William Mason.

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Epistle to Sir Joshua Reynolds - - Page 3
Preface - - - - T
Life of M. du Fresnoy . _ . . 13
Art of Painting - - - - 21
Notes - - - - - 79
A Table of the Rules contained in the foregoing Poem - 149
The Sentiments of M. du Fresnoy on the Works of the prin-
cipal and best Painters of 1600 and ITOO - - 157
Mr. Dryden's Preface, with a Parallel between Poetry and

Painting - - - - - 169

Mr. Pope's Epistle to Mr. Jervag - - . 219

Chronological List of Painters ... 225

The preceding List arranged in Alphabetical Order - 259

Index to the Art of Painting - - 275


I. On Instrumental Church Music - - 285

II. On Cathedral Music - - * 327

III. On Parochial Psalmody - - 363

IV. On the Causes of the present imperfect Alliance between
Music and Poetry .... 395


Page 26, line 35 latin, for capace read capacem.

34, Rule IX. at the bottom of the page, for drapery of
read drapery to the head.

33, line 132 latin, -a^ct jignrce dele ?
103, 15, for /"rffi/ read /'rar/.
234, 8, for gentleness read gentilness.
236, 1, ditto,

267, after Aicolo del Pomerancio, 240, instead of 3 read 8.
277, end of tlie first line of G, for an read any.
288, line 24, after genius, instead of who read which.
371, 7, after 07ni/<erf dele fi[y.
380, last line but one, instead of a necessary read as necessary.














W HEN D^ri/den, worn with sickness, bovv'd with years,
Was doom'd (my Friend, let pity warm thy tears,)
The galling pang of penury to feel,
For ill-placed loyalty, and courtly zeal,
To see that laurel which his brows o'erspread.
Transplanted droop on ShadweWs barren head,
The Bard oppress'd, yet not subdued by fate,
For very bread descended to translate :
And he, whose fancy, copious as his phrase.
Could light at will expression's brightest blaze.
On Fresnoy's lay employ'd his studious hour j
But niggard there of tliat melodious power.
His pen in haste the hireling task to close
Transform'd the studied strain to careless prose,
Which, fondly lending faith to French pretence,
Mistook its meaning, or obscur'd its sense.

Yet still he pleas'd ; for Dri/den still must please,
Whether with artless eleG:ance and ease


He glides in prose, or from its tinkling chime, -j

By varied pauses, purifies his rhyme, I

And mounts on Maro's plumes, and soars his heights j

sublime. J

This artless elegance, this native fire
Provok'd his tuneful heir* to strike the lyre.
Who, proud his numbers with that prose to join.
Wove an illustrious wreath for Friendship's shrine.

How oft, on that fair shrine when Poets bind
The flowers of song, does partial passion blind
Their judgment's eye ! How oft does truth disclaim
The deed, and scorn to call it genuine fame !
How did she here, when Jervas was the theme.
Waft thro' the ivory gate the Poet's dream !
How view, indignant, error's base alloy
The sterling lustre of his praise destroy.
W hich now, if praise like his my Muse could coin.
Current through ages, she would stamp for thine !

Let Friendship, as she caus'd, excuse the deed ;
With thee, and such as thee, she must succeed.


* Mr. Pope, in his Epistle to Jervas, has these lines:

liead these instructive leaves, in which conspire
Fresnoy's close art with Dryden's native iire.


But what, if Fashion tempted Pope astray ?

The witch has spells, and Jervas knew a day

When mode-struck belles and beaux were proud to oome.

And buy of him a thousand years of bloom.*

Ev'n then I deem it but a venal crime :
Perish alone that selfish sordid rhyme.
Which flatters lawless sway, or tinsel pride :
Let black Oblivion plunge it in her tide.

From fate like this my truth-supported lays,
Ev'n if aspiring to thy pencil's praise.
Would flow secure : but humbler aims are mine ;
Know, when to thee I consecrate the line,
'Tis but to thank thy genius for the ray
Which pours on Fresnoy's rules a fuller day :
Those candid strictures, those reflections new,
Refin'd by taste, yet still as nature true.
Which, blended here with his instructive strains.
Shall bid thy art inherit new domains;
Give her in Albion as in Greece to rule.
And guide (what thou hast form'd) a British School.

