William Hogarth ,-The Analysis of Beauty

 

 

CONTENT

ILLUSTRATIONS

PREFACE
CHAPTERS:

 

 

P R E F A C E.

IF a preface was ever necessary, it may very likely
be thought so to the folowing work; the title of
which (in the proposals publish'd some time since
hath much amused, and raised the expectation of the
curious, though not without a mixture of doubt, that
its purport could ever be satisfactorily answered. For
Though beauty is seen and confessed by all, yet, from
the many fruitless attempts to account for the cause of
its being so, enquiries on this head have almost been
given up; and the subject generally thought to be a
matter of too high and too delicate a nature to admit of
any true or intelligible discussion. Something therefore
introductory ought to be said at the presenting a work
with a face so entirely new; especially as it will na
turally encounter with, and perhaps may overthrow,
several long received and thorough establish'd opinions:
and since controversies may arise how far, and after
what manner this subject hath hitherto been consider'd
and treated, it will also be proper to lay before the
reader, what may be gathered concerning it, from the
works of the ancient and modern writers and painters.
It is no wonder this subject should have so long
been thought inexplicable, since the nature of many
parts of it cannot possibly come within the reach of
mere men of letters; otherwise those ingenious gentle-

A 2 men


[iv]

men who have lately published treatises upon it (and
who have written much more learnedly than can be
expected from one who never took up the pen before)
would not so soon have been bewilder'd in their ac-
counts of it, and obliged so suddenly to turn into the
broad, and more beaten path of moral beauty; in order
to extricate themselves out of the difficulties they seem
to have met with in this: and withal forced for the
same reasons to amuse their readers with amazing (but
often misapplied) encomiums on deceased painters and
their performances; wherein they are continually dis-
coursing of effects instead of developing causes; and
after many prettinesses, in very pleasing language, do
fairly set you down just where they first took you up;
honestly confessing that as to GRACE, the main point in
question, they do not even pretend to know any thing
of the matter. And indeed how should they? when it
actually requires a practical knowledge of the whole art
of painting (sculpture alone not being sufficient) and
that too to some degree of eminence, in order to enable
any one to pursue the chain of this enquiry through all
its parts: which I hope will be made to appear in the
following work.
It will then naturally be asked, why the best painters
within these two centuries, who by their works appear
to have excelled in grace and beauty, should have been
so silent in an affair of such seeming importance to the
imitative arts and their own honour? to which I an-

swer,

[v]

swer, that it is probable, they arrived at that excellence
in their works, by the mere dint of imitating with great
exactness the beauties of nature, and by often copying
and retaining strong ideas of graceful antique statues;
which might sufficiently serve their purposes as painters,
without their troubling themselves with a farther en-
quiry into the particular causes of the effects before
them. It is not indeed a little strange, that the great
Leonardo da Vinci (amongst the many philosophical
precepts which he hath at random laid down in his
treatise on painting) should not have given the least hint
of any thing tending to system of this kind; especially,
as he was cotemporary with Michael Angelo, who is
said to have discover'd a certain principle in the trunk
only of an antique statue, (well known from this cir-
cumstance by the name of Michael Angelo's Torso, or
Back, fig *) which principle gave his works a grandeur
of gusto equal to the best antiques. Relative to which
tradition, Lamozzo who wrote about painting at the
same time, hath this remarkable passage,vol.I.book I.
- " And because in this place there falleth out a cer-
-" taine precept of Michael Angelo much for our pur-
-" pose, I wil not conceale it, leaving the farther inter-
-" pretation and understanding thereof to the iudicious
-" reader. It is reported then that Michael Angelo up-
-" on a time gave this observation to the Painter Mar-
- " cus de Siena his scholler; that he should alwaies make
- "a figure Pyramidall, Serpentlike, and multiplied by one

" two


* Fig. 64.
P. I.



