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And reading wish, like theirs, our fate and fame,
Smit with the love of Sister-Arts we came,
With thee, on Raphael's Monument I mourn,
Ver. 13. Sister-Arts] To the poets that practised and understood painting, the names of Dante, of Flatman, of Butler, of Dyer, may be added to that of our author; a portrait of whose painting is in possession of Lord Mansfield: a head of Betterton.
Ver. 27. on Raphael's monument] Let me here add Sir Joshua Reynolds's fine characters of Raphael and Michael Angelo.
"If we put those great artists in a light of comparison with each other, Raffaelle had more taste and fancy, Michael Angelo had more genius and imagination; the one excelled in beauty, the other in energy. Michael Angelo has more of the poetical inspiration, his ideas are vast and sublime, his people are a superior order of beings; there is nothing about them, nothing in the air of their actions, or their attitudes, or the style and cast
With thee repose, where Tully once was laid,
of their very limbs or features, that puts one in mind of their belonging to our own species. Raffaelle's imagination is not so elevated; his figures are not so much disjoined from our own diminutive race of beings, though his ideas are chaste, noble, and of great conformity to their subjects. Michael Angelo's works have a strong, peculiar, and marked character; they seem to proceed from his own mind entirely, and that mind so rich and abundant, that he never needed, or seemed to disdain, to look abroad for foreign help. Raffaelle's materials are generally borrowed, though the noble structure is his own. The excellency of this extraordinary man lay in the propriety, beauty, and majesty, of his characters, his judicious contrivance of his composition, correctness of drawing, purity of taste, and the skilful accommodation of other men's conceptions to his own purpose. Nobody excelled him in that judgment, with which he united to his own observations on nature the energy of Michael Angelo, and the beauty and simplicity of the antique. To the question therefore, which ought to hold the first rank, Raffaelle or Michael Angelo, it must be answered, that if it is given to him who possessed a greater combination of the higher qualities of the art than any other man, there is no doubt but Raffaelle is the first. But if, according to Longinus, the sublime, being the highest excellence that human composition can attain to, abundantly compensates the absence of every other beauty, and atones for all other deficiencies, then Michael Angelo demands the preference.
"These two extraordinary men carried some of the higher excellences of the art to a higher degree of perfection than probably they ever arrived at before. They certainly have not been excelled nor equalled since. Many of their successors were induced to leave this great road as a beaten path, endeavouring to surprise and please by something uncommon or new. this desire after novelty has proceeded from mere idleness or caprice, it is not worth the trouble of criticism; but when it has been in consequence of a busy mind, of a peculiar complexion, it is always striking and interesting, never insipid.
"Such is the great style as it appears in those who possessed
While Fancy brings the vanish'd piles to view,
Here thy well-study'd marbles fix our eye;
A fading Fresco here demands a sigh ;
Each heav'nly piece unwearied we compare,
it at its height; in this, search after novelty, in conception or in treating the subject, has no place."
Ver. 30. Or seek] This last line is inferior to the three preceding ones because it passes from particular images to something general.
Ver. 33. Well-study'd marbles] Jervas was sent to Italy at the expense of Dr. Clarke, Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford, of All-Souls College.
Ver. 37. Carracci's] "Give me a good outline, and bricks in the middle," said Annibal Carracci. Agostino has left an elegant sonnet on painting. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me he did not think these artists exactly characterized by Pope.
Ver. 39. How finish'd] Mr. Mason has translated Fresnoy with elegance and fidelity; and Sir Joshua Reynolds added to the translation, learned, useful, scientifical, and ingenious notes.
"Guido," says Sir Joshua Reynolds (Discourses, p. 155), "from want of choice in adapting his subject to his ideas and powers, or in attempting to preserve beauty where it could not be preserved, has in this one point succeeded very ill. His figures are often engaged in subjects that required great expression; yet his Judith and Holofernes, the daughter of Herodias, with the Baptist's Head; the Andromeda, and even the Mothers of the Innocents, have little more expression than his Venus attired by the Graces."
And Mr. Webb observes, with his usual taste and penetration,
Yet still how faint by precept is exprest
The tender sister, daughter, friend, and wife:
"that Guido's Angel treads on Satan with all the preciseness and affected air of a modern dancing-master."
Few writers have succeeded in speaking of the fine arts. Falconet condemns what Tully has said on this subject in many of his epistles. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me more than once he did not approve of the thirty-ninth book of Pliny's Natural History. He thought that Quintilian, in the tenth chapter of his twelfth book, had spoken with more taste and precision than any other ancient author on painting. There are three dialogues of Fenelon on this subject exquisitely written.
Ver. 40. the work of years!] Fresnoy employed above twenty years in finishing his poem. P.
Ver.43. Strike in the sketch,] Gray, in his verses to Mr. Bentley, has beautifully expressed and described the person and design:
"See, in their course, each transitory thought,
Yet still her charms in breathing paint engage; Her modest cheek shall warm a future age.
Beauty, frail flow'r, that ev'ry season fears,
Oh lasting as those Colours may they shine,
And these be sung till Granville's Myra die :
Ver. 60. Worsley's eyes;] This was Frances Lady Worsley, Wife of Sir Robert Worsley, Bart. of Appuldercombe, in the Isle of Wight; Mother of Lady Cartaret, Wife of John Lord Carteret, afterward Earl Granville. There is an excellent letter of this Lady to Dr. Swift in his Letters, p. 77.
Ver. 70. One dip the pencil,] The great Michael Angelo Buanoriti did both. See his Poems, printed at Florence, in 4to. 1623; some of which are very elegant, and nearly equal to Petrarch.