Book III
X
 

But indeed,[1] if chance brought him into conversation with any one possessed of an art, and using it for daily purposes of business, he never failed to be useful to this kind of person. For instance, stepping one time into the studio of Parrhasius[2] the painter, and getting into conversation with him--

I suppose, Parrhasius (said he), painting may be defined as "a representation of visible objects," may it not?[3] That is to say, by means of colours and palette you painters represent and reproduce as closely as possible the ups and downs, lights and shadows, hard and soft, rough and smooth surfaces, the freshness of youth and the wrinkles of age, do you not?

You are right (he answered), that is so.

Socrates. Further, in portraying ideal types of beauty, seeing it is not easy to light upon any one human being who is absolutely devoid of blemish, you cull from many models the most beautiful traits of each, and so make your figures appear completely beautiful?[4]

Parrhasius. Yes, that is how we do.[5]

Well, but stop (Socrates continued); do you also pretend to represent in similar perfection the characteristic moods of the soul, its captivating charm and sweetness, with its deep wells of love, its intensity of yearning, its burning point of passion? or is all this quite incapable of being depicted?

Nay (he answered), how should a mood be other than inimitable, Socrates, when it possesses neither linear proportion[6] nor colour, nor any of those qualities which you named just now; when, in a word, it is not even visible?

Socrates. Well, but the kindly look of love, the angry glance of hate at any one, do find expression in the human subject, do they not?[7]

Parrhasius. No doubt they do.

Socrates. Then this look, this glance, at any rate may be imitated in the eyes, may it not?

Undoubtedly (he answered).

Socrates. And do anxiety and relief of mind occasioned by the good or evil fortune of those we love both wear the same expression?

By no means (he answered); at the thought of good we are radiant, at that of evil a cloud hangs on the brow.

Socrates. Then here again are looks with it is possible to represent?

Parrhasius. Decidedly.

Socrates. Furthermore, as through some chink or crevice, there pierces through the countenance of a man, through the very posture of his body as he stands or moves, a glimpse of his nobility and freedom, or again of something in him low and grovelling--the calm of self-restraint, and wisdom, or the swagger of insolence and vulgarity?

You are right (he answered).

Socrates. Then these too may be imitated?

No doubt (he said).

Socrates. And which is the pleasanter type of face to look at, do you think --one on which is imprinted the characteristics of a beautiful, good, and lovable disposition, or one which bears the impress of what is ugly, and bad, and hateful?[8]

Parrhasius. Doubtless, Socrates, there is a vast distinction between the two.

At another time he entered the workshop of the sculptor Cleiton,[9] and in course of conversation with him said:

You have a gallery of handsome people here,[10] Cleiton, runners, and wrestlers, and boxers, and pancratiasts--that I see and know; but how do you give the magic touch of life to your creations, which most of all allures the soul of the beholder through his sense of vision?

As Cleiton stood perplexed, and did not answer at once, Socrates added: Is it by closely imitating the forms of living beings that you succeed in giving that touch of life to your statues?

No doubt (he answered).

Socrates. It is, is it not, by faithfully copying the various muscular contractions of the body in obedience to the play of gesture and poise, the wrinklings of flesh and the sprawl of limbs, the tensions and the relaxations, that you succeed in making your statues like real beings--make them "breathe" as people say?

Cleiton. Without a doubt.

Socrates. And does not the faithful imitation of the various affections of the body when engaged in any action impart a particular pleasure to the beholder?

Cleiton. I should say so.

Socrates. Then the threatenings in the eyes of warriors engaged in battle should be carefully copied, or again you should imitate the aspect of a conqueror radiant with success?

Cleiton. Above all things.

Socrates. It would seem then that the sculptor is called upon to incorporate in his ideal form the workings and energies also of the soul?

Paying a visit to Pistias,[11] the corselet maker, when that artist showed him some exquisite samples of his work, Socrates exclaimed:

By Hera! a pretty invention this, Pistias, by which you contrive that the corselet should cover the parts of the person which need protection, and at the same time leave free play to the arms and hands. . . . but tell me, Pistias (he added), why do you ask a higher price for these corselets of yours if they are not stouter or made of costlier material than the others?

Because, Socrates (he answered), mine are of much finer proportion.

