Page images
PDF
EPUB

It is not but the gravers can, and ought to imitate the bodies of the colours by the degrees of the lights and shadows, as much as they shall judge that this imitation may produce a good effect. On the contrary, it is impossible, in my opinion, to give much strength to what they grave, after the works of the school of Venice, and of all those who have had the knowledge of colours, and of the contrast of the lights and shadows, without imitating in some sort the colour of the objects, according to the relation which they have to the degrees of white and black. We see certain prints of good gravers different in their kinds, where these things are observed, and which have a wonderful strength. And there appears in public, of late years, a gallery of archduke Leopold, which, though very ili graven, yet shows some part of the beauty of its originals, because the gravers who have executed it, though otherwise they were sufficiently ignorant, have observed, in almost the greatest parts of their prints, the bodies of colours, in the relation which they have to the degrees of the lights and shadows. I could wish the gravers would make some reflection upon this whole remark: it is of wonderful consequence to them; for when they have attained to the knowledge of these reposes, they will easily resolve those difficulties which many times perplex them; and then chiefly, when they are to engrave after a picture, where neither the lights and shadows, nor the bodies of the colours, are skilfully observed, though in its other parts the picture may be well performed.

†286.

"As in a convex mirror the collected rays strike sronger," &c. A convex mirror alters the objects which are in the middle, so that it seems to make them come out from the superficies. The painter must do in the same manner, in respect of the lights and shadows of his figures, to give them more relievo and more strength. † 290. "While the goings off are more and more broken and faint, as they approach to the extremities," &c. It is the duty of a painter, even in this also, to imitate the convex mirror, and to place nothing which glares either in colour or in light, at the borders of his picture: for which there are two reasons; the first is, that the eye at the first view directs itself to the midst of the object which is presented to it, and by consequence must there necessarily find the principal object, in order to its satisfaction; and the other reason is, that the sides or borders being overcharged with a strong and glittering work, attract the eyes thither, which are in a kind of pain not to behold a continuity of that work, which is on the sudden interrupted by the

borders of the picture; instead of which, the borders being lightened, and eased of so much work, the eye continues fixed on the centre of the picture, and beholds it with greater pleasure. It is for the same reason, that, in a great composition of figures, those which, coming most forward, are cut off by the bottom of the picture, will always make an ill effect.

"A bunch of grapes," &c. It is suf- †329. ficiently manifest, that Titian, by this judicious and familiar comparison, means, that a painter ought to collect the objects, and to dispose them in such a manner as to compose one whole; the several contiguous parts of which may be enlightened, many shadowed, and others of broken colours to be in the turnings; as on a bunch of grapes, many grapes, which are the parts of it, are in the light, many in the shadow, and the rest faintly coloured to make them go farther back. Titian once told Tintoret, that in his greatest work a bunch of grapes had been his principal rule, and his surest guide.

"Pure, or unmixed white, either draws †330. an object nearer, or carries it off to farther distance. It draws it nearer with black, and throws it backward without it," &c. All agree, that white can subsist on the fore-ground of the picture, and there be used without mixture; the question therefore is to know, if it can equally subsist, and be placed in the same manner, upon that which is backward, the light being universal, and the figures supposed in a champaigne and open field.

Our author concludes affirmatively; and the reason on which he establishes his rule is this; that there being nothing which partakes more of the light than whiteness, and the light being capable of subsisting well in remoteness, or at a long distance, as we daily see in the rising and setting of the sun, it follows, that white may subsist in the same manner. In painting, the light and a white colour are but one and the same thing. Add to this, that we have no colour which more resembles the air than white, and by consequence no colour which is lighter; from whence it comes, that we commonly say the air is heavy, when we see the heavens covered with black clouds, or when a thick fog takes from us that clearness which makes the lightness or serenity of the air. Titian, Tintoret, Paul Veronese, and all those who best understood lights, have observed it in this manner, and no man can go against this precept, at least without renouncing any skill in landscape, which is an undoubted confirmation of this truth. And we see, that all the great masters of landscape have followed Titian in this, who has always employed brown and earthy colours upon the

[ocr errors]

fore-part, and has reserved his greatest lights for remotenesses, and the back parts of his landscapes.

