Painting of the Ancients – Franciscus Junius
from Painting of the Ancients by Franciscus Junius
The good and great maker of this Universe, created the world after so glorious and beautifull a manner, that the Greekes together with the Romanes, a consent also of the Nations perswading them thereunto , have called it by the name of an Ornament. Moreover, Man, whom many ancient Authors call the little world, is not made after the image of God to resemble the wilde beasts in following of their lusts, but that the memory of his originall should lift up his noble soule to the love of a vertuous desire of glory. This opinion was of old grafted in the hearts of good men; neither doe the learned onely, but the vulgar sort also esteem the way of vertue to be the true way by which our mortall and transitory condition attaineth to an everlasting fame. But among such a number of vertuous courses as may serve to get a great and durable renowne, every one doth most commonly deliberate with his own naturall inclination. The one by a praiseworthy boldnesse undertaketh to compasse with his understanding the unmeasurable measures of heaven, leaving unto the following ages a full account of the innumerable number of heavenly lights, as a most certain and sure inheritance, sayth Plinie, if peradventure afterwards any one would take upon him to be heire thereof. Another doth not stick to prie into the most profound mysteries of Nature; neither will he give his mind any rest till he hath in some measure conceived the nature of the floting clouds, the cause of thunder, lightning, and of all those things that above or about the earth doe terrifie the heart of man. He goeth about the search of those things with a very great confidence, as knowing himselfe to be placed in this stately theater, to view and to consider all such wonders of God. Anaxagoras being asked to what end he was brought forth, answered; To behold the Sunne, Moone, and Heavens; see Diogenes Laertius, lib. II, in the life of Anaxagoras. Yea what is man, I pray you, but a creature approaching neerest unto God, as Quintilian speaketh, and ordained to the contemplation of the things contained in the world; see also Arriani Epict. lib. 1. cap. 6. Dionys. Longinus de sublimi orat. § 31. I amblichus in Protrept. cap. 3. Although now Quintilian and all the other Authors speak very well to the purpose; Tullie for all that commeth a great deal neerer to the point we have in hand; man himselfe, sayth he , is borne to contemplate and to imitate the world; not being any manner of way perfect, but onely a small parcell of what is perfect.
§ 2. As many then as are taken up with this kind of meditations, might seeme to goe farre beyond the ordinary sort of men, if they likewise were not left behind by them that doe not onely view but also imitate the wonders of Nature. The painters, sayth S. Chrysostome, after the mixing of their colours, endeavour to set forth a lively similitude of diverse visible things: thus doe they paint reasonable and un∣reasonable creatures, trees, warres, battels, streames of bloud, pikes, Kings, ordinary men; they make also a royall throne, the King sitting, a barbarous enemy throwne downe under his feet, the points of speares, running rivers, goodly medowes: to be short, they prepare unto the spectators a very pleasant sight, whilest they study by the force of their Art to expresse all manner of visible things. The words of Isidorus Pelusiota are likewise worth noting; the Painters, sayth he , when they make bodily shapes of things without bodie, use sometimes to paint a lone hand which setteth a crowne upon the head of the Princes of this world; signifying, that this soveraign power is given them from heaven. Socrates toucheth also the large ex∣tent of this Art, when he sayth, the Painters studie with their colours to expresse, hollow and swelling, darke and light∣some, hard and soft, rough and smooth, new and old bodies. Flowers, among all other visible things, shew the greatest varietie of colours; yet have the Painters attempted to ex∣presse the same, as appeareth in the famous painter Pausias, who being in love with his Country-woman Glycera, was the first that assayed to bring the Art to such a wonderfull varietie of colours as there is to be seene in flowers: for be∣holding sometimes how neatly shee did make garlands, and being no lesse ravished with that dexterity ofhers then with her beautie, he could not but take the pencill in his hand to strive with Nature it selfe; see Plinie xxxv, 10. Apelles like∣wise painted things that can not be painted; Thunder and Lightning: see Plinie in the same place. It may seeme then that Theophylactus Simocatus did cast his eye upon some such like relation, when he maintaineth that Painters un∣dertake to expresse such things as Nature is not able to doe.