And, O, if aught thy Poet can pretend
Beyond his favourite wish to call thee Friend,


* Alluding to another couplet in the same Epistle
Beauty, frail flower, that every season fears.
Blooms in thy coloursfor a thousand years.


Be it that here his tuneful toil has drest
The Muse of Fresnoy in a modern vest ;
And with that skill his fancy could bestow.
Taught the close folds to take an easier flow ;
Be it, that here thy partial smile approv'd
The pains he lavish'd on the art he lov'd,


October 10, 1782.


1 H E poem of ]\I. du Fresnoy, when considered as a
treatise on Painting, may unquestionably claim the
merit of giving the leading principles of the art with
more precision, conciseness, and accuracy, than any
work of the kind that has either preceded or followed it ;
yet as it was published about the middle of the seven-
teenth century, many of the precepts it contains have
been so frequently repeated by later writers, that they
have lost the air of novelty, and will, consequently, now
be held common ; some of them too may, perhaps, not
be so generally true as to claim the authority of absolute
rules : Yet the reader of taste will always be pleased to
see a Frenchman holding out to his countrymen the
study of nature, and the chaste models of antiquity,
when (if we except Le Seur and Nicolo Poussin, who
were Fresnoy's contemporaries) so few painters of that
nation have regarded cither of these archetypes. The
modern artist also will ])e proud to emulate that sim-
plicity of style, which this work has for more than a
century recommended ; and which, having only very
lately got the better of fluttering drapery and theatrical


attitude, is become one of the principal tests of pictu-
resque excellence.

But if the text may have lost somewhat of its original
merit, the notes of M. du Piles, which have hitherto ac-
companied it, have lost much more. Indeed it may be
doubted whether they ever had merit in any considerable
degree. Certain it is that they contain such a parade
of common-place quotation, with so small a degree of
illustrative science, that I have thought proper to expel
them from this edition, in order to make room for their

As to the poetical powers of my author, I do not sup-
pose that these alone would ever have given him a place
in the numerous libraries which he now holds ; and I
have, therefore, often wondered that M. de Voltaire,
when he gave an account of the authors who appeared
in the age of Louis XIV. should dismiss Fresnoy, with
saying, in his decisive manner, that " his poem has
succeeded with such persons as could bear to read
Latin verse, not of the Augustan age."* This is the
criticism of a mere Poet. Nobody, I should suppose.


* Du Frenol (ChariM) ne a Paris 1611, peintre et poete. Son
pocme de la Feinture a reussi auprcs de ceiix qui peuvent lire
d'autres vers Latins que ceux du siecle d'Auguste.

Siecle de Louis XIV, Tom I.


ever read Fresnoy to admire, or even criticise his versifi-
cation, but either to be instructed by him as a Painter,
or improved as a Virtuoso.

It was this latter motive only, I confess, that led me
to attempt the following translation ; which was begun
in very early youth, with a double view of implanting in
my own memory the principles of a favourite art, and
of acquiring a habit of versification, for which purpose
the close and condensed style of the original seemed
peculiarly calculated, especially when considered as a
sort of school exercise. However, the task proved so
difficult, that when I had gone through a part of it I
remitted of my diligence, and proceeded at such sepa-
rate intervals, that I had passed many posterior produc-
tions through the press before this was brought to any
conclusion in manuscript; and after it was so, it lay
long neglected, and would certainly have never been
made public, had not Sir Joshua Reynolds requested a
sight of it, and made an obliging offer of illustrating it
by a series of his own notes. This prompted me to re-
vise it with all possible accuracy; and as I had preserved
the strictures which my late excellent friend Mr. Gray
had made many years before on the version, as it then
stood, I attended to each of them in their order with
that deference which every criticism of his must demand.
Besides this, as much more time was now elapsed since
I had perused the copy, my own eye was become more


open to its defects. I found the rule which my author
had given to his painter full as useful to a writer :

(Ast ubi consilium deerit sapientis amici

Id tempus dabit, atque mora intcrmissa labori.)

