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THE Judgment of Hercules - Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, vol. 3 
Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, ed. Douglas den Uyl (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001). 3 vols. Vol. 3.
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THE Judgment of Hercules
BEFORE we enter on the Examination of our Historical Sketch, it may be proper to remark, that by the word Tablature (for which we have yet no name in English, besides the general one of Picture) we denote, according to the original word Tabula, a Work not only distinct from a mere Portraiture, but from all those wilder sorts of Painting which are in a manner absolute, and independent; such as the Paintings in Fresco upon the Walls, the Cielings, the Stair-Cases, the Cupolo’s, and other remarkable Places either of Churches or Palaces.
(2.) Accordingly we are to understand, that it is not merely the Shape or Dimension of a Cloth, or Board, which denominates the Piece or Tablature; since a Work of this kind may be compos’d of any colour’d Substance, as it may of any Form; whether square, oval or round. But ’tis then that in Painting we may give to any particular Work the Name of Tablature, when the Work is in reality “a Single Piece, comprehended in one View, and form’d according to one single Intelligence, Meaning, or Design; which constitutes a realWhole, by a mutual and necessary Relation of its Parts, the same as of the Members in a natural Body.” So that one may say of a Picture compos’d of any number of Figures differently rang’d, and without any regard to this Correspondency or Union describ’d, That it is no more a real Piece or Tablature, than a Picture wou’d be a Man’s Picture, or proper Portraiture, which represented on the same Cloth, in different places, the Legs, Arms, Nose, and Eyes of such a Person, without adjusting them according to the true Proportion, Air, and Character which belong’d to him.
(3.) This Regulation has place even in the inferior degrees of Painting; since the mere Flower-Painter is, we see, oblig’d to study the Form of Festons, and to make use of a peculiar Order, or Architecture of Vases, Jars, Cannisters, Pedestals, and other Inventions, which serve as Machines, to frame a certain proportionate Assemblage, or united Mass; according to the Rules of Perspective; and with regard as well to the different shapes and sizes of his several Flowers, as to the harmony of Colours resulting from the whole: this being the only thing capable of rendering his Work worthy the name of a Composition or real Piece.
(4.) So much the more, therefore, is this Regulation applicable to History-Painting, where not only Men, but Manners, and human Passions are represented. Here the Unity of Design must with more particular exactness be preserv’d, according to the just Rules of poetick Art; that in the Representation of any Event, or remarkable Fact, the Probability, or seeming Truth, which is the real Truth of Art, may with the highest advantage be supported and advanc’d: as we shall better understand in the Argument which follows on the historical Tablature of The Judgment ofHercules; who being young, and retir’d to a solitary place in order to deliberate on the Choice he was to make of the different ways of Life, was accosted (as our Historian relates) by the two Goddesses, Virtue and Pleasure. ’Tis on the issue of the Controversy between these Two, that the Character of Hercules depends. So that we may naturally give to this Piece and History, as well the Title of The Education, as the Choice or Judgment ofHercules.
Chap. 1.CHAPTER I
Of the general Constitution or Ordonnance of the Tablature
THIS Fable or History may be variously represented, according to the Order of Time:
Either in the instant when the two Goddesses, Virtue and Pleasure, accost Hercules;
Or when they are enter’d on their Dispute;
Or when their Dispute is already far advanc’d, and Virtue seems to gain her Cause.
(2.) According to the first Notion, Hercules must of necessity seem surpriz’d on the first appearance of such miraculous Forms. He admires, he contemplates; but is not yet ingag’d or interested. According to the second Notion, he is interested, divided, and in doubt. According to the third, he is wrought, agitated, and torn by contrary Passions. ’Tis the last Effort of the vitious one, striving for possession over him. He agonizes, and with all his Strength of Reason endeavours to overcome himself:
And the spirit is overwhelmed by reason, and it struggles to be conquered.1
(3.) Of these different Periods of Time, the latter has been chosen; as being the only one of the three, which can well serve to express the grand Event, or consequent Resolution of Hercules, and the Choice he actually made of a Life full of Toil and Hardship, under the conduct of Virtue, for the deliverance of Mankind from Tyranny and Oppression. And ’tis to such a Piece, or Tablature, as represents this Issue of the Balance, in our pondering Hero, that we may justly give the Title of the Decision or Judgment ofHercules.
(4.) The same History may be represented yet according to a fourth Date or Period: as at the time when Hercules is intirely won by Virtue. But then the signs of this resolute Determination reigning absolutely in the Attitude, and Air of our young Hero; there wou’d be no room left to represent his Agony, or inward Conflict, which indeed makes the principal Action here; as it wou’d do in a Poem, were this Subject to be treated by a good Poet. Nor wou’d there be any more room left in this case, either for the persuasive Rhetorick of Virtue, who must have already ended her Discourse, or for the insinuating Address of Pleasure, who having lost her Cause, must necessarily appear displeas’d, or out of humour: a Circumstance which wou’d no way sute her Character.
(5.) In the original Story or Fable of this Adventure of our young Hercules, ’tis particularly noted, that Pleasure, advancing hastily before Virtue, began her Plea, and was heard with prevention; as being first in turn. And as this Fable is wholly philosophical and moral, this Circumstance in particular is to be consider’d as essential.
(6.) In this third Period therefore of our History (dividing it, as we have done, into four successive Dates or Points of Time) Hercules being Auditor, and attentive, speaks not. Pleasure has spoken. Virtue is still speaking. She is about the middle, or towards the end of her Discourse; in the place where, according to just Rhetorick, the highest Tone of Voice and strongest Action are employ’d.
(7.) ’Tis evident, that every Master in Painting, when he has made choice of the determinate Date or Point of Time, according to which he wou’d represent his History, is afterwards debar’d the taking advantage from any other Action than what is immediately present, and belonging to that single Instant he describes. For if he passes the present only for a moment, he may as well pass it for many years. And by this reckoning he may with as good right repeat the same Figure several times over, and in one and the same Picture represent Hercules in his Cradle, struggling with the Serpents; and the same Hercules of full Age, fighting with the Hydra, with Anteus, and with Cerberus: which wou’d prove a mere confus’d Heap, or Knot of Pieces, and not a single intire Piece, or Tablature, of the historical kind.
