Page images
PDF
EPUB

DI A L OG U E VI.

Of the CLEAR OBSCU R E.

A [0]Jam persuaded, that notwithstand

ing all the pains you have taken, to form a juft idea of the Clear obscure, from the writings of Vafari, Felibian, and the reft, you will agree with me, that you have more satisfaction in this matter, from a single glance at a picture of Correggio, than from all you have ever read on that subject. Whether this proceeds from a want of knowledge in those writers, or our ignorance of the mechanic of the art, which they are fo apt to confound with the ideal,

[C] Tandem fefe ars ipfa diftinxit, et invenit lumen atque umbras, differentiâ colorum alterna vice fese excitante. Plin. lib. XXXV. 6. 5

I shall

I shall not take upon me to determine : But, certain it is, had we not before our eyes the examples to which they refer us, we should be often at a loss for their meaning. Now, in treating of the Clear obscure of the ancients, we have neither the works [P] nor writings of their painters to guide us. Happily, their claslic authors, men of parts and erudition, were universally adınirers of this art. Hence their frequent allusions to it; their metaphors borrowed from it; with the descriptions of particular paintings, and their effects. In these last we cannot be deceived'; like effects, in picture, as in nature, muft .proceed from uniform causes : And when we find these to correspond exactly with our own observations on the works of the moderns, this analogy leads us into a certainty, as to the similitude of the means by which they were produced.

[2] I do not mention in this place the paintings found at Herculaneum, because I cannot look on them as of a class to reft on them the merits of the ancient artists. There are beauties, it is true, scattered through. out them ; but, they are the beauties morientis artis, of an art in its decline ; such as Pliny describes it to

have been in his time; when, as he feelingly laments, there was n ulla nibilis pietura.

B. SUCH inferences as these, when they are natural and unforced, are more conclu. five than positive affertions; for we are more apt to be deceived by authority, than by the reason of things.

A. [9] “ LONGINUS observes, that, if we “ place in parallel lines, on the fame plane,

a bright and an obscure colour, the for“ mer springs forward, and appears much “ nearer to the eye." Hence we may remark, that when painters would give a pro

(2) Em Tov avlov teipe WW etoridev magatinhas w Xpan μαζι της σαιας τι και φωλος, όμως φρουταλλα τε το φως ταις osob, tas av person ifoxov, adne ras orgulega waga well Pasilas. Longinus, lect. avü.

jection to any part of a figure, as the breasts of a virgin, and the like, they throw its extremities into shade ; that these retiring from the eye, the intermediate parts may have their juft relief. From this simple law of nature, springs all the magic of the Clear obscure ; not only parts are distinguished, but intire figures are decached from their fond; seem surrounded by air ; and meet the imagination with all the energy of life. Thus Philostratus prettily deseribes the picture of a Venus : “[] The “ goddess will not seem to be painted, but " springs from the canvass, as if she would “ be pursued." The same writer tells us, that Zeuxis, Polygnotus, and Euphranor, were, above all things, [s] attentive, ro fasade happily, and animate their figures ;

[] Οι βουλέλαι γεγραφθαι δοκιιν η θεος, εκκελα, δε οια rabatai. De pictura Veneris, lib. ii. p. 810. [0] Το ευσειον ησπασανίο, και ευπνουν, και το εισιχον της In vita Apollonii, lib. ii. p. 72.

[ocr errors]

1

by which he insinuates, that animation, or the soul of painting, owes its being to ą. just conduct of lights and shades: And hence it was, no doubt, that the paintings of Parrhasius were termed * realities; they: being possessed of such a force of Clear obfcure, as to be no longer the imitacions of, things, but the things themselves : Agreeable to this, is the observation of an ancient writer, " That in painting, [t] the contour,

of the illumined part, should be blended “ with and lost in the shade ; for on this, joined to the advantage of colouring, de

pend animation, tenderness, and the fimilitude to truth."

• Ados.

[t] Δει ταν σκιαν και ταν γραμμαν παρεμφαινεσθαι επι της γραφεος. Το γαρ εμψυχον και το απαλον, και το μεμιμης μενον την αληθειαν, συν τη χρησιοτηι των χρωμάτων, μαλιστα γινεται δια τούτων, Theages Pythagoricus apud Stob um.

B. Ovid

« PreviousContinue »