And I may say, with truth, that having become from
this circumstance, as impartial, if not as fastidious, to
my own work, as any other critic could possibly have
been, I hardly left a single line in it without giving it,
what I thought an emendation. It is not, therefore, as
a juvenile work that I now present it to the public, but
as one which I have improved to the utmost of my ma-
ture abilities, in order to make it more worthy of its

In the preceding Epistle I have obviated, I hope, every
suspicion of arrogance, in attempting this work after
Mr. Dryden. The single consideration that his version
was in prose, were in itself sufficient ; because, as Mr.
Pope has justly observed, verse and even rhyme is the
best mode of conveying preceptive truths, " as in this
" way they are more shortly expressed, and more easily
'' retained." * Still less need I make an apology for
undertaking it after Mr. Wills, who in the year 1754,
published a translation of it in metre without rhyme. f

* See his Advertisement before his Essay on Man.

+ 1 call it so rather than blank verse, because it was devoid
of all harmony of numbers. The beginninj;, which I shall her
insert, is a sufficient proof of the trutii of this assertion :


This gentleman, a painter by profession, assumed for

his motto,

Tractant fabrilia fabri ;

but however adroit he miglit be in handling the tools of
his own art, candour must own that the tools of a poet
and a translator were beyond his management : attempt-
ing also a task absolutely impossible, that of expressing
the sense of his author in an equal number of lines, he
produced a version,~which (if it was ever read through
by any person except myself) is now totally forgotten.
Nevertheless I must do him the justice to own, that he
understood the original text; that he detected some
errors in Mr. Dryden's translation, which had escaped
Mr. Jervas (assisted, as it is said, by his friend Mr. Pope)
in that corrected edition which Mr. Graham inscribed to
the Earl of Burlington ; and that I have myself some-
times profited by his labours. It is also from his edition
that I reprint the following Life of the Author, which
was drawn up from Felibien and other biographers by
the late Dr. Birch, who, with his usual industry, has
collected all they have said on Fresnoy's subject.

As Painting, Poesy, so similar
To Poesy be Painting : emulous
Alike, each to her sister doth refer,
Alternate change the office and the name ;
Mute verse is this, that speaking picture call'd.
From this little specimen, the reader will easily form a judg-
ment of the whole.




Ljharles Alphoxse Du Fresnoy was born at Paris
in the year 1611. His father, who was an eminent
apothecary in that city, intending him for the profession
of physic, gave him as good an education as possible.
During the first year, which he spent at the college, he
made a very considerable progress in his studies : but as
soon as he was raised to the iiigher classes, and began to
contract a taste of poetry, his genius for it opened itself,
and he carried all the prizes in it, which were proposed
to excite the emulation of his fellow-students. His in-
clination for it was heightened by exercise ; and his
earliest performances showed, that he was capable of
becoming one of the greatest poets of his age, if his love
of painting, which equally possessed him, had not divided
his time and application. At last, he laid aside all
thouglits of the study of pliysic, and declared absolutely
for that of painting, notwithstanding tlie opposition of


ills parents, who, by all kinds of severity, endeavoured
to divert him from pursuing his passion for that art, the
profession of which they unjustly considered in a very
contemptible light. But the strength of his inclination
defeating all the measures taken to suppress it, he took
the first opportunity of cultivating his favourite study.

He was nineteen or twenty years of age when he
began to learn to design under Francis Perier; and
having spent two years in the school of that painter, and
of Simon Vouet, he thought proper to take a journey
into Italy, where he arrived in the end of 1633, or the
beginning of 1634.

As he had, during his studies, applied himself very
mucli to that of geometry, he began, upon his coming
to Rome, to paint landscapes, buildings, and ancient
ruins. But, for the first two years of his residence in
that city, he had the utmost difficulty to support him-
self, being abandoned by his parents, who resented his
having rejected their advice in the choice of his profes-
sion ; and the little stock of money which he had pro-
vided before he left France, proving scarce sufficient for
the expenses of his journey to Italy. Being destitute,
tlierefore, of friends and acquaintance at Rome, he was
reduced to such distress, that his chief subsistence for
the greatest part of that time was bread and a small
quantity of cheese. But he diverted the sense of uneasy


circumstances by an intense and indefatigable applica-
tion to painting, till the arrival of the celebrated Peter
Mignard, who had been the companion of his studies
under Vouet, set him more at ease. They immediately
engaged in the strictest friendship, living together in the
same house, and being commonly knoun at Rome by
the name of the Inseparablks, they were employed by
the Cardinal of Lyons in copying all the best pieces in
the Farncse palace. But their principal study was the
works of Raffaelle and other great masters, and the
antiques; and they were constant in their attendance
every evening at the academy, in designing after models.
Mignard had superior talents in practice ; but Du Fres-
noy was a greater master of the rules, history, and theory
of his profession. They communicated to each other
their remarks and sentiments; Du Fresnoy furnishing
his friend with noble and excellent ideas, and the latter
instructing the former to paint with greater expedition
and ease.

