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an admirable rule; a painter ought to have it perpetually present in his mind and memory. It resolves those difficulties which the rules beget; it loosens his hands, and assists his understanding; in short, this is the rule which sets the painter at liberty; because it teaches him, that he ought not to subject himself servilely, and be bound, like an apprentice, to the rules of his art; but that the rules of his art ought to be subject to him, and not hinder him from following the dictates of his genius, which is superior to them.
†434. "Bodies of diverse natures, which are aggrouped, or combined together, are agreeable and pleasant to the sight," &c. As flowers, fruits, animals, skins, satins, velvets, beautiful flesh, works of silver, armours, instruments of music, ornaments of ancient sacrifices, and many other pleasing diversities which may present themselves to the painter's imagination. It is most certain, that the diversity of objects recreates the sight, when they are without confusion, and when they diminish nothing of the subject on which we work. Experience teaches us, that the eye grows weary with poring perpetually on the same thing; not only on pictures, but even on nature itself: for who is he, who would not be tired in the walks of a long forest, or with be holding a large plain which is naked of trees, or in the sight of a ridge of mountains, which, instead of pleasure, give us only the view of heights and bottoms? Thus to content and fill the eye of the understanding, the best authors have had the address to sprinkle their works with pleasing digressions, with which they recreate the minds of readers. Discretion in this, as in all other things, is the surest guide; and as tedious digressions, which wander from their subject, are impertinent; so the painter who, under pretence of diverting the eyes, would fill his picture with such varieties as alter the truth of the history, would make a ridiculous piece of painting, and a mere gallimaufry of his work. †435. "As also those things which seem to be slightly touched, and performed with ease," &c. This ease attracts our eyes and spirits so much the more, because it is to be presumed, that a noble work, which appears so easy to us, is the product of a skilful hand, which is master of its art. It was in this part that Apelles found himself superior to Protogenes, when he blamed him for not knowing when to lay down his pencil, and, as I may almost say, to make an end of finishing his piece. And it was on this account he plainly said, "That nothing was more prejudicial to painters, than
too much exactness; and that the greatest part of them knew not when they had done enough:" as we have likewise a proverb, which says, "An Englishman never knows when he is well." It is true, that the word enough is very difficult to understand. What you have to do, is to consider your subject thoroughly, and in what manner you intend to treat it, according to your rules, and the force of your genius; after this, you are to work with all the ease, and all the speed you can, without breaking your head so very much, and being so very industrious in starting scruples to yourself, and creating difficulties in your work. But it is impossible to have this facility without possessing perfectly all the precepts of the art, and to have made it habitual to you: for ease consists in making precisely that work which you ought to make, and to set every thing in its proper place with speed and readiness, which cannot be done without the rules; for they are the assured means of conducting you to the end that you design, with pleasure. It is then most certain, (though against the opinion of many,) that the rules give facility, quiet of mind, and readiness of hand to the slowest genius; and that the same rules increase and guide that ease in those who have already received it at their birth, from the happy influence of their stars.
From whence it follows, that we may consider facility two several ways; either simply, as diligence, and a readiness of mind, and of the hand; or, as a disposition in the mind to remove readily all those difficulties which can arise in the work. The first proceeds from an active temper full of fire; and the second from a true knowledge and full possession of infallible rules: the first is pleasing, but it is not always without anxiety, because it often leads us astray; and, on the contrary, the last makes us act with a repose of mind and wonderful tranquillity, because it ascertains us of the goodness of our work. It is a great advantage to possess the first; but it is the height of perfection to have both in that manner which Rubens and Van Dyck possessed them, excepting the part of design, or drawing, which both of them too much neglected.
Those who say, that the rules are so far from giving us this facility, that, on the contrary, they puzzle and perplex the mind, and tie the hand, are generally such people who have passed half their lives in an ill practice of painting, the habit of which is grown so inveterate in them, that to change it by the rules, is to take, as it were, their pencils out of their hands, and to put them out of condition of doing any thing; in the same manner as we make a countryman
dumb, whom we will not allow to speak, but by the rules of grammar.
