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female form which was ever embodied or conceived ; yet it does not follow that there could be no other female form beautiful, or that no other would be beautiful, that had not all the characteristics of this. On the contrary, we conceive that there may be a thousand other female forms, all differing in proportion from the Venus, or any one first-rate statue, and all no less supremely beautiful. The Venus is represented as a mere girl, of about fourteen or sixteen, and such, as every one knows, may have a style of beauty very different, though certainly not superior, to one of eighteen, twenty, or twenty-five. One may be a timid beauty, like the Venus, who seems to shrink back from the world, and even froin herself; another, a modest beauty; another a sprightly beauty; and another a majestic beauty. But it is clearly impossible to combine all these characters in any one form, because they are altogether incompatible; and if any attempt should be made to unite them, the infallible result would be a figure of deformity. Tables of feet and inches, or heads or half heads, drawn up from the Venus and the Apollo, as the only standards of human beauty which the young artist is taught to look up to as perfection personified, are, therefore, we decidedly think, worse than useless ; and the practical study of such absurdities must infallibly injure the finest genius for the arts. This strange mistake, this injurious fallacy, will be most strikingly exposed by bringing it to the test of experiment. It is known to every body that some beauties have blue, and others black eyes. If, then, the theorists can show, that a mixture of blue and black would be more beautiful than either blue or black taken separately, then will we allow that we are wrong. But a blueish-black or a blackish-blue eye, though no such eyes are found in nature, would, we are persuaded, look the very reverse of beautiful, in the same way that a compound of the timid Venus at fourteen, and the majestic Minerva at thirty, would appear incongruous and deformed.
* No man,” says Barry, in his Lectures, “ can judge whether any animal be beautiful in its kind, or deformed, who has only seen one of the species; this is as conclusive in regard to the human figure: so that if a man born blind were to recover his sight, and the most beautiful woman were brought before him, he could not determine whether she was handsome or not; nor if the most beautiful and most deformed were produced, could he any better determine to which he should give the preference, having seen only those two. To distinguish beauty, then, we must have seen many individuals of that species. If it is asked, how is more skill acquired by the observation of greater numbers ?-it may be answered, that in consequence of having seen many, the power is acquired, even without seeking after it, of distinguishing between accidental blemishes and excrescences which are continually varying the surface of nature's works, and the invariable general form
which nature most frequently produces, and always seems to intend, by her productions.
So far Barry, and in this he agrees with Sir Joshua Reynolds ; but though we might grant their premises, we should hesitate to agree to their inference. It amounts, indeed, to an attempt to support, from the practice of great masters, that after having made multifarious comparisons of the individuals of a species, and selected what was most beautiful in each, and composed them into a whole, that this new production, which comprehends all the selected beauties, is the only possible beauty of that species, and in so far as it is receded from, deformity must ensue. An example will make this obvious, and it is important that the principle should be well understood, since it is so strenuously insisted upon as a standing rule in the fine arts.
* Let us, then, take the rose, the queen of flowers, as a point d'appui for our deductions, and it will be readily granted us, that there are many thousand individual roses, each possessing some little variety in point of beauty; no two individuals, indeed, are completely alike in every particular, though all are confessedly beautiful. Now, in order to make a rose supremely beautiful, or the perfect model and standard of beauty, the artist is directed to select from each what is most beautiful, and make a combination of the several selections. When he has done so, if he has sufficient taste to select, and sufficient genius to combine, then his rose is pronounced to be the most beautiful, though it be like no real rose that ever bloomed. Amateurs and critics will even go farther, and aver that this rose of the artist is the only possible rose which can be the summit of beauty; and if any other painter were to represent a rose, he must either paint this identical one of selected combination, or every departure therefrom will be a failure. That is, in other words, there can only be one form and one colour of a rose supremely beautiful, and all other forms and colours must be inferior to it.
The origin of all this grossly erroneous doctrine, technically called the beau ideal, may be traced to the well known anecdote told of the Grecian artist, who, when he was about to give all possible beauty to a Venus which he had undertaken to model, took a journey all over Greece, examined every female celebrated for her charms, adopted what pleased bim, and combined all his selections into a figure of the Goddess. The anecdote, we confess, is pleasing and pretty, though we very much question its truth. Indeed, we should scarcely credit the artist himself, had we heard it from his own lips; for if he ever said so, he must have acted under self-deception. We may, indeed, credit Sir Walter Scott, when he tells us, that no original character was ever conceived by an artist, a poet, or a novelist, which had not, in some of its varieties, been noted as remarkable in an individual; but this is
very different from the attempt to amalgamate an assemblage of incongruous traits into a whole. There can be no doubt, we think, that artists who fancy that such was the process of their conceptions, go as far astray as the country 'Squire would have done in arguing points of law contrary to the sensible advice of Sir Matthew Hale. A remarkable anecdote, in point, is told of Haydn, the celebrated musical composer, who could never assign a reason why he wrote any one passage in music in the way he did. When questioned on the subject, his invariable answer was, “1 wrote it thus, because I liked it best so.” Even when he had altered a few bars in a rough score, and was asked by a friend to assign the reason for the change, he could only reply, “ I substituted the passage, because the first, somehow or other, did not please me.” We are very certain that it would have been more according to truth, had the Grecian artist made a similar reply, than to have told the story of his tour in search of beauties; as it would have been better for Flaxman to have avoided his recommendations of the study of geometry and arithmetic, as the best, if not the only, foundations of excellence in sculpture. Our readers will scarcely credit the length to which our deservedly eminent artist has carried these most delusive and erroneous principles, when he traces the “lines of Grecian composition,” as well as the superiority of Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Rubens, to “mechanical and geometrical studies.”
· The lines of Grecian composition enchant the beholder by their harmony and perfection, and this portion of study seems to have been highly improved by Pamphilus, the learned Macedonian painter, who denied that any one could succeed in the study of painting, without arithmetic and geometry. The application of these two sciences is very evident in the arts of design; by arithmetic, the proportions of the human figure and other animals are reckoned, and the quantities of bodies, superficies, or light and shade ascertained ; geometry gives lines and diagrams for the motion, outline, and drapery of the figure, regulated by the harmony of agreeable proportions, or the opposition of contrast. The effect is evident in the groups of Laocoon and the Boxers, the bas-relief of the Niobe family, and that of the Rape of Proserpine : but this magic bond of arrangement was utterly lost when the other perfections of Grecian genius were overwlielmed in barbarism, nor in any degree recovered until late in the resurrection of the arts, and then they were reproduced by the same means which had discovered them.
• The study of geometry became more general, and had been applied with more success to the improvement of science and art, after the learned Greeks, who fled from Constantinople, settled in Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo were greedy partakers in this abundant harvest of knowledge. Michael Angelo showed his sensibility to the play of lines in his picture of the Holy Fanily, in which the Virgin, sitting on the ground, receives the infant Jesus, whom Joseph, stooping behind, presents over her right shoulder.
• Leonardo da Vinci, who had devoted much time to mechanical and geometrical studies, composed the Contest for the Standard, intended to be painted in the great hall of the old palace of Florence. This was indeed a prodigy in modern advancement, and the first great example of complicated grouping since the arts Rourished in ancient Greece.
Michael Angelo's mind seems at this time to have been employed on the powers, forms, and views of the human figure singly, and perhaps the admirable groups in the ceiling and Last Judgment of the Sistine Chapel were the consequence of Leonardo da Vinci's example. We are sure, the several hunts of the lions, hippopotamus, and crocodile, were painted by Rubens, in emulation, if not imitation, of Leonardo's Battle of the Standard ; and such is their merit, that in them you see the men strike, the horses kick, the wild animals roaring, turn and rend their hunters, with a grandeur of lines equal to the vivacity of action and passion. In comparing these with similar subjects in ancient basso-relievos, particularly with those on the arch of Constantine, in which Trajan hunts the lion and boar, modern genius shines with uncommon brilliancy, and Trajan with his followers, and the animals they attack, are tame, insipid, and unnatural.'pp. 185--187.
In another remarkable passage, he ascribes the imperfection of the ancient Egyptian statues to a deficient knowledge of geometry, as well as whatever excellencies they exhibited to an initiatory acquaintance with this science. It is really lamentable to see such unfounded opinions as these proceed from such an artist as Mr. Flaxman.
• Pythagoras, after he had studied several years in Egypt, sacrificed a hundred oxen in consequence of having discovered, that a square of the longest side of a right-angled triangle is equal to the two squares of the lesser sides of the same triangle; and thence it follows, that the knowledge of the Egyptians could not have been very great at that time in geometry. This will naturally account for that want of motion in their statues and relievos, which can only be obtained by a careful observation of nature, assisted by geometry.
• The state of Egyptian science in the time of Pythagoras being noticed, leads to another consideration respecting the date of their architecture and sculpture. Most of their great works are mentioned by the ancient writers as being done in the reign of Sesostris, and afterwards. Sesostris lived in the reign of Rehoboam, King of Israel, about the time of the Trojan war, or 1000 years before the Christian era, which shows that the arts of Egypt and of Greece were in a progressive state of improvement at the same time, and from the Greeks residing with them to study theology, philosophy and science,—from the great intercourse, political and commercial, between the two countries from the heroic times,—from the Greeks being long settled in the city of Naucratis and other parts of Egypt, we may fairly conclude their communication in arts was just as free as in other concerns, which seems the more likely, as there is a considerable resemblance in the features and contour of the early Greek and Egyptian statues,'pp. 39—41.
• In the Egyptian sculpture, we shall find some excellent first principles of the art.
• Their best statues are divided into seven heads and a half, the whole height of the figure is divided into two equal parts at the os pubis ; the rest of the proportions are natural and not disagreeable. The principal forms of the body and limbs, as the breasts, belly, shoulders, biceps of the arm, knees, shin-bones, and feet, are expressed with a fleshy roundness, although without anatomical knowledge of detail ; and in the female figures these parts often possess considerable elegance and beauty. The forms of the female face have much the same outline and progression towards beauty in the features, as we see in some of the early Greek statues, and, like them, without variety of character; for little difference can be traced in the faces of Isis, in her representations of Diana, Venus, or Terra, or indeed in Osiris, although sometimes understood to be Jupiter himself, excepting that in some instances he has a very small beard, in form resembling a peg. The hands and feet, like the rest of the figure, have general forms only, without particular detail; the fingers and toes are flat, of equal thickness, little separated, and without distinction of the knuckles; yet, altogether, their simplicity of idea, breadth of parts, and occasional beauty of form, strike the skilful beholder, and have been highly praised by the best judges, ancient and modern.
. In their basso-relievos and paintings which require variety of action and situation, are demonstrated their want of anatomical, mechanical, and geometrical science relating to the arts of painting and sculpture.'pp. 46, 47,
• We must pause a moment to regret the loss of invaluable treatises by the greatest painters, sculptors, and architects of antiquity enumerated by Vitruvius and the elder Pliny, yet some short paragraphs those authors have preserved, with the assistance of other ancient writers, and a comparison of these with the numerous and precious remains of ancient works, will compensate for the loss, and give the requisite information.
• We find upon these authorities that geometry and numbers were employed to ascertain the powers of motion and proportions, optics and perspective, (as known to the ancients,)—to regulate projections, hollows, keeping, diminution, curvatures, and general effects, in figures, groups, insulated or in relief, with their accompaniments; and anatomy, to represent the bones, muscles, tendons, and veins, as they appear on the surface of the buman body, and inferior animals.
• In this enlightened age, when the circle of science is so generally and well understood,—when the connection and relation of one branch with another is demonstrated, and their principles applied from necessity and conviction, wherever possibility allows, in the liberal and mechanical arts, as well as all the other concerns of life,-no one can be weak or absurd enough to suppose it is within the ability and province of human genius, without the principles of science previously acquired,-by slight observation only,—to become possessed of the forms, characters, and essences of objects in such a manner as to represent them without truth, force, and pathos at once! No: we are convinced by reason and experience, that “ Life is short, and Art is long," and the perfection of all human productions depends on the indefatigable accumulation of knowledge and labour through a succession of ages.
· The Egyptian arts were in progressive states of improvement, from