Imagens da página

Fresco. Encaustic.-Elydoric.-Mosaic.-Glass.

high finishing of miniature, to the mellowness of oil painting, in such a manner, that the work appears like a large picture, when seen through a concave lens.

Mosaic, or Musaic, as it is sometimes called, is a kind of painting executed with small pieces of glass, or wood, pebbles, enamel, &c., fixed upon any substance with mastic. When an artist commences a work in Mosaic, he cuts on a stone plate a certain space, which he encircles with bands of iron. This space is covered with thick mastic, on which are laid, conformably to the particular design, the various substances intended to be used. Fifteen thousand different shades of colour are employed. The origin of Mosaic work must, apparently, be sought in the East, the rich carpets of which were imitated in hard stone. It is probable that the art was known to the Phoenicians, but to the Greeks its perfection and glory are to be attributed.

Glass.-In painting on this material, the paints are mixed with water or turpentine, and being laid on the glass are allowed to dry; the outline is then corrected with a sharp instrument. The glass is then placed in a heated furnace, and the colours are fused into it. The earliest notice of its existence is in the age of Pope Leo III., about the year 800. It did not, however, come into general use till the lapse of some centuries. The earliest specimens differ entirely from those of later date, being composed of small pieces stained with colour during the process of manufacture, and thus forming a species of patchwork or rude Mosaic, joined together with lead after being cut into the proper shapes. Venice, at an early period, was celebrated for her stained glass. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the era of the Gothic architecture, it was very generally applied to ecclesiastical structures. At the same period it had

Process of Egyptian painting.

reached considerable excellence in England: of this, the windows of York Minster, the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, and the collegiate chapels and halls of Oxford, executed by native artists, afford sufficient proof. During the fifteenth century it made great progress under Albert Durer, Lucas Van Leyden, and other eminent artists of that era. Among the celebrated works of this period, are the beautifully painted windows of the church of Gonda, by Dirk and Wonter Crabeth. It declined in the sixteenth century, owing to the taste for fresco and oil-colours. But it was much used as a decoration for town-halls, the castles of the nobility, and heraldic emblazonry, &c. It was almost lost in the seventeenth, revived in a degree in the eighteenth, while about the beginning of the present century it was restored, with much of its pristine lustre, in Germany and France. Within a few years it has been cultivated in Great Britain and the United States.

Ancient Painting.


We find the earliest traces of this art in Egypt. Egyptian painting seldom, if ever, attempts more than an outline of the object as seen in profile, such as would be obtained by its shadow. To this rude draught, colours are applied, simply, and without mixture, or blending, or the slightest indication of light and shade. The process seems to have been; first, the preparation

Oriental specimens.-Earliest Greek school.-Homeric times.

of the ground in white; next, the outline was firmly traced in black; and lastly, the flat colours were applied. The Egyptian artists employed six pigments, mixed with a gummy liquidnamely: white, black, red, blue, yellow, and green; the first always earthy, the remaining vegetable, or, at least, frequently transparent. The specimens from which we derive these facts, are the painted shrouds and cases of mummies, and the still more frequent examples on the walls of the tombs. It can furnish no evidence of extraordinary experience or practice, that these paintings still retain their colour, clear and fresh; the circumstance merely shows the aridity of the climate, and that the colouring matters were applied without admixture.

In Hindoostan, Persia, and other oriental countries, the brilliancy and variety of the colours are the only recommendation of their specimens of this art.


[ocr errors]

We find the oldest Greek school of painting on the coast of Asia Minor and the islands. Fortunate circumstances here gave an early impulse to the art, the rudiments of which we find, even in the Homeric times, in the coloured carpets and weavings. Homer speaks of painting as being part of the employment of the beauteous Helen, at the time of the siege of Troy, as well as the art of embroidery :

'Meantime, to beauteous Helen, from the skies,
The various goddess of the rainbow flies.

Her in the palace at her loom she found:

The golden web her own sad story crown'd,
The Trojan wars she weaved, (herself the prize,)
And the dire triumphs of her fatal eyes.”

Materials. Form.-Colour.-Perspective.

If Helen could draw the representation of a battle, it is probable she knew how to fill up the outline with colours, and the existence of the rich tints of Tyre and Sidon proves, that they not only had a splendid variety of colours, but were also acquainted with their preparations.

[ocr errors]

Single pieces of painting were usually executed by the ancients upon wood, and therefore called tabular. The wood of the larch-tree was preferred, on account of its durability, and its not being liable to warp. They painted more rarely upon linen, as in the colossal picture of Nero, mentioned by Pliny. The most common kind of painting was that upon plaster, which is now called Fresco painting. Drawing or painting on ivory or marble, was less common. Fresco painting was executed upon a moist, as well as a dry ground. In this last mode of painting, the colours were laid on with a peculiar sort of glue or size, since, in many pieces of this kind, they are so well fixed that a wet sponge may be passed over them without injury.

The necessities of that idolatrous religion by which the Greeks were controlled, might, indeed, have alone required the exertion of all the talents the country could produce. In no other way is that immense advance to be explained which sculpture achieved before the art of painting, which was greatly influenced by this circumstance. Form predominated over the accuracy of colouring, and the expression which it conveys. The contour, and the local colours, seem to have been perfected in a great degree; the perspective, much less. Some, indeed, have doubted whether the ancients had any knowledge of perspective; but, as it is not to be dispensed with in any representation on a plane surface, and as the ancients were well acquainted with geometry and optics, we must suppose them to have possessed, in some limited degree, the use of perspective. It is more certain that they were

Chiaroscuro.-Four periods of Grecian painting.

ignorant of chiaroscuro, at least, until the time of Apollodorus. Landscape painting remained comparatively uncultivated. This branch depends, more than the others, on the rules of perspective, the perfection of colouring, and the charm of chiaroscuro. Pliny allows the ancients the use of but four colours, and yet, at other times, makes allusions which imply that their means were far more extensive. Their colours were, at least, both vivid and enduring. They employed a sort of varnish, called atramentum, to secure their paintings from the influence of the atmosphere. Their paintings were either moveable, or on the ceilings or compartments of buildings. Among the antiquities of Herculaneum, are four paintings on white marble.

The history of painting, among the Greeks, may be divided into four periods. The first terminated with Bularchus, the second period extends to Apollodorus, about 400 в. c. The third epoch ends with Apelles, who reached the acme of the art. The fourth period is dated from his time, and witnessed the decline of the art.


[ocr errors]

In Pliny, we find an allusion to an artist, of the name of Saurius, who practised the earliest stage of the art. Cleanthes of Corinth, is, however, said to have been the inventor of drawing in outline. Ardices of the same city, and Telephon of Sicyon, the first who presented something more than the outline, and indicated light and shade. Charmades, the first who made a distinction in painting between light and shade. Subsequently came Eumanus, the Athenian, and Cymon of Cleonea, who advanced the art by giving a variety of attitude, attending to the folds of drapery, and marking the veins, joints, &c.

« AnteriorContinuar »