German Art Historian and Archaeologist
Johann Joachim Winckelmann
German Art Historian and Archaeologist
At the same time art weeps with me: for the work, which art could oppose to the greatest inventions of wit and contemplation, and by means of which art could still yet raise its head as in its golden era, to the greatest height of human admiration; this work, which is perhaps the last one to which art applied its utmost powers, it must see half annihilated and cruelly mishandled. Who here does not take to the heart the loss of so many hundreds of masterpieces!
It is a small thing to me to let other affections go or, not to be fickle, to set a much lower value on them, for I have made the biggest mistake in love. I am now lucky in love. My eyes weep only for you. I am in a state not unlike that of Diogenes as described by Lucian, utterly alone, an enemy of the people, without friends or company. My spirit breaks its bounds when I think of you, as was said by Plato to Dion. You ask to see me: but I cannot.
Violent sentiment is also detrimental to the consideration and enjoyment of the beautiful, because it is too short: for it leads all at once to what should be felt in stages.
But the beauty of art demands a higher sensibility than the beauty of nature, because the beauty of art, like tears shed at a play, gives no pain, is without life and must be awakened and repaired by culture.
Moreover, since human beauty, in order to be known, is to be grasped in a general concept, I have noticed that those who attend only to the beauties of the female sex, and are touched little or not at all by the beauties in our sex, possess the sentiment for the beautiful in art, but little in an innate, general or lively fashion.
What words of affection shall I use to answer your charming lines? Ad os oppressi et ad pectus. [How I have pressed them to lips and breast.] If only you could see what is going on in my soul! My very dearest brother, if life and honor were at stake, my heart would sacrifice them for your sake. Such friends as you should be displayed to the world as models. Heaven should repay us for our honesty. But who would bewail my fate? It has put my soul into such a state that it is not at peace without the charms of an invaluable friend (if I could only embrace him) yet keeps me apart from him. To me all is lost, honour and pleasure, peace and quiet, unless I see you and enjoy you.
By means of a secret art, however, the mind is led through all of the deeds of his strength up to the perfection of his soul, and in this work there is only monument to this very soul which no poet erects who sings only of the strength of his arms: the artist has surpassed it. His image of the hero gives no place to thoughts of violence and unruly love.
Now I recognize the power of love. But perhaps no one can any longer love a friend with such sincerity and yearning. My fate, however, has declared itself against me quite, it will tear me away or else torment me with a futile delay. If only it could give me the disposition of the unfeeling stoics! I shall love you without hope.
Where this sentiment does not exist, one preaches knowledge of the beautiful to the blind, just as one preaches music to an unmusical ear.
Color contributes to beauty, but it is not beauty. Color should have a minor part in the consideration of beauty, because it is not color but the structure that constitutes its essence.
Now, as the spirit of culture is much more ardent in youth than in manhood, the instinct of which I am speaking must be exercised and directed to what is beautiful, before that age is reached at which one would be afraid to confess that one had no taste for it.
Even if the beautiful in art were nothing but visage, as, according to the Egyptians, God is nothing but eye, it would still not excite many people were the beautiful united in a single element.
Parting from you, therefore, was one of the most painful farewells of my life; and our mutual friend is a witness thereof - even after your departure - for your remoteness under a distant sky, leaves me no hope of seeing you again. Let this essay be a monument of our friendship, which, for my part, is free of all ulterior motives and remains faithfully maintained and dedicated to you.
For the contemplation of works of art, as Pliny says, is for idle people, that is, those who are not condemned to till a hard and barren field all day long.
The artist must conceive with warmth yet execute with coolness.
Friendship without love is only acquaintance. The other, however, is heroic and sublime above all else; it humiliates the willing friend till he grovels in the dust and it drives him to the day of his death.
The beautiful and the mediocre are equally welcome to those people as people of standing and the rabble are welcome to a person of indiscriminate courtesy.
From the first moment an indescribable attraction towards you, excited by something more than form and feature, caused me to catch an echo of that harmony which passes human understanding and which is the music of the everlasting concord of things... It is from you yourself that the subject is taken. Our intercourse has been short, too short both for you and me; but I was aware of the deep consent of our spirits, the instant I saw you. Your culture proved that my hope was not groundless; and I found in a beautiful body a soul created for nobleness, gifted with the sense of beauty. My parting from you was, therefore, one of the most painful in my life; and that this feeling continues our common friend is witness, for your separation from me leaves me no hope of seeing you again. Let this essay be a memorial of our friendship, which, on my side, is free from every selfish motive, and ever remains subject and dedicate to yourself alone.
The capacity to sense the beautiful in art is a conception which simultaneously comprises the person and the object, the container and that which is contained, but which I form into one thing so that here I chiefly have the former in view and for the present note that the beautiful is more extensive than beauty: the latter properly contains form, and is the highest end of art; the former ranges over all that is thought, designed and worked out.
From the moment I first saw you I was unaccountably drawn to you, not solely to your outward appearance, and this gave me a feeling of the harmony that is beyond human comprehension and which is struck up by the eternal affinity of things. In the 40 years of my life this is the second time this has happened to me, and it will presumably be the last. My dear friend, no one else in the world can love you so: for such a complete accord of souls is only possible between two; all other inclinations are only branches off this noble main stem.
The genius of our friendship will follow you from a distance as far as Paris, and will there leave you in the abode of foolish pleasures; here, however, your image will be that of my saint.
Accuracy of eye consists in noticing the true form and magnitude of the objects, and the form involves both color and figure.
Grace can never properly be said to exist without beauty; for it is only in the elegant proportions of beautiful forms that can be found that harmonious variety of line and motion which is the essence and charm of grace.
The inner sense must be ready and quick, because first impressions are the strongest ones and precede reflection: what we sense by means of reflection is weaker.
All violent sentiments go beyond the mediate to the immediate, since feeling, in contrast, should be aroused in the way a beautiful day comes to be - through the announcement of a lovely dawn.