TERM USED AS TRANSLATIONS IN QUOTATIONSUBLIME (fra.)
TERM USED IN EARLY TRANSLATIONS/
RICHARDSON, Jonathan, Two Discourses. I. An Essay on the whole Art of Criticism as it relates to Painting. Shewing how to judge I. Of the Goodness of a Picture ; II. Of the Hand of the Master ; and III. Whether ‘tis an Original, or a Copy. II. An Argument in behalf of the Science of a Connoisseur ; Wherein is shewn the Dignity, Certainty, Pleasure, and Advantage of it. Both by Mr. Richardson, London, W. Churchill, 1719.2 quotations
All the different Degrees of Goodness in Painting may be reduc’d to these three General Classes. The Mediocre, or Indifferently Good, the Excellent, and the Sublime. The first is of a large Extent ; the second much Narrower ; and the Last still more so. I believe most people have a pretty Clear, and Just Idea of the two former ; the other is not so well understood ; which therefore I will define according to the Sense I have of it ; And I take it consist of some few of the Highest Degrees of Excellence in those Kinds, and Parts of Painting which are Excellent ; The Sublime therefore must be Marvellous, and Surprizing, It must strike vehemently upon the Mind, and Fill, and Captivate it Irresistably.
I confine the Sublime to History, and Portrait-Painting ; And These must excell in Grace, and Greatness, Invention, or Expression ; and that for Reasons which will be seen anon. Michael Angelo’s Great Style intitles Him to the Sublime, not his Drawing ; ‘tis that Greatness, and a competent degree of Grace, and not his Colouring that makes Titian capable of it : As Correggio’s Grace, with a sufficient mixture of Greatness gives this Noble Quality to His Works. Van Dyck’s Colouring, nor Pencil tho’ perfectly fine would never introduce him to the Sublime ; ‘tis his Expression, and that Grace, and Greatness he possess’d, (the Utmost that Portrait-Painting is Justly capable of) that sets some of his Works in that Exalted Class ; in which on That account he may perhaps take place of Rafaelle himself in That Kind of Painting, if that Great Man’s Fine, and Noble Idea’s carried him asmuch above Nature Then, as they did in History, where the utmost that can be done is commendable ; a due Subordination of Characters being preserved ; And thus (by the way) V. Dyck’s Colouring, and Pencil may be judg’d Equal to that of Corregio, or any other Master.
So in Painting the Sublimity of the Thought, or Expression may be consistent with bad Colouring, or Drawing, and these may help to produce that fine effect ; If they do not, That will make Them Overlook’d, or even Prejudice us in their favour ; However ‘tis not those Defects, but what is Excellent that is Sublime.
what I chiefly intented, which was to speak of the Sublime in Painting. The Term indeed is not so Generally apply’d to That Art, but would have been had it been so Generally Understood, and so much treated on as Writing : For certainly the Supream Excellence in Painting is As worthy of that Distinction ; and More so, as employing More of the Faculties pecular to the Noblest Creature we are acquainted with.
And here I take the Sublime to be the Greatest, and most Beautiful Ideas, whether Corporeal, or not, convey’d to us the most Advantageously.
By Beauty I do not mean that of Form, or Colour, Copy’d from what the Painter sees ; These being never so well Imitated, I take not to be Sublime, because These require little more than an Eye, and Hand, and Practice. An Exalted Idea of Colour in a Humane Face, or Figure might be judg’d to be Sublime, could That be had, and convey’d to Us, as I think it cannot, since even Nature has not yet been Equall’d by the best Colourists ; Here she keeps Art at a Distance whetever Courtship it has made to her. In Forms ‘tis Otherwise as we find in the Antique Statues, which therefore I allow to have a Sublimity in them : And should do the same in regard to the same Kind, and Degree of Beauty if it were to be found in any Picture, as I believe it is not. Tho’ in Pictures is seen a Grace, and Greatness, whether from the Attitude, or Air of the Whole, or the Head only, that may justly be Esteem’d Sublime.
‘Tis to these Properties therefore as also to the Invention, Expression and Composition, that I confine the Sublime in Painting, and that as they are found in Histories and Portraits.
If the Story, Sublime in it Self, loses nothing of its own Dignity under the Painter’s Hand ; Or if ‘tis Rais’d, and Improv’d, which it cannot be if the Airs of the Heads, and Attitudes of the Figures are not conformable to the Greatness of the Subject : If Expedients, and Incidents are flung in, that discover an Elevation of Thought in the Master, And all is Artfully convey’d to us, whetherin a Sketch, or Drawing, or in a Finish’d Picture. This I esteem Sublimity in Painting. Nor less so, if a Noble Character is Given, or Improv’d ; a Character of Wisdom, Goodness, Magnanimity, or whatever Other Vertues, or Excellencies ; and that together with a Just and Proper Resemblance. But a Low Subject, and a Mean Character are Incapable of Sublimity : As the Best Composition when employ’d on Such.
