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MR. JER VAS,
WITH MR. DRYDEN's TRANSLATION OF FRESNOY's
HIS Verse be thine, my friend, nor thou refuse This, from no venal or ungrateful Muse. Whether thy hand strike out fome free defign, Where Life awakes, and dawns at ev'ry line;
Or blend in beauteous tints the colour'd mafs,
Epifle to Mr. Jervas] This Epiftle and the two following were written fome years before the reft, and originally printed in 1717.
Jervas owed much more of his reputation to this Epiftle than to his skill as a painter. "He was defective," fays Mr. Walpole, "in drawing, colouring, and compofition; his pictures are a light, flimzy, kind of fan-painting, as large as the life; his vanity was exceffive." The reafon why Lady Bridgewater's name is fo frequently repeated in this Epiftle, is, becaufe Jervas affected to be violently in love with her. As fhe was fitting to him one day, he ran over the beauties of her face with rapture; but added, “I cannot help telling your Ladyfhip you have not an handsome ear." "No!-Pray, Mr. Jervas, what is a handfome ear?" He turned afide his cap, and shewed his own!
And reading wish, like theirs, our fate and fame,
Smit with the love of Sifter-Arts we came, And met congenial, mingling flame with flame; Like friendly colours found them both unite, And each from each contract new strength and light. How oft' in pleafing tasks we wear the day, While fummer-funs roll unperceiv'd away? How oft our flowly-growing works impart, While Images reflect from art to art? How oft review; each finding like a friend Something to blame, and fomething to commend? What flatt'ring scenes our wand'ring fancy wrought, Rome's pompous glories rifing to our thought! Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly,
With thee, on Raphael's Monument I mourn,
Fir'd with Ideas of fair Italy.
Or wait infpiring Dreams at Maro's Urn:
VER. 13. Sifler-Arts] To the poets that practifed and underftood painting, the names of Dante, of Flatman, of Butler, of Dyer, may be added to that of our author; a portrait of whose painting is in poffeffion of Lord Mansfield: a head of Betterton.
VER. 27. On Raphael's monument] Let me here add Sir Joshua - Reynolds's fine characters of Raphael and Michael Angelo.
"If we put thofe great artists in a light of comparison with each other, Raffaelle had more tafte and fancy, Michael Angelo had more genius
With thee repofe, where Tully once was laid,
genius and imagination; the one excelled in beauty, the other in energy. Michael Angelo has more of the poetical inspiration, his ideas are vast and fublime, his people are a fuperior order of beings; there is nothing about them, nothing in the air of their actions, or their attitudes, or the style and caft of their very limbs or features, that puts one in mind of their belonging to our own fpecies. Raffaelle's imagination is not fo elevated; his figures are not so much disjoined from our own diminutive race of beings, though his ideas are chafte, noble, and of great conformity to their fubjects. Michael Angelo's works have a strong, peculiar, and marked character; they feem to proceed from his own mind entirely, and that mind fo rich and abundant, that he never needed, or feemed to difdain, to look abroad for foreign help. Raffaelle's materials are generally borrowed, though the noble structure is his own. The excellency of this extraordinary man lay in the propriety, beauty, and majefty of his characters, his judicious contrivance of his compofition, correctness of drawing, purity of tafte, and the skilful accommodation of other men's conceptions to his own purpose. Nobody excelled him in that judgement, with which he united to his own obfervations on nature the energy of Michael Angelo, and the beauty and fimplicity of the antique. To the question therefore, which ought to hold the firft rank, Raffaelle or Michael Angelo, it must be answered, that if it is given to him who poffeffed a greater combination of the higher qualities of the art than any other man, there is no doubt but Raffaelle is the firft. But if, according to Longinus, the fublime, being the highest excellence that human compofition can attain to, abundantly compenfates the absence of every other beauty, and atones for all other deficiencies, then Michael Angelo demands the preference.
"These two extraordinary men carried fome of the higher excellencies of the art to a higher degree of perfection than probably they ever arrived at before. They certainly have not been excelled, nor equalled fince. Many of their fucceffors were induced to leave
While Fancy brings the vanish'd piles to view,
Here thy well-study'd marbles fix our eye;
Match Raphael's grace with thy lov'd Guido's air,
this great road as a beaten path, endeavouring to surprise and please by fomething uncommon or new. When this defire after novelty has proceeded from mere idlenefs or caprice, it is not worth the trouble of criticifm; but when it has been in confequence of a bufy mind, of a peculiar complexion, it is always striking and interefting, never infipid.
"Such is the great ftyle as it appears in those who poffeffed it at its height, in this, fearch after novelty, in conception or in treating the fubject, has no place."
VER. 30. Or feek] This laft line is inferior to the three preceding ones: because it paffes from particular images to fomething general.
VER. 33. Well-fludy'd marbles] Jervas was sent to Italy at the expence of Dr. Clarke, Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford, of All-Souls College.
VER. 37. Carracci's] "Give me a good outline, and bricks in the middle," faid Annibal Carracci. Agoftino has left an elegant fonnet on painting. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me he did not think thefe artifts exactly characterized by Pope.
VER. 39. How finifh'd] Mr. Mafon has tranflated Fresnoy with elegance and fidelity; and Sir Joshua Reynolds added to the tranflation learned, ufeful, fcientifical, and ingenious notes.
Yet ftill how faint by precept is exprest
"Guido," fays Sir Joshua Reynolds, (Discourses, p. 155.), "from want of choice in adapting his fubject to his ideas and powers, or in attempting to preserve beauty where it could not be preserved, has in this one point fucceeded very ill. His figures are often engaged in fubjects that required great expreffion; yet his Judith and Holofernes, the daughter of Herodias, with the Baptift's Head; the Andromeda, and even the Mothers of the Innocents, have little more expreffion than his Venus attired by the Graces."
And Mr. Webb obferves, with his ufual tafte and penetration, "that Guido's Angel treads on Satan with all the preciseness and affected air of a modern dancing-mafter."
Few writers have fucceeded in speaking of the fine arts. M. Falconet condemns what Tully has faid on this subject in many of his epiftles. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me more than once he did not approve of the thirty-ninth book of Pliny's Natural History. He thought that Quintilian, in the tenth chapter of his twelfth book, had spoken with more tafte and precifion than any other ancient author on painting. There are three dialogues of Fenelon on this fubject exquifitely written,
VER. 40. The work of years!] Frefnoy employed above twenty years in finishing his poem,
VER. 43. Strike in the fketch,] Gray, in his verses to Mr. Bentley, has beautifully expreffed and described the person and defign: "See, in their courfe, each tranfitory thought,
Fix'd by his touch a lafting effence take;