Observe, if you please, that the facility and diligence of which I spoke, consists not in that which we call bold strokes, and a free handling of the pencil, if it makes not a great effect at a distance that sort of freedom belongs rather to a writing-master than a painter. I say yet farther, that it is almost impossible, that things which are painted should appear true and nat ural, where we observe these sorts of bold strokes. And all those who have come nearest to nature, have never used that manner of paint ing. Those tender hairs, and those hatching strokes of the pencil, which make a kind of minced meat in painting, are very fine, I must confess, but they are never able to deceive the sight.
†442. "Nor till you have present in your mind a perfect idea of your work," &c. If you will have pleasure in painting, you ought to have so well considered the economy of your work, that it may be entirely made and disposed in your head, before it be begun upon the cloth. You must, I say, foresee the effect of the groups, the ground, and the lights and shadows of every thing, the harmony of the colours, and the intelligence of all the subject, in such a manner, that whatsoever you shall put upon the cloth, may be only a copy of what is in your mind. If you make use of this conduct, you will not be put to the trouble of so often changing and rechanging.
"Let the eye be satisfied, in the first place, even against and above all other reasons," &c. This passage has a respect to some particular licenses which a painter ought to take; and, as I despair not to treat this matter more at large, I adjourn the reader to the first opportunity which I can get for his farther satisfaction on this point, to the best of my ability. But in general, he may hold for certain, that those licenses are good which contribute to deceive the sight, without corrupting the truth of the subject on which the painter is
"Profit yourself by the counsels of the knowing," &c. Parrhasius and Cliton thought themselves much obliged to Socrates for the knowledge which he gave them of the passions. (See their dialogue in Xenophon, towards the end of the third book of Memoirs.) "They who the most willingly bear reproof," says Pliny the Younger, are the very men in whom we find more to commend than in other people." Lysippus was extremely pleased * Lib. viii. 20.
when Apelles told him his opinion; and Apel les as much when Lysippus told him his. That which Praxiteles said of Nicias, in Pliny,* shows the soul of an accomplished and an humble man. "Praxiteles being asked, which of all his works he valued most? "Those," says he, "which Nicias has retouched." So much account he made of his criticisms and his opinions. You know the common practice of Apelles: when he had finished any work, he exposed it to the sight of all passengers, and concealed himself to hear the censure of his faults, with the prospect of making his advantage of the informations which unknowingly they gave him ; being sensible that the people would examine his works more rigorously than himself, and would not forgive the least mistake.
The opinions and counsels of many together are always preferable to the advice of one single person. And Cicero wonders, that any are besotted on their own productions, and say to one another, "Very good, if your works please you, mine are not unpleasing to me."† In effect, there are many who, through presumption, or out of shame to be reprehended, never let their works be seen. But there is nothing can be of worse consequence; "for the disease is nourished and increases," says Virgil, "while it is concealed." "There are none but fools," says Horace, "who, out of shamefacedness, hide their ulcers, which, if shown, might easily be healed:
Stultorum incurata malus pudor ulcera celat."§ There are others, who have not altogether so much of this foolish bashfulness, and who ask every one's opinion with prayers and earnestness; but if you freely and ingenuously give them notice of their faults, they never fail to make some pitiful excuse for them; or, which is worse, they take in ill part the service which you thought you did them, which they but seemingly desired of you, and out of an established custom amongst the greatest part of painters. If you desire to get yourself any honour, and acquire a reputation by your works, there is no surer way than to show them to persons of good sense, and chiefly to those who are critics in the art; and to take their counsel with the same mildness, and the same sincerity, as you desired them to give it you. You must also be industrious to discover the opinion of your enemies, which is commonly the truest; for you may be assured, that they will give you no quarter, and allow nothing to complaisance.
