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Arrowsmith, Henry William / The house decorator and painter's guide; containing a series of designs for decorating apartments, suited to the various styles of architecture
(1840)

[Interior decoration, continued],   pp. 41-44


Page 41


41
   The Romans frequently introduced historical paintings in their decorations.
These were not confined in their design to any particular class of com-
position, but embraced    a great variety of subjects.    Both in   design
and
execution they possess a character which has surprised the artists of succeeding
ages; and many, content to become the imitators of the ancient Romans, have
acquired a distinguished reputation.   Among the numerous artists who have
done this, we may mention Raffaelle and Nicolo Poussin.
  The ancients had but little practical knowledge of perspective, either
a~rial
or lineal. Their landscapes therefore want the necessary and natural relation
of place between the several objects which compose them, and the eye seeks
in vain for a distance; they are indeed so much inferior to all their other
productions of art, as to be beneath the notice of the critic, and pleasing
only to the antiquary.    For this total neglect of the rules of perspective
we are at a loss to account, knowing, from the works of Vitruvius, that they
were well understood, and sometimes practised.
  Of the art of painting, beyond the mere decoration of their houses, the
Romans were, compared with the moderns, ignorant.       "Architecture,"
says a
modern encyclopedist, " suited their savage vastness of mind better
than
painting."  We are a loss to understand why a mind, the character of
which
is a "savage vastness," should be better pleased with architecture
than with
painting; nor can we trace the connexion between the former art and a
cruelty of disposition. It is true that the Romans excelled in architecture,
a
fact which may be readily traced to their active mental temperament, their
love of bold undertakings, and their inordinate national vanity. Painting
was
an employment too sedentary for this enterprising people, and one which they
chiefly used as a fresh means of luxurious enjoyment, and as giving them
an
opportunity of greater display in their dwellings. Their glory, however,
was
but of short duration.    " It was the fate    of Rome," says a
well-known
author, "to have scarce an intermediate age, or single period of time
between
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