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Bel. If the ideas of beauty are instinctive, then of course a thing is beautiful because we like it, because it is agreeable to us, because it corresponds to an instinctive sense of beauty ; and this is the end of the whole matter. Besides, I deny the proposition that “a curve of any kind is more beautiful than a straight line.” A half-circle drawn with the compass is no more beautiful than the line of the diameter. Nothing is more fatiguing or mechanical than an uninterrupted curve. It is the combination of various curves, now flattened so as to be almost quite straight, now swelling, balancing each other, interrupted, and related to each other and to straight lines, which is agreeable in composition and in form. Mal. On the coast of Cornwall the wreckers have the custom, on dark and stormy nights, of tying a lantern to the neck of a bell-wether, and setting him loose on the cliffs. As he moves along, nodding his head up and down, he attracts the notice of sailors and fishermen making for shore, and, taking his wavering lantern for a lighted boat in harbor, they direct their course toward him, expecting thus to make a safe landing, and are lured and wrecked upon the rocks. I must confess I think that artists who take Mr. Ruskin as an absolute and practical guide in art will but too often find him a wandering—however brilliant—light to lure them to danger, and perhaps destruction. And the worst of it is, that he is all the more dangerous as a guide because of his brilliancy. Bel. Let us leave Mr. Ruskin and return to our text. Art, according to you, would be the medium between nature and man —the interfusion of facts with feelings and ideas—and not a mere rescript or imitation of dead nature. Mal. If art be a language, it is plainly the duty of an artist to learn its grammar and structure as thoroughly as he can. Then the question is whether he has anything to say which is original, poetic, or interesting It is scarcely worth while to learn the language if one has nothing but trivial commonplaces to announce by means of it. Where is the use in learning to make rhymes and verses if you have no poetic and inspiring ideas to express The means employed in the various forms of art—in music, painting, sculpture, and poetry—are indeed quite different; but
the end to be attained is the same—to stir and move the heart and mind, to lift it out of commonplace, and to idealize the literal and make it subservient to some grand or beautiful conception of the imagination. In each of the arts there is as great danger of doing too much as of doing too little, or being too literal as in being too vague. In many if not in most cases, a suggestion is better than a statement. Too much literalness of imitation invariably degenerates into dulness and prose, and a hint, suggestion, or touch often does more to stimulate the mind than a careful elaboration. Every great work contains more than its statements. It has a mystery in it that stimulates the mind, and carries it beyond the mere facts into a dreamland of sentiment and feeling. In poetry especially, the poet is often tempted to say too much. The imagination is always ready to supply whatever is suggested, but refuses to be guided and taught its lesson. In a picture, also, there is one thing to be represented in especial to which all else should be subordinated— one main idea to be expressed, and to insist in giving equal value to all that is accessory is a mistake. Besides, it is not true to nature. When the eye is in the centre of the scene, then all is definite, while all else is subordinated and comparatively vague. To give to all the parts equal value and precision, is to draw off the mind from the main object upon which the attention should be fixed. The true artist shows his judgment as well as his imagination in not distracting the eye and the mind by giving the same importance of treatment or the same vividness of representation to the accidental and unneces. sary as to the necessary and essential. Bel. The same observation will apply to the theatre. The actors are obliterated by the gorgeous scenery behind them. The “Tempest” of Shakespeare, for instance, by this treatment becomes a scenic effect, and Prospero and Miranda are merely subordinate figures in a splendid landscape. With a green curtain behind them, the imagination will supply the scene, and the passions of the persons become the all in all, as they should. This is one reason why Shakespeare always produces a vastly greater effect on one who reads any of his plays than on the same person seeing it on the stage. The imagination must be very dull if we need actual facts and properties and scenery to stimulate them. But nowadays we must have a real wreck for Ferdinand ; a real, or apparently real, river for Ophelia to drown in ; a real castle, battlements, and moonlight for Hamlet to meet the ghost upon ; and the poet is reduced to the line of the playwright. The scene-painter gets as much applause as the author. It is like the artist in “Little Peddlington,” with the actual pump and the veritable ax and cow-house. We want illusion, not reality. Mal. The stage has always exercised a great influence on art, as well as art has upon the stage. The Greeks had almost no scenery ; their imaginations were so quick that they did not need it. They did not seek for scenic effects and illusions, but were absorbed in the passions portrayed by the actors in their words and gestures. They had no asides on the stage ; but all was represented, so to speak, in basso-relievo. In like manner the figures in their pictures were in a plane, and had the character of bassorelievo. They had no middle distances, no far off backgrounds, no various incidents, but only foreground figures. They were sparing in effects, and simple and almost sculptural in their arrangements, and concentrated the interest in few figures. On our stage we represent distances and narrow planes with many figures and elaborate backgrounds and scenery, and our historical pictures partake of the effects of the theatre in their groupings and arrangements. We should not be satisfied with the simple and bare effects of the Greek stage. We not only want the play, bat the scenery. Bel. All our art is different from the art of the Greeks; and certainly in one art—that of music—we have left them, so to say, nowhere. The monotony of their music would bore us to death. This is the great art of our century, which has developed a new world. I doubt if they did not surpass us in painting as much as in sculpture ; but unfortunately we have none of their pictures except a few walldecorations, and not one of their wonderful statues except those which are partly decorative—so, at least, I have often heard you say. Mal. It is true. The noble works of the Parthenon, of which only a few defaced and broken statues now remain, are