(8.) It may however be allowable, on some occasions, to make use of certain enigmatical or emblematical Devises, to represent a future Time: as when Hercules, yet a mere Boy, is seen holding a small Club, or wearing the Skin of a young Lion. For so we often find him in the best Antiques. And tho History had never related of Hercules, that being yet very young, he kill’d a Lion with his own hand; this Representation of him wou’d nevertheless be intirely conformable to poetick Truth; which not only admits, but necessarily presupposes Prophecy or Prognostication, with regard to the Actions, and Lives of Heroes and Great Men. Besides that as to our Subject, in particular, the natural Genius of Hercules, even in his tenderest Youth, might alone answer for his handling such Arms as these, and bearing, as it were in play, these early tokens of the future Hero.
(9.) To preserve therefore a just Conformity with historical Truth, and with the Unity of Time and Action, there remains no other way by which we can possibly give a hint of any thing future, or call to mind any thing past, than by setting in view such Passages or Events as have actually subsisted, or according to Nature might well subsist, or happen together in one and the same instant. And this is what we may properly call The Rule of Consistency.
(10.) How is it therefore possible, says one, to express a Change of Passion in any Subject, since this Change is made by Succession; and that in this case the Passion which is understood as present, will require a Disposition of Body and Features wholly different from the Passion which is over, and past? To this we answer, That notwithstanding the Ascendency or Reign of the principal and immediate Passion, the Artist has power to leave still in his Subject the Tracts or Footsteps of its Predecessor: so as to let us behold not only a rising Passion together with a declining one; but, what is more, a strong and determinate Passion, with its contrary already discharg’d and banish’d. As for instance, when the plain Tracts of Tears new fallen, with other fresh tokens of Mourning and Dejection, remain still in a Person newly transported with Joy at the sight of a Relation or Friend, who the moment before had been lamented as one deceas’d or lost.
(11.) Again, by the same means which are employ’d to call to mind the Past, we may anticipate the Future: as wou’d be seen in the case of an able Painter, who shou’d undertake to paint this History of Hercules according to the third Date or Period of Time propos’d for our historical Tablature. For in this momentary Turn of Action, Hercules remaining still in a situation expressive of Suspense and Doubt, wou’d discover nevertheless that the Strength of this inward Conflict was over, and that Victory began now to declare her-self in favour of Virtue. This Transition, which seems at first so mysterious a Performance, will be easily comprehended, if one considers, That the Body, which moves much slower than the Mind, is easily out-strip’d by this latter; and that the Mind on a sudden turning it-self some new way, the nearer situated and more sprightly parts of the Body (such as the Eyes, and Muscles about the Mouth and Forehead) taking the alarm, and moving in an instant, may leave the heavier and more distant Parts to adjust them-selves, and change their Attitude some moments after.
(12.) This different Operation may be distinguish’d by the names of Anticipation and Repeal.
(13.) If by any other method an Artist shou’d pretend to introduce into this Piece any portion of Time, future or past, he must either sin directly against the Law of Truth and Credibility, in representing things contrary and incompatible; or against that Law of Unity and Simplicity of Design, which constitutes the very Being of his Work. This particularly shews it-self in a Picture, when one is necessarily left in doubt, and unable to determine readily, Which of the distinct successive parts of the History or Action is that very-one represented in the Design. For even here the case is the same as in the other Circumstances of Poetry and Painting: “That what is principal or chief, shou’d immediately shew it-self, without leaving the Mind in any uncertainty.”
(14.) According to this Rule of the Unity of Time, if one shou’d ask an Artist, who had painted this History of The Judgment ofHercules,* “Which of these four Periods or Dates of Time above propos’d he intended in his Picture to represent”; and it shou’d happen that he cou’d not readily answer, ’Twas this, or that: It wou’d appear plainly he had never form’d a real Notion of his Workmanship, or of the History he intended to represent. So that when he had executed even to a Miracle all those other Beautys requisite in a Piece, and had fail’d in this single one, he wou’d from hence alone be prov’d to be in truth no History-Painter, or Artist in the kind, who understood not so much as how to form the real Design of a historical Piece.
Chap. 2.CHAPTER II
Of the First or Principal Figure
TO apply therefore what has been said above to our immediate Design or Tablature in hand; we may observe, in the first place, with regard to Hercules, (the first or principal Figure of our Piece) that being plac’d in the middle, between the two Goddesses, he shou’d by a skilful Master be so drawn, as even setting aside the Air and Features of the Face, it shou’d appear by the very Turn, or Position of the Body alone, that this young Hero had not wholly quitted the balancing or pondering part. For in the manner of his turn towards the worthier of these Goddesses, he shou’d by no means appear so averse or separate from the other, as not to suffer it to be conceiv’d of him, that he had ever any inclination for her, or had ever hearken’d to her Voice. On the contrary, there ought to be some hopes yet remaining for this latter Goddess Pleasure, and some regret apparent in Hercules. Otherwise we shou’d pass immediately from the third to the fourth Period; or at least confound one with the other.
(2.) Hercules, in this Agony describ’d, may appear either sitting, or standing: tho it be more according to probability for him to appear standing; in regard to the presence of the two Goddesses, and by reason the case is far from being the same here as in The Judgment ofParis; where the interested Goddesses plead their Cause before their Judg. Here the Interest of Hercules himself is at stake. ’Tis his own Cause which is trying. He is in this respect not so much the Judg, as he is in reality the Party judg’d.
(3.) The superior and commanding Passion of Hercules may be express’d either by a strong Admiration, or by an Admiration which holds chiefly of Love.
