John Franklin Genung.

Outlines of rhetoric: embodied in rules, illustrative examples, and ... online

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JLiTTLE need be said upon the subject of the present
work. The utility of it must be evident to all, who are in
the least degree conversant with the arts. We shall there-
fore shortly state, what this book contains, and then make
some few observations, which will be for the most part
taken from M. D'Hancarville's Preface, and the various
Essays prefixed to the original Work of Sir William

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The designs, here presented to the public, are the out-
lines drawn and engraved by that accurate artist, the late
Mr. Kirk, from the two works of the late Sir William
Hamilton ; the first, in four volumes folio, the second in
three, edited by Tieschbien, which cannot together be pro-
cured for less than fifty or sixty guineas. They were
selected by Mr. Kirk, on account of the beauty of their
composition, and the elegance and truth of their indivi-
dual forms. It is probable, had he lived, that this work
would have been still more extensive, as one of the ori*
ginal volumes has been published since his death. There
was another object also, which he always kept in view, and
that was, the rejection of all those designs from his collec-
tion, which tended in any degree to indelicate expression.
The various beautiful borders which surround these de-
signs, were not so placed in the original vases, but served
there, merely to ornament the handles, and other parts,
nor were the border and figures, which are upon the
same Plate in this work, always upon the same vase.
Nothing can exceed the diflPerent borders, in simplicity, in
variety, in elegance, in richness, or in beauty, and all
modern ornaments sink in the comparison.

Upon the vases themselves the figures are generally of a
reddish colour, sometimes relieved by white, upon a dark

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or black ground ; but in some of the oldest Gfeek vases,
the figures themselves are black and the ground a yellowish
red. There have been many theories and opinions with
respect to the mode, in which the vases were coloured, and
the figures drawn. The following seems to be the most
probable, and is founded upon the examination of various
specimens. The earth, of which the vases were generally
formed, was extremely light and porous, and of a light yel-
lowish red colour. When made and dried, but probably pre-
vious to undergoing the action of the fire, some instrument
rather hard and capable of containing a portion of black
liquid pigment of a certain consistency, was employed by
the artist in drawing the outline of the figures and compo-
sition. The reasons for supposing the instrument was
pointed and hard, and the pigment rather thick, is, that
upon a careful examination of some vases, a sort of sulcus,
or furrow, is observable in the centre of the line, which is
made by the pressure of the instrument, and which the
thickness of the pigment did not fill up : or perhaps the
vase itself was so porous, as to absorb the moisture of the
paint almost immediately. The artist then, probably with
a brush, laid on a coat of the black close to the outline, of
a certain width, and some inferior person filled up the
other parts. The reason for supposing, that this plan


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was pursued is, that, upon accurately examining the vases,
there is almost always observed to be a thicker coat of the
black paint close to the outline, from one-eighth to a quarter
of an inch wider, than in the other parts, shewing that it
had, at the edge of this first black, been twice laid over.
And that this part was done by the same artist, who drew
the outline, is probable, because in some instances he has
departed from the original line, particularly in parts of
draperies, sometimes painting over the first outline, and
sometimes leaving a part of the vase still more uncovered ;
and where this is observable, it generally improves the
original lines. They were then done over, perhaps, with
a sort of varnish of a reddish tint not highly polished^
and baked.

The Public, as has been before observed, are indebted to
the late Sir William Hamilton for the beautiful collection
of designs from the antique vases, whence the present out-
lines were taken. Indeed by his great love for the arts,
he was for a considerable length of time engaged in col-
lecting the most beautiful specimens of antiquity ; and
having ever less pleasure in the possession of these trea-
sures, than in gratifying the good taste of the world in
making them public, he permitted engravings to be made
from them.

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It must however be considered as a loss to the public,
that the numerous avocations of one, who felt their beauty
and appreciated their importance so much as to collect
them, has prevented him from indulging the public with
his own remarks ; M. D'Hancarville has however made a
point of following his plan, and detailing such of his
opinions as he was favoured with ; and the object of the
work was not confined merely to the purpose of giving a
collection of beautiful designs to please the eye, but to pre-
sent to artists, and such as are attached to painting as an
amusement, a series of chaste compositions, that may tend to
the formation of a pure and correct taste, and which may
enable them to discover those rules, by the investigation
of which they may arrive at the same perfection. It is
thus that the arts are advanced, for in every art good
models, by stimulating the imagination, whence arises
invention, produce new ideas and new combinations.

