JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 890
"The central nervous system is nature's Sistine Chapel, but we have to bear in mind that the world our senses present to us... is a ramshackle construct which our brains have devised to let us get on with the job of maintaining ourselves and reproducing our species. What we see is a highly conventionalized picture, a simple tourist guide to a very strange city..."J.G. Ballard "The Kindness of Women" 1992 Source: Disinformation and the Analysis of Beauty.
As a result of a discussion prompted by Claudia Drake, I was thinking about major change in art, looking around for periods of that sort of change came to that period just before the onset of Romanticism. The critic Roger de Piles (October 7, 1635 - April 5, 1709) wrote about this, about the 18th century version of refusees that we’d meet again in a major way in the 1850-1920 period, as they tried to shake their way free of the long-entrenched boundaries of Classicism. Along the way of his elegant argument, de Piles stops to consider the merits of the capacities of artists and painters (his delineation), establishing for himself rules of artistic interpretation o0f beauty and artfulness. Correctness. De Piles judged the imitation of objects, of “la belle nature”, the “exquisite mixture of nature’s forms and colors”1, and did so along four elements of his logic of taste: composition, drawing, color and expression.
De Piles employed this methodology in his book Dialogue
sur le coloris ( Dialogue upon Colour, 1673) comparing 49 artists, the complete list transcribed
here from Manlio Brusatin Histoire des couleurs (Paris: Flammarion,
1986, pp.103-104), and which is reproduced in Elisabeth G. Holt Literary
Sources of Art History, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947),
pp.415-416)”, and this then taken in toto
from the wikipedia article here. Taking the next but curiously-untaken step, I simply added
the totals for each giving an overall “Piles Score”, finding an average of
41.87. (Curiously enough when I was adding this column in my head, column by
column, I ended for no reason at Leyden to begin the second column; the sums
for the two columns both ending at
Painter// Composition Drawing Color Expression = Piles Score
Average Piles Score= 41.87 (I don’t really understand his comparisons, and the “zeros” don’t register at all. I do see that Giovanni Bellini rats out at a 24, Durer at 36, Holbein at 38 and Girgione at 39, while Leonardo rates higher than average at 49.)
Andrea del Sarto 12 16 9 8 = 45
Federico Barocci 14 15 6 10 = 45
Jacopo Bassano 6 8 17 0 = 31
Giovanni Bellini 4 6 14 O = 24
Sebastian Bourdon 10 8 8 4 = 30
Charles Le Brun 16 16 8 16 = 56
Carracci 15 17 13 13 = 58
Cavalier D'Arpino 10 10 6 2 = 28
Correggio 13 13 15 12 = 53
Daniele da Volterra 12 15 5 8 = 40
Abraham van Diepenbeeck 11 10 14 6 = 41
Domenichino 15 17 9 17 = 58
Albrecht Dürer 8 10 10 8 = 36
Giorgione 8 9 18 4 = 39
Giovanni da Udine 10 8 16 3 = 37
Giulio Romano 15 16 4 14 = 49
Guercino 18 10 10 4 = 42
Guido Reni x 13 9 12 = 34
Holbein 9 10 16 3 =38
10 8 16 6 = 40
Lucas Jordaens 13 12 9 6 =40
Giovanni Lanfranco 14 13 10 5 =42
Leonardo da Vinci 15 16 4 14 =49
Lucas van Leyden 8 6 6 4 = 24
Michelangelo 8 17 4 8 = 37
Caravaggio 6 6 16 O = 28
Murillo 6 8 15 4 = 33
Otho Venius 13 14 10 10 = 47
Palma il Vecchio 5 6 16 0 = 27
Palma il Giovane 12 9 14 6 = 41
Il Parmigianino 10 15 6 6 = 37
Gianfrancesco Penni 0 15 8 0 = 23
Perin del Vaga 15 16 7 6 = 44
Sebastiano del Piombo 8 13 16 7 = 44
Primaticcio 15 14 7 10 = 46
Raphael 17 18 12 18 = 65
Rembrandt 15 6 17 12 = 50
Rubens 18 13 17 17 = 65
Francesco Salviati 13 15 8 8 = 44
Eustache Le Sueur 15 15 4 15 = 49
Teniers 15 12 13 6 = 46
Pietro Testa 11 15 0 6 = 32
Tintoretto 15 14 16 4 = 49
Titian 12 15 18 6 = 51
Van Dyck 15 10 17 13 = 55
Vanius 15 15 12 13 = 55
Veronese 15 10 16 3 = 44
Taddeo Zuccari 13 14 10 9 = 46
Federico Zuccari 10 10 8 8 = 36
The upper-deck-problematic Emily Vanderpoel looked deeply and arithmetically into art—she also produced a numerical grid of the artwork that she analyzed, going a step further to re-order the reality of the painting into a representative 10x10 square, distributing the color sense according to a secret algebra that I cannot identify. She published the results of her work in 1901 and 1903, producing (in two editions) a gorgeous but mysterious book called Color Problems for the Layman, in which she sought not so much to analyze the components of color2 itself, but rather to quantify the overall interpretative effect of color on the imagination. I know this sounds begging and vague, but I really haven’t been able to make much headway in her theory.