Excited by an amorous love.2
(4.) If the latter be us’d, then the reluctant Passion, which is not yet wholly overcome, may shew it-self in Pity and Tenderness, mov’d in our Hero by the thought of those Pleasures and Companions of his Youth, which he is going for ever to abandon. And in this sense Hercules may look either on the one or the other of the Goddesses, with this difference; That if he looks on Pleasure, it shou’d be faintly, and as turning his Eyes back with Pity; having still his Action and Gesture turn’d the other way towards Virtue. If, on the contrary, he looks on Virtue; it ought to be earnestly, and with extreme attention, having some part of the Action of his Body, inclining still towards Pleasure, and discovering by certain Features of Concern and Pity, intermix’d with the commanding or conquering Passion, that the Decision he is about to make in favour of Virtue, cost him not a little.
(5.) If it be thought fit rather to make use of Admiration, merely to express the commanding Passion of Hercules: then the reluctant-one may discover it-self in a kind of Horror, at the thought of the Toil and Labour, to be sustain’d in the rough rocky way apparent on the side of Virtue.
(6.) Again, Hercules may be represented as looking neither towards Virtue nor Pleasure, but as turning his Eyes either towards the mountainous rocky Way pointed out to him by Virtue, or towards the flowry Way of the Vale and Meadows, recommended to him by Pleasure. And to these different Attitudes may be apply’d the same Rules for the Expression of the Turn or Balance of Judgment in our pensive Hero.
(7.) Whatever may be the manner chosen for the designing of this Figure of Hercules, according to that part of the History in which we have taken him; ’tis certain he shou’d be so drawn, as neither by the opening of his mouth, or by any other sign, to leave it in the least dubious whether he is speaking or silent. For ’tis absolutely requisite that Silence shou’d be distinctly characteriz’d in Hercules, not only as the natural effect of his strict Attention, and the little leisure he has from what passes at this time within his breast; but in order withal to give that appearance of Majesty and Superiority becoming the Person and Character of pleading Virtue; who by her Eloquence and other Charms has ere this made her-self mistress of the Heart of our enamour’d Hero:
* And again she hangs on the lips of the storyteller.
This Image of the Sublime in the Discourse and Manner of Virtue, wou’d be utterly lost, if in the instant that she employ’d the greatest Force of Action, she shou’d appear to be interrupted by the ill-tim’d Speech, Reply, or Utterance of her Auditor. Such a Design or Representation as this, wou’d prove contrary to Order, contrary to the History, and to the Decorum, or Decency of Manners. Nor can one well avoid taking notice here, of that general Absurdity committed by many of the esteem’d great Masters in Painting; who in one and the same Company, or Assembly of Persons jointly employ’d, and united according to the History, in one single or common Action, represent to us not only two or three, but several, and sometimes all speaking at once. Which must naturally have the same effect on the Eye, as such a Conversation wou’d have upon the Ear, were we in reality to hear it.
Chap. 3.CHAPTER III
Of the Second Figure
AFTER what has been said on the Subject of Hercules, it appears plainly what the Attitude must be of our second Figure, Virtue; who, as we have taken her in this particular Period of our History, must of necessity be speaking with all the Force of Action, such as wou’d appear in an excellent Orator, when at the height, and in the most affecting part of his Discourse.
(2.) She ought therefore to be drawn standing; since ’tis contrary to all probable Appearance, and even to Nature it-self, that in the very Heat and highest Transport of Speech, the Speaker shou’d be seen sitting, or in any Posture which might express Repose.
(3.) She may be habited either as an Amazon, with the Helmet, Lance, and in the Robe or Vest of Pallas; or as any other of the Virtues, Goddesses, or Heroines, with the plain original Crown, without Rays, according to genuine Antiquity. Our History makes no mention of a Helmet, or any other Armour of Virtue. It gives us only to understand, that she was dress’d neither negligently, nor with much study or ornament. If we follow this latter method, we need give her only in her hand the Imperial or * Magisterial Sword; which is her true characteristick Mark, and wou’d sufficiently distinguish her, without the Helmet, Lance, or other military Habit. And in this manner, the opposition between her-self and her Rival wou’d be still more beautiful and regular.—“But this Beauty, says one, wou’d be discoverable only by the Learned.”—Perhaps so. But then again, there wou’d be no loss for others: since no-one wou’d find this Piece the less intelligible on the account of this Regulation. On the contrary, one who chanc’d to know little of Antiquity in general, or of this History in particular, wou’d be still further to seek, if upon seeing an armed Woman in the Piece, he shou’d represent to himself either a Pallas, a Bellona, or any other warlike Form, or Deity of the female kind.
(4.) As for the Shape, Countenance, or Person of Virtue; that which is usually given to Pallas may fitly serve as a Model for this Dame; as on the other side, that which is given to Venus may serve in the same manner for her Rival. The Historian whom we follow, represents Virtue to us as a Lady of a goodly Form, tall and majestick. And by what he relates of her, he gives us sufficiently to understand, that tho she was neither lean, nor of a tann’d Complexion, she must have discover’d however, by the Substance and Colour of her Flesh, that she was sufficiently accustom’d to exercise. Pleasure, on the other hand, by an exact Opposition, is represented in better case, and of a Softness of Complexion; which speaks her Manners, and gives her a middle Character between the Person of a Venus, and that of a BacchinalNymph.
(5.) As for the Position, or Attitude of Virtue; tho in a historical Piece, such as ours is design’d, ’twou’d on no account be proper to have immediate recourse to the way of Emblem; one might, on this occasion, endeavour nevertheless by some artifice to give our Figure, as much as possible, the resemblance of the same Goddess, as she is seen on Medals, and other antient emblematick Pieces of like nature. In this view, she shou’d be so design’d, as to stand firm with her full poise upon one foot, having the other a little advanc’d, and rais’d on a broken piece of ground or rock, instead of the Helmet or little Globe on which we see her usually setting her foot, as triumphant, in those Pieces of the emblematick kind. A particular advantage of this Attitude, so judiciously assign’d to Virtue by antient Masters, is, that it expresses as well her aspiring Effort, or Ascent towards the Stars and Heaven, as her Victory and Superiority over Fortune and the World. For so the Poets have, of old, describ’d her.
