting, instead of advancing the art, is in reality carrying it back to its infant state: the first essays of painting were certainly nothing but mere imitation of individual objects, and when this amounted to a deception, the artist had accomplished his purpose.

And here I must observe, that the arts of painting and poetry seem to have no kind of re

semblance in their early stages. The first, or, at | least, the second stage of poetry in every nation

is removed as far as possible from common life: every thing is of the marvellous kind, it treats only of heroes, wars, ghosts, enchantments, and transformations : the poet could not expect to seize and captivate the attention if he related only common occurrences, such as every day produces. Whereas the painter exhibited what then appeared a great effort of art, by merely giving the appearance of relief to a flat superficies, however uninteresting in itself that object might be; but this soon satiating, the same entertainment was required from painting which had been experienced in poetry. The mind and imagination were to be satisfied, and required to be amused and delighted, as well as the eye; and when the art proceeded to a still higher degree of excellence, it was then found that this deception not only did not assist, but even in a certain degree counteracted the flight of imagination : hence proceeded the Roman school; and it is from hence that Raffaelle, Michel Angelo, and Giulio Romano stand in that pre-eminence of rank in which Fresnoy has justly placed them.

[ocr errors]

Bright beyond all the rest, Corregio flings
His ample lights, and round them gently brings

The mingling shade. The excellency of Corregio's manner has justly been admired by all succeeding painters. This manner is in direct opposition to what is called the dry and hard manner which preceded him.

His colour, and his mode of finishing, approach nearer to perfection than those of any other painter : the gliding motion of his outline, and the sweetness with which it melts into the ground; the cleanness and transparency of his colouring, which stop at that exact medium in which the purity and perfection of taste lies, leave nothing to be wished for. Baroccio, though, upon the whole, one of his most successful imitators, yet sometimes, in endeavouring at cleanness or brilliancy of tint, overshot the mark, and falls under the criticism that was made on an ancient painter, that his figures looked as if they fed upon roses.

[ocr errors]

NOTE LVI. VERSE 767. Yet more than these to Meditation's eyes, Great Nature's self redundantly supplies. Fresnoy, with great propriety, begins and finishes his poem with recommending the study of nature.

This is, in reality, the beginning and the end of theory. It is in nature only we can find that beauty which is the great object of our search ; it can be found no where else: we can no more form an idea of beauty superior to nature than we can form an idea of the sixth sense, or any other ex

cellence out of the limits of the human mind. We į are forced to confine our conception, even of heaven

« ForrigeFortsett »