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on the most beautiful statues of the ancients. I believe them to be so much the better, as they are more conformable to those which Vitruvius gives us in the first chapter of his third book; and which he tells us, that he learned from the artists themselves; because in the preface to his seventh book, he makes his boast to have had them from others, and particularly from architects and painters.
The Measures of a Human Body.
The ancients have commonly allowed eight heads to their figures, though some of them have but seven. But we ordinarily divide the figures into ten faces; that is to say, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot; in the following manner :
From the crown of the head to the forehead, is the third part of a face.
The face begins at the root of the lowest hairs which are upon the forehead, and ends at the bottom of the chin.
The face is divided into three proportionable parts; the first contains the forehead, the second the nose, and the third the mouth and the chin. From the chin to the pit betwixt the collarbones, are two lengths of a nose.
From the pit betwixt the collar-bones to the bottom of the breast, one face.
* From the bottom of the breasts to the navel, one face.
From the navel to the genitories, one face. From the genitories to the upper part of the knee, two faces.
The knee contains half a face.
From the lower part of the knee to the ankle, two faces.
From the ankle to the sole of the foot, half a face. A man, when his arms are stretched out, is, from the longest finger of his right hand, to the longest of his left, as broad as he is long.
From one side of the breasts to the other, two faces.
The bone of the arm, called humerus, is the length of two faces from the shoulder to the elbow. From the end of the elbow to the root of the
little finger, the bone called cubitus, with part of
the hand, contains two faces.
From the box of the shoulder-blade to the pit
betwixt the collar-bones, one face.
If you would be satisfied in the measures of breadth, from the extremity of one finger to the other, so that this breadth should be equal to the
This depends on the age and quality of the persons. The Apollo and Venus of Medicis have more than ten faces.
+ The Apollo has a nose more.
I The Apollo has half a nose more; and the upper half of the Venus de Medicis, is to the lower part of the belly, and not to the privy parts.
length of the body, you must observe, that the boxes of the elbows with the humerus, and of the humerus with the shoulder-blade, bear the proportion of half a face, when the arms are stretched out, The sole of the foot is the sixth part of the figure. The hand is the length of a face. The thumb contains a nose.
The inside of the arm, from the place where the muscle disappears, which makes the breast, (called the pectoral muscle,) to the middle of the arm, four noses.
of the hand, five noses. From the middle of the arm to the beginning
The longest toe is a nose long.
The two utmost parts of the teats, and the pit betwixt the collar-bones of a woman, make an equilateral triangle.
For the breadth of the limbs, no precise measures can be given; because the measures themselves are changeable, according to the quality of the persons, and according to the movement of the muscles.
If you would know the proportions more particularly, you may see them in Paulo Lomazzo: it is good to read them, once at least, and to make remarks on them; every man according to his own judgment, and according to the occasion which he has for them.
"Though perspective cannot be called † 117. a perfect rule," &c. That is to say, purely of itself, without prudence and discretion. The greatest part of those who understand it, desiring to practise it too regularly, often make such things as shock the sight, though they are within the rules. If all those great painters, who have left us such fair platforms, had rigorously observed it in their figures, they had not wholly found their account in it. They had indeed made things more regularly true, but withal very unpleasing. There is great appearance, that the architects and statuaries of former times have not found it to their purpose always; nor have followed the geometrical part so exactly as perspective ordains. For he who would imitate the frontispiece of the Rotunda according to perspective, would be grossly deceived; since
the columns which are at the extremities have more diameter than those which are in the mid
dle. The cornice of the Palazzo Farnese, which
ed more nearly, will be found not to have its just measures. In the pillar of Trajan, we see that the highest figures are greater than those below; and make an effect quite contrary to perspective, increasing according to the measure of their distance. I know there is a rule which teaches a way of making them in that manner; and which, though it is to be found in some books
makes so beautiful an effect below, when view
of perspective, yet notwithstanding is no rule of perspective; because it is never made use of, but only when we find it for our purpose: for if, for example, the figures which are at the top of Trajan's pillar were but as great as those which are at the bottom, they would not be for all that against perspective: and thus we may say, with more reason, that it is a rule of decorum in perspective, to ease the sight, and to render objects more agreeable. It is on this general observation, that we may establish in perspective the rules of decorum, or convenience, whensoever occasion shall offer. We may also see another example in the base of the Farnesian Hercules; which is not upon the level, but on an easy declivity on the advanced part, that the feet of the figure may not be hidden from the sight, to the end that it may appear more pleasing; which the noble authors of these things have done, not in contempt of geometry and perspective, but for the satisfaction of the eyes, which was the end they proposed to themselves in all their works.
