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The Life, Studies, And Works Of Benjamin West, Esq. by John Galt

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the design. Accordingly, he desired Mr. West to draw up a list of subjects
from the Bible, susceptible of pictorial representation, which Christians,
of all denominations, might contemplate without offence to their tenets;
and he invited Dr. Hurd, afterwards Bishop of Worcester, Dr. Douglas,
Bishop of Salisbury, the Dean of Windsor, and several other dignitaries,
along with the Artist, to consider the business. He explained to the
meeting his scruples, declaring that he did not, in a matter of this kind,
owing to his high station in the state, feel himself a free agent; that he
was certainly desirous of seeing the churches adorned with the endeavours
of art, and would deem it the greatest glory of his reign to be
distinguished, above all others in the annals of the kingdom, for the
progress and successful cultivation of the arts of peace. "But, when I
reflect," said His Majesty, "how the ornaments of art in the churches were
condemned at the Reformation, and still more recently in the unhappy times
of Charles the First, I am anxious to govern my own wishes not only by
what is right, but by what is prudent, in this matter. If it is conceived
that I am tacitly bound, as Head of the Church of England, to prevent any
such ornaments from being introduced into places of worship; or if it be
considered as at all savouring in any degree of a popish practice, however
decidedly I may myself think it innocent, I will proceed no farther in the
business. But, if the church may be adorned with pictures, illustrative of
great events in the history of religion, as the Bible itself often is with
engravings, I will gladly proceed with the execution of this design."
Little else passed at this interview; but he requested the churchmen to
examine the matter thoroughly; and appointed a particular day for them to
report to him the result of their investigation: presenting to them, at
the same time, a paper, containing a list of thirty-five subjects which he
had formed with the Artist, for the decorations of the intended chapel.

On the day appointed, Mr. West again met those eminent members of the
hierarchy in the royal presence: when Dr. Hurd reported to His Majesty,
that they had very seriously considered the important business which had
been confided to them; that, having bestowed on it their gravest
attention, they were unanimously of opinion, that the introduction of
paintings into the chapel, which His Majesty intended to erect, would, in
no respect whatever, violate the laws or usages of the Church of England;
and that, having examined the list of subjects, which he proposed should
constitute the decorations, there was not one of them, but, which properly
treated, even a Quaker might contemplate with edification. This
inadvertent observation attracted the King's attention; and he said, that
the Quakers were a body of Christians for whom he entertained the very
highest respect, and that he thought, but for the obligations of his
birth, he should himself have been a Quaker; and he particularly enlarged
on their peaceful demeanour and benevolence towards one another.

* * * * *

The result of this conference was, that Mr. West immediately received
instructions to make designs from the list of subjects; and afterwards
with the King himself, he assisted to form an architectural plan of the
chapel, which it was proposed should be ninety feet in length by fifty in
breadth. When some progress had been made in the paintings, Mr. Wyat, who
had succeeded Sir William Chambers as the royal architect, received orders
to carry this plan into execution; and the grand flight of steps in the
great staircase, executed by that architect, was designed to lead
immediately to a door which should open into the royal closet, in the new

Chap. VI.

Singular Anecdote respecting the Author of the Letters of Junius.--Of
Lachlan M'Lean.--Anecdote of the Duke of Grafton.--Of the Marquis of
Lansdowne.--Of Sir Philip Francis; Critique on the Transfiguration of
Raphael by Sir Philip Francis, and Objections to his opinion.

By the eminent station which Mr. West has so long held among the artists,
and admirers of the fine arts, in this country, he became personally
acquainted with almost every literary man of celebrity; and being for many
years a general visitor at the literary club, immortalised as the haunt of
Johnson, Burke, Garrick, Goldsmith, and Reynolds, he acquired, without
particularly attending to the literature of the day, an extensive
acquaintance with the principal topics which, from time to time, engaged
the attention of men of letters. An incident, however, of a curious
nature, has brought him to be a party, in some degree, with the singular
question respecting the mysterious author of the celebrated letters of
Junius. On the morning that the first of these famous invectives appeared,
his friend Governor Hamilton happened to call, and enquiring the news, Mr.
West informed him of that bold and daring epistle: ringing for his servant
at the same time, he desired the newspaper to be brought in. Hamilton read
it over with great attention, and when he had done, laid it on his knees,
in a manner that particularly attracted the notice of the painter, who was
standing at his easel. "This letter," said Hamilton, in a tone of vehement
feeling, "is by that damned scoundrel M'Lean."--"What M'Lean?" enquired
Mr. West.--"The surgeon of Otway's regiment: the fellow who attacked me so
virulently in the Philadelphian newspaper, on account of the part I felt
it my duty to take, against one of the officers, a captain, for a
scandalous breach of the privileges of hospitality, in seducing the wife
of a very respectable man. This letter is by him. I know these very words:
I may well remember them," and he read over several phrases and sentences
which M'Lean had employed against him. Mr. West then informed the
Governor, that M'Lean was in this country, and that he was personally
acquainted with him. "He came over," said Mr. West, "with Colonel Barry,
by whom he was introduced to Lord Shelburn, (afterwards Marquis of
Lansdowne,) and is at present private secretary to His Lordship."

Throughout the progress of the controversy with Junius, Hamilton remained
firm in his opinion, that the author was no other than the same Lachlan
M'Lean, but at the literary club the general opinion ascribed the letters
for some time to Samuel Dyer. The sequel of this anecdote is curious.
M'Lean, owing to a great impediment in his utterance, never made any
figure in conversation; and passed with most people as a person of no
particular attainments. But when Lord Shelburn came into office, he was
appointed Under Secretary of State, and subsequently nominated to a
Governorship in India: a rapidity of promotion to a man without family or
parliamentary interest, that can only be explained by a profound
conviction, on the part of his patron, of his superior talents, and
perhaps, also, from a strong sense of some peculiar obligation. M'Lean
sailed for India in the Aurora frigate, and was lost, in the wreck of
that ship, on the coast of Africa. That the letters of Junius were not
ascribed to him by any party is not surprising, for his literary talents
were unknown to the public; but the general opinion of all men at the
time was that they were the production of some person in connection with
Lord Shelburn.

Upon this subject, I hold no particular opinion of my own; nor, indeed,
should I have perhaps noticed the circumstance at all, but for a recent
most ingenious publication which has ascribed these celebrated letters to
the late Sir Philip Francis. One thing, however, merits attention in this
curious controversy. In the Monthly Magazine for July, 1813, there is an
interesting account of a conversation between Sir Richard Phillips and the
Marquis of Lansdowne on this subject; in which His Lordship speaks of the
obligation to secrecy imposed on himself in the question as having been
removed by death; an incidental expression that at once intimated a
knowledge of the author, and that he was dead at the time when this
conversation took place. The importance of the matter, as an object of
literary curiosity, will excuse the introduction, in an abbreviated form,
of what passed at that interview, as well as of some minor circumstances
connected with the question.

During the printing of Almon's edition of Junius, in which he endeavoured
to show that the letters were written by a Mr. Walter Boyd, Sir Richard
Phillips, the publisher of that work, sought opinions among the characters
then surviving, whose names had been mixed with the writings of Junius;
and he addressed himself particularly to the Duke of Grafton, the Marquis
of Lansdowne, Mr. Horne Tooke, and Mr. Grattan. Through two friends of the
Duke of Grafton he was informed, "that His Grace had endeavoured to live
down the calumnies of Junius, and to forget the name of the author; and
that, at the period of the publication, offers were made to him of legal
evidence on which to convict the author of a libel; but that, as he had
then treated the man with contempt, he should decline to disturb him after
so great a lapse of time." From this communication it would seem, that the
Duke believed that he knew the author, and also that he was still alive.

Sir Richard, on calling upon the Marquis of Lansdowne, to whom he was
personally known, found him in his sick chamber, suffering under a general
breaking up of the constitution, but in his usual flow of spirits,
anecdote, and conversation. On mentioning Almon's new edition of Junius,
and that the editor had fixed on Boyd as the author, the Marquis
exclaimed, "I thought Almon had known better: I gave him credit for more
discernment: the world will, however, not be deceived by him; for there is
higher evidence than his opinion. Look at Boyd's other writings: he never
did write like Junius; and never could write like Junius. Internal
evidence destroys the hypothesis of Almon." Sir Richard then said, that
many persons had ascribed these letters to His Lordship; and that the
world at large conceived that, at least, he was not unacquainted with the
author. The Marquis smiled, and said, "No, no: I am not equal to Junius:
I could not be the author; but the grounds of secrecy are now so far
removed by death, and changes of circumstances, that it is unnecessary the
author of Junius should much longer be unknown. The world are curious
about him; and I could make a very interesting publication on the subject.
I knew Junius; and I knew all about the writing and production of those
letters. But look at my own condition now: I don't think I can live
another week: my legs, my strength, tell me so; but the doctors, who
always flatter sick men, assure me I am in no immediate danger. They order
me into the country, and I am going there. If I live over the summer,
which, however, I do not expect, I promise you a very interesting pamphlet
about Junius. I will put my name to it: I will set that question at rest
for ever."

Sir Richard looked at the swollen limbs and other symptoms threatening
the dissolution of this distinguished nobleman; and, convinced that he
was, in truth, never likely to see him again, and that the secret of
Junius might be lost with him, turned the conversation to the various
persons who had, at different times, been named as the Junius; and, after
mentioning five or six whose respective pretensions the Marquis treated
as ridiculous, His Lordship said, "It is of no use to pursue the matter
further at this time. I will, however, tell you this for your guide,
Junius has never yet been publicly named. None of the parties ever
guessed at as Junius were the true Junius. Nobody has ever suspected him.
I knew him, and knew all about it; and I pledge myself, if these legs
will permit me, to give you a pamphlet on the subject, as soon as I feel
myself equal to the labour." Sir Richard soon after took his leave; and
about a week after the Marquis expired.

From Horne Tooke no information could be obtained: whenever Junius was
mentioned, he lost the balance of his mind, and indulged himself in so
much vanity, conceit, and ingenuity, that it was almost useless to speak
with him on the subject.

Mr. Grattan wrote a very candid denial of any knowledge of the matter, in
a letter which was printed in the preface to Almon's edition.

Of the pretension afterwards set forward for Dr. Wilmot, I believe it was
never entertained or supported by any good evidence: Dr. Francis, the
father of Sir Philip, had been long before mentioned, but for what reason
I have never been able to ascertain. The answer of Sir Philip himself on
the subject is, however, curiously equivocal, at least it so strikes me;
although it is generally considered as a decided denial. It is as follows:
"The great civility of your letter induces me to answer it, which, with
reference merely to its subject-matter, I should have declined. Whether
you will assist in giving currency to a silly, malignant falsehood, is a
question for your own discretion: to me it is a matter of perfect
indifference." But notwithstanding all this, an amusingly mysterious
circumstance has, I am informed, transpired since the death of Sir Philip.
In a box, it is said, which he carefully deposited with his banker's, and
which was not to be opened till after his death, a copy of the
publication, "Junius identified," with a common copy of the letters of
Junius, were found. I shall offer no comment on this occurrence, for even
granting that it was true, it might have been but a playful trick--if Sir
Philip Francis was, in any respect, a humorist. But I have already
digressed too far from the immediate object of my work; and I cannot make
a better amends to my readers than by inserting here a short paper,
written by that eminent person, and addressed to Mr. West. It is a
critique on the Transfiguration by Raphael, in which Sir Philip evinces
considerable ingenuity, by attempting not only to explain a defect in the
composition, felt by every man of taste, in the midst of the delight
which, in other respects, it never fails to produce, but to show that, so
far from being any defect, it is in fact a great beauty.

* * * * *

_Transfiguration by Raphael._

The title of this picture is a misnomer. The picture itself tells you it
is _the Ascension_. The Transfiguration is another incident, which
happened long before the Ascension, and is recited in the ninth chapter of
St. Luke:--"When the countenance of Jesus was changed, and he became
[Greek: etethon] and his clothing was _white_, and lightened." The robe of
the ascending Christ is BLUE.

