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hours, gave me the desire of being acquainted with the late Monsieur du Fresnoy, who was generally reputed to have a thorough knowledge of it. Our acquaintance at length proceeded to that degree of intimacy, that he intrusted me with his poem, which he believed me capable both of understanding and translating, and accordingly desired me to undertake The truth is, we had conversed so often on that subject, and he had communicated his thoughts of it so fully to me, that I had not the least remaining difficulty concerning it. I undertook therefore to translate it, and employed myself in it with pleasure, care, and assiduity; after which, I put it into his hands, and he altered in it what he pleased, till at last it was wholly to his mind. And then he gave his consent that it should be published; but his death preventing that design, I thought it a wrong to his memory to deprive mankind any longer of this translation, which I may safely affirm to be done according to the true sense of the author, and to his liking: since he himself has given great testimonies of his approbation to many of his friends. And they, who are acquainted with him, know his humour to be such, that he would never constrain himself so far, as to commend what he did not really approve. I thought myself obliged to say thus much, in vin
dication of the faithfulness of my work, to those who understand not the Latin; for as to those who are conversant in both the tongues, I leave them to make their own judgment of it.
The remarks which I have added to his work, are also wholly conformable to his opinions; and I am certain that he would not have disapproved them. I have endeavoured them to explain some of the most obscure passages, and those which are most necessary to be understood: and I have done this according to the manner wherein he used to express himself, in many conversations which we had together. I have confined them also to the narrowest compass I was able, that I might not tire the patience of the reader, and that they might be read by all persons. But if it happens that they are not to the taste of some readers, (as doubtless it will so fall out,) I leave them entirely to their own discretion, and shall not be displeased that another hand should succeed better. I shall only beg this favour from them, that in reading what I have written, they will bring no particular gusto along with them, or any prevention of mind; and that whatsoever judgment they make, if may be purely their own, whether it be in my favour, or in my condemnation.
Ur pictura poesis erit; similisque poesi
PAINTING and Poesy are two sisters, which are so like in all things, that they mutually lend to each other both their name and office. One is called a dumb poesy, and the other a speaking picture. The poets have never said any thing, but what they 5. believed would please the ears. And it has been the constant endeavour of the painters to give pleasure to the eyes. In short, those things which the poets have thought unworthy of their pens, the painters have judged to be unworthy of their pencils. * For both "those arts, that they might advance the sacred honours of re- 10. ligion," have raised themselves to heaven; and, having found a free admission into the palace of Jove himself, have enjoyed the sight and conversation of the gods; whose "awful majesty they observe, and whose dictates they communicate to mankind; whom at the same time they inspire with those celestial flames, which shine so gloriously in their works. From heaven they take their passage through the world; and "with concurring studies" collect whatsoever they find worthy of them. * They dive (as I may say) into all past ages; 15. and search the histories, for subjects which are proper for their use: with care, avoiding to treat of any but those which, by their nobleness, or by some remarkable accident, have deserved to be consecrated to eternity; whether on the seas, or earth, or in the heavens. And by this their care and study, it comes to pass, that the glory of he- 20. roes is not extinguished with their lives; and that those admirable works, those prodigies of skill, which even yet are the objects of our admiration, are still preserved. So much these
Nobilitate sua, claroque insignia casu, 20. Dives et ampla manet pictores atque poetas Materies; inde alta sonant per sæcula mundo Nomina, magnanimis heroibus inde superstes Gloria, perpetuoque operum miracula restant.
Tantus inest divis honor artibus atque divine arts have been almost honour
Sit pictura; refert par æmula quæ-
Dicitur hæc, pictura loquens solet illa
5. Quod fuit auditu gratum cecinere poetæ ;
Quod pulchrum aspectu pictores pin
Quæque poetarum numeris indigna fuêre,
Non eadem pictorum operam studi
umque merentur :
Ambæ quippe sacros ad religionis
10. Sydereos superant ignes, aulamque
Ingressæ divûm aspectu, alloquioque
Inde per hunc orbem studiis co-
15. Carpentes quæ digna sui, revoluta-
Tempora, quærendis consortibus ar-
Longius in tempus durare, ut pulchra,
Non mihi Pieridum chorus hic,nec
Majus ut eloquium numeris, aut gra-
ART OF PAINTING.†
ed; and such authority they preserve amongst mankind. It will not here be 25. necessary to implore the succour of Apollo, and the muses, for the grace
The passages which you see marked with an asterism, *, are more amply explained in the remarks.
fulness of the discourse, or for the cadence of the verses; which, containing only precepts, have not so much need of ornament as of perspicuity.