We must therefore understand perspective as a science which is absolutely necessary, and which a painter must not want; yet without subjecting ourselves so wholly to it as to become slaves of it. We are to follow it when it leads us in a pleasing way, and shows us pleasing things; but for some time to forsake it, if it leads us through mire, or to a precipice. Endeavour after that which is aiding to your art, and convenient, but avoid whatsoever is repugnant to it, as the 59th rule teaches.
"Let every member be made for its own head," &c. That is to say, you ought not to set the head of a young man on the body of an old one; nor make a white hand for a withered body. Not to habit a Hercules in taf feta, nor an Apollo in coarse stuff. Queens, and persons of the first quality, whom you would make appear majestical, are not to be too negli gently dressed, or en disabiliée, no more than old men; the nymphs are not to be overcharged with drapery. In fine, let all that which accompanies your figures, make them known for what effectively they are. †128. "Let the figures to which art cannot give
a voice, imitate the mutes in their actions," &c. Mutes having no other way of speaking, or expressing their thoughts, but only by their gestures, and their actions, it is certain that they do it in a manner more expressive than those who have the use of speech; for which reason, the picture which is mute, ought to imitate them, so as to make itself understood.
† 129. "Let the principal figure of the subject," &c. It is one of the greatest blemishes of a picture, not to give knowledge, at VOL. II.-25
the first sight, of the subject which it represents. And truly nothing is more perplexing, than to extinguish, as it were, the principal figure, by the opposition of some others, which present themselves to us at the first view, and which carry a greater lustre. An orator, who had undertaken to make a panegyric on Alexander the Great, and who had employed the strongest figures of his rhetoric in the praise of Bucephalus, would do quite the contrary to that which was expected from him; because it would be believed, that he rather took the horse for his subject, than the master. A painter is like an orator in this. He must dispose his matter in such sort, that all things may give place to his principal subject. And if the other figures, which accompany it, and are only as accessories there, take up the chief place, and make themselves most remarkable, either by the beauty of their colours, or by the splendour of the light which strikes upon them, they will catch the sight, they will stop it short, and not suffer it to go farther than themselves, till after some considerable space of time, to find out that which was not discerned at first. The principal figure in a picture is like a king among his courtiers, whom we ought to know at the first glance, and who ought to dim the lustre of all his attendants. Those painters who proceed otherwise, do just like those, who, in the relation of a story, engage themselves so foolishly in long digressions, that they are forced to conclude quite another way than they began.
"Let the parts be brought together, †132. and the figures disposed in groups," &c. I cannot better compare a group of figures, than to a concert of voices, which, supporting themselves altogether by their different parts, make a harmony, which pleasingly fills the ears, and flatters them; but if you come to separate them, and that all the parts are equally heard as loud as one another, they will stun you to that degree, that you would fancy your ears were torn in pieces. It is the same of figures: if you so assemble them, that some of them sustain the others, and make them appear, and that altogether they make but one entire whole, then your eyes will be fully satisfied; but if, on the contrary, you divide them, your eyes will suffer by seeing them altogether dispersed, or each of them in particular. Altogether, because the visual rays are multiplied by the multiplicity of objects. Each of them in particular; because, if you fix your sight on one, those which are about it will strike you, and attract your eyes to them, which extremely pains them in this sort of separation and diversity of objects. The eye, for example, is satisfied with the sight of one single
grape; and is distracted, if it carries itself at one view to look upon many several grapes, which lie scattered on a table. We must have the same regard for the members; they aggroup, and contrast each other in the same manner as the figures do. Few painters have observed this precept as they ought, which is a most solid foundation for the harmony of a picture.
