William Hogarth ,-The Analysis of Beauty

 

 

CONTENT

ILLUSTRATIONS

PREFACE
CHAPTERS:

 


[39]

CHAP. VIII


Of what sort of P A R T S, and how P L E A S I N G F O R M S are
composed
.

THUS far having endeavoured to open as large an
idea as possible of the power of variety, by having
partly shewn that those lines which have most variety
in themselves, contribute most towards the production
of beauty; we will next shew how lines may be put
together, so as to make pleasing figures or compositions.
In order to be as clear as possible, we will give a few
examples of the most familiar and easy sort, and let
them serve as a clue to be pursued in the imagination:
I say in the imagination chiefly, for the following me-
thod is not meant always to be put in practice, or fol-
low'd in every case, for indeed that could hardly be.

and


[40]

and in some it would be ridiculously losing time if it
could----Yet there may be cases where it may be ne-
cessary to follow this method minutely; as for example,
in architecture.
I am thoroughly convinc'd in myself, however it may
startle some, that a completely new and harmonious
order of architecture in all its parts, might be produced
by the following method of composing, but hardly with
certainty without it; and this I am the more apt to be-
lieve, as upon the strictest examination, those four orders
of the ancients, which are so well established for beauty
and true proportion, perfectly agree with the scheme we
shall now lay down.
This way of composing pleasing forms, is to be ac-
complished by making choice of variety of lines, as to
their shapes and dimensions; and then again by varying
their situations with each other, by all the different ways
that can be conceived: and at the same time (if a solid
figure be the subject of the composition) the contents or
space that is to be inclosed within those lines, must be
duly consider'd and var'd too, as much as possible,
with propriety. In a word, it may be said, the art of
composing well is the art of varying well. It is not
expected that this should at first be perfectly compre-
hended, yet I believe it will be made sufficiently clear
by the help of the examples following.
The figure , represents the simple and pleasing figure
of a bell; this shell, as we may call it, is composed of

waving

* Fig. 29.
T p I.



[41]

waving lines, encompassing, or bounding within it, the va-
ried space marked with dotted lines: here you see the va-
riety of the space within is equal to the beauty of its form
without, and if the space, or contents, were to be more
varied, the outward form would have still more beauty.
As a proof, see a composition of more parts, and a
way by which those parts may be put together by a
certain method of varying: i.e. how the one half of the
socket of the candlestick A *, may be varied as the other
half B. Let a convenient and fit height be first given
for a candlestick, as , then let the necessary size of the
socket be determined, as +, then let the necessary size of the
socket be determined, as at (a) ‡ after which, in order
to give it a better form, let every distance or length of
divisions differ from the length of the socket, as also vary
in their distances from each other, as is seen by the
points on the line under the socket (a); that is let any
two points, signifying distance , be plac'd farthest from
any other two near points, observing always that there
should be one distance or part larger than all the rest;
and you will readily see that variety could not be so
complete without it. --In like manner, let the horizontal
distances (always keeping within the bounds of fitness)
be varied both as to distances and situations, as on the
opposite side of the same figure (b); then unite and join
all the several distances into a complete shell, by apply-
ing several parts of curves and straight lines; varying
them also by making them of different sizes, as (c): and
apply them as at (d) in the same figure, and you have

G the




[42]

the candlestick *, and with still more variations on the
other side. If you divide the candlestick into many more
parts, it will appear crouded, as it will want distinct-
ness of form on a near view, and lose the effect of va-
riety at a distance: this the eye will easily distinguish on
removing pretty far from it.
Simplicity in composition, or distinctness of parts, is
ever to be attended to, as it is one part of beauty, as
has been already said: but that what I mean by distinct-
ness of parts in this place, may be better understood, it
will be proper to explain it by an example.
When you would compose an object of a great variety
of parts, let several of those parts be distinguish'd by
themselves, by their remarkable difference from the next
adjoining, so as to make each of them, as it were, one
well-shap'd quantity or part, as is marked by the dotted
lines in figure ‡ (these are like what they call passages
in music, and in writing paragraphs) by which means,
not only the whole, but even every part, will be better
understood by the eye: for confusion will hereby be
avoided when the object is seen near, and the shapes will
seem well varied, tho' fewer in number, at a distance;
as figure || supposed to be the same as the former, but
removed so far off that the eye loses sight of the smaller
members.
The parsley-leaf §, in like manner, from whence a
beautiful foliage in ornament was originally taken, is di-
vided into three distinct passages; which are again divided

