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Let the most creative genius give to others all those things for which he is obliged to them, and how small will be his property in his own productions! Many have been considered the authors of inventions (which, observe, are commonly accidental), because those who preceded them were forgotten. It has been said by Johnson, that we owe to Gay the ballad opera.
SO; but it is certain that the Beggar's Opera was first acted towards the end of the year 1727, and it is equally certain that a pan: tomime was exhibited at Drury-lane Theatre before that period, the hero of u hich was the notorious John Shepherd. The scenes re. presented“ real places of action,” says the author (Select Trials at the Old Bailey, vol. ii. p. 147), and the composer was Mr. Thurmond. To this pantomime succeeded a farce, in three acts, having the same hero, entitled, The Prison Breaker; which, though printed, was not acted. Some time afterwards it was interniixed with songs and catches, and was performed at Bartholomew Fair, by the name of the Quaker's Opera.
To exemplify this position, we will offer an instance more immediately suitable to our present subject. Vasari (tom. ii. p. 262,) said that Van Eych, a Fleming, was the inventor of painting in oil; but Malvasia (Felsina Pittrice, lib. i. p. 27,) has shown that oil paintings were executed in 1407, some years before the time fixed by Vasari. Dominici (Vite de Pittori Napol. lib. i. p. 107), penetrates further into antiquity, and proves that paintings were executed in a similar substance at Naples so early as the year 1300; and Lessing quotes, from a manuscript written in the tenth or the eleventh century, certain instructions for tempering colours with oil. Invention, when not the effect of casualty, merely advances the improvement of others. Consider the equestrian statue of Peter the First at St. Petersburgh, if it be compared to the lubberly figures in our public squares, it is creation; but compare it to other statues in Europe, and Falconet will only enjoy a rational triumph. Regard the mode of supporting the horse by the hind legs and tail, as represented by an equestrian statue at Saltzburg, a work otherwise of little note; and the equestrian statue at Madrid of Philip the Fourth, cast by Pedro Tacca, of Florence, from a design of Diego Valasquez. Considering these only with the posture of Marcus Aurelius on horseback at the Campidoglio, in Rome, and the writhing serpent, which popular opinion has made familiar, and the equestrian statue of Peter the First, that prodigy of art, animation, nay, of actual flight, must be reputed, in effect, as the work of many artists combined in one form, by a single but superior mind.
Another cause, and if not the greatest, one which was blended with all others, of the superiority of the tine arts at Athens, was. the nature of the government. The Athenians, we know, excelled all other nations in oratory, in statuary, in architecture; and there are many reasons for believing that they equally excelled in painting and music. If this be true, and if it be also certain that there is a consent and harmony among all the arts, it is a problem worthy the solution of our wisest men, how the Athenian, the worst government, according to their apprehensions, should boast architects, statuaries, painters, orators, historians, &c. of such power in their respective departments, that it is the object of the enlightened to collect a few fragunents of their designs from Attica, and a few pages of the works of their scholars from Herculaneum..
Having stated some of those particulars which tended to advance the arts in Greece, let us briefly mention a few causes, which have opposed their advancement in Great Britain. It may perhaps be said, that England does not afford such models as Greece; at least, in the same abundance, for the use of the statuary and painter. A celebrated artist of Italy, in a letter to Balthazar Castiglione, attributes the backwardness of the arts of design partly to the deficiency of living models; his words are :-“ Ma essendo carestia di boni giudici et di belle donne, &c.” (Descrit. Pitt. di Raf. p. 242.) We suspect that our judges are far less admirable for their skill, than our females for their beauty.
Without good models we repeat, that all the statuary and paintings of Greece could not make a good artist; for they could not impart that which they do not and cannot possess. Any work taken exclusively from them is only a copy of a copy. There is a freedom and spirit in a first draught, that the sanie artist cannot preserve in a copy, even of his own perforin
It has been often affirmed and frequently felt, that those painters who make ancient sculptures their peculiar study show a monumental coldness in their pictures. Ancient statuary should be studied, as the rules of science exemplified; but the paramount study, the master of the ancients and moderns, is the living world. : It is not only necessary that there be good models in a nation, but an abundance of them. Moiland's wife and sisters were almost his only female models; hence arose his want of variety in his female figures. Even had these women been beautiful and well proportioned, want of varieiy would have limited the reputation of this artist; besides, where good models are not numerous, there is the greatest probability that the artist will begm to copy from an interior description, because the cheapest and most obvious. This educates a bad style and a vulgar taste,
which will never be reformed even when means and occasions may command the best. Rubens never could correct his early impressions. His Graces may receive the name with which Henry the Eighth complimented his wife Anne of Cleves on first seeing her: his Pegasus, in the Lichtenstien gallery at Vienna, is a mere Flanders draught-horse.
Admitting that human nature is in the highest degree lovely in Great Britain, how are artists to take advantage of it? how is human nature to be recognized by them? we admit no gymnastic exercises, and who can regret the circumstance, unless it be one whose moral taste yields in strength to his taste for the fine arts ? The ladies, indeed, by their modern modes of dress, have done their best to remunerate the artists by models of the
female figure, for the loss which they have sustained of male studies, by the abolition of gymnastic exercises. It is for the profession,
wever, to determine, whether the number of originals for those ethical designs so strongly recommended by Aristotle be not thereby diminished. The rarity in Great Britain of beholding man as he is, in order to enable artists to honour their profession, is acknowledged in the following passage from the “ Memorandum.” “From trials which Lord Elgin was induced to make at the request of professional men, a strong impression had been created that the science of sculpture, and the taste and judgment by which it is to be carried forward and appreciated, cannot so effectually be promoted as by athletic exercises practised in the presence of similar works; the distinguishing merit of which is an able, ingenious, but exact, imitation of nature." Whether the contrivance be more absurd, or the language in which it is related be more perplexed, we leave to the judgment of others; yet still this proves the want of living models in Great Britain.
Artists are also prevented from adopting national subjects on account of the national dress. They are thus placed in a miserable dilemma, either of appealing to the taste of their countrymen on subjects not interesting to their feelings and habitudes, or of exhibiting men in buckram. Survey Lord Nelson's Death, by Mr. West, in the last exhibition; the figures seem stuck into the canvas like the compartments of wainscoting, and when mingled with other figures of a picturesque description, as in Mr. West's Death of General Wolfe, they are only less offensive than William Penn, in his Quaker dress, amidst the immortals in Barry's Elysium.
Many have attributed the backwardness of the arts in England to the established religion, which is too simple in its principles, and too pure in its general character to offer to the fine arts an opportunity to display their powers to the same extent as the latitude of the Romish churches in this respect allows. It has also been remarked in corroboration of this opinion, that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, though the dean and chapter had acquiesced, did refuse a proposal to decorate St. Paul's with subjects taken from the New Testament. But those who censure those ecclesiastics do not sufficiently observe, that Barry, who made this proposal, was, though an English artist, an Irish catholic, and perhaps it might be thought that in a matter of that kind a person of his persuasion could not be safely trusted.
Some have also imagined that the fine arts are not promoted by the constitution of the British government, which is founded on reason and experience, and wholly unlike those heady republics which so many writers from Dean Swift to Sir William Young have convicted of infinite errors without one countervailing excellency. These points have been frequently urged; we mention them, without insisting on their applicability. Yet we cannot avoid admitting, that the prudent part of our economy, as a commercial people, as calculators of profit and loss, affects in no inconsiderable degree the perfection of the arts of this country. We must however also admit, that there are splendid exceptions in both respects to this observation. It is true we read of various subscriptions for the distressed and the forsaken, general in their nature, and considerable in their amount. Yet still perhaps it may be said, that though the English are not selfish, there is something like that feeling pretty prevalent among them, at least in their encouragement of painting. Witness at every annual review at Somerset House the costly portraits of hundreds whose names have never been published, except in the shilling catalogue on that occasion. This being so, how can the artists escape the contagion? That they are so infected, we repeat; if not, to what are we to attribute the eternal claims and lamentations of artists and dilletanti, of Mr. West and Mr. Shee, of Lord Elgin and Sir R. C. Hoare, concerning schools for the arts, establishments for the arts, patronage for the arts ? This theme is beneath any man who pretends to regard a liberal profession. Nor can any satisfactory reason be assigned for this querulousness, unless we consider the countenance afforded to such inglorious wailing by our charity schools and our colleges, which the law says eleemosynary corporations, whose members subsist by the charity of their founders. Artists should know that profit and glory are seldom companions. All men pretending to elevated pursuits should know or learn the same. Let us then hear
RO more of want of patrons. · Johnson placed patrons among the miseries of authorship
Yet think what ills the scholar's life assail,
Pride, envy, want, the patron, and the jail. Let us hear no more of want of patronage. The same author thus concludes an allegory on that topic. “ The SCIENCES after a thousand indignities retired from the palace of PATRONAGE, and having long wandered over the world in grief and distress, were led at last to the cottage of INDEPENDENCE, the daughter of FORTITUDE, where they were taught by PRUDENCE and PARSIMONY to support themselves in dignity and quiet.”
ART. III. Travels in the South of Spain, in Letters written
A. D. 1909 and 1910, by William Jacob, Esq. M. P. F.R.S.
London: Johnson. Miller. 1811. 4to. pp. 437. Descriptive Travels in the Southern and Eastern Parts
of Spain, and in the Balearic Isles, by Sir John Carr, Knt. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones. 1811. 4to.
he practice of emptying old musty folios,” or the contents of threadbare pocket-books, into“ new quartos *,” although it has been deprecated by critics of every class for the last twenty years, seems now to be so established a right in the art of book-making, that we are not without our fears that any further opposition to the practice would be considered as the effusion of an heated imagination, or the promulgation of new doctrines. The endeavour of our fraternity to correct the evil, is at least an attempt not less disinterested than the noble efforts of the faculty in behalf of vaccination; for if the reading part of the community had any sort of security that every new publication would be contined to the quantity of original matter which its author bas to impart, they would doubtless purchase the book itself, and read it through; as the mass of publications would then be within their pecuniary means, as well as within compass of their hours of study. But if (even physically speaking) there must be a period to a system in which the tourist through modern literature, having paid down his two or three guineas for the privilege of being carried through the next stage, finds himself slowly transported through an African desert, with scarcely an Oasis to refresh his sickening brain, it is not wonderful that they should have recourse to the aëronauts
* See Arivice to a Young Reviewer (p. 6.), and first Number of British R view (p. 5.).