TERM USED AS TRANSLATIONS IN QUOTATIONCOMPOSITION (fra.)
TERM USED IN EARLY TRANSLATIONSCOMPOSITION (fra.)
AGLIONBY, William, Painting Illustrated in Three Diallogues. Containing some Choice Observations upon the Art. Together with The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters From Cimabue, to the time of Raphael and Michael Angelo. With an Explanation of the Difficult Terms, London, John Gain, 1685.1 quotations
After the Death of Raphael and his Schollars (for, as for Michael Angelo he made no School) Painting seemed to be Decaying ; and for some Years, there was hardly a Master of any Repute all over Italy. The two best at Rome were Joseph Arpino and Michael Angelo da Caravaggio, but both guilty of great Mistakes in their Art : the first followed purely his Fancy, or rather Humour, which was neither founded upon Nature nor Art, but had for Ground a certain Practical, Fantastical Idea which he had framed to himself. The other was a pure Naturalist, Copying Nature without distinction or discretion ; he understood little of Composition or Decorum, but was an admirable Colourer.
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, 1719.4 quotations
The Kind of Picture, or Drawing having been consider’d, regard is to be had to the Parts of Painting ; we should see in which of These they excell, and in what Degree.
And these several Parts do not Equally contribute to the Ends of Painting : but (I think) ought to stand in this Order.
Grace and Greatness,
The last can only Please ; The next (by which I understand Pure Nature, for the Great, and Gentile Style of Drawing falls into another Part) This also can only Please, Colouring Pleases more ; Composition Pleases at least as much as Colouring, and moreover helps to Instruct, as it makes those Parts that do so more conspicuous ; Expression Pleases, and Instructs Greatly ; the Invention does both in a higher Degree, and Grace, and Greatness above all. Nor is it peculiar to That Story, Fable, or whatever the Subject is, but in General raises our Idea of the Species, gives a most Delightful, Vertuous Pride, and kindles in Noble Minds an Ambition to act up to That Dignity Thus conceived to be in Humane Nature. In the Former Parts the Eye is employ’d, in the Other the Understanding.
Gentlemen may do as they please, the following Method [ndr : pour juger un tableau] seems to Me to be the most Natural, Convenient, and Proper.
Before you come so near the Picture to be Consider’d as to look into Particulars, or even to be able to know what the Subject of it is, at least before you take notice of That, Observe the Tout-ensemble of the Masses, and what Kind of one the Whole makes together. It will be proper at the same Distance to consider the General Colouring ; whether That be Grateful, Chearing, and Delightful to the Eye, or Disagreeable ; Then let the Composition be Examin’d Near, and see the Contrasts, and other Particularities relating to it, and so finish your Observations on That Head.
I will give a Specimen of what I have been proposing [ndr : dans sa manière de juger une peinture], and the Subject shall be a Portrait of V. Dyck which I have, ‘tis a Half-length of a Countess Dowager of Exeter, as I learn from the Print made of it by Faithorn, and that is almost all one can learn from That concerning the Picture besides the General Attitude, and Disposition of it.
The Dress is Black Velvet, and That appearing almost one large Spot, the Lights not being so managed as to connect it, with the other parts of the Picture ; The Face, and Linnen at the Neck, and the two Hands, and broad Cuffs at the Wrists being by this means three several Spots of Light, and that near of an equal degree ; and forming almost an Equilateral Triangle, the Base of which is parallel to that of the Picture, the Composition is Defective ; and this occasion’d chiefly from the want of those Lights upon the Black. But so far as the Head, and almost to the Wast, with the Curtain behind, there is an Admirable Harmony, the Chair also makes a Medium between the Figure, and the Ground. The Eye is deliver’d down into that Dead Black Spot the Drapery with great Ease, the Neck is cover’d with Linnen, and at the Breast the top of the Stomacher makes a streight line. This would have been very harsh, and disagreeable but that ‘tis very Artfully broken by the Bowes of a Knot of narrow Ribbon which rise above that Line in fine, well-contrasted Shapes. This Knot fastens a Jewel on the Breast, which also helps to produce the Harmony of this part of the Picture, and the white Gloves which the Lady holds in her Left Hand, helps the Composition something as they vary That Light Spot from That which the Other Hand, and Linnen makes.
The Composition is unexceptionable [ndr : dans Poussin, Tancrède et Herminie] : There are innumerable Instances of Beautiful Contrasts ; Of this kind are the several Characters of the Persons, (all which are Excellent in their several kinds) and the several Habits : Tancred is half Naked : Erminia’s Sex distinguishes Her from all the rest ; as Vafrino’s Armour, and Helmet shews Him to be Inferiour to Tancred, (His lying by him) and Argante’s Armour differs from both of them. The various positions of the Limbs in all the Figures are also finely Contrasted, and altogether have a lovely effect ; Nor did I ever see a greater Harmony, nor more Art to produce it in any Picture of what Master soever, whether as to the Easy Gradation from the Principal, to the Subordinate Parts, the Connection of one with another, by the degrees of the Lights, and Shadows, and the Tincts of the Colours.
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.
In a Figure, and every part of a Figure, and indeed in every thing else there is One part which must have a peculiar Force, and be manifestly distinguish’d from the rest, all the Other parts of Which must also have a due Subordination to It, and to One Another. The same must be observ’d in the Composition of an entire Picture ; And this Principal, Distinguis’d part ought (Generally speaking) to be the Place of the Principal Figure, and Action : And Here every thing must be higher Finish’d, the Other parts must be Less so Gradually.
Pictures should be like Bunches of Grapes, but they must not resemble a great many single Grapes scatter’d on a Table ; there must not be many little Parts of an Equal Strength, and detach’d from one another, which is as odious to the Eye as ‘tis to the Ear to hear many People talking to you at once. Nothing must Start, or be too strong for the Place where it is as in a Confort of Musick when a Note is too high, or an Instrument out of Tune ; but a sweet Harmony and Repose must result from all the Parts judiciously put together, and united with each other.
The Masters to be studied for Composition are Rafaëlle, Rubens and Rembrandt most especially, tho’ many others are worthy notice, and to be carefully consider’d ; amongst which V. Velde ought not to be forgottten, who tho’ his Subjects were Ships, which consisting of so many little parts, are very difficult to fling into great Masses, has done it, by the help of spread Sails, Smoak, and the Bodies of the Vessels, and a judicious Management of Lights and Shadows. So that His Compositions are many times as good as those of any Master.