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first detected the false translations of Du Piles and Dryden, which
so much have these divine arts been honoured ;" in consequence of which the Frenchman gives a note of four pages, enumerating the instances in which painting and its professors have been honoured by kings and great men,
cient and modern. Fresnoy had not this in his idea. He says, 6 tantus inest divis honor artibus atque potestas," which Wills justly and literally translates, Such powers, such honours, are in arts divine.
NOTE III. VERSE 51.
'Tis Painting's first chief business to explore
For ancient taste those forms has best applied. The Poet, with great propriety, begins by declaring what is the chief business of Theory, and pronounces it to be a knowledge of what is beautiful in nature:
That form alone, where glows peculiar grace,
The genuine Painter condescends to trace. There is an absolute necessity for the Painter to generalise his notions; to paint particulars is not to paint nature, it is only to paint circumstances. When the Artist has conceived in his imagination the image of perfect beauty, or the abstract idea of forms, he may be said to be admitted into the great Council of Nature, and to
Trace Beauty's beam to its eternal spring,
And pure to man the fire celestial bring. To facilitate the acquisition of this ideal beauty, the Artist is recommended to a studious examination of ancient sculpture.
NOTE IV. VERSE 55.
How all one wretched, blind barbarity! The mind is distracted with the variety of accidents, for so they ought to be called rather than forms; and the disagreement of those among themselves will be a perpetual source of confusion and meanness, until, by generalising his ideas, the painter has acquired the only true criterion of judgment: then with a Master's care,
Judge of his art, through beauty's realms he flies,
Selects, combines, improves, diversifies. It is better that he should come to diversify on particulars from the large and broad idea of things, than vainly attempt to ascend from particulars to this great general idea : for to generalise from the endless and vicious variety of actual forms, requires a mind of wonderful capacity ; it is perhaps more than any one mind can accomplish: but when the other, and, I think, better course is pursued, the Artist may
avail himself of the united powers of all his predecessors. He sets out with an ample inheritance, and avails himself of the selection of ages.
NOTE V. VERSE 63. Of all vain fools with coxcomb talents curst, The sententious and Horatian line, (says a later French editor,) which in the original is placed to the score of the Ancients, to give it greater weight, is the Author's own.
I suspect, however, that he borrowed the thought from some ancient prose writer, as we see he borrowed from Plutarch before at the opening
of his poem.
NOTE VI. VERSE 65.
When first the orient beams of beauty move — The original here is very obscure ; when I had translated the passage in the clearest manner I was able, but necessarily with some periphrasis, I consulted a learned friend upon it, who was pleased to approve the version, and to elucidate the text in the following manner : Cognita,” (the things known,) in line 45, refers to “ Nosse quid in natura pulchrius,” (the thing to be learned, in line 38: the main thing is to know what forms are most beautiful, and to know what forms have been chiefly reputed such by the ancients. In these, when once known, i. e. attended to and considered, the mind of course takes a pleasure, and thus the conscious soul becomes enamoured with the object, &c., as in the paraphrase.
NOTE VII. VERSE 79.
And clasps each Venus as she glides along. The power of expressing these transitory beauties is perhaps the greatest effort of our art, and which cannot be attained till the student has acquired a facility of drawing nature correctly in its inanimate state.
NOTE VIII. VERSE 81.
Where purblind practice only points the way. Practice is justly called purblind; for practice, that is tolerable in its way, is not totally blind ; an imperceptible theory, which grows out of, and accom
panies, and directs it, is never wholly wanting to a sedulous practice; but this goes but a little way with the Painter himself, and is utterly inexplicable to others.
To become a great proficient, an artist ought to see clearly enough to enable him to point out to others the principle on which he works ; otherwise he will be confined, and what is worse, he will be uncertain. A degree of mechanical practice, odd as it may seem, must precede theory. The reason is, that if we wait till we are partly able to comprehend the theory of art, too much of life will be passed to permit us to acquire facility and power ; something therefore must be done on trust, by mere imitation of given patterns before the theory of art can be felt. Thus we shall become acquainted with the necessities of the art, and the very great want of theory, the sense of which want can alone lead us to take pains to acquire it: for what better means can we have of knowing to a certainty, and of imprinting strongly on our mind our own deficiencies, than unsuccessful attempts ? This theory will be best understood by, and in, practice. If practice advances too far before theory, her guide, she is likely to lose her way; and if she keeps too far behind, to be discouraged.
NOTE IX. VERSE 90. ’T was not by words Apelles charm'd mankind. As Fresnoy had condescended to give advice of a prudential kind, let me be permitted here to recommend to the artist to talk as little as possible of his own works, much less to praise them; and this not so much for the sake of avoiding the character of vanity, as for keeping clear of a real detriment; of
a real productive cause which prevents his progress in his art, and dulls the edge of enterprise.
He who has the habit of insinuating his own excellence to the little circle of his friends, with whom he comes into contact, will grow languid in his exertions to fill a larger sphere of reputation. He will fall into the habit of acquiescing in the partial opinions of a few; he will grow restive in his own : by admiring himself, he will come to repeat himself, and then there is an end of improvement. In a painter it is particularly dangerous to be too good a speaker; it lessens the necessary endeavours to make himself master of the language which properly belongs to his art, that of his pencil. This circle of self-applause and reflected admiration, is to him the world, which he vainly imagines he has engaged in his party, and therefore supposes that further enterprise becomes less necessary.
Neither is it prudent, for the same reason, to talk much of a work before he undertakes it, which will probably thus be prevented from being ever begun. Even showing a picture in an unfinished state makes the finishing afterwards irksome; the artist has already had the gratification which he ought to have kept back, and made to serve as a spur to hasten its completion.
NOTE X. VERSE 101.
Some lofty theme let judgment first supply,
Supremely fraught with grace and majesty. It is a matter of great judgment to know what subjects are or are not fit for painting. It is true that they ought to be such as the verses here direct, full of grace and majesty ; but it is not every such subject that will answer to the painter. The painter's theme