University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIV. 


Although both Plato and Aristotle referred in passing
to the parallels between poetry and painting, it was
Horace in his Ars poetica (19-10 B.C.) who provided
the basis for the comparison and supplied the tag, ut
pictura poesis
(line 361). The line itself is limited
enough in its immediate context: Horace is quite sim-
ply saying that poetry is like painting in that a particu-
lar poem has its own virtues and so, like a particular
painting, needs to be considered under different physi-
cal conditions and with different expectations (cf.
Quintilian, De institutione oratoria [ca. A.D. 95],
XII.10.3-9). Throughout the entire poetic essay, how-
ever, he is so very ready with analogies among the
arts—poetry, painting, drama, music, and dance—that
a reader's expansion of the meaning of ut pictura poesis
from a minor comparison to a rich analogy, or even
identification, is readily understandable. Since there
was no ars pictura from antiquity, Horace's work was
seized on by critics of painting as an easy and appro-
priate substitute, and during the Renaissance the
theorists of poetry and painting were so close in their
thinking about the two arts that in many treatises the
terms “poet” and “painter” could be readily inter-
changed”: B. Daniello's Poetica (1536) was the direct
source in both form and context of the Dialogo della
(1557) by L. Dolce, who had earlier translated
Horace's Ars poetica (1535).

Just as Bacon's expression of a Philosophia prima
(Advancement of Learning, I) is a notable attempt at
persuading scientists to search for the first and simple
cause, so the man of the Renaissance hardly needed
to leap to find correspondences among the particular
arts, since all art reflected—perhaps refined—nature,
just as nature reflected God, in “harmony,” “sym-
metry,” and “proportion.” Every major theorist of
poetics in the sixteenth century assumed and repeat-
edly affirmed some unity of the arts by at least noting
the relations between poetry and painting. Vida,
Daniello, Alberti, Robortello, Fracastoro, Minturno,
Scaliger, Castelvetro, Sidney, Tasso, F. Junius, and
Vossius all represent a common belief or search often
summarized by Horace's tempting line.

If Horace supplied the term for the parallel, Plutarch
preserved a vivid expression that was used by almost
every critic of poetry or painting from the Renaissance
through the eighteenth century. In his De gloria
he cites Simonides of Ceos (ca. 556-467
B.C.) as saying, “Painting is mute poetry and poetry


a speaking picture” (346f.) and noted that the phrase
was already commonplace (17f-18a).

The neatest and most widely disseminated verbal
association of Horace and Plutarch is found in C. A.
Dufresnoy's De arte graphica (Paris, 1667), of which
the opening sentence is Ut pictura poesis erit. John
Dryden's translation (London, 1695) reflects attitudes
widely accepted: “Painting and Poesy are two sisters;
which are so like in all things, that they mutually lend
to each other both their Name and Office. One is called
a dumb Poesy, and the other a speaking Picture.” The
popularity of the Renaissance critics, as well as of
Dufresnoy and Dryden, helped assure, with remarkably
little challenge, the continued awareness that the arts
were “sisters” (Ovid, Metamorphoses II, 13-14) until
G. E. Lessing's Laokoön (1766).

Attempts to over-refine the analogy of form extended
Aristotle's argument for the primacy of plot in drama
and of line in painting (Poetics 1450b 1-3). This simply
illustrative point was fruitlessly developed in Dryden's
rather lackluster preface to his translation of
Dufresnoy's De arte graphica, “A Parallel of Poetry
and Painting” (1695). He wrote, “Expression, and all
that belongs to words, is that in a poem which colour-
ing is in a picture” and compares “lights and shadows
with tropes and figures,” observing that “Strong and
glowing colours are the just Resemblances of bold
Metaphors.” He ends with the dangerous commonplace
that “words are... the clothing of thought, in the
same sense as colours are the clothing of design” (cf.
Richard Flecknoe, A Short Discourse of the English
1664). Much the same appears in the Abbé
Batteux, Les beaux arts réduits à un même principe
(Paris [1746], pp. 138, 140, and 247), and from the
painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, comes a confirming note:
“Well-turned periods in eloquence, or harmony of
numbers in poetry... are in those arts what colouring
is in painting” (Discourse [1776], VII).

