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which he was destined to attain, as the “gentle sage who knew all things.” Even John of Salisbury says of the Roman poet, that “sub imagine fabularum totius philosophiae exprimit veritatem.” i The process of interpretation became fixed in the doctrine of the four meanings, literal, allegorical, moral and anagogic, which Dante afterwards transferred to vernacular poetry. It would be easy to accumulate quotations from mediæval writers, repeating in all keys the theory that art inculcates the truths of morality and of faith and constrains hearts to Christian piety, beginning with those well-known verses of Theodulf : “In quorum dictis (that is to say, in the utterances of the poets) quamquam sint frivola multa, Plurima sub falso tegmine vera latent,” and so on, until we reach the doctrines and opinions of our own great men, Dante and Boccaccio. For Dante, poetry “nihil aliud est quam fictio rhethorica in musicaque posita.”2 The poet should have a “reasoning ” in his verses under a cloak of figure or of rhetorical colour"; and it would be a shameful thing for him, if, “when asked, he were not able to divest his words of such a garment, in such a way as to show that they possessed a true meaning." Readers sometimes stop at the external vesture alone, and this indeed suffices for those who, like the vulgar, do not succeed in penetrating the hidden meaning. Poetry will say to the vulgar, which does not understand " its argument,” what a song of Dante's says at its conclusion, “At least behold how beautiful I am": if you are not able to obtain instruction from me, at least enjoy me as a pleasing thing. Many, indeed, their beauty more than their goodness will delight," in poems, unless they are assisted by commentaries in the nature of the Convivio,
a light which will allow every shade of meaning to reach them.” 4 Poetry was the
Poetry was the "gay science,” un fingimiento” (as the Spanish poet the Marquis of Santillana wrote) "de cosas útiles, cubiertas ó veladas con
Comparetti, Virg. nel medio evo, vol. i. passim.
: De vulg. eloq. (ed. Rajna), bk. ii. ch. 4. 8 Vita nuova, ch. 25.
4 Convivio, i. 1.
muy fermosa cobertura, compuestas, distinguidas é scandidas, por cierto cuento, pesso é medida.” 1
It would not then be correct to say that the Middle Ages simply identified art with theology and with philosophy. Indeed it sharply distinguished the one from the other, defining art and poetry, like Dante, with the words fictio rhethorica, “ figure ” and “ rhetorical colour,” “ cloak,” beauty," or like Santillana with those of fingimiento or fermosa cobertura. This pleasing falsity was justified from the practical point of view, very much in the same way as sexual union and love were justified and sanctified in matrimony. This did not exclude, indeed it implied, that the perfect state was certainly celibacy
that is to say, pure science, free from admixture of art. Hints of an
The only tendency that had no true and proper reÆsthetic in scholastic presentatives was the sound scientific tendency. The philosophy. Poetics of Aristotle itself was hardly known or rather it
was ill-known, from the Latin translation that a German of the name of Hermann made, not earlier than 1256, of the paraphrase or commentary of Averroes. Perhaps the best of the mediæval investigations into language is that supplied by Dante's De vulgari eloquentia, where the word is, however, still looked upon as a sign (" rationale signum et sensuale . . . natura sensuale quidem, in quantum sonus est, rationale vero in quantum aliquid significare videtur ad placitum ''). The study of the expressive, æsthetic, linguistic faculty would, however, have found an appropriate occasion and a point of departure in the secular debate between nominalism and realism, which could not avoid touching to some extent the relations between the word and the flesh, thought and language. Duns Scotus wrote a treatise De modis significandi seu (the addition is due perhaps to the editors) grammatica speculativa. Abelard had defined sensation as confusa conceptio, and imaginatio as a faculty that preserved sensations; the intellect renders discursive what is intuitive in the preceding stage, and we have finally the perfection of knowledge in the intuitive knowledge of the discursive. We find the same importance attached to intuitive knowledge, perception, of the individual or species specialissima, in Duns Scotus, together with the progressive denominations of the different sorts of knowledge as confusae, indistinctae and distinctae. We shall see this terminology reappear, big with consequences, at the very commencement of modern Æsthetic.1
i Prohemio al Condestable de Portugal, 1445-1449 (in Obras, ed. Amador de los Rios, 1852), § 3.
? De vulg. eloq. bk. i. ch. 3.
