Read ARATRA PENTELICI: LECTURE I of The Crown of Wild Olive, free online book, by John Ruskin, on ReadCentral.com.

OF THE DIVISION OF ARTS.

November, 1870.

1. If, as is commonly believed, the subject of study which it is my special function to bring before you had no relation to the great interests of mankind, I should have less courage in asking for your attention to-day, than when I first addressed you; though, even then, I did not do so without painful diffidence. For at this moment, even supposing that in other places it were possible for men to pursue their ordinary avocations undisturbed by indignation or pity; here, at least, in the midst of the deliberative and religious influences of England, only one subject, I am well assured, can seriously occupy your thoughts the necessity, namely, of determining how it has come to pass, that in these recent days, iniquity the most reckless and monstrous can be committed unanimously, by men more generous than ever yet in the world’s history were deceived into deeds of cruelty; and that prolonged agony of body and spirit, such as we should shrink from inflicting wilfully on a single criminal, has become the appointed and accepted portion of unnumbered multitudes of innocent persons, inhabiting the districts of the world which, of all others, as it seemed, were best instructed in the laws of civilization, and most richly invested with the honour, and indulged in the felicity, of peace.

Believe me, however, the subject of Art instead of being foreign to these deep questions of social duty and peril, is so vitally connected with them, that it would be impossible for me now to pursue the line of thought in which I began these lectures, because so ghastly an emphasis would be given to every sentence by the force of passing events. It is well, then, that in the plan I have laid down for your study, we shall now be led into the examination of technical details, or abstract conditions of sentiment; so that the hours you spend with me may be times of repose from heavier thoughts. But it chances strangely that, in this course of minutely detailed study, I have first to set before you the most essential piece of human workmanship, the plough, at the very moment when (you may see the announcement in the journals either of yesterday or the day before) the swords of your soldiers have been sent for to be sharpened, and not at all to be beaten into ploughshares. I permit myself, therefore, to remind you of the watchword of all my earnest writings “Soldiers of the Ploughshare, instead of Soldiers of the Sword” and I know it my duty to assert to you that the work we enter upon to-day is no trivial one, but full of solemn hope; the hope, namely, that among you there may be found men wise enough to lead the national passions towards the arts of peace, instead of the arts of war.

I say the work “we enter upon,” because the first four lectures I gave in the spring were wholly prefatory; and the following three only defined for you methods of practice. To-day we begin the systematic analysis and progressive study of our subject.

2. In general, the three great, or fine, Arts of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, are thought of as distinct from the lower and more mechanical formative arts, such as carpentry or pottery. But we cannot, either verbally, or with any practical advantage, admit such classification. How are we to distinguish painting on canvas from painting on china? or painting on china from painting on glass? or painting on glass from infusion of colour into any vitreous substance, such as enamel? or the infusion of colour into glass and enamel from the infusion of colour into wool or silk, and weaving of pictures in tapestry, or patterns in dress? You will find that although, in ultimately accurate use of the word, painting must be held to mean only the laying of a pigment on a surface with a soft instrument; yet, in broad comparison of the functions of Art, we must conceive of one and the same great artistic faculty, as governing every mode of disposing colours in a permanent relation on, or in, a solid substance; whether it be by tinting canvas, or dyeing stuffs; inlaying metals with fused flint, or coating walls with coloured stone.

3. Similarly the word “Sculpture,” though in ultimate accuracy it is to be limited to the development of form in hard substances by cutting away portions of their mass in broad definition, must be held to signify the reduction of any shapeless mass of solid matter into an intended shape, whatever the consistence of the substance, or nature of the instrument employed; whether we carve a granite mountain, or a piece of box-wood, and whether we use, for our forming instrument axe, or hammer, or chisel, or our own hands, or water to soften, or fire to fuse; whenever and however we bring a shapeless thing into shape, we do so under the laws of the one great Art of Sculpture.

