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of Raphael ; the poetical fancy of Guido; the angelical mind of Corregio, or Parmegiano; the haughty, sullen, but accomplished Annibal, the learned Augustino Caracci.
A connoisseur hath this further advantage, that he not only sees beauties in pictures and paintings, which to common eyes are invisible; but he learns by these to see such in nature, in the exquisite forms and colors, the fine effects of lights, and shadows, and reflections, which in her are always to be found, and from whence he hath a pleasure which otherwise he could never have had, and which none with untaught eyes can possibly discern: he has a constant pleasure of this kind even in the most common things, and the most familiar to us, so that what people usually look upon with the utmost indifference, creates an home-felt delight in his mind. The noblest works of Raphael, the most ravishing music of Handel, the most masterly strokes of Milton, touch not people who are without discernment.
So, the beauties themselves of those all-perfect works of the great author of nature are not seen but by enlightened eyes, that is, those eyes which are taught to see; to those they appear far otherwise than before they were ; so, so far otherwise! that one sees through a glass darkly (through the gross medium of ignorance); the other, that of a connoisseur, as when the angel had removed the film from Adam's eyes, and purged with euphrasy and rue, the visual nerve, seeth beauty divine and human, as far as human may, as we hope to see everything, still nearer to its true beauty and perfection, in a better state; when we shall see what eye hath not seen, neither hath it entered the heart of man to conceive."
By conversing with the works of the best masters, our imaginations are impregnated with great and beautiful images, which present themselves on all occasions in
reading an author, or ruminating upon some great action, ancient or modern; everything is raised, everything improved from what it would have been otherwise. Nay, those lovely images with which our minds are thus enriched, arise there continually, and give us pleasure, with or without any particular application.
What is rare and curious, exclusive of any other consideration, we naturally take pleasure in; because, as variable as our circumstances are, there is so much of repetition in life that more variety is still desirable. The works of the great masters would thus recommend themselves to us, though they had not that transcendent excellency that they have; they are such as are rarely seen; they are the works of a small number of the species in one little country of the world, and in a short space of time. But their excellency being put into the scale makes the rarity of them justly considerable. They are the works of men like whom none are now to be found, and when there will be, God only knows !
“ Art et guides, tout est dans les Champs Élysées."
What the old man Melanthius says of Polygnotus (as he is cited by Plutarch in the life of Cimon), may, with a little alteration, be applied to these men in general; it is thus already translated :
" This famous painter, at his own expense,
Gave Athens beauty and magnificence;
What still adds to the rarity of the excellent works we
are speaking of is, their number must necessarily diminish by sudden accidents, or the slow, but certain injuries of time.
Another pleasure belonging to connoissance is when we find anything particular and curious; as the first thoughts of a master for some remarkable picture; the original of a work of a great master, the copy of which we have already by some other considerable hand; a drawing of a picture, or after an antique very famous, or which is now lost; or when we make some new acquisition upon reasonable terms, chiefly when we get for ourselves something we much desired, but could not hope to be masters of; when we make some new discovery, something that improves our knowledge in connoissance or painting, or otherwise ; and abundance of such like incidents, and which very frequently happens to a diligent connoisseur.
The pleasure that arises from a knowledge of hands is not like, or equal to that of the other parts of the business of a connoisseur, but neither is this destitute of it. When one sees an admirable piece of art, it is part of the connoisseur to know to whom to attribute it, and then to know his history; which arises, I hope, from a natural justice in the human mind that loves and desires to pay a little tribute of gratitude where it discovers it to be due to that merit of another which it is actually enjoying. The custom of putting the author's portrait or life at the beginning of his book, is kindly giving us an opportunity of doing this.
When one is considering a picture or a drawing,* and at the same time thinks this was done by him who had many extraordinary endowments of body and mind, and was withal a virtuous man and a fine gentleman in his whole life, and still more at his death, expiring in the arms of one of the greatest princes of that age, Francis I., king of France, who loved him as a friend ;*-another is of him who lived a long and happy life beloved of the Emperor Charles V., and many others of the first princes of Europe;t--when one has another in his hand, and thinks that this was done by one who so excelled in three arts, as that any one of them, in that degree he possessed them all, had rendered him worthy of immortality, and who moreover dared to contend with bis sovereign (one of the haughtiest popes that ever was) upon a slight offered to him, and extricated himself with honor ;I -another is the work of that great self-formed, authentic genius, who was the model of supernatural grace ; who alone. painted heaven, as surely it is; and hath represented to human weakness the angelic nature; this, too, by inspiration ! not having had any master, or none but whom he left quite out of sight in the earliest progresses of his divine pencil ; he even never saw the works of other great masters, having always confined himself to his native Lombardy, except one single one of Raphael, and a great one indeed that his St. Cecilia when brought to Bologna ; and then, after considering it with long attention, and the admiration it deser ved, he had the spirit (and he had a right to that spirit) to say, “Well, I am a painter, too;"$ he was so little known to the rest of Italy, that he passed till very lately, in the opinion of the world, for a low, poor, indigent creature, from the ill-information or malice of Vasari, always prejudiced against the Lombard painters, when his character was rescued from its affected obscurity, and his noble birth and connections, and splen: Hi Leonardo da Vinci.
* The passage here commencing is one enormously long sentence, continued to the words " these reflections,” at p. 140. It may be supposed, however, to be very agreeably poured forth in the heat of conversation.
did wealth, asserted boyond all possibility and dispute by the indefatigable industry of Ludiovico Antonio David, a Milanese painter, and published at Bologna ;-another we shall consider as the work of him who restored painting when it was almost sunk; of him whom his art made honorable ; but who neglecting and despising greatness with a sort of cynical pride, was treated suitably to the figure he gave himself, not to his intrinsic merit; which not having philosophy enough to bear, it broke his heart ;* another is performed by one, who (on the contrary) was a fine gentleman, and of great magnificence, and was much honored by his own and foreign princes; who was a courtier, a statesman, and a painter ; and so much all these, that when he acted in either character, that seemed to be his business, and the others his diversion;t -when one thus reflects, besides the pleasure arising from the beauties and excellencies of the work, the fine ideas it gives us of natural things, the noble way of thinking one finds in it, and the pleasing thoughts it may suggest to us, an additional pleasure results from these reflections.
But, oh! the pleasure ! when a connoisseur and lover of art has before him a picture or drawing, of which he can say, this is the hand, these the thoughts of him who was one of the politest, best-natured gentlemen that ever was; who was beloved and assisted by the greatest wits, and the greatest men then at Rome, at a time when politeness and all those arts which make life taste truly agreeable, were carried to a greater height than at any period since the reign of Augustus: of him who lived in great fame, honor, and magnificence, and died universally lamented ; and even missed a cardinal's hat only by dying a few months too soon ; but
above all, highly esteemed and favored by two popes, the only ones
* Caravaggio ?