"But if you have no knowing friend," &c. Quinctilian gives the reason of this, when he says, "that the best means to correct our faults is doubtless this, to remove our designs out of sight, for some space of time, and not to look upon our pictures; to the end, that after this interval we may look on them as it were with other eyes, and as a new work, which was of another hand, and not our own." Our own productions do but too much flatter us; they are always too pleasing, and it is impossible not to be fond of them at the moment of their conception. They are children of a tender age, which are not capable of drawing our hatred on them. It is said, that apes, as soon as they have brought their young into the world, keep their eyes continually fastened on them, and are never weary of admiring their beauty; so amorous is nature of whatsoever she produces. †458. "To the end that he may cultivate those talents which make his genius," &c. Qui sua metitur pondera, ferre potest. "That we may undertake nothing beyond our forces, we must endeavour to know them." On this prudence our reputation depends. Cicero calls it "a good grace," because it makes a man seen in his greatest lustre. "It is," says he, "a becoming grace, which we shall easily make appear, if we are careful to cultivate that which nature has given us in propriety, and made our own; provided it be no vice or imperfection. We ought to undertake nothing which is repugnant to nature in general; and when we have paid her this duty, we are bound so religiously to follow our own nature, that though many things which are more serious and more important present themselves to us, yet we are always to conform our studies and our exercises to our natural inclinations.
avails nothing to dispute against nature, and think to obtain what she refuses; for then we eternally follow what we can never reach; for, as the proverb says, there is nothing can please, nothing can be graceful, which we enterprise in spite of Minerva; that is to say, in spite of nature. When we have considered all these things attentively, it will then be necessary that every man should regard that in particular which nature has made his portion, and that he should cultivate it with care. It is not his busi
ness to give himself the trouble of trying whether it will become him to put on the nature of another man, or, as one would say, to act the person of another; there is nothing which can more become us, than what is prop
• 1 Off.
erly the gift of nature. Let every one therefore endeavour to understand his own talent, and, without flattering himself, let him make a true judgment of his own virtues, and his own defects and vices, that he may not appear to have less judgment than the comedians, who do not always choose the best plays, but those which are best for them; that is, those which are most in the compass of their acting. Thus we are to fix on those things for which we have the strongest inclination. And if it sometimes happens, that we are forced by necessity to apply ourselves to such other things, to which we are no ways inclined, we must bring it so about, by our care and industry, that if we perform them not very well, at least we may not do them so very ill, as to be shamed by them: we are not so much to strain ourselves, to make those virtues appear in us which really we have not, as to avoid those imperfections which
ay dishonour us." These are the thoughts and the words of Cicero, which I have translated, retrenching only such things as were of no concernment to my subject: I was not of opinion to add any thing, and the reader, I doubt not, will find his satisfaction in them.
"While you meditate on these truths, †464. and observe them diligently," &c. There is a great connexion betwixt this precept and that other, which tells you, "That you are to become an able artist, without making your art pass no day without a line." It is impossible to habitual to you; and it is impossible to gain an exact habitude, without an infinite number of acts, and without perpetual practice. In all arts the rules of them are learned in little time; but the perfection is not acquired without a long practice and a severe diligence. "We never saw, that laziness produced any thing which was excellent," says Maximus Tyrius;* and Quinctilian tells 66 us, That the arts draw their beginning from nature;" the want we often have
of them causes us to search the means of be
coming able in them, and exercise makes us entirely masters of them.
"The morning is the best and most †466. proper part of the day," &c. Because then the imagination is not clouded with the vapours of meat, nor distracted by visits, which are not usually made in the morning; and the mind, by the sleep of the foregoing night, is refreshed and recreated from the toils of former
studies. Malherbe says well to this purpose,
Le plus beau de nos jours, est dans leur matinee. The sprightly morn is the best part of the day. * Diss. 34.
†468. "Let no day pass over you, without a line, &c. That is to say, without working, without giving some strokes of the pencil or the crayon. This was the precept of Apelles; and it is of so much the mere necessity, because painting is an art of much length and time, and is not to be learned without great practice. Michael Angelo, at the age of fourscore years, said, "That he learned something every day."
†473. "Be ready to put into your table-book," &c. As it was the custom of Titian and the Carraches. There are yet remaining in the hands of some who are curious in painting, many thoughts and observations which those great men have made on paper, and in their tablebooks, which they carried continually about them.
†475. "Wine and good cheer are no great friends to painting; they serve only to recreate the mind, when it is oppressed and spent with labour," &c. "During the time," says Pliny," that Protogenes was drawing the picture of Jalysus, which was the best of all his works, he took no other nourishment than Lupines, mixed with a little water, which served him both for meat and drink, for fear of clogging his imagination, by the luxury of his food." Michael Angelo, while he was drawing his Day of Judgment. fed only on bread and wine at dinner; and Vasari observes in his life, that he was so sober, that he slept but little, and that he often rose in the night to work, as being not disturbed by the vapours of his thin repasts.
"But delights in the liberty which belongs to the bachelor's estate," &c. We never see large, beautiful, and well-tasted fruits proceeding from a tree which is encompassed round, and choked with thorns and briars. Marriage draws a world of business on our hands, subjects us to law-suits, and loads us with multitudes of domestic cares, which are as so many thorns that encompass a painter, and hinder him from producing his works in that perfection of which otherwise he is capable. Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Hannibal Carrache, were never married: and amongst the ancient painters we find none recorded for being married, but only Apelles, to whom Alexander the Great made a present of his own mistress Campaspe; which yet I would have understood, without offence to the institution of marriage; for that calls down many blessings upon families, by the carefulness of a virtuous wife. If marriage be in general a remedy against concupiscence, it is doubly so in respect of painters, who are
Lib. xxxv. 10.
more frequently under the occasions of sin than other men, because they are under a frequent necessity of seeing nature bare-faced. Let every one examine his own strength upon this point; but let him prefer the interest of his soul, to that of his art, and of his fortune.
"Painting naturally withdraws from †480. noise and tumult," &c. I have said at the end of the first remark, that both poetry and painting were upheld by the strength of imagination. Now there is nothing which warms it more than repose and solitude; because, in that estate, the mind being freed from all sorts of business, and in a kind of sanctuary, undisturbed by vexatious visits, is more capable of forming noble thoughts, and of application to its studies: Carmina secessum scribentis, et otia quærunt. Good verse recess and solitude requires, And ease from cares, and undisturbed desires. We may properly say the same of painting, by reason of its conformity with poetry, as I have shown in the first remark.
"Let not the covetous design of grow-†484. ing rich," &c. We read in Pliny, that Nicias refused sixty talents from King Attalus, and rather chose to make a free gift of his picture to his country. "I inquired of a prudent man," says a grave author,* "in what times those noble pictures were made, which now we see; and desired him to explain to me some of their subjects, which I did not well understand. I asked him likewise the reason of that great negligence, which is now visible amongst painters; and from whence it proceeded, that the most beautiful arts were now buried in oblivion; and principaliy painting, a faint shadow of which is at present remaining to us? To which he thus replied, that the immoderate desire of riches had produced this change: for of old, when naked virtue had her charms, the noble arts then flourished in their vigour; and if there was any contest amongst men, it was only who should be the first discoverer of what might be of advantage to posterity. Lysippus and Myron, those renowned sculptors, who could give a soul to brass, left no heirs, no inheritance, behind them; because they were more careful of acquiring fame than riches. But as for us of this present age, it seems, by the manner of our conduct, that we upbraid antiquity for being as covetous of virtue as we are of vice: wonder not so much, therefore, if painting has lost its strength and vigour, because many are now of opinion, that a heap of gold is much more beautiful than all the pictures and statues of Apelles and Phidias, and all the noble performances of Greece."