The development of ut pictura poesis may well be
pursued through the complexity of rhetorical theory
from the classical period through the Renaissance.
Major canons of rhetoric—inventio, dispositio, and
elocutio—were adapted from Cicero and Quintilian
and applied to the art of the poet and painter. As early
as L. B. Alberti in his Della pittura (1436), inventio
was used to indicate the painter's general material, his
ideas and forms; dispositio, the large aspects of ar-
rangement or composition; and elocutio, the actual
portrayal. L. Daniello in La poetica (1536) and B. Dolce
in Dialogo della pittura (1557) apply more explicitly
these traditional terms.

Within this large framework, most rhetoricians had
traditionally agreed that the speaker must make an
audience see as well as hear (Quintilian, De institutione
oratoria, VIII. 3; Richard Sherry, A Treatise of Schemes
and Tropes,
1550; F. Patrizi, Della Poetica, 1586). The
second-century A.D. handbooks of Aelius Theon,
Hermogenes, and Aphtonius were popular throughout
the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and they
dictated, as an essential part of the progymnasmata
or preliminary rhetorical exercises, much work in de-
scription of persons, places, and things, treating “vivid
description” under the general headings of enargeia,
or hypotyposis. Dozens of refinements on
standard descriptions hold meaning for ut pictura
but the matter is complicated since many medi-
eval and Renaissance rhetoricians are in conflict over
both definitions and examples for descriptio, charac-
terismus, effictio, mimesis, notatio, informatio, diatypo-
sis, prosopographia, prosopopoeia,
and many other
categories that demand varying amounts of formed
concrete detail. From classical rhetorical theory also
came the descriptio locorum, which could include not
only fields or general topography but cities and, more
specifically, monuments or temples. For more general-
ized landscapes, the descriptio temporum, with its de-
scription of spring or winter with all their mythological
or symbolic impact, could serve as a picture. Vergil
and Ovid, Sannazaro, Ariosto, and Tasso, and Spenser
and Milton, all give many examples of detailed land-
scape description for a variety of purposes.

Descriptive elements such as metaphor or personifi-
cation could be accepted as “figures of thought” and
therefore as parts of amplification, or they could be
seen as elements of decoration included to trap the
senses. The rhetorical principle of amplification
through description was presented in Cicero, De
(I, xxiv) and the Rhetorica ad Herennium
(IV, 49 and 50) and was supported in the rhetorical
handbooks. Description, especially epideictic, was ex-
tensively developed in the poetics of Matthieu de
Vendôme, Ars versificatoria (ca. 1175) and Geoffroi de
Vinsauf, Poetria nova (ca. 1210). These theorists
codified the portrait, demanding very complete physi-
cal details and an exact order of those details from the
head to the feet. In general, the twelfth-century Latin
comoedia, the Old French fabliaux, and the medieval
romance reveal this rhetorical formula in highly
finished pictures of ideal beauty or extreme ugliness
with very little suggestion of personal observation or
shaded attitude.

Of particular relevance to ut pictura poesis, how-
ever, is the rhetorical device of ekphrasis and “icon,”
since both were used to designate a description of a
work of art following the εἰκόνεσ (“icon”) of Philostratus
(A.D. 3) and the ἐκφράσεις (ekphrasis) of Callistratus
(A.D. 3 or 4). These elaborate descriptions of the second
Sophistic rhetorical tradition, one of a gallery of paint-


ings, the other of a group of statues, seem produced
in competition with the plastic arts. The work before
the writer is presented and then analyzed for its his-
torical and moral value—its humanistic illustrative
power?—but not dealt with aesthetically.

The writer and orator used the plastic arts or even
competed with the plastic artist, and the detailed de-
scription of an art work—ekphrasis—is common to
both art critics and creative writers.

Art critics have always needed to—or wanted to—
offer the work before them through language and, it
is fair to say, often saw themselves as painters with
words. Philostratus and Callistratus strained to repro-
duce paintings and statues as well as to instruct the
reader both in art appreciation and in the entire story
of which the artifact offers but a part. These critics
were widely praised and their descriptions imitated,
especially in the Italian Renaissance (Philostratus was
later translated by Goethe with enthusiasm). To com-
plete the circle, Titian's Bacchanal, Bacchus and
and The Feast of Venus were based on the
descriptions by Philostratus. L. B. Alberti in Della
and, above all, G. Vasari in his Lives (1550;
rev. ed. 1568) develop many careful descriptions while
emphasizing the narrative and the allegorical or
expressive material in the painting. Vasari, rather than
interpreting the evidence before him, often described
an unseen or expressionless face in a painting and
assigned meaning based only on his previous knowledge
of the scene's literary source (Alpers, 1960). Even with
the increasingly refined techniques for visual repro-
duction, modern critics generally point out verbally—
or even presumptuously restructure and so challenge
the painter—both details and their arrangement to
illuminate an attached print.