And in our Piece particularly, where the arduous and rocky way of Virtue requires to be emphatically represented; the ascending Posture of this Figure, with one Foot advanc’d, in a sort of climbing Action, over the rough and thorny Ground, must of necessity, if well executed, create a due effect, and add to the Sublime of this ‡ antient Poetick Work.
(6.) As for the Hands or Arms, which in real Oratory, and during the strength of Elocution, must of necessity be active; ’tis plain in respect of our Goddess, that the Arm in particular which she has free to her-self, and is neither incumber’d with Lance or Sword, shou’d be employ’d another way, and come in, to second the Discourse, and accompany it, with a just Emphasis and Action. Accordingly, Virtue wou’d then be seen with this Hand, turn’d either upwards to the rocky Way mark’d out by her with approbation; or to the Sky, or Stars, in the same sublime sense; or downwards to the flowery Way and Vale, as in a detesting manner, and with abhorrence of what passes there; or last of all (in a disdainful sense, and with the same appearance of Detestation) against Pleasure herself. Each Manner wou’d have its peculiar advantage. And the best Profit shou’d be made of this Arm and Hand at liberty, to express either the Disapprobation or the Applause propos’d. It might prove, however, a considerable advantage to our Figure of Virtue, if holding the Lance, or Imperial Sword, slightly, with one of her Hands stretch’d downwards, she cou’d, by that very Hand and Action, be made to express the latter meaning; opening for that purpose some of the lower Fingers of this Hand, in a refusing or repelling manner; whilst with the other Arm and Hand at liberty, she shou’d express as well the former meaning, and point out to Hercules the way which leads to Honour, and the just Glory of heroick Actions.
(7.) From all these Circumstances of History, and Action, accompanying this important Figure, the difficulty of the Design will sufficiently appear, to those who carry their Judgment beyond the mere Form, and are able to consider the Character of the Passion to which it is subjected. For where a real Character is mark’d, and the inward Form peculiarly describ’d, ’tis necessary the outward shou’d give place. Whoever shou’d expect to see our Figure of Virtue, in the exact Mein of a fine Talker, curious in her Choice of Action, and forming it according to the usual Decorum, and regular Movement of one of the fair Ladys of our Age, wou’d certainly be far wide of the Thought and Genius of this Piece. Such study’d Action, and artificial Gesture, may be allow’d to the Actors and Actrices of the Stage. But the good Painter must come a little nearer to Truth, and take care that his Action be not theatrical, or at second hand; but original, and drawn from Nature her-self. Now altho in the ordinary Tenour of Discourse, the Action of the Party might be allow’d to appear so far govern’d and compos’d by Art, as to retain that regular Contraste, and nice Balance of Movement, which Painters are apt to admire as the chief Grace of Figures; yet in this particular case, where the natural Eagerness of Debate, supported by a thorow Antipathy and Animosity, is join’d to a sort of enthusiastick Agitation incident to our prophetick Dame, there can be little of that fashionable Mein, or genteel Air admitted. The Painter who, in such a Piece as we describe, is bound to preserve the heroick Style, will doubtless beware of representing his Heroine as a mere Scold. Yet this is certain, That it were better for him to expose himself to the Meanness of such a Fancy, and paint his Lady in a high Rant, according to the common Weakness of the Sex, than to engage in the Embelishment of the mere Form; and, forgetting the Character of Severity and Reprimand belonging to the illustrious Rival, present her to us a fair specious Personage, free of Emotion, and without the least Bent or Movement, which shou’d express the real Pathetick of the kind.
Chap. 4.CHAPTER IV
Of the Third Figure
CONCERNING Pleasure there needs little to be said, after what has been already remark’d in relation to the two preceding Figures. The Truth of Appearance, that of History, and even the Decorum it-self, (according to what has been explain’d above) require evidently that in this Period or Instant describ’d, Pleasure shou’d be found silent. She can have no other Language allow’d her than that merely of the Eyes. And ’twou’d be a happy Management for her in the Design, if in turning her Eyes to meet those of Hercules, she shou’d find his Head and Face already turn’d so much on the contrary side, as to shew it impossible for her as yet to discover the growing Passion of this Hero in favour of her Rival. By this means she might still with good right retain her fond Airs of Dalliance and Courtship; as having yet discover’d no reason she has to be dissatisfy’d.
(2.) She may be drawn either standing, leaning, sitting, or lying; without a Crown, or crown’d either with Roses, or with Myrtle; according to the Painter’s Fancy. And since in this third Figure the Painter has so great a liberty left him, he may make good advantage of it for the other two, to which this latter may be subjected, as the last in order, and of least consequence.
(3.) That which makes the greatest difficulty in the Disposition or Ordonnance of this Figure Pleasure, is, that notwithstanding the supine Air and Character of Ease and Indolence, which shou’d be given her, she must retain still so much Life and Action, as is sufficient to express her persuasive Effort, and Manner of Indication towards her proper Paths; those of the flowery kind, and Vale below, whither she wou’d willingly guide our Hero’s steps. Now shou’d this Effort be over-strongly express’d; not only the supine Character and Air of Indolence wou’d be lost in this Figure of Pleasure; but, what is worse, the Figure wou’d seem to speak, or at least appear so, as to create a double Meaning, or equivocal Sense in Painting: which wou’d destroy what we have establish’d as fundamental, concerning the absolute Reign of Silence thro’out the rest of the Piece, in favour of Virtue, the sole speaking Party at this Instant, or third Period of our History.