into



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into other odd numbers; and this method is observ'd
for the generality, in the leaves of all plants and flowers,
the most simple of which are the trefoil and the cinquefoil.
Light and shade, and colours, also must have their
distinctness to make objects completely beautiful; but
of these in their proper places----only I will give you
a general idea of what is here meant by the beauty
of distinctness of forms, lights, shades, and colours, by
putting you in mind of the reverse effects in all them
together.
Observe the well-composed nosegay how it loses all
its distinctness when it dies; each leaf and flower then
shrivels and loses its distinct shape; and the firm colours
fade into a kind of sameness: so that the whole gradually
becomes a confused heap.
If the general parts of objects are preserv'd large at
first, they will always admit of farther enrichments of a
small kind, but then they must be so small as not to
confound the general masses or quantities.---Thus you
see variety is a check upon itself when overdone, which
of course begets what is call'd a petit taste and a confu-
sion to the eye.
It will not be amiss next to shew what effects an ob-
ject or two will have that are put together without, or
contrary to these rules of composing variety. Figure *,
is taken from one of those branches fixt to the sides of
common old-fashion'd stove-grates by way of ornament,
wherein you see how the parts have been varied by

G 2 fancy

* Fig. 38.
L p I.


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fancy only, and yet pretty well: close to which * is
another, with about the like number of parts; but as the
shapes, neither are enough varied as to their contents,
nor in their situations with each other, but one shape
follows its exact likeness: it is therefore a disagreeable
and tasteless figure, and for the same reason the candle-
stick, fig. is still worse, as there is less variety in it.
Nay, it would be better to be quite plain, as figure ‡,
than with such poor attempts at ornament.
These few examples, well understood, will, I imagine,
be sufficient to put what was said at the beginning of
this chapter out of all doubt, viz. that the art of com-
posing well is no more than the art of varying well; and
to shew, that the method which has been here explain'd,
must consequently produce a pleasing proportion amongst
the parts; as well as that all deviations from it will pro-
duce the contrary. Yet to strengthen this latter asser-
tion, let the following figures, taken from the life, be
examin'd by the above rules for composing, and it will
be found that the indian-fig or torch-thistle, figure ||, as
well as all that tribe of uncouth shaped exotics, have the
same reasons for being ugly, as the candlestick, fig. 4I ;
as also that the beauties of the Lily § and the calcidonian
Iris proceeds from their being composed with great
variety, and that the loss of variety, to a certain degree,
in the imitations of those flowers underneath them (fig.
45 and 46) is the cause of the meanness of their shapes,
tho' they retain enough to be call'd by the same names.

Hitherto



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Hitherto, with regard to composition, little else but
forms made up of straight and curv'd lines have been
spoken of, and though these lines have but little variety
in themselves, yet by reason of the great diversifications
that they are capable of in being join'd with one ano-
ther; great variety of beauty of the more useful sort is
produced by them, as in necessary utensils and building:
but in my opinion, buildings as I before hinted, might
be much more varied than they are, for after fitness hath
been strictly and mechanically complied with, any addi-
tional ornamental members, or parts, may, by the fore-
going rules, be varied with equal elegance; nor can I
help thinking, but that churches, palaces, hospitals,
prisons, common houses and summer houses, might be
built more in distinct characters than they are, by con-
triving orders suitable to each; whereas were a modern
architect to build a palace in Lapland, or the West-In-
dies, Paladio must be his guide, nor would he dare to
stir a step without his book.
Have not many gothic buildings a great deal of con-
sistent beauty in them? perhaps acquired by a series of
improvements made from time to time by the natural
persuasion of the eye, which often very near answers the
end of working by principles; and sometimes begets
them. There is at present such a thirst after variety, that
even paltry imitations of Chinese buildings have a kind
of vogue, chiefly on account of their novelty : but not
only these, but any other new-invented characters of