It may be objected against this opinion, that white cannot maintain itself in remotenesses, because it is ordinarily used to bring the objects nearer on the advanced part. It is true that so it is used, and that to very good purpose, to render the objects more sensible, by the opposition of the dark, which must accompany it, and which retains it, as it were, by force, whether the dark serves it for a ground, or whether it be combined to it. For example, if you would make a white horse on the fore-ground of your picture, it is of absolute necessity, that the ground must be of a mixed brown, and large enough, or that the furniture must be of very sensible colours; or lastly, that some figure must be set upon it, whose shadows and the colour may bring it forward.

But it seems, say you, that blue is the most flying or transient colour, because the heavens and mountains, which are at the greatest distance, are of that colour. It is very true that blue is one of the lightest and sweetest colours; but it is also true, that it possesses these qualities so much the more, because the white is mingled in it, as the example of the distances demonstrate to us. But if the light of your picture be not universal, and that you suppose your figures in a chamber, then recall to your memory that theorem which tells you, that the nearer a body is to the light, and the more directly it is opposed to us, so much the more it is enlightened, because the light grows languishing the farther it removes from its original.

You may also extinguish your white, if you suppose the air to be somewhat thicker, and if you foresee that this supposition will make a good effect in the economy of the whole work; but let not this proceed so far, as to make your figures so brown, that they may seem as it were in a filthy fog, or that they may appear to be part of the ground. See the following re† 332.

mark.

"But as for pure black, there is nothing that brings the object nearer to the sight," &c. Because black is the heaviest of all colours, the most earthy, and the most sensible. This is clearly understood by the qualities of white, which is opposed to it, and which is, as we have said, the lightest of all colours. There are few who are not of this opinion; and yet I have known some, who have told me, that the black being on the advanced part, makes nothing but holes. To this there is little else to be answered, but that black always makes a good effect, being set forward, provided it be placed

there with prudence. You are therefore so to dispose the bodies of your pictures which you intend to be on the fore-ground, that those sorts of holes may not be perceived, and that the blacks may be there by masses, and insensibly confused. See the 47th rule.

That which gives the relievo to a bowl, (may some say to me,) is the quick light, or the white, which appears to be on the side which is nearest to us, and the black, by consequence, distances the object. We are here to beware, not to confound the turnings with the distances: the question is only in respect of bodies, which are separated by some distance of a backward position; and not of round bodies, which are of the same continuity: the brown, which is mingled in the turnings of the bowl, makes them go off rather in confounding them (as we may say) than in blackening them. And do you not see, that the reflects are an artifice of the painter, to make the turnings seem more light, and that by this means the greatest blackness remains towards the middle of the bowl, to sustain the white, and make it deceive us with more pleasure?

This rule of white and black is of so great consequence, that unless it be exactly practised, it is impossible for a picture to make any great effect, that the masses can be disentangled, and the different distances may be observed at the first glance of the eye, without trouble.

It may be inferred from this precept, that the masses of other colours will be so much the more sensible, and approach so much the nearer to the sight, the more brown they bear; provided this be amongst other colours which are of the same species. For example, a yellow brown shall draw nearer to the sight than another which is less yellow. I said, provided it be amongst other colours which are of the same species; because there are simple colours, which naturally are strong and sensible, though they are clear as vermilion ; there are others also, which, notwithstanding that they are brown, yet cease not to be soft and faint, as the blue of ultramarine. The effect of a picture comes not only therefore from the lights and shadows, but also from the nature of the colours. I thought it was not from the purpose in this place to give you the qualities of those colours which are most in use, and which are called capital, because they serve to make the composition of all the rest, whose number is almost infinite.