I would not exact so great an act of abstinence from our modern painters; for I am not ignorant, that the hope of gain is a wonderful sharp spur in arts, and that it gives industry to the artist; from whence it was that Juvenal said, even of the Greeks themselves, who were the inventors of painting, and who first understood all the graces of it, and its whole perfection,
Græcuius esuriens, in Cœlum, jusseris, ibit. A hungry Greek, if bidden, scales the skies.
But I could heartily wish, that the same hope which flatters them, did not also corrupt them; and did not snatch out of their hands a lame imperfect piece, rudely daubed over with too little reflection, and too much haste.
†487. "The qualities requisite to form an excellent painter," &c. It is to be confessed, that very few painters have those qualities which are required by our author, because there are very few who are able painters. There was a time, when only they who were of noble blood were permitted to exercise this art; because it is to be presumed, that all these ingredients of a good painter are not ordinarily found in men of vulgar birth. And, in all appearance, we may hope, that though there be no edict in France which takes away the liberty of painting from those to whom nature has refused the henour of being born gentlemen, yet at least that the Royal Academy will admit henceforward only such, who being endued with all the good qualities, and the talents which are required for paint ing, those endowments may be to them instead of an honourable birth. It is certain, that which debases painting, and makes it descend to the vilest and most despicable kind of trade, is the great multitude of painters, who have neither nobie souls, nor any talent for the art, nor even so much as common sense. The origin of this great evil is, that there have always been admitted into the schools of painting, all sorts of children promiscuously, without examination of them, and without observing (for some convenient space of time) if they were conducted to this art by their inward disposition, and all necessary talents, rather than by a foolish inclination of their own, or by the avarice of their relations, who put them to painting, as a trade which they believe to be somewhat more gainful than another. The qualities properly required are these following:
A noble heart, that they may propose glory to themselves, and reputation rather than riches. A sublimity and reach of thought, to conceive readily, to produce beautiful ideas, and to work on their subjects nobly, and after a lofty manner, wherein we may observe somewhat that is delicate, ingenious, and uncommon.
A warm and vigorous fancy, to arrive at least to some degree of perfection, without being tired with the pains and study which are required in painting.
A good judgment, that they may do nothing against reason and verisimility.
A docile mind, that they may profit by instructions, and receive, without arrogance, the opinion of every one, and principally of knowing
Health, to resist the dissipation of spirits, which are apt to be consumed by pains-taking. Youth, because painting requires a great experience, and a long practice.
Beauty, or handsomeness, because a painter paints himself in all his pictures; and nature loves to produce her own likeness.
A convenient fortune, that he may give his whole time to study, and may work cheerfully, without being haunted with the dreadful image of poverty, ever present to his mind.
Labour, because the speculation is nothing without the practice.
A love for his art: we suffer nothing in the labour which is pleasing to us; or if it happen that we suffer, we are pleased with the pain.
And to be under the discipline of a knowing master, &c. Because all depends on the beginnings; and because commonly they take the manner of their master, and are formed according to his gusto. See verse 422, and the remark upon it. All these good qualities are insignificant, and unprofitable to the painter, if some outward dispositions are wanting to him. By which I mean favourable times, such as are times of peace, which is the nurse of all noble arts there must also some fair occasion offer to make their skill manifest, by the performance of some considerable work within their power; and a protector, who must be a person of authority, one who takes upon himself the care of their fortune, at least in some measure, and knows how to speak well of them in time and place convenient. "It is of much importance," says the younger Pliny, "in what times virtue appears. And there is no wit, howsoever excellent it may be, which can make itself immediately known; time and opportunity are necessary to it, and a who can assist us with his favour and be person a Mecænas to us."
"And life is so short, that it is not suf- †496. ficient for so long an art," &c. Not only painting, but all other arts, considered in themselves, require almost an infinite time to possess them perfectly. It is in this sense, that Hippocrates begins his Aphorisms with this saying, "That art is long, and life is short. But if we