The painter brings different incidents together to constitute one plot.
The picture consists of three separate groupes, combined and united in one
scheme or action.

I. Jesus ascending perpendicularly into the air, clothed in blue raiment,
and attended by two other figures.

II. Some of his disciples on the Mount, who see the ascent, and lie
dazzled and confounded by the sight.

III. A number of persons at the bottom of the Mount, who appear to look
intently on a young man possessed by a devil, and convulsed. None of them
see the Ascension but the young man, or rather the devil, who was in him,
does see it. On all similar occasions, those fallen angels know the
Christ, and acknowledge him. The other figures are agitated with
astonishment and terror, variously and distinctly expressed in every one
of them, at sight of the effect which they see is made upon him by some
object which _they_ do not see.

This is the sublime imagination, by which the lower part of the picture is
connected with the upper.


_13th July, 1816._

But although it must be confessed that this comment is exceedingly
ingenious, in so far as it explains the painter's design in representing
the demoniac boy, as the connecting link between the action on the Mount,
and the groupe at the foot of it; yet, upon an examination of the picture,
it will be found that it does not exhibit the Ascension, but the
Transfiguration; and I beg leave to refer to a letter, from my friend Mr.
M'Gillivray, in the Appendix which seems to me as perfectly satisfactory
on the subject as any thing of the kind I ever met with. Mr. West was of
the same opinion as Mr. M'Gillivray; but in conversing with him on the
subject, he did not enter into so distinct an explanation of his reasons
for dissenting from the speculation of Sir Philip Francis. In criticism,
however, whether the matter in question be works of art, or of literature,
the best opinion is exactly that which is the most reasonable; and the
point at issue here, is not one in which an artist's judgment can be
allowed greater weight than that of any other man.

Chap. VII.

Observations on Mr. West's Intercourse with the King.--Anecdote of the
American War.--Studies for the Historical Pictures at Windsor
Castle.--Anecdote of the late Marquis of Buckingham.--Anecdote of Sir
Joshua Reynolds; and of the Athenian Marbles.--Election of Mr. West to
the Presidency of the Royal Academy.--His Speech to the Academicians
on that occasion.

While Mr. West was engaged on the series of religious and historical works
for the King, he had frequent opportunities of becoming acquainted with
political incidents, that a man less intent on his art, and more ambitious
of fortune, might have turned to great advantage. This was particularly
the case during the American War, for His Majesty knowing the Artist's
connections with that country, and acquaintance with some of the most
distinguished of the rebels, often conversed with him on the subject; and
on different occasions Mr. West was enabled to supply the King with more
circumstantial information respecting some important events than was
furnished by the official channels. I do not consider myself at liberty,
nor this a fit place, to enter upon subjects so little in unison with the
arts of peace, or the noiseless tenour of an artist's life; but, among
other curious matters that may be thrown out for the investigation of the
future historian, is an opinion which prevailed among some of the best
informed in America, that when General Washington was appointed to the
supreme command of the army, it was with the view and intention of
effecting a reconciliation between the two countries. A communication to
this purpose is said to have been made by that illustrious man, which
communication was never answered, nor ever laid formally before the Privy
Council, at least not until more than six weeks after it had been
received, and then it was too late. America was lost; and millions spent,
and thousands sacrificed afterwards in vain. Whether, indeed, the King
ever did know the whole affair, may be doubted.

The mind of Mr. West, however, had no enjoyment in political cabals, in
the petty enmities of partizans, or the factious intrigues of party
leaders. He was by his art wholly enchanted, and saw in the prospect
before him an adequate recompense in fame for all his exertions, his days
of labour, and his nights of study. The historical pictures for Windsor
Castle cost him many a patient hour of midnight research; for the means to
assist his composition, especially in architecture, and the costume of the
time, were then far from being so easy of access as they are at present. A
long period of preference for classic literature, and the illustration of
the Greek and Roman story, had withdrawn the public taste from the no less
glorious events of our own annals. To mark, therefore, the epoch, and
manners of the age of Poictiers and Cressy, of the Institution of the
Garter, and the other heroic and magnificent incidents of the reign of
Edward the Third, with that historical truth which the artist thought
essential to historical painting, required the inspection of many an
ancient volume, and much antiquarian research. In the composition for the
Institution of the Garter, the late Marquis of Buckingham offered several
suggestions, which were adopted; and on His Lordship mentioning to the
King, that Mr. West was descended of the Delawarre family, the head of
which bore a distinguished part in the great events of that time, His
Majesty ordered Mr. West to insert his own portrait among the spectators
represented in the gallery, and immediately over the shield bearing the
arms of the Earl of Delawarre. Mr. West himself was not, at that period,
acquainted with the descent of his pedigree; but it happened in a
conversation one day with Lord Buckingham, that His Lordship enquired from
what part of England his family had been originally, and upon Mr. West
telling him, His Lordship said, that the land which his ancestors had
formerly possessed was become his by purchase; and that the Wests of Long
Crandon were sprung from the ancient Earls of Delawarre.

But, except the historical information required for his pictures, in which
he was indefatigable, until master of all that could be obtained, Mr.
West, following the early and wise advice of Dr. Smith of Philadelphia,
wasted none of his time in other literary pursuits. Among his learned and
ingenious cotemporaries, however, he acquired a general knowledge of the
passing literature of the day, and in consequence, there are few authors
of any celebrity, especially the cotemporaries of Johnson, of whom he does
not possess interesting anecdotes, as well as an acquaintance with the
merit which they were severally allowed to possess.

One day at Sir Joshua Reynolds, after dinner when Dr. Johnson, Goldsmith,
and Burke were present, the conversation turned on the degree of
excellence which sculpture attained among the Greeks. It was observed
incidentally, that there was something in the opinion of the ancients, on
this subject, quite inexplicable; for, in the time of Alexander the Great,
although painting was allowed to have been progressive, sculpture was said
to have declined, and yet the finest examples of the art, the Apollo and
Venus, were considered as the works of that period. Different theories
were sported on this occasion, to explain this seeming contradiction;
none of them, however, were satisfactory. But, on the arrival of the
Athenian marbles, which Lord Elgin brought to this country, Mr. West was
convinced, at the first sight of them, of the justness of ancient
criticism, and remembered the conversation alluded to.

Perhaps I may be allowed to mention here, without impropriety, that I was
at Athens when the second cargo of these celebrated sculptures was
dispatched; that I took some interest in getting the vessel away; and that
I went with her myself to the island of Idra. Two circumstances occasioned
this interference on my part;--an Italian artist, the agent of Lord Elgin,
had quarrelled about the marbles with Monsieur Fauvelle, the French
Consul, a man of research and taste, to whom every traveller that visited
Athens, even during the revolutionary war, might have felt himself
obliged. Fauvelle was, no doubt, ambitious to obtain these precious
fragments for the Napoleon Museum at Paris; and, certainly, exerted all
his influence to get the removal of them interdicted. On the eve of the
departure of the vessel, he sent in a strong representation on the
subject to the governor of the city, stating, what I believe was very
true, that Lord Elgin had never any sufficient firman or authority for the
dilapidations that he had committed on the temples. Luseri, the Italian
alluded to, was alarmed, and called on me at the monastery of the Roman
propaganda, where I then resided; and it was agreed between us, that if
any detention was attempted, I should remonstrate with the governor, and
represent to him that such an arrest of British property would be
considered as an act of hostility. But our fears were happily removed. No
notice was taken by the governor of Monsieur Fauvelle's remonstrance. In
the evening I embarked on board the vessel at the Pireus, and next morning
was safely landed on the island of Idra, where the vessel, after remaining
a day or two, sailed for Malta.

But to return to the biographical narrative. On the death of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, in 1791, Mr. West was unanimously elected President of the Royal
Academy. The choice was not more a debt of gratitude on the part of the
Institution, to one who had essentially contributed to its formation, than
a testimony of respect deservedly merited by the conduct and genius of the
Artist who, when the compass, number, and variety of his pictures are
considered, was, at that period, decidedly the greatest historical painter
then living, who had been born a British subject. This event, at once so
honourable to his associates and himself, was confirmed by the sanction of
His Majesty on the 24th of March, 1792; on which occasion, on taking the
chair, Mr. West addressed the Academicians to the following effect:--

* * * * *


"The free and unsolicited choice with which you have called me to fill
this chair, vacated by the death of that great character, Sir JOSHUA
REYNOLDS, is so marked an instance of your friendship and good opinion,
that it demands the immediate acknowledgment of my thanks, which I beg you
to accept.

"I feel more sensibly the dignity to which you have raised me, as I am
placed in succession after so eminent a character, whose exalted
professional abilities, and very excellent discourses delivered under this
roof, have secured a lasting honor to this Institution and to the
country; while his amiable dispositions, as a man, will make his loss to
be long regretted by all who had the happiness to know him.

"HIS MAJESTY having been graciously pleased to approve and confirm the
choice which you have made of me as your President, it becomes my duty, as
far as my humble abilities will permit, to study and pursue whatever may
be the true interest, the prosperity, and the glory of this ACADEMY. In
the prosecution of this duty, I can make no doubt of success, when I
reflect that all the departments and classes of this Institution are
filled with men of established professional reputation, selected from
professors of the three great branches of art, which constitute the
objects of your studies and, when I see this union of abilities
strengthened by many ingenious productions of other able artists, who,
although they have not as yet the honour of belonging to this body, will,
nevertheless, enable us to maintain the accustomed brilliancy of our
Exhibitions, and, consequently, to secure to us the approbation of a
liberal and judicious public.

"The Exhibitions are of the greatest importance to this Institution; and
the Institution is become of great importance to the country. Here
ingenious youth are instructed in the art of design; and the instruction
acquired in this place, has spread itself through the various manufactures
of this country, to which it has given a taste that is able to convert the
most common and simple materials into rare and valuable articles of
commerce. Those articles the British merchant sends forth into all the
quarters of the world, where they stand preeminent over the productions of
other nations.

"But important as this is, there is another consequence of a more exalted
kind; I mean, the cultivating of those higher excellences in refined art,
which have never failed to secure to nations and to the individuals who
have nourished them, an immortality of fame, which no other circumstances
have been equally able to perpetuate. For it is by those higher and more
refined excellences of painting, sculpture, and architecture, that Grecian
and Roman greatness are transmitted down to the age in which we live, as
if it was still in existence. Many centuries have elapsed since Greeks and
Romans have been overthrown and dissolved as a people; but other nations,
by whom similar refinements were not cultivated, are erased from the face
of the earth, without leaving any monument or vestige to give the
demonstration that they were ever great.

"It may, therefore, be fairly assumed, that an ACADEMY, whose objects and
effects are so enlightened and extensive as those which are prosecuted
here, is highly worthy of the protection of a patriot-king, of a dignified
nobility, and of a wise people.

"Another circumstance, permit me, gentlemen, to mention, because I can
speak of it with peculiar satisfaction, as important to the best
interests of this Institution, and with the fullest assurance of its
truth, from the personal knowledge I have had of you all, and the intimacy
in which I have stood with most of you; it is this, that I have ever found
you steadily determined to support the regulations under which this
ACADEMY has been governed, and brought to its present conspicuous
situation, and by an attention to which, we shall always be sure to go on
with the greatest prudence and advantage.

"It is a matter of no less satisfaction to me, when I say, that I have
always observed your bosoms to glow with gratitude and loyal affection to
our August Founder, Patron, and Benefactor. I am convinced, it is your
wish to retain His friendship, and the friendship of every branch of His
Illustrious Family. I know these to be your sentiments, and they are
sentiments in which I participate with you. In every situation of my life
it shall be my invariable study to demonstrate my duty to my sovereign, my
love for this Institution, and my zeal for the cultivation of genius, and
the growth of universal virtue."

Mr. West having thus been raised to the head of an institution, embracing
within itself the most distinguished artists at that time in the world, it
might be proper to pause here to review the merits of the works and
exertions by which he acquired this eminent honour, had he not, since that
time, attained still more distinction in his profession. I shall, however,
for the present, suspend the consideration of his progress, as an artist,
to trace his efforts, in the situation of President of the Royal Academy,
to promote the improvement of the pupils, by those occasional discourses,
which, in imitation of the excellent example of Sir Joshua Reynolds, he
deemed it an essential part of his duty to deliver.

Chap. VIII.

The first Discourse of Mr. West to the Students of the
Academy.--Progress of the Arts.--Of the Advantages of Schools of
Art.--On the Natural Origin of the Arts.--Of the Patronage which
honoured the Patrons and the Artists.--Professional Advice.--Promising
State of the Arts in Britain.

Mr. West's first discourse to the students of the Royal Academy was
delivered on the 10th of December, 1792, on the occasion of the
distribution of the prizes. Without ostensibly differing in his views from
Sir Joshua Reynolds, who by his lectures acquired, as an author, a degree
of celebrity equal to his fame as an artist, the new President confined
himself more strictly to professional topics. He recalled to the
remembrance of his auditors the circumstances in which the Academy
originated, and reminded them of the encouragement which the efforts of
artists had received from the countenance which the King had given to the
arts. "Let those," said he, "who have traced the progress of the fine
arts, say among what people did the arts rise, from such a state as that
in which they were in this country about forty years ago, to the height
which they have attained here in so short a period. In ancient Greece,
from the retreat of Xerxes, when they were in their infancy, to the age of
Alexander the Great, when they reached their maturity, we find a period of
no less than one hundred and fifty years elapsed. In Rome we can make no
calculation directly applicable; for among the Romans the habit of
employing Greek artists, and the rage of collecting, suffered no distinct
traces to be left of the progress of the arts among them. Even in
architecture, to which their claims were most obviously decided, we see
not sufficiently the gradations of their own peculiar taste and genius.
But in modern Italy, leaving out of view the age of Cimabue, and even that
of Giotto, and dating from the institution of the Academy of St. Luke at
Florence, it required a hundred and fifty years to produce a Michael
Angelo, a Raphael, and a Bramante."

Mr. West, after a few general observations on the necessary union between
moral conduct and good taste, adverts to the alleged influence which such
institutions as the Royal Academy have in producing mannerism in the
students, than which nothing can be more obnoxious to the progress of
refined art. "But," said he, "while I am urging the advantage of freedom
and nature in study to genius, let me not be misunderstood. There is no
untruth in the idea that great wits are allied to great eccentricity.
Genius is apt to run wild if not brought under some regulation. It is a
flood whose current will be dangerous if it is not kept within proper
banks. But it is one thing to regulate its impetuosity, and another very
different to direct its natural courses. In every branch of art there are
certain laws by which genius may be chastened; but the corrections gained
by attention to these laws amputate nothing that is legitimate, pure, and
elegant. Leaving these graces untouched, the schools of art have dominion
enough in curbing what is wild, irregular, and absurd.

"A college of art founded in this part of the world cannot be expected,
like a college of literature, to lay before its young members all that may
be necessary to complete their knowledge and taste. What is to be had from
books may be obtained almost every where; but the books of instruction by
which the artist alone can be perfected, are those great works which still
remain immoveable in that part of the world, where the fine arts in modern
times have been carried to their highest degree of perfection. I trust a
period will come, when this Academy will be able to send the young artist,
not from one spot or one seminary to another, but to gather improvement
from every celebrated work of art wherever situated. But the progress and
all future success of the artist must depend upon himself. He must be in
love with his art or he will never excel in it.

"That the arts of design were among the first suggestions vouchsafed by
Heaven to mankind, is not a proposition at which any man needs to start.
This truth is indeed manifested by every little child, whose first essay
is to make for itself the resemblance of some object to which it has been
accustomed in the nursery.

"In the arts of design were conveyed the original means of communicating
ideas, which the discoverers of countries show us to have been seized
upon, as it were involuntarily, by all the first stages of society.
Although the people were rude in knowledge and in manners, yet they were
possessed of the means by which they could draw figures of things, and
they could make those figures speak their purposes to others as well as to
themselves. The Mexicans conversed in that way when Cortes came among
them; and the savages of North America still employ the same means of
communicating intelligence.

"When, therefore, you have taken up the arts of design as your profession,
you have embraced that which has not only been sanctioned by the
cultivation of the earliest antiquity, but to which their is no antiquity
prior, except that of the visible creation.

"Religion itself in the earlier days of the world, would probably have
failed in its progress without the arts of design, for religion was then
emblematic; and what could an emblematic theology do without the aid of
the fine arts, and especially the art of sculpture? Religion and the arts,
in fact, sprung up together, were introduced by the same people, and went
hand in hand, first through the continent of Asia, then through Egypt,
next through Greece and her colonies, and in process of time through every
part of Italy, and even to the north of Europe. In the pagodas of India,
in some caverns of Media, and among various ruins in Persia, are still to
be seen the early monuments of emblematic art, and wrought in all the
possible difficulties of skill.

"When in the space of two thousand years, after the erection of some of
those monuments, the fine arts came to be established in Greece in a
better spirit as to taste, a higher estimation could not be annexed to any
circumstance in society, than was given to the arts by the wise and
elegant inhabitants of that country. They regarded them as their public
records, as the means of perpetuating all public fame, all private
honour, and all valuable instruction. The professors of them were
considered as public characters who watched over the events that were
passing, and who had in their hands the power of embodying them for ever.
And is not this still the case with the artists of every country, how
varied soever may be its maxims, or its system of action, from those of
Greece? Is the artist indeed not that watchman who observes the great
incidents of his time, and rescues them from oblivion?

"When he turns from these views to contemplate the patronage which has
been given to the fine arts, will he have less reason to esteem his
profession,--a profession so richly cherished by all the greatest
characters of the earth? and which in return has immortalised its patrons.
Posterity has never ceased to venerate the names of the Cosmos and
Lorenzos who sought art, and fostered to their full maturity the various
talents of their countrymen. The palace of the Medici, still existing in
Florence, exhibits not only in its treasures the proofs of their
munificence, but also within its walls those apartments and offices for
artists, in every branch which those great men considered requisite to the
decoration of their residence. And history has immortalised the solicitude
with which the vast fortune of the family, acquired originally in
honourable commerce, and rising gloriously to sovereign power, was made
contributory to the nourishing of the arts and literature; of every thing
that was intellectual, liberal, and great."

Mr. West then continued to enumerate the honour which the successive
illustrious patrons of the fine arts have acquired, deducing from it
motives of emulation to the young students to strive for similar
distinction, that their names may be mingled with those illustrious races
and families to whom Heaven is pleased to give superior eminence and
influence in human affairs. In doing this he took occasion to animadvert
on the base adulation of the artists of France in the age of Louis XIV.;
or rather of the dishonour which the patronage of that monarch has drawn
upon himself, by the unworthy manner in which he required the artists to
gratify his personal vanity. He then proceeded to give some professional
advice. "I wish," said he, "to leave this impression on the minds of all
who hear me, that the great alphabet of our art is the human figure. By a
competent knowledge of that figure the painter will be enabled to give a
more just character and motion to that which he intends to delineate. When
that motion is actuated by passion, and combined with other figures,
groups are formed. These groups make words, and these words make
sentences; by which the painter's tablet speaks a universal language;" and
he concluded with saying, "Gentlemen, It is a great treasure and a great
trust which is put into our hands. The fine arts were late before they
crossed the British Channel, but now we may fairly pronounce that they
have made their special abode with us. There is nothing in this climate
unpropitious to their growth; and if the idea has been conceived in the
world, enough has been done by the artists of Great Britain to disprove
it. I know that I am speaking to the first professional characters in
Europe in every branch of elegant art, as well as those who are most
distinguished in taste and judgment. If there be diffused through this
country a spirit of encouragement equal to the abilities which are ripe to
meet it, I may venture to predict that the sun of our arts will have a
long and glorious career."

Chap. IX.

Discourse to the Royal Academy in 1794.--Observations on the Advantage
of drawing the Human Figure correctly.--On the Propriety of
cultivating the Eye, in order to enlarge the Variety of our Pleasures
derived from Objects of Sight.--On characteristic Distinctions in
Art.--Illustrations drawn from the Apollo Belvidere, and from the
Venus de Medici; comprehending critical Remarks on those Statues.

The prizes in the Royal Academy being distributed every second year, on
the 10th of December, 1794, Mr. West delivered another Discourse, in which
he took a more scientific view of the principles of the fine arts, than in
the desultory observations which constituted the substance of his first
lecture. As it contained much valuable information, mixed up with remarks
incidental to the occasion, I have taken the liberty of abstracting the
professional instruction from the less important matter, in order to give
what deserves to be preserved and generally known in a concise and an
unbroken form.

"It may be assumed," said Mr. West, "as an unquestionable principle, that
the artist who has made himself master of the drawing of the human figure,
in its moral and physical expression, will succeed not only in
portrait-painting, but in the delineation of animals, and even of still
life, much better than if he had directed his attention to inferior
objects. For the human figure in that point of consideration, in which it
becomes a model to art, is more beautiful than any other in nature; and is
distinguished, above every other, by the variety of the phenomena which it
exhibits, arising from the different modifications of feeling and passion.
In my opinion, it would, therefore, be of incalculable advantage to the
public, if the drawing of the human figure were taught as an elementary
essential in education. It would do more than any other species of oral or
written instruction, to implant among the youth of the noble and opulent
classes that correctness of taste which is so ornamental to their rank in
society; while it would guide the artizan in the improvement of his
productions in such a manner, as greatly to enrich the stock of
manufactures, and to increase the articles of commerce; and, as the sight
is perhaps the most delightful of all our senses, this education of the
eye would multiply the sources of enjoyment.

"The value of the cultivated ear is well understood; and the time bestowed
on the acquisition of the universal language of music, is abundantly
repaid by the gratification which it affords, although not employed in the
communication of knowledge, but merely as a source of agreeable sensation.
Were the same attention paid to the improvement of the eye, which is given
to that of the ear, should we not be rewarded with as great an increase of
the blameless pleasures of life,--from the power of discriminating hues
and forms,--as we derive from the knowledge of musical proportions and
sounds? The cultivation of the sense of sight would have such an effect in
improving even the faculty of executing those productions of mechanical
labour which constitute so large a portion of the riches of a commercial
and refined people, that it ought to be regarded among the mere operative
classes of society as a primary object in the education of their
apprentices. Indeed, it may be confidently asserted, that an artizan,
accustomed to an accurate discrimination of outline, will, more readily
than another not educated with equal care in that particular, perceive the
fitness or defects of every species of mechanical contrivance; and, in
consequence, be enabled to suggest expedients which would tend to enlarge
the field of invention. We can form no idea to ourselves how many of the
imperfections in the most ingenious of our machines and engines would have
been obviated, had the inventors been accustomed to draw with accuracy.

"But, to the student of the fine arts, this important branch of education
will yield but few of the advantages which it is calculated to afford,
unless his studies are directed by a philosophical spirit, and the
observation of physical expression rendered conducive to some moral
purpose. Without the guidance of such a spirit, painting and sculpture
are but ornamental manufactures; and the works of Raphael and Michael
Angelo, considered without reference to the manifestations which they
exhibit of moral influence, possess no merit beyond the productions of the
ordinary paper-hanger.

"The first operation of this philosophical spirit will lead the student to
contemplate the general form of the figure as an object of beauty; and
thence instruct him to analyse the use and form of every separate part;
the relation and mutual aid of the parts to each other; and the necessary
effect of the whole in unison.

"By an investigation of this kind, he will arrive at what constitutes
character in art; and, in pursuing his analysis, he will discover that the
general construction of the human figure in the male indicates strength
and activity; and that the form of the individual man, in proportion to
the power of being active, is more or less perfect. In the male, the
degree of beauty depends on the degree of activity with which all the
parts of the body are capable of performing their respective and mutual
functions; but the characteristics of perfection of form in the female are
very different; delicacy of frame and modesty of demeanour, with less
capability to be active, constitute the peculiar graces of woman.