The advantage of a true and correct outline is insisted
upon by every good artist of every age ; and this can
be best obtained by the study of forms without colour.
" Until the importance of outline," says a learned author,*
*• be generally admitted, and its perfection as generally
sought ; till it be understood, that there can be no real.

* Cumberland on Outline.

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art without it ; and that no man deserves to be called
an artist, who is defective in this .best rudiment, we
may continue to model, to carve, and to paint, but without
it we shall never have artists, sculptors, or painters."
' The greatest part of the vases in the collection of Sir
William Hamilton, are ornamented with paintings, the
subjects of which are drawn from the history, the mytho-
logy, the religious, civil, and domestic customs of the
ancients ; and there can be no subjects more interesting.
The composition of these paintings, the manner in which
they are treated, the elegance of the actions, the beauty of
their expression, and the singularity of their character,
render them highly valuable to the true lover of the art.
And in the descriptions, short and even unsatisfactory as
many of them must of necessity be, the most trifling cir-
cumstance will sometimes be interesting to the antiquary
and the scholar. Their utility also in forming and spreading
a purer taste, must be very great. As taste is, in fact, more
dependant upon our feelings than upon our learning inde-
pendant of feeling, and as all men are born with more or
less sensations, their taste will be injured by the exami-
nation of bad models, and improved by the study of such as
are excellent.

It would indeed be rendering an essential service to the

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arts, at the same time to lay down a series of fundamental
precepts, and to illustrate them with perfect models ; the
latter of which is the object of the present work. Those,
who make collections of works of art, will probably find a
pleasure in possessing these copies from the most ancient
designs now existing, and as such they ought to form the
beginning in all cabinets.

Campania is, of all the countries of Europe, that, which
produced the finest of the ancient vases, the principal manu-
factures for which were probably at Nola, which lies at
the foot of Vesuvius, and at Capua, so celebrated for those
beauties, that even arrested the march of Hannibal. These
designs are now too become much more valuable, since the
loss of a part of Sir William Hamilton's fine collection oflF
our own coast, in their passage from Italy. Those, which'
reached this country, are now in the possession of Thomas
Hope, Esq. whose elegant and refined taste in collecting
genuine works of art is almost unequalled. His house is,
perhaps, the very first thing of the kind in England, not
only for its various, and valuable collections of statues,
pictures, and vases, but for the pure and classical taste,
with which the whole is fitted up and adorned.

In the work of Sir William Hamilton there are a series of
dissertations by M. D'Hancarville, of which the following

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are the subjects, and from which the few following detached
observations are taken.

I. Of the origin of the Etruscans.

II. Of their history and manners.

III. Of their architecture, and of the Tuscan order.

IV. On sculpture and painting.

V. On painting.

VI. On the uses, which the ancients made of their

VII. Of the time and manner in which they were made.

VIII. Of the periods which precede and follow the in-
vention of sculpture, to the taking of Troy.

IX. On the origin of sculpture.

X. Its progress and chaitacter.

XI. The progress in sculpture from the invention of
basso relievo, to the time of Daedalus.

XII. From the Trojan war to the death of Alexander the

XIII. Progress of the arts from the time of Homer to the
fiftieth Olympiad.

XIV. From thence to the time of Phidias.

XV View of the arts from Phidias to the hundred and

twentieth Olympiad.
XVI; On expression.

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XVII. On the senses and organized structure as connected
with expression.

XVIII. On ideal beauty.

XIX. Historical remarks upon the origin of the Pelas-
gians, Etruscans, Romans, and other ancient nations
of Italy.

Some few observations upon the uses, to which the vases
themselves were applied, will not be improper, as it is a
question, which must strike every one upon seeing a large
collection of them. Astonished at the difference of form
between the ancient vases, and those which we are accus-
tomed to see, it is natural to inquire the causes of such
difference, the use to which the vessels themselves are
applied, and why they have been chosen in preference to
such as we employ. The elegance of the figures, which are
drawn upon many of them, the character of simplicity,
which distinguishes them, and above all, the great genius
of those artists who have invented them, besides the great
variety of their forms, must excite a great desire to know
every thing, that relates to them.