decorative figures made by unknown artists, and not celebrated by any ancient writer. But if these noble statues were only decorative, and not considered worthy of special notice, what must have been those famous ones which were the wonder of the world, and so extravagantly praised by the critics of antiquity | What must have been the Athena of Phidias, or the Olympian Zeus, which was said to have exalted and enlarged religion itself | What the magnificent works of Praxiteles, Calamis, Polycleitus, Lysippus, Scopas, Alcamenes, Myron, Agoracritus, and the rest All these are lost ; not one remains—unless, perhaps, we may except the group of Hermes and Cupid lately unearthed at Olympia, which is full of feel- . ing, grace, and nature, and which, as it corresponds to the text of Pausanias in subject and place where it was found, may possibly be by Praxiteles. But which Praxiteles—for there were two—if either ? We must be very careful to remember that Pausanias wrote centuries after Praxiteles died ; and all that he can say is that a statue then stood in this place which was called a work of Praxiteles. Well, how many pictures that are called Raphaels, and how many statues that are called Michel Angelos, do we not know that neither Raphael nor Michel Angelo ever saw And we have only Roman copies of the great Greek works. Nay, we even do not know with certainty that even these are copies, or if so, of what they are copies. The Apollo Belvedere itself is a Roman work of about the time of Nero. Bel. How do you know this Mal. First, from its workmanship. It is not in the Greek style—not carré– squared, and flat in its planes, but rounded in its forms, as the Romans worked ; and second, because it is executed in Luna or Carrara marble, which fixes its date—the quarries of Carrara having been first opened about the time of Nero. Bel. Is there, then, so great a difference between the style of workmanship among the Romans and the Greeks Mal. Very great. But it would take too long to explain it here ; and, besides, I doubt if I should make it perfectly intelligible in words after all, though I could easily show you the difference by comparing two statues. All I can say is that the Greek work is, to use two French words which better explain what I mean than
any English ones which I can now think of, carré and arrété—more squared out and decisive in its statements of form. The scientific statement of form is never lost. The treatment is freer, bolder, and based on clearer knowledge and principles. The Roman work is more puffy and rounded, and the muscles are more feebly stated and smoothed away. Compare the Apollo with the Theseus of the Elgin Mar. bles, and you will at once see the difference. Bel. But were not all, or nearly all, the sculptors in Rome Greeks Mal. That is the general opinion, I know ; but I do not agree to it. If they were, they changed their whole style of workmanship. But I see no sufficient reason for any such supposition. Almost all the known names of sculptors in Rome are Greek in their terminations undoubtedly, but this proves nothing. Greece was the land of art and of sculpture, and at one period undoubtedly many came to Rome and practised this profession there —although it does not seem that among these there was a single one of the celebrated sculptors. But Greece could never have supplied artists enough to make the almost incredible number of statues that existed in Rome. They were, as you remember, said to equal in number the inhabitants. One man alone—Emilius Scaurus—had three thousand disposable statues to put into his temporary theatre ; and how many more he had, who knows Now the inhabitants of Rome—not of the urbs or city, but of what was called Rome (the Romans making in this respect the same distinction that is now made between London and the City)—must have been at least four millions; and it is difficult to believe that Greece alone could have furnished artists enough to make them, even if she had sent every sculptor she had to Rome. Bel. Do you place the inhabitants of Rome at so high a figure ? You surprise me. Mr. Merivale, if I remember right, only puts them at some 700,000. Mal. Justus Lipsius, who is a far better authority on this point, has discussed the question in a very elaborate essay, and he estimates the number at four millions. After carefully examining all the data we have, all the statements of the various ancient writers who allude to it, and all the facts which seem to bear on the question,