4. Having thus broadly defined painting and sculpture, we shall see that there is, in the third place, a class of work separated from both, in a specific manner, and including a great group of arts which neither, of necessity, tint, nor for the sake of form merely, shape, the substances they deal with; but construct or arrange them with a view to the resistance of some external force. We construct, for instance, a table with a flat top, and some support of prop, or leg, proportioned in strength to such weights as the table is intended to carry. We construct a ship out of planks, or plates of iron, with reference to certain forces of impact to be sustained, and of inertia to be overcome; or we construct a wall or roof with distinct reference to forces of pressure and oscillation, to be sustained or guarded against; and therefore, in every case, with especial consideration of the strength of our materials, and the nature of that strength, elastic, tenacious, brittle, and the like.

Now although this group of arts nearly always involves the putting of two or more separate pieces together, we must not define it by that accident. The blade of an oar is not less formed with reference to external force than if it were made of many pieces; and the frame of a boat, whether hollowed out of a tree-trunk, or constructed of planks nailed together, is essentially the same piece of art; to be judged by its buoyancy and capacity of progression. Still, from the most wonderful piece of all architecture, the human skeleton, to this simple one, the ploughshare, on which it depends for its subsistence, the putting of two or more pieces together is curiously necessary to the perfectness of every fine instrument; and the peculiar mechanical work of Daedalus, inlaying, becomes all the more delightful to us in external aspect, because, as in the jawbone of a Saurian, or the wood of a bow, it is essential to the finest capacities of tension and resistance.

5. And observe how unbroken the ascent from this, the simplest architecture, to the loftiest. The placing of the timbers in a ship’s stem, and the laying of the stones in a bridge buttress, are similar in art to the construction of the ploughshare, differing in no essential point, either in that they deal with other materials, or because, of the three things produced, one has to divide earth by advancing through it, another to divide water by advancing through it, and the third to divide water which advances against it. And again, the buttress of a bridge differs only from that of a cathedral in having less weight to sustain, and more to resist. We can find no term in the gradation, from the ploughshare to the cathedral buttress, at which we can set a logical distinction.

6. Thus then we have simply three divisions of Art one, that of giving colours to substance; another, that of giving form to it without question of resistance to force; and the third, that of giving form or position which will make it capable of such resistance. All the fine arts are embraced under these three divisions. Do not think that it is only a logical or scientific affectation to mass them together in this manner; it is, on the contrary, of the first practical importance to understand that the painter’s faculty, or masterhood over colour, being as subtle as a musician’s over sound, must be looked to for the government of every operation in which colour is employed; and that, in the same manner, the appliance of any art whatsoever to minor objects cannot be right, unless under the direction of a true master of that art. Under the present system, you keep your Academician occupied only in producing tinted pieces of canvas to be shown in frames, and smooth pieces of marble to be placed in niches; while you expect your builder or constructor to design coloured patterns in stone and brick, and your china-ware merchant to keep a separate body of workwomen who can paint china, but nothing else. By this division of labour, you ruin all the arts at once. The work of the Academician becomes mean and effeminate, because he is not used to treat colour on a grand scale and in rough materials; and your manufactures become base because no well educated person sets hand to them. And therefore it is necessary to understand, not merely as a logical statement, but as a practical necessity, that wherever beautiful colour is to be arranged, you need a Master of Painting; and wherever noble form is to be given, a Master of Sculpture; and wherever complex mechanical force is to be resisted, a Master of Architecture.

7. But over this triple division there must rule another yet more important. Any of these three arts may be either imitative of natural objects or limited to useful appliance. You may either paint a picture that represents a scene, or your street door, to keep it from rotting; you may mould a statue, or a plate; build the resemblance of a cluster of lotus stalks, or only a square pier. Generally speaking, Painting and Sculpture will be imitative, and Architecture merely useful; but there is a great deal of Sculpture as this crystal ball for instance, which is not imitative, and a great deal of Architecture which, to some extent is so, as the so called foils of Gothic apertures; and for many other reasons you will find it necessary to keep distinction clear in your minds between the arts of whatever kind which are imitative, and produce a resemblance or image of something which is not present; and those which are limited to the production of some useful reality, as the blade of a knife, or the wall of a house. You will perceive also, as we advance, that sculpture and painting are indeed in this respect only one art; and that we shall have constantly to speak and think of them as simply graphic, whether with chisel or colour, their principal function being to make us, in the words of Aristotle, “[Greek: theoretikoi tou peri ta somata kallous]” (Polit 8, 3.), “having capacity and habit of contemplation of the beauty that is in material things;” while Architecture, and its co-relative arts, are to be practised under quite other conditions of sentiment.

