Immagini della pagina

have been altogether failures, but would have anticipated the literary movement of the Risorgimento. Where the matter is not the same, a progressive cycle does not exist. Shakespeare does not represent an advance on Dante, nor Goethe upon Shakespeare. Dante, however, represents an advance on the visionaries of the Middle Ages, Shakespeare on the Elizabethan dramatists, Goethe, with Werther and the first part of Faust, on the writers of the Sturm und Drang period. This mode of presenting the history of poetry and art contains, however, as we have remarked, something of the abstract, of the merely practical, and is without strict philosophical value. Not only is the art of savages not inferior, as art, to that of civilized peoples, if it be correlative to the impressions of the savage; but every individual, indeed every moment of the spiritual life of an individual, has its artistic world; none of these worlds can be compared with any other in respect of artistic value.

this law.


Many have sinned and continue to sin against this Errors com- くく special form of the criterion of progress in artistic and mitted against literary history. Some, for instance, talk of the infancy of Italian art in Giotto, and of its maturity in Raphael or in Titian; as though Giotto were not complete and absolutely perfect, granted the material of feeling with which his mind was furnished. He was certainly incapable of drawing a figure like Raphael, or of colouring it like Titian; but was Raphael or Titian capable of creating the Marriage of Saint Francis with Poverty or the Death of Saint Francis? The spirit of Giotto had not felt the attraction of the body beautiful, which the Renaissance studied and raised to a place of honour; the spirits of Raphael and of Titian were no longer interested in certain movements of ardour and of tenderness with which the man of the fourteenth century was in love. How, then, can a comparison be made, where there is no comparative term?

The celebrated divisions of the history of art into an oriental period, representing a lack of equilibrium between idea and form, the latter dominating, a classical


Other meanings of the word


[ocr errors]

progress in respect to Esthetic.

[ocr errors]

representing an equilibrium between idea and form, a romantic representing a new lack of equilibrium between idea and form, the former dominating, suffer from the same defect. The same is true of the division into oriental art, representing imperfection of form; classical, perfection of form; romantic or modern, perfection of content and of form. Thus classic and romantic have also received, among their many other meanings, that of progressive or regressive periods, in respect to the realization of some alleged artistic ideal of all humanity.

There is no such thing, then, as an aesthetic progress of humanity. However, by æsthetic progress is sometimes meant, not what the two words coupled together really signify, but the ever-increasing accumulation of our historical knowledge, which makes us able to sympathize with all the artistic products of all peoples and of all times, or, as they say, makes our taste more catholic. The difference appears very great if the eighteenth century, so incapable of escaping from itself, be compared with our own time, which enjoys alike Greek and Roman art, now better understood, Byzantine, mediæval, Arabic and Renaissance art, the art of the Cinquecento, baroque art, and the art of the eighteenth century. Egyptian, Babylonian, Etruscan, and even prehistoric art are more profoundly studied every day. Certainly, the difference between the savage and civilized man does not lie in the human faculties. The savage has speech, intellect, religion and morality in common with civilized man, and is a complete man. The only difference lies in this, that civilized man penetrates and dominates a larger portion of the universe with his theoretic and practical activity. We cannot claim to be more spiritually alert than, for example, the contemporaries of Pericles; but no one can deny that we are richer than they-rich with their riches and with those of how many other peoples and generations besides our own?

By æsthetic progress is also meant, in another sense, which is also improper, the greater abundance of artistic intuitions and the smaller number of imperfect or inferior

works which one epoch produces in respect to another. Thus it may be said that there was æsthetic progress, an artistic awakening in Italy, at the end of the thirteenth or of the fifteenth century.

Finally, æsthetic progress is talked of in a third sense, with an eye to the refinement and complications of soul-states exhibited in the works of art of the most civilized peoples, as compared with those of less civilized peoples, barbarians and savages. But in this case the progress is of the comprehensive psycho-social conditions, not of the artistic activity, to which the material is indifferent.

These are the most important points to note concerning the method of artistic and literary history.

the study.




Summary of A GLANCE over the path traversed will show that we have completed the entire programme of our treatise. We have studied the nature of intuitive or expressive knowledge, which is the æsthetic or artistic fact (I. and II.), and described the other form of knowledge, the intellectual, and the successive complications of these forms (III.); it thus became possible for us to criticize all erroneous æsthetic theories arising from the confusion between the various forms and from the illicit transference of the characteristics of one form to another (IV.), noting at the same time the opposite errors to be found in the theory of intellectual knowledge and of historiography (V.). Passing on to examine the relations between the æsthetic activity and the other activities of the spirit, no longer theoretic but practical, we indicated the true character of the practical activity and the place which it occupies in respect to the theoretic activity: hence the criticism of the intrusion into æsthetic theory of practical concepts (VI.); we have distinguished the two forms of the practical activity, as economic and ethical (VII.), reaching the conclusion that there are no other forms of the spirit beyond the four which we have analyzed; hence (VIII.) the criticism of every mystical or imaginative Esthetic. And since there are no other spiritual forms co-ordinate with these, so there are no original subdivisions of the four established, and in particular of Esthetic. From this arises the impossi

bility of classes of expressions and the criticism of Rhetoric, that is, of ornate expression distinct from simple expression, and of other similar distinctions and subdistinctions (IX.). But by the law of the unity of the spirit, the æsthetic fact is also a practical fact, and as such, occasions pleasure and pain. This led us to study the feelings of value in general, and those of æsthetic value or of the beautiful in particular (X.), to criticize æsthetic hedonism in all its various manifestations and complications (XI.), and to expel from the system of Esthetic the long series of psychological concepts which had been introduced into it (XII.). Proceeding from æsthetic production to the facts of reproduction, we began by investigating the external fixing of the æsthetic expression, for the purpose of reproduction. This is called the physically beautiful, whether natural or artificial (XIII.). We derived from this distinction the criticism of the errors which arise from confounding the physical with the aesthetic side of facts (XIV.). We determined the meaning of artistic technique, or that technique which is at the service of reproduction, thus criticizing the divisions, limits and classifications of the individual arts, and establishing the relations of art, economy and morality (XV.). Since the existence of physical objects does not suffice to stimulate æsthetic reproduction to the full, and since, in order to obtain it, we must recall the conditions in which the stimulus first operated, we have also studied the function of historical erudition, directed toward reestablishing the communication between the imagination and the works of the past, and to serve as the basis of the æsthetic judgement (XVI.). We have concluded our treatise by showing how the reproduction thus obtained is afterwards elaborated by the categories of thought, that is to say, by an examination of the method of literary and artistic history (XVII.).

The æsthetic fact has in short been considered both in itself and in its relations with the other spiritual activities, with the feelings of pleasure and pain, with what are called

« IndietroContinua »