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it. And, as to drawing, in which he has been thought by some to be deficient, who have dwelt too much on a few negligences, owing merely to the rapidity of his pencil-in drawing, or designing, he seems as much superior as in any of the other essentials, especially after some allowance made for the style of his first manner, which kind of allowance, or indulgence, is never refused to any other master, not even to Raphael, who stands in as much need of it to the full, as Rubens. His best works discover great knowledge of anatomy, a correctness of outline, a certain truth of character, an ease of action or motion, a force and spirit beyond what is to be seen in any other pictures whatsoever; and such an apparent facility in the execution, as at once convinces the spectator of the readiness of his apprehension, and the certainty of his principles.
When his anatonical knowledge is mentioned, he will probably be compared with Michael Angelo, who is gene rally allowed the most knowing of all in this part. Michael Angelo, it is true, has marked the muscles in their places, perhaps, with the greatest justness, but Rubens, only, seems to have known their use, and the different appearances they exhibit in action and at rest; insoinych that one sees their energy collected (as it were.) to a point; in cere tain movements; and hence it follows, that his figures apa pear more animated than those of other painters. Mans og their laboured figures seem motionless, though Hitended to represent immediate action.
To confirm and corroborate these observations on the genius, penetration, and spirit of Rubens; it may be added, that he alone has succeeded in subjects that require the most quick and lively conceptions, and where nothing more could be obtained of the originals than what could be caught by the glance of an eye; such as animals of every kind, and particularly the most savage, wild, and indocile. He alone has represented lions, tigers, &c. in all their various
passions and actions, and as correctly as if they had waited the execution of his pencil, so perfectly has he been able to seize and to retain the idea; whereas, with many other painters of no small note, the representations of animals, compared with his, appear little better than such as are to be seen in the compartments of heraldry.
It has been objected, that his figures are too short and too fleshy, that is, too much of the Flemish cast. This is justly observed with respect to many of his pictures, especially of his first manner, as above noticed ; but then it must also be acknowiedged, that, in niany others, his lat
ter pictures, he has avoided this fault, and produced as elegant and delicate figures as any painter whatever. Hig skill and judgment ought to be rated by his best productions, and, if so, perhaps upon the whole, when all his talents are taken into the account, he may, at least, be said to be one of the greatest painters whose works remain.
Page 23. Mr. Webb says, “ I should not be so particular in tracing the origin of sculpture, and, consequently, of painting, to this æra, where it not that Pliny confidently affirms, that the latter did not exist in those times," &c. which is very probable.
Page 51, 52. “ There is no one excellence of design, &c.--What follows, to the end of this paragraph, is very judicious, particularly where the author reinarks, “ that careless decency, and unaffected grace, which ever attend the motions and gestures of men unconscious of observation."
Page 86. “Can paint express a quickening perspiration The mellowest tints of the Venetian school furnish no such ideas.”-No-but the spectator furnishes them to himself. How often have we heard a man of a warm imagination, though of sense and genius, pretend to see excellencies in pictures which the painter never intended ? Nothing is more common than for such to find all the delicacies of expression which they conceive should be attempted, and impute to an artist (especially if otherwise celebrated) not only the utmost perfection, but often what is not within the compass of the art ? Many reflections of this kind may be made in reading Pliny, who, at other times also, discovers great ignorance in the observations that escape him, particularly where he remarks of a certain painter, that he was the first who, in a portrait, drew the eyes with so peculiar a skill, that they seemed to follow the spectator as he changed his place, and still to look at him ; whereas this effect is constant, and impossible to be otherwise. The inost ignorant painter does the same thing without intention; and the most skilful can never represent the eyes looking at the spectator, standing in any one place, but they will also appear to have the same direction to him standing in any other The cause of this effect it is plain he did not know. It is, that the direction of the eyes towards the spectator, remains the same in whatsoever place he stands, for that direction, or turn, of the pupil, bears still the same relation to the position of each feature, and to all the parts of the face, which being on a plane, suffer no apparent change; and it is on this relation that the whole depends; whereas, in a living face, or statue, that relation is continually changing with every change of place of the spectator.
Pag. 94. "Rubens has painted in imitation of the rainbow; all the colours co-operate; the effect is good, but accidental; but in Titian and Corregio this arrangement is the result of science; it is a harmony which springs from a judicious and happy union of consenting colours.”_It seems very unjust, when the effect is allowed to be produced, to call in question the judgment that produced it. Why must that be pronounced accidental in Rubens, which is esteemed the result of science in Titian and Corregio? As no distinction is made, no reason giren, none can be surmised but the prejudice of connoisseurship, since the author seems determined to depreciate Rubens and the Flemish school, in order to exalt Corregio, Titian, and other Italians*. -Can any gooil thing come out of Gallilee?