[vi]


" two and three. In which precept (in mine opinion)
" the whole mysterie of the arte consisteth. For the
" greatest grace and life that a picture can have, is,
" that it expresse Motion: which the Painters call the
" Spirit of a picture: Nowe there is no forme so fitte
" to expresse this motion, as that of the flame of fire,
" which according to Aristotle and the other Philoso-
" phers, is an elemente most active of all others: be-
" cause the forme of the flame thereof is most apt for
" motion: for it hath a Conus or sharpe pointe where
"with it seemeth to divide the aire, that so it may as-
" cende to his proper sphere. So that a picture having
" this forme will bee most beautifull." *
Many writers since Lamozzo have in the same words
recommended the observing this rule also; without com-
prehending the meaning of it: for unless it were known
systematically, the whole business of grace could not
be understood.
Du Fresnoy, in his art of painting, says "large flow-
" ing, gliding outlines which are in waves, give not
" only a grace to the part, but to the whole body; as
" we see in the Antinous, and in many other of the an-
" tique figures: a fine figure and its parts ought always
" to have a serpent-like and flaming form: naturally


" those

* See Haydock's translation printed at Oxford, 1598
+ See Dryden's translation of his latin poem on Painting, verse 28,
and the remarks on these very lines, page 155, which run thus, "It is
" difficult to say what this grace of painting is, it is to be conceiv'd,
" and

[vii]

" those sort of lines have I know not what of life and
" seeming motion in them, which very much resembles
" the activity of the flame and of the serpent." Now
if he had understood what he had said, he could not,
speaking of grace, have expressed himself in the follow-
ing contradictory manner.---" But to say the truth, this
" is a difficult undertaking, and a rare present, which
" the artist rather receives from the hand of heaven
" than from his own industry an studies †." But De
Piles, in his lives of the painters, is still more contradic-
tory where he says, "that a painter can only have it
" (meaning grace) from nature, and doth not know
" that he hath it, nor in what degree, nor how he
" communicates it to his works: and that grace and
" beauty are two different things; beauty pleases by
" the rules, and grace without them."
All the English writers on this subject have eccho'd
these passages; hence Je ne sçai quoi, is became a fa-
shionable phrase for grace.
By this it is plain, that this precept which Michael
Angelo deliver'd so long ago in an oracle-like manner,
hath remain'd mysterious down to this time, for ought
that has appear'd to the contrary. The wonder that it
should do so will in some measure lessen when we come
to consider that it must all along have appeared as full

of

"and understood much more easy than to be expressed by words; it pro-
"ceeds from the illuminations of an excellent mind, (but not to be ac-
"quired) by which we give a certain turn to things, which makes them
"pleasing."


[viii]

of contradiction as the most obscure quibble ever deli-
ver'd at Delphos, because, winding lines are as often the
cause of deformity as of grace
, the solution of which, in
this places, would be an anticipation of what the reader
will find at large in the body of the work.
There are also strong prejudices in favour of straight
lines, as constituting true beauty in the human form,
where they never should appear. A middling connoisseur
thinks not profile has beauty without a very straight nose,
and if the forehead be continued straight with it, he thinks
it is still more sublime. I have seen miserable scratches
with the pen, sell at a considerable rate for only having
in them a side face or two, like that between fig. 22,
and fig. I05, plate I,
which was made, and any one
might do the same, with the eyes shut. The common
notion that a person should be straight as an arrow, and
perfectly erect is of this kind. If a dancing-master were
to see his scholar in the easy and gracefully-turned atti-
tude of the Antinous (fig.6, plate I ), he would cry
shame on him, and tell him he looked as crooked as a
ram's horn, and bid him hold up his head as he himself
did. See fig. 7, plate I.
The painters, in like manner, by their works, seem
to be no less divided upon the subject than the authors.
The French, except such as have imitated the antique,
or the Italian school, seem to have studiously avoided
the serpentine line in all their pictures, especially An-
thony Coypel, history painter, and Rigaud, principal
portrait painter to Lewis the 14th.

