Lee, Rensselaer W. Ut Pictura Poesis, The Humanistic Theory of Painting. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1967
Ut Pictura Poesis
At the end of the sixteenth century Armenini had held a like opinion of the remains of the ancient painting. After declaring that his book with its compendium of directions for painters may save them the difficulty and discouragement of long research on their own account, and may even implant in the minds of men a sense of the value of old masterpieces and new that for want of an appreciation of their great worth are falling into decay [rich men in his degenerate age may, he opines, learn from his treatise to become better patrons of the arts], he remarks that painting has suffered for lack of a Vitruvius, and all the more because of its material fragility needs the prescribed word, "perciocchè col mezzo delle scritture, le quali si possono sporgere per tutto il mondo, non solo si rendon facili le arti, e men faticose, ma si conservano ancora più salde, e vive nelle memorie de' posteri, che non si fa quando elle rimangono solamente [p. 70] nelle opere e nelle lingue di color che le esercitano. E se cosa alcuna in questo proposito fu lasciata dagli antichi, venne ad annichilarsi ed a risolversi in fumo, fuorchè alcune poche pitture ritrovate in luoghi orridi e inabitabili, da noi dette grottesche, e secondo il vocabolo degli antichi, chimere, delle quali, siccome da piccoli splendori, si tiene che i moderni pigliassero il modo e la via vera del dipingere. Donde finqui è manifesto in quanta oscurità di prima si ritrovasse, e in quanti pericoli gli sia a' di nostri il sentier precedente" [De'veri precetti della pittura, I, I, p. 25]. Armenini was thus no more inclined to worship the ancient remains of painting than De Piles, and for less satisfactory reasons.
In the early eighteenth century the scholarly Abbé du Bos was somewhat more charitably disposed toward the ancient remains, finding them, so far as he could tell, equal to the work of the moderns in design, light and shade, expression, and "composition poétique," by which he means composition that is functional to dramatic expression; it is impossible, he says, to judge their color, but it is evident that the ancients have not succeeded in "composition pittoresque" so well as Raphael, Rubens, Veronese, and others. By "composition pittoresque" Du Bos means for the most part an harmonious pictorial effect--good composition for its own sake in the modern sense of the term. These distinctions are interesting as pointing to the dissolution of the humanistic point of view and the beginning of modern aesthetic ideas [c.f. note 79]. But Du Bos was a realist and was disinclined to make much of the comparison between ancient and modern painting, so fragmentary were the ancient remains. And he takes a fling at modern writers on ancient painting who, he says, make us more learned, but no more capable of judging the superiority of ancient to modern painting [the most famous of such writers would be Franciscus Junius, the author of De Pictura veterum, Amsterdam, 1637]. "Ces écrivains," he adds pointedly, "se sont contentés de ramasser les passages des auteurs anciens qui parlent de la peinture, et de les commenter en philologues, sans les expliquer par l"examen de ce que nos peintres font tous les jours, et mê mes sans appliquer ces passages aux morceaux de la peinture antique qui subsistent encore." See his Réflexions critiques, I, 38, pp. 370-409. [pp. 69-70]
[Lee, Rensselaer W. Ut Pictura Poesis, The Humanistic Theory of Painting. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1967.]