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The next thing to be considered in an Historical Piece, is the Truth of the Drawings, and the Correction of the Design, as Painters call it ; that is, whether they have chosen to imitate Nature in her most Beautiful Part ; for though a Painter be the Copist of Nature, Yet he must not take her promiscuously, as he finds her, but have an Idea of all that is Fine and Beautiful in an Object, and choose to Represent that, as the Antients have done so admirably in their Paintings and Statues : And ’tis in this part that most of the Flemish Painters, even Rubens himself, have miscarryed, by making an ill Choice of Nature ; either because the Beautiful Natural is not the Product of their Countrey, or because they have not seen the Antique, which is the Correction of Nature by Art ; for we may truly say that the Antique is but the best of Nature ; and therefore all that resembles the Antique, will carry that Character along with it.
            I remember, you reckoned it to me among the Faults of some Painters, that they had studied too long upon the Statues of the Antients ; and that they had indeed thereby acquired the Correction of Design you speak of ; but they had by the same means lost that Vivacity and Life which is in Nature, and which is the true Grace of Painting.

            ’Tis very true, that a Painter may fall into that Error, by giving himself up too much to the Antique ; therefore he must know, that his Profession is not tyed up to that exact Imitation of it as the Sculptor’s is, who must never depart from that exact Regularity of Proportion which the Antients have settled in their Statues ; but Painters Figures must be such as may seem rather to have been Models for the Antique, than drawn from it ;
and a Painter that never has studied it at all, will never arrive at that as Raphael, and the best of the Lombard Painters have done ; who seem to have made no other Use of the Antique, than by that means to choose the most Beautiful of Nature.

Conceptual field(s)

CONCEPTS ESTHETIQUES → nature, imitation et vrai