Literature, Arts and Media 2017-18






... DI CHI


As George Poulet writes: "Le roman de Tristram Shandy est emblématiquement représenté par le moulinet compliqué qu’y décrit la canne d’un des personnages, moulinet que Sterne a graphiquement reproduit dans l’un des chapitres du roman… Le moulinet est une représentation de la pensée libreLa ligne de la beauté est donc aussi la ligne de la liberté; en tout cas, de cette liberté qui consiste à suivre son caprice, à adopter les itinéraires changeants que la fantaisie propose à l’esprit. Mais cette liberté de spontanéité est elle-même démentie secrètement par un principe de nécessité qui la domine… La sinuosité de ma pensée dépend des conditions extérieures où je me trouve, des expériences sensibles… qui la contrait insidieusement, par la continuiguité des points communs, à passer d’une idée à l’autre, comme on passe d’une courbe concave à une courbe convexe au point de tangence".


vol 9 ch.4



The line of beauty




Shaftesbury, Characteristics, 1711
La bellezza si identifica con l’armonia e la simmetria universali. Il piacere che deriva dalla percezione dell’opera d’arte è dovuto alla consonanza tra l’armonia della mente umana, l’armonia interna dell’opera d’arte e l’armonia del cosmo.

Francis Hutcheson , An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue 1725

The figures which excite in us the ideas of beauty seem to be those in which there is uniformity amidst variety. There are many conceptions of objects which are agreeable upon other accounts, such as grandeur, novely, sanctity… But what we call beautiful in objects, to speak in the mathematical style, seems to be in compound ratio of uniformity and variety ...”



William Hogarth (1697 – 1764)


L’estetica di Hogarth si fonda sulle seguenti idee:

Occorre rendere la bellezza o il principio che la sottende intelligibile.

Solo l’artista, in particolare il pittore, può capire le questioni che riguardano la bellezza nell’arte.

Etica ed estetica sono due cose distinte.

Gli artisti degli ultimi due secoli si accontentavano delle imitazioni. Occorre, invece, osservare direttamente la natura.
it is easy to conceive, how one brought up from Infancy in a coal Pit, may find such pleasure and amusement there, as to disrelish day light, and open air; and being Ignorant of the beauty above ground, grow uneasy, and disatisfied, till he descends again into his Gloomy cavern; so I have known the brilliant beauties of nature, disregarded, for even the imperfections of art, occationed by running into too great attention to, and imbibing false oppinions, in favour of pictures, and statues, and thus by losing sight of nature” (Text Footnote 1 to The Analysis of Beauty)

La varietà è il principio più alto, ma per essa si intende sempre una varietà composta. Altrimenti la varietà si trasforma in caos.

Delle linee
La linea retta è innaturale, non si trova mai in natura. Alcuni artisti, come Dührer, hanno esagerato nell’uso della linea retta.


Albrecht Dürer


La linea ondeggiante può essere alla base della grazia. Però, portata all’esasperazione, può essere percepita come deformità.

Rubens, Leda e il cigno, 1599


La linea della bellezza è la soluzione al problema di “fissare le fluttuanti idee che riguardano il gusto.” Essa è il modo più semplice per spiegare che cosa è la bellezza. La linea della bellezza si trova in natura.


William Hogarth, Columbus breaking the egg 1752








• “How great a share variety has in producing beauty may be seen in the ornamental part of nature. (…) All the senses delight in it, and equally are averse to sameness. (…) I mean here, and every where indeed, a composed variety; for variety uncomposed, and without design, is confusion and deformity” (William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, 1753)


“(…) to see with our own eyes”
“It is also evident that the painter’s eye may not be a bit better fitted to receive these new impressions, who is in like manner too much captivated with the works of art; for he also is apt to pursue the shadow, and drop the substance. This mistake happens chiefly to those who go to Rome for the accomplishment of their studies, as they naturally will, without the utmost care, take the infectious turn of the connoisseur, instead of the painter” (“Introduction” to The Analysis of Beauty)



“It is by the natural and unaffected movements of the muscles, caused by the passions of the mind, that ev’ry man’s character would in some measure be written in his face.” (Analysis of Beauty, “Of the face”)





Hogarth, Southwark Fair or The Humours of a Fair, 1733



William Hogarth, A Rake's Progress (Plate4)


Gin Lane by William Hogarth, 1751




Plate 1



“The two parts of curves next to 71, served for the figures of the old woman and her partner at the farther end of the room. The curve and two straight lines at right angle, gave the hint for the fat man’s sprawling posture. I next resolved to keep a figure within the bounds of a circle, which produced the upper part of the fat woman, between the fat man and the aukward one in the bag wig, for whom I had made a sort of X. The prim lady, his partner, in the riding-habit, by pecking back her elbows, as they call it, from the waste upwards, made a tolerable D, with a straight line under it, to signify the scanty stiffness of her petticoat; and a Z stood for the angular position the body makes with the legs and thighs of the affected fellow in the tye-wig; the upper parts of this plump partner were confin’d to a O …..” (AB, “Of attitude”)


• “My Lord A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, M, N, O, P, Q, and so on, all of a row, mounted upon their several horses; some with large stirrups, getting on in a more grave and sober pace; others on the contrary, tucked up to their chins, with whips across their mouths, scouring and scampering it away like so many little party-coloured devils astride a mortgage, - and as if some of them were resolved to break their necks.” (TS, vol 1, ch 9)


---- But before the Corporal begins, I must first give you a description of his attitude ; ---- otherwise he will naturally stand represented, by your imagination, in an uneasy posture, -- stiff, -- perpendicular, -- dividing the weight of his body equally upon both legs ; -- his eye fix'd, as if on duty ; -- his look determined ; -- clinching the sermon in his left hand, like his firelock : -- In a word, you would be apt to paint Trim, as if he was standing in his platoon ready for action : -- His attitude was as unlike all this as you can conceive.

“He stood before them with his body swayed, and bent forwards just so far, as to make an angle of 85 degrees and a half upon the plain of the horizon ; -- which sound orators, to whom I address this, know very well, to be the true persuasive angle of incidence; -- in any other angle you may talk and preach ; -- 'tis certain, -- and it is done every day ; -- but with what effect, -- I leave the world to judge !”

“The necessity of this precise angle of 85 degrees and a half to a mathematical exactness, -- does it not shew us, by the way, -- how the arts and sciences mutually befriend each other ?” (TS, vol 2, ch XVII)


He stood, ---- for I repeat it, to take the picture of him in at one view, with his body sway'd, and somewhat bent forwards, --- his right leg firm under him, sustaining seven-eighths of his whole weight, -- the foot of his left leg, the defect of which was no disadvantage to his attitude, advanced a little, -- not lateral- ly, nor forwards, but in a line betwixt them ; -- his knee bent, but that not vio- lently, -- but so as to fall within the limits of the line of beauty ; (TS, vol 2, ch XVII)



---- And possibly, gentle reader, with such a temptation -- so wouldst thou : For never did thy eyes behold, or thy concupiscence covet any thing in this world, more concupiscible than widow Wadman.

TO conceive this right, -- call for pen and ink -- here's paper ready to your hand. ---- Sit down, Sir, paint her to
your own mind ---- as like your mistress as you can
---- as unlike your wife as your conscience will let you -- 'tis all
one to me ---- please but your own fancy in it. (Vol. 6, Ch XXXVIII)