The list of poets, novelists, and playwrights who
were active art critics is long and in each instance a
case can be made for the interaction of forms. Bellori,
Michelangelo, Lessing, Diderot, Stendhal, Baudelaire,
Ruskin, Pater, Morris, Henry James, Klee, and Malraux
all produced a significant mass of art criticism in which
ekphrasis plays an important role.

But the most interesting use of ekphrasis is in the
enormous number of actual or imaginary works of art
portrayed by creative writers. The Greek romances and
the writings of Vergil, Ovid, Statius, Martial, Lucian,
Apuleius, Claudian, the authors of the chansons de
Chaucer, Ariosto, Spenser, and Balzac are par-
ticularly fruitful sources, as are those of many English
poets in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
(Hagstrum, 1958; Larrabee, 1943; Manwaring, 1925;
Hussey, 1927; and Jack, 1967). Poe, Hawthorne,
Browning, and Henry James constantly reveal their
deep involvement with the plastic arts, while English
and American poets of the 1950's and 1960's offer many
examples of ekphrasis, the most famous being those of
Brueghel's works by W. H. Auden and W. C. Williams.
Of particular interest is the tradition of “gallery
poems” in which the writer places himself in a real
or imaginary gallery and describes the works for a
usually philosophical end by examining his created
microcosm. Common and attractive as these instances
of ekphrasis are—and useful when considering ut
pictura poesis
—they nevertheless are simply verbal
descriptions, and one question raised by Lessing must
be asked: Can the reader, moving through time and
adding detail after detail, in fact ever form a picture?
Or is he finally left with but a general “impression”
that might be better and more economically gained
by a very few selected details or a telling metaphor?

The poets, then, used the painters, but the painters
made still greater use of the poets. Just as Aristotle
and Horace at least implicitly assumed that the writer
would use known myth, fable, and history as inventio,
so essentially did the Renaissance art theorist, from
Alberti, Della pittura (1436) on, see the painter as
telling a “story” in space. The generally accepted
dictum was that the painter should draw his subject
matter from poems, especially epics and romances, as
well as from history. The painter, in turning to this
“nature” to imitate, was competing directly for the
audience's approval, tempting the comparison between
the verbal and plastic rendering of a usually well-
known event. It could be argued that the painter,
rather than being limited by his medium, actually could
rhetorically transcend the single, rigidly confined mo-
ment since his audience could immediately supply the
larger action of the incident from the common knowl-
edge of the entire poem or historical period. Further-
more, by the middle of the eighteenth century, critics
began to emphasize the imagination's power in reac-
tion to the plastic stimulus, so that the viewer in
drawing on his memory as well as on his own creative
powers joined with the painter in creating “moving

The primacy of “history” painting based on one
source or another was essentially unchallenged (until
J. J. Winckelmann and Lessing) as the painter caught
a significant impassioned moment out of time. (Hogarth
in his sequences had to leap the bounds of the single
canvas, and he emphasized a “moral” rather than an
actual history.) Scenes from Tasso formed the subject
of many paintings in the seventeenth century, the
greatest by Poussin and Lorrain (Lee [1940], pp.
242-50), and collections of extracts from the great
poets, classical and contemporary, were gathered to
provide a painter with suitable models of human ac-
tions and emotions (G. P. Lomazzo, Trattato dell'arte


Della pittura, scultura ed architettura [1595], VI, 65,
and Comte de Caylus, Tableaux tirés de l'Iliade...).
André Félibien set the hierarchy in painting as ranging
from the low of still life to the high of meaningful
events (preface, Conférences de l'Académie Royale de
Peinture et de Sculpture,
1669), and Reynolds in his
Discourses (1769-90) suggested much the same. In the
late eighteenth century Diderot's critical scaling
strongly supported the French Academy's emphasis on
historical painting.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both the
emblem book and the figure poem stand as vivid exam-
ples of ut pictura poesis, as well as of theories that
presented the various arts either as mutually reinforc-
ing agents or as a combination forming a hybrid art
such as the masque, ballet, or opera.

