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statues of actors in character. I cannot admire the conception of even Harlowe's well-known picture of the Kemble family, whom he has represented as acting the trial scene in Shakspeare's Henry VIII. Contrast with this the fine abstraction effected by Sir Joshua Reynolds in his portrait of Mrs. Siddons, not as Lady Macbeth, or Queen Catharine; but as the Tragic Muse; and consequently embodying all her characters at once.
After all, beset as imitative art is with the imperious dictates of fashion, entangled as it is with its own ramifications, still it is naturalness alone that confers on any of its productions effect and value. And the quality of naturalness is not to aim at a cold delineation of reality, but to have the developement of truth for its sole object: and this is good taste : whereas, the practical effect of bad taste is to falsify, by substituting deception for imitation; not having the faculty of perceiving that the required truth consists in the selection, modification, and generalization of the external features of Nature, by which process alone can the mind be rescued from the crude interruptions of circumstance. This is as much as to say that in order to secure naturalness, Nature must be improved upon; a principle recognised in the “quâ fæmina nasci nulla potest” of the passage cited above, and in the following from Homer;
τον μεν 'Αθηναίη θήκεν, Διός έκγεγουϊα,
ODYSSEY, Z. 230,
The warrior Goddess gives his frame to shine
And it is yet more pleasingly illustrated in the following passage from Shakspeare:
Perdita. . Sir, the year growing ancient,-
Wherefore, gentle maiden,
For I have heard it said,
Say there be;
WINTER'S TALE. Act iv. sc. 3.
The conclusion intended to be drawn from the above remarks is, that all imitation addressed to the eye, must, to be pleasing, be informed with a certain spirit of unity of action; and that the most abstract and perfect is sculpture. Let me conclude with expressing a sincere hope, if in attempting definiteness in handling this subject, somewhat may have been dictatorially spoken, that it will be looked
of indulgence; and the error be attributed to a desire of showing that in taking an impartial view of matters of art, our tastes, at home or abroad, are not independent of our reason and of our affections.
with an eye
NOTES TO MEMORIALS IN PROSE
Note 1. Page 32, Title.
THE Baptistery at Florence is an octagonal build
ing; and in eight compartments near the summit of the interior of the Dome, the mosaic represents celestial Beings, over whom is written in large Gothic characters, (1.) A. 12. (2.) DOMINATIONES. (3.) POTESTATES. (4.) ARCHANGELI. (5.) ANGELI. (6.) PRINCIPATUS. (7.) VIRTUTES. (8.) THRONE.
Note 2. Page 32, line 5.
“ E ben debbe essere veramente lodato Lorenzo (Ghiberti) dacchè un giorno Michelagnolo Buonaroti, fermatosi a veder questo lavoro, e dimandato quel che gliene paresse, e se queste porte erano belle, rispose, 'elle son tanto belle, ch'elle starebbon bene alle porte del Paradiso.'” VASARI.