We may divide the vases, with respect to the uses, to
which the ancients applied them, into such as were em-
ployed in sacred ceremonies, those that were used upon
public occasions, and those which were applied to domestic

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purposes. And there are very few, perhaps none, of the
vases, which cannot be classed within one of these three

We may also make another distinction between the
vases, appropriated to the temples, the lararia or domestic
chapels, and the tombs, and those which were used in
sacrifices and festivals.

The Etruscans, the Greeks, and the Romans, followed
two different methods with respect to their dead; some
they burnt, others they buried. The ashes of the former
were carried from the funeral pile and put into vases,
which were commonly placed in niches, made in the walls
of the sepulchral apartments. The higher classes had their
ashes put into marble urns highly sculptured. These urns
were sometimes placed in mausoleums, such as that of
Augustus. Besides these modes, subterraneous burying-
places were common, and it is chiefly in these last, that the
greatest number of vases are found.

When the dead bodies were not burnt, they were
enclosed in sarcophagi of marble, lead, or earth, and placed
in vaults made for the purpose. In these also great num-
bers of vases made of clay are found.

They. used other vases in public and private baths, in
their public games, and in the domestic entertainments;

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and perhaps the larger vases were placed either for orna-
ment or use in their gardens; for, as far as we are
acquainted with the houses of the ancients, their rooms
were not su£ficiently large to hold them without there being
an inconvenience.

In the excavations, which have been made at Hercula-
neum, at Pompeia, and at Stabiae, there have been some
found among great numbers of others, perfectly whole and
soimd, notwithstanding their extreme delicacy and brittle-
ness, but among none, either of these or the vast quantity
of fragments, has there been discovered one, which was
painted. They were all black and varnished. This fact
clearly shews, that at the time, in which these cities were
destroyed, that is, about the time of Pliny's death, painted
vases were very rare, if not unknown ; though vases with
black varnish were very common.

The part of Italy, in which the greatest number of vases

has been discovered, is from Capua to Nola ; those, which

were made at Capua, are distinguished from the others by

the finer quality of their materials, the excellence of their

varnish, the elegance of their forms, and above all, by the

beauty of their paintings, in which the style and manner of

the best schools are evident.

We may perhaps form a tolerably accurate opinion as to


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the age of a vase from the composition of the figures
painted upon it, and upon this subject the following ob-
servations may not be without their use. Isidorus informs
us in the thirty-fifth chapter of his seventeenth book, that
Glisthenes changed the form of the poles affixed to their
cars ; before his time they used double poles, as mentioned
Jojo poc c_r_A by Socrates in his Electra, but Glisthenes reduced them to

one. Supposing, therefore, we have a vase, on the painting
of which there is a car with a double pole, we may fairly
conclude, that it was prior to the time of Glisthenes, and
hence judge of the period, when this change took place in
the cars used in the Olympic games. We may also observe,
that from certain general or individual customs, of which
we know the time of their commencement or conclusion,
and which we find depicted upon these vases, we may infer,
that such vases did not exist prior to the commencement of
such customs, nor probably were made long after the same
customs had ceased from being in fashion. Thus, for
instance, masks having been invented by Thespis, or, as
some say, by ^schylus, those vases, on which the scene of
a theatre is represented, and in which masks are introduced
could not be prior to the invention itself, which was dis-
covered, if by iEschylus, in the time of Themistocles, who
lived about the two hundred and fourth year from the

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building of Rome, and if invented hy Thespis, it was
eighty years before.

It is probable, that we are indebted to the Greeks of
Campania and Apulia for the vases, which we find in
those two provinces ; and although we have seen none with
inscriptions purely Etruscan, we have nevertheless found
some, which were made in Campania, where that language
was spoken. It may be observed, that the paintings upon
these vases were executed upon monocromic principles ;
and being unassisted by the powerful effect of light and
shade, the artists were unable to pursue the plans, which
they might wish. They could not therefore form groups,
without the figures being confounded with each other.