Socrates. Proportion! Then how do you make this quality apparent to the customer so as to justify the higher price--by measure or weight? For I presume you cannot make them all exactly equal and of one pattern-- if you make them fit, as of course you do?

Fit indeed! that I most distinctly do (he answered), take my word for it: no use in a corselet without that.

But then are not the wearer's bodies themselves (asked Socrates) some well proportioned and others ill?

Decidedly so (he answered).

Socrates. Then how do you manage to make the corselet well proportioned if it is to fit an ill-proportioned body?[12]

Pistias. To the same degree exactly as I make it fit. What fits is well proportioned.

Socrates. It seems you use the term "well-proportioned" not in an absolute sense, but in reference to the wearer, just as you might describe a shield as well proportioned to the individual it suits; and so of a military cloak, and so of the rest of things, in your terminology? But maybe there is another considerable advantage in this "fitting"?

Pistias. Pray instruct me, Socrates, if you have got an idea.

Socrates. A corselet which fits is less galling by its weight than one which does not fit, for the latter must either drag from the shoulders with a dead weight or press upon some other part of the body, and so it becomes troublesome and uncomfortable; but that which fits, having its weight distributed partly along the collar-bone and shoulder- blade, partly over the shoulders and chest, and partly the back and belly, feels like another natural integument rather than an extra load to carry.[13]

Pistias. You have named the very quality which gives my work its exceptional value, as I consider; still there are customers, I am bound to say, who look for something else in a corselet--they must have them ornamental or inlaid with gold.

For all that (replied Socrates), if they end by purchasing an ill- fitting article, they only become the proprietors of a curiously- wrought and gilded nuisance, as it seems to me. But (he added), as the body is never in one fixed position, but is at one time curved, at another raised erect how can an exactly-modelled corselet fit?

Pistias. It cannot fit at all.

You mean (Socrates continued) that it is not the exactly-modelled corselet which fits, but that which does not gall the wearer in the using?

Pistias. There, Socrates, you have hit the very point. I see you understand the matter most precisely.[14]

[1] {alla men kai} . . . "But indeed the sphere of his helpfulness was not circumscribed; if," etc.

[2] For Parrhasius of Ephesus, the son of Evenor and rival of Zeuxis, see Woltmann and Woermann, "Hist. of Painting," p. 47 foll.; Cobet, "Pros. Xen." p. 50 (cf. in particular Quint. XII. x. 627). At the date of conversation (real or ideal) he may be supposed to have been a young man.

[3] Reading with Schneider, L. Dind., etc., after Stobaeus, {e graphike estin eikasia}, or if the vulg. {graphike estin e eikasia}, trans. "Painting is the term applied to a particular representation," etc.

[4] Cf. Cic. "de Invent." ii. 1 ad in. of Zeuxis; Max. Tur. "Dissert." 23, 3, ap. Schneider ad loc.

[5] Or, "that is the secret of our creations," or "our art of composition."

[6] Lit. "symmetry." Cf. Plin. xxxv. 10, "primus symmetriam picturae dedit," etc.

[7] Or, "the glance of love, the scowl of hate, which one directs towards another, are recognised expressions of human feeling." Cf. the description of Parrhasius's own portrait of Demos, ap. Plin. loc. cit.

[8] For this theory cp. Ruskin, "Mod. P." ii. 94 foll. and indeed passim.

[9] An unknown artist. Coraes conj. {Kleona}. Cf. Plin. xxxiv. 19; Paus. v. 17, vi. 3. He excelled in portrait statues. See Jowett, "Plato," iv.; "Laws," p. 123.

[10] Reading after L. Dind. {kaloi ous}, or if vulg. {alloious}, translate "You have a variety of types, Cleiton, not all of one mould, but runners," etc.; al. "I see quite well how you give the diversity of form to your runners," etc.

[11] Cf. Athen. iv. 20, where the same artist is referred to apparently as {Piston}, and for the type of person see the "Portrait of a Tailor" by Moroni in the National Gallery--see "Handbook," Edw. T. Cook, p. 152.

[12] Or, "how do you make a well-proportioned corselet fit an ill- proportioned body? how well proportioned?"

[13] Schneider ad loc. cf Eur. "Electr." 192, {prosthemata aglaias}, and for the weight cf. Aristoph. "Peace," 1224.

[14] Or, "There, Socrates, you have hit the very phrase. I could not state the matter more explicitly myself."