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Origin of Architectural Variations.
• We may derive from this last consideration the necessity of the
second adjustment, viz., the inclination of the axes of the columns. For since some portion, at least, of the effect of the diminution is neutralised and rendered, so to speak, latent, in overcoming the disposition to imagine an excess of breadth in the upper part of the shaft, the upper diameter of the column appears larger than it really is; whilst nothing prevents the upper intercolumniations, which are greater than those below, from producing their full effect. If then the axes of the columns are perpendicular, the distance from centre to centre between the columns will seem to be greater on the architrave than on the stybolate, especially towards the angles of the portico; and the columns will have the appearance of a fan-like divergence from the base line, unless this upper distance be diminished.
The simplest manner of effecting this is by contracting the distance between the capitals of the extreme columniations, which contraction induces the inclination inwards of the angle columns, and of the entire colonnades of the flanks. Again, the application of the same principle to the columns of the flanks, necessarily leads to the inclination of those of the fronts.
'The remaining inclinations in the same direction, viz., those of the faces of the entablature, stylobate, and the walls, are necessary in order that those parts may correspond with the axes of the columns, and have, at the same time, the effect of giving generally, to the whole construction, the pyramidal appearance so essential to the idea of the repose of strength, whilst they do not differ sufficiently from the perpendicular to impair the expression of energy. The parts are made to harmonise with one another with so much art, that, on my first visit to Athens, although immediately sensible of an unwonted perfection in the Theseum and Parthenon, it was only after a considerable time, and careful study, I could assure myself that the unaided eye could judge which way the columns leaned. Had a single column alone been standing, there would have been less difficulty.
The forward inclination of the antæ, which is observed in the Parthenon and Propylæa, but not in the Theseum, may have thus originated. When a tapering column, whose axis is perpendicular, is seen in combination with a pilaster or anta, of which the sides are also perpendicular, we shall find, if we examine with attention, that the column will appear as though it were thrust outwards at the top; and if the pilaster be diminished in the usual way, so that its face leans away from the axis of the column, this effect will be enhanced. The reason of this appearance is the contrast presented by the different directions of the face of the pilaster and the side of the column contiguous to it. And this contrast, in the Greek porticoes, would more or less neutralise the advantages obtained by the inclination of the columns.
In the main porticoes of the Propylæa, the inclination forwards of the antæ is delicate, and appears exactly calculated to prevent their producing any effect upon the external columns immediately in front of them. In the antæ of the Parthenon, the angle of inclination outwards is nearly twice as great as in the Propylæa; and the axes of the
columns of the inner porticoes with which they are in juxta-position, although really perpendicular, are, by the influence of the antæ, made to appear slightly inclined in the same direction as those of the external columns. The outward inclination of the antæ, considered in itself, does not produce any ill effect, for, by leaning forwards, to shorten the bearing of the architrave, it combines with the opposite inclination of the external columns in helping to express a pyramidal
As many of our readers as have borne in mind the principles broached in our recent exposition of the Sources of Expression ' in Architecture,' will readily perceive the additional illustrations of those principles provided by the foregoing facts. Among other results of these facts, over and above their use as optical correctives, we would insist especially on these: 1st. The feeling of unity and self-completion arising from the absence of parallel straight lines whose nature is such that they may be continued infinitely, either way, without meeting. 2nd. The effect of the outward inclination of the minor vertical faces; namely, of the abaci, coronæ, and acroteria, as foils to the pyramidal tendency of the major vertical faces of the wall, entablature and tympanum; that tendency being the first condition of good architectural expression in all styles, since it is, in itself, the most forcible expression of security and permanence, without which, in appearance, as well as in reality, no building can be rightly called architectural.
The most valuable portion of the work of Mr. Penrose is that of which it is impossible to present the reader with any abstract or summary. We refer to the detailed records of his laborious admeasurements, whereby he demonstrates an amount of care and a degree of perception upon the part of the Greek architects, which would be quite incredible in the absence of any less conclusive evidence than that which has been thus supplied. It is not often that the unwearying diligence, which Mr. Penrose has exhibited, in the pursuit of dry facts' is found in union with the highest faculty for the apprehension of artistic beauty, which has been also shown by him. The former power is that which he has the most abundantly exercised; but such remarks as the following are not unfrequent in his work; and they cause us to regret that he has not made more use of his ability to apprehend and analyse the subtlest æsthetical effects. Concerning the cymatium, or crowning moulding of the Parthenon, he writes:
'This, I believe, is the only instance in the Athenian structures of the best period, of a convex moulding of which the section is circular; and it is not unlikely that no other curve could have been so fitly chosen for this particular situation: as, although the circle
Limited Scope of Greek Architecture.
may appear comparatively monotonous in composition, owing perhaps to a tendency to return into itself, instead of suggesting a sequence or flow of line, it may yet, for the same cause, be the most fitting to be used singly and we cannot doubt that it was most happily chosen for the finishing member of the very highly artistic and well studied building which it crowns.'
Again, in summing up the results of his labours, he presents us with the following most significant observations:
'In reviewing the entire subject treated of in these pages, when we reflect upon the studied harmony of the proportions, the delicacy of feeling evinced in the optical corrections, and the exquisite taste shown in the selection of the mouldings, and in the coloured ornaments, so far as they are preserved to us; and, above all, the unrivalled sculpture to which the architecture of the Temple served as a glorious frame-work, it must, I think, be conceded that the architecture of the Greeks is, humanly speaking, perfect. That is to say, if we keep clearly before our eyes the end they had in view, and without confounding their works with the failures which we, owing to our short-comings, and in copying their temple architecture for purposes for which it was never intended, have so generally met with, we are bound to confess that any considerable variation from their architecture and sculpture which we can propose would tend to mar their beauty.