8. Now it is obvious that so far as the fine arts consist either in imitation or mechanical construction, the right judgment of them must depend on our knowledge of the things they imitate, and forces they resist: and my function of teaching here would (for instance) so far resolve itself, either into demonstration that this painting of a peach, does resemble a peach, or explanation of the way in which this ploughshare (for instance) is shaped so as to throw the earth aside with least force of thrust. And in both of these methods of study, though of course your own diligence must be your chief master, to a certain extent your Professor of Art can always guide you securely, and can show you, either that the image does truly resemble what it attempts to resemble, or that the structure is rightly prepared for the service it has to perform. But there is yet another virtue of fine art which is, perhaps, exactly that about which you will expect your Professor to teach you most, and which, on the contrary, is exactly that about which you must teach yourselves all that it is essential to learn.

9. I have here in my hand one of the simplest possible examples of the union of the graphic and constructive powers, one of my breakfast plates. Since all the finely architectural arts, we said, began in the shaping of the cup and the platter, we will begin, ourselves, with the platter.

Why has it been made round? For two structural reasons: first, that the greatest holding surface may be gathered into the smallest space; and secondly, that in being pushed past other things on the table, it may come into least contact with them.

Next, why has it a rim? For two other structural reasons; first, that it is convenient to put salt or mustard upon; but secondly and chiefly, that the plate may be easily laid hold of. The rim is the simplest form of continuous handle.

Farther, to keep it from soiling the cloth, it will be wise to put this ridge beneath, round the bottom; for as the rim is the simplest possible form of continuous handle, so this is the simplest form of continuous leg. And we get the section given beneath the figure for the essential one of a rightly made platter.

10. Thus far our art has been strictly utilitarian having respect to conditions of collision, of carriage, and of support. But now, on the surface of our piece of pottery, here are various bands and spots of colour which are presumably set there to make it pleasanter to the eye. Six of the spots, seen closely, you discover are intended to represent flowers. These then have as distinctly a graphic purpose as the other properties of the plate have an architectural one, and the first critical question we have to ask about them is, whether they are like roses or not. I will anticipate what I have to say in subsequent lectures so far as to assure you that, if they are to be like roses at all, the liker they can be, the better. Do not suppose, as many people will tell you, that because this is a common manufactured article, your roses on it are the better for being ill-painted, or half-painted. If they had been painted by the same hand that did this peach, the plate would have been all the better for it; but, as it chanced, there was no hand such as William Hunt’s to paint them, and their graphic power is not distinguished. In any case, however, that graphic power must have been subordinate to their effect as pink spots, while the band of green-blue round the plate’s edge, and the spots of gold, pretend to no graphic power at all, but are meaningless spaces of colour or metal. Still less have they any mechanical office: they add nowise to the serviceableness of the plate; and their agreeableness, if they possess any, depends, therefore, neither on any imitative, nor any structural, character; but on some inherent pleasantness in themselves, either of mere colours to the eye (as of taste to the tongue), or in the placing of those colours in relations which obey some mental principle of order, or physical principle of harmony.

11. These abstract relations and inherent pleasantnesses, whether in space, number, or time, and whether of colours or sounds, form what we may properly term the musical or harmonic element in every art; and the study of them is an entirely separate science. It is the branch of art-philosophy to which the word “aesthetics” should be strictly limited, being the inquiry into the nature of things that in themselves are pleasant to the human senses or instincts, though they represent nothing, and serve for nothing, their only service being their pleasantness. Thus it is the province of aesthetics to tell you, (if you did not know it before,) that the taste and colour of a peach are pleasant, and to ascertain, if it be ascertainable, (and you have any curiosity to know,) why they are so.

