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That conception of beauty which is formed in our imagination through the process of the mind in abstracting the variety of forms from material objects, is subject to general rules, and may be applied to actions, thoughts, and forms. But, notwithstanding this essential identity, it could not be said with correctness, that painting is but mute poetry, or that the latter is a loud expression of the former; and it was justly observed, even by the ancient critics, that though the works of both produce a similar effect on our fancy, yet they are dissimilar both in their productions, and in their manner of imitating nature.
The limited nature of Painting and Sculpture
compared with Poetry. The boundaries which the ancients have fixed to the productions of art, are:-1. Beautiful objects, so as to exclude from its efforts the mere pleasure to be produced by a true imitation only, when the object represented is not pleasing on account of the beauty of its form. To this strict rule the Greek artists particularly adhered. They, moreover, condemned every effort to represent a likeness by exaggerating the ugly parts of the original; in other words, they condemned caricature. To represent beauty in all its forms was the chief rule of the Greek artists, with but few exceptions. The general characteristic in the painting and sculpture of the Greeks is, according to Mr. Winkelman, a graceful naïveté and a solemn grandeur, both in the attitude and expression of the objects represented. As the depth of the sea remains continually calm amidst the rage which reigns on its surface, in the same manner does the expression in the statues of the Greeks, under the dominion of the passions, exhibit
a great and steady soul. • 2. The distinguishing boundaries of art, in compa
rison with poetry, were, with the Greeks in particular, -never to represent the extreme expression of the various passions, but always to confine their imitations of them to some degrees lower, and to leave it to the imagination of the beholder to guess at the rest.Those degrees of the various passions which manifest themselves by an awkward distortion of the face, and which cause the whole body to assume such a posture, that the beautiful lines, by which the human figure is circumscribed, are lost, were either not respresented at all, or, at least, some fainter exhibition of the same passions were fixed upon by the Greck painter or sculptor. Rage and Despair are never represented in their masterpieces; and it may be said, that they never depicted a Fury. They lowered indignation to mere earnestness. According to their poets, it is indignant Jupiter who slings the lightning, but their artists represent him as merely grave. Lamentation was turned into sorrow by these artists, and where this softening could not be effected, as in the picture of Timanthes, representing the sacrificing of Iphigenia, in which sorrow, in all its various degrees, is depicted in the faces of the byestanders, the countenance of the father, which must have expressed the highest degree of it, is, as has been well remarked, veiled, in order to hide the distorted face of Agamemnon, which must otherwise have been so respresented. In a word, this 'covering of the father's face, far from considering it,
as some have supposed it, a prudent step of the painter not to strive to represent the sorrow of a father on such an occasion, which must be above all representation, should be rather considered as a sacrifice on his part to the forms of beauty, in only depicting that in which beauty as well as dignity could be maintained; but that which he could not, in compliance with the rules of beauty, represent, he left to the imagination to guess.. · However, modern artists have enlarged the aforesaid limits in their representations, and extended their efforts at imitation to all visible objects in nature, of which those which are beautiful, form but a small part; and have conceived that as nature itself generally sacrifices beauty to higher purposes, in like manner must the artist allow beauty of form to yield to expression and truth: and never follow beauty farther, but rest satisfied that in realizing the latter, he has made a deformed object of nature, a handsome one of art. But even allowing these ideas to remain undisputed, still the artist must, in some measure, be restricted in representing the expressions of the mind, and never fix upon the highest degree of expression in any human action. The reason for this is as obvious as it is indisputable ; for as the artist can imitate nature, which is ever changing, in one of her single moments only, and even that single moment can be represented by the painter only from one point of view ; therefore, if both the sculptor and the painter wish their performances to be perceived not only at one time, but to be repeatedly contemplated, and to be'reflected upon for a long interval of time, it must
be obvious, that the single moment, and the single point of view of that single moment, in the imitation of the catastrophe, can never be chosen too prolific for the fancy of the observer, and that that image alone can be considered as such which leaves ample scope for the imagination. The more the beholder sees, the more he must be able to add to the parts of the object represented; the more he fancies, the more must he imagine to find in the work.
But in considering any effect whatever, in all its various degrees, we shall not find one single moment less favourable in effecting the former object, than when the utmost extreme of such an effect in nature is rcpresented; for beyond that is nothing more, and to shew to the eye the uttermost is to clip the wings of the obseryer's fancy, and to force the imagination to occupy itself with weaker images beneath the representation, as it is impossible for it to overreach the impression produced on the senses by the representation, the perceivable plenitude of which the imagina. tion disļikes. When the sculptor represents Laocoon as sighing, our imagination is able to hear him crying out; had he represented him as crying out, the imagination would not be able to advance a step higher, or to descend lower, without changing the whole into an uninteresting scene. Our fancy would then either hear him but sobbing, or perceive him already dead,
Further, as the single moment of the effect obtains by the representation of the artist an immutable durabịlity, it is certain that the former ought not to express such as cannot be conceived by the mind, except as transitory. All those phenomena, to the nature of which we think it essential that they can only for one moment be what they appear to be, all such phenomena, whether they produce an agreeable or a horrible effect, obtain by the permanency which the artist gives them, such an unnatural appearance, that with each repeated contemplation their impression becomes weaker, and we are at last either disgusted or shocked by the representation. La Metrie, who has been represented by the painter and engraver as a second Democritus, laughs at the first sight; but if we look at him often, the philosopher appears like a fool, and his laughter like a grin. It is the same with the re. presentation of one crying out with pain, &c. The violent pain which forces a man to cry out, either subsides soon, or it destroys the suffering object. Although, therefore, the bravest man may sometimes cry out, yet he does not do so incessantly, and it was owing to the seeming continuity produced by the imitation of art, that the artist was prevented from representing Laocoon as crying out, although it might not in any way have injured the beauty of the form, and it would be the same if it had been allowed to the artist to express a state of suffering without a beautiful form.'
Among the ancient painters, Timomachus seems to have best chosen the moment of the utmost effect in his representations. His raving Ajax, his infanticide Medea, were much admired paintings. He represented them so that the observer had to imagine the utmost, but not to behold it ; he chose such moments as we do not necessarily connect with the idea of being of but of transitory duration. He représents the Medea,