I pretend not in this treatise to tie 30. the hands of artists, "whom practice only directs;" neither would I stifle the genius, by a jumbled heap of rules; nor extinguish the fire of a vein which is lively and abundant, But rather to make this my business, that art being strengthened by the knowledge of things, may at length pass into nature by slow degrees; and so, in process of time, may be 35. sublimed into a pure genius, which is capable of choosing judiciously what is true; and of distinguishing betwixt the beauties of nature, and that which is low and mean in her; and that this original genius, by long exercise and custom, may perfectly possess all the rules and secrets of that art.
*The principal and most import- Precept 1. ant part of painting, is to find out, and of what is thoroughly to understand, what nature has made most beautiful, and most proper to this art; * and that a choice of it may be made according to the taste and manner of the ancients; 40. *without which, all is nothing but a blind and rash barbarity; which rejects what is most beautiful, and seems, with an audacious insolence, to despise an art, of which it is wholly ignorant; which has occasioned these words of the ancients: "That no man is so bold, so rash, and so overweening of his own works, as an ill painter, and a bad poet, who are not conscious to themselves of their own ignorance."
We love what we understand; 45. we desire what we love; we pursue the enjoyment of those things which we desire; and arrive at last to the possession of what we have pursued, if we warmly persist in our design. In the mean time, we ought not to expect, that blind fortune should infallibly throw into our hands those beauties; for though we may light by chance on some which are true and natural, yet they may prove either not to be decent, or not to be ornamental. Because it is not sufficient to imitate nature in every circumstance, dully, 50. and as it were literally, and minutely; but it becomes a painter to take
II. De speculaione et
III. De argu mento.
Seliget ex illa tantùm pulcherrima
Quodque minus pulchrum, aut men-
In the same manner, that bare of theory
Ergo licèt totâ normam naud pos-
Ponere (cùm nequeant quæ sunt
This being premised, the next thing Concerning is to make choice of * a subject beautiful and noble; which being of itself capable of all the charms and graces, that colours, and the elegance of design, can possibly give, shall afterwards afford, to a perfect and consummate art, an ample field of matter wherein to expatiate itself; to exert all its power, and to produce somewhat to the sight, which is excellent, judicious, and ingenious; and at the same time proper to instruct, and to enlighten the understanding.
Utque manus grandi nil nomine
Lumen, et in præceps abitura ut cæ-
Sic nihil ars operâ manuum privata,
Exequitur, sed languet iners uti
Luxuriansque in monstra furor com-
Est modus in rebus, sunt certi deni-
Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere
what is most beautiful,* as being the
His positis, erit obtandum thema
IV. Dispositio, sive operis totius economia.
V. Fidelitas argumenti.
VI. Inane rejiciendum.
Tandem opus aggredior; primo-
Quærendasque inter posituras,
Atque futurorum jam præsentire co-
80. Par erit harmoniam, captando ab
Sit thematis genuina ac viva ex-
Textum antiquorum, propriis cum
Nec quod inane, nihil facit ad rem,
Improprium, miniméque urgens, po-
85. Ornamenta operis; tragicæ sed lege
Summa ubi res agitur, vis summa re-
Ista labore gravi, studio, monitis-
Ni priùs æthereo rapuit quod ab axe
Artibus Aonidum, et Phœbi sublim-
90. Sit jubar infusum menti cum flamine
Quos inter, graphidos gymnasia
Portus Athenarum, Sicyon, Rhodos,
*This part of painting, so rarely
ness of the
*Let" there be a genuine and The faithful lively expression of the subject," con- sub'ect. formable to the text of ancient authors, to customs, and to times.
"Whatever is trivial, foreign, or Whatsoever palls the improper, ought by no means to take subject to be up the principal part of the picture." rejected. But herein imitate the sister of painting, Tragedy; which employs the 85. whole forces of her art in the main action.
Painting in Egypt was at first rude and imperfect, till being brought into Greece, and being cultivated by the study and sublime genius of that nation, it arrived at length to that 95. height of perfection, that it seemed to surpass even original nature.
Amongst the academies, which