building


[46]

building might be regulated by proper principles. The
mere ornaments of buildings, to be sure, at least might
be allow'd a greater latitude than they are at present;
as capitals, frizes, &c. in order to increase the beauty
of variety.
Nature, in shells and flowers, &c. affords an infinite
choice of elegant hints for this purpose; as the original
of the Corinthian capital was taken from nothing more,
as is said, than some dock-leaves growing up against a
basket. Even a capital composed of the aukward and
confin'd forms of hats and periwigs, as fig. in a
skilful hand might be made to have some beauty.
However, tho' the moderns have not made many
additions to the art of building, with respect to mere
beauty or ornament, yet it must be confess'd, they have
carried simplicity, convenience, and neatness of work-
manship, to a very great degree of perfection, particu-
larly in England; where plain good sense hath prefer'd
these more necessary parts of beauty, which every body
can understand, to that richness of taste which is so
much to be seen in other countries, and so often sub-
stituted in their room.
St. Paul's cathedral is one of the noblest instances
that can be produced of the most judicious application
of every principle that has been spoken of. There you
may see the utmost variety without confusion, simpli-
city without nakedness, richness without taudriness, dis-
tinctness without hardness, and quantity without ex

cess.

† Fig. 48.
P. I.



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cess. Whence the eye is entertain'd throughout with
the charming variety of all its parts together; the noble
projecting quantity of a certain number of them, which
presents bold and distinct parts at a distance, when the
lesser parts within them disappear; and the grand few,
but remarkably well-varied parts that continue to please
the eye as long as the object is discernable, are evident
proofs of the superior skill of Sir Christopher Wren, so
justly esteem'd the prince of architects.
It will scarcely admit of a dispute, that the out-
side of this building is much more perfect than that of
St. Peter's at Rome: but the inside, though as fine and
noble, as the space it stands on, and our religion will
allow of, must give way to the splendor, shew, and
magnificence of that of St. Peter's, on account of the
sculptures and paintings, as well as the greater magni-
tude of the whole, which makes it excel as to quantity.
There are many other churches of great beauty, the
work of the same architect, which are hid the heart
of the city, whose steeples and spires are raised higher
than ordinary, that they may be seen at a distance above
the other buildings; and the great number of them
dispers'd about the whole city, adorn the prospect of it,
and give it an air of opulency and magnificence: on
which account their shapes will be found to be parti-
cularly beautiful. Of these, and perhaps of any in
Europe, St. Mary-le-bow is the most elegantly varied.
St. Bride's in Fleet-street diminishes sweetly be elegant

degrees,

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degrees, but its variations, tho' very curious when you
are near them, not being quite so bold, and distinct, as
those of Bow, it too soon looses variety at a distance.
Some gothic spires are finely and artfully varied, parti-
cularly the famous steeple of Strasburg.
Westminster-Abbey is a good contrast to St. Paul's,
with regard to simplicity and distinctness, the great
number of its filligrean ornaments, and small divided and
subdivided parts appear confused when nigh, and are
totally lost at a moderate distance; yet there is never-
theless such a consistency of parts altogether in a good
gothic taste, and such propriety relative to the gloomy
ideas, they were then calculated to convey, that they
have at length acquir'd an establish'd and distinct cha-
acter in building. It would be look'd upon as an im-
propriety and as a kind of profanation to build places
for mirth and entertainment in the same taste.