"When the student has settled in his own mind the general and primary
characteristics, in either sex, of the human figure, the next step will
enable him to reduce the particular character of his subject into its
proper class, whether it rank under the sublime or the beautiful, the
heroic or the graceful, the masculine or the feminine, or in any of its
other softer or more spirited distinctions. For the course of his studies
will have made him acquainted with the moral operations of character, as
they are expressed upon the external form; and the habit of
discrimination, thus acquired, will have taught him the action or attitude
by which all moral movements of character are usually accompanied. By this
knowledge of the general figure, this habitual aptitude to perceive the
beauty and fitness of its parts, and of the correspondence between the
emotions of the mind and the actions of the body, he will find himself in
possession of all that Zeuxis sought for in the graces of the different
beautiful women whom he collected together, that he might be enabled to
paint a proper picture of Helen; and it is the happy result of this
knowledge which we see in the Apollo Belvidere and the Venus de Medici,
that renders them so valuable as objects of study.

"But the student must be always careful to distinguish between objects of
study and objects of imitation; for the works which will best improve his
taste and exalt his imagination, are precisely those which he should least
endeavour to imitate; because, in proportion to their appropriate
excellences, their beauties are limited in their application.

"The Apollo is represented by the mythologists as a perfect man, in the
vigour of life; tall, handsome and animated; his locks rising and floating
on the wind; accomplished in mind and body; skilled in the benevolent art
of alleviating pain; music his delight, and poetry and song his continual
recreation. His activity was shown in dancing, running, and the manly
exercises of the quoit, the sling, and the bow. He was swift in his
pursuits, and terrible in his anger.--Such was the Pythian Apollo; and
were a sculptor to think of forming the statue of such a character, would
he not determine that his body, strong and vigorous from constant
exercise, should be nobly erect; that, as his lungs were expanded by
habits of swiftness in the chase, his chest should be large and full; that
his thighs, as the source of movement in his legs, should have the
appearance of enlarged vigour and solidity; and that his legs, in a
similar manner, should also possess uncommon strength to induce and
propagate the action of the feet? The nostrils ought to be elevated,
because the quick respirations of running and dancing would naturally
produce that effect; and, for the same reason, the mouth should appear to
be habitually a little open. While his arms, firm and nervous by the
exercise of the quoit, the sling, and the bow, should participate in the
general vigour and agility of the other members;--and would not this be
the Apollo Belvidere?

"Were the young artist, in like manner, to propose to himself a subject in
which he would endeavour to represent the peculiar excellences of woman,
would he not say, that these excellences consist in a virtuous mind, a
modest mien, a tranquil deportment, and a gracefulness in motion? And, in
embodying the combined beauty of these qualities, would he not bestow on
the figure a general, smooth, and round fulness of form, to indicate the
softness of character; bend the head gently forward, in the common
attitude of modesty; and awaken our ideas of the slow and graceful
movements peculiar to the sex, by limbs free from that masculine and
sinewy expression which is the consequence of active exercise?--and such
is the Venus de Medici. It would be utterly impossible to place a person
so formed in the attitude of the Apollo, without destroying all those
amiable and gentle associations of the mind which are inspired by
contemplating 'the statue which enchants the world.'

"Art affords no finer specimens of the successful application of the
principles which I have laid down than in those two noble productions."

Chap. X.

Discourse to the Academy in 1797.--On the Principles of Painting and
Sculpture.--Of Embellishments in Architecture.--Of the Taste of the
Ancients.--Errors of the Moderns.--Of the good Taste of the Greeks in
Appropriations of Character to their Statues.--On Drawing.--Of Light
and Shade.--Principles of Colouring in Painting.--Illustration.--Of
the Warm and Cold Colours.--Of Copying fine Pictures.--Of
Composition.--On the Benefits to be derived from Sketching;--and of
the Advantage of being familiar with the Characteristics of Objects
in Nature.

In the discourse which Mr. West delivered from the chair of the Academy in
1797, he resumed the subject which he had but slightly opened, in that of
which the foregoing chapter contains the substance. I shall therefore
endeavour in the same manner, and as correctly as I can, to present a view
of the mode in which he treated his argument, and as nearly as possible in
his own language.

"As the foundation of those philosophical principles," said Mr. West, "on
which the whole power of art must rest, I wish to direct the attention of
the student, especially in painting and sculpture, to an early study of
the human figure, with reference to proportion, expression, and character.

"When I speak of painting and sculpture, it is not my intention to pass
over architecture, as if it were less dependent on philosophical
principles, although what I have chiefly to observe with respect to it
relates to embellishment;--a branch of art which artists are too apt to
regard as not under the control of any principle, but subject only to
their own taste and fancy. If the young architect commences his career
with this erroneous notion, he will be undone, if there is any just
notions of his art in the country.

"It is, therefore, necessary, as he derives his models from the ancients,
that he should enquire into the origin of those embellishments with which
the architects of antiquity decorated their various edifices. In the
prosecution of his enquiries, he will find that the ornaments of temples
and mausolea, may be traced back to the periods of emblematic art, and
become convinced that the spoils of victims, and instruments of sacrifice,
were appropriate ornaments of the temple; while urns, containing the ashes
of the dead, and the tears of the surviving friends, were the invariable
decorations of the mausoleum. The good taste of the classic ancients
prevented them from ever intermixing the respective emblems of different
buildings, or rather, in their minds custom preserved them from falling
into such an incongruous error, as to place the ornaments belonging to the
depositaries of the dead on triumphal arches, palaces, and public offices.
They considered in the ornaments the character and purpose of the edifice;
and they would have been ashamed to have thought it possible that their
palaces might be mistaken for mausolea, or their tombs for the mansions of

"Is the country in which we live free from the absurdities which confound
these necessary distinctions? Have we never beheld on the porticoes of
palaces, public halls, or places of amusement, the skins of animals
devoted to the rites of the pagan religion, or vases consecrated to the
ashes of the dead, or the tears of the living? Violations of sense and
character, in this respect, are daily committed. We might, with as much
propriety, adorn the friezes of our palaces and theatres with the skulls
and cross thigh-bones of the human figure, which are the emblems of death
in every country throughout modern Europe!

"I do not here allude to any particular work, nor do I speak of this want
of principle as general. It is indeed impossible that I can be supposed to
mean the latter; for we have among us men distinguished in the profession
of architecture, who would do honour to the most refined periods of
antiquity. But all are not equally chaste; and in addressing myself to the
young, it is my duty to guard them against those deviations from good
taste, which, without such a caution, they might conceive to be sanctioned
by some degree of example. It is my wish to preserve them from the
innovations of caprice and fashion, to which the public is always prone;
and to assure the youth of genius, that while he continues to found the
merit of his works on true principles, he will always find,
notwithstanding the apparent generality of any fashion, that there is no
surer way, either to fame or fortune, than by acting in art, as well as
life, on those principles which have received the sanction of experience,
and the approbation of the wise of all ages.

"I shall now return to the consideration of painting and sculpture.

"The Greeks, above all others, afford us the best and most decided proofs
of the beauty arising from the philosophical consideration of the subject
intended to be represented. To all their deities a fixed and appropriate
character was given, from which it would have perhaps been profanity to
depart. This character was the result of a careful consideration of the
ideal beauty suitable to the respective attributes of the different
deities. Thus in their Jupiter, Neptune, Hercules, Vulcan, Mars, and
Pluto; the Apollo, Mercury, Hymen, and Cupid, and also in the goddesses
Juno, Minerva, Venus, Hebe, the Nymphs and Graces; appeared a vast
discrimination of character, at the same time as true an individuality as
if the different forms had been the works of Nature herself.

"In your progress through that mechanical part of your professional
education, which is directed to the acquisition of a perfect knowledge of
the human figure, I recommend to you a scrupulous exactness in imitating
what is immediately before you, in order that you may acquire the habit of
observing with precision every object that presents itself to your sight.
Accustom yourselves to draw all the deviations of the figure, till you are
as much acquainted with them as with the alphabet of your own language,
and can make them with as much facility as your letters; for they are
indeed the letters and alphabet of your profession, whether it be painting
or sculpture.

"These divisions consist of the head, with its features taken in three
points of view, front, back, and profile; the neck in like manner, also
the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis; thigh, knee, leg, ankle, the carpus,
metacarpus, and toes; the clavicula, arm, fore-arm, wrist, carpus,
metacarpus, and fingers. While you are employed on these, it would be
highly proper to have before you the osteology of the part on which you
are engaged, as in that consists the foundation of your pursuit. And, in
this period of your studies, I recommend that your drawings be
geometrical, as when you draw and study a column with its base and
capital. At the same time you should not neglect to gain a few points in
perspective, particularly so far as to give effect to the square and
cylinder, in order to know what constitutes the vanishing point, and point
of distance, in the subject you are going to draw.

"After you have perfected yourselves in the parts of the figure, begin to
draw the Greek figures entire, with the same attention to correctness as
when you drew the divisions in your earlier lessons. Attend to the
perspective according to the vanishing point opposite to your eye. You
will naturally seek to possess your mind with the special character of the
figure before you;--and of all the Grecian figures, I would advise you to
make from the Apollo and Venus a general measurement or standard for man
and woman, taking the head and its features, as the part by which you
measure the divisions of those figures.

"Light and shade must not be neglected; for what you effect in drawing by
the contour of the figure, light and shade must effect with the
projections of those parts which front you in the figure. Light and shade
there produce what becomes outline to another drawing of the same object
in a right angle to the place where you sit.

"It seems not impossible to reduce to the simplicity of rule or principle,
what may have appeared difficult in this branch of art to young students,
and may have been too often pursued at random by others. All forms in
nature, both animate and inanimate, partake of the round form more than
of any other shape; and when lighted, whether by the sun or flame, or by
apertures admitting light, must have two relative extremes of light and
shadow, two balancing tints, the illuminated and the reflected, divided by
a middle tint or the aerial. The effect of illumination by flame or
aperture, differs from that of the sun in this respect; the sun
illuminates with parallel rays, which fall over all parts of the
enlightened side of the subject, while the light of a flame or an aperture
only strikes directly on the nearest point of the object, producing an
effect which more or less resembles the illumination of the sun in
proportion to the distance and dimensions of the object.

"Let us then suppose a ball to be the object on which the light falls, in
a direction of forty-five degrees or the diagonal of a square, and at a
right angle from the ball to the place where you stand. One half of the
ball will appear illuminated, and the other dark. This state of the two
hemispheres constitutes the two masses of light and shadow. In the centre
of the mass of light falls the focus of the illumination in the ball;
between the centre of the illumination and the circle of the ball, where
the illumination, reaches its extremity, lies what may be called the
transparent tint; and between it and the dark side of the ball lies the
serial or middle tint. The point of darkness, the extreme of shade, is
diametrically opposite to the focus of illumination, between which and
the aerial tint lies the tint of reflection. If the ball rests on a
plain, it will throw a shadow equal in length to one diameter and a
quarter of the ball. That shadow will be darker than the shade on the
ball, and the darkest part will be where the plain and ball come in
contact with each other.

"This simple experiment, whether performed in the open sun-shine, or with
artificial illumination, will lead you to the true principles of light and
shade over all objects in nature, whether mountains, clouds, rocks, trees,
single figures, or groups of figures. It would therefore be of great use,
when you are going to give light and shade to any object, first to make
the experiment of the ball, and in giving that light and shade, follow the
lessons with which it will furnish you.

"You will find that this experiment will instruct you, not only in the
principles of light and shade, but also of colours; for that there is a
corresponding hue with respect to colours is not to be disputed. In order
to demonstrate this, place in the ball which you have illuminated, the
prismatic colours, suiting their hues to those of the tints. Yellow will
answer to the focus of illumination, and the other secondary and primary
hues will fall into their proper places. Hence, on the enlightened side of
a group or figure, you may lay yellow, orange, red, and then violet, but
never on the side where the light recedes. On that side must come the
other prismatic colours in their natural order. Yellow must pass to green,
the green to blue, and the blue to purple. The primary colours of yellow,
orange, and red, are the warm colours, and belong to the illuminated side
of objects; the violet is the intermediate, and green, blue, and purple
are the cold colours, and belong to the retiring parts of your

"On the same principle, and in the same order, must be placed the tints
which compose the fleshy bodies of men and women, but so blended with
each other, as to give the softness appropriate to the luminous quality
and texture of flesh; paying attention, at the same time, to reflections
on its surface from other objects, and to its participation of their
colours. The latter is a distinct circumstance arising from accident.