(4.) According to a Computation, which in this way of Reasoning might be made, of the whole Motion or Action to be given to our Figure of Pleasure; she shou’d scarce have one fifth reserv’d for that which we may properly call active in her, and have already term’d her persuasive or indicative Effort. All besides shou’d be employ’d to express, if one may say so, her Inaction, her Supineness, Effeminacy, and indulgent Ease. The Head and Body might intirely favour this latter Passion. One Hand might be absolutely resign’d to it; serving only to support, with much ado, the lolling lazy Body. And if the other Hand be requir’d to express some kind of Gesture or Action toward the Road of Pleasures recommended by this Dame; the Gesture ought however to be slight and negligent, in the manner of one who has given over speaking, and appears weary and spent.
(5.) For the Shape, the Person, the Complexion, and what else may be further remark’d as to the Air and Manner of Pleasure; all this is naturally comprehended in the Opposition, as above stated, between Her-self and Virtue.
Chap. 5.CHAPTER V
Of the Ornaments of the Piece; and chiefly of the Drapery, and Perspective
TIS sufficiently known, how great a liberty Painters are us’d to take, in the colouring of their Habits, and of other Draperys belonging to their historical Pieces. If they are to paint a Roman People, they represent ’em in different Dresses; tho it be certain the common People among ’em were habited very near alike, and much after the same colour. In like manner, the Egyptians, Jews, and other antient Nations, as we may well suppose, bore in this particular their respective Likeness or Resemblance one to another; as at present the Spaniards, Italians, and several other People of Europe. But such a Resemblance as this wou’d, in the way of Painting, produce a very untoward effect; as may easily be conceiv’d. For this reason the Painter makes no scruple to introduce Philosophers, and even Apostles, in various Colours, after a very extraordinary manner. ’Tis here that the historical Truth must of necessity indeed give way to that which we call poetical, as being govern’d not so much by Reality, as by Probability, or plausible Appearance, So that a Painter, who uses his Privilege or Prerogative in this respect, ought however to do it cautiously, and with discretion. And when occasion requires that he shou’d present us his Philosophers or Apostles thus variously colour’d, he must take care at least so to mortify his Colours, that these plain poor Men may not appear, in his Piece, adorn’d like so many Lords or Princes of the modern Garb.
(2.) If, on the other hand, the Painter shou’d happen to take for his Subject some solemn Entry or Triumph, where, according to the Truth of Fact, all manner of Magnificence had without doubt been actually display’d, and all sorts of bright and dazling Colours heap’d together and advanc’d, in emulation, one against another; he ought on this occasion, in breach of the historical Truth, or Truth of Fact, to do his utmost to diminish and reduce the excessive Gaiety and Splendor of those Objects, which wou’d otherwise raise such a Confusion, Oppugnancy, and Riot of Colours, as wou’d to any judicious Eye appear absolutely intolerable.
(3.) It becomes therefore an able Painter in this, as well as in the other parts of his Workmanship, to have regard principally, and above all, to the Agreement or Correspondency of things. And to that end ’tis necessary he shou’d form in his Mind a certain Note or Character of Unity, which being happily taken, wou’d, out of the many Colours of his Piece, produce (if one may say so) a particular distinct Species of an original kind: like those Compositions in Musick, where among the different Airs, (such as Sonatas, Entrys, or Sarabands) there are different and distinct Species; of which we may say in particular, as to each, “That it has its own proper Character or Genius, peculiar to it-self.”
(4.) Thus the Harmony of Painting requires, “That in whatever Key the Painter begins his Piece, he shou’d be sure to finish it in the same.”
(5.) This Regulation turns on the principal Figure, or on the two or three which are eminent, in a Tablature compos’d of many. For if the Painter happens to give a certain Height or Richness of colouring to his principal Figure; the rest must in proportion necessarily partake this Genius. But if, on the contrary, the Painter shou’d have chanc’d to give a softer Air, with more Gentleness and Simplicity of colouring, to his principal Figure; the rest must bear a Character proportionable, and appear in an extraordinary Simplicity; that one and the same Spirit may, without contest, reign thro’ the whole of his Design.
(6.) Our Historical Draught of Hercules will afford us a very clear example in the case. For considering that the Hero is to appear on this occasion retir’d and gloomy; being withal in a manner naked, and without any other Covering than a Lion’s Skin, which is it-self of a yellow and dusky colour; it wou’d be really impracticable for a Painter to represent this principal Figure in any extraordinary brightness or lustre. From whence it follows, that in the other inferior Figures or subordinate parts of the Work, the Painter must necessarily make use of such still quiet Colours, as may give to the whole Piece a Character of Solemnity and Simplicity, agreeable with it-self. Now shou’d our Painter honestly go about to follow his Historian, according to the literal Sense of the History, which represents Virtue to us in a resplendent Robe of the purest and most glossy White; ’tis evident he must after this manner destroy his Piece. The good Painter in this, as in all other occasions of like nature, must do as the good Poet; who undertaking to treat some common and known Subject, refuses however to follow strictly, like a mere Copyist or Translator, any preceding Poet or Historian; but so orders it, that his Work in it-self becomes really new and original.
* A public subject will be a private right to you if you will not linger around worthless and common matters nor will endeavor to return word for word as a conscientious interpreter.
(7.) As for what relates to the Perspective or Scene of our historical Piece, it ought so to present it-self, as to make us instantly conceive that ’tis in the Country, and in a place of Retirement, near some Wood or Forest, that this whole Action passes. For ’twou’d be impertinent to bring Architecture or Buildings of whatever kind in view, as tokens of Company, Diversion, or Affairs, in a Place purposely chosen to denote Solitude, Thoughtfulness, and premeditated Retreat. Besides, that according to the Poets (our Guides and Masters in this Art) neither the Goddesses, nor other divine Forms of whatever kind, car’d ever to present themselves to human Sight, elsewhere than in these deep Recesses. And ’tis worth observing here, how particularly our philosophical Historian affects to speak, by way of prevention, of the solitary place where Hercules was retir’d, and of his Thoughtfulness preceding this Apparition: which from these Circumstances may be constru’d hence-forward as a mere Dream; but as such, a truly rational, and divine one.