12. The information would, I presume, to most of you, be gratuitous. If it were not, and you chanced to be in a sick state of body in which you disliked peaches, it would be, for the time, to you false information, and, so far as it was true of other people, to you useless. Nearly the whole study of aesthetics is in like manner either gratuitous or useless. Either you like the right things without being recommended to do so, or if you dislike them, your mind cannot be changed by lectures on the laws of taste. You recollect the story of Thackeray, provoked, as he was helping himself to strawberries, by a young coxcomb’s telling him that “he never took fruit or sweets.” “That” replied, or is said to have replied, Thackeray, “is because you are a sot, and a glutton.” And the whole science of aesthetics is, in the depth of it, expressed by one passage of Goethe’s in the end of the 2nd part of Faust; the notable one that follows the song of the Lemures, when the angels enter to dispute with the fiends for the soul of Faust. They enter singing “Pardon to sinners and life to the dust.” Mephistopheles hears them first, and exclaims to his troop, “Discord I hear, and filthy jingling” “Mistoene hoere ich; garstiges Geklimper.” This, you see, is the extreme of bad taste in music. Presently the angelic host begin strewing roses, which discomfits the diabolic crowd altogether. Mephistopheles in vain calls to them “What do you duck and shrink for is that proper hellish behaviour? Stand fast, and let them strew” “Was duckt und zuckt ihr; ist das Hellen-brauch? So haltet stand, und lässt sie streuen.” There you have, also, the extreme of bad taste in sight and smell. And in the whole passage is a brief embodiment for you of the ultimate fact that all aesthetics depend on the health of soul and body, and the proper exercise of both, not only through years, but generations. Only by harmony of both collateral and successive lives can the great doctrine of the Muses be received which enables men “[Greek: chairein orthos],” “to have pleasures rightly;” and there is no other definition of the beautiful, nor of any subject of delight to the aesthetic faculty, than that it is what one noble spirit has created, seen and felt by another of similar or equal nobility. So much as there is in you of ox, or of swine, perceives no beauty, and creates none: what is human in you, in exact proportion to the perfectness of its humanity, can create it, and receive.

13. Returning now to the very elementary form in which the appeal to our aesthetic virtue is made in our breakfast-plate, you notice that there are two distinct kinds of pleasantness attempted. One by hues of colour; the other by proportions of space. I have called these the musical elements of the arts relating to sight; and there are indeed two complete sciences, one of the combinations of colour, and the other of the combinations of line and form, which might each of them separately engage us in as intricate study as that of the science of music. But of the two, the science of colour is, in the Greek sense, the more musical, being one of the divisions of the Apolline power; and it is so practically educational, that if we are not using the faculty for colour to discipline nations, they will infallibly use it themselves as a means of corruption. Both music and colour are naturally influences of peace; but in the war trumpet, and the war shield, in the battle song and battle standard, they have concentrated by beautiful imagination the cruel passions of men; and there is nothing in all the Divina Commedia of history more grotesque, yet more frightful, than the fact that, from the almost fabulous period when the insanity and impiety of war wrote themselves in the symbols of the shields of the Seven against Thebes, colours have been the sign and stimulus of the most furious and fatal passions that have rent the nations: blue against green, in the decline of the Roman Empire; black against white, in that of Florence; red against white, in the wars of the Royal houses in England; and at this moment, red against white, in the contest of anarchy and loyalty, in all the world.

14. On the other hand, the directly ethical influence of colour in the sky, the trees, flowers, and coloured creatures round us, and in our own various arts massed under the one name of painting, is so essential and constant that we cease to recognize it, because we are never long enough altogether deprived of it to feel our need; and the mental diseases induced by the influence of corrupt colour are as little suspected, or traced to their true source, as the bodily weaknesses resulting from atmospheric miasmata.