Various causes, which it is unnecessary to detail in this
place (see Fusel i's Lectures on Painting), concurred to pro-
mote the arts among the Greeks. The following sketch of
the rise and progress of painting, is taken from the work
of that author.

•* Great as the advantages were, which the Greeks pos-
sessed, it is not to be supposed, that nature deviated from
her gradual progress in the developem^nt of human facul-
ties in their favour. Greet art had her infancy, but the
Graces rocked the cradle, and Love taught her to speak.
If every legend deserved our belief, the amorous tale of

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the Corinthian maid, who traced the shade of her depart-
ing lover by the secret lamp, appeals to our sympathy to
grant it, and leads us at the same time to some observations
on the first essays of painting, and that hnear method,
which, though passed nearly unnoticed by Winckelman,
seems to have continued as the basis of execution, even
when the instrument for which it was chiefly adapted, had
long been laid aside.

*• The etymology of the word used by the Greeks to
express painting, being the same with that, which they em-
ploy for writing, makes the similarity of the tool, materials,
and method, almost certain. The tool was a stylos or pen, of
wood or metal ; the materials a board or a levig^ated plane
of wood, metal, stone, or some prepared compound; the
method, letters or lines.

* 'The first essays of the art were skiagrams^ simple outlines
of a shade, similar to those, which have been introduced
into vulgar use, by the students and parasites of physio-
gnomy, under the name of Silhouettes ; without any other
addition of character or feature, but what the profile of the
object, thus delineated, could afford. The next step of the
(lo^os yf-xf"-' art was the monogram, outlines of figures without light or
shade, but with some addition of the parts within the out-
line, and from that to the monopkrom, or paintings of a


^'^V a- '-^

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single colour on a plane or tablet, primed with white, and
then covered with what they called punic wax, was first
amalgamated with a tough resinous pigment, generally of a
red, sometimes dark brown or black colour. In, or rather
through, this thin inky ground, the outlines were traced
with a firm but pliant style, which they called cestrum ; if
the traced line happened to be incorrect, or wrong, it was
gently effaced with a finger or with a sponge, and easily
replaced by a fresh one. When the whole design was
settled, and no farther alteration intended, it was suffered
to dry, was covered to make it permanent, with a brown
encaustic varnish, the lights were worked over again, and
rendered more brilliant with a point still more delicate,
according to the gradual advance from mere outlines to
some indications, and at last to masses of l^ht and shade,
and from those to the superinduction of different colours,
or the invention of the polychrom^ which, by the addition of
the pencil to the style, raised the mezzotinto or stained
drawing to a legitimate picture, and at length produced that
vaunted harmony, the magic scale of Grecian colour.

*' If this conjecture, for it is not more, on the process
of linear painting, formed on the evidence and compa-
rison of passages always unconnected, and frequently con-
tradictory, be founded in fact, the rapturous astonishment

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at the supposed momentaneous production of the Hercu-
lanean dancers, and on the earthen vases of the ancients
will cease ; or rather, we shall no longer suffer ourselves to
be deluded by palpable impossibility of execution ; on a
ground of levigated lime, or on potter's ware, no velocity
or certainty attainable by human hands, can conduct a full
pencil with that degree of evenness equal from beginning
to end, with which we see those figures executed, or if it
could, would ever be able to fix the line on the glassy
surface without its flowing : to make the appearances we
see possible, we must have recourse to the linear process
that has been described, and transfer our admiration to
the perseverance, the correctness of principle, the elegance
of taste that conducted the artist's hand, without presuming
to arm it with contradictory powers ; the figures which he
drew and we admire, are not the magic produce of a
winged pencil, they are the result of gradual improvement,
exquisitely finished monochroms."

It is now necessary to conclude this introduction. The
remarks it contains are but crudely put together ; those
who wish for more information upon these subjects, must
consult M. D'Hancarville and other writers upon ancient

The chief purport of this work was to form an elegant

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and chaste selection of antique designs, by which to spread
the knowledge of true and legitimate taste, and also to give

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Online LibraryJohn Franklin GenungOutlines of rhetoric: embodied in rules, illustrative examples, and ... → online text (page 1 of 4)