Red ochre is one of the most heavy colours. Yellow ochre is not so heavy, because it is clearer.

And the masticot is very light, because it is a very clear yellow, and very near to white.

Ultramarine, or azure, is very light, and a very sweet colour.

Vermilion is wholly opposite to ultramarine. Lake is a middle colour betwixt ultramarine and vermilion, yet it is rather more sweet than harsh.

Brown red is one of the most carthy and most sensible colours.

Pink is in its nature an indifferent colour, that is very susceptible of the other colours by the mixture: if you mix brown red with it, you will make it a very earthy colour; but, on the contrary, if you join it with white or blue, you shall have one of the most faint and tender colours.

Terra verte (or green earth) is light; it is a mean betwixt yellow ochre and ultramarine.

Umbre is very sensible and earthy; there is nothing but pure black which can dispute with it.

seeing has this in common with all the rest of the senses, that it abhors the contrary extremities. And in the same manner as our hands, when they are very cold, feel a grievous pain when on the sudden we hold them near the fire: so the eyes, which find an extreme white next to an extreme black, or a fair cool azure next to a hot vermilion, cannot behold these extremities without pain, though they are always attracted by the glaring of two contraries.

This rule obliges us to know those colours which have a friendship with each other, and those which are incompatible; which we may easily discover in mixing together those colours of which we would make trial.

And if by this mixture they make a gracious and sweet colour, which is pleasing to the sight, it is a sign that there is an union and a sympathy betwixt them; but if, on the contrary, that colour which is produced by the mixture of the two be harsh to the sight, we are to conclude, that there is a contrariety and antipathy betwixt these two colours. Green, for example, is a pleasing colour, which may come from a blue and a yellow mixed together; and, by consequence, blue and yellow are two colours which sympathize: and, on the contrary, the mixture of blue with vermilion produces a sharp, harsh, and unpleasant colour; conclude then, that blue and vermilion are of a contrary nature. And the same may be said of other colours, of which you may make experiment, and clear that matter once for all. (See the conclusion of the 332d remark, where I have taken occasion to speak of the force and quality of every capital colour.) Yet you may neglect this precept, when your piece consists but of one or two figures, and when amongst a great number you would make some one figure more remarkable than the rest; one, I say, which is one of the most considerable of the subject, and which otherwise you cannot distinguish from the rest. Titian, in his Triumph of Bacchus, having placed Ariadne on one of the borders of the picture, and not being able (for that reason) to make her remarkable by the brightness of light, which he was to keep in the middle of his picture, gave her a scarf of a vermilion colour, upon a blue drapery, as well to loosen her from his ground, which was a blue sea, as because she is one of the principal figures of his subject, upon which he desired to attract the eye. Paul Veronese, in his Marriage of Cana, because Christ, who is the principal figure of the subject, is carried somewhat into the depth of

picture, and that he could not make him distinguishable by the strength of the lights and shadows, has clothed him with vermilion and blue, thereby to conduct the sight to that figure.

Of all blacks, that is the most earthy which is most remote from blue. Ac to the principle which we have established of white and black, you will make every one of these colours before named more earthy and more heavy, the more black you mingle with them; and they will be lighter, the more white you join with them.

For what concerns broken or compound colours, we are to make a judgment of their strength by the force of those colours which compose them. All who have thoroughly understood the agreement of colours, have not employed them wholly pure and simple in their draperies, unless in some figure upon the fore-ground of the pic ture; but they have used broken and compound colours, of which they made a harmony for the eyes, by mixing those which have some kind of sympathy with each other, to make a whole, which has an union with the colours which are neighbouring to it. The painter who perfectly understands the force and power of his colours, will use them most suitably to his present purpose, and according to his own discretion. † 355. "But let this be done relatively," &c. One body must make another body fly off, in such a manner that itself may be chased by those bodies which are advanced before it. "We are to take care, and use great attention," says Quinctilian," not only of one separate thing, but of many which follow each other, and, by a certain relation which they have with each other, are as it were continued. In the same manner as if, in a straight street, we cast our eyes from one end of it to the other, we discover at once those different things which are presented to the sight, so that we not only see the last, but what-the soever is relating to the last.