"When the sun illuminates a human body, in the same manner as the ball,
the focus of the illumination in that body will partake of the yellow; and
the luminous or transparent tint, will have the orange and the red. These
produce, what is called, the carnation. The pure red, occasioned by the
blood, lies in the lips, cheeks, joints, and extremities of the figure,
and no where else. On the receding side of the focus is the local colour
of the flesh, and on the receding side of that is the greenish tint; in
the shade will fall the cold or bluish, and in the reflection will fall
the tint of purple. The most perfect tint of ground, from which to relieve
this arrangement of colours, is either blue, grey, or purple, for those
colours partake of the complexion of the watery sky in which the rainbow
appears, or the ground which best exhibits the prismatic colours.

"In acquiring a practical knowledge of the happiest manner of distributing
your colours according to nature, it will assist you, if you will copy
with attention some pieces of Titian, Correggio, Reubens, and Vandyke; the
masters in whose works you will most eminently find the system pursued,
which I have endeavoured to illustrate by the simple image of the ball.

"Having passed from the antique school, to that in which you draw after
the living figure, still adhere to that scrupulous exactness of drawing
with which you first set out; marking with precision the divisions of the
figure. After you have made yourselves acquainted with the drawing of the
living figure, you must then begin to enlarge your lines, and to give
softness and breadth, to direct your attention to what constitutes style
and character, and to discriminate these from what constitutes manner.

"To assist you in this nice discrimination, consult the prints and works
of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Hannibal Carracci. In them you will find
the strongest and purest evidence of style and character, yet all
differing from each other, and all equally brought out of nature. I do not
recommend them with a view that you should adopt the style and character
of any of them; but to show from those great examples, that style and
character, although ever founded in nature, are as various as the
individual genius of every artist; that they are as free to you as they
were to those masters; that if you will consult your own mind, you will
draw forth a style and character of your own, and therefore no man can
ever be excused for sinking into a mannerist.

"And I cannot omit to observe here, that in the order of your studies,
your mental powers should be cherished and brought into action by reading
and reflection, but not until you have acquired practical facility in your
art. Too often it happens, and I have seen it with concern, that the
presumption of youth, or the errors of instruction, have reversed this
order, and have carried many to attempt essays of research and learning,
before they were well grounded in the principles of professional practice.
What other consequences can follow from such a course, but that the
student will turn in discontent from his own productions, because they
fall short of the ideas in his mind; and induce him, perhaps, to abandon,
with disgust, a profession in which he might have shone with distinction,
had he taken a right method of cultivating his own powers!

"The great masters were all at an early age great in the mechanical
department of their art, before they established any name by their
philosophical style and character. Michael Angelo, when a mere youth,
modelled and drew in a manner which astonished his own master. Raphael, at
not more than nineteen years of age, rivalled his instructor, Pietro
Perugino, in his executive talent; and, owing to this, he was enabled, at
the age of only twenty-five, to send forth his two great works, _the
Dispute on the Sacrament_, and _the School of Athens_. Guido, Bernini, and
many others of the first class, pursued the same course of study, and
were in the full possession of their powers very young. Vandyke, before he
was twenty years old, assisted Reubens in his greatest works; and on a
certain occasion, when the pupils of Reubens were amusing themselves in
the absence of their master, one of them happened to fall against 'the
Mother,' in the Descent from the Cross, which Vandyke repaired in a manner
so admirable, that when the painter came next to the picture, he expressed
himself surprised at the excellence of his own work, and said, that he
thought he had not done that arm so well. In a word, wherever we find the
executive power high at an early age, whether in painting or sculpture, we
have an assurance of future excellence, which nothing but indolence can
prevent. And, to give that early facility correctness of execution,
remember and pursue the great maxim of Apelles:--

"'_Nulla dies, sine linea._'

"The young artist may, indeed, draw lines every day and every hour with
advantage, whether it be to amuse himself in society or in the fields. He
should accustom himself to sketch every thing, especially what is rare and
singular in nature. Let nothing of the animate creation on the earth, or
in the air, or in the water, pass you unnoticed; especially those which
are distinguished for their picturesque beauty, or remarkable for dignity
of form or elegance of colour. Fix them distinctly in your sketch-book and
in your memory. Observe, with the same contemplative eye, the landscape,
the appearance of trees, figures dispersed around, and their aerial
distance, as well as lineal forms. In this class of observations, omit not
to observe the light and shade, in consequence of the sun's rays being
intercepted by clouds or other accidents. Besides this, let your mind be
familiar with the characteristics of the ocean; mark its calm dignity when
undisturbed by the winds, and all its various states between that and its
terrible sublimity when agitated by the tempest. Sketch with attention its
foaming and winding coasts with distant land, and that awful line which
separates it from the Heavens. Replenished with these stores, your
imagination will then come forth as a river, collected from little
springs, spreads into might and majesty. The hand will then readily
execute what it has been so practised in acquiring; while the mind will
embrace its subjects with confidence, by being so well accustomed to
observe their picturesque effect."

Chap. XI.

Discourse.--Introduction.--On the Philosophy of Character in Art.--Of
Phidias.--Of Apelles.--Of the Progress of the Arts among the
Moderns.--Of Leonardo da Vinci.--Of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and
Bartolomeo.--Of Titian.--Of the Effects of Patronage.

It is not my intention to give all the discourses which Mr. West addressed
to the students of the Academy, but only those which contain, what may be
called, illustrations of the principles of his art. The following,
however, is so interesting and so various in its matter, that it would be
improper in me to make any attempt to garble or abridge it, beyond
omitting the mere incidental notice of temporary circumstances.

"The discourse which I am about to deliver, according to usual custom on
the return of this day, must be considered as addressed more immediately
to those among the students, who have made so much progress in art, as to
be masters of the human figure, of perspective, and of those other parts
of study, which I have heretofore recommended as the elements of painting
and sculpture; and who are therefore about to enter on the higher paths of
professional excellence. It will consequently be my object, now, to show
how that excellence is to be attained; and this will best be done, as I
conceive, by showing how it has been attained by others, in whom that
excellence has been most distinguished in the ancient and modern world. By
pursuing the principles on which they moved, you have the best
encouragement in their illustrious example, while, by neglecting those
principles, you can have no more reason to hope for such success as they
met with, than you can think of reaching a distant land, without road or
compass to direct your steps.

"The ground which I shall propose for your attention is this--to
investigate those philosophical principles on which all truth of character
is founded, and by which that sublime attainment, the highest refinement
in art, and without which every thing else is merely mechanical, may be
brought to a decided point, in all the variety by which it is
distinguished through the animated world.

"On this ground, and on this alone, rose Phidias and Apelles to the
celebrity which they held among the Greeks; and among the Italians,
Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and some
others, who became the completest models in sculpture and painting. Their
predecessors, indeed, in both countries, had for a considerable time been
preparing the way, but not having equally studied the best means, or those
means not having been equally before them, it was reserved of course for
the great characters I have mentioned, to unite philosophical with
professional truth, and to exhibit to the world in their works the
standards of style. From the same source arose another consequence, ever
worthy and pleasing to be mentioned;--the exhibition of those perfections
was always accompanied by that ardent patronage, which not only cheered
their minds, and invigorated their powers, but has left a glory on their
country, which no subsequent events have been able to obliterate, and
which never will be obliterated in any country where the sublimity of art,
involving the most refined embellishments of civilized life, is cherished
by those who are in a capacity to cherish it.

"In a very early period of the arts in Greece, we meet with a circumstance
which shows the advantages derived from consulting with philosophy, if it
does not also show the origin and outset of those advantages. The
circumstance to which I allude is, that in the period when the sculptors
contented themselves with the stationary forms and appearance of figures,
in imitation of their predecessors, the Egyptians; at that time they began
to submit their works to the judgment of philosophers, one of whom, being
called in to survey a statue, which a sculptor, then eminent, was going to
expose to public view, remarked, that the human figure before him wanted
motion, or that expression of intellect and will, from which motion and
character too must arise; for man had a soul and mind, which put him at
the head of the animal creation, and, therefore, without that soul and
mind, the form of man was degraded.

"This observation touched the point, then, necessary to be obviated, in
order to overcome the primitive rudeness which still attached to
sculpture; and without the application of the principle contained in the
observation, sculpture and painting too might have stood still for ages.
And from what other source than the principles of philosophic study, or,
in other words, from reflection on the moral powers or passions of man,
their several effects, as produced in their workings on the human figure,
could that improvement be obtained? It was the constant employment of the
philosophic mind, to study those causes and effects, and to reduce them to
a more distinct display for the truth and utility of their own writings.
The philosophers were, therefore, the most likely to assist the artist in
those displays of character which tended to illustrate the truth of his
own works. Nor on this account is it any disparagement to the artists of
those days, when philosophic studies were confined to particular classes
of men, that this moral view of art was not sufficiently taken up by the
more mechanical part of the profession.

"Thus, however, the opening was made to the important expression of
character. And the lesson suggested by the philosopher alluded to, is not
confined to the Greeks alone. I wish, young gentlemen, to leave it in all
its force upon your minds. For if the figures you design, whether singly
or in groups, have not their actions correspondent to what their minds
appear to be pursuing, they will suit any other subject as well as that in
which they are placed. This remark is the more worthy of attention, as it
does not apply to any of the figures of the Grecian masters whom I have
mentioned. The figure by Phidias on Monte Cavallo at Rome, the Apollo, the
Laocoon, the Venus, the Hercules, and the fighting gladiator, are all
perfect on the just principles I have mentioned. There is no room for
amendment; their propriety is unquestionable; their truth eternal. And so
in the works of modern art, we see the same truth and perfection in the
Capella Sestina by Michael Angelo, in the Supper by Leonardo da Vinci at
Milan, in the Cartoons by Raphael, the St. Peter Martyr by Titian, and the
Note by Correggio.

"Having mentioned the figure on Monte Cavallo, representing, as you all
know, a young man curbing a horse, I cannot help stopping to remark, that
if any work of sculpture ever demonstrated more strongly the value of
uniting philosophic science with that of art, for the production of
character, it is that work by Phidias. Never did the power of art express
more evidently than is done in the head of the young man, that every
feature is moved by an internal mental power, and corresponds in the most
perfect truth with what we see to be the labouring passion. When we view
it in front we are astonished that the mouth does not speak. No observer
ever thinks that the head is a block of stone. But the whole group is
masterly on the most refined principles of science. It was intended to be
seen at an elevated point, as well as at a distant one. All its forms,
therefore, are grand without the minutiae of parts; its effects are
striking and momentary; and in every circumstance considered, it is
plainly the work of consummate genius and science united.

"Was it possible that in an age which gave a Phidias to the Greeks,
there should not have been a Pericles to reward, by his patronage, merit
so exalted?

"We may carry the same reflections into the progress of the pencil. As the
Greeks became refined in their minds, they gained an Apelles to paint, and
an Alexander to patronise. We are not enabled now to speak of the works of
that great master. His figure of Alexander, in the character of young
Ammon, is described as his master-piece. Such was the expression with
which the hand grasped the thunder-bolt, that it seemed actually to start
from the pannel. The expression and force of character given to the whole,
was equally marvellous. And when we consider the refinement to which the
human mind had then arrived among the Greeks, the immense value which
they put upon the works of that artist, and that they were too wise to
devote their applause to things which fell short of consummate excellence,
we cannot doubt but it was by the cultivation of the public mind that the
arts reached such attainments among them. What must have been their
exquisite state when the simple line drawn by Protogenes,--in the
consciousness of his acknowledged perfection, and which was intended to
announce the man who drew it, as much as if he had told his name,--was so
far excelled by another simple line over it by Apelles, that the former at
once confessed himself outdone? Those two lines, simple as they were, were
by no means trifling in their instruction. They gave us, as it were, an
epitome of the progress which the arts had long been making in Greece. For
if the drawing of a simple line, of such a master as Protogenes, who was
conceived by many to hold the first pencil in the world, was surpassed, to
his great surprise, by another, how high must refinement have been raised
by the exertions of the artists in a period so emulous of perfection!

