History of Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture
THE FINE ARTS.
BY J. S. MEMES, LL. D.
CLAPP AND BROADERS,
THE VERY REVEREND
WILLIAM JACK, D.D.
PRINCIPAL OF THE UNIVERSITY AND KING'S COLLEGE, ABERDEEN;
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF
EARLY KINDNESS AND CONTINUED FRIENDSHIP.
AS A SINCERE THOUGH INADEQUATE TRIBUTE
OF MOST PROFOUND RESPECT
VIRTUES, LEARNING, TALENTS, AND INTEGRITY,
WITH SENTIMENTS OF THE HIGHEST ESTEEM,
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
|Taste—Principles of Imitative Art||1|
|Egyptian and Oriental Sculpture—Indian Monuments||15|
|Early Schools of Greece—Perfection of Material Art||34|
|Ideal Art—Phidias—Elgin Marbles—Methods of Composition Among the Greek Sculptors||49|
|School of Beauty—Lysippus and Praxiteles—Historical Remarks||60|
|Sculpture in Ancient Italy—Etruscan Art—Roman Busts—Decline||69|
|Revival of Sculpture in Italy—Italian Republics—Influence of Liberty—Early Schools of Modern Art||79|
|Michael Angelo and his Contemporaries||84|
|School of Bernini—Decline of Sculpture—Causes of Decay||94|
|Ancient Painting—Schools of Greece—Zeuxis, Appelles—Historical Remarks||117|
|Modern Schools in Italy—Roman, Raphael—Florentine,Michael Angelo—Comparison between the two—LombardSchool, Coreggio—Venetian School, Titian—Eclectic School, Caracci||130|
|German School, Holbein, Daur—Flemish School, Rubens, Vandyke—Dutch School, Teniers—French School, David—Anecdote of Napoleon||154|
|English School—Historical Remarks—Causes of Inferiority in the Art—Influence of the Reformation not Hostile to the Fine Arts in Britain, &c.||174|
|English School continued—History—Portrait—Landscape—Reynolds—West—Wilson—Laurence—Defects of English Style—Conclusion||190|
|Early History and Principles of Architectural Design—Egyptian—Syrian—Indian Architecture||227|
|Greek Architecture—Three Orders: Doric Remains, Ionic Remains, Corinthian Remains—Roman Architecture—Decline||248|
|Architecture of the Middle Ages—Divisions of the Gothic—Revival of Classic Architecture—Italian, French, and English Masters—Conclusion||278|
The present volume is offered to the public, under theimpression that the general cultivation of practical taste, andan acquaintance with the principles of the Fine Arts, are notonly desirable in the light of acquirement, but must eventuallyprove highly beneficial to the useful arts of the country.The subject, therefore, seemed peculiarly adapted to the veryexcellent Publication of which this forms a portion.[A]
It is only bespeaking that share of confidence due, in thefirst instance, to opportunities of research, to state, that inthe following pages not a single work of art is made the subjectof criticism, the original of which the author has not seenand examined. Indeed, the substance of his remarks is generallytranscribed from notes taken with the statue, or picture,or building, before him. The best authorities, also, havebeen consulted, and such as from their price or rarity arewithin reach of few readers. The historical details of ClassicArt are chiefly the result of inquiries connected with a workon Grecian Literature, the composition of which has longengaged his hours of leisure. J. S. M.
Taste is the perception of intellectual pleasure. Beauty,the object of taste and the source of this pleasure, is appreciatedby the understanding, exercised, either upon theproductions of art, or upon the works of nature. Theterm beauty, indeed, has appeared to admit a specific differenceof import, according to the diversity of objects inwhich it may seem to reside, and the supposed variety ofmeans through which it is perceived by the mind. Thiscause, more than any other, has tended to throw difficultyand inconclusive inference over every department of thesubject. Yet, perhaps in all cases, most certainly in everyinstance of practical importance to our present purpose—elucidationof the Fine Arts, beauty will be found resolvableinto some relation discerned and approved by theunderstanding. Hence the objects in which this relationexists impart pleasure to the mind, on the well knownprinciples of its constitution.
But in all languages, the word beauty is applied to theresults of those operations of the intellectual powers,which are not commonly recognised as appertaining toany province of taste. Thus we speak of the beauty ofa theorem, of an invention, of a philosophical system or[Pg 2]discovery, as frequently, and with the same propriety, as ofa picture or a group of statuary, of a landscape or a building.Correspondent to these objective modes of speech,we find, in every polished idiom, such causative forms asthese—a taste for the mathematics, for mechanics, forphilology, or science. Now, in these, and similar instances,in which a like manner of expression by the commonsentiment of mankind, opposed to the opinion of certainwriters, is rightly applied, relations furnishing the specificbeauty of the subjects are perceived, and pleasurableemotions are excited. What then constitutes the essentialdifference between the beautiful in general language,and the beautiful in the fine arts? or, which is identical,the difference between the powers of judgment and oftaste? Shall we say with some, that to decide on the relationsof truth and falsehood, is the sole province of thejudgment or understanding? But in the fine arts, towhose labours, taste, by these philosophers, is confined,truth is beauty, falsehood deformity; hence, to discriminatebetween even their minutest shades, requires the constantexercise of the most refined taste. Or, shall we maintainwith others, that beauty consists in certain arrangementsand proportions of the parts to a whole; or in thefitness of means to an end? This, as far as an intelligibledescription of beauty, applies equally to the pursuits of thephilosopher and of the artist. Or, omitting almost innumerableminor theories, shall we say with the philosophypresently accepted, that beauty is something not intrinsic inthe beautiful object, but dependent on associations awakenedin the mind of the spectator? Without entering nowinto an examination of this important, because receivedopinion, we remark, that this definition of beauty, fromits associated pleasures, is applicable alike to the deductionsof science, to the exercises of imagination, and to[Pg 3]the disquisitions of taste. Indeed, as the discoveries ofthe philosopher, and the truths which he discloses, areboth more abiding in their nature, and in their influencemore universally important and interesting, it would follow,even on the system of association, that the beauty ofscientific truth must be, at least, equally fruitful in pleasurableemotions, as the beauty of any one object in thosepursuits to which this system has hitherto been restricted.And that such is actually the case, may be proved by anappeal to the writings and the annals of men of study.The law of gravitation, to take a familiar instance, possessesan essential principle of the beautiful—simplicity.Accordingly, to a mind of any refinement, the abstractcontemplation of this theory will ever impart high delight.Yet, how imperfect is the pleasure, and even the beauty,till the mind associates with this simple law, that therebyworlds are governed in their course through boundlessspace; that by the same discovery, the future generationsof rational and immortal beings will be directed in theirmost useful and loftiest speculations; and to all this magnificenceof association, what tender sublimity will beadded, by the thought, that the Supreme Father of all hasgraciously endowed his creatures with powers, and withpermission, to discern the secondary laws by which infinitewisdom sees fit to rule in the visible creation!