Rubens

[ix]

Rubens, whose manner of designing was quite origi-
nal, made use of a large flowing line as a principle,
which runs through all his works, and gives a noble
spirit to them; but he did not seem to be ac quainted
with what we call the precise line; which hereafter we
cacy we see in the best Italian masters; but he rather
charged his contours in general with too bold and S-like
swellings.
Raphael, from a straight and stiff manner, on a sudden
changed his taste of lines at sight of Michael Angelo's
works, and the antique statues; and so fond was he of
the serpentine line, that he carried it into a ridiculous
excess, particularly in his draperies: though his great
observance of nature suffer'd him not long to continue
in this mistake.
Peter de Cortone form'd a fine manner in his drape-
ries of this line.
We see this principle no where better understood than
in some pictures of Corregio, particularly his Juno and
Ixion: yet the proportions of his figures are sometimes
such as might be corrected by a common sign painter.
Whilst Albert Durer, who drew mathematically,
never so much as deviated into grace, which he must
sometimes have done in copying the life, if he had not
been fetter'd with his own impracticable rules of proportion.

a But

[x]

But that which may have puzzled this matter most,
may be, that Vandyke, one of the best portrait painters
in most respects ever known, plainly appears not to have
had a thought of this kind. For there seems not to be
the least grace in his pictures more than what the life
chanced to bring before him. There is a print of the
Dutchess of Wharton (fig. 52, plate 2) engraved by
Van Gunst, from a true picture by him, which is tho-
roughly divested of every elegance. Now, had he known
this line as a principle, he could no more have drawn
all the parts of this picture so contrary to it, than Mr.
Addison could have wrote a whole spectator in false
grammar; unless it were done on purpose. However,
on account of his other great excellencies, painter
chuse to stile this want of grace in his attitudes, &c.
simplicity, and indeed they do often very justly merit
that epithet.
Now have the painters of the present time been less
uncertain and contradictory to each other, than the
masters already mentioned, whatever they may pretend
to the contrary: of this I had a mind to be certain, and
therefore, in the year 1745, published a frontispiece to
my engraved works, in which I drew a serpentine line
lying on a painter's pallet, with these words under it,
THE LINE OF BEAUTY. The bait soon took; and no
Egyptian hierogliphic ever amused more than it did for
a time, painters and sculptors can to me to know the

meaning


[xi]


meaning of it, being as much puzzled with it as other
people, till it came to have some explanation; then
indeed, but not till then, some found it out to be
an old acquaintance of theirs, tho' the account they
could give of its properties was very near as satisfactory
as that which a day-labourer who constantly uses the
leaver, could give of that machine as a mechanical
power.
Others, as common face painters and copiers of pic-
tures, denied that there could be such a rule either in
art or nature, and asserted it was all stuff and madness;
but no wonder that these gentlemen should not be
ready in comprehending a thing they have little or no
business with. For though the picture copier may some-
times to a common eye seem to vye with the original
he copies, the artist himself requires no more ability,
genius, or knowledge of nature, than a journeyman-
weaver at the goblins, who in working after a piece of
painting, bit by bit, scarcely knows what he is about,
whether he is weaving a man or a horse, yet at last
almost insensibly turns out of his loom a fine piece of
tapestry, representing, it may be, one of Alexander's
battles painted by Le Brun.
As the above-mention'd print thus involved me in
frequent disputes by explaining the qualities of the
line, I was extremely glad to find it (which I had
conceiv'd as only part of a system in my mind) so well

a2 sup-


[xii]

supported by the above precept of Michael Angelo:
which was first pointed out to me by Dr. Kennedy, a
learned antiquarian and connoisseur, of whom I after-
wards purchased the translation, from which I have
taken several passages to my purpose.
Let us now endeavour to discover what light anti-
quity throws upon the subject in question.
Egypt first, and afterward Greece, have manifested
by their works their great skill in arts and sciences, and
among the rest painting, and sculpture, all which are
thought to have issued from their great schools of phi-
losophy. Pythagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle, seem to
have pointed out the right road in nature for the study
of the painters and sculptors of those times (which they
in all probability afterwards followed through those
nicer paths that their particular professions required
them to pursue) as may be reasonably collected from the
answers given by Socrates to Aristippus his disciple, and
Parrhasius the painter, concerning FITNESS, the first
fundamental law in nature with regard to beauty.
I am in some measure saved the trouble of collecting
an historical account of these arts among the ancients,
by accidentally meeting with a preface to a tract, call'd
the Beau Ideal: this treatise* was written by Lambert
Hermanson Ten Kate, in French, and translated into
English by James Christopher le Blon; who in that
preface says, speaking of the Author, " His superior
"know-

*publish'd in 1732, and sold by A. Millar.




