William Hogarth ,-The Analysis of Beauty

 

 

CONTENT

ILLUSTRATIONS

INTRODUCTION
CHAPTERS:

 

 

I N T R O D U C T I O N.

I NOW offer to the public a short essay, accom-
panied with two explanatory prints, in which I
shall endeavour to shew what the principles are in
nature, by which we are directed to call the forms of
some bodies beautiful, others ugly; some graceful, and
others the reverse; by considering more minutely than
has hitherto been done, the nature of those lines, and
their different combinations, which serve to raise in
the mind the ideas of all the variety of forms imagina-
ble. At first, perhaps, the whole design, as well as the
prints, may seem rather intended to trifle and con-
found, than to entertain and inform: but I am per-
suaded that when the examples of nature, referr'd to in
this essay, are duly consider'd and examined upon the
principles laid down in it, it will be thought worthy of a
careful and attentive perusal: and the prints themselves
too will, I make no doubt, be examined as attentively,
when it is found, that almost every figure in them (how
odly soever they may seem to be group'd together) is
referr'd to singly in the essay, in order to assist the

B reader's

[2]

reader's imagination, when the original examples in art,
or nature, are not themselves before him.
And in this light I hope my prints will be con-
sider'd, and that the figures referr'd to in them will
never be imagined to be placed there by me as exam-
ples themselves, of beauty or grace, but only to point
out to the reader what sorts of objects he is to look for
and examine in nature, or in the works of the greatest
masters. My figures, therefore, are to be consider'd in
the same light, with those a mathematician makes
with his pen, which may convey the idea of his de-
monstration, tho' not a line in them is either perfectly
straight, or of that peculiar curvature he is treating of.
Nay, so far was I from aiming at grace, that I pur-
posely chose to be least accurate, where most beauty
might be expected, that no stress might be laid on the
figures to the prejudice of the work itself. For I must
confess, I have but little hopes of having a favourable
attention given to my design in general, by those who
have already had a more fashionable introdcution into
the mysteries of the arts of painting, and sculpture.
Much less do I expect, or in truth desire, the counte-
nance of that set of people, who have an interest in
exploding any kind of doctrine, that may teach us to
see with our own eyes.
It may be needless to observe, that some of the last-
mention'd, are not only the dependents on, but often
the only instructors and leaders of the former; but in

what


[3]

what light they are so consider'd abroad, may be partly
seen by † a burlesque representation of them, taken
from a print pubish'd by Mr. Pond, design'd by Cavr.
Ghezzi at Rome.
To those, then, whose judgements are unprejudiced, this
little work is submitted with most pleasure; because it
is from such that I have hitherto received the most obli-
gations, and now have reason to expect most candour.
Therefore I would fain have such of my readers be
assured, that however they may have been aw'd, and
over-born by pompous terms of art, hard names, and
the parade of seemingly magnificent collections of pic-
tures and statues; they are in a much fairer way, ladies,
as well as gentlemen, of gaining a perfect knowledge of
the elegant and beautiful in artificial, as well as natural
forms, by considering them in a systematical, but at
the same time familiar way, than those who have
been prepossess'd by dogmatic rules, taken from the
performances of art only: nay, I will venture to say,
sooner, and more rationally, than even a tolerable
painter, who has imbibed the same prejudices.
The more prevailing the notion may be, that painters
and connoisseurs are the only competent judges of things
of this sort; the more it becomes necessary to clear up
and confirm, as much as possible, what has only been
asserted in the foregoing paragraph: that no one may
be deterr'd, by the want of such previous knowledge,
from entring into this enquiry.

B 2 The


† Fig. I
T. p. I.


[4]

The reason why gentlemen, who have been inqui-
sitive after knowledge in pictures, have their eyes less
qualified for our purpose, than others, is because their
thoughts have been entirely and continually employ'd
and incumber'd with considering and retaining the va-
rious manners in which pictures are painted, the histo-
ries, names, and characters of the masters, together
with many other little circumstances belonging to the
mechanical part of the art; and little or no time has
been given for perfecting the ideas themselves in nature: for
by having thus espoused and adopted their first notions
form nothing but imitations, and becoming too often
as bigotted to their faults, as their beauties, they at
length, in a manner, totally neglect, or at least disregard
the works of nature, merely because they do not tally
with what their minds are so strongly prepossess'd with.
Were not this a true state of the case, many a re-
puted capital picture, that now adorns the cabinets of
the curious in all countries, would long ago have been
committed to the flames: nor would it have been pos
sible for the Venus and Cupid, represented by the fi-
gure †, to have made its way into the principal apart-
ment of a palace.
It is also evident that the painter's eye may not be a
bit better fitted to receive these new impressions, who
is in like manner too much captivated with the works
of art; for he also is apt to pursue the shadow, and drop

