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The following letter regards an ingenious fet of gentlemen, who have done me the honour to make me one of their fociety.
Dec 4, 1712.
HE academy of painting, lately established in London, having done you and themselves the honour to choose you one of their directors; that noble and lively art, which before was intitled to your regard as a Spectator, has an additional claim to you, and C you feem to be under a double obligation to take fome care of her interests.
The honour of our country is also concerned in the matter I am going to lay before you : · we, and perhaps other nations as well as we, have a national falfe humility as well as a 'national vain glory; and though we boaft ⚫ ourselves to excell all the world in things wherein we are outdone abroad, in other things we attribute to others a fuperiority which we ourselves poffefs. This is what is 'done, particularly in the art of portrait or 'face-painting.
Painting is an art of a vast extent, too great by much for any mortal man to be in full poffeffion of in all its parts; it is enough if any " one fucceed in painting faces, history, battles, landskips, fea-pieces, fruit, flowers, or drolls, ' &c. Nay, no man ever was excellent in all the branches, though many in number, of thefe feveral arts, for a distinct art I take upon < me to call every one of thofe feveral kinds of painting.
And as one man may be a good landfkip ( painter, but unable to paint a face or a history tolerably well, and fo of the reft; one nation may excel in fome kinds of painting, and other kinds may thrive better in other climates.
Italy may have the preference of all other 'nations for history-painting; Holland for drolls, and a neat finished manner of working; France for gay, janty, fluttering pictures; and England for portraits: but to give the honour of every one of thefe kinds of painting to any one of those nations on account of their excellence in any of thefe parts of it, is like adjudging the prize of heroic, dramatic, lyric, or burlefque poetry, to him who has done well in any one of them.
Where there are the greatest geniuses, and moft helps and encouragements, it is reafonable to fuppofe an art will arrive to the great'eft perfection: by this rule let us confider
our own country with refpect to face painting. No nation in the world delights fo much in having their own, or friends, or relations
are greater; for what the antique statues and 'bas reliefs which Italy enjoys are to the hif
tory painters, the beautiful and noble faces 'with which England is confeffed to abound,
nature, or having a love to painting, and not being encouraged in the great article of religious pictures, which the purity of our worthip refufes the free ufe of, or from whatever other caufe. Our helps are not inferior to thofe of any other people, but rather they
are to face painters; and befides we have the greatest number of the works of the best 'mafters in that kind of any people, not with
out a competent number of thofe of the most 'excellent in every other part of painting. 'And for encouragement, the wealth and generofity of the English nation affords that in fuch a degree, as artifts have no reason to ' complain.
And accordingly in fact, face-painting is no where fo well performed as in England: I 'know not whether it has lain in your way to ⚫ obferve it, but I have, and pretend to be a tolerable judge. I have feen what is done abroad, and can affure you, that the honour of that branch of painting is juftly due to us. I appeal to the judicious obfervers for the truth of what I affert. If foreigners have ' oftentimes, or even for the most part excelled
our natives, it ought to be imputed to the advantages they have met with here, joined to their own ingenuity and induftry: nor has any one nation distinguished themselves fo as to raise an argument in favour of their country; but it is to be obferved that neither French nor Italians, nor any one of either 'nation, notwithstanding all our prejudices in their favour, have, or ever had, for any confiderable time, any character among us as face-painters.
This honour is due to our own country; and has been fo for near an age: fo that in'ftead of going to Italy, or elsewhere, one that 'defigns for portrait-painting ought to ftudy in England. Hither fuch fhould come from Holland, France, Italy, Germany, &c. as he that intends to practice any other kinds of painting, fhould go to thofe parts where it is in 'greatest perfection. It is faid the bleffed vir'gin defcended from heaven, to fit to St. Luke; I dare venture to affirm, that if the fhould defire another Madonna to be painted by the life, fhe would come to England; and am of ' opinion that your prefent prefident, Sir Godfrey Kneller, from his improvement fince he arrived in this kingdom, would perform that office better than any foreigner living.
With all poffible refpect, Sir,
The ingenious letters figned the WeatherGlafs, with feveral others, were received, but
came too late. pictures; whether from their national good
P O S T SCRIP
It had not come to my knowledge, when I left off the Spectator, that I owe several excellent fentiments and agreeable pieces in this work to Mr. Ince of Gray's Inn. R. Steele,
But first let yawing earth & passage rend
SPECTAT O R.
VOLUME THE EIGHT H.
E IG H
FRINTED FOR J. COOTE, No. 14. RED-LION-STREET, CLERKENWELL, BY VIRTUE OF A LATE DECISION IN THE HOUSE OF PEERS.