§ 3. It remaineth howsoever, that among so many Art as doe procure us everlasting glory, this Art is none of the meanest. And as it is a very great matter to carry in our mind the true images both of living and lifelesse creatures, so is it a greater matter to worke out a true and lively simi∣litude of those inward images; especially if the Artificer doth not tie his imitation to some particular, though never so faire a body; but followeth rather the perfection of an in∣ward image made up in his mind by a most earnest and assi∣duous observation of all such bodies as in their owne kind are most excelling. Such as carve images, sayth Maximus Tyrius, having gathered all that in severall bodies is reputed to be faire, bring it by the means of their art in one singular i∣mitation of a convenient, pure, and well-proportioned beautie to passe; neither shall you find in haste a body so accurately ex∣act, as to compare it with the beautie of a statue: For the Arts doe ever seeke what is fairest. Ovid seemeth to point at this, when he doth describe Cyllarus, the fairest of all the Cen∣taures, he had a pleasing livelinesse in his countenance, sayth he , and for as much as he was like a man, so came his necke, his shoulders, his hands, his brest, neerest of all to the praise∣worthy images of the Artists. Wee are likewise to observe, that Philostratus doth very often compare the beauty of the ancient heroicall Worthies with the beautie of artificiall Statues, as you may see in his description of Protesilaus, Eu∣phorbus, Neoptolemus, and elsewhere. If you doe take a man brought forth by Nature, sayth Proclus, and another made by the art of carving; yet shall not he that is made by Nature whol∣ly seeme statelier: For Art doth many things more exactly. Ovid expresseth the same, when he witnesseth , that Pig∣malion did carve the snow-white ivorie image with such a luc∣kie dexteritie, that it was altogether impossible such a woman should be borne. Such Artificers therefore as carry in their mind an uncorrupt image of perfect beautie, do most com∣monly powre forth into their workes some certaine glim∣mering sparkles of the inward beautie contained in their minds: neither may we thinke this to be very easie; for, according to Apollonius Tyaneus his opinion, that which is best, is alway hard to be found out, hard to be judged. It is also well observed by an ancient Orator , that the imitation of a most absolute beautie is ever most hard and difficult; and as it is an easie matter to set forth a true similitude of deformitie by her owne markes, so on the contrary the similitude of a perfect beautie is as rarely: seene as the beautie it selfe. It was not un∣knowne unto Zeuxis, sayth Tullie, that Nature would ne∣ver bestow upon one particular bodie all the perfections of beautie, seeing that nothing is so neatly shaped by Nature, but there will alwayes in one or other part therof some no∣table disproportion be found; as if nothing more should be left her to distribute unto others, if she had once conferred upon one all what is truely beautifull. Wherefore, when this noble Artificer intended to leave unto the inhabitants of Crotona a choice patterne of a most beautifull woman, he did not thinke it good to seeke the perfection of a fault∣lesse formositie in one particular body; but he pick’d out of the whole Citie five of the well-favouredst virgins, to the end he might find in them that perfect beautie, which, as Lucian speaketh , of necessitie must be but one. So doth Ze∣nophon very fitly to this purpose bring in Socrates his dis∣course held with the Painter Parrhasius, seeing it is not so ea∣sie, sayth Socrates, to meet with anyone that doth altogether consist of irreprehensible parts, so is it, that you having chosen out of every part of severall bodies what is fittest for your turne, bring to passe that the whole figures made by your Art seeme to be most comely and beautifull.
§ 4. Out of this most absolute fort of imitation there doth bud forth the Art of designing, the Art of painting, the Art of casting, and all other Arts of that kind. So doth Philostratus also call this same Imitation an ancient inven∣tion, and altogether agreeing with Nature. The proofe of which point could here most readily be drawne out of that busie eagernesse we do see in almost all young children, that follow the tender imaginations of their rude and unexerci∣sed conceits in making of babies and other images out of clay or wax, but that we thinke it better not to trouble our selves too much with the proofe of a thing which is cleare enough in it selfe, seeing every one may sufficiently informe himselfe concerning this point, who will but cast an eye up∣on the daily pastimes used among little ones. Let us onely observe out of Quintilian, that all such things as are ac∣complished by Art, doe ever draw their first beginnings out of Nature: as also, that the greater part of Arts, to use the words of the same Author , doth consist in Imitation: so is it like∣wise an usuall thing in the whole course of our life, that we our selves study alwayes to do what we like in others: children fol∣low the copies which are set them, untill they get a perfect habit of writing: Musicians expresse the voice of their teachers: Painters imitate the workes of their predecessors: husbandmen doe frame themselves after the prosperous experience of them that tilled their ground with good successe: and we doe alwayes in the first entrance of all kind of learning, order our labours after an example propounded unto us.
