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It is impoffible, in attending to the numerous branches of this performance, not to applaud the diligence of the Author; whose exemption from prejudices in a country which has been torn with the wildeft factions and the groffeft bigotry, are demonftrations of candour and fincerity. In his compofition, though not free from a variety of little defects, he is generally clear and perfpicuous; and when his fubjects permit, his narration is not inelegant; but fometimes too florid.
ART. IX. A Collection of Prints, in Imitation of Drawings. To which are annexed Lives of their Authors, with explanatory and critical Notes. By Charles Rogers, Efq; F. R. S. and S. A. S. 2 Vols. Folio. Imperial Paper. 12 l. 128. White, &c. 1778.
O collect the precious remains of ingenious artists, is a mark of elegant tafte; to preserve those remains, at great expence, and to endeavour to beftow on them immortality, is a proof of generous ardour for the improvement of fociety: for the cultivation of refined arts, whatever the eloquent but fanciful Rouffeau and his followers may pretend, contributes not only to the embellishment and fplendor of polished life, but to its real happiness and perfection:
"Ingenuas didiciffe fideliter artes
When we confider the imitative arts in their relation to the general improvement of civil fociety, the invention of engraving is entitled to a principal fhare of our regard. This art, though but the copy of a copy, diffufes and perpetuates the fublime conceptions of the painter, and renders that which would otherwife be confined to a particular place, and to a few centuries, the general entertainment of the prefent age, and the moft diftant pofterity. The fame advantage which printing has beftowed on fcience and literature, engraving has conferred on the arts of defign; and had thefe valuable inventions been known to the celebrated nations of antiquity, the tafte of beauty, as well as the knowledge of truth, would in all probability have advanced with a more rapid progrefs, and have already approached nearer to that degree of perfection, which is confiftent with the limited powers of human nature. But the invention of engraving, as well as of typography, was referved for the middle of the 15th century; and the improvement which, fince that period, the modern nations of Europe have attained in arts, sciences, laws and manners, is unrivalled in the hiftory of mankind.
The fplendid work of which we here announce the publication, is executed in various kinds of engraving; if we apply that term generally to denote the art of copying drawings as
well as paintings, on wood or metal, to be afterwards impreffed on paper; but we do not find that this branch of the art has received a particular name in any modern language; and the ancients, as we have already hinted, were entirely unacquainted with printing, in every fenfe of the word.
The work before us contains one hundred and twelve prints, in imitation of the drawings of the greatest painters; and they are executed by the most celebrated artists of this kingdom. We shall give the names of the mafters, whose works are here faithfully copied, and a lift of the pieces which feem most worthy of attention.
1. Lionardo da Vinci. The last Supper.
2. Michel Angelo Buonarotti. The Madonna and Jefus.
3. Raffaelle. ft, The gathering of Manna. 2d, Terræ motus. 4. Giulio Romano. Nature and Time.
5. Caravaggio. Birth of Jupiter.
7. Battista Franco. Discovery of Achilles.
8. Perino del Vago. Battle of the Centaurs and Lapitha. 9. Zuccaro. Queen Elizabeth.
10. Domen. Paffignano. Sleep in the arms of Night.
13. Andrea Sacchi. St. Antony preaching to the fishes.
16. Bourgognone. Two battle pieces.
17. Filippo Lauri.
21. Titiano. Repofe.
22. Tintoretto. Study for a Crucifixion.
23. Paolo Veronefe. First thought for a large compofition.
24. Jacopo Palma. The woman wiping Jefus' feet with her hair.
1. Correggio. Study for the principal part of his cupola. 2. Parmigiano. David and Goliah.
3. Camillo Procaccini. David with Goliah's head marthing before Saul.
4. Lodovico Carracci. The Car of Harmony.
5. Agostino Carracci. Cupid with the fword of Mars;
6. Annibal Carracci. The Bacchanalia.
7. Michel Angelo da Caravaggio. A ftudy.
8. Guido Reni. Repofe.
9. Albani. Jofeph and fefus
11. Guercino. Pfyché attiring from the bath. 12. Schidoni. A heroine.
13. Mola. Cain and Abel.
14. Pefarefe. Boys playing with a lamb.
18. Salvator Rofa. Silenus and Satyrs.
25. Rubens. Helena Forman.
28. Wouwerman. Hawking.
The portrait alfo of each painter, in a rondeau cut in wood, is prefixed to his life.
In order to render thefe prints faithful imitations, they are engraved by the fame lines, of the fame fize, and, as nearly as poffible, of the fame colours, with the original drawings. This, doubtless, will give them a very high value with fuch as are fond of collecting the defigns of great mafters; and must also render them extremely precious to ftudents in the arts, who will here perceive, more diftinctly than in the most finished paintings, the beautiful lines by which a Raphael and a Guido expreffed thofe divine conceptions which have been so juftly and fo univerfally admired. Valuable pictures are commonly placed in churches or palaces, which are open, in all parts of Europe, to the infpection of the publie. Drawings are concealed in cabinets, to which only a few virtuofi have access. The publication of exact copies from the latter will be received therefore with gratitude by those who could not otherwise expect to obtain an exact knowledge of the originals.