[xiii]

" knowledge that I am now publishing, is the product
" of the Analogy of the ancient Greeks; or the true
" key for finding all harmonious proportions in paint-
" ing, sculpture, architecture, musick, &c. brought
" home to Greece by Pythagoras. For after this great
" philosopher had travell'd into Phoenicia, Egypt and
" Chaldea, where he convers'd with the learned; he
" return'd into Greece about Anno Mundi 3484. Be-
" fore the christian æra 520, and brought with him
" many excellent discoveries and improvements for the
" good of his countrymen, among which the Analogy
" was one of the most considerable and useful.
" After him the Grecians, by the help of this Ana-
" logy, began (and not before) to excel other nations
" in sciences and arts; for whereas before this time
" they represented their Divinities in plain human fi-
" gures, the Grecians now began to enter into the Beau
" Ideal; and Pamphilus, (who flourish'd A.M. 3641,
" before the christian aera 363, who taught, that no man
" could excel in painting without mathematicks) the
" scholar of Pausias and master of Apelles, was the first
" who artfully apply'd the said Analogy to the art of
" painting; as much about the same time the sculp-
" turers, the architects, &c. began to apply it to their
" several arts, without which science, the Grecians had
" remain'd as ignorant as their forefathers.
" They



[xiv]


" They carried on their improvements in drawing,
" painting, architecture, sculpture, &c. till they became
" the wonders of the world; especially after the Asia-
" ticks and Egyptians (who had formerly been the
" teachers of the Grecians) had, in process of time and
" by the havock of war, lost all the excellency in sci-
" ences and arts; for which all other nations were af-
" terwards obliged to the Grecians, without being able
" so much as to imitate them.
" For when the Romans had conquer'd Greece and
" Asia, and had brought to Rome the best paintings
" and the finest artists, we don't find they discover'd
" the great key of knowledge, the Analogy I am now
" speaking of; but their best performances were con-
" ducted by Grecian artists, who it seems cared not to
" communicate their secret of the Analogy; because
" either they intended to be necessary at Rome, by
" keeping the secret among themselves, or else the
" Romans, who principally affected universal dominion,
" were not curious enough to search after the secret,
" not knowing the importance of it, nor understanding
" that, without it, they could never attain to the ex-
" cellency of the Grecians: though nevertheless it must
" be own'd that the Romans used well the proportions,
" which the Grecians long before had reduced to cer-
" tain fixed rules according to their ancient Analogy;
" and the Romans could arrive at the happy use of the
pro




[xv]


" proportions, without comprehending the Analogy
"itself."
This account agrees with what is constantly observed
in Italy, where the Greek, and Roman work, both in
medals and statues, are as distinguishable as the charac-
ters of the two languages.
As the preface had thus been of service to me, I was
in hopes from the title of the book (and the assurance
of the translator, that the author had by his great learn-
ing discover'd the secret of the ancients) to have met
with something there that might have assisted, or con-
firm'd the scheme I had in hand; but was much disap-
pointed in finding nothing of that sort, and no explana-
tion, or even after-mention of what at first agreeably
alarm'd me, the word Analogy. I have given the reader
a specimen, in his owsn words, how far the author has
discover'd this grand secret of the ancients, or great
key of knowledge, as the translator calls it.
" The sublime part that I so much esteem, and of
" which I have begun to speak, is a real Je ne sçai quoi,
" or an unaccountable something to most people, and
" it is the most important part to all the connoisseurs,
" I shall call it an harmonious propriety, which is a
" touching or moving unity, or a pathetick agreement
" or concord, not only of each member to its body,
" but also of each part to the member of which it is a
" part: It is also an infinite variety of parts, however

" con



[xvi]


