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action or motion; and the most graceful one in the world, the Apollo Belvedere, is so much so, that when seen at a little distance, in particular views, we are almost apt to imagine that he is actually going to move on towards us.
All graceful heads, even in the portraits of the best painters, are in motion, and very strongly in those of Guido in particular, which are all either casting their looks up towards heaven, or down towards the ground, or side-way as regarding some object. A head that is quite inactive, and flung flat upon the canvas, like the faces on medals, after the fall of the Roman empire, or the gothic heads before the revival of the arts, are so far from having any grace that they have no appearance of life.
The second observation is, “ there can be no grace with impropriety," or in other words nothing can be graceful, which is not adapted to the character of the person. The graces of a little lively beauty would become ungraceful in a character of majesty; as the majestic airs of an empress would quite destroy the prettiness of the former. The vivacity that adds a grace to beauty in youth, would give an additional deformity to old age; and the very same airs, which would be charming on some occasions, may be
quite shocking when extremely mis-timed, or extremely mis-placed.
The inseparable union of propriety and grace seems to have been the general sense of mankind; as we may guess from the languages of several nations, in which some words that answer to our proper or becoming, are used indifferently for beautiful or graceful*. And yet I cannot think as some are inclined to do, that grace consists entirely in propriety; because propriety is a thing easy enough to be understood, and grace, after all we can say about it, very difficult. Propriety, therefore, and grace, are no more one and the same thing, than grace and motion are. It is true, it cannot subsist without either; but then there seems to be something else, what I cannot explain, and what I do not know that any body else has ever explained, which enters into the composition, and which possibly may give its greatest force and power of pleasing.
Whatever are the causes of it, this is certain, that grace is the chief of all the constituent parts of beauty, and so much so that it seems to be the only one, which is absolutely and universally admired. All the rest are only relative.
*Among the Greeks the words πgs and xa, among the Romans, pulchrum, decens and decorum.
One likes a brunette beauty better than a fair one; I may love a little woman and you a large one; a person of a mild temper will be fond of the milder passions in the face; and one of a bolder cast may chuse more vivacity and the expression of more vigorous passions. But grace is found in few, and is pleasing to all. Like poetry, grace must be born with a person, and is never to be wholly acquired by art.
The most celebrated of all the antient painters was Apelles; and the most celebrated of all the moderns Raphael; and it is remarkable, that the distinguishing character of each was grace. Indeed that alone was sufficient to have given them so high a pre-eminence over all their other competitors.
Grace has nothing to do with the lowest part of beauty or colour, very little with shape, and very much with the passions; for it is she who gives their highest zest, and the most pleasing effect to their expression. All the other parts of beauty are pleasing in some degrees; but grace is pleasingness itself; and the Romans in general seem to have had this notion of it, as may be inferred from the original import of the names which they employed to signify this part of beauty*.
*Gratia from gratus, or pleasing; and decor from decens, or becoming.
The Greeks, as well as the Romans, must have been of this opinion, when in their mythology they made the graces the constant attendants of Venus, or the cause of love, and in fact, there is nothing causes love so generally, and so irresistibly, as grace. It is like the cestus of the goddess, which was supposed to comprehend every thing winning and engaging; and above all to draw the heart to love by a secret and inexplicable force like that of some magic charm.
Is a civil fanatic, an Utopian senator: and as all fanatics cheat themselves with words, mistaking them for things; so he does with the false sense of liberty. He builds governments in the air, and shapes them with his fancy, as men do figures in the clouds. He is a great lover of his own imaginations, which he calls his country; and is very much for obedience to his own sense, but not for others.
He is a nominal politician, a faithful and loyal subject to notional governments, but an obstinate rebel to the real. He dreams of a republic waking; but as all dreams are disproportionate and imperfect, so are his conceptions of it; for he has not art enough to understand the difference between speculation and practice. He is so much a fool, that he is like the dog in the fable,