3 Lately reprinted under the editorship of padre M. Fernandez Garcia, Ad claras Aquas (Quarracchi), 1902.
It may be said that the literary and artistic doctrines Renaissance. and opinions of the Middle Ages have, with few exceptions, Philography a value rather for the history of culture than for the sophical and general history of science. The like observation holds empirical
inquiries good of the Renaissance, for here, too, the circle of the concerning the ideas of antiquity was not overstepped. Culture in- beautiful. creases; original sources are studied; the ancient writers are translated and commented upon; many treatises are written and henceforth printed upon poetry and the arts, grammars, rhetorics, dialogues, and dissertations upon the beautiful : . the proportions have increased, the world has become bigger ; but truly original ideas do not yet show themselves in the domain of æsthetic science. The mystical tradition is refreshed and strengthened by the renewed cult of Plato: Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, Cattani, Leon Battista Alberti, in the fifteenth century, and Pietro Bembo, Mario Equicola, Castiglione, Nobili, Betussi, and very many others in the following century, wrote upon the Beautiful and upon Love. Among the most noteworthy productions of the sort, a crossing of the mediæval and classical currents, is the book of the Dialogues of Love (1535), composed in Italian by the Spanish Jew Leo, and translated into all the cultured languages of the time. The three parts into which it is divided treat of the nature and essence, of the universality, and of the origin of love ; and it is demonstrated that
1 Windelband, Gesch. d. Phil. ii. pp. 251-270 ; De Wulf, Philos. médiév., Louvain, 1900, PP. 317-320.
2 Dialogi di amore, composti per Leone, medico . . Rome, 1535.
every beautiful thing is good, but not every good thing is beautiful ; that beauty is a grace which dilates the soul and moves it to love, and that knowledge of lesser beauties leads to that of higher spiritual beauties. The author gave the name of “ Philography” to these and similar affirmations and effusions of which the book is composed. Equicola's 1 work is also interesting, because it contains historical accounts of those who wrote upon the subject before he did so himself. The same intuition was versified and sighed forth by the Petrarchists in their sonnets and ballads, while others, rebellious and mocking, derided it in comedies, verses in terza rima and parodies of all sorts. Some mathematicians, reincarnations of Pythagoras, set to work to determine beauty by exact relations: for instance Leonardo's friend, Luca Paciolo, in the De divina proportione (1509), in which he laid down the pretended æsthetic law of the golden section. And side by side with these new Pythagoreans were those who revived the canon of Polycletus as to the beauty of the human body, especially of the female body, such as Firenzuola, Franco, Luigini, and Dolce. Michael Angelo fixed an empirical canon for painting in general, when he stated that the means of giving movement and grace to figures 3 consisted in the observance of a certain arithmetical relation. Others, such as Fulvio Pellegrino Morato, investigated the symbolism or meaning of colours. The Platonists generally placed beauty in the soul, the Aristotelians rather in the physical qualities. The Averroist, Agostino Nifo, amid much chatter and many inconclusive remarks, demonstrated the existence of the beautiful in nature by describing the supremely beautiful body of Joan of Aragon, Princess of Tagliacozzo, to whom the book is dedicated.4 Torquato Tasso, in the “Minturno," 5 imitated the uncertainties of the Hippias of Plato, not without making a free use of the speculations of Plotinus. A chapter of the Poetica of Campanella possesses greater importance, where he describes the good as signum boni and the ugly as signum mali, understanding by good the three prime forces of Power, Wisdom and Love. Although Campanella was still tied to the Platonic idea of the beautiful, the conception of a sign or symbol, here introduced by him, represents progress. By this means he succeeded in perceiving that material things or external facts are neither beautiful nor ugly in themselves. “Mandricard called the wounds in the bodies of his friends the Moors beautiful, for they were large and gave evidence of the great strength of Roland who dealt them; Saint Augustine called the gashes and the dislocations in the body of Saint Vincent beautiful, because they were evidence of his endurance, but they were on the other hand ugly in so far as they were signs of the cruelty of the tyrant Dacianus and of his executioners. It is beautiful to die fighting, said Virgil, for it is the sign of a strong soul. The pet dog of his mistress will seem beautiful to the lover, and doctors call even urine and fæces beautiful, when they indicate health. Everything is both beautiful and ugly” (quapropter nihil est quod non sit pulcrum simul et turpe). In such observations as these we have not a mere state of mystical exaltation, but to some extent a movement in the direction of analysis.
1 Libro di natura e d'amore, Venice, 1525 (Ven. 1563). 2 De divina proportione, Venice, 1509.
3 G. P. Lomazzo, Trattato dell'arte della pittura, scultura ed architettura, Milan, 1585, i. I, pp. 22-23.
4 Aug. Niphi, De pulcro et amore, Rome, 1529. 5 Il Minturno o vero de la belleza (in Dialoghi, ed. Guasti, vol. iii.).
Nothing better serves to demonstrate that the Re- The pedagogic naissance did not pass beyond the confines of ancient theory of art æsthetic thought than the fact that notwithstanding the Poetics of renewed acquaintance with the thought of Aristotle, the pedagogic theory of art not only persisted and triumphed, but was transplanted bodily into the text of Aristotle, where its interpreters read it with a certainty that we have to make efforts to achieve. Certainly, a Robortelli (1548) or a Castelvetro (1570) stopped short at the simple, purely hedonistic solution, giving simple pleasure as the
1 Ration. philos. part iv.; Poeticor. (Paris, 1638), art. vii.