" conformable, with respect to each different subject,
" so that all the attitude, and all the adjustment of the
" draperies of each figure ought to answer or corre-
" spond to the subject chosen. Briefly, it is a true de-
" corum, a bienseance or a congruent disposition of
" ideas, as well for the face and stature, as for the
" attitudes. A bright genius, in my opinion, who
" aspires to excel in the ideal, should propose this to
" himself, as what has been the principal study of the
" most famous artists. 'Tis in this part that the great
" masters cannot be imitated or copied but by them-
" selves, or by those that are advanced in the know-
" ledge of the ideal, and who are as knowing as those
" masters in the rules or laws of the pittoresque and
" poetical nature, altho' inferior to the masters in the
" high spirit of invention."
The words in this quotation " It is also an infinite
variety of parts
," seem at first to have some meaning in
them, but it is entirely destroy'd by the rest of the pa-
ragraph, and all the other pages are filled, according to
custom, with descriptions of pictures.
Now, as every one has a right to conjecture what
this discovery of the ancients might be, it shall be my
business to shew it was a key to the thorough know-
ledge of variety both in form, and movement. Shake-
speare, who had the deepest penetration into nature, has
sum'd up all the charms of beauty in two words

INFINITE



[xvii]

INFINITE VARIETY; where, speaking of Cleopatra's
power over Anthony, he says,
-----Nor custom stale
Her infinite variety:---- Act 2. Scene3.
It has been ever observed, that the ancients made
their doctrines mysterious to the vulgar, and kept them
secret from those who were not of their particular sects,
and societies, by means of symbols, and hieroglyphics.
Lamozzo says, chap. 29, book I. "The Grecians in
" imitation of antiquity searched out the truly re-
" nowned proportion, wherein the exact perfection of
" most exquisite beauty and sweetness appeareth; de-
" dicating the same in a triangular glass unto Venus
" the goddess of divine beauty, from whence all the
" beauty of inferior things is derived."
If we suppose this passage to be authentic, may we
not also imagine it probable, that the symbol in the
triangular glass, might be similar to the line Michael
Angelo recommended; especially, if it can be proved,
that the triangular form of the glass, and the serpentine
line itself, are the two most expressive figures that can
be thought of to signify not only beauty and grace, but
the whole order of form.
There is a circumstance in the account Pliny gives
of Apelles's visit to Protogenes, which strengthens this
supposition. I hope I may have leave to repeat the story.
Apelles having heard of the fame of Protogenes, went

a to



[xviii]

to Rhodes to pay him a visit, but not finding him at
home asked for a board, on which he drew a line, telling
the servant maid, that line would signify to her master
who had been to see him; we are not clearly told what
sort of a line it was that could so particularly signify
one of the first of his profession: if it was only a stroke
(tho' as fine as a hair as Pliny seems to think) it could
not possibly, by any means, denote the abilities of a great
painter. But if we suppose it to be a line of some
extraordinary quality, such as the serpentine line will
appear to be, Apelles could not have left a more satis-
factory signature of the complement he had paid him.
Protogenes when he came home took the hint, and
drew a finer or rather more expressive line within it, to
shew Apelles if he came again, that he understood his
meaning. He, soon returning, was well-pleased with the
answer Protogenes had left for him, by which he was
convinced that fame had done him justice, and so cor-
recting the line again, perhaps by making it more pre-
cisely elegant, he took his leave. The story thus may
be reconcil'd to common sense, which, as it has been
generally receiv'd, could never be understood but as a
ridiculous tale.
Let us add to this, that there is scarce an Egyptian,
Greek, or Roman deity, but hath a twisted serpent,
twisted cornucopia, or some symbol winding in this
manner to accompany it. The two small heads (over the

busto



[xix]