Poetry shared with painting the time and thoughts of
Du Fresnoy, who, as he penetrated into the secrets of
the latter art, wrote down his ol)servations ; and having
at last acquired a full knowledge of the subject, formed
a design of writing a poem upon it, which he did not
finish till many years afterwards, when he had consulted
the best writers, and examined with the utmost care tJie
most admired ])!cturcs in Italy,


While he resided there he painted several pictures,
particularly the ruins of the Campo Vaccino, with the
city of Rome in the figure of a woman ; a young woman
of Athens going to see the monument of a lover; iEneas
carrying his father to his tomb ; Mars finding Lavlnla
sleeping on the banks 6f the Tyber descending from his
chariot, and lifting up the veil which covered her, which
is one of his best pieces : the birth of Venus, and that of
Cupid. He had a peculiar esteem for the works of
Titian, several of which he copied, imitating that ex-
cellent painter in his colouring, as he did Caracci in his

About the year 1653, he went with Mlgnard to
Venice, * and travelled throughout Lombardy ; and
during his stay in that city painted a Venus for Signor
Mark Paruta, a noble Venetian, and a Madonna, a half-
length. These pictures showed that he had not studied
those of Titian without success. Here the two friends
separated, Mlgnard returning to Rome, and Du Fresnoy
to France. He had read his poem to the best painters
in all places through which he passed, and particularly

* This is the account of Mons, Felihien, Entretiens sur les Vies
el sur les Ouvrages des plus excellens Peinlres, torn. II. edit. Lond.
1705, p. 333. But the late author of Abrege de la Vie des plus
fameux Peiiitres, part. II. p. 284, edit. Par. 1745, in 4to. says, that
Fresnoy went to Venice, without Mif^aard; and that the latter,
being importuned by the letters of the former, made a \isit to
him in that city.


to Albano and Guercino, then at Bologna; and he
consulted several men famous for tiieir skill in polite

He arrived at Paris in 1656, where he lodged with
Mons. Potel, Greffier of the Council, in the street Beau-
treillis, where he painted a small room ; afterwards a
picture for the altar of the church of St. Margaret in the
suburb St. Antoine. Mons. Bordier, Intendant of the
Finances, who was then finishing his house of Rinci,
now Livry, having seen this picture, was so highly pleased
with it, that he took Du Fresnoy to that house, which is
but two leagues from Paris, to paint the Salon. In the
ceiling was represented the burning of Troy ; Venus is
standing by Paris, who makes her remark how the fire
consumes that great city ; in the front is the god of the
river, which runs by it, and other deities ; this is one of
his best performances, both for disposition and colouring.
He afterwards painted a considerable number of pictures
for the cabinets of the curious, particularly an altar-piece
for the church of Lagni, representing the Assumption of
the Virgin and the 1 welve Apostles, all as large as life.
At the Hotel d'Erval (now d'Armenonville) he painted
several pictures, and among them a ceiling of a room
with four beautiful landscapes, the figures of which were
by Mignard. As he understood architecture very well,
he drew for Mons. de Vilargele all the designs of a house
which tlmt gentleman built four leagues from Avignon ;
VOL. in. C


as likewise those for the Hotel de Lyonne, and for that
of the Grand Prior de Souvr^. The high altar of the
Filles-Dieu, in the street of St. Denis, was also designed
by him.