The hugely popular emblem books—over 3,000
editions were issued from 1531 to 1700—can be con-
sidered a genre that demonstrates the view of poetry
and painting as “sister arts.” Stimulated by interest in
medieval illuminated manuscripts and dream inter-
pretation, as well as Egyptian hieroglyphics (Boas,
1950), the practitioner-theorists developed lengthy,
subtle distinctions among “emblemata,” “imprese,”
“devices,” “enseigns,” “hieroglyphs,” “blazons,” and
other terms (Praz, Studies, 1964). Most agreed in
stressing the interrelation of a picture, motto, and
poem, arguing that none of the elements could stand
alone and be meaningful. In contrast to the titulus,
a metrical description offered with a work of art and
meaningless without that work, in the emblem books
the poem could stand alone since the scene was often
at least suggested in the language, the picture alone
since it was in a tradition of iconographic inter-
pretation. Their subjects might be natural phenomena,
historical, mythical, or political events, moral doctrine
or exhortation. Personifications or virtues, vices, and
ideal or stock types as well as allegories were common;
the title page of Cesare Ripa's Iconologia (1593) reads
non meno utile che necessaria a poete, pittori, scultori,
per rappresentare le vitii, virtù, affetti, and passioni
(“not less useful than necessary to poets,
painters, and sculptors for representing the vices, vir-
tues, emotions, and human passions”). The attractions
of the emblem books were not only visual and didactic
but intellectual in that the picture and text often were
something of a puzzle to be worked out for the pleasure
of analogy. Some had a sophistic quality in that the
puzzle could indeed be an ingenious display of wit;
the poet, in particular, creates rather than derives a
world of meaning from the picture.

The emblem, then, may represent an actuality, but
it also means an abstract quality or relationship, means
it so richly that the image-symbol may be, as it is in
Marsilio Ficino's De vita coelitus comparanda, con-
fused or merged with the reality it represents.

It has been persuasively argued that the emblem
books generated a seventeenth-century poetics based
on ut pictura poesis: the poet word-paints his emblem
and then either reacts mystically or explores rationally,
and discovers intricate, recondite, and surprising rela-
tions and meanings. The whole theory of corre-
spondence, however, stands behind both the emblem
books and “emblematic poetry” and so forms a general
“real” basis for illuminating metaphor.

Later developments of the important interactions of
language and picture are found in the works of
Hogarth, Blake, J. M. W. Turner, and D. G. Rossetti
as well as in the eighteenth-century political cartoon
and the twentieth-century comic strip. Much of the
theoretical discussion of the film centers on the rela-
tionship between the “moving image” and dialogue,
critics often severely limiting the film's perimeters as
a medium by arguing that language should be much
reduced or even refined away, an argument that reflects
an older one: the title of a plastic work is a statement
about the work that may over-direct, needlessly rein-
force, or seriously interfere with the statement of the
work of art.

A figure or pattern poem (carmen figuratum) in
which the line length presents a typographical image
of the poem's subject may be considered a tour-
de-force variation on the emblem books and their
tradition. This form, which can be found in the Greek
and Simias of Rhodes (ca. 300 B.C.) as well
as in Persian and Chinese literature, was popular and
respected throughout Europe in the seventeenth cen-
tury although it is indeed a forced joining of poetry
and painting. Few poems in this tradition, other than
George Herbert's “Easter Wings” and “The Altar”
(1633), now warrant a reading, and the form, often used
for occasional pieces, survived in a sub-literary world
of greeting cards and advertisements. One should con-
sider, however, Apollinaire's Calligrammes (1918) in
which the impact of the cubists' sense of “simultaneity”
is apparent. But isolated examples, such as Mallarmé's
complicated “Un coup de dés” (1897), Dylan Thomas'
ambiguous “Vision and Prayer” (1946) and John
Hollander's careful Types of Shape (1969), simply tes-
tify to the form's rarity. (Note the mouse's long sad
tale/tail in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland [1865],
Ch. III.) Far more worthy of serious consideration are
the innovative “concrete poets” of post-World War II
who extended radically the traditional typographical
relation of form and content (Geoffroy Tory, Champ
1529). Drawing on the traditional figure poem
as well as on the works of Pound, Joyce, and Cum-
mings, many international experimenters developed,


especially in Brazil and Germany, the simply clever
“word game” in which “hollow” is printed with very
large “O's,” “fear” with wavy lines, until a genuine
unity of the linear and spatial is gained (Solt, 1968).