"The stages in the progress of modern art, have been frequently
distinguished by ages similar to those which succeed one another in the
human growth. We may safely assert, that in the infantine and youthful
period of modern art, literature and science were only seen in their
infancy and growth. The opening of nature displayed in the works of
Massaccio; the graces exhibited in those of Lorenzo Ghiberti; and the
advancement in perspective made by one or two others, kept pace nearly
with that progress in philosophy which appeared in the best writings of
those days. As the one took a larger step in the next stage or period, the
other stepped forth in a like degree at the same time; so that in Leonardo
da Vinci we see the great painter and the great philosopher: his painting
most clearly refined in its principles, and enlarged in its powers by his
philosophical studies. As a philosopher, and especially in those parts of
knowledge which were most interesting to his profession, he laid that
foundation of science which has ever since been adopted and admired. As a
painter, he not only went far beyond his predecessors, but laid down those
principles of science in the expression of individual character, and of a
soul and figure specifically and completely appropriated to each other,
which opened the way to the greatness acquired by those who followed him
in his studies. In that point of excellence, Leonardo da Vinci was
original; and it was the natural result of a mind like his, formed to
philosophical investigation, and deeply attentive to all the variety of
appearances by which the passions are marked in the human countenance and
frame. These he traced to their sources: he found them in their radical
principles, and by his knowledge of these principles, his expression of
character became perfected.

"The _nature_ exhibited by Massaccio had not gone to that extent of
expression. It however spoke a soul: he drew forth an inward mind on the
outward countenance: he gave a character; but that character was not so
discriminated as to become the index of one particular passion more than
another; or to decide, for instance, the head of Jupiter from that of a
Minerva: so at with the aid, of different types, it should not befit a
Saviour or a Magdalene.

"We must take along with us in this review, that the splendid patronage of
the house of Medici came forward, to meet, and to cherish the happy
advancements made by the masters of those days; so that Florence, which
was then the greatest seat of the arts, was no less brilliant and
illustrious in the generosity which strove to perpetuate them, than in the
genius by which they had been cultivated.

"Leonardo da Vinci, by the principles which he so effectually realised,
has always been considered as having established the manly as well as the
graceful age of modern art. But manhood is never so fixed as to be
incapable of progress. The manhood then attained in art was capable of
farther advancement beyond the growth which the powers of Da Vinci had
given it. This was eminently illustrated by the sublimity of style which
was attained by the genius of Michael Angelo and of Raphael;--quality
equally original in both, although issuing from different principles. In
the former, it was founded on that force and grandeur, allied to poetic
spirit, which rises above all that is common, and leaves behind it all
that is tame and simply correct; which, not content with engaging the
senses, seizes on the imagination, while it never departs from truth. In
the latter, it was made up of the beautiful and graceful, which attracts
by the assemblage of whatever is most perfect and elevated in the
character or subject.

"Raphael coming somewhat later than Michael Angelo on the theatre of art,
had the advantage of many of that master's works, as well as of all the
improvements which had been made before. His life was a short one, and the
first studies of it were almost lost in the dry school of Pietro Perugino.
But he soon found his way to the philosophy of Leonardo da Vinci, and to
the profound principles on which his admirable expression of character is
founded. The dignity of drapery, and of light and shade, opened by
Bartolomeo, invited his studies; and the sublimity of the human figure in
the sculptures of his cotemporary, Michael Angelo, fastened on his
contemplation. Thus he entered at once, as it were, into the inheritance
of whatever excellencies had been produced before him. With these
advantages he was called to adorn the apartments of the Vatican. And can
we wonder that his first works there, at the age of seven-and-twenty, were
the Dispute on the Sacrament, and the School of Athens?

"But what was it that contributed very much to the production of those
works? It was not the profound studies of Raphael's mind, but the spirit
of the age which warmed those studies.--It was a great age, in which
learning and science were become diffused, at least throughout Europe:--a
great age replete with characters studious of philosophy; and, therefore,
fond of the instruction conveyed by the arts;--fond of those high and
more profound compositions which entered into the spirit of superior
character, and made some study and research necessary to develope their
beauties. To meet the taste of such an age, the two first public works of
Raphael, above mentioned, were well suited, inasmuch as they were
intended to convey the comparative views of theology and human science,
or, in other words, the improvement of the human mind arising from the
two great sources of national wisdom and revealed light. It must not also
be forgotten, that while the spirit of the age was warming his mind to
the peculiar dignity of theme and style which marks his works, the
generous and noble patronage of the papal court was exerting its utmost
power to immortalise him, and every other great master that arose within
the circle of its influence. Their merit and their fame found as animated
a protector in Leo X. as Phidias experienced in Pericles, or Apelles in
Alexander the Great.

"As the Florentine and Roman schools were thus gradually refined in the
excellence of design and character, by the aid of philosophical studies;
so the Venetian masters were equally indebted to the like studies, without
which, they would never have reached their admirable system of colouring.
If any have conceived otherwise, they have taken a very superficial view
of their system. Where is there greater science concerned than in the
whole theory of colours? It employed the investigation of Newton; and
shall that pass for a common or easy attainment which took up so much of
his profound studies? The Venetian masters had been long working their way
to the radical principles of this science, not only for a just and perfect
arrangement of their colouring, but for that clear and transparent system
in the use of it, which have equally marked that school in the days of its
maturity under Titian. He it was who established, on unerring principles,
founded on nature and truth, that accomplished system which John Bellini
had first laboured to discover, and in which Giorgioni had made further
advancements. Besides his zeal in his profession, Titian was born in that
higher rank of life which might be supposed to give him an easier access
to the elegant studies of philosophic science; and he had prosecuted, with
great ardour, the science of chemisty, the better to understand the
properties of colour, their homogeneous blendings, purity, and duration;
as well as the properties of oils, gums, and other fluids, which might
form the fittest vehicles to convey his colours upon canvass.

"The elegant Charles V. was to Titian in liberal pratronage what Leo X.
was to Raphael. That munificent prince carried him into Spain, where his
works laid the foundation of the Spanish school in painting, and gave a
relish for that art to all the succeeding monarchs.

"What has been remarked respecting Titian and the Venetian school, is
equally true of that of Correggio among the Lombard painters. The mind of
Correggio appears evidently, by his works, to have been profoundly
enlightened; and especially in the philosophical arrangement and general
doctrine of colours. What has been said by some concerning the low
circumstances of his fortune, (which is not true,) neither proves the
obscurity of his birth, nor that philosophical researches were out of his
reach, or beside his emulation. The truth is, that he was born of a very
honourable family, and was accomplished in the elegancies of life; not
that it is necessary for any man to have the advantages of birth, in
order to become enlightened by science in any way whatever. The patronage
which attended him was of the most elevated kind, being dispensed by the
illustrious houses of Mantua and Modena, as well as by the institution of
the Doma of Parma. But what is by no means less worthy of our notice is,
that of all the masters who have risen up in any of the schools of Italy,
not one has been the means of giving success and reputation to those who
have followed any of their respective styles equally with Correggio. The
ineffable softness, sweetness, and grace in his paintings, have never
varied in their effects with the course of time. And they who have since
partaken of these powers in his style, have very generally become great
masters, (distinguished by none of the excesses which have sometimes
attended the imitation of other models,) and successful in gainng the
approbation and favour of the world.

"The paths pursued by those great examples must become yours, young
gentlemen, or you can neither be eminent in colouring, nor sure in the
execution of your art. It is possible, that by habits of practice, handed
over from one to another, or by little managements in laying colours on
the canvass, where little or nothing of the general science has been
studied and attained, many may so far succeed as to avoid glaring errors,
and a violation of those first principles which have their foundation in
nature. But that success is at all times extremely hazardous and dependent
on chance. More frequently it has introduced invincible conflicts between
the primary and secondary colours, to the ruin of harmony and aerial
perspective, and to the overthrow of the artist, whenever the picture is
glanced upon by the eye of scientific discernment. Contemptible are the
best of such managements, ever in the hands of those that know them best,
compared with a full and masterly possession of the philosophy by which
this part of your art must be guided. If the ordonnance of colour, on each
figure and on the whole, is not disposed according to the immutable laws
of the science, no fine effect, or accordant tones of colours, can
possibly be produced. There is, therefore, but one way to make sure of
success, and to raise your characters in this point, and that is by making
yourselves masters of the whole philosophy of colours, as Titian and
Correggio did, and some others, in whose works, from first to last, the
minutest scrutiny will never find a colour misplaced or prejudiced by its
disposition with others.

"To be perfect, is the emulation which belongs to those arts in which you
are engaged, and the anxious hope of the country in which you live. To
animate you to that perfection, is the object of what I have now addressed
to you. I am persuaded it is your ambition to be perfect. This Academy
looks with pleasure on the progress of your studies, as it may look with
pride on the high and cultivated state to which the arts have been raised
among us ever since they have had the establishment of a regular school.
It is no flattery to the present aera in Britain to say, that in no age of
the world have the arts been carried in any country to such a summit as
they now hold among us, in so short a period as half a century at most.
Among the Greeks some centuries had elapsed, amidst no little emulation
in the arts, before they obtained an Apelles. In modern Italy, without
going as far back as we might, it took up a century from the appearance of
Massaccio to the perfection of a Raphael. If, then, the British school has
risen so much more speedily to that celebrity in art, which it is too well
known and established to need any illustration here, what should hinder
her professors from becoming the most distinguished rivals of the fame
acquired by the Greeks and Italians, with a due perseverance in the
studies which lead to perfection, and with those encouragements and
support of patronage which are due to genius?

"As the source of that patronage, we look up with affectionate gratitude
to the benign and flattering attention of our most gracious Sovereign, to
whose regard for the elegant arts, and munificent disposition to cherish
every enlargement of science, and improvement of the human mind, his
people are indebted for this public seminary, his own favoured
Institution, and the first which this country has ever been so fortunate
as to see established. Under his royal patronage and support, this Academy
has risen to its present strength and flourishing condition. His
patronage, which would be improperly estimated by mere expenditure, in a
country not similar in the latitude of government, or in the controul over
revenue, to ancient Greece or modern Italy, but properly by its diffusive
influence, has been the source of every other patronage in the country;
has inspired that refined taste and ardour for elegant arts, which have
given in fact a new character to the people, and has raised within and
without this Academy that body of distinguished men, whose works have
contributed to immortalise his reign, as his love for the arts has become
the means of immortalising them.

"The patronage which has flowed from other quarters, deserves very
honourable mention; and is of so much importance, that without it the
spirit of art must droop, and the very profession of it be contracted in
every situation whatever. It is not by the influence and support of any
individual character, how elevated soever, or how warm soever in his
attachment to taste and elegance, that the extent of professional talents
spread through a country, can be effectually sustained with adequate
encouragements. It is the wealthy and the great, who are commonly trained
by their situations to the perception of what is elegant and refined, that
must come forward in such an illustrious undertaking. It is only they who
can meet every where the merit, let it be disseminated as it may, which is
entitled, to distinction. Without the patronage of such, the arts could
never have obtained their high meridian in Greece and Italy. Had not the
communities and rich individuals in Greece taken the arts under their
protection, not all the encouragement of Pericles, or of Alexander the
Great, could have drawn forth that immense body of painting and sculpture
which filled the country. Had the patronage of Italy rested with the popes
and princes, unaccompanied by those munificent supports which flowed from
the churches and convents, as well as from private individuals of rank and
wealth, the galleries of that country could never have been so superbly
filled as they were, nor could those collections have been made from
thence, which have filled so many galleries and cabinets elsewhere.