15. The second musical science which belongs peculiarly to sculpture (and to painting, so far as it represents form), consists in the disposition of beautiful masses. That is to say, beautiful surfaces limited by beautiful lines. Beautiful surfaces, observe; and remember what is noted in my fourth lecture of the difference between a space and a mass. If you have at any time examined carefully, or practised from, the drawings of shells placed in your copying series, you cannot but have felt the difference in the grace between the aspects of the same line, when enclosing a rounded or unrounded space. The exact science of sculpture is that of the relations between outline and the solid form it limits; and it does not matter whether that relation be indicated by drawing or carving, so long as the expression of solid form is the mental purpose; it is the science always of the beauty of relation in three dimensions. To take the simplest possible line of continuous limit the circle: the flat disc enclosed by it may indeed be made an element of decoration, though a very meagre one but its relative mass, the ball, being gradated in three dimensions, is always delightful. Here is at once the simplest, and in mere patient mechanism, the most skilful, piece of sculpture I can possibly show you, a piece of the purest rock-crystal, chiselled, (I believe, by mere toil of hand,) into a perfect sphere. Imitating nothing, constructing nothing; sculpture for sculpture’s sake, of purest natural substance into simplest primary form.

16. Again. Out of the nacre of any mussel or oyster-shell you might cut, at your pleasure, any quantity of small flat circular discs of the prettiest colour and lustre. To some extent, such tinsel or foil of shell is used pleasantly for decoration. But the mussel or oyster becoming itself an unwilling modeller, agglutinates its juice into three dimensions, and the fact of the surface being now geometrically gradated, together with the savage instinct of attributing value to what is difficult to obtain, make the little boss so precious in men’s sight that wise eagerness of search for the kingdom of heaven can be likened to their eagerness of search for it; and the gates of Paradise can be no otherwise rendered so fair to their poor intelligence, as by telling them that every several gate was of “one pearl.”

17. But take note here. We have just seen that the sum of the perceptive faculty is expressed in those words of Aristotle’s “to take pleasure rightly” or straightly [Greek: chairein orthos]. Now, it is not possible to do the direct opposite of that, to take pleasure iniquitously or obliquely [Greek: chairein adikos] or [Greek: skolios] more than you do in enjoying a thing because your neighbour cannot get it. You may enjoy a thing legitimately because it is rare, and cannot be seen often, (as you do a fine aurora, or a sunset, or an unusually lovely flower); that is Nature’s way of stimulating your attention. But if you enjoy it because your neighbour cannot have it and, remember, all value attached to pearls more than glass beads, is merely and purely for that cause, then you rejoice through the worst of idolatries, covetousness; and neither arithmetic, nor writing, nor any other so-called essential of education, is now so vitally necessary to the population of Europe, as such acquaintance with the principles of intrinsic value, as may result in the iconoclasm of jewellery; and in the clear understanding that we are not in that instinct, civilized, but yet remain wholly savage, so far as we care for display of this selfish kind.

You think, perhaps, I am quitting my subject, and proceeding, as it is too often with appearance of justice alleged against me, into irrelevant matter. Pardon me; the end, not only of these lectures, but of my whole professorship, would be accomplished, and far more than that, if only the English nation could be made to understand that the beauty which is indeed to be a joy for ever, must be a joy for all; and that though the idolatry may not have been wholly divine which sculptured gods, the idolatry is wholly diabolic, which, for vulgar display, sculptures diamonds.

18. To go back to the point under discussion. A pearl, or a glass bead, may owe its pleasantness in some degree to its lustre as well as to its roundness. But a mere and simple ball of unpolished stone is enough for sculpturesque value. You may have noticed that the quatrefoil used in the Ducal Palace of Venice owes its complete loveliness in distant effect to the finishing of its cusps. The extremity of the cusp is a mere ball of Istrian marble; and consider how subtle the faculty of sight must be, since it recognizes at any distance, and is gratified by, the mystery of the termination of cusp obtained by the gradated light on the ball.

In that Venetian tracery this simplest element of sculptured form is used sparingly, as the most precious that can be employed to finish the façade. But alike in our own, and the French, central Gothic, the ball-flower is lavished on every line and in your St. Mary’s spire, and the Salisbury spire, and the towers of Notre Dame of Paris, the rich pleasantness of decoration, indeed, their so-called “decorated style,” consists only in being daintily beset with stone balls. It is true the balls are modified into dim likeness of flowers; but do you trace the resemblance to the rose in their distant, which is their intended effect?