(8.) As to the Fortress, Temple, or Palace of Virtue, situated on a Mountain, after the emblematical way; as we see represented in some Pieces form’d upon this Subject; there is nothing of this kind express’d by our Historian. And shou’d this, or any thing of a like nature, present it-self in our Design, it wou’d fill the Mind with foreign Fancys, and mysterious Views, no way agreeable to the Taste and Genius of this Piece. Nor is there any thing, at the same time, on Pleasure’s side, to answer, by way of opposition, to this Palace of Virtue; which, if express’d, wou’d on this account destroy the just Simplicity and Correspondency of our Work.
(9.) Another Reason against the Perspective-part, the Architecture, or other study’d Ornaments of the Landskip-kind, in this particular Piece of ours, is, That in reality there being no occasion for these Appearances, they wou’d prove a mere Incumbrance to the Eye, and wou’d of necessity disturb the Sight, by diverting it from that which is principal, the History and Fact. Whatsoever appears in a historical Design, which is not essential to the Action, serves only to confound the Representation, and perplex the Mind: more particularly, if these Episodick parts are so lively wrought, as to vie with the principal Subject, and contend for Precedency with the Figures and human Life. A just Design, or Tablature, shou’d, at first view, discover, What Nature it is design’d to imitate; what Life, whether of the higher or lower kind, it aims chiefly to represent. The Piece must by no means be equivocal or dubious; but must with ease distinguish it-self, either as historical and moral, or as perspective and merely natural. If it be the latter of these Beautys, which we desire to see delineated according to its perfection, then the former must give place. The higher Life must be allay’d, and in a manner discountenanc’d and obscur’d; whilst the lower displays it-self, and is exhibited as principal. Even that, which according to a Term of Art we commonly call Still-Life, and is in reality of the last and lowest degree of Painting, must have its Superiority and just Preference in a Tablature of its own Species. ’Tis the same in Animal-Pieces; where Beasts, or Fowl are represented. In Landskip, Inanimates are principal: ’Tis the Earth, the Water, the Stones and Rocks which live. All other Life becomes subordinate. Humanity, Sense, Manners, must in this place yield, and become inferior. ’Twou’d be a fault even to aim at the Expression of any real Beauty in this kind, or go about to animate or heighten in any considerable degree the accompanying Figures of Men, or Deitys, which are accidentally introduc’d, as Appendices, or Ornaments, in such a Piece. But if, on the contrary, the human Species be that which first presents it-self in a Picture; if it be the intelligent Life, which is set to view; ’tis the other Species, the other Life, which must then surrender and become subservient. The merely natural must pay homage to the historical or moral. Every Beauty, every Grace must be sacrific’d to the realBeautyof this first and highest Order. For nothing can be more deform’d than a Confusion of many Beautys: And the Confusion becomes inevitable, where the Subjection is not compleat.
(10.) By the word Moral are understood, in this place, all Sorts of judicious Representations of the human Passions; as we see even in Battel-Pieces; excepting those of distant Figures, and the diminutive kind; which may rather be consider’d as a sort of Landskip. In all other martial Pieces, we see express’d in lively Action, the several degrees of Valor, Magnanimity, Cowardice, Terror, Anger, according to the several Characters of Nations, and particular Men. ’Tis here that we may see Heroes and Chiefs (such as the Alexanders or Constantines) appear, even in the hottest of the Action, with a Tranquillity and Sedateness of Mind peculiar to themselves: which is, indeed, in a direct and proper sense, profoundly moral.
(11.) But as the Moral part is differently treated in a Poem, from what it is in History, or in a philosophical Work; so must it, of right, in Painting be far differently treated, from what it naturally is, either in the History, or Poem. For want of a right understanding of this Maxim, it often happens that, by endeavouring to render a Piece highly moral and learned, it becomes thorowly ridiculous and impertinent.
(12.) For the ordinary Works of Sculpture, such as the Low-Relieves, and Ornaments of Columns and Edifices, great allowance is made. The very Rules of Perspective are here wholly revers’d, as necessity requires; and are accommodated to the Circumstance and Genius of the Place or Building, according to a certain OEconomy or Order of a particular and distinct kind; as will easily be observ’d by those who have thorowly study’d the Trajan and Antoninus-Pillars, and other Relieve-Works of the Antients. In the same manner, as to Pieces of ingrav’d Work, Medals, or whatever shews it-self in one Substance, (as Brass or Stone) or only by Shade and Light, (as in ordinary Drawings, or Stamps) much also is allow’d, and many things admitted, of the fantastick, miraculous, or hyberbolical kind. ’Tis here, that we have free scope, withal, for whatever is learned, emblematical, or enigmatick. But for the compleatly imitative and illusive Art of Painting, whose Character it is to employ in her Works the united Force of different Colours; and who, surpassing by so many Degrees, and in so many Privileges, all other human Fiction, or imitative Art, aspires in a directer manner towards Deceit, and a Command over our very Sense; she must of necessity abandon whatever is over-learned, humorous, or witty; to maintain her-self in what is natural, credible, and winning of our Assent: that she may thus acquit her-self of what is her chief Province, the specious Appearance of the Object she represents. Otherwise we shall naturally bring against her the just Criticism of Horace, on the scenical Representation so nearly ally’d to her:
Whatsoever you show me, disbelieving it, I despise it.3
(13.) We are therefore to consider this as a sure Maxim or Observation in Painting, “That a historical and moral Piece must of necessity lose much of its natural Simplicity and Grace, if any thing of the emblematical or enigmatick kind be visibly and directly intermix’d.” As if for instance, the Circle of the *Zodiack, with its twelve Signs, were introduc’d. Now this being an Appearance which carrys not any manner of similitude or colourable resemblance to any thing extant in real Nature; it cannot possibly pretend to win the Sense, or gain Belief, by the help of any poetical Enthusiasm, religious History, or Faith. For by means of these, indeed, we are easily induc’d to contemplate as Realitys those divine Personages and miraculous Forms, which the leading Painters, antient and modern, have speciously design’d, according to the particular Doctrine or Theology of their several religious and national Beliefs. But for our Tablature in particular, it carrys nothing with it of the mere emblematical or enigmatick kind: since for what relates to the double Way of the Vale and Mountain, this may naturally and with colourable appearance be represented at the Mountain’s foot. But if on the Summit or highest Point of it, we shou’d place the Fortress, or Palace of Virtue, rising above the Clouds, this wou’d immediately give the enigmatical mysterious Air to our Picture, and of necessity destroy its persuasive Simplicity, and natural Appearance.