§ 5. Neither may the great multitude of naturall things that our Imitation busieth it selfe withall, put us in such a fright as to hinder our good endeavours; seeing it is no more requisite in this Art then in many other Arts, that we should after a most troublesome manner goe over every lit∣tle thing; as if it were not possible to attaine to perfection, unlesse we did learn to imitate all things that are in Nature. Certainly, the large diffused nature of things cannot abide that a teacher should weary his schollars with such an infi∣nite number of figures; and whosoever doth undertake a∣ny such thing, shall undergoe these two inconveniences, sayth Quintilian, as to say alway too much, and yet never to say all. Thus may we very well be satisfied with the Imitation of the chiefest things, assuring our selves that lesser things will follow of themselves. Polycletus, having made Hercules, did not finde it a difficult matter to make the Lyons skinne, or the many-headed water-snake. Phidias likewise, having made the image of Minerva, did not thinke it much to make up her shield. No body doth so excell in greater matters, sayth Quintilian, as to faile in lesser: unlesse Phidias by chance made Jupiter best of all, but that some body els should have been better at the making of such things as the worke was to be gar∣nished withall. The words of the incomparable Orator are remarkable; as in other Arts, sayth Tullie, when the hardest things are propounded, there is no need that the rest should be delivered after a laborious and toilesome manner, as being now easie and resembling the things taught afore; so in the Art of Painting, if any one hath throughly learned how to paint a man, the same shall likewise know how to paint a man of what shape and age he himselfe listeth, although it may be he never learned to make any such figures apart by themselves: neither is it to be feared, that he who can paint a Lyon or a Bull passing well, should not be able to doe the same in many other beasts that walke upon four feet. This point is also confirmed in the fol∣lowing words of the most learned Quintilian; a Master must every day, sayth he , by severall examples shew the order and connexion of things; to the end that by a continuall practice, we should still passe on to things of the like nature: for it is impos∣sible to propound all what may be imitated by Art: neither is there any Painter that hath learned to imitate all naturall things; but having once perceived the true manner of imita∣ting, he shall easily hit the similitude of such things as shall be offered him.
§ 6. The first principles then of these Arts of imitation, doe not demand an endlesse labour, but rather contenting themselves with a few very moderate and easie documents of meet proportions, doe forthwith present us an open and ready accesse unto the most inward secrets of Art. And ve∣rily, the whole Art of painting, may wondrous well be com∣prised in a small number of precepts, which as they are in a∣ny wise necessary, so are they for all that to be delivered af∣ter a short and plaine way. When there is on the contrary a great stirre kept about the first rudiments of these Arts, it is very often seene, that young beginners are alienated from the Art, by reason of so diffused and intricate a man∣ner of institution: their wits also, that had more need at the first to be cherished and encouraged, grow dull and sottish, being overwhelmed with a dry and barren multitude of farre fetch’d instructions: they doe sometimes also, to the great hindrance of their good proceedings, foolishly per∣swade themselves, that they are already as good Artificers as the best of them, though they have done no more but slenderly learned by heart, and practised but grossely, some disorderly precepts, that are boasted to conteine the very pith and marrow of the whole Art: Many lively spirits at length are most pittifully turned away from their forward course, after they have enthralled themselves into such a mis-leading labyrinth of confused and intricate precepts, and having once lost that freenesse of spirit, by which the Art is most of all advanced, they give over all good endea∣vors, they doe stagger at every little occasion, not daring to depart one inch from the much admired and highly e∣steemed rules of Art. It is then expedient that we should not wander, but rather follow a setled short way, easie both for learners and teachers. Neither is it amisse, a beginner should strongly be possessed with this opinion, that there is a certain good way, in which Nature must do many things of her owne accord without any teaching; so that the grounds of Art may seeme not so much to have been found out by teachers, as to have been observed onely by them, when excellent Artificers that followed the unpremedita∣ted and unrestrained motions of Nature practised them. To what we have hither to propoūded out of Quintilian, the words of Aquila Romanus may very well be applied, all things almost, sayth he , that are contained in the first pre∣cepts, are put in practice by quick-witted men, not so much out of knowledge as by chance. It is left onely that we bring to their workes some kind of learning, and a great deale of attention, to the end that we might not onely perceive such virtues as una∣wares they have imparted to us, but that wee also might have them afterwards at command as often as occasion shall require. It is then a very poore and silly shift, to lay the fault of our owne sluggishnesse upon the difficultie of the first princi∣ples: this pretence can avail us nothing at all: seeing these Arts do indifferently without any regard of persons, invite all studious hearts to take their fill of that sweetnesse they doe affoord. It is likewise a very unnoble and faint-hearted lithernesse, to suffer the heat of our most fervent desire to be cooled, by reason that some have to very small purpose taken a great deale of paines about these Arts; seeing the knowledg of all such kind of Arts, saith Sidonius Apollinaris, is by nature more gorgeously precious, how lesse common.