19. But farther, let the ball have motion; then the form it generates will be that of a cylinder. You have, perhaps, thought that pure Early English Architecture depended for its charm on visibility of construction. It depends for its charm altogether on the abstract harmony of groups of cylinders, arbitrarily bent into mouldings, and arbitrarily associated as shafts, having no real relation to construction whatsoever, and a theoretical relation so subtle that none of us had seen it, till Professor Willis worked it out for us.

20. And now, proceeding to analysis of higher sculpture, you may have observed the importance I have attached to the porch of San Zenone, at Verona, by making it, among your standards, the first of the group which is to illustrate the system of sculpture and architecture founded on faith in a future life. That porch, fortunately represented in the photograph, from which Plate I. has been engraved, under a clear and pleasant light, furnishes you with examples of sculpture of every kind from the flattest incised bas-relief to solid statues, both in marble and bronze. And the two points I have been pressing upon you are conclusively exhibited here, namely, (1). That sculpture is essentially the production of a pleasant bossiness or roundness of surface; (2) that the pleasantness of that bossy condition to the eye is irrespective of imitation on one side, and of structure on the other.

21. (1.) Sculpture is essentially the production of a pleasant bossiness or roundness of surface.

If you look from some distance at these two engravings of Greek coins, (place the book open so that you can see the opposite plate three or four yards off,) you will find the relief on each of them simplifies itself into a pearl-like portion of a sphere, with exquisitely gradated light on its surface. When you look at them nearer, you will see that each smaller portion into which they are divided cheek, or brow, or leaf, or tress of hair resolves itself also into a rounded or undulated surface, pleasant by gradation of light. Every several surface is delightful in itself, as a shell, or a tuft of rounded moss, or the bossy masses of distant forest would be. That these intricately modulated masses present some resemblance to a girl’s face, such as the Syracusans imagined that of the water-goddess Arethusa, is entirely a secondary matter; the primary condition is that the masses shall be beautifully rounded, and disposed with due discretion and order.

22. (2.) It is difficult for you, at first, to feel this order and beauty of surface, apart from the imitation. But you can see there is a pretty disposition of, and relation between, the projections of a fir-cone, though the studded spiral imitates nothing. Order exactly the same in kind, only much more complex; and an abstract beauty of surface rendered definite by increase and decline of light (for every curve of surface has its own luminous law, and the light and shade on a parabolic solid differs, specifically, from that on an elliptical or spherical one) it is the essential business of the sculptor to obtain; as it is the essential business of a painter to get good colour, whether he imitates anything or not. At a distance from the picture, or carving, where the things represented become absolutely unintelligible, we must yet be able to say, at a glance, “That is good painting, or good carving.”

And you will be surprised to find, when you try the experiment, how much the eye must instinctively judge in this manner. Take the front of San Zenone for instance, Plate I. You will find it impossible without a lens, to distinguish in the bronze gates, and in great part of the wall, anything that their bosses represent. You cannot tell whether the sculpture is of men, animals, or trees; only you feel it to be composed of pleasant projecting masses; you acknowledge that both gates and wall are, somehow, delightfully roughened; and only afterwards, by slow degrees, can you make out what this roughness means; nay, though here. I magnify one of the bronze plates of the gate to a scale, which gives you the same advantage as if you saw it quite close, in the reality, you may still be obliged to me for the information, that this boss represents the Madonna asleep in her little bed, and this smaller boss, the Infant Christ in His; and this at the top, a cloud with an angel coming out of it, and these jagged bosses, two of the Three Kings, with their crowns on, looking up to the star, (which is intelligible enough I admit); but what this straggling, three-legged boss beneath signifies, I suppose neither you nor I can tell, unless it be the shepherd’s dog, who has come suddenly upon the Kings with their crowns on, and is greatly startled at them.