Though he had finished his poem before he had left
Italy, and communicated it, as has been already men-
tioned, to the best judges of that country, yet, after his
return to France he continued still to revise it, with a
view to treat more at length of some things, which did
not seem to him sufficiently explained. This employ-
ment took up no small part of his time, and was the
reason of his not having finished so many pictures as he
might otherwise have done. And though he was desirous
to see his work in print, he thought it improper to
publish it without a French translation, which he de-
ferred undertaking from time to time, out of diffidence
of his own skill in his native language, which he had in
some measure lost by his long residence in Italy. Mons.
de Piles was therefore at last induced, at his desire, and
by the merit of tiie poem, to translate it into French, his
version being revised by Du Fresnoy himself: and the
latter had begun a commentary upon it, when he was
seized with a palsy, and after languishing four or five
months under it, died at the house of one of his brothers
at Villiers-le-bel, four leagues from Paris, in 1665, at the
age of fifty-four, and was interred in the parish-church
there. He had quitted his lodgings at Mons. Potel's


upon Mignard's return to Paris in 1658, and the two
friends lived together from that time till the death of Du

His poem was not published till three years after his
death, when it was printed at Paris in duodecimo, with
the French version and remarks of Mons. de Piles, and
has been justly admired for its elegance and perspicuity.







1 RUE poetry the Painter's power displays :
True Painting emulates the Poet's lays j
The rival sisters, fond of equal fame.
Alternate change their office and their name ;
Bid silent Poetry the canvass warm, 5

The tuneful page with speaking picture charm.

What to the ear sublimer rapture brings.
That strain alone the genuine Poet sings ;
That form alone where glows peculiar grace.
The genuine Painter condescends to trace : 10

No sordid theme will verse or paint admit,
Unworthy colours, if unworthy wit.


Ut Pictura Poesis erit ; similisque Poesi
Sit Pictura ; refert par semula quseque sororem,
Alternantque vices et nomina ; muta Poesis
Dicitur haec, Pictura loquens solet ilia vocari.

Quod fuit auditu gratum cecinere Poetae ; 5

Quod pulchrum aspectu Pictores pingere curant :
Quseque Poetarum numeris indigna fuere,
Non eadem Pictorum operam studiumque merentur :


From you, blest Pair ! Religion deigns to claim
Her sacred honours ; at her awful name
High o'er the stars you take your soaring flight.
And rove the regions of supernal light ; 16

Attend to lays that flow, from tongues divine,
Undazzled gaze where c!;arnis seraphic shine;
Trace beauty's beam to its eternal spring.
And pure to man tlie fire celestial bring. 20

Then round this globe on joint pursuit ye stray.
Time's ample annals studiously survey ;
And from the eddies of Oblivion's stream
Propitious snatch each memorable theme.

Tlius to each form, in heaven, and earth, and sea, 2*5
That wins with grace, or awes witli digtiity,
To each exalted deed, which dares to claim
The glorious meed of an immortal fame,

Ambee quippe sacros ad religionis honores
Sydereos superant ignes, aulamque tonantis 10

Ingressffi, Divum aspectu, alloquioque fruuntur;
Oraque magna Deuni, et dicta observata reportant,
Ccelestemque sUorum operum raortalibus ignem.

Inde per hunc Orbem studiis coeuntibus errant,
Carpentes quae digna sui, revolutaquc lustrant 15

Tempora, quserendis consortlbus argumentis.

Denique quaecunque in coelo, terraque, marique
Longius in tempus durare, ut pulchra merentur,
Nobiiitate suS., claroque insignia casu.
Dives et ampla manet Pictores atque Poetas 20

Materies ; inde alta sonant per ssecula mundo


That meed ye grant. Hence, to remotest age.
The hero's soul darts from the Poet's page, 30

Hence, from the canvass still, with wonted state.
He lives, he breathes, he braves the frown of Fate,
Such powers, such praises, heaven-born Pair, belong
To magic colouring, and creative song.

But here I pause, nor ask Pieria's train, 35

Nor Phoebus self to elevate the strain :
Vain is the flow'ry verse, when reasoning sage
And sober precept fill the studied page ;
Enough if there the fluent numbers please,
With native clearness, and instructive ease. 40

Nor shall my rules the artist's hand confine.
Whom practice gives to strike the free design ;
Or banish Fancy from her fairy plains.
Or fetter Genius in didactic chains :

Nomina, magnanimis Heroibus inde superstes
Gloria, perpetuoque operum miracula restant :
Tantus incst divis honor artibus atque potestas.

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