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reason the artful painter and the sculptor, imitating the Divine Maker, form to themselves, as well as they are able, a model of the superior beauties, and reflecting on them, endeavour to correct and amend the common nature, and to represent it as it was at first created, without fault, either in colour or lineament.
This IDEA, wbich we may call the goddess of painting and of sculpture, descends upon the marble and the canvas, and becomes the original of those arts; and being measured by the compass of the intellect, is itself the measure of the performing hand; and being animated by the imagination, infuses life into the image. The idea of the painter and the sculptor, is undoubtedly that perfect and excellent example of the mind, by imitation of which imagined form, all things are represented, which fall under human sight; such is the defivition which is made by Cicero in his book of the ORATOR to Brutus.
As therefore in forms and figures there is somewhat which is excellent and perfect, to which iinagined species all things are referred by imitation, which are the objects of sight, in like manner we behold the species of eloquence in our minds, the effigies or actual images of which we seek in the organs of hearing. This is likewise confirmed by Proclus in the dialogue of Plato called If,” says
you take a man as he is made by nature, and compare him with another, who is the effect of art, the work of nature will always appear the less beautiful, because art is more accurate than nature.”
But Zeuxis, wbo from the choice which he made of five virgins, drew that wonderful picture of Helena, (which Cicero, in his Orator beforementioned, set before us as the most perfect example of beauty,) at the same time admonishes a painter to contemplate the ideas of the most natural forms, and to make a judicious choice of several bodies, all of them the most elegant which he can find. Thus we may plainly un. derstand, that he thought it impossible to find in any one body all those perfections which he sought for in the accomplishment of a Helena, because nature in any individual person makes nothing that is perfect in all its parts. For this reason Maximus Tyrius also says
that the image which is taken by a painter from several bodies, produces a beauty which it is impossible to find in any single natural body, approaching to the perfection of the fairest statues. Thus nature on this account is so much inferior to art, that those artists who propose to themselves only the imitation and likeness of such or such particular persons, without election of
those ideas before mentioned, have often been reproached for that omission. Demetrius was taxed for being too natural: Dionysius was also blamed for drawing men like us, and was commonly called avsęwtórygzpos, that is, a painter of men. In our days, Michael Angelo da Caravaggio was esteemed too natural. He drew persons, as they were; and Bamboccio, as well as most of the Dutch painters, have drawn the worst likenesses.
Lysippus of old upbraided the common set of sculptors, for making mèn such as they were found in nature, and boasted of himself, that he made them as they ought to be, which is a precept of Aristotle, given as well to poets as painters. Phidias raised an admiration even to astonishment, in those who beheld his statues with the forms which he gave to his gods and heroes, by imitating the idea, rather than nature. And Cicero speaking of hin, affirms that figuring Jupiter and Pallas, he did not contemplate any object from whence he took the likeness, but considered in his own mind a great and admirable form of beauty, and according to that image in his soul, he directed the operation of his hand. Seneca also seems to wonder that Phidias having never beheld either Jove or Pallas, could conceive their divine images in his mind. Apollonius Tyanæus says the same in other words, that the
fancy more instructs the painter than the imitation; for the last makes only the things which it sees, but the first makes also the things which it
Leon Battista Alberti tells us, that we ouglit not so much to love the likeness as the beauty, and to chuse from the fairest bodies severally the fairest parts. Leonardo da Vinci instructs the painter to form this idea to himself, and Raphael, the greatest of all modern masters, writes thus to Castiglione, concerning his Galatea. “To paint a fair one, it is necessary for me to see many fair ones; but because there is so great a scarcity of lovely women, I am constrained to make use of one certain idea which I have formed to mye self in my own fancy.” Guido Reni, sending to Rome his St. Michael, which he had painted for the church of the Capuchins, at the same time wrote to Monsignor Massano, who was maestro di casa (or steward of the house) to pope Urban the eighth, in this manner. “ I wish I had the “wings of an angel to have ascended into Para
dise, and there to have beheld the forms of “ those beatified spirits, from which I might have “copied my archangel. But not being able to “ mount so high, it was in vain for me to search “ his resemblance here below, so that I was “ forced to make an introspection into my own
* mind, and into that idea of beauty which I “ have formed in my own imagination.”
There was not any lady of antiquity who was mistress of so much beauty as was to be found in the Venus of Gnidus, made by Praxiteles, or the Minerva of Athens, by Phidias, which was therefore called the beautiful form. Neither is there any man of the present age equal in the strength, proportion, and knitting of his limbs, to the Hercules of Farnese made by Glycon; or any woman who can justly be compared witb the Medicean Venus of Cleomenes. And upon this account, the noblest poets, and the best orators, when they are desired to celebrate any extraordinary beauty, are forced to have recourse to statues and pictures, and to draw their persons and faces into comparison. Ovid, endea. vouring to express the beauty of Cyllarus the fairest of the Centaurs, celebrates him as next in perfection to the most admired statues.
Gratus in ore vigor, cervix, humerique, manusque,
A pleasing vigonr his fair frame cxpress'd,
In another place, he sets Apelles above Venus: