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riety of forms, and on the most magnificent scale; in that country, therefore, the young landscape painter has the best chance of seizing the most sublime ideas : but Italy is the best school for the history painter, not only on account of its being enriched with the works of the greatest masters, and the noblest models of antique sculpture; but also on account of the fine expressive style of the Italian countenance. Here
have few or none of those fair, fat, glistening, unmeaning faces, so common in the more northern parts of Europe. I happened once to sit by a foreigner of my acquaintance at the opera in the Hay, market, when a certain nobleman, who at that time was a good deal talked of, entered. I whispered him,- That is Lord Not surely the famous Lord 'said
-, he. « Yes,' said I, the very same.' "
It must be acknowledged then,' continued he,' that the noble earl does infinite honour to those who have had the care of his education. How so ?' rejoined I. • Because,' replied
' • the foreigner, a countenance so completely vacant, strongly indicates a deficiency of natural abilities ; the respectable figure he makes in the senate, I therefore presume must be entirely owing to instruction.'
Strangers, on their arrival at Rome, form no high idea of the beauty of the Roman women, from the specimens they see in the fashionable circles to which they are first introduced. There are some exceptions ; but in general it must be acknowledged, that the present race of women of high rank, are more distinguished by their other ornaments, than by their beauty. Among the citizens, however, and in the lower classes, you frequently meet with the most beautiful countenances. For a brilliant red and white, and all the charms of complexion, no wo. men are equal to the English. If a hundred, or any greater number, of English women were taken at random, and compared with the same number of the wives and daughters of the citizens of Rome, I am convinced, that ninety of the English would be found handsomer Lhan ninety of the Romans; but the probability is, that
two or three in the hundred Italians, would have finer countenances than any of the English. English beauty is more remarkable in the country, than in towns; the peasantry of no country in Europe can stand a comparison, in point of looks, with those of England. That race of people have the conveniences of life in no other country in such perfection ; they are no where so well fed, so well defended from the injuries of the seasons ; and no where else do they keep themselves so perfectly clean, and free from all the vilifying effects of dirt. The English country girls, taken collectively, are, unquestionably, the handsomest in the world. The female peasants of most other countries, indeed, are so hard worked, so ill fed, so much tanned by the sun, and so dirty, that it is difficult to know whether they have any beauty or not. Yet I have been informed, by some amateurs, since I came here, that, in spite of all these disadvantages, they sometimes find, among the Italian peasantry, countenan, ces highly interesting, and which they prefer to all the cherry cheeksof Lancashire.
Beauty, doubtless, is infinitely varied; and, happily for mankind, their tastes and opinions, on the subject, are equally various. Notwithstanding this variety, how. ever, a style of face, in some measure peculiar to its own inhabitants, has been found to prevail in each different nation of Europe. This peculiar countenance is again greatly varied, and marked with every degree of discrimination between the extremes of beauty and ugliness. I will give you a sketch of the general style of the most beautiful female heads in this country, from which may judge whether they are to your taste or not.
A great profusion of dark hair, which seems to encroach upon the forehead, rendering it short and narrow; the nose generally either aquiline, or continued in a straight line from the lower part of the brow; a full and short upper lip: by the way, nothing has a worse effect on a countenance, than a large interval between the nose and mouth; the eyes are large, and of a sparkling black
The black eye certainly labours under one disadvantage, which is, that, from the iris and pupil being of the same colour, the contraction and dilitation of the latter is not seen, by which the eye is abridged of half its powers. Yet the Italian eye is wonderfully expressive ; some people think it says too much. The complexion, for the most part, is of a clear brown, sometimes fair, but very seldom florid, or of that bright fairness which is common in England and Saxony. It must be owned, that those features which have a fine expression of sentiment and meaning in youth, are more apt, than less expressive faces, to become soon strong and masculine. In England and Germany, the women, a little advanced in life, retain the appearance of youth longer than in Italy.
With countenances so favourable for the pencil, you will naturally imagine, that portrait painting is in the highest perfection here. The reverse, however, of this is true; that branch of the art is in the lowest estimation all over Italy. In palaces, the best furnished with pictures, you seldom see a portrait of the proprietor, or any of his family. A quarter length of the reigning pope is sometimes the only portrait, of a living person, to be seen in the whole palace. Several of the Roman princes affect to have a room of state, or audience chamber, in which is a raised seat like a throne, with a canopy over it. In those rooms the effigies of the pontiffs are hung; they are the work of very inferior artists, and seldom cost above three or four sequins. As soon as his holiness de parts this life, the portrait disappears, and the face of his successor is in due time hung up in its stead. This, you will say, is treating their old sovereign a little un. kindly, and paying no very expensive compliment to the new; it is not so economical, however, as what was praca tised by a certain person. I shall not inform you whether he was a Frenchman or an Englishman, but he cerLainly was a courtier, and professed the highest possible regard for all living monarchs; but considered them as no better than any other piece of clay when dead. He
had a full length picture of his own sovereign in the principal room of his house; on his majesty's death, to save himself the expense of a fresh body, and a new suit of ermine, he employed a painter to brush out the face and periwig, and clap the new king's head on his grandfather's shoulders; which, he declared, were in the most perfect preservation, and fully able to wear out three or four such heads as painters usually give in these degenerate days.
The Italians, in general, very seldom take the trouble of sitting for their pictures. They consider a portrait as a piece of painting, which engages the admiration of nobody but the person it represents, or the painter who drew it. Those who are in circumstances to pay the best artists, generally employ them in some subject more universally interesting, than the representation of human countenances staring out of a piece of canvass.
Pompeio Battoni is the best Italian painter now at Rome. His taste and genius led him to history painting, and his reputation was originally acquired in that line; but by far the greater part of his fortune, whatever that may be, has flowed through a different channel. His chief employment, for many years past, has been painting the portraits of the young English, and other strangers of fortune, who visit Rome. There are artists in England, superior in this, and every other branch of painting, to Battoni. They, like him, are seduced from the free walks of genius, and chained, by interest, to the servile drudgery of copying faces. Beauty is worthy of the most delicate pencil ; but, gracious heaven! why should every periwig-pated fellow, without countenance or character, insist on seeing his chubby cheeks on canvass?
• Could you not give a little expression to that countenance ?" said a gentleman to an eminent English painter, who showed him a portrait which he had just finished. . I made that attempt already,' replied the painter ; " but what the picture gained in expression, it lost in likeness; and by the time there was a little common sense in the
countenance, nobody knew for whom it was intended. I was obliged, therefore, to make an entire new picture, with the face perfectly like, and perfectly meaningless, as
you see it.'
Let the colours for ever remain, which record the last fainting efforts of Chatham ; the expiring triumph of Wolf; or the indecision of Garrick, equally allured by the two contending muses! But let them perish and fly from the canvass, which blind self-love spreads for insipidity and ugliness! Why should posterity know, that the first genius of the age, and those whose pencils were formed to speak to the heart, and delineate beauteous nature, were chiefly employed in copying faces ? and many of them, faces that imitate humanity so abominably, that, to use Hamlet's expression, they seem not the genuine work of nature, but of nature's journeymen.
To this ridiculous self-love, equally prevalent among the great vulgar and small, some of the best painters in France, Germany, and Great Britain, are obliged for their subsistence. This creates a suspicion, that a taste for the real beauties of painting, is not quite so universal, as a sensibility to their own personal beauties, among the individuals of these countries. And nothing can be a stronger proof of the important light in which men appear in their own eyes, and their small importance in those of others, than the different treatment which the generality of portraits receive, during the life, and after the death, of their constituents. During the first of these periods, they inhabit the finest apartments of the houses to which they belong; they are flattered by the guests, and always viewed with an eye of complacency by the landlord.
But, after the commencement of the second, they begin to be neglected ; in a short time are ignominiously thrust up to the garret; and, to fill up the measure of their affliction, they finally are thrown out of doors, in the most barbar. ous manner, without distinction of rank, age, or sex. Those of former times are scattered, like Jews, with their long beards and brown complexions, all over the face of