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I now offer to the public a short essay, accompanied with two explanatory prints, in which I shall endeavour to shew what the principles are in nature, by which we are directed to call the forms of some bodies beautiful, others ugly; some graceful, and others the reverse; by considering more minutely than has hitherto been done, the nature of those lines, and their different combinations, which serve to raise in the mind the ideas of all the variety of forms imaginable. At first, perhaps, the whole design, as well as the prints, may seem rather intended to trifle and confound, than to entertain and inform: but I am persuaded that when the examples in nature, referied to in this essay, are duly considered and examined upon the principles laid down in it, it will be thought worthy of a careful and attentive perusal: and the prints themselves too will, I make no doubt, be examined as attentively, when it is found, that almost every figure in them (how oddly soever they may seem to be grouped together) is referred to
P 2. singly in the essay, in order to assist the reader's
imagination, when the original examples in art,
And in this light I hope my prints will be
It may be needless to observe, that some of the last mentioned are not only the dependents on, but often the only instructors and leaders of the former; but in what light they are so con- P. 3 sidered abroad, may be partly seen by * a burlesque representation of them, taken from a print published by Mr. Pond, designed by Cav'. Ghezzi at Rome.
To those, then, whose judgments are unprejudiced, this little work is submitted with most pleasure ; because it is from such that I have hitherto received the most obligations, and now have reason to expect most candour.
Therefore I would fain have such of my readers be assured, that however they may have been awed, and over-born by pompous terms of art, hard names, and the parade of seemingly magnificent collections of pictures and statues ; they are in a much fairer way, ladies, as well as gentlemen, of gaining a perfect knowledge of the elegant and beautiful in artificial, as well as natural forms, by considering them in a systematical, but at the same time familiar way, than those who have been prepossessed by dogmatic rules, taken from the performances of art only: nay, I will venture to say, sooner, and more ra
tionally, than even a tolerable painter, who has imbibed the same prejudices.
The more prevailing the notion may be, that painters and connoisseurs are the only competent judges of things of this sort ; the more it becomes necessary to clear up and confirm, as much as possible, what has only been asserted in the foregoing paragraph: that no one may be deterred, by the want of such previous know
ledge, from entering into this enquiry. P. 4 The reason why gentlemen, who have been
inquisitive after knowledge in pictures, have their eyes less qualified for our purpose, than others, is because their thoughts have been entirely and continually employed and incumbered with considering and retaining the various manners in which pictures are painted, the histories, names, and characters of the masters, together with many other little circumstances belonging to the mechanical part of the art ; and little or no time has been given for perfecting the ideas they ought to have in their minds, of the objects themselves in nature: for by having thus espoused and adopted their first notions from nothing but imitations, and becoming too often as bigotted to their faults, as their beauties, they at length, in a manner, totally neglect, or at least disregard the works of nature, merely because they do not
tally with what their minds are so strongly prepossessed with
Were not this a true state of the case, many a reputed capital picture, that now adorns the cabinets of the curious in all countries, would long ago have been committed to the flames : nor would it have been possible for the Venus and Cupid, represented by the figure *, to have made its way into the principal apartment of a palace.
· It is also evident that the painter's eye may not be a bit better fitted to receive these new impressions, who is in like manner too much captivated with the works of art; for he also is apt to pursue the shadow, and drop the substance. This mistake happens chiefly to those P. 5 who go to Rome for the accomplishment of their studies, as they naturally will, without the utmost care, take the infectious turn of the connoisseur, instead of the painter: and in proportion as they turn by those means bad proficients in their own arts, they become the more considerable in that of a connoisseur. As a confirmation of this seeming paradox, it has ever been observed at all auctions of pictures, that the very worst painters sit as the most profound judges, and are
* Under fig. 49. T. p. 1.