busto of the Hercules, fig. 4, in plate I.) of the goddess
Isis, one crowned with a globe between two horns, the
other with a lily*, are of this kind. Harpocrates, the
god of silence, is still more remarkably so, having a large
twisted horn growing out of the side of his head, one
cornucopia in his hand, and another at his feet, with
his finger placed on his lips, indicating secrecy: (see Mont-
faucon's antiquities) and it is as remarkable, that the
deities of barbarous and gothic nations never had, nor
have to this day, any of these elegant forms belonging
to them. How absolutely void of these turns are the
pagods of China, and what a mean taste runs through
most of their attempts in painting and sculpture, not-
withstanding they finish with such excessive neatness;
the whole nation in these matters seem to have but one
eue: this mischief naturally follows from the prejudices
they imbibe by copying one anothers works, which the
ancients seem seldom to have done.
Upon the whole, it is evident, that the ancients stu-
died these arts very differently from the moderns: La-
mozzo seems to be partly aware of this, by what he
says in the division of his work, page 9, "there is a
" two-folde proceeding in all artes and sciences: the
" one is called the order of nature, and the other of

* The leaves of this flower as they grow, twist themselves various ways
in a pleasing manner, as may be better seen by figure 43, in plate I, but
there is a curious little flower called the Autumn Syclamen, fig. 47, the
leaves of which elegantly twist one way only.

b 2 " teaching



[xx]

" teaching. Nature proceedeth ordinarily, beginning
" with the unperfect, as the particulars, and ending with
" the perfect, as the universals. Now if in searching
" out the nature of things, our understanding shall
" proceede after that order, by which they are brought
" forth by nature, doubtelesse it will be the most abso-
" lute and ready method that can bee imagined. For
" we beginne to know things by their first and imme-
" diate principles, &c. and this is not only mine opi-
" nion by Aristotles also," yet, mistaking Aristotle's
meaning, and absolutely deviating from his advice, he
afterwards says, "all which if we could comprehend
" within our understanding, we should be most wise;
" but it is impossible, " and after having given some dark
reasons why he thinks so, he tells you " he resolves to
" follow the order of teaching," which all the writers
on painting have in like manner since done.
Had I observed the foregoing passage, before I un-
dertook this essay, it probably would bave put me to a
stand, and deterred me from venturing upon what Le-
mozzo calls an impossible task: but observing in the
foremention'd controversies that the torrent generally
ran against me; and that several of my opponents had
turn'd my arguments into ridicule, yet were daily avail-
ing themselves of their use, and venting them even to
my face as their own; I began to wish the publication
of something on this subject; and accordingly applied

myself



[xxi]

myself to several of my friends, whom I thought capable
of taking up the pen for me, offering to furnish them
with materials by word of mouth: but finding this me-
thod not practicable, from the difficulty of one man's
expressing the ideas of another, especially on a subject
which he was either unacquainted with, or was new in
its kind, I was therefore reduced to an attempt of find-
ing such words as would best answer my own ideas,
being now too far engaged to drop the design. Here-
upon, having digested the matter as well as I could,
and thrown it into the form of a book, I submitted it
to the judgment of such friends whose sincerity and
abilities I could best rely on, determining on their ap-
probation or dislike to publish or destroy it: but their
favourable opinion of the manuscript being publicly
known, it gave such a credit to the undertaking, as
soon changed the countenances of those, who had a
better opinion of my pencil, than my pen, and turn'd
their sneers into expectation: especially when the same
friends had kindly made me an offer of conducting the
work through the press. And here I must acknowledge
myself particularly indebted to one gentleman for his
corrections and amendment of at least a third part of
the wording. Through his absence and avocations,
several sheets went to the press without any assistance,
and the rest had the occasional inspection of one or two
other friends. If any inaccuracies shall be found in

the



[xxii]


the writing, I shall readily acknowledge them all my
own, and am, I confess, under no great concern about
them, provided the matter in general may be found
useful and answerable in the application of it to truth
and nature; in which material points, if the reader
shall think fit to rectify any mistakes, it will give me a
sensible pleasure, and be doing great honour to the
work.


_________________________________________


A D V E R T I S E M E N T


For the more easy finding the figures referred to in the
two prints belonging to this work, the references are for
the most part placed in the margin. Fig. T. p. 1. signi-
fies the top of plate 1. L.p.1. the left side. R. p. 1.
the right side. B.p.1. the bottom. And where a figure is
referred to in the middle of either print, it is only mark'd
thus, fig. p.1. or fig.p.2.