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.

Many have sinned and continue to sin against this Errors comspecial form of the criterion of progress in artistic and 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

[merged small][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 (esthetic progress of

humanity. However, by aesthetic 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, mediaeval, 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 aesthetic 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 aesthetic progress, an artistic awakening in Italy, at the end of the thirteenth or of the fifteenth century.

Finally, aesthetic 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.



Summary of A Glance over the path traversed will show that we v' have completed the entire programme of our treatise. We have studied the nature of intuitive or expressive knowledge, which is the aesthetic 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 aesthetic 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 aesthetic 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 aesthetic 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 impossibility 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 aesthetic 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 aesthetic value or of the beautiful in particular (X.), to criticize aesthetic hedonism in all its various manifestations and complications (XL), and to expel from the system of ^Esthetic the long series of psychological concepts which had been introduced into it (XII.). Proceeding from aesthetic production to the facts of reproduction, we began by investigating the external fixing of the aesthetic 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 aesthetic 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 aesthetic 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 aesthetic 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 »