"These facts are not to be denied; but they also lead us to another
lesson, which is, that the patronage so generally dispensed was for the
protection of living genius, and that they by whom it was so dispensed
sought no other collections than the works of native and living artists.
On any other ground there can be no such thing as patronage. Nothing else
is worthy of that name. The true and generous patron of great works
selects those which are produced by the talents existing around him. By
collecting from other countries, he may greatly enrich himself, but can
never give celebrity to the country in which he lives. The encouragement
extended to the genius of a single artist, though it may produce but one
original work, adds more to the celebrity of a people, and is a higher
proof of true patriotic ardour, and of a generous love for the progress of
art, than all the collections that ever were made by the productions of
other countries, and all the expenditures that ever were bestowed in
making them. Did the habits of our domestic circumstances, like those of
Italy, permit the ingenious student to have access to those works of
established masters, procured by the spirit of their noble and wealthy
possessors, and of many distinguished amateurs on the most liberal terms,
and with the honourable purpose of forming the taste, as well as enriching
the treasures, of the country, every thing would then be done, which is
wanting to complete the public benefit of such collections, and the
general gratitude to which they who have made them would be entitled. So
abundant are the accomplished examples in art already introduced among us,
that there would then be no necessity for students to run to other
countries for those improvements which their own can furnish.

"It cannot be improper at any time to make these remarks; while it must
also be observed, that the patronage held forth by many great and noble
characters needs no spur; and the means projected by other spirited
individuals in opulent stations, for extending and perpetuating the works
of British masters, fall short in no degree of the most fervid energies
and examples, of which any country has been able to boast.

"It is your duty, young gentlemen, to become accomplished in your
professions, that you may keep alive those energies and examples of
patronage, when you come to draw the attention of the world to your own
works. It is by your success that the arts must be carried on and
preserved here. Patronage can only be expected to follow what is eminently
meritorious, and more especially that general patronage diffused through
the more respectable ranks of society, which is to professional merit,
what the ocean is to the earth;--the great fund from whence it must ever
be refreshed, and without whose abundance, conveyed through innumerable
channels, every thing must presently become dry, and all productions cease
to exist."

Chap. XII.

Discourse.--Introduction.--Of appropriate Character in Historical
Composition.--Architecture among the Greeks and Romans.--Of the
Athenian Marbles.--Of the Ancient Statues.--Of the Moses and Saviour
of Michael Angelo.--Of the Last Judgment of Michael Angelo.--Of
Leonardo da Vinci.--Of Bartolomeo.--Of Raphael.--Of Titian, and his
St. Peter Martyr.--Of the different Italian Schools.--Of the Effects
of the Royal Academy.--Of the Prince Regent's Promise to encourage the
Fine Arts.

After a careful examination of all the remaining notes of Mr. West, it
appeared to me, that the discourse which he delivered on the 10th of
December, 1811, was the only one that required particular notice, after
those which I have already introduced. In some respects it will, perhaps,
be deemed the most interesting of the whole.

"The few points," said the President, "upon which I mean to touch in the
present Discourse, are those which more immediately apply to the
students, who are generously striving to attain excellence in the first
class of refined art,--historical painting.

"Whether their exertions are directed to painting, or the sister arts,
architecture and sculpture, the first thing they must impress upon their
minds, and engraft upon every shoot of their fancy, is that of the
appropriate character, by which the subject they are about to treat, is
distinguished from all other subjects. On this foundation, all the points
of refined art which are, in the truest sense, intellectual, invariably
rest; for without justness of character the works of the pencil can have
but little value, and can never entitle the artist to the praise of a
well-governed genius, or of possessing that philosophical precision of
judgment, which is the source of excellence in the superior walk of his
profession. At the same time, let it be indelibly fixed in your minds,
that when decided character is to be given, that character must be
accompanied by correctness of outline, whether it be in painting or in
sculpture. Any representation of the human figure, in the higher
department of art, wanting these requisites, is, to the feelings of the
educated artist, deficient in that, for the loss of which no other
excellency can compensate.

"Architecture.--This department of art received its decided character from
the Greeks. They distinctly fixed the embellishments to the several
orders; and, by their adaptation of these embellishments and orders, their
buildings obtained a distinct and appropriate character, which declared
the uses for which they were erected.

"The Romans, in their best era of taste, copied their Grecian instructors
in that appropriate character of embellishment which explained, at a
glance, the use of their respective buildings; but, in their latter ages,
they declined from this original purity; and it is the fragments of that
corruption, in which they lost the characteristic precision of the Greeks,
that we have seen of late years employed upon many of our buildings. The
want of mental reflection in employing the orders of architectures with a
rational precision as to character, produces the same sort of deficiency
which we find in an historical picture; where, although each figure, in
correct proportion, be well drawn, with drapery elegantly folded, yet, not
being employed appropriately to the subject, affords no satisfaction to
the spectator.

"The Greeks were in architecture what they were in sculpture; and it is to
them you must look for the original purity of both. We feel rejoiced, that
the exertions recently made by a noble personage to enrich our studies in
both of these departments of art are such, that we may say, London has
become the Athens for study. It is the mental power displayed in the Elgin
marbles that I wish the juvenile artist to notice. Look at the equestrian
groups of the young Athenians in this collection, and you will find in
them that momentary motion which life gives on the occasion to the riders
and their horses. The horse we perceive feels that power which the impulse
of life has given to his rider; we see in him the animation of his whole
frame; in the fire of his eyes, the distention of his nostrils, and in the
rapid motion of his feet, yielding to the guidance of his rider, or in the
speeding of his course: they are, therefore, in perfect unison with the
life in each. At this moment of their animation, they appear to have been
turned into stone by some majestic power, and not created by the human
hand. The single head of the horse, in the same collection, seems as if it
had, by the same influence, been struck into marble, when he was exerting
all the energy of his motion.

"These admirable sculptures, which now adorn our city, are the union of
Athenian genius and philosophy, and illustrate my meaning respecting the
mental impression which is so essentially to be given to works of refined
art. It was this point which the Grecian philosophers wished to impress on
the minds of their sculptors, not to follow their predecessors the
Egyptians in sculpture, who represented their figures without motion,
although nearly perfect in giving to them the external form. 'It is the
passions,' said they, 'with which man is endowed, that we wish to see in
the movements of your figures.' This advice of the philosophers was felt
by the sculptors, and the Athenian marbles are the faithful records of the
efficacy of that advice.

"That you may distinctly perceive and invariably distinguish what we mean
by appropriate character in art, particularly in sculpture, I would class
with these sculptures, the Hercules, the Apollo, the Venus, the Laocoon,
and the Gladiator. In these examples you will find what is appropriate in
character to subject, united with correctness of outline; and it is this
combination of truths which has arrested the attention of an admiring
world, ever since they were produced; and which will attract to them the
admiration of after ages, so long as the workings of the mind on the
external form can be contemplated and understood.

"Now let us see what works there are since the revival of art in the
modern world, which rest on the same basis of appropriate character and
correctness of outline, with those of the ancient Greeks.

"The Moses which the powers of Michael Angelo's mind has presented to our
view, claims our first attention. In this statue the points of character,
in every mode of precise, determinate, and elevated expression, have been
carried to a pitch of grandeur which modern art has not since excelled. In
this figure of Moses, Michael Angelo has fixed the unalterable standard of
the Jewish lawgiver,--a character delineated and justified by the text in
inspired sculpture. The character of Moses was well suited to the grandeur
of the artist's conceptions, and to the dreadful energy of his feelings.
Accordingly, in mental character, this figure holds the first station in
modern art; and I believe we may venture to say, had no competitor in
ancient, except those of the Jupiter and Minerva by Phidias. But the
Saviour, all meekness and benevolence, which Michael Angelo made to
accompany the Moses, was not in unison with his genius. The figure is
mean, but slightly removed from an academical figure, and in no point
appropriate to the subject: so are most of the single figures of the
artist, in his great work on the Day of Judgment; but his groups in that
composition are every where in character, and have not their rivals
either in painting or sculpture. His Bacchus claims our admiration, as
being appropriate to the subject, by the same excellence in delineation
which distinguish the groups in the Day of Judgment. No person can have a
higher veneration than I have for that grandeur of character impressed on
the figures by Michael Angelo; but it is the fitness of the characters and
of the action to the subject, to which I wish to draw your attention, and
not to pour out praise on those points, in which he and other eminent
masters are deficient. On this occasion, I must therefore be permitted to
repeat, that most of the single figures in his great work of the Day of
Judgment, are deficient in the fitness of appropriate character, and in
the fitness of appropriate action to the subject; although as single
figures they demand our admiration. But excellent as they are, they are
but the ingenious adaptation of legs, arms, and heads, to the celebrated
Torso, which bears his name, and which served as the model to most of his
figures. All figures in composition, however excellent they may be in
delineation, which have not their actions and expressions springing from
the subject in which they are the actors, can only be considered as
academical efforts, without the impress of mental power, and without any
philosophical attention to the truth of the subject which the artist
intended to illustrate.

"Leonardo da Vinci is the first who had a full and right conception of the
principle which I wish to inculcate, and he has shown it in his picture of
the Last Supper. But it is necessary to distinguish what parts of the
picture deserve consideration. It is the decision, the appropriate
character of the apostles to the subject; the significance of expression
in their several countenances, and the diversity of action in each figure;
their actions seemingly in perfect unison with their minds, and their
figures individually in unison with their respective situations; some are
confused at the words spoken by our Saviour: "There is one amongst you who
shall betray me;" others are thrown under impressions of a different
feeling. In this respect the picture has left us without an appeal,
either to nature or to art. But Da Vinci failed in the head of our
Saviour. He has failed in his attempt to combine the almost incompatible
qualities of dignity and meekness which are demanded in the countenance of
the Saviour. He had exhausted his powers of characteristic discrimination
in the heads of the apostles; and in his attempt to give meekness to the
countenance of Jesus, he sank into insipience. He had the prudence,
therefore, to leave the face unfinished, that the imagination of the
beholder might not be disappointed by an imperfect image, but form one in
his mind more appropriate to his feelings and to the subject. The ruin of
this picture, the report of which I understand is true, has deprived the
world and the arts of one of the mental eyes of painting. But pleasing as
the works of Leonardo da Vinci are in general, had he not produced this
picture of the Last Supper, and the cartoon of the equestrian combatants
for the standard of victory, he would scarcely have emerged, as a painter
of strong character, above mediocrity. Indeed the back-ground, and general
distribution of this picture, sufficiently mark their Gothic origin. But
his pictures, generally speaking, are more characterised by their
laborious finishing, gentleness, and sweetness of character, than by the
energies of a lively imagination.

"Fra. Bartolomeo di St. Marco, of Florence, was one of the first who
became enamoured of that superiority which grandeur and decision of
character gives to art; and, indeed, of all those higher excellences which
the philosophical mind of Da Vinci had accomplished. In the pictures of
Bartolomeo we behold, for the first time, that breadth of the
clair-obscure--the deep tones of colour, with their philosophical
arrangement, united to that noble folding of drapery appropriate to, and
significant of, every character it covered; a point of excellence in this
master, from which Raphael caught his first conception of that noble
simplicity which distinguishes the dignity of his draperies, and which it
became his pride through life to imitate.

"Bartolomeo, in his figure of St. Mark, has convinced us how important and
indispensable is the union of mental conception with truth of
observation, in order to give a decided and appropriate character to an
Evangelist of the Gospel. None of the pictures of this artist possess the
excellence of his St. Mark except one, which is in the city of Lucca, the
capital of the republic of that name; and, as that picture is but little
known to travellers, and almost unknown to many artists who have visited
Italy, a description of it may not be unacceptable.

"The picture is on pannel, and its dimensions somewhat about twenty feet
in height by fourteen in width. The subject is the Assumption of the
Virgin Mary. The composition is divided into three groups; the Apostles
and the sepulchre form the centre group, from the midst of which the
Virgin ascends; her body-drapery is of a deep ruby colour, which is the
only decided red in the picture, and her mantle blue, but in depth of tone
approaching to black, and extended by angels to nearly each side of the
picture. This mantle is relieved by a light, in tone resembling that of
the break of day, seen over the summit of a dark mountain, which gives an
awful grandeur to the effect of the picture on entering the chapel, in
which it is placed over the altar. That awful light of the morning is
contrasted with the golden effulgence above; in the midst of which, our
Saviour is seen with extended arms, to receive and welcome his mother.

"From the sepulchre, and the Apostles in the centre, to the fore-ground,
the third group of figures partly lies in shade, occasioned by the
over-shadowing of the Virgin's deep-toned mantle extended by angels. On
the other part of the group, on the side where the light enters, the
figures are seen in the broad blaze of day; and amongst them is the
portrait of the artist.

"When I first saw this picture, my sensations were in unison with its
awful character; and I confess that I was touched with the same kind of
sensibility as when I heard the inexpressibly harmonious blendings of
vocal sounds in the solemn notes of _Non nobis Domine_. I never felt more
forcibly the dignity of music and the dignity of painting, than from
these two compositions of art.

"When we consider the combination of excellence requisite to produce the
sublime in painting; the union of propriety with dignity of character; the
graceful grouping; the noble folding of drapery, and the deep sombrous
tones of the clair-obscure, with appropriate colours harmoniously blending
into one whole;--if there is a picture entitled to the appellation of
_sublime_, from the union of all these excellences, It is that which I
have described: considered in all its parts, it is, perhaps, superior to
any work in painting, which has fallen under my observation.

"When these powerful essays in art by Da Vinci, Bartolomeo di St. Marco,
and Michael Angelo became celebrated, Raphael, having attained his adult
age, made his appearance at Florence; where the influence of the works of
those three great artists pervaded all the avenues to excellence in art.

"The gentle sensibility of Raphael's mind was like the softened wax
which makes more visible and distinct the form of the engraving with
which it is touched. Blest by Nature with this endowment, he became like
the heir to the treasured wealth of many families. Enriched by the
accumulated experience which was then in Florence, united to the early
tuition of delineating from nature under Pietro Perugino, and the
subsequent discoveries of the Grecian relics, Raphael's mind became
stored with all that was excellent; and he possessed a practised hand, to
make his conceptions visible on his tablets. Possessing these powers, he
was invited to Rome, and began his picture of _The Dispute on the
Sacrament_. This picture he finished, together with _The School of
Athens_, before he had attained his twenty-eighth year. At Rome he found
himself amidst the splendour of a refined court, and in the focus of
human endowment. He became sensible of the rare advantages of his
situation; he had industry and ardour to combine and to embrace them all;
and the effect is visible in his works. The theological arrangement of
the disputants on the Sacrament, and the scholastic controversies at
Athens, convince us of this truth. In the upper part of the Dispute on
the Sacrament, something may be observed of that taste of Bartolomeo in
drapery, and of the dryness and hardness of his first master Pietro
Perugino; but in the parts which make the aggregate of that work, he has
blended the result of his own observations. In his School of Athens, this
is still more strikingly the case; and in his Heliodorus we see
additional dignity and an enlargement of style.

"At this period of his life, such was the desire of his society by the
great, and such the ambition of standing forward amongst his patrons by
all who were eminent for rank and taste, that he was seduced into courtly
habits, and relaxed from that studious industry, with which he had
formerly laboured; and there are evident marks in many of his works in the
Vatican, of a decline of excellence, and that he was suffering pleasure
and indolence to rob him of his fame. Sensible of this decline in his
compositions, the powers of his mind re-assumed their energies; and that
re-animation stands marked in his unrivalled compositions of the Cartoons
which are in this country, and in the picture of the Transfiguration.

"The transcendant excellence in composition, and in appropriate
character to subject, in the cartoon of Paul preaching at Athens, has
left us to desire or expect nothing farther to be done in telling this
incident of history.

"In the composition of the death of Ananias, and in the single figure of
Elymas the sorcerer struck blind, we have the same example of excellence.
We have indeed in many of the characters and groups in the cartoons, the
various modes of reasoning, speaking, and feeling; but so blended with
nature and truth, and so precise and determined in character, that
criticism has nothing wherewith in that respect to ask for amendment.

"Had the life of this illustrious painter, which closed on his birth-day
in his thirty-seventh year, been prolonged to the period of that of
Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, or Titian, when in the space of
seventeen years at Rome he has given the world more unrivalled works of
art, than has fallen to the lot of any other painter, what an additional
excellence might we not have expected in his works for subsequent
generations to admire.

"The next distinguished artist who comes under our consideration is
Titian. The grandeur which Michael Angelo gave to the human figure, Titian
has rivalled in colour, and both were dignified during their lives with
the appellation of The Divine.

"I will pass over the many appropriate portraits which he painted of men,
and the portraits of women, though not the most distinguished for beauty,
in the character of Venus, to meet the fashion of the age in which he
lived; and notice only those works of mental power, which have raised him
to eminence in the class of refined artists. On this point, you will find
that his picture of St. Peter Martyr will justify the claim he has to
that rank.

"St. Peter the Martyr was the head of a religious sect: when on his way
from the confines of Germany to Milan with a companion, he was attacked by
one in opposition to his religious principles while passing through a
wood, and murdered. This is the subject of the picture. The prostrate
figure of the Saint, just fallen by a blow from the assassin, raises one
of his hands towards heaven, with a countenance of confidence in eternal
reward for the firmness of his faith; while the assassin grasps with his
left hand the mantle of his victim, the better to enable him, by his
uplifted sword in the other hand, to give the fatal blow to the fallen
saint. The companion is flying off in frantic dismay, and has received a
wound in the head from the assassin.

"The ferocious and determined action of the murderer bestriding the body
of the fallen saint, completes a group of figures which have not a rival
in art. The majestic trees, as well as the sable and rugged furze, form an
awful back-ground to this tragical scene, every way appropriate to the
subject. The heavenly messengers seen in the glory above, bearing the
palm branches as the emblem of reward for martyrdom, form the second
light; the first being the sky and cloud, which gives relief to the black
drapery of the wounded companion; while the rays of light from the
emanation above, sparkling on the dark branches of the trees as so many
diamonds, tie together by their light all the others from the top to the
bottom of the picture. The terror which the act of the murderer has
spread, is denoted by the speed of the horseman passing into the gloomy
recesses of a distant part of the forest.

"This picture, taken in the aggregate, is the first work in art in which
the human figure and landscape are combined as an historical landscape,
and where all the objects are the full size of nature.

"When I saw this picture at Venice in 1761, it was then in the same state
of purity as when the Bologna artists saw and studied it; and it is
recorded that Caracci declared this picture to be without fault. But we
have to lament the fatal effects which the goddess Bellona has ever
occasioned to the fine arts when she mounts her iron chariot of
destruction. When this picture fell under her rapacious power, on board a
French vessel passing down the Adriatic sea from Venice, one of our
cruisers chased the vessel into the port of Ancona, and a cannon-shot
pierced the pannel on which the picture was painted, and shivered a
portion of it into pieces.

"On its arrival at Paris, the committee of the fine arts found it
necessary to remove the painting from the pannel, and place it on canvass;
but the picture has lost the principal light.

"But to sum up Titian's powers of conception, no one has equalled him in
the propriety and fitness of colour. His pictures of St. Peter Martyr; the
David and Goliah; and the Last Supper, which is in the Escurial, stand in
the very highest rank in art. On the latter of these pictures being
finished, Titian in his letter to the King, announcing the circumstance,
says that it had been the labour of seven years. But by his original
sketch in oil colours, which I have the good fortune to possess, and by
which we may form an estimate, although the general effect and composition
are unrivalled, the characters of the heads of the apostles are not equal
to those of Leonardo da Vinci on the same subject.

"Antonio Allegri da Correggio is the sixth source, whose emanating powers
have illuminated the fine arts in the modern world. A superstitious mind,
on seeing his works, would suppose that he had received his tuition in
painting from the angels; as his figures seem to belong to another race of
being than man, and to have something too celestial for the forms of earth
to have presented to his view. Such have been the sayings of many on
seeing his works at Parma, but, to my conception, he painted from the
nature with which he was surrounded. His pictures of the Note, St.
Gierolimo, and the St. George, are evident proofs of the observation. In
the first of these pictures his mental conception shines supreme. It is
the idea of illuminating the child in the subject of our Saviour's
nativity. This splendid thought of giving light to the infant Christ,
whose divine mission was to illuminate the human mind from Pagan darkness,
no painter has since been so bold as to omit in any composition on the
same subject. The two latter pictures have all the beauties seen in the
paintings of this master, but they are deficient in appropriate character.

"The inspiring power of Correggio's works illuminated the genius of
Parmegiano, the energetic movements of whose graceful figures have never
been equalled, nor are they deficient in the moral influence of the art.
His Moses breaking the tables in a church at Parma, and his picture of the
vision of St. Gierolimo, now in England, are filled with the impress of
his intellectual powers, and stand pre-eminent over all his works.

"I have thus taken a survey of the works of art, which stand supreme among
the productions of Grecian and Italian genius, and which are the sources
from which the subsequent schools have derived most of the principles of
their celebrity.

"The papal vortex drew into it nearly all the various powers of human
refinement, and the inspiring influence of the first school in art having
centered in Rome gave it superiority, till the Constable Bourbon, by
sacking that city, obliged the fine arts to fly from their place, like
doves from the vultures: they never re-appeared at Rome but with
secondary power.

"About a century subsequent to their flight from Rome they were
re-animated, and formed the second school of art in Italy at the city of
Bologna under the Carracci, at the head of which was Ludovico. He and his
two relatives, Hanibal and Augustin Carracci, derived their principles
from the Venetian School, from Titian, Paul Veronese, and Tintoret, and
from the Lombard School of Correggio and Parmegiano. But the good sense of
Ludovico raised by them and himself a school of their own, which excelled
in the power of delineating the human figure, but which power gave to that
school more academical taste than mental character.

"Their great work was that in the convent of St. Michael in Boresco, near
Bologna; but this work has perished by damp, and the only remains on
record of what it was, are in the coarse prints which were done from
copies executed when it was in good condition. But grand as it must have
been according to the evidence of these prints, it was but an academical

"The picture by Ludovico, however, of our Saviour's Transfiguration on the
Mount, consisting of six figures double the size of life, has embraced
nearly all the points of art, and has placed the artist high in the first
class of painters.

"The masters of the Bolognese school going to Rome and other parts of
Italy, their successors at Bologna contented themselves by retailing the
several manners of the three Carracci--Guido, Domenichino and Guercino.
This system of retailing continued to descend from master to pupil, until
the school of Bologna sunk into irrecoverable imbecility.

"The most esteemed work in painting by Augustine Carracci is the Communion
of St. Jerom. It possesses grandeur of style, is bold in execution, and
the faces are not deficient in the appropriate expression of sensibility
towards the object before them. It was on the composition of this picture,
that Domenichino formed his on the same subject, so much celebrated as to
be considered next in merit to Raphael's Transfiguration. But fine as it
is admitted to be, we must say, as a borrowed idea, it lessens the merit
of the artist's originality of mind.

"The finest picture by Guido is in a church at Genoa, where he has brought
to a focus all the force of his powers in grace and beauty, with an
expression and execution of pencil rarely to be met with in art. The
subject is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The angels, who surround the
Virgin, have something in their faces so celestial, that they seem as if
they had really descended from Heaven, and sat to the artist while he
painted them. The Virgin herself seems to have had the same complacency.
The characters of the Apostles' heads are so exquisitely drawn and
painted, as to be without competition in the works of any other painter.

"The most esteemed picture by Guercino is is that of Santa Petranella,
which he painted for St. Peter's Church, at Rome.

"But, Gentlemen, if you aspire to excellence in your profession, you must
not rest your future studies on the excellence of any individual, however
exalted his name or genius; but, like the industrious bee, survey the

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