Immagini della pagina

How these aids are possible we have been informed the production from what has been said. Expressions or representations of gids to

memory. are also practical facts, which are also called physical in so far as physics classifies and reduces them to types. Now it is clear that if we can succeed in making those practical or physical facts somehow permanent, it will always be possible (all other conditions remaining equal) on perceiving them to reproduce in ourselves the already produced expression or intuition.

If that be called the object or physical stimulus in which the practical concomitant acts, or (to use physical terms) in which the movements have been isolated and made in some sort permanent, and if that object or stimulus be designated by the letter e; the process of reproduction will take place in the following order : e, the physical stimulus; d-b, perception of physical facts (sounds, tones, mimetic, combinations of lines and colours, etc.), which is together the æsthetic synthesis, already produced; C, the hedonistic accompaniment, which is also reproduced.

And what else are those combinations of words called poetry, prose, poems, novels, romances, tragedies or comedies, but physical stimulants of reproduction (the stage e); what else are those combinations of sound called operas, symphonies, sonatas; or those combinations of lines and colours called pictures, statues, architecture? The spiritual energy of memory, with the assistance of the physical facts above mentioned, makes possible the preservation and the reproduction of the intuitions produced by man. The physiological organism and with it the memory become weakened ; the monuments of art are destroyed, and lo, all that æsthetic wealth, the fruit of the labours of many generations, diminishes and rapidly disappears.

Monuments of art, the stimulants of æsthetic reproduc- Physical tion, are called beautiful things or physical beauty. This beauty. combination of words constitutes a verbal paradox, for the beautiful is not a physical fact; it does not belong to things, but to the activity of man, to spiritual energy.


But it is now clear through what transferences and associations, physical things and facts which are simply aids to the reproduction of the beautiful are finally called elliptically beautiful things and physical beauty. And now that we have explained this elliptical usage, we shall

ourselves employ it without hesitation. Content and The intervention of “physical beauty” serves to form : another

explain another meaning of the words "content" and meaning.

" form," as used by æstheticians. Some call "content" the internal fact or expression (for us, on the other hand, form), and “form” the marble, the colours, the rhythm, the sounds (for us the antithesis of form); thus looking upon the physical fact as the form, which may or may not be joined to the content. It also serves to explain another aspect of what is called æsthetic“ ugliness.” Somebody who has nothing definite to express may try to conceal his internal emptiness in a flood of words, in sounding verse, in deafening polyphony, in painting that dazzles the eye, or by heaping together great architectural masses which arrest and astonish us without conveying anything whatever. Ugliness, then, is the capricious, the charlatanesque ; and, in reality, if practical caprice did not intervene in the theoretic function, there might be absence of beauty, but never the real presence of something

deserving the adjective“ ugly.” Natural and Physical beauty is usually divided into natural and artificial

artificial beauty. Thus we reach one of the facts which beauty.

have given the greatest trouble to thinkers : natural beauty. These words often designate facts of merely practical pleasure. Any one who calls a landscape beautiful where the eye rests upon verdure, where the body moves briskly, and the warm sun envelops and caresses the limbs, does not speak of anything æsthetic. But it is nevertheless indubitable that on other occasions the adjective "beautiful," applied to objects and scenes existing in nature, has a completely æsthetic signification.

It has been observed that in order to enjoy natural objects æsthetically, we must abstract from their external

and historical reality, and separate their simple semblance or appearance from existence; that if we contemplate a landscape with our head between our legs, so as to cancel our wonted relations with it, the landscape appears to us to be an ideal spectacle ; that nature is beautiful only for him who contemplates her with the eye of the artist; that zoologists and botanists do not recognize beautiful animals and flowers; that natural beauty is discovered (and examples of discovery are the points of view, pointed out by men of taste and imagination, to which more or less æsthetic travellers and excursionists afterwards have recourse in pilgrimage, whence a kind of collective suggestion); that, without the aid of the imagination, no part of nature is beautiful, and that with such aid the same natural object or fact is, according to the disposition of the soul, now expressive, now insignificant, now expressive of one definite thing, now of another, sad or glad, sublime or ridiculous, sweet or laughable ; finally, that a natural beauty which an artist would not to some extent correct, does not exist.