961.

"Let two contrary extremities never touch each other," &c. The sense of

The hostile colours may be so much the more allied to each other, the more you mix them with other colours which mutually sympathize, and which agree with those colours which you desire to reconcile.

† 365.

"It is labour in vain to paint a highnoon," &c. He said in another place, "endeavour after that which aids your art, and is suitable to it, and shun whatsoever is repugnant:" it is the 59th precept. If the painter would arrive to the end he has proposed, which is to deceive the sight, he must make choice of such a nature as agrees with the weakness of his colours; because his colours cannot accommodate themselves to every sort of nature. This rule is particularly to be observed, and well considered, by those who paint landscapes.

† 382.

"Let the field or ground of the pic ture," &c. The reason of it is, that we are to avoid the meeting of those colours which have an antipathy to each other, because they offend the sight; so that this rule is proved sufficiently by the 41st, which tells us, that two contrary extremities are never to touch each other, whether it be in colour or in light; but that there ought to be a mean betwixt them, which partakes of both.

† 312. "Let your colours be lively, and yet not look (according to the painters' proverb) as if they had been rubbed or sprinkled with meal," &c. Donner dans la farine, is a phrase amongst painters, which perfectly expresses what it means; which is to paint with clear bright colours and dull colours together; for being so mingled, they give no more life to the figures, than if they had been rubbed with meal. They who make their flesh-colours very white, and their shadows gray, or inclining to green, fall into this inconvenience. Red colours in the shadows of the most delicate or finest flesh, contribute wonderfully to make them lively, shining, and natural; but they are to be used with the same discretion, that Titian, Paul Ver onese, Rubens, and Van Dyck have taught us, by their example.

To preserve the colours fresh, we must paint by putting in more colours, and not by rubbing them in after they are once laid; and (if it could be done) they should be laid just in their proper places, and not be any more touched, when they are once so placed; because the freshness of the colours is tarnished and lost, by vexing them with the continual drudgery of daubing.

All they who have coloured well have had yet another maxim to maintain their colours fresh and flourishing, which was to make use of white grounds upon which they painted, and oftentimes at the first stroke, without retouching any thing,

and without employing new colours. Rubens always used this way; and I have seen pictures from the hand of that great person, painted up at once, which were of a wonderful vivacity.

The reason why they made use of those kinds of grounds is, because white as well preserves a brightness under the transparency of colours, which hinders the air from altering the whiteness of the ground, as that it likewise repairs the injuries which they receive from the air, so that the ground and the colours assist and preserve each other. It is for this reason, that glazed colours have a vivacity which can never be imitated by the most lively and most brilliant colours; because, according to the common way, the different tints are simply laid on, each in its place, one after another. So true it is, that white with other strong colours, with which we paint at once that which we intend to glaze, are, as it were, the life, the spirit, and the lustre of it. The ancients most certainly have found, that white grounds were much the best, because, notwithstanding that inconvenience which their eyes received from that colour, yet they did not forbear the use of it; as Galen testifies, in his Tenth Book of the Use of the Parts. "Painters," says he, "when they work upon their white grounds, place before them dark colours, and others mixed with blue and green, to recreate their eyes; because white is a glaring colour, which wearies and pains the sight more than any other." I know not the reason why the use of it is left off at present, if it be not that in our days there are few painters who are curious in their colouring, or that the first strokes which are begun upon white are not seen soon enough, and that a more than French patience is required to wait till it be accomplished; and the ground, which by its whiteness tarnishes the lustre of the other colours, must be entirely covered, to make the whole work appear pleasingly.