I am convinced that in estimating the number at four millions, I am rather understating than overstating it. It is much more probable that it was larger than that it was smaller. But if you are interested in the question, I will lend you an essay on it which I wrote years ago, and which will give you the grounds on which my estimate is founded. De Quincey also estimates the inhabitants of Rome at four millions. I will only cite one fact, and then leave this question. The Circus Maximus was constructed to hold 250,000, or, according to Victor, at a later period probably, 385,000 spectators. Taking the smaller number, then, it would be one in sixteen of all the inhabitants if there were four millions. But as one half the population was composed of slaves, who must be struck out of the spectators, when the circus was built there would be accommodation then for one in eight of the total population, excluding slaves. Reducing again the number one half by striking out the women, there would be room for one in four. Again, striking out the young children and the old men and the sick and impotent, you would have accommodation for nearly the whole population. Is it possible to believe that the Romans constructed a circus to hold the entire population of Rome capable of going to it?—for such must have been the case were there only four millions of inhabitants. But suppose there were only a million inhabitants, it is plain from the mere figures that it would never have been possible to half fill the circus. But I will say no more on this subject now, for otherwise we shall spend the whole day on it, and I have already thoroughly discussed it in the paper of which I spoke. Let us now go back to the Roman sculptors. I was saying that I saw no sufficient reason for supposing the sculptors in Rome to be Greeks, although for the most part the names which have come down to us have Greek terminations. I take it that it was the fashion in Rome for sculptors to assume Greek names, just as in our day singers assume Italian names, and for a similar reason. Italy is the land of song and opera; the language is the language of opera; and singers of all nations take Italian terminations to their names—just as Greece, being the land of sculpture originally, and having produced the most renowned sculptors, the Roman sculptors assumed Greek names, and perhaps pretended to be Greeks. Some of them probably, although long domesticated in Rome, also came of Greek ancestry; at all events, we know it was the fashion among dandies and literary men in Rome to talk Greek, and to quote Greek, and put on Greek airs, and to wear Greek dresses; and it is quite probable, therefore, that this affectation extended to sculptors. To such an extent was this carried, that the great Julius Caesar himself, while dying, remonstrated in Greek with his assassins; and Cicero in his “Officiis” recommends the Romans “not to lard their talk with Greek quotations,” though, as far as his own letters are concerned, he greatly sinned against his own precept. Bel. Yes; and I remember Shakespeare, who divined everything, girds at this peculiarity of Cicero in his “Julius Caesar.” Cassius says, “Did Cicero say anything '' and Cassius answers, “Ay, he spoke Greek.” Mal. Well, suppose a thousand years to pass by, and some Australian or South American or Patagonian to be endeavoring to trace the history of music from the records we have—would we not be as much justified in declaring that all the singers of this age were plainly Italians, inasmuch as their very names were evidences of the fact, as we are in declaring all the Roman sculptors to have been Greeks Bel. In like manner in later terms, when Latin was the literary language, most of the writers assumed Latin names, of whatever nation they were—as for instance the old chroniclers, Luitprandus, Frisingius, Ditmarus, Arnulphus, Adelboldus, Rupertus, Adhemarus Ostiensis, Chronographus Saxo, and others. Nay, even in our own day we see the German historian of the middle ages in Rome calling himself Gregorovius, after the old fashion. Mal. It is a curious fact, however, that Rome itself has given us no great names in literature or art. None of the great Latin writers of ancient times in prose or poetry were Romans; and none of the t painters, poets, or writers of the É.i. Among the former, for instance—Virgil was a Mantuan ; Terence a Carthaginian and a slave; Lucan and Sen. eca were Spaniards, and were both born
at Cordova ; Plautus was an Umbrian ; the elder Pliny came from Verona, and the younger was born at Como: Cicero was born at Arpinum, in the Abruzzi: Sallust was a Sabine, and came from Amiternum ; Catullus came from Verona ; Propertius was an Umbrian ; Tibullus came from Pedum, in the Sabine hills; Juvenal probably was born at Aquinum, though the exact place of his birth is not known ; Martial was a Spaniard from Bilbilis ; Persius was an Etrurian from Volterra; Livy came from Padua, where he was born and died; Cornelius Nepos was a Veronese ; Ovid was born at Sulmo, in the country of the Peligni; Horace was an Apulian from Venusia; Phaedrus was a Thracian or Macedonian ; Strabo came from Amasia, in Pontus ; Julius Columella from Cadiz ; Quinctilian from Calagurris, in Spain; Apuleius from Madaura, in Africa; Ausonius from Bordeaux; Statius from Naples; Valerius Flaccus from Padua; Fronto from Numidia. Bel. This is very remarkable, but you have left out in your list Tacitus, Lucretius, and Suetonius. Mal. I shall have to give up Lucretius, and also Varro. These were both born at Rome, and in the whole range of authors these are the only exceptions. As for Tacitus, the time and the place of his birth are unknown, as well as the time of his death, so we can say nothing about him. If he were a Roman he was an exception, as you see, to the general rule, and there is no reason to suppose he was. So also the birthplace of Suetonius is unknown. Rome has therefore no great name among authors to beast of in the ancient days, with the exception of Julius Caesar, Lucretius, and Varro. The same observation holds good of the time of the Renaissance. All the great painters, and sculptors, and poets, and historians, and essayists came from other places—principally from Venetia, from Umbria, from Tuscany, from Naples. I cannot recall a single one who was born in Rome, unless, perhaps, Julio Romano. Dante, Petrarca, Ariosto, Pulci, Tasso, Macchiavelli, Muratori, Boccaccio, Michel Angelo, Titian, Correggio, Veronese, Palma, Da Vinci, Giotto, Massaccio, Lippi—in a word, all the great men who illustrate the literature and art of Italy—were born out of Rome. The Eternal City can show “no single volume paramount”—no master spirit.