23. Farther, and much more definitely, the pleasantness of the surface decoration is independent of structure; that is to say, of any architectural requirement of stability. The greater part of the sculpture here is exclusively ornamentation of a flat wall, or of door panelling; only a small portion of the church front is thus treated, and the sculpture has no more to do with the form of the building than a piece of a lace veil would have, suspended beside its gates on a festal day; the proportions of shaft and arch might be altered in a hundred different ways, without diminishing their stability; and the pillars would stand more safely on the ground than on the backs of these carved animals.

24. I wish you especially to notice these points, because the false theory that ornamentation should be merely decorated structure is so pretty and plausible, that it is likely to take away your attention from the far more important abstract conditions of design. Structure should never be contradicted, and in the best buildings it is pleasantly exhibited and enforced; in this very porch the joints of every stone are visible, and you will find me in the Fifth Lecture insisting on this clearness of its anatomy as a merit; yet so independent is the mechanical structure of the true design, that when I begin my Lectures on Architecture, the first building I shall give you as a standard will be one in which the structure is wholly concealed. It will be the Baptistry of Florence, which is, in reality, as much a buttressed chapel with a vaulted roof, as the Chapter House of York but round it, in order to conceal that buttressed structure, (not to decorate, observe, but to conceal) a flat external wall is raised; simplifying the whole to a mere hexagonal box, like a wooden piece of Tunbridge ware, on the surface of which the eye and intellect are to be interested by the relations of dimension and curve between pieces of encrusting marble of different colours, which have no more to do with the real make of the building than the diaper of a Harlequin’s jacket has to do with his bones.

25. The sense of abstract proportion, on which the enjoyment of such a piece of art entirely depends, is one of the aesthetic faculties which nothing can develop but time and education. It belongs only to highly-trained nations; and, among them, to their most strictly refined classes, though the germs of it are found, as part of their innate power, in every people capable of art. It has for the most part vanished at present from the English mind, in consequence of our eager desire for excitement, and for the kind of splendour that exhibits wealth, careless of dignity; so that, I suppose, there are very few now even of our best-trained Londoners who know the difference between the design of Whitehall and that of any modern club-house in Pall-mall. The order and harmony which, in his enthusiastic account of the Theatre of Epidaurus, Pausanias insists on before beauty, can only be recognized by stern order and harmony in our daily lives; and the perception of them is as little to be compelled, or taught suddenly, as the laws of still finer choice in the conception of dramatic incident which regulate poetic sculpture.

26. And now, at last, I think, we can sketch out the subject before us in a clear light. We have a structural art, divine, and human, of which the investigation comes under the general term, Anatomy; whether the junctions or joints be in mountains, or in branches of trees, or in buildings, or in bones of animals. We have next a musical art, falling into two distinct divisions one using colours, the other masses, for its elements of composition; lastly, we have an imitative art, concerned with the representation of the outward appearances of things. And, for many reasons, I think it best to begin with imitative Sculpture; that being defined as the art which, by the musical disposition of masses, imitates anything of which the imitation is justly pleasant to us; and does so in accordance with structural laws having due reference to the materials employed.

So that you see our task will involve the immediate inquiry what the things are of which the imitation is justly pleasant to us: what, in few words, if we are to be occupied in the making of graven images we ought to like to make images of. Secondly, after having determined its subject, what degree of imitation or likeness we ought to desire in our graven image; and lastly, under what limitations demanded by structure and material, such likeness may be obtained.

These inquiries I shall endeavour to pursue with you to some practical conclusion, in my next four lectures, and in the sixth, I will briefly sketch the actual facts that have taken place in the development of sculpture by the two greatest schools of it that hitherto have existed in the world.

27. The tenor of our next lecture then must be an inquiry into the real nature of Idolatry; that is to say, the invention and service of Idols: and, in the interval, may I commend to your own thoughts this question, not wholly irrelevant, yet which I cannot pursue; namely, whether the God to whom we have so habitually prayed for deliverance “from battle, murder, and sudden death,” is indeed, seeing that the present state of Christendom is the result of a thousand years’ praying to that effect, “as the gods of the heathen who were but idols;” or whether (and observe, one or other of these things must be true) whether our prayers to Him have been, by this much, worse than Idolatry; that heathen prayer was true prayer to false gods; and our prayers have been false prayers to the True One.