"Let the parts which are nearest to us, †383. and most raised," &c. The reason of this is, that upon a flat superficies, and as much united as a cloth can be, when it is strained, the least body is very appearing, and gives a heightening to the place which it possesses: do not therefore load those places with colours, which you would make to turn; but let those be well loaded, which you would have come out of the canvass.

"Let there be so much harmony or con- † 385. sent in the masses of the picture, that all the shadowings may appear as if they were but one," &c. He has said in another place, that after great lights, great shadows are necessary, which he calls reposes. What he means by the present rule is this, that whatsoever is found in

those great shadows, should partake of the colours of one another; so that the different colours which are well distinguished in the lights, seem to be but one in the shadows, by their great union. † 386.

"Let the whole picture be of one piece," &c. That is to say, of one and the same continuity of work, and as if the picture had been painted up all at once: the Latin says, all of one palette.

+387. "The looking-glass will instruct you," &c. The painter must have a principal respect to the masses, and to the effect of the whole together. The looking-glass distances the objects, and, by consequence, gives us only to see the masses, in which all the little parts are confounded. The evening, when the night approaches, will make you better understand this observation, but not so commodiously; for the proper time to make it lasts but a quarter of an hour, and the looking-glass may be useful all the day.

Since the mirror is the rule and master of all painters, as showing them their faults by distancing the objects, we may conclude, that the picture which makes not a good effect at a distance, cannot be well done; and a painter must never finish his picture, before he has examined it at some reasonable distance, or with a looking-glass, whether the masses of the lights and shadows, and the bodies of the colours, be well distributed. Giorgione and Correggio have made use of this method.

393. "As for a portrait, or picture by the life,"

&c. The end of portraits is not so precisely, as some have imagined, to give a smiling and pleasing air, together with the resemblance; this is indeed somewhat, but not enough. It consists in expressing the true temper of those persons which it represents, and to make known their physiognomy. If the person whom you draw, for example, be naturally sad, you are to beware of giving him any gayety, which would always be a thing which is foreign to his countenance. If he or she be merry, you are to make that good-humour appear, by the expressing of those parts where it acts, and where it shows itself. If the person be grave and majestical, the smiles, or laughing, which is too sensible, will take off from that majesty, and make it look childish and indecent. In short, the painter who has a good genius, must make a true discernment of all these things; and if he understands physiognomy, it will be more easy to him, and he will succeed better than another. Pliny tells us, "That Apelles made his pictures so very like, that a certain physiognomist and fortuneteller (as it is related by Appion the gramma

[blocks in formation]

"Ought to have somewhat of great- †417. ness in them, and their outlines to be noble," &c. As the pieces of antiquity will evidently show us.

"There is nothing more pernicious to†422. a youth," &c. It is common to place ourselves under the discipline of a master, of whom we have a good opinion, and whose manner we are apt to embrace with ease; which takes root more deeply in us, and augments, the more we see him work, and the more we copy after him. This happens oftentimes to that degree, and makes so great an impression in the mind of the scholar, that he cannot give his approbation to any other manner whatsoever, and believes there is no man under the cope of heaven who is so knowing as his master.

But what is most remarkable in this point is, that nature appears to us always like that manner which we love, and in which we have been taught; which is just like a glass through which we behold objects, and which communicates its colour to them, without our perceiving it. After I have said this, you may see of what consequence is the choice of a good master, and of following in our beginning the manner of those who have come nearest to nature. And how much injury, do you think, have the ill manners which have been in France done to the painters of that nation, and what hinderance have they been to the knowledge of what is well done, or of arriving to what is so, when once we know it? The Italians say to those whom they see infected with an ill manner, which they are not able to forsake, "If you knew just nothing, you would soon learn something."

"Search whatsoever is aiding to your † 433. art, and convenient; and avoid those things which are repugnant to it," &c. This is

« EelmineJätka »