Page 151. Speaking of Raphael, Mr. Webb says, “The most unpicturesque action composed by him, seems to have been destined for paint," &c. Here, and elsewhere, such l'avish encomiums seem without reason or truth. How contradictory to the above observation are several representations of this painter! particularly that in which Joseph is re.. lating his dreams to his brethren. This picture would exhibit nothing more than a youth speaking to a number of auditors, the subject remaining utterly unknown, had he not, to explain it, drawn two circles in the sky, in one of which eleven sheaves are bowing to a twelfth in the midst; and in the other circle, the sun and moon making obeisance, &c. Without this expedient, which is surely very unpicturesque, the story could not have been told. Surely the author will not say, that this action seems to have been destined for paint. These are subjects not fit for the pencil, and which only can be related, particularly where there is a succession of circumstances. On the contrary, where the principal incidents are crowded into a moment, and are, as it were, instantaneous, there is room for the display of the painter's skill.
Such, for instance, as Alexander taking the potion from the hand of his suspected physician Philip, who knows not that he is suspected; Alexander giving to Philip the letter of acausation at the same time that he is swallowing the
* This remark is by a Lady..,
draught; the astonishment and indignation of Philip. at reading it; bis admiration of the generosity and confidence of Alexander; and the amazement of the attendants, &c. All these circumstances subsist in the same moment.
The choice of subject is of as much consequence in painting, as the choice of fable in an Epic poem. Such a story is better and more emphatically told in picture than in words, because the circumstances that happen at the same time, must, in narration, be successive. 3. Page 158. Of the Laocoon, he says admirably, “We trace in it the labour of years, we feel from it the impression of a minute." His whole description is judicious, striking, and expressive, and he had one of the finest productions of antiquity to describe. But he adds, p. 159, “ It is not probable that men of taste and letters, while they were eye-witnesses, &c. should celebrate those very qualities in the works of their painters, were they not eminently possessed of them.” Here, however, is great room for disa tinction. Statuary is a much more obvious art than painting, and rose much earlier to perfection, though if it be allowed that the painters drew as correctly, and expressed the passions as justly as the sculptors, by lines only, (which, it is supposed, was the practice for a long time before the effects of fight and shadow were known) tais will be but a small adyance in the art of painting. The famous story of Apelles and Protogenes, as related by Pliny, gives no very advantageous idea of the progress they had made; the most that can be drawn from it is, that Apelles excelled in the correctness or in the beauty of the outline, and by that Protogenes is said to have discovered him. Now every step beyond this, in the infancy of an art so complicated, must surprise; and the encomiums bestowed on those who introduced shadowing and colouring, especially with any degree of roundness or projection, may be admitted as just for the time; but to produce all the effects of colouring, as described under the article of Rubens, required the experience of more than an age. Rubens, it is true, had all the materials before him, besides the works of his predecessors, without which the progress he made would have been impossible, even with his genius.
And, indeed, it appears from Pliny, that many of those circumstances related as wonderful effects of this art, must have been then new to the beholders by their admiration) though they are generally very trifling, and such as modern artists easily execute. But this is said not to depreciate the genius or skill of the ancient artists, (who might not
withstanding, be equal or superior to any moderns) but merely to shew the small advance this slow-paced art then made.
It is not at all improbable, that among the most unlettered and barbarous people, attempts may have been made in statuary, either by cutting in wood, or forming in clay, or wax, or otherwise, where, perhaps, it has never entered their heads to attempt raising the image of any object, on a flat superficies, by means of light, and shade, and colour. The one presents itself readily to the imagination, while the other is never thought of, or thought impracticable. .
But if, besides the knowledge of the effects of light in all possible directions, of shadows, and reflections, of both light and shadow, in the several degrees of distance (which may be called the aerial perspective) of preserving the same tints of colouring in all these degrees of light, shade, and reflection ; if to these be added the true linear perspective, all which are essentials of the art, and with which statuary has nothing to do; if these things are considered, it will not be thought strange that painting should require much more time, study, and experience to arrive at perfection, than so sinple and uncomplicated an art as statuary; and that a small progress in the one, should excite an equal admiration and praise with the greatest in the other (especially if at the same time the outline of the picture be as correct as that of the statue) and though these circumstances superadded in painting, be but in a moderate degree of perfection, they might, at that time, seem to be all that art was capable of producing, to those who had never yet seen more produced. And thus we may, in some measure, account for the testimonies transmitted down to us of the works of the ancient painters, who might, notwithstanding, be far inferior to many modern artists, though with 'equal, or perhaps sų.. perior natural talents.
As a case in point, we see what painting the Chinese produce, though esteemed a learned and polite people, and who have long cultivated this and other arts; at the same time that they are no bad statuaries, at least in portraits, several of which we have seen that were modelled from the life, as like as could be done by any European statuary ; which is an ocular proof how much more easy one is than the other.
Page 180. The author's encomium on Raphael, in relation to the cripple healed by Paul and Barnabas, is very judicious. He says truly, “That the wit of man could not devise means more certain of the end proposed; such a