By virtue of this effort, though, Vanderpoel had produced a strikingly
illustrated book, with 118 color plates, all very intense, and beautiful, and
in its way exceptional—unique perhaps. Had the book been written thirty
years or so hence we’d call it some sort of constructivist/constructionist
artform. But since the artwork in the book comes a decade before the
first non-representational artwork in human history (or so), I don’t know
exactly what to call it.
I really don’t know what it is, but I know that it is not entirely accidental, this pre-non-representational artform, because controlled geometrical color art is not accidental.
The net effect is glorious. I just don’t know how she got there—which isn’t normally a consideration in art, except that this work is an instructional on how to understand color in art and nature, and the explanation of the procedure is ethereal. Vanderpoel was and remains a respected author on porcelains and other applied and plastic arts. In this work she looked at her fair share of porcelain, limogues, clay pots, burial urns, glass shards, and the like; she also analyzed clouds, mummy cloths (and casings), dew on morning grass, brocade, the eye of a blue jay, feathers, and another hundred or so poetic arrangements of the stuff of the world. I still do not know what this book is trying to tell me, but I do know that it is remarkable.
On a much simpler note, the British artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) perhaps pathologically induced the use and display of a curve, a single line (a “Line of Beauty and Grace" or “Serpentine Line"), that represented to him the most sublime (and correct) representation of artistic sense.3 It appears on the title page of his Analysis of Beauty (1753), situated within a triangle, and is embedded in a much more wide-ranging treatise on beauty in general (some of which makes sense, some not). His argument for the line, though is very simple, and he chooses to explain his vision in images more than in words, and so reduces his own interpretation and reduction of artistic form and correctness to a single stroke. And so if he were to look at Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man or Durer’s proportional man, he would have seen not the proportions as the elements of beauty, but the simple line of the exterior form.
1.Charles Abbe Batteux, Les
beaux Arts reduits a un meme
2. Color theory is old and pretty—as a matter of fact there is a very attractive gathering of color theory models (in black and white, though) displaying some two dozen or more color models from the last 400 years. People like Della Porta (1593), our old friend and resident oddball polymath crank Kircher (1646), the smarter-than-you-could-believe Newton (1660), Waller (1686), Lambert (1772), the wide ranging and again polymathic Goethe (1792), Herschel (1817, who also ushered in our understanding of the other light-sensitive shape spacing medium of photography in 1840), the semi-forgotten Chevreul (1835), the beautiful Maxwell (1857), Wundt (1874, the early experimental psychologist who also looked for spirits/spiritmus and ghosts), von Bezold (1878), Rood (1879), Munsell (1918) Kandinsky (1914 and not decipherable by me) and Klee (1924), and so on towards the present, all tried to analyze the prospects of color.
In trying to quantify the color images of the objects in her study, Vanderpoel establishes a 10x10 square grid, dividing all of the color in that object into individual units numbering to 100. Then, somehow, she identifies the major colors and places them according to a system that I cannot understand within the grid.
3. "The eye hath this sort of enjoyment in winding walks, and serpentine rivers, and all sorts of objects, whose forms, as we shall see hereafter, are composed principally of what I call the waving or serpentine lines... intricacy in form, therefore, I shall define to be that peculiarity in the lines, which compose it, that leads the eye a wanton kind of chance, and from the pleasure that gives the mind, intitles it to the name of beautiful".—Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty
Elsewhere Hogarth writes that while the human body is beautiful not so much for its proportions, but “the more pleasing turns, and intertwinings of the lines, which compose its external form”.