"The figures in the groups ought not to have the same inflections of the body," &c. Take heed, in this contrast, to do nothing that is extravagant; and let your postures be always natural. The draperies, and all things that accompany the figures, may enter into the contrast with the members, and with the figures themselves; and this is what our poet means in these words of his verses, cætera frangant. † 145.
"One side of the picture must not be void, while the other is filled," &c. This sort of symmetry, when it appears not affected, fills the picture pleasingly, keeps it in a kind of balance, and infinitely delights the eyes, which thereby contemplate the work with more re
"As a play is seldom good, in which there are too many actors," &c. Annibal Caracci did not believe that a picture could be good, in which there were above twelve figures. It was Albano who told our author this, and from his mouth I had it. The reasons which he gave were, first, that he believed there ought not to be above three great groups of figures in any picture; and secondly, that silence and majesty were of necessity to be there, to render it beautiful; and neither the one nor the other could possibly be in a multitude and crowd of figures. But nevertheless, if you are constrained by the subject, (as, for example, if you painted the day of judgment, the massacre of the innocents, a battle, &c.) on such occasions, you are to dispose things by great masses of lights and shadows, and union of colours, without troubling yourself to finish every thing in particular, independently one of the other, as is usual with painters of a little genius, and whose souls are incapable of embracing a great design, or a great composition.
Emilium circa ludum, faber imus et ungues
The meanest sculptor in the Emilian square,
Able to express the parts, but not dispose the whole.
Says Horace in his "Art of Poetry."
† 162. "The extremities of the joints must be seldom hidden, and the extremities or end of the feet never," &c. These extremities of
the joints are as it were the hafts, or handles of the members. For example, the shoulders, the elbows, the thighs, and the knees. And if a drapery should be found on these ends of the joints, it is the duty of science, and of decorum, to mark them by folds, but with great discretion; for what concerns the feet, though they should be hidden by some part of the drapery, nevertheless, if they are marked by folds, and their shape be distinguished, they are supposed to be seen. The word never is not here to be taken in the strictest sense; he means but this, so rarely, that it may seem we should avoid all occasions of dispensing with the rule.
"The figures which are behind others, † 161. have neither grace nor vigour," &c. Raphael and Julio Romano have perfectly observed this maxim; and Raphael especially in his last works.
"Avoid also those lines and outlines † 169. which are equal, which make parallels," &c. He means principally to speak of the postures so ordered, that they make together those geometrical figures which he condemns.
"Be not so strictly tied to nature," &c. † 176. This precept is against two sorts of painters; first, against those who are so scrupulously tied to nature, that they can do nothing without her; who copy her, just as they believe they see her, without adding or retrenching any thing, though never so little, either for the nudities, or for the draperies. And secondly, against those who paint every thing by practice, without being able to subject themselves to retouch any thing, or to examine by the nature. These last, properly speaking, are the libertines of painting, as there are libertines of religion, who have no other law but the vehemence of their inclinations, which they are resolved not to overcome; and in the same manner the libertines of painting have no other model but a rhodomontado genius, and very irregular, which violently hurries them away. Though these two sorts of painters are both of them in vicious extremes, yet nevertheless the former sort seems to be the more supportable; because though they do not imitate nature, as she is accompanied by all her beauties and her graces, yet at least they imitate that nature which we know, and daily see. Instead of which, the others show us a wild or savage nature, which is not of our acquaintance, and which seems to be of a quite new creation.