When we confider Mr. Rogers as an author, we must abate fomewhat of that commendation which is due to him as an editor. In his Introduction, his Lives of the Painters, and his Appendix, his ftyle is fometimes careless and inaccurate, and he has employed several peculiarities of expreffion, and even of spelling, which denote a degree of affectation unworthy the magnificence of his undertaking. But if we can make allowance
for flight defects of language, we fhall have reafon to be fatisfied with the information which it conveys. The Introduction and Appendix, combined with the Lives of the Painters, afford a general history of the arts which are the subjects of this noble publication.
These arts, Mr. Rogers informs us, were early cultivated by the eaftern nations. The Jews, indeed, were forbidden to make images, as objects of worship; but on other occafions they were not only permitted, but even enjoined the practice of ftatuary. Thus, two cherubims of beaten gold were directed to be made in order to be placed at the two ends of the mercyfeat, which they over-fhadowed by their wings, their faces looking towards each other. It is probable, however, that the Jews made but a fmall proficiency in the ornamental arts, compared with that of the Egyptians and Tyrians. Bazaleel of the tribe of Judah, and Ahaliab of the tribe of Dan, were appointed in the time of Mofes to execute the works for the service of the fanctuary (Exod. xxxi, &c.). But Solomon was not willing to trust the decoration of his temple to the taste of Jewish artifts: he fent to Tyre for Hiram, "who was cunning 66 to work all works in brafs."
The Tyrians, it is probable, acquired much of their knowledge in the arts from their neighbours the Egyptians. The fable of Prometheus fhows that the Greeks had very early an idea of sculpture; but fo confused is the ancient chronology of Greece, that it is impoffible to afcertain the period at which they began the practice of this or of any of the fifter arts. In Greece, however, they all fhone with peculiar luftre; and from the Greeks, were tranfmitted to their conquerors the Romans, who carried them in their declining ftate to Conftantinople, which, from the year 330, had become the feat of the Eaftern empire. Here they had to ftruggle with many inconveniences, particularly the madnefs of the Iconoclafts, who deftroyed every picture, and broke every piece of ftatuary, that came within their reach. At length Conftantinople was taken by Mahommed II. furnamed the Great, in 1453; and the barbarous fuperftition of the Turks expelled the poor remainder of artists, who were glad to efcape in fafety into the western provinces, to which they offered the fruits of their ingenious labour, in return for the protection which they folicited. The Italians, in particular, were well prepared to receive these new guests. For as early as the year 977 the best architects were invited from Conftantinople to direct the rebuilding of the church of St. Mark of Venice. Ninety-fix years were employed in erecting that edifice, which was ornamented by Greek artists with feve ral pictures in mosaic. (Ridolfi, P. 1st. p. 12.)
In the beginning of the eleventh century, the celebrated dome of Pifa was built, under the direction of Buschetto a Greek architect; and his ftyle of building was foon imitated in Florence and other towns of Italy. The ancient ftatues and paintings were ftill buried with the other ruins of Roman grandeur; and the Greeks of Conftantinople continued to be the only mafters of the modern Italians, till Florence, in the thirteenth century, produced Giovanni Cimabue, who made great improvements in the art of painting, and is faid, by Vafari and other writers, to have far furpaffed his Grecian models. G. Cimabue is commonly reckoned the father of modern painting. This, however, can only be understood of his great improvements in the art; for painting was never entirely abandoned in the great cities of Italy during the thickeft darkness of the middle ages. Even in Britain, the art of design was practifed with fome degree of fuccefs, amidst the barbarifm of the eighth century; as a pears by a drawing prefixed to a treatise of Virginity in the Saxon language, preferved in the Lambeth library*.
In the middle ages, the monks frequently employed their leifure in ornamenting the ancient manufcripts which they thought particularly valuable. Some of these are adorned with fo much care, that the labour bestowed on them must have confumed many years.
The ftyle of the Florentine painters, who fucceeded Cimabue, was, in general, hard, dry, and tastelefs. At length Lionardo da Vinci appeared, poffeffed of a genius fo acute, penetrating, and univerfal, that if the merit afcribed to him were lefs clearly authenticated, we fhould be difpofed to rank him with thofe fabulous heroes, whofe accomplishments and exploits have been invented by poets and orators to flatter the vanity of their countrymen. Lionardo was born in the year 1443, and died in 1518. Nature formed his perfon, which united the perfection of trength and beauty, to excel in all the fashionable exercises of the age. His talents were equally fuited to active and to contemplative life. While he practifed with fingular fuccefs all the liberal arts, he ftudied and improved every fcience that is yfeful to man. Painting was his favourite purfuit; and ma naged by his fkilful hand, that art fpeedily, affumed a new appearance. He was the firft who animated his figures, gave Strength of fhade in his oil pictures, and enriched them with expreffion.
Mr. Rogers cites authorities to prove that the manufcript was written in the eighth century; and feems not to think it neceffary to offer any other evidence of the antiquity of the drawing prefixed to it. But it is not abfolutely certain that the drawing is coeval with the writing.