the

† Under Fig. 49.
T. p. I


[5]

the substance. This mistake happens chiefly to those
who go to Rome for the accomplishment of their stu-
dies, as they naturally will, without the utmost care,
take the infectious turn of the connoisseur, instead of the
painter: and in proportion as they turn by those means
bad proficients in their own arts, they become the more
considerable in that of a connoisseur. As a confirma-
tion of this seeming paradox, it has ever been observ'd
at all auctions of pictures, that the very worst painters
sit as the most profound judges, and are trusted only, I
suppose, on account of their disinterestedness.
I apprehend a good deal of this will look more like
resentment, and a design to invalidate the objections of
such as are not likely to set the faults of this work in the
most favourable light; than merely for the encourage-
ment, as was said above, of such of my readers, as are
neither painters, nor connoisseurs: and I will be inge-
nuous enough to confess something of this may be
true; but, at the same time, I cannot allow that this
alone would have been a sufficient motive to have made
me risk giving offence to any; had not another con-
sideration, besides that already alledg'd, of more conse-
quence to the purpose in hand, made it necessary. I
mean the setting forth, in the strongest colours, the sur-
prising alterations objects seemingly undergo through
the prepossessions and prejudices contracted by the mind.
---Fallacies, strongly to be guarded against by such as
would learn to see objects truly!

Altho'


[6]

Altho' the instances already given are pretty flagrant,
yet it is certainly true, (as a farther confirmation of this,
and for the consolation of those, who may be a little
piqued at what has been said) that painters of every
condition are stronger instances of the almost unavoid-
able power of prejudices, than any people whatever.
What are all the manners, as they are call'd, on even
the greatest masters, which are known to differ so
much from one another, and all of them from nature,
but so many strong proofs of their inviolable attach-
ment to falshood, converted into establish'd truth in their
own eyes, by self-opinion? Rubens would, in all proba-
bility, have been as much disgusted at the dry manner
of Poussin, as Poussin was at the extravagant of Rubens.
The prejudices of inferior proficients in favour of the
imperfections of their own performances, is still more
amazing. ----- Their eyes are so quick in discerning
the faults of others, at the same time they are so to-
tally blind to their own! Indeed it would be well for
us all, if one of Gulliver's flappers could be placed at
our elbows to remind us at every stroke how much pre-
judice and self-opinion perverts our sight.
From what has been said, I hope it appears that those,
who have no bias of any kind, either from their own
practice, or the lessons of others, are fittest to examine
into the truth of the principles laid down in the fol-
lowing pages. But as every one may not have had an
opportunity of being sufficiently acquainted with the

instances




[7]

instances, that have been given: I will offer one of a
familiar kind, which may be a hint for their observing
a thousand more. How gradually does the eye grow
reconciled even to a disagreeable dress, as it becomes
more and more the fashion, and how soon return to its
dislike of it, when it is left off, and a new one has
taken possession of the mind? ---so vague is taste, when
it has no solid principles for its foundation.!
Notwithstanding I have told you my design of
considering minutely the variety of lines, which serve to
raise the ideas of bodies in the mind, and which are
undoubtedly to be consider'd as drawn on the sur-
faces only of solid and opake bodies: yet the endea-
vouring to conceive, as accurate an idea as is possible,
of the inside of those surfaces, if I may be allow'd the
expression, will be a great assistance to us in the pur-
suance of our present enquiry.
In order to my being well understood, let every object
under our consideration, be imagined to have its in-
ward contents scoop'd out so nicely, as to have nothing
of it left but a thin shell, exactly corresponding both in
its inner and outer surface, to the shape of the object
itself: and let us likewise suppose this thin shell to be
made up of very fine threads, closely connected toge-
ther, and equally perceptible, whether the eye is sup-
posed to observe them from without, or within; and
we shall find the ideas of the two surfaces of this shell
will naturally coincide. The very word, shell, makes
us seem to see both surfaces alike

But



[8]