All these observations are just, and fully confirm the fact that natural beauty is simply a stimulus to æsthetic reproduction, which presupposes previous production. Without the previous æsthetic intuitions of the imagination, nature cannot awaken any at all. As regards natural beauty, man is like the mythical Narcissus at the fountain. Leopardi said that natural beauty is rare, scattered, and fugitive”: it is imperfect, equivocal, variable. Each refers the natural fact to the expression in his mind. One artist is thrown into transports by a smiling landscape, another by a rag-shop, another by the pretty face of a young girl, another by the squalid countenance of an old rascal. Perhaps the first will say that the rag-shop and the ugly face of the old rascal are repulsive; the second, that the smiling landscape and the face of the young girl are insipid. They may dispute for ever ; but they will never agree, save when they are supplied with a sufficient dose of æsthetic knowledge to enable them to recognize that both are

Mixed beauty.

right. Artificial beauty, created by man, supplies an aid that is far more ductile and efficacious.

In addition to these two classes, æstheticians also sometimes talk in their treatises of a mixed beauty. A mixture of what ? Precisely of natural and artificial. Whoever fixes and externalizes, operates with natural data which he does not create but combines and transforms. In this sense, every artificial product is a mixture of nature and artifice; and there would be no occasion to speak of a mixed beauty, as of a special category. But it sometimes happens that combinations already given in nature can be used a great deal more than in others; as, for instance, when we design a beautiful garden and include in our design groups of trees or ponds already in place. On other occasions externalization is limited by the impossibility of producing certain effects artificially. Thus we can mix colouring matters, but we cannot create a powerful voice or a face and figure appropriate to this or that character in a play. We must therefore seek them among already existing things, and make use of them when found. When, therefore, we employ a great number of combinations already existing in nature, such as we should not be able to produce artificially if they did not exist, the resulting fact is called mixed beauty.

We must distinguish from artificial beauty those instruments of reproduction called writings, such as alphabets, musical notes, hieroglyphics, and all pseudolanguages, from the language of flowers and flags to the language of patches (so much in vogue in the society of the eighteenth century). Writings are not physical facts which arouse directly impressions answering to æsthetic expressions; they are simple indications of what must be done in order to produce such physical facts. A series of graphic signs serves to remind us of the movements which we must execute with our vocal apparatus in order to emit certain definite sounds. If, through practice, we become able to hear the words without opening our mouths and (what is much more difficult) to hear the sounds by running the eye along the stave, all this does


not alter in any way the nature of the writings, which are altogether different from direct physical beauty. No one calls the book which contains the Divine Comedy, or the score which contains Don Giovanni, beautiful in the same sense in which the block of marble which contains Michael Angelo's Moses, or the piece of coloured wood which contains the Transfiguration, is metaphorically called beautiful. Both serve the reproduction of the beautiful, but the former by a far longer and more indirect route than the latter.

Another division of the beautiful, still found in Free and nontreatises, is that into free and not free. By not-free free beauty. beauties have been understood those objects which have to serve a double purpose, extra-æsthetic and æsthetic (stimulants of intuitions); and since it seems that the first purpose sets limits and barriers in the way of the second, the resulting beautiful object has been considered as not-free beauty.

Architectural works are especially cited ; and just for this reason, architecture has often been excluded from the number of what are called the fine arts. A temple must above all things be for the use of a cult; a house must contain all the rooms needed for the convenience of life, and they must be arranged with a view to this convenience; a fortress must be a construction capable of resisting the attacks of given armies and the blows of given instruments of war. It is therefore concluded that the architect's field is restricted : he may embellish to some extent the temple, the house, the fortress; but he is bound by the object of those edifices, and he can only manifest that part of his vision of beauty which does not impair their extraæsthetic but fundamental objects.

Other examples are taken from what is called art applied to industry. Plates, glasses, knives, guns and combs can be made beautiful; but it is held that their beauty must not be pushed so far as to prevent our eating from the plate, drinking from the glass, cutting with the knife, firing off the gun, or combing one's hair with the comb. The same is said of the art of typography: a

« IndietroContinua »