I should […] have been sparing of Examples, if I had not already given many for other Purposes, but which are also Instances of the Sublime in Painting, and which are scatter’d up and down throughout all I have Written on this Amiable Subject : But One or Two I will add in This Place. The First shall be from Rembrandt ; and surely he has given Us such an Idea of a Death-Bed in one Quarter of a Sheet of Paper in two Figures with few Accompagnements, and in Clair Obscure only, that the most Eloquent Preacher cannot paint it so strongly by the most Elaborate Discourses ; […]. An Old Man is lying on his Bed, just ready to Expire ; this Bed has a plain Curtain, and a Lamp hanging over it, for ‘tis in a Little sort of an Alcove, Dark Otherwise, though ‘tis Bright Day in the next Room, and which is nearest the Eye, There the Son of this Dying Old Man is at Prayers. […]. All is over with this Man, and there is such an Expression in this Dull Lamp-Light at Noon-Day, such a Touching Solemnity, and Repose that these Equal any thing in the Airs, and Attitudes of the Figures, which have the Utmost Excellency that I think I ever saw, or can conceive is possible to be Imagined.
‘Tis a Drawing, I have it. And here is an Instance of an Important Subject, Impress’d upon our Minds by such Expedients, and Incidents as display an Elevation of Thought, and fine Invention ; and all this with the Utmost Art, and with the greatest Simplicity ; That being more Apt, at least in this Case, than any Embellishment whatsoever.
REMBRANDT (Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn), La prière de saint Pierre avant la résurrection de Tabitha, v. 1654 - v. 1655, plume et encre brune, lavis brun, 19,3 x 20,2, Bayonne, Musée Bonnat, inv. 159 / NI. 1441.
I am perhaps too much Prejudiced in favour of Painting, but however not so much but that I am ready to acknowledge that we have Few Instances, if Any of the Perfect Sublime, that is, where the Thought is so, and the manner of Conveyance Equal to it ; some Defects will always be found in the best Pictures, whereas there are Sublime Passages in Writers where the Words are not only the most Apt, and proper, but the most Beautiful : This nevertheless is to the honour of Our Art. No Man yet has arriv’d to Excellency in All Parts of it : That is the Task of an Angel, or some Angelick Man, such as has not yet appear’d. Rafaëlle, and Others have reach’d the Sublime, and rose as high as Homer, or Demosthenes ; but you can never see, I say not an Intire Picture, or Figure, but even a Single Head without at the same time seeing Something amiss : Whereas in Writers you often have their Beautiful Parts Detach’d, and Perfect.
But the Sublime, as the Crown in the State hides all Defects ; it fills and satisfies the Mind, nothing appears to be wanting ; nothing to be amiss, or if it does ‘tis easily forgiven. All Faults die, and vanish in the presence of the Sublime,
He that would rise to the Sublime must form an Idea of Something beyond all we have yet seen ; or which Art, or Nature has yet produc’d ; Painting, Such as when all the Excellencies of the several Masters are United, and their several Defects avoided.
The greatest Designers among the Moderns want much of that exquisite Beauty, in all the Several Characters, that is to be seen in the Antique ; the Airs of the Heads, even of Rafaëlle himself, are Inferiour to what the Ancients have done ; and for Grace to some of Guido : the Colouring of Rubens and Van Dyck falls short of That of Titian, and Coreggio ; and the best Masters have Rarely Thought like Rafaëlle, or Compos’d like Rembrandt. Let us then imagine a Picture Design’d as the Laocoon, the Hercules, the Apollo, the Venus, or any of these Miraculous remains of Antiquity : The Airs of Heads like what is to be found in the Statues, Busts, Bas-releifs, or Medals, or like some of those of Guido ; and Colour’d like the most Celebrated Colourists ; with the Lightest Pencil, and the most Proper to the Subject ; and all this Suitably Invented, and Compos’d ; Here would be a Picture ! Such a one a Painter should Imagine, and So set before him for Imitation.
Nor must he stop Here, but Create an Original Idea of Perfection. The Utmost that the Best Masters have done, is not to be suppos’d the Utmost ‘tis possible for Humane Nature to arrive at ;