Bel. Ah but you cannot make good all your quotation. You cannot say, “No single volume paramount—no code.” There at least the Romans were great—in their laws and their science of government. The Roman code is the basis of all our law. Mal. I am not so sure even of that. The Institutes, Digests, Code, and Novellae—that is, the whole Corpus Juris Civilis—was indeed compiled under the order of Justinian, then emperor of Constantinople. But he was not born in Rome, and we have no knowledge that on the commission of jurists to whom the compilation of this great work was confided there was a single Roman. There may have been, but there is no proof, nor even probability, that there was. So, too, the Theodosian Codex was compiled in the east in the reign of Theodosius, called the Great, and he was not a Roman. We do not even know that Gaius, the great Roman jurist, whose “Institutiones” were the text-book of the Roman law before the Institutes of Justinian, was a Roman by birth. Besides, the law was not a science, and scarcely a system, in the time of Cicero, and the advocate founded his cases more upon appeals to the passions and prejudices of his jurors than on strictly legal arguments. Cicero, in one of his speeches, casts a slur upon the condition of the law in his day, and says, “Occupied as I am, I could yet make myself sufficient of a lawyer in three days.” In trials of state criminals the jury selected from the senators were judges as well of law as of fact, and the presiding magistrate was scarcely more than the curule chairman, without any power of decision. Bel. You must add to the list of Romans the name of Marcus Aurelius, who was certainly born in Rome. Mal. How could I have omitted him Yes, truly his name does make up for a great deal. I know nothing nobler in spirit than his “Meditations,” though perhaps his name could not properly come in among the great authors of Rome. He was the purest and noblest character that ever wore the purple, and one of the purest and noblest spirits that ever lived. It is not the literary merit of his book, however, that gives it value. It was but a private journal, and not a book intended for the public, and I was rather thinking of authors who wrote for the world.
Bel. Well, at all events you will admit that the great artists in Greece were Greeks, and that Athens was not as poor in native artists as Rome. Mal. That depends on what you mean by Greeks. Many of them certainly were not Greeks proper, and very few Athenians. Polygnotus, for instance, was a Thracian by birth, and came from Thaos, and his Athenian citizenship was only conferred upon him on account of his distinction. Zeuxis, again, was a Macedonian from Heraclea ; Parrhassius was an Ephesian from Asia Minor; Pamphelus was also a Macedonian from Amphipolis. Bel. Who was Pamphelus His name is not familiar to me among the great Greek painters. Mal. Still he was a very distinguished man, and of great repute in his country— a Greek Leonardo da Vinci, skilled in mathematics, geometry, various branches of science, and painting in all its methods, of wax, encaustic, etc. He was the master, among others, of Apelles, Melanthius, and Pausias, and it was through his influence that the arts of Greece were greatly developed. He had a school of art, in which the course of study occupied ten years, and his entrance fee was a talent, which the scholar was obliged to pay whether he pursued the whole course or not. But to go on with the Greek artists who were not Greeks, we must add the great name of Apelles, who was born in Asia Minor, though at what precise place is not agreed upon. Suidas refers his birth to Colophon, but Pliny to Cos. The Apelles to whom Lucian refers as an Ephesian is probably another person : whatever he was, however, he was not a Greek proper. Dionysius was also a native of Colophon ; Athenion was a Thracian from Maurea; Autophilus an Egyptian ; and Protogenes, either a Carian from Caunus, or, according to Suidas, a Lycian from Xanthus, Bel. Were there none of the great painters of antiquity who were Greeks proper ? —none who were Athenians ? Mal. A few. Timanthes was a Greek from Sicyon ; so was Eupompus, I believe. Apollodorus, Nicias, and Panoenus (the nephew of Phidias) were Athenians; but I recall no one else among the painters. Yes, I do. Nicomachus and Aristides were both Boeotians from Thebes. As for the sculptors—