(14.) In short, we are to carry this Remembrance still along with us, “That the fewer the Objects are, besides those which are absolutely necessary in a Piece, the easier it is for the Eye, by one simple Act and in one View, to comprehend the Sum or Whole.” The multiplication of Subjects, tho subaltern, renders the Subordination more difficult to execute in the Ordonnance or Composition of a Work. And if the Subordination be not perfect, the Order (which makes the Beauty) remains imperfect. Now the Subordination can never be perfect, except * “When the Ordonnance is such, that the Eye not only runs over with ease the several Parts of the Design, (reducing still its View each moment to the principal Subject on which all turns) but when the same Eye, without the least detainment in any of the particular Parts, and resting, as it were, immovable in the middle, or center of the Tablature, may see at once, in an agreeable and perfect Correspondency, all which is there exhibited to the Sight.”
Chap. 6.CHAPTER VI
Of the Casual or Independent Ornaments
THERE remains for us now to consider only of the separate Ornaments, independent both of Figures and Perspective; such as the †Machine-Work, or Divinitys in the Sky, the Winds, Cupids, Birds, Animals, Dogs, or other loose Pieces, which are introduc’d without any absolute necessity, and in a way of Humour. But as these belong chiefly to the ordinary Life, and to the comick, or mix’d kind; our Tablature, which on the contrary is wholly epick, heroick, and in the tragick Style, wou’d not so easily admit of any thing in this light way.
(2.) We may besides consider, that whereas the Mind is naturally led to fansy Mystery in a Work of such a Genius or Style of Painting as ours, and to confound with each other the two distinct kinds of the emblematick, and merely historical, or poetick; we shou’d take care not to afford it this occasion of Error and Deviation, by introducing into a Piece of so uniform a Design, such Appendices, or supplementary Parts, as, under pretext of giving light to the History, or characterizing the Figures, shou’d serve only to distract or dissipate the Sight, and confound the Judgment of the more intelligent Spectators.
(3.) “Will it then,” says one, “be possible to make out the Story of these two Dames in company with Hercules, without otherwise distinguishing them than as above describ’d?”—We answer, it is possible; and not that only, but certain and infallible, in the case of one who has the least Genius, or has ever heard in general concerning Hercules, without so much as having ever heard this History in particular. But if, notwithstanding this, we wou’d needs add some exterior marks, more declaratory and determinative of these two Personages, Virtue and Pleasure; it may be perform’d, however, without any necessary recourse to what is absolutely of the Emblem-kind. The Manner of this may be explain’d as follows.
(4.) The Energy or natural Force of Virtue, according to the moral Philosophy of highest note among the Antients, was express’d in the double effect of*Forbearance and Indurance, or what we may otherwise call Refrainment and Support. For the former, the Bit or Bridle, plac’d somewhere on the side of Virtue, may serve as Emblem sufficient; and for the second, the Helmet may serve in the same manner; especially since they are each of them Appurtenances essential to Heroes, (who, in the quality of Warriors, were also Subduers or † Managers of Horses) and that at the same time these are really portable Instruments, such as the martial Dame, who represents Virtue, may be well suppos’d to have brought along with her.
(5.) On the side of Pleasure, certain Vases, and other Pieces of imboss’d Plate, wrought in the figures of Satyrs, Fauns, and Bacchanals, may serve to express the Debauches of the Table-kind. And certain Draperys thrown carelesly on the ground, and hung upon a neighbouring Tree, forming a kind of Bower and Couch for this luxurious Dame, may serve sufficiently to suggest the Thought of other Indulgences, and to support the Image of the effeminate, indolent, and amorous Passions. Besides that, for this latter kind, we may rest satisfy’d, ’tis what the Painter will hardly fail of representing to the full. The fear is, lest he shou’d overdo this part, and express the Affection too much to the life. The Appearance will, no doubt, be strongly wrought in all the Features and Proportions of this third Figure; which is of a relish far more popular, and vulgarly ingaging, than that other oppos’d to it, in our historical Design.
WE may conclude this Argument with a general Reflection, which seems to arise naturally from what has been said on this Subject in particular: “That in a real History-Painter, the same Knowledg, the same Study, and Views, are requir’d, as in a real Poet.” Never can the Poet, whilst he justly holds that name, become a Relator, or Historian at large. He is allow’d only to describe a single Action; not the Actions of a single Man, or People. The Painter is a Historian at the same rate, but still more narrowly confin’d, as in fact appears; since it wou’d certainly prove a more ridiculous Attempt to comprehend two or three distinct Actions or Parts of History in one Picture, than to comprehend ten times the number in one and the same Poem.