Even the holier and lovelier sensibilities awakened bymoral beauty, though certainly distinct in principle, are intheir influence not easily separable from the pleasures oftaste. At least, by the wise and gracious constitution ofthe human heart, the latter, when unallied with the former,necessarily remain imperfect. Our most exquisite enjoymentsin literature and the fine arts will be found toarise from such performances as most directly remind usof virtuous associations; while, in the material world,[Pg 4]those scenes prove most delightful which call forth recollectionsof man's nobleness, or which elevate our contemplationsto the power, and wisdom, and goodness of theCreator. In one important point, however, is at once discoverablethe independent and higher principle of moralpleasure and beauty. The humble and pious mind may,often does, enjoy the most refined and mental gratificationin the exercises of charity and devotion, while the intellectualresources or the adornments of taste are extremely circumscribed.How wise, how salutary, are these appointments!The possessor of the most cultivated perceptionsand extensive knowledge, thus feels, if he feel aright, thathis acquirements render him only the more dependentupon religion and virtue for his best and purest enjoyments,as also for the dignified estimation of his pursuits.The unlettered but sincere Christian, again, thus knowsthat his heartful joys suffer not alloy from ignorance ofthis world's external culture. Both are thus equal; yeteach profits by his own peculiar good. The latter issecure against a deprivation imposed by temporal circumstances:the former is paid the toil and self-denial of attainment,by the increased manifestations he is thus enabledto discern of the charms of virtue, and the goodnessof Omnipotence.
The presence and operation of taste can thus be tracedin every act of the mind, and are intimately associatedwith the feelings of our moral nature. The exercises oftaste have ever been regarded as productive generally ofpleasurable emotion. Hence we consider ourselves justifiedin defining, at the beginning of this chapter, taste tobe 'the perception of intellectual pleasure.' The commonuse of language, also—an authority always to berespected in tracing the extent or import of ideas—andeven the best theories of taste, when rightly understood,coincide with this definition.
The various systems of taste, however apparently dissimilar,may be referred in principle to one or other of thetwo following: that this is an original and independent faculty;or, that it may be resolved into a modification of thegeneral powers of the mind. Of these opinions, the firsthas been, within the present century, satisfactorily provedutterly unphilosophical and inadequate to its purpose; thesecond is preferable, but imperfect in the explications hithertogiven, chiefly from three causes. First, writers have formedtheir conclusions from a consideration of the quality, inits full and complete exercise, instead of tracing the steps bywhich it is acquired or improved: secondly, this intellectualquality, even by the best writers, has been treated too muchas an external sense—or it has been resolved into directand inflex perceptions, and confounded with so many accidentalfeelings, that the inferences have been most perplexingand cumbrous: and, thirdly, the subject in generalhas been treated too metaphysically. Hence, however learned,or even abstractly just, the investigations may havebeen, they have exerted slight influence in establishingpractice upon obvious and enlightened theory.
But declining to enter upon the exposure of what maybe conceived former mistakes, we shall proceed briefly toexplain our own views. Following out, then, the tenor ofthe preceding remarks, we conceive taste to be nothingmore than a certain acuteness, which necessarily is acquiredby, and always accompanies, the frequent exerciseof the powers of understanding in any one given pursuit.It seems to differ from mere knowledge, in being attendedby a love or desire of the particular exercise. Thisdesire, whether it precedes or follows acquirement, iseasily accounted for, in the one case, as an agreeable anticipationof advantage to be gained, and in the other asa mental habitude; or it is frequently cherished from im[Pg 6]pressionsreceived at an age too early for notice. Thegratification of this desire, exclusive even of the enjoymentreceived from the successful exercise of the mentalpowers, sufficiently explains the origin of the pleasures oftaste.
This view of taste, as applicable to, and indeed resultingfrom, training of the understanding in all dignifiedpursuits, is agreeable, as already shown, to common feelingand common language. But in deference to the sameauthorities, it is necessary to limit the idea to a restricted,that is, a proper sense of the word. Hence we have saidthat the object of taste is beauty, as perceivable in theworks of nature and art: thus confining its province toliterature and the fine arts, which reflect nature either bydirect imitation, or by more remote association.
In the present volume, the subject is limited, of course,to the arts of design; but the principles now expoundedare conversant with every varied application of taste: Andwe