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OF SIMPLICITY, OR DISTINCTNESS.
SIMPLICITY, without variety, is wholly insipid, and P.21 at best does only not displease; but when variety is joined to it, then it pleases, because it enhances the pleasure of variety, by giving the eye the power of enjoying it with ease.
There is no object composed of straight lines, that has so much variety, with so few parts, as the pyramid: and it is its constantly varying from its base gradually upwards in every situation of the eye, (without giving the idea of sameness, as the eye moves round it) that has made it been esteemed in all ages, in preference to the cone, which in all views appears nearly the same, being varied only by light and shade.
Steeples, monuments, and most compositions in painting and sculpture are kept within the form of the cone or pyramid, as the most eligible boundary on account of their simplicity and variety. For the same reason equestrian statues please more than the single figures.
The authors (for there were three concerned in the work) of as fine a group of figures in sculpture as ever was made, either by ancients or moderns, (I mean Laocoon and his two sons) chose to be guilty of the absurdity of making the sons of half the father's size, though they have every other mark of being de P. 22 signed for men, rather than not bring their composis tion within the boundary of a pyramid*. Thus if a judicious workman were employed to make a case of wood, for preserving it from the injuries of the weather, or for the convenience of carriage; he would soon find by his eye, the whole composition would readily fit and be easily packed up, in one of a pyramidal form.
Steeples, &c. have generally been varied from the cone, to take off from their too great simplicity, and instead of their circular bases, polygons of different, but even numbers of sides, have been substituted, I suppose for the sake of uniformity. These forms however may be said to have been chosen by the architect, with a view to the cone, as the whole composition might be bounded by it.
Yet, in my mind, odd numbers have the advantage over the even ones, as variety is more pleasing than uniformity, where the same end is answered by both; as in this case, where both polygons may be circumscribed by the same circle, or in other words, both compositions bounded by the same cone.
And I cannot help observing, that nature in all her works of fancy, if I may be allowed the expresa sion, where it seems immaterial whether even or odd numbers of divisions were preferred, most frequently employs the odd; as for example, in the indenting
of leaves, flowers, blossoms, &c. P. 23 The oval also, on account of its variety with sim
plicity, is as much to be preferred to the circle, as the