« PreviousContinue »
useful, and in which others may follow him with augmented facility and advantage. . The production before us, we consider as valuable and highly respectable : not that it is perfeet, nor without its errors, but these are errors of genius, not of dulness: rather inaccuracies which future observation may amend, than direct incongruities which affect the principles of the work.
We must own that in this volume we expected a more regular, and more comprehensive treatise ; and especially, because we are not acquainted with any work of such a nature proper to be committed to the hands of students. Thirty years ago, we wished most heartily for a volume like the present; yet we are, now inclined to think it will be more useful to those who have completed, than to those who are pursuing their studies. This at least we are sure of, that not every scholar will come prehend it. But those who know their art thoroughly, will be much gratified by its appearance.
The Essays are six in pumber, the first cautious against faults, which, no doubt, Mr. B. had observed in young artists., The second illustrates the form of the skull. The third considers the muscles of the face in man and animals. The next proceeds to expression, illustrated by comparison of the inuscles in man and animals, noticing the muscles peculiar to man, and their effects in expression, the following describes the actions of the muscles ; and the last investigates the economy of the living body as it relates to espression and character.
Mr. Bell's first Essay relates to the study of the antique ; and to that of the Academy figure. He seems to have taken alarm without cause, when he fears that Artists may study the Antique till they lose sight of nature. Among many thonsand Artists with whose lives, character, and works we are acquainted, not half a dozen have been guilty of this fault. And even Poussin himself, who would probably be placed in the front of those delinquents, was as attentive to anatomical action, expression, and correctness, in his best pictures, as the most scrupulous could desire ; witness those capital compositions, the seven sacraments, exposed to public view some years ago in the Royal Academy; and especially the figures stripping themselves, in the sacrament of baptisni, the anatomical mus. culage of which is alive. Equally unfounded is Mr. B.'s apprehension that well instructed Artists will trust entirely to the attitudes and expressions of Academy figures : lazy or phlegmatic students may, and this habit they may retain when masters; but it is much more an object of fear, that sprightly geniuses should abandon what they think a drudgery, and
substitute their mere recollections for the truths and effects of niature.
With these remarks we dismiss our Author's first Essay: The second may be considered as properly beginning his im. mediate subject; and this requires attention.
We find a difficulty in describing without figures, principles which refer entirely to objects of sight; and must therefore entreat a little assistance from the imagination of our readers, Let them imagine, then, that the nostril, in a profile face, is a kind of centre, to which the contours formed by the other parts of the face may be referred: of course, right lines in all directions may pass through this centre. The profile of an antique head would present a perpendicular line touching the chin, this centre, and the forehead: the European countenance would, generally, project somewhat beyond this perpendicuļar at the chin, and recede somewhat behind it at the forehead: a muck and a negro would project still more at the chin, and recede still more at the forehead; and the profile of the Oran Otan, that nearest approach to humanity among brutes, would protrude its chin very considerably before the nostril, while its forehead would fall back proportionately from the perpendicular we have imagined. This principle is supposed to pervade much of the living creation to which we may add another, the distance of the mouth from the eyes, and the proximity of the nostrils to the mouth.
Professor Camper, we believe, was the first who reduced these observations to systematical calculation, and marked lines for them: Blumenbach (Dec. Collect. Craniorum) opposed the theory of Camper, and brought many unquestionable exceptions against it. Nevertheless, the general idea of Cainper is well founded ; and his theory is extremely useful, though nat absolutely universal.
Since, then, the projection of the mouth and nose, with the correspondent horizontality of the forehead, in other words, the snout, and flat head, are characters of brutes, it is understood that the reverse is the character of man, in his greatest beauty; that diminishing the distance between the eyes and the nose, increasing the interval between the nose and the mouth, bringing forward the forehead, and thus advancing the countevance toward the perpendicular line, is the principle to be adopted, in recovering the true distinction of the human physiognomy. Mr. Bell adds, in illustration,
• In the bruțe, as the food is gathered by the mouth, the strength is in the jaws. The brain, or sensorium, is smaller, the forehead is therefore fatter, and the comparative size of the upper part of the face is diminished. The face is diminished in depth, while the jaws are lengthened by the projection of the mouth. The space between the car and the eye is greatly enlarged, to afford room for a larger temporal muscle for the stronger motion of the lower jaw. In
of this, the socket of the eye is projected forward, and in order to give prominence to the eye, the nose is Aattened. The prominence of the eye gives a larger sphere of vision.'
The ancients are allowed to have excelled in the beauty they gave to the human countenance ; and it has long been a question among artists by what principle they were guided in producing this beauty. The probability is, that they perceived the analogy between certain parts of the human countenance and certain others of the brute, and sedulously diminished these brutal parts in their human heads : consequently, the parts remaining were of the superior kind, and indicated pure humanity, to say the least. This is an abstract of Mr. B.'s theory ; and so far we agree with him ; hut, he has not told us, as he might have done, that the parts thus dismissed, are those, which contribute to express principally the violent passions ; and that, in proportion as these are rejected, those which display the more agreeable, mild, and placid sensations, are augmented. The ancients, therefore, in composing ideal forms of their deities, endeavoured to render the combination of parts which they adopted, superior to that of any human person whatever ; for no human person is so wholly free from passions or dispositions more or less debasing, as to be a fit representative, a model, of that perfection which should mark a divinity.
By degrees, the genius and reflection of Artists refined on this principle; till repeated corrections established somewhat like a canon, in ancient-art. In fact, they carried this prin. ciple farther still, and not satisfied with ranging the forehead perpendicularly with the chin, they projected it in some instances not less than 50, before that perpendicular. This was however skilfully conducted ; at first, perhaps, it resulted from the local adaptation of the figure, and it is usually disguised by masterly arrangement of the hair, or other acces
With sketches of such heads, Mr. B. compares the naked skull, as it usually appears; and shews wherein they disagree. This is a useful part of his work; as the form of the skull determines the form of the muscles, and the form of the muscles determines the form of the skin, with those innumera. ble fillings up, which give to the exterior surface uniformity, smoothness, and beauty. We could have wished, however, that Mr, B. had presented a few more representations and
comparisons of skulls of different ages and characters ; had they been merely outlines, his readers would have understood them ; at present, what he has inserted can only satisfy a master.
Mr. B. proceeds to clothe the bones of the head with muscles; and makes some very pertinent and useful remarks, on those which appear on the surface of the countenance.
This Essay iš accompanied by a plate, which evidently has cost the engraver great labour. We confess that the expression given to the muscles does not please us; there is a kind of stringy. feebleness in it, which we conceive is not justified by nature. However, we must add our decided opinion, that this should have been accompanied by an outline plate of the same subject, like plate III. on which the references, &c. should have been marked." The muscles of the face are enumerated, and their uses described, with their origins and insertions.' Here our ingenious author is completely at home, and this part of his work is very appropriate. In recommending it to artists, we would not confine it to those only, who in general are supposed principally to study expression, we mean history painters and sculptors ; portrait painters also, and indeed especially, should be familiar with the subject, and in taking advantage of beauties, and diminishing deformities, should not be merely habituated by practice, but instructed by science.
We have next, a most beautiful plate of a dog's head, dissected so far as to shew the muscles. 'It does great credit both to the designer and engraver. This is explained with skill : though we think the points of comparison with the same, or corresponding muscles in the human subject, should have been more freely introduced." A horse's head follows, which demands equal praise, and also admits of a similar observation:
But here we must notice a very injurious omission in Mr. B.'s volume. He has shewn us the muscles stripped of fat, and skin, but has barely mentioned those important additions ; yet 'surely these are part of anatomy, and of the ana-' tomy of painting too,.. for in fact, a painter does not represent muscle, but the skin which covers it; the external sur tout. We might'add, that there is some danger of Artists who perfectly understand the myology of the human frame, falling into a species of pedantry on this subject; and they will be apt occasionally to render their figures rather too close a resemblance of St. Bartholomew; a defećt, most assuredly, in Michael Angelo Buonarotti, though compensated by exdellences which will ever place" him in the first rank of Artists.
Our disappointment on this article was the greater, because Mr. B. has paid much attention to the progress of the head from infancy to old age : and his remarks on the texture and appearances of the skin, in children, in maturity, and when furrowed with wrinkles, could not fail to be improving, and must furnish the intelligent student with profitable information. Camper has somewhat attended to this, but there is ample room for an Anatomist to communicate many v aluable hints.
The Essays which follow, relate to the expression of passion in painting ; in these Mr. B. points out the offices and powers of the muscles of the countenance, comparing the brute with the human. He finds in man, certain muscles marking india cations of pleasing sensations, which are not in brutes. And he justly observes, that the more benevolent and chearful affections, complacency, joy, laughter, arise from mind;. they are not bestowed on irrational animals, which consequently need no muscles to express them ; while, in' man, these mental sensations are represented by muscular emotions, and these muscles, when in full vigour, are among the most remarkable insertions which belong to the human countenance. We give this discovery in bis own words.
• But besides the muscles analogous to those of brutes, there is an. intertexture of muscles in the human countenance, which evinces a provision for expression quite independent of the original destination of those muscles that are common to him and animals. There are muscles not only peculiar to the human countenance, but which act where it is impossible to conceive any other object for their exertion than that of expressing feeling and sentiment. These muscles indicate emotions, and sympathies, of which the lower animals are not susceptible, and as they are peculiar to the human face, they may be considered as the index of mental energy in opposition to mere animal expression.
• The parts of the human face the most moveable, and the most ex. pressive, are the inner extremity of the eye-brow, and the angle of the mouth, and these are precisely the parts of the face which in brutes have least
expression ; for the brutes have no eye-brows, and no power of ele. vating or depressing the angle of the mouth. It is in these features there. fore, that we should expect to find the muscles of expression peculiar to
The most remarkable of the muscles peculiarly human, is the corrugator supercilii. It arises from the frontal bone, near the union with the nasal bones, and is insected into the skin of the eye-brow. It knits the eye brow with a peculiar and energetic meaning, which unaccountably, but irresistibly conveys the idea of mind and sentiment.
The anterior portion of the occipito-frontalis muscle is the antagonistof the orbicular muscle of the eyelid. It is wanting in the animals we