"Whom you must have always pres- † 178. ent, as a witness to the truth," &c. This passage seems to be wonderfully well said. The nearer a picture approaches to the truth, the better it is; and though the painter, who is its
author, be the first judge of the beauties which are in it, he is nevertheless obliged not to pronounce it till he has first consulted Nature, who is an irreproachable evidence, and who will frankly, but withal truly, tell you its defects and beauties, if you compare it with her work. "And of all other things which discover to us the thoughts and inventions of the Grecians," &c. As good books, such as are Homer and Pausanias. The prints which we see of the antiquities may also extremely contribute to form our genius, and to give us great ideas; in the same manner as the writings of good authors are capable of forming a good style, in those who are desirous of writing well.
"If you have but one single figure to work upon," &c. The reason of this is, that there being nothing to attract the sight but this only figure, the visual rays will not be too much divided by the diversity of colours and draperies; but only take heed to put in nothing which shall appear too sharp, or too hard; and be mindful of the 41st precept, which says, that two extremities are never to touch each other, either in colour or in light; but that there must be a mean partaking of the one and of the other.
"Let the draperies be nobly spread upon the body; let the folds be large," &c. As Raphael practised, after he had forsaken the manner of Pietro Perugino, and principally in his latter works.
"And let them follow the order of the parts," &c. As the fairest pieces of antiquity will show us. And take heed that the folds do not only follow the order of the parts, but that they also mark the most considerable muscles; because that those figures, where the drapery and the naked part are seen both together, are much more graceful than the other. † 200.
"Without sitting too straight upon them," &c. Painters ought not to imitate the ancients in this circumstance. The ancient statuaries made their draperies of wet linen, on purpose to make them sit close and straight to the parts of their figures; for doing which they had great reason, and in following which the painters would be much in the wrong; and you shall see upon what grounds. Those great geniuses of antiquity, finding that it was impossible to imitate with marble the fineness of stuffs or garments, which is not to be discerned but by the colours, the reflexes, and more especially by the lights and shadows; finding it, I say, out of their power to dispose of those things, thought they could not do better, nor more prudentially, than to make use of such draperies, as hindered not from seeing, through their folds,
the delicacy of the flesh, and the purity of the outlines; things which, truly speaking, they possessed in the last perfection, and which in all appearance were the subject of their chief study. But painters, on the contrary, who are to deceive the sight, quite otherwise than statuaries, are bound to imitate the different sorts of garments, such as they naturally seem; and such as colours, reflexes, lights, and shadows, (of all which they are masters,) can make then appear. Thus we see, that those who have made the nearest imitations of nature, have made use of such stuffs or garments which are familiar to our sight; and these they have imitated with so much art, that in beholding them we are pleased that they deceive us such were Titian, Paul Veronese, Tintoret, Rubens, Van Dyck, and the rest of the good colourists, who have come nearest to the truth of nature. Instead of which, others, who have scrupulously tied themselves to the practice of the ancients, in their draperies, have made their works crude and dry; and by this means have found out the lamentable secret, how to make their figures harder than even the marble itself; as Andrea Mantegna, and Pietro Perugino have done; and Raphael also had much of that way in his first works, in which we behold many small foldings often repeated, which look like so many whipcords. It is true these repetitions are seen in the ancient statues, and they are very proper there; because they who made use of wet linen, and close draperies, to make their figures look more tender, reasonably foresaw, that the members would be too naked, if they left not more than two or three folds, such as those sorts of draperies afford them, and therefore have used those repetitions of many folds; yet in such a manner, that the figures are always soft and tender, and thereby seem opposite to the hardness of marble. Add to this, that in sculpture, it is almost impossible that a figure, clothed with coarse draperies, can make a good effect on all the sides; and that in painting, the draperies, of what kind soever they be, are of great advantage, either to unite the colours and the groups, or to give such a ground, as one would wish to unite, or to separate; or farther to produce such reflections as set off; or for filling void spaces; or, in short, for many other advantages, which help to deceive the sight, and which are noways necessary to sculptors, since their work is always of relievo.