§ 7. Besides all this, there is yet another maine reason why some are so loath to meddle with these Arts; for they can never see them brought to such a perfection, but that there is alway something left, which requireth, if not men∣ding, at least trimming and polishing. The facultie of Pain∣ters, sayth Plato, knoweth no end in painting, but findeth still something to change or to adde; and it is altogether im∣possible that beautie and similitude should receive such an abso∣lute consummation, as not to admit any further encrease. Thus doe they decline the supposed toilesomnesse of this Art be∣fore the least experiment; and they will not resolve to doe any thing, because they doe forsooth despaire to doe all. Neither is there any possibilitie to cure this overthwart hu∣mor of theirs, unlesse they doe first learne out of Vegetius, that all kind of worke seemeth to be hard before we doe try it. They must secondly, consider what a vehement efficacy there is in mans wit; wheresoever you doe bend your wit, sayth Salust, it will prevaile. Maximus Tyrius likewise, what is there, sayth he, which the all-daring soule of a man cannot cunningly find out, when shee hath but a mind to it? They are thirdly, to marke how great a matter they goe about. The reward of their labour, if they doe not shrinke and play the cowards, shall be an Art of Arts, an Art no lesse profitable then glorious. It is a most shamefull thing, sayth Tullie, to grow weary, when the thing we study to obtain is of great worth. The which if we doe rightly conceive, wee shall also more readily entertaine this opinion, that the way is not unpassable nor difficult. For the first and greatest ayd cometh from our will: and if we can but bring an unfainedly willing mind to these Arts, the worst will be past; seeing the things we are to learne, may be had by a few yeares study. The onely reason that maketh the way to seem long and tedious, is, because we doe nothing but haste and draw back at the least shadow of difficulties, suffering our courages to be daunted with the imagination of a wrongly conceived hardnesse. Let us but thinke the institution short and easie, and we shall finde it easie enough. And if we doe perhaps by the way light upon some hard and difficult matter, it may quickly be made easier by an orderly and discreet way of teaching. But now is the first and greatest fault in the tea∣chers, that doe most willingly detaine their disciples about the first principles: partly out of covetousnesse, that by so doing they might the longer enjoy their gaines: partly out of ambition, that so it might seeme the harder what they themselves professe: sometimes also out of meere ignorance and negligence. The next fault is in the schollars them∣selves, that had rather stay and dwell upon those things they doe know already, then to proceed further to what they are as yet ignorant of. We doe moreover shorten our own time, fooling the greatest part of our best houres away a∣mong a company of pratling visiters; besides that stage∣playes, banquets, cards and dice, unnecessary journeys, the immoderate care of our pampered carkasses, rob us also of a good deale of time that might be better husbanded: not to speake of wanton lusts, drunkennesse, and other such like beastly vices, by the which our distempered bodies waxe altogether unfit to make good use of so small a remnant of our time. This then being our daily practice, yet are we for all this wastfull lavishnesse of our youthfull dayes not asha∣med to complaine that the Art is long, the time short, the experience hard and difficult; three lives, in our opinion, are too little that we should in them attaine to a perfect knowledge of these most copious Arts: wheras on the con∣trary, if we would make good use of our good leisure, wee should rather thankfully confesse that we are not in want of time; and if we doe lacke any, that it is long of the idle pa∣stimes and brutish lusts we are given to; seeing not the daies onely doe affoord us time enough, but the nights also; whose length is abundantly able both to quench our desire of sleeping, and also to stirre up our phantasie by a silent quietnesse. Even as in travelling such men as goe their way readily without any delay, come to their Innes as soone a∣gaine as others that setting forth at the same minute doe by the way wander up and downe to meet somewhere with a refreshing shade, or a delectable water-spring; so is there in matter of Art an unspeakable difference betweene lazie lin∣gerers and active spirits. Let us then take heed of so grosse an error, as to judge of the difficultie of these Arts by the time of our life, and not by the time of our study: for if we doe but order the time of our youth wisely, if wee doe not turne aside unto any idle and time-wasting sports, wee shall find time enough: neither may we pretend any want of meanes, that should helpe us to attaine to the perfection of these Arts, for if we do consider it right, we shall be for∣ced to acknowledge with Quintilian, that antiquitie hath furnished us with such a number of Masters and examples, that no age may seem happier in condition of birth, then this our pre∣sent age; seeing all the former ages did not thinke it much to sweat for our instruction.
