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ail languages, indicates the baseness of it, for it implies that art gives only a kind of pleasure analogous to that derived from eating by the palate. Modern education, not in art only, but in all other things referable to the same standard, has invariably given taste in this bad sense; it has given fastidiousness of choice without judgment, superciliousness of manner without dignity, refine ment of habit without purity, grace of expression without sincerity, and desire of loveliness without love; and the modern “Ideal” of high art is a curious mingling of the gracefulness and reserve of the drawing-room with a certain measure of classical sensuality. Of this last element, and the singular artifices by which vice succeeds in combining it with what appears to be pure and severe, it would take us long to reason fully; I would rather leave the reader to follow out for himself the consideration of the influence, in this direction, of statues, bronzes, and paintings, as at present employed by the upper circles of London, and (especially) Paris; and this not so much in the works which are really fine, as in the multiplied coarse copies of them; taking the widest range, from Dannaeker's Ariadne down to the amorous shepherd and shepherdess in china on the drawing room time-piece, rigidly questioning in each case, how far the charm of the art does indeed depend on some appeal to the inferior passions. Let it be considered, for instance, exactly how far the value of a picture of a girl's head by Greuze would be lowered in the market, if the dress, which now leaves the bosom bare, were raised to the neck; and how far, in the commonest lithograph of some utterly popular subject, —for instance, the teaching of Uncle Tom by Eva—the sentiment which is supposed to be excited by the exhibition of Christianity in youth is complicated with that which depends upon Eva's having a dainty foot and a well-made satin slipper; and then, having completely deter
mined for himself how far the element exists, consider farther, whether, when art is thus frequent (for frequent he will assu. redly find it to be) in its appeal to the lower passions, it is likely to attain the highest order of merit, or be judged by the truest standards of judgment. For, of all the causes which have combined, in modern times, to lower the rank of art, I believe this to be one of the most fatal; while, reciprocally, it may be questioned how far society suffers, in its turn, from the influences possessed over it by the arts it has degraded. It seems to me a subject of the very deepest interest to determine what has been the effect upon the European nations of the great change by which art became again capable of ministering delicately to the lower passions, as it had in the worst days of Rome; how far, indeed, in all ages, the fall of nations may be attributed to art's arriving at this particular stage among them. I do not mean that, in any of its stages, It is incapable of being employed for evil, but that assuredly an Egyptian, Spartan, or Norman was unexposed to the kind of temptation which is continually offered by the delicate painting and sculpture of modern days; and, although the diseased imagination might complete the perfect image of beauty from the colored image on the wall,” or the most revolting thoughts be suggested by the mocking barbarism of the Gothic sculpture, their hard outline and rude execution were free from all the subtle treachery which now fills tho flushed canvass and the rounded marble. I cannot, however, pursue this inquiry here. For our preent purpose it is enough to note that the feeling, in itself so debased, branches upwards into that of which, while no one has cause to be ashamed, no one, on the other hand, has cause to be proud, namely, the admiration of physical beauty in the human form, as distinguished from expression of character, Every one can easily appreciate the merit of regular features and well-formed limbs, but it requires some attention, sympathy, and sense, to detect the charm of passing expression, or life-disciplined character. The beauty of the Apollo Belvidere, or Venus de Medicis, is perfectly palpable to any shallow fine lady or fine gentleman, though they would have perceived none in the face of an old weather-beaten St. Peter, or a greyhaired “Grandmother Lois.” The knowledge that long study is necessary to produce these regular types of the human form renders the facile admiration matter of eager self-complacency; the shallow spectator, delighted that he can really, and without hypocrisy, admire what required much thought to produce, supposes himself endowed with the highest critical faculties, and easily lets himself be carried into rhapsodies about the “ideal,” which, when all is said, if they be accurately examined, will be found literally to mean nothing more than that the figure has got handsome calves to its legs, and a straight nose. That they do mean, in reality, nothing more than this may be easily ascertained by watching the taste of the same persons in other things. The fashionable lady who will write five or six pages in her diary respecting the effect upon her mind of such and such an “ideal” in marble, will have her drawing-room table covered with Books of Beauty, in which the engravings represent the human form in every possible aspect of distortion and affectation; and the connoisseur who, in the morning. pretends to the most exquisite tastein the antique, will be seen, in the evening, in his opera-stall, applauding the least graceful gestures of the least modest figurante. But even this vulgar pursuit of physical beauty (vulgar in the profoundest sense, for there is no vulgarity like the vulgarity of education) would be less contemptible if it really succeeded in its object; but, like all pursuits carried to inordinate length,
* Ezek. xxiii. 14
it defeats itself. Physical beauty is a noble thing when it is seen in perfectness; but the manner in which the moderns pursue their ideal prevents their ever really seeing what they are always seeking; for, requiring that all forms should be regular and faultless, they permit, or even compel, their painters and sculptors to work chiefly by rule, altering their models to fit their preconceived notions of what is right. When such artists look at a face, they do not give it the attention necessary to discern what beauty is already in its peculiar features; but only to see how best it may be altered into something for which they have themselves laid down the laws. Nature never unveils her beauty to such a gaze. She keeps whatever she has done best, close sealed, until it is regarded with reverence. To the painter who honors her, she will open a revelation in the face of a street mendicant; but in the work of the painter who alters her, she will make Portia become ignoble and Perdita graceless. Nor is the effect less for evil on the mind of the general observer. The lover of ideal beauty, with all his conceptions narrowed by rule, never looks carefully enough upon the features which do not come under his law (or any others), to discern the inner beauty in them. The strange intricacies about the lines of the lips, and marvellous shadows and watchfires of the eye, and wavering traceries of the eyelash, and infinite modulations of the brow, wherein high humanity is embodied, are all invisible to him. He finds himself driven back at last, with all his idealism, to the lionne of the ball-room, whom youth. and passion can as easily distinguish as his utmost critical science; whereas, the observer who has accustomed himself to take human faces as God made them, will often find as much beauty on a village green as in the proudest room of state, and as much in the free seats of a church aisle, as in all the sacred paintings of the Vatican or the Pitti.
The difference in the accuracy of the lines of the Torso of the Vatican (the Maestro of M. Angelo) from those in one of M. Angelo's finest works, could perhaps scarcely be appreciated by any eye or feeling undisciplined by the most perfect and practical anatomical knowledge. It rests on points of such traceless and refined delicacy, that though we feel them in the result, we cannot follow them in the details. Yet they are such and so great as to place the Torso alone in art, solitary and supreme; while the finest of M. Angelo's works, considered with respect to truth alone, are said to be only on a level with antiques of the second class, under the Apollo and Venus, that is, two classes or grades below the Torso. But suppose the best sculptor in the world, possessing the most entire appreciation of the excellence of the Torso, were to sit down, pen in hand, to try and tell us wherein the peculiar truth of each line consisted? Could any words that he could use make us feel the hairbreadth of depth and distance on which all depends? or end in anything more than bare assertions of the inferiority of this line to that, which, if we did not perceive for ourselves, no explanation could ever illustrate to us? He might as well endeavor to explain to us by words some taste or other subject of sense, of which we had no experience. And so it is with all truths of the highest order; they are separated from those of average precision by points of extreme delicacy, which none but the cultivated eye can in the least feel, and to express which, all words are absolutely meaningless and useless. So far as the sight and knowledge of the human form, of the purest race, exercised from infancy constantly, but not excessively, in all exercises of dig nity, not in twists and straining dexterities, but in natural exercises of running, casting, or riding; practised in endurance, not of extraordinary hardship, for that hardens and degrades the body, but of natural hardship, vicissitudes of