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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
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
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
ing, was well-pleased with the answer Protogenes had left for him, by which he was convinced that fame had done him justice, and so correcting the line again, perhaps by making it more precisely elegant, he took his leave. The story thus may be reconciled to common sense, which, as it has been generally received, could never be understood but as a ridiculous tale.
Let us add to this, that there is scarce an Egyptian, Greek, or Roman deity, but hath 'a twisted serpent, twisted cornucopia, or some symbol winding in this manner to accompany
it. The two'small heads (over the busto of the P.xix Hercules, fig. 4, in plate 1.) of the goddess Isis,
one crowned with a globe between two horns, the other with a lily *, are of this kind. Harpocrates, the god of silence, is still more remarkably so, having a large twisted horn growing out of the side of his head, one cornucopia in his hand, and another at his feet, with his finger placed on his lips, indicating secrecy: (see Montfaucon's antiquities) and it is as remarkable, that the
* The leaves of this flower as they grow, twist themselves various ways in a pleasing manner, as may be better seen by figure 43, in plate 1, but there is a curious little flower called the Autumn Syclamen, fig. 47, the leaves of which elegantly twist one way only.
deities of barbarous and gothic nations never had, nor have to this day, any of these elegant forms belonging to them. How absolutely void of these turns are the pagods of China, and what a mean taste runs through most of their attempts in painting and sculpture, notwithstanding they finish with such excessive neatness; the whole nation in these matters seem to have but one eye: this mischief naturally follows from the prejudic esthey imbibe by copying one another's works, which the ancients seem seldom to have done.
Upon the whole, it is evident, that the ancients studied these arts very differently from the moderns: Lamozzo seems to be partly aware of this, by what he says in the division of his work, page 9, “ There is a two-folde proceeding in all artes and sciences : the one is called the order of nature, and the other of teaching. Na- P. xx ture proceedeth ordinarily, beginning with the unperfect, as the particulars, and ending with the perfect, as the universals. Now if in searching out the nature of things, our understanding shall proceede after that order, by which they are brought forth by nature, doubtlesse it will be the most absolute and ready method that can bee imagined. For we beginne to know things by their first and immediate principles, &c. and
this is not only mine opinion but Aristotles also," yet, mistaking Aristotle's meaning, and absolutely deviating from his advice, he afterwards says, “ all which if we could comprehend within our understanding, we should be most wise; but it is impossible," and after having given some dark reasons why he thinks so, he tells you“ he resolves to follow the order of teaching,” which all the writers on painting have in like manner since done.
Had I observed the foregoing passage, before I undertook this essay, it probably would have put me to a stand, and deterred me from venturing upon what Lamozzo calls an impossible task: but observing in the forementioned controversies that the torrent generally ran against me; and that several of my opponents had turned my arguments into ridicule, yet were daily availing themselves of their use, and venting them even to my face as their own ; I began
to wish the publication of something on this P. xxi subject; and accordingly applied myself to
several of my friends, whom I thought capable of taking up the pen for me, offering to furnish them with materials by word of mouth: but finding this method not practicable, from the difficulty of one man's expressing the ideas of another, especially on a subject which he was