(2.) Tis well known, that to each Species of Poetry, there are natural Proportions and Limits assign’d. And it wou’d be a gross Absurdity indeed to imagine, that in a Poem there was nothing which we cou’d call Measure or Number, except merely in the Verse. An Elegy, and an Epigram, have each of ’em their Measure, and Proportion, as well as a Tragedy, or Epick Poem. In the same manner, as to Painting, Sculpture, or Statuary, there are particular Measures which form what we call a Piece: as for instance, in mere Portraiture, a Head, or Bust: the former of which must retain always the whole, or at least a certain part of the Neck; as the latter the Shoulders, and a certain part of the Breast. If any thing be added or retrench’d, the Piece is destroy’d. ’Tis then a mangled Trunk, or dismember’d Body, which presents it-self to our Imagination; and this too not thro’ use merely, or on the account of custom, but of necessity, and by the nature of the Appearance: since there are such and such parts of the human Body, which are naturally match’d, and must appear in company: the Section, if unskilfully made, being in reality horrid, and representing rather an Amputation in Surgery, than a seemly Division or Separation according to Art. And thus it is, that in general, thro’ all the plastick Arts, or Works of Imitation, “Whatsoever is drawn from Nature, with the intention of raising in us the Imagination of the natural Species or Object, according to real Beauty and Truth, shou’d be compriz’d in certain compleat Portions or Districts, which represent the Correspondency or Union of each part of Nature, with intireNatureher-self.” And ’tis this natural Apprehension, or anticipating Sense of Unity, which makes us give even to the Works of our inferior Artizans, the name of Pieces by way of Excellence, and as denoting the Justness and Truth of Work.
(3.) In order therefore to succeed rightly in the Formation of any thing truly beautiful in this higher Order of Design; ’twere to be wish’d that the Artist, who had Understanding enough to comprehend what a real Piece or Tablature imported, and who, in order to this, had acquir’d the Knowledg of a Whole and Parts, wou’d afterwards apply himself to the Study of moral and poetick Truth: that by this means the Thoughts, Sentiments, or Manners, which hold the first rank in his historical Work, might appear sutable to the higher and nobler Species of Humanity in which he practis’d, to the Genius of the Age which he describ’d, and to the principal or main Action which he chose to represent. He wou’d then naturally learn to reject those false Ornaments of affected Graces, exaggerated Passions, hyperbolical and prodigious Forms; which, equally with the mere capricious and grotesque, destroy the just Simplicity, and Unity, essential in a Piece. And for his Colouring; he wou’d then soon find how much it became him to be reserv’d, severe, and chaste, in this particular of his Art; where Luxury and Libertinism are, by the power of Fashion and the modern Taste, become so universally establish’d.
(4.) ’Tis evident however from Reason it-self, as well as from * History and Experience, that nothing is more fatal, either to Painting, Architecture, or the other Arts, than this false Relish, which is govern’d rather by what immediately strikes the Sense, than by what consequentially and by reflection pleases the Mind, and satisfies the Thought and Reason. So that whilst we look on Painting with the same Eye, as we view commonly the rich Stuffs, and colour’d Silks worn by our Ladys, and admir’d in Dress, Equipage, or Furniture; we must of necessity be effeminate in our Taste, and utterly set wrong as to all Judgment and Knowledg in the kind. For of this imitative Art we may justly say; “That tho It borrows help indeed from Colours, and uses them, as means, to execute its Designs; It has nothing, however, more wide of its real Aim, or more remote from its Intention, than to make a shew of Colours, or from their mixture, to raise a †separate and flattering Pleasure to the Sense.”
[1 ]Et premitur ratione animus, vincique laborat.
[* ] If the same Question concerning the instantaneous Action, or present Moment of Time, were apply’d to many famous historical Paintings much admir’d in the World, they wou’d be found very defective: as we may learn by the Instance of that single Subject of ACTEON, one of the commonest in Painting. Hardly is there any where seen a Design of this poetical History, without a ridiculous Anticipation of the Metamorphosis. The Horns of ACTEON, which are the Effect of a Charm, shou’d naturally wait the execution of that Act in which the Charm consists. Till the Goddess therefore has thrown her Cast, the Hero’s Person suffers not any Change. Even while the Water flies, his Forehead is still sound. But in the usual Design we see it otherwise. The Horns are already sprouted, if not full grown: and the Goddess is seen watering the Sprouts.
[2 ] ——Ingenti perculsus amore.
[* ] ——Pendetque iterum narrantis ob ore. Virg. AEn. Lib. iv. ver. 79.
[* ] Parazonium.
[* ] ——Negatâ tentat iter viâ. Horat. Lib. iii. Od. ii. ver. 22.
[† ]Virtutisque viam deserit arduae. Idem ibid. Od. xxiv. ver. 44.
[‡ ]As antient as the PoetHesiod:which appears by the following Verses, cited by our Historian, as the Foundation, or first Draught of thisHerculeanTablature.
[For abundant wickedness is easy to prefer; the road of plunder lies close by. But the immortal gods placed sweat in front of virtue. And it is a long uphill path to virtue, and rough at first. Later, as you approach the peak, you will then move easily, no matter how difficult it is.]
[3 ]Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi.
[* ] This is what Raphael himself has done, in his famous Design of The Judgment ofParis. But this Piece having never been painted, but design’d only for Maro Antonio’s engraving, it comes not within our Censure; as appears by what is said in the Paragraph just preceding.
[* ] This is what the Grecian Masters so happily express’d, by the single word ἐυσύνοπλον. See VOL. I. pag. 143, &c.
[† ]This is understood of the Machine-Work, when it is merely ornamental, and not essential in the Piece; by making part of the History, or Fable it-self.
[* ] Καρτερία, Εγκρατεία: They were describ’d as Sisters in the emblematick Moral Philosophy of the Antients. Whence that known Precept, Ἀνέχου καὶ Ἀπέχου, Sustine & Abstine [bear up and abstain (The Latin and Greek are given, but not the English.)]
[† ]Castor, Pollux;all the Heroes ofHomer; Alexanderthe Great, &c.
[† ]The Pleasure is plainly foreign and separate, as having no concern or share in the proper Delight or Entertainment which naturally arises from the Subject, and Workmanship it-self. For the Subject, in respect of Pleasure, as well as Science, is absolutely compleated, when the Design is executed, and the propos’d Imitation once accomplish’d. And thus it always is the best, when the Colours are most subdu’d, and made subservient.