Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

it to their several arts, without which science, the Grecians had remained as ignorant as their forefathers.

“ They carried on their improvements in P. xiv drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, &c. till they became the wonders of the world ; especially after the Asiatics and Egyptians (who had formerly been the teachers of the Grecians) had, in process of time and by the havock of war, lost all the excellency in sciences and arts; for which all other nations were afterwards obliged to the Grecians, without being able so much as to imitate them.

" For when the Romans had conquered Greece and Asia, and had brought to Rome the best paintings and the finest artists, we do not find they discovered the great key of knowledge, the Analogy I am now speaking of; but their best performances were conducted by Grecian artists, who it seems cared not to communicate their secret of the Analogy; because either they intended to be necessary at Rome, by keeping the secret among themselves, or else the Romans, who principally affected universal dominion, were not curious enough to search after the secret, not knowing the importance of it, nor understanding that, without it, they could never attain to the excellency of the Grecians : though nevertheless it must be owned that the

Romans used well the proportions, which the Grecians long before had reduced to certain fixed rules according to their ancient Analogy;

and the Romans could arrive at the happy use P.xv. of the proportions, without comprehending the Analogy itself.”

This account agrees with what is constantly observed in Italy, where the Greek, and Roman work, both in medals and statues, are as distinguishable as the characters of the two languages.

As the preface had thus been of service to me, I was in hopes from the title of the book (and the assurance of the translator, that the author had by his great learning discovered the secret of the ancients) to have met with something there that might have assisted, or confirmed the scheme I had in hand; but was much disappointed in finding nothing of that sort, and no explanation, or even after-mention of what at first agreeably alarmed me, the word Analogy. I have given the reader a specimen in his own words, how far the author has discovered this grand secret of the ancients, or great key of knowledge, as the translator calls it.

“ The sublime part that I so much esteem, and of which I have begun to speak, is a real Je ne sçai quoi, or an unaccountable something to most people, and it is the most important part to all the connoisseurs, I shall call it an

[ocr errors]

harmonious propriety, which is a touching or
moving unity, or a pathetic agreement or con-
cord, not only of each member to its body, but
also of each part to the member of which it is a
part: It is also an infinite variety of parts, how-
ever conformable, with respect to each different P. xvi
subject, so that all the attitude, and all the ad-
justment of the draperies of each figure ought
to answer or correspond to the subject chosen.
Briefly, it is a true decorum, a bienseance or a
congruent disposition of ideas, as well for the
face and stature, as for the attitudes. A bright
genius, in my opinion, who aspires to excel in
the ideal, should propose this to himself, as what
has been the principal study of the most famous
artists "Tis in this part that the great masters
cannot be imitated or copied but by themselves,
or by those that are advanced in the knowledge
of the ideal, and who are as knowing as those
masters in the rules or laws of the pittoresque
and poetical nature, although inferior to the
masters in the high spirit of invention.”

The words in this quotation “ It is also an infinite variety of parts," seem at first to have some meaning in them, but it is entirely destroyed by the rest of the paragraph, and all the other pages are filled, according to custom, with descriptions of pictures.

Now, as every one has a right to conjecture

what this discovery of the ancients might be, it shall be my business to shew it was a key to the thorough knowledge of variety both in form, and movement. Shakespear, who had the deepest

penetration into nature, has summed up all the P. xvii charms of beauty in two words, INFINITE VA

RIETY; where, speaking of Cleopatra's power over Anthony, he says,

Nor custom stale
Her infinite variety :-

Act 2. Scene 3.

It has been ever observed, that the ancients made their doctrines mysterious to the vulgar, and kept them secret from those who were not of their particular sects, and societies, by means of symbols, and hieroglyphics. Lamozzo says, chap. 29, book 1. “ The Grecians in imitation of antiquity searched out the truly renowned proportion, wherein the exact perfection of most exquisite beauty and sweetness appeareth ; dedicating the same in a triangular glass unto Venus the goddess of divine beauty, from whence all the beauty of inferior things is derived.”

If we suppose this passage to be authentic, may we not also imagine it probable, that the symbol in the triangular glass, might be similar to the line Michael Angelo recommended ;. especially, if it can be proved, that the triangu

ne

lar form of the glass, and the serpentine line itself, are the two most expressive figures that can be thought of to signify not only beauty and grace, but the whole order of form:

There is a circumstance in the account Pliny gives of Apelles's visit to Protogenes, which strengthens this supposition. I hope I may have leave to repeat the story. Apelles having heard of the fame of Protogenes, went to Rhodes to pay him a visit, but not finding P. xviii him at home asked for a board, on which he drew a line, telling the servant maid, that line would signify to her master who had been to see him; we are not clearly told what sort of a line it was that could so particularly signify one of the first of his profession : if it was only a stroke (though as fine as a hair as Pliny seems to think) it could not possibly, by any means, denote the abilities of a great painter. But if we suppose it to be a line of some extraordinary quality, such as the serpentine line will appear to be, Apelles could not have left a more satisfactory signature of the compliment he had paid him. Protogenes when he came home took the hint, and drew a finer or rather more expressive line within it, to shew Apelles if he came again, that he understood his meaning. He, soon return

« AnteriorContinuar »