The use of this conceit, as it may be call'd by
some, will be seen to be very great, in the process of this
work: and the oftner we think of objects in this shell-
like manner, we shall facilitate and strengthen our con-
ception of any particular part of the surface of an ob-
ject we are viewing, by acquiring thereby a more per-
fect knowledge of the whole, to which it belongs: be-
cause the imagination will naturally enter into the vacant
space within this shell, and there at once, as from a
center, view the whole form within, and mark the op-
posite corresponding parts so strongly, as to retain the
idea of the whole, and make us masters of the mean-
ing of every view of the object, as we walk round it,
and view it from without.
Thus the most perfect idea we can possibly acquire of
a sphere, is by conceiving an infinite number of straight
rays of equal lengths, issuing from the center, as from
the eye, spreading every way alike; and circumscribed
or wound about at their other extremities with close
connected circular threads, or lines, forming a true
spherical shell.
But in the common way of taking the view of any
opake object, that part of its surface, which fronts the
eye, is apt to occupy the mind alone, and the opposite,
nay even every other part of it whatever, is left un-
thought of at that time: and the least motion we make
to reconnoitre any other side of the object, confounds
our first idea, for want of the connexion of the two

ideas

[9]

ideas, which the complete knowledge of the whole
would naturally have given us, if we had considered it
in the other way before.
Another advantage of considering objects thus merely
as shells composed of lines, is, that by these means we
obtain the true and full idea of what is call'd the out-
lines of a figure, which has been confin'd within too
narrow limits, by taking it only from drawings on paper;
for in the example of the sphere given above, every
one of the imaginary circular threads has a right to be
consider'd as an out-line of the sphere, as well as those
which divide the half, that is seen, from that which is not
seen; and if the eye be supposed to move regularly round
it, these threads will each of them as regularly succeed
one another in the office of out-lines, (in the narrow
and limited sense of the word:) and the instant any one
of these threads, during this motion of the eye, comes
into sight on one side, its opposite thread is lost, and
disappears on the other. He who will thus take the
pains of acquiring perfect ideas of the distances, bearings,
and oppositions of several material points and lines in
the surfaces of even the most irregular figures, will gra-
dually arrive at the knack of recalling them into his
mind when the objects themselves are not before him:
and they will be as strong and perfect as those of the
most plain and regular forms, such as cubes and spheres;
and will be of infinite service to those who invent and
draw from fancy, as well as enable those to be more
correct who draw from the life

C In


[10]

In this manner, therefore, I would desire the reader
to assist his imagination as much as possible, in consi-
dering every object, as if his eye were placed within it.
As straight lines are easily conceiv'd, the difficulty of
following this method in the most simple and regular
forms will be less than may be first imagined; and its
use in the more compounded will be greater: as will be
more fully shewn when we come to speak of com-
position.
But as fig. may be of singular use to young de-
signers in the study of the human form, the most
complex and beautiful of all, in shewing them a me-
chanical way of gaining the opposite points in its sur-
face, which never can be seen in one and the same view;
it will be proper to explain the design of it in this place,
as it may at the same time add some weight to what
has been already said.
It represents the trunk of a figure cast in soft wax,
with one wire pass'd perpendicularly through its center,
another perpendicularly to the first, going in before and
coming out in the middle of the back, and as many
more as may be thought necessary, parallel to and at
equal distances from these, and each other; as is mark'd
by the several dots in the figure. -- Let these wires be
so loose as to be taken out at pleasure, but not before
all the parts of them, which appear out of the wax,
are carefully painted close up to the wax, of a different
colour from those, that lie within it. By these means

the


† Fig. 2.
T. p I



[11]

the horizontal and perpendicular contents of these parts
of the body (by which I mean the distances of opposite
points in the surface of these parts) through which the
wires have pass'd, may be exactly known and compared
with each other; and the little holes, where the wires
have pierced the wax, remaining on its surface, will
mark out the corresponding opposite points on the ex-
ternal muscles of the body; as well as assist and guide
us to a readier conception of all the intervening parts.
These points may be mark'd upon a marble figure with
calibers properly used.
The known method, many years made use of, for
the more exactly and expeditiously reducing drawings
from large pictures, for engravings; or for enlarging de-
signs, for painting cielings and cupolas, (by striking
lines perpendicular to each other, so as to make an equal
number of squares on the paper design'd for the copy, that
hath been first made on the original; by which means,
the situation of every part of the picture is mechanically
seen, and easily transferred) may truly be said to be
somewhat of the same kind with what has been here
proposed, but that one is done upon a flat surface, the
other upon a solid; and that the new scheme differs in
its application, and may be of a much morse useful and
extensive nature than the old one.
But it si time now to have done with the intro-
duction: and I shall proceed to consider the funda-
mental principles, which are generally allowed to give

C 2 elegance



[12]

elegance and beauty, when duly blended together, to
compositions of all kinds whatever; and point out to my
readers, the particular force of each, in those compo-
sitions in nature and art, which seem most to please and
entertain the eye
, and give that grace and beauty, which
is the subject of this enquiry. The principles I mean,
are FITNESS, VARIETY, UNIFORMITY, SIMPLICITY,
INTRICACY
, and QUANTITY; .... all which co-operate in
the production of beauty, mutually correcting and re-
straining each other occasionally
.


T H E