§ 8. For as much then as it is most evident that the prin∣ciples of these Arts are not too hard, and likewise that we are not in want of time, some do for all that play the modest men, alleadging for an excuse the perfection of these Arts to be such, that they may not without a great presumption hope to atchieve them, yea that it is wholly impossible to be perfect in them; Serveth for answer: that it is not repug∣nant with the nature of things that somewhat should be done now, which in former times as yet was never done; seeing all such things as now are great and notable, have had also a time they were not. Neither is there any reason why we should slacke our endeavors, having besides the helpe of a reasonably good wit the advantage of a healthfull bo∣dy, as also the guiding of a trusty teacher: and though we cannot mount up to the highest top of perfection, yet it is something for all that to sticke out above the rest in the se∣cond and third place. It no is small glory, sayth Columella, to be made partaker of a great and worthy matter, how soever it be but a little you do possesse. It doth then appeare how weak∣ly and preposterously they doe argue, that esteeme it idle∣nesse in a man to bestow great paines, where he knoweth a∣forehand that it is impossible to attaine to the highest per∣fection. This is a poore and slender argument, I say, seeing that such as heretofore in the opinion of all the world, have been the best and most renowned Artificers, should never have obtained the glory of that name, if taking courage they had not hoped still to doe better then the best of their predecessors; and though by chance it were not in their power to overtake and to out-run the best Artists, yet did they alway strive to come so neere as to tread upon their heeles: besides that we may daily see how an indifferently good practice of these Arts is very neere as profitable as the most perfect Art it selfe. Though now it were an easie mat∣ter for us to shew that these Arts almost in all ages have car∣ried the chiefest sway in the favour of great Kings and Po∣tentates, that likewise by this means besides the due reward of glory, they have got themselves an infinite masse of wealth; yet do we esteeme the mention of such rewards to come far short of the worthines of these Arts, and of the suffi∣cient contentment they doe finde in themselves. But of this we shall speake elsewhere at large. It is left onely that all such as thinke well of these Arts, should aspire unto the excellency of the inestimable Arts themselves without any by-respects: which doing, they shall undoubtedly reach the highest step of perfection, or atleast be lifted up to such a height as to see a great many left underneath their feet.
§ 9. It is an ordinary practice among Poets to call in the first entrance of their workes upon the Muses, craving of them such a readinesse of invention and utterance, that their Poems gushing forth as out of a plentifull water-spring, might with a gentle streame refresh and charme the hearts and eares of astonished men. The Artificers may likewise, before they doe goe about this worke, very fitly salute the sweet company of the nine learned Sisters; not so much to aske of them a good and prosperous successe of what they take in hand, as well to observe out of the proper signification of their names the severall steps that lead a Novice into the right way of perfection. The first of the Muses, sayth Fulgentius, is named Clio, which name she hath out of a Greek word, signifying fame: and by this name there is infinuated unto us the first and greatest motive that stirreth in us a desire of learning: seeing the knowledge of good Arts and Sciences doth ex∣tend our fame to the memory of late posterities. The second is Euterpe, that is, full of delight; for as we doe first seeke know∣ledge, so do we afterwards delight in seeking. The third is Mel∣pomene, that is, setling of meditation; for as there followeth upon our first resolution a desire to effect what we have resolved upon, so doth there upon this resolution follow an attentive earnestnesse to obtaine our longing. The fourth is Thalia, that is, apprehension; for it is ever seen that the apprehension, in a mind not altogether uncapable, doth follow upon the earnestnesse of attention. The fifth is Polymnia, that is, the remembrance of many things; for it is most of all required after the apprehension, that we should perfectly remember the things rightly ap∣prehended. The sixt is Erato, that is, finding something like; for it may justly be exspected, that the Artificer after a well-remembred knowledge, should invent something of his owne, not unlike the things apprehended and remembred by him. The se∣venth is Terpsichore, that is, delighting in the instruction; for it doth follow upon the invention of new matters, that we should judge of them and discerne them cheerfully. The eight is Urania, that is, heavenly; for wee doe after this care of judging make choice of such things as are fit to be further wrought upon, lea∣ving the rest; which is the worke of a high and heavenly wit. The ninth is Calliope, that is, of a good utterance. The whole connexion is thus linked together. The first degree is, that wee desire knowledge: the second, that we delight in this desire: the third, that we doe eagerly follow the thing wee thus delight in: the fourth, that wee doe apprehend the thing followed: the fift, that wee remember what we once apprehended: the sixt, that wee doe invent something like unto the remembred apprehensions: the seventh, that wee examine and discerne our inventions: the eight, that wee choose the best of those things we have judged and discerned: the ninth, that wee doe well expresse the things well chosen.