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attractiveness of his work must depend simply and solely on the perfection of his subject : he was far too true an artist to wish his audience to content itself with the barren pleasure arising from mere resemblance or from the inspection of skilful workmanship : nothing in his art was dearer to him, nothing seemed more noble, than the end at which it aimed.” Pictorial representation must exclude everything unpleasing or ugly ; “painting as imitation may express ugliness: painting as a fine art will refuse to do so : all visible objects belong to art taken under the former title: the latter may claim only such objects as awaken pleasing sensations.” If, on the contrary, ugliness may be represented by the poet, the reason is this : poetic description “conveys a less displeasing sense of bodily malformation which, in the end, almost loses its character as such ; unable to use it for itself, the poet uses it as a means to provoke certain mixed feelings (the ridiculous, the terrible), in which we are content to remain, in the absence of any purely pleasant feelings.” ” In his Dramaturgie (1767) Lessing takes his stand upon the Aristotelian Poetics: it is well known that not only did he approve of rules in general but he believed those laid down by Aristotle to be as incontrovertible as the theorems of Euclid. His polemic against French writers and critics is waged in the name of probability, not to be confounded with historical accuracy. He understood the universal as a sort of average of what appears in individuals, and catharsis as a conversion of passions into virtuous dispositions, asserting it as beyond doubt that the aim of all poetry is to inspire a love for virtue.” He follows the example of Winckelmann in introducing the concept of ideal beauty into the doctrine of figurative art : “expression of corporeal beauty is the aim of painting : therefore supreme beauty of body is the supreme aim of art. But this supreme beauty of body is found in man only, and for him it exists only through the ideal. This ideal may be found among the brute creation in inferior degree ; but is entirely absent from vegetable or inanimate nature.” Landscape and flower painters are not really artists because “they imitate beauties possessed of no ideal : whereby they work by eye and hand alone, genius having little or no part in their compositions.” Nevertheless, Lessing prefers a landscape painter to “the painter of historic pieces who, instead of making beauty his aim, merely depicts a crowd in order to show his cunning in simple expression, not in expression subordinate to beauty.” ". The ideal of bodily beauty then consists “chiefly in the ideal of form, but also in that of texture of the flesh, and in that of permanent expression. Mere colouring and transitory expression have no ideal since nature herself has placed no indelible seal upon them.” ” At the bottom of his heart Lessing dislikes colour; and when he finds the pen-sketches of painters showing “a life, a freedom, a brilliancy never to be found in their painted pictures,” he asks himself “whether the most marvellous colouring can compensate so heavy a loss,” and whether it is not to be wished “that painting in oils had never been invented ”?” Theorists of Ideal beauty, that curious alliance between God and ** the subtle outline traced with pen or graver, that cold academical mysticism, came into fashion. In Italy (the home of Winckelmann and Mengs, who published many of their works in Italian) it was much discussed by artists, antiquaries and connoisseurs. The architect Francesco Milizia professed himself a follower of “the principles of Sulzer and Mengs”; * the Spaniard d'Azara, living in Italy, edited and annotated Mengs, adding his own definition of beauty: “The union of the perfect and the pleasing made visible ";" another Spaniard,
* Laokoon, $ 2. * Op. cit. §§ 23, 24. * Hamburg. Dramaturgie (ed. Göring, vols. xi. and xii.), passim, esp. Nos. 11, 18, 24, 78, 89.
* Laokoon, appendix, § 31. * Op. cit. §§ 22, 23.
* Op. cit, ad fin. p. 268.
* Dell' arte di vedere nelle belle arti del disegno secondo i principi di Sulzer e di Mengs, Venice, 1871.
* D'Azara, in Mengs, Opere, i. p. 168.
Arteaga, one of the many Jesuit refugees in Italy, wrote
G. Spalletti and the characteristic.
innumerable syllogisms, and by reasoning in this manner it will take pleasure in itself, in the object which arouses such pleasure, and in the feeling of its own perfection.” Finally, the beautiful may be defined as “the inherent modification of the object under observation which presents it in the inevitably characteristic manner in which it is bound to appear.” ". In contrast to the fallacious profundity of Winckelmann and Mengs we welcome the sound good sense of this obscure Spalletti, upholder of the Aristotelian position against the revived neo-Platonism of the aestheticians. Many years went by before a similar rebellion arose in Germany; at length in 1797 the art-historian Ludwig Hirt, basing his case on ancient works of art which depicted all things, even things utterly vulgar and ugly, ventured to deny the view that ideal beauty is the principle of art, and that expression has only a secondary place, above which it must not rise for fear of disturbing ideal beauty. For the ideal he substituted the characteristic, as a principle to be applied equally to gods, heroes or animals. Character is “that individuality by which form, movement, signs, physiognomy and expression, local colour, light, shade and chiaroscuro are distinguished and represented in the manner demanded by the object.”” Another historian of art, Heinrich Meyer, who started from the position of Winckelmann and went on by adopting a series of compromises, finally asserting an ideal of trees and landscape side by side with the ideal of man and various other animals, tried to find an intermediate position between this doctrine and Hirt's, in the course of controversy with the latter. And Wolfgang von Goethe, forgetful of his youthful days when he chanted the praises of Gothic architecture, returning home from an Italian tour impregnated with Greece and Rome in 1798, also sought a middle term between Beauty and Expression ; dwelling on the thought of certain characteristic contents which should supply the artist with forms of beauty to be by him remodelled and developed into complete beauty. The characteristic was thus the mere point of departure, and beauty was simply the result of the artist's elaboration : “we must start from the characteristic” (says he) “in order to attain the beautiful.”
Beauty and the
* Saggio, esp. §§ 3, 12, 15, 17, 19, 34.