'The limited aim which the Greek architects proposed to themselves was not owing to any want of invention, but to that consummate delicacy and judgment which required that whatever was attempted should be thoroughly achieved. In this respect we find a perfect analogy in the other arts of Greece.
Plutarch tells us that the scope of Greek music was limited, in the earlier times, not from any want of invention, but from design; and he expressly observes that the simple delicacies of treatment which in the better ages of art had amply supplied the place of variety of range, were not only lost, but absolutely unintelligible to the novelty-seeking moderns of his own time, of whom he complains that they were accustomed to call it a mere pedantry to attribute any meaning or value to the ancient manner.
'We can imagine almost the same words to have been used, a century earlier, by Vitruvius, to express his regret that the exact and subtle principles of construction to which he occasionally alludes, as having been in use among the ancient architects, were abandoned and forgotten in his day.'
In the presence of the mass of new matter which Mr. Penrose has placed before us, we feel that a perfect æsthetic analysis of the art of Greek Architecture is now, for the first time, possible. It is surely not a little to the credit of our countrymen that the task of disinterring the details of this long-forgotten art, was effectively commenced, mainly continued, and may now be con
sidered as having been effectively completed, by them. Is it too much to hope of Englishmen that they will re-edify, at least in idea, the building of which they have thus laid the foundation, and gathered the materials? or will they leave it to others to supply that complete æsthetic estimate of Greek Architecture, which, after all, must be regarded as the proper object of such labours as those of Stuart and Mr. Penrose? In a late Article we pointed out the direction which we conceive must be taken in order to arrive at such an estimate, and this seems a fitting occasion for a few general remarks calculated to remove that repugnance and suspicion which most English readers exhibit with regard to the worthiest kind of æsthetic criticism; and which at present prevents those among us who possess the faculty of artistic analysis from exercising it to any important extent and purpose.
The subtlety and elaborateness of such criticism are the objections most frequently brought or felt, against its validity, very foolishly as it seems to us: for if the criticism of a work be the development of the principles and laws according to which, whether consciously or unconsciously, it has been produced, it is manifest that the refinement and depth of the criticism must be in proportion to the refinement and depth of the work, and that therefore the full analysis of any work of art, deserving to be called so, must be more complicated and subtle than the description of a block machine, or a steam printing press; and yet the principles of these are not to be mastered without a certain degree of difficulty, apart from the difficulty of mere technical language.
A work of art, if it be truly such, is the briefest possible expression of some fundamental idea; and a criticism, like a commentary, to be complete, must be fuller than the text. It is not wonderful then, that the examination of a work of which the significance, as we behold it day by day, seems only to be more and more inexhaustible, should be of a somewhat elaborate and complicated nature.
Criticism of the class in point is commonly charged with proaching to the 'transcendental.' Now this charge drops of itself to the ground unless it be also considered a fault that the works criticised should be transcendental; and all works of art are so, whether we choose to call this a fault in them or not. The 'transcendental' may be described as being that which is incapable of definition in words, although it is capable of being apprehended by the mind. A true work of art, containing as it always does, a suggestion of ideas and feelings which cannot 'be uttered,' must be described in terms which are, themselves,
False Ideas concerning Art.
often no more than suggestive; though they may, and ought to be, more clearly suggestive than the original work; because the artist, having a message to all times, and working with a due sense of the brevity of life, in himself and others, speaks as tersely as he can, and assumes a high degree of his own intelligence in those to whom he appeals. In this assumption he has been almost always, as yet, mistaken; so that it seems as if all the best art had been executed and laid up for a time to come. Hence the necessity for explanatory criticism, which flies round and round the thought, at which the artist darts directly; and to which he attains more nearly, although ordinarily he fails to express his attainment to the common run of minds.
It is a characteristic of the spiritual ideas which are the subjects of works of art, that they will brook no neutrality in their presence. Hence, in writing the criticism of a work of art, every detail left unexplained lifts up its voice against the validity of the critic's labour; and rightly; because every detail contains, or should contain, a correction of some under- or overstatement of the idea as expressed by the remaining details; and each detail, taken apart, is full of discord and deformity, and casts ridicule on our assertions of the unity and excellence of the work, until we have shifted it into its right position, wherein it stands explained, and becomes explanatory, like a piece in a child's puzzle picture. The extreme rareness of complete criticism is, thus, a principal cause of the popular repugnance to artistical analysis.
Other objectors, who will not be at the trouble to think deeply enough to condemn the subtler kinds of criticism as false, satisfy themselves with calling it useless or injurious, and with talking shallow plausibilities about inspiration,'' unconsciousness,' &c. in the artist, and the excellence of uninstructed 'faith' on the part of the spectator, or auditor. But of all the absurd hypocrisies into which we moderns fall, through our desire to be right, and our slothfulness in refusing to consider and pursue the right way of being so, none is more fatal and more ridiculous than our efforts to be simple, unconscious, and uninquiring, in an inevitably subtle, conscious, and critical time. We have left the
simplicity of childhood far behind us; and we are equally far from having attained to the simplicity of true manhood: but the way to attain to it, in art, as in all else, is not to make our follies and sophistications more hideous by the assumption of baby airs: the way lies distinct, though difficult before us; much hard discipline is to be undergone, before we can, in intellectual matters, attain to the pure conscience and faith