Three things may be inferred from what I have said, concerning the rule of draperies. First, that the ancient sculptors had reason to clothe their figures as we see them. Secondly, that painters ought to imitate them in the order
of their folds, but not in their quality, nor in their number. Thirdly, that sculptors are obliged to follow them as much as they can, without desiring to imitate unprofitably, or improperly, the manner of the painters, by making many ample folds, which are insufferable hardnesses, and look more like a rock than a natural garment. See the 211th remark, about the middle of it.
"And if the parts be too much distant from each other," &c. It is with intent to hinder (as we have said in the rule of groups) the visual rays from being too much divided; and that the eyes may not suffer, by looking on so many objects, which are separated. Guido was very exact in this observation. See, in the text, the end of the rule which relates to draperies.
† 204. "And as those limbs and members which are expressed by few and large muscles," &c. Raphael, in the beginning of his painting, has somewhat too much multiplied the foids; because, being with reason charmed with the graces of the ancients, he imitated their beauties somewhat too regularly; but having afterwards found, that this quantity of folds glit. tered too much upon the limbs, and took off that repose and silence, which in painting are so friendly to the eyes, he made use of a contrary conduct in the works which he painted afterwards, which was at that time when he began to understand the effect of lights, of groups, and the oppositions of the lights and shadows; so that he wholly changed his manner, (this was about eight years before his death,) and though he always gave a grace to whatsoever he painted, yet he made appear, in his latter works, a great ness, a majesty, and a harmony, quite other than what we see in his first manner: and this he did by lessening the number of his folds, making them more large, and more opposing them, and by making the masses of the lights and shadows greater, and more disentangled. Take the pains to examine these his different manners in the prints which we see of that great man.
"As, supposing them to be magistrates, their draperies ought to be large," &c. Yet make not your draperies so large, that they may be big enough to clothe four or five figures, as some there are who follow that method. And take heed, that the foldings be natural, and so disposed, that the eye may be directed to discover the folds, from the beginning of them to the end. By magistrates he means all great and grave persons, and such as are advanced in age.
shaped, airy, and delicate. Such as are Nymphs and Naiades, and Fountains. Angels are also comprehended under this head, whose drapery should be of pleasing colours, and resembling those which are seen in the heavens, and chiefly when they are suspended in the air. They are only such sorts of light habits as are subject to be ruffled by the winds, which can bear many folds; yet so, that they may be freed from any hardnesses. It is easy for every one to judge, that betwixt the draperies of magistrates, and those of young maids, there must be some mediocrity of folds, such as are most commonly seen and observed; as in the draperies of a Christ, of a Madonna, of a king, a queen, or a duchess, and of other persons of consideration and majesty; and those also who are of a middle age; with this distinction, that the habits must be made more or less rich, according to the dignity of the persons; and that cloth garments may be distinguished from those of silk, satin from velvets, brocard from embroidery, and that, in one word, the eye may be deceived by the truth, and the difference of the stuffs. Take notice, if you please, that the light and tender draperies having been only given to the female sex, the ancient sculptors have avoided, as much as they could, to clothe the figures of men, because they thought (as we have formerly said) that in sculpture garments could not be well imitated, and that great folds made a very bad effect. There are almost as many examples of this truth, as amongst the ancients there are statues of naked men. I will name only that of Laocoon, which, according to all probability, ought to have been clothed: And in effect, what likelihood can there be, that the son of a king, and the priest of Apollo, should appear naked in the actual ceremony of sacrifice? for the serpents passed from the Isle of Tenedos to the Trojan shore, and surprised Laocoon, and his sons, while they were sacrificing to Neptune on the sea-shore, as Virgil witnesses in the second of his Eneids. Notwithstanding which, the sculptors, who were authors of this noble work, had well considered, that they could not give vestments suitable to the quality of the persons represented, without making as it were a heap of stones, whose mass would rather be like a rock, than those three admirable figures, which will ever be the admiration of all ages. And for this reason, of two inconveniences, they judged that of draperies to be greater than that which was against the truth itself.