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, 1719.1 quotations
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.