In the late seventeenth century many political poems
were developed within a convention traced to the
Anacreontea (200 B.C.-A.D. 500) as well as to Homer's
Iliad, the making of Achilles' shield. A poet gives direct
instructions to a painter on both the content and form
for an historical, biographical, or allegorical painting
that grows in the telling. (Robert Browning's “The
Bishop Orders His Tomb” [1844] is a late variation on
this lively use of point of view.) In The Last Instruc-
tions to a Painter
(ca. 1667), probably by Andrew
Marvell, the poet is quite conscious of his aesthetic
as well as his more obvious political act since near the
end he writes, “Painter, adieu! How well our arts
agree,/ Poetic picture, painted poetry....” In the
course of the poem “portraits” have been “painted,”
as well as landscapes for the temporal action. But the
poet is clearly aware of a commonly held distinction
between the arts and suggests the limitation of expres-
siveness in paintings: “Where pencil cannot, there my
pen shall do't/ That may his body, this his mind ex-
plain.” He has explicated his own pictures in the course
of his poem to gain his ends with double force (cf.
Spenser, The Fairie Queene, III, Poem 2; Shakespeare,
Timon of Athens, I; Jonson, Timber, pub. 1640, dated
1641; Hobbes, “The Virtues of an Heroic Poem,”

Obviously the easy distinction which allots time to
poetry and space to painting is challenged in both the
paintings and poetry of this period. From classical
times painters and sculptors do in fact present not a
simple action or solitary incident but a narrative. The
many separate sequences on Trajan's Column (A.D.
113) tell a long story which must be read as must
Hogarth's sequences or the before-and-after paintings
of the nineteenth-century Hudson River School. Many
medieval paintings and sculptures depict within a sin-
gle frame a variety of scenes from a saint's life. Lessing
rejected these—he makes reference to Titian's Life of
the Prodigal Son
—as literary rather than painterly. But
such paintings are “in time,” and stylistic critics such
as Leo Spitzer (1962) and Murray Krieger (1967) argue
specifically, and Coleridge and Croce generally, that
literature is an object or artifact, that poetry can
ultimately be spatial or “still,” that the reader com-
bines the sequential details into a spatial moment, that
Keats in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn” both uses and
transcends time in both content and form.

Following the theories of the imagination of both
Hobbes and Locke, early eighteenth-century literary
critics, most notably Joseph Addison, along with Joseph
and Thomas Warton (Chapin, 1955; Cohen, 1964),
considered description as the basis for poetry since the
language appealed most vividly to the image-making
faculty. Addison argued that the test of the “true met-
aphor” was whether or not there was sufficient detail
for it to be painted and, in “The Pleasures of the
Imagination,” Spectator, Nos. 411-21 (1712), that a
word brought forward the image of an object and that
the imagination could paint more vividly than nature.
Concurrently there was a developing scientific attitude
that demanded careful observation and detailed
recording of external actuality in order to approach
reality. This provided a tradition for the realism and
naturalism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, this in spite of constant “romantic” chal-
lenges that the artist's reactions were the genuine
subject of art and that art itself must always reflect
moral or psychological tension or conflict.

In the eighteenth century, then, “description” or
“pictorialism” developed from being an occasional
rhetorical device into almost the dominating matter
of a poem. A major example is James Thomson's ex-
traordinarily popular The Seasons (1730-46) in which
the divine analogy of “God” offered by the book of
“nature” reflected deistic as well as traditional Chris-
tian concerns and the natural world was a universal
book in a universal language (Cohen). The old Renais-
sance argument of art versus nature was revived, and
some of the competition shifted from between art
forms to between any medium and nature. Can any
language reflect the object? Can any art equal the
variety or plenitude and the “vivacity” of nature?

Before the mid-eighteenth century the term “philo-
sophical criticism” stood for what we now call “aes-
thetics.” It is not remarkable at all, given the general
preoccupations of the century with its concern for
“taste” and tendency toward synaesthesia, that “aes-
thetics” as a branch of philosophy was finally “estab-
lished” and named by A. G. Baumgarten in his
Aesthetica (1750-58). Two French authors, widely
popular and often translated, had continued the search
for a common basis for the arts. The Abbé Dubos in
Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture
(1719) found the principle to be the imitation of the
“beautiful” in nature, while the Abbé Batteux argued
for “harmony” in Les beaux arts réduits à un même
Examples of such works could be multiplied
throughout the century since the hundreds of critics
who wrote on “taste” inevitably considered both ut
pictura poesis
and synaesthesia. In both David Hume,
“On Taste” (1757), and Edmund Burke, A Philosophical
Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime
and Beautiful
(1757), there is a readiness to use not
the metaphor but the analogy of the physical taste for


the mental. Obviously there was widespread confusion
about the nature and function of the senses and facul-
ties as well as of the properties of natural and art
objects. Both senses and faculties were readily multi-
plied as answers to thorny psychological and aesthetic
problems while there was a concurrent attempt to
synthesize their functions.

The shift from imitative to affective poetry in the
late eighteenth century must be considered as a func-
tion of the ever-growing concern with the interior of
man, his emotional responses. It would be a falsification
to underestimate the concurrent growth and change in
the theory of language as it concerns ut pictura poesis.
The enormous popularity of Burke's work on the
sublime promulgated widely the theory of the associa-
tive value of language and to a significant degree
overwhelmed the Lockean concept of language as
image-maker. Such a change was the specific cause of
the demise of descriptive writing, which was, of course,
to be reborn in the early nineteenth-century local color
and historical novel as a beginning of scientific realism.
In 1761, both Daniel Webb (An Inquiry into the
Beauties of Painting
), and Lord Kames (Elements of
) emphasized the importance of successive
appeals to the reader in order to effect the true
sublime; it cannot be done satisfactorily through the
simple instance of the painting but can be gained in
poetry (cf. Joseph Spence, Polymetis [1747], p. 67).
Such theories placed greater emphasis on structure or
dispositio in poetry and, in conjunction with Burke's
argument that words do not cause mental images of
things but produce emotion-laden associations, reduced
faith in the primacy of set descriptive pieces. There
was, furthermore, an increased concern for revealing
discovered value in an object rather than for reproduc-
ing the object itself. Goethe commented that Ewald
von Kleist would have rewritten his heavily descriptive
Der Frühling (1749) with far less concrete detail and
far more on reactions to the objects. This was part of
a concern for interpretation characteristic of both
science and deism and demonstrated by the sharp
interest in physiognomy as well as in elocution with
their great emphasis on facial configuration and limb

The parallels between poetry and painting were not
enough to satisfy thinkers on aesthetics or psychology,
and more arts, particularly music, were widely con-
sidered. The rise of critical interest in poetry and music
was supported by a developing or resurrected theory
that since all arts rose from “nature” and all satisfied
man's “taste,” they should all work together in
expressing and appealing to human emotions. The
whole theory of “the association of ideas” encouraged
the union or blending of contiguous objects in the
memory if not in fact. Although such a union was
always implicit in the drama and especially in the
Renaissance masque, the popularity of the Italian opera
in the eighteenth century was the most immediate
demonstration of the concept which was expressed by
the Abbé Batteux and by Francesco Algarotti in his
Saggio sopra l'opera in musica (1755). Batteux was
particularly influential since his ideas were given wide
distribution by Diderot and d'Alembert in the
Encyclopédie. The culmination of such theories was,
of course, Richard Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk thesis
in the nineteenth century.

Parallels between poetry and music had long been
made since both functioned in time, seeking “har-
mony,” and, more precisely, both used accent, rhythm,
and pause. Charles Avison, in An Essay on Musical
(London, 1752), developed the points that
painting and music both have harmony and proportion
and, above all, composition. Poetry with its direct
appeal to the reason was seen as superior to music as
well as to painting, both of which were essentially
sensory, although J. J. Rousseau, Herder, and J. B.
Monboddo—all cultural evolutionists—saw music as
preceding language historically since it was expressive
of man's pre-rational, perhaps spiritual, nature. Fol-
lowing the tradition of the lyric or song, poetry and
music were united to gain intensity, just as poetry and
painting combined their powers in the emblem books.
In prefaces, however, both Dryden (Albion and
1685) and Gluck (Alceste, 1767) warn of
music overwhelming the language.

As long as the concept of “imitation” prevailed and
the imagination was seen as an “image-making” faculty
and language as the prompter of images, the natural
analogy was between painting and language; and lan-
guage with its powers of description dominated poetry.
But in the latter half of the eighteenth century, with
the rising interest in internal senses or psychological
reactions over the reproduction of external objects and
with language seen as material for associative emotions,
music with its suggestive powers became the appro-
priate parallel for poetry. Through the general theories
of the imagination and the particular one of “sensi-
bility” or “sympathy” the analogy with music answered
questions about the mysterious nature of creativity, the
organization or “harmony” of subject matter, and the
reader's or viewer's relation to the poem or painting.
Poems such as Poe's “Bells” (1849) and Verlaine's
“Chanson d'automne” (1866) were more than just ex-
periments in sound. (One must recall, however,
Dryden's “A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687” and
“Alexander's Feast,” 1697). The ascendancy of music
was such that in the nineteenth century Walter Pater
could write that “All art constantly aspires toward the


condition of music” (“Giorgione,” The Renaissance,
1873) and Verlaine, that music is all (“La poétique,”
1884). The “symphonic poems” and “tone poems” of
Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and Richard Strauss are
approaches to this problem of identity but from a
different starting point.

The eighteenth-century interest in ut pictura poesis
was further supported by an attempt to elucidate par-
allels between music and color. There was a tradition
of comparing scales and colors of the spectrum that
goes back to Aristotle in De sensu et sensibili, and can
be found in Indian, Chinese, Persian, and Arabic studies
(Albert Wellek, 1951; and see Praz, Mnemosyne, 1970,
for mathematics and architecture, pp. 60ff.). Athanasius
Kircher in his Musurgia universalis (1650) confusedly
argued at length for the identity of colors and tones,
so it remained for Newton in his Opticks (1704), Book
I, Part II, to give the first generally acceptable account
of the relationship. As the poet of Erasmus Darwin's
The Botanic Garden (1791), Part II, Interlude III, says,
“Sir Isaac Newton has observed, that the breadths of
the seven primary colours in the Sun's image refracted
by a prism, are proportional to the seven musical notes
of the gamut, or to the intervals of the eight sounds
contained in an octave....” Loud colors, schreiende
Farben, couleurs criardes,
are more than imaginative
and vivid expressions since, as Darwin continues,
painters and musicians claim “a right to borrow meta-
phors from each other; musicians to speak of the bril-
liancy of sounds and the light and shade of a concerto;
and painters of the harmony of colours, and the tone
of a picture.”

The most dramatic result of the scientific account
was Louis Bertrand Castel's “ocular clavecin,” an
elaborate instrument for projecting colors by a key-
board, and this enthusiastic French Jesuit spent years
attempting to perfect his color symphonies after the
initial announcement of the project in 1725. This the-
ory of “light shows” failed, as did that of Alexander
Scriabin in Prometheus, the Poem of Fire (1909-10),
in part because of technical problems (problems over-
come in Walt Disney's film, Fantasia in 1940, and with
the sophisticated projectors of the 1960's) and in part
from the derision of such contemporaries as Diderot,
Goethe, and J. J. Rousseau, the last calling him the
“Don Quixote of Mathematics” (Mason, 1958). Castel
anticipated instruments that would “play on” the
senses of smell, taste, and touch, and it is fair to say
that he helped prepare the way for the devotion to
synaesthesia so prominent in romantic poetry (von
Erhardt-Siebold, 1932) and in such works as Baude-
laire's “Correspondances” (1857).

In spite of the late eighteenth-century interest in
affective rather than imitative art, the vogue of the
“picturesque” sustained the interest in ut pictura
The term usually meant at this time a landscape
“suitable for a painting” or a description of either the
landscape or the painting. But it was a deceptively
complicated sociological and aesthetic movement
reviving with new vigor disputes on the primacy of
nature and art, as well as the unity of various arts and
crafts. The titles of major works indicate the variety
of areas involved in the “picturesque” vision: William
Gilpin, Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty; On Pic-
turesque Travel; and On Sketching Landscape
Uvedale Price, An Essay on the Picturesque, As Com-
pared with the Sublime and the Beautