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, 1719.3 quotations
Of the Goodness of a Picture, &c.
WHerefore callest thou me Good, there is none Good but One, that is God ? Said the Son of God to the young Man who prefac’d a Noble Question with that Complement. This is that Goodness that is Perfect, Simple, and Properly so call’d, ‘tis what is Peculiar to the Deity, and so to be found no where else. But there is another Improper, Imperfect, Comparative Goodness, and no other than this is to be had in the Works of Men, and this admits of various Degrees. This Distinction well consider’d, and apply’d to all the Occurrences of Life would contribute very much to the Improvement of our Happiness here ; it would teach us to Enjoy the Good before us, and not reject it upon account of the disagreeable Companion which is inseperable from it ; But the use I now would make of it is only to show that a Picture, Drawing, or Print may be Good tho’ it has several Faults ; To say otherwise is as absurd as to deny a thing is what ‘tis said to be, because it has properties which are Essential to it.
If in a Picture the Story be well chosen, and finely Told (at least) if not Improv’d, if it fill the Mind with Noble, and Instructive Ideas, I will not scruple to say ‘tis an excellent Picture, tho’ the Drawing be as Incorrect as that of Corregio, Titian, or Rubens ; the Colouring as Disagreeable as that of Polidore, Battista Franco, or Michael Angelo. Nay, tho’ there is no other Good but that of the Colouring, and the Pencil, I will dare to pronouce it a Good Picture ; that is, that ‘tis Good in those Respects. In the first Instance here is a fine Story artfully communicated to my Imagination, not by Speech, nor Writing, but in a manner preferable to either of them ; In the other there is a Beautiful, and Delightful Object, and a fine piece of Workmanship, to say no more of it.
There never was a Picture in the World without some Faults, And very rarely is there one to be found which is not notoriously Defective in some of the Parts of Painting. In judging of it’s Goodness as a Connoisseur, one should pronounce it such in proportion to the Number of the Good Qualities it has, and their Degrees of Goodness.
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 ;
There is another kind of Goodness, and that is, As the Picture, or Drawing Answers the Ends intended to be serv’d by them ; Of which there are Several, but all reducible to these two General ones, Pleasure, and Improvement.
THIS is putting together for the Advantage of the Whole, what shall be judg’d Proper to be the several Parts of a Picture ; either as being Essential to it, or because they are thought necessary for the common Benefit : And moreover, the Determination of the Painter as to certain Attitudes, and Colours which are Otherwise Indifferent.
The Composition of a Picture is of Vast Consequence to the Goodness of it ; ‘Tis what first of all presents it self to the Eye, and prejudices us in Favour Of, or with the Aversion To it ; ‘tis This that directs us to the Ideas that are to be convey’d by the Painter, and in what Order ; and the Eye is Delighted with the Harmony at the same time as the Understanding is Improv’d. Whereas This being Ill, tho’ the several Parts are Fine, the Picture is Troublesome to look upon, and like a Book in which are many Good Thoughts, but flung in confusedly, and without Method.
Any of the several Species of Colours may be as Beautiful in their Kinds as the others, but one Kind is more so than another, as having more Variety, and consisting of Colours more pleasing in their own Nature ; in which, and the Harmony, and Agreement of one Tinct with another, the Goodness of Colouring consists.
To shew the Beauty of Variety I will instance in a Geldër Rose, which is White ; but having many Leaves one under another, and lying hollow so as to be seen through in some places, which occasions several Tincts of Light, and Shadow ; and together with these some of the Leaves having a Greenish Tinct, all together produces that Variety which gives a Beauty not to be found in this Paper, tho’ ‘tis White, nor in the inside of an Egg-shell tho’ whiter, nor in any other White Object that has not that Variety.