Page images

culty can there be in distinguishing, whether the airs of the heads be mean or noble; the style of design, confina ed, charged, or elegant; whether the proportions be just or unequal; the carnations, cold or animated? If the colours in a picture be happily difposed, the general effect will be pleafing; and in proportion to the force of the clear obscure, the figures and objects will be flat or projecting, or, in other words, more or less like nature. If we consider these points without prejudice, it will, I think, appear, that of all the arts, Painting is the most natural both in its means and effects. It is the most direct and immediate address to the senses: and this must be the reason, that the best writers of antiquity, in treating of other arts, so frequently borrow their exam ples and illustrations from this. When I thus make light of the difficulties of Painting, I must be understood to speak of its effects, not of the practice; and yet, even as to this, there are ten painters who have excelled in the mechanick part,


for one who has excelled in the ideal. So that the scarcity of good pictures, arises not from a difficulty of execution, but from a poverty of invention. Hence it is, that painters of an inferior class, have, in their happier hours, struck out some excellent pictures; and some again are seldom successful, except when they work on the ideas of others: Andrea Sacchi is an example of the first, and Dominichino of the second. But I am straying from the design of this Preface, which was, to point out to the younger part of my


readers those errors, which tend most to defeat their knowledge of Painting. I have already named two, the third is, the hafty ambition of distinguishing the several masters. With

many, this precedes and often holds the place of all other knowledge; and yet, I will venture to affirm, that where this does not spring from a nice discernment of the beauties or imperfections of the picture before us, and those too turning chiefly on the composition and expressions, it is an idle art, more useful to a picture-merchant, than becoming a man of taste. It cannot be denied, that a fameness of manner in


treating various subjects, is a weakness ; it is a want of variety, bo:h in the mechanick, and ideal : Yet it is by this very weakness, or some insignificant particularities in the colouring, shading, attitudes, or draperies, that we so readily distinguish the several hands. It may be a check on this affectation, to observe, that ainong

the infinity of painters, there are not, perhaps, a dozen, who are worth studying: It is not by little circumstances, that we know a Raphael or Correggio: Their superior talents are their distinctions. Women of ordinary forms, are marked by the jewels on their necks, or the colours of their clothes; but a Dís of G-n is singled out by a preeminence in beauty. There is a fourth error which I would fain descredit,

and then I shall have done with this unpleasing task: I have observed many to look at pictures, with no other view, than to fhew their accuteness in detecting little errors in drawing, or lapses of the pencil; these do not ftudy Painting to become knowing, but to appear fo. But let them reflect, that there is more true taste, in drawing forth one latent beauty, than in observing a hundred obvious imperfections : The first proves, that our spirit co-operates with that of the artist; the second shews nothing more, than, that we have eyes, and that we use them to very little purpose. If these errors appear in the same light to my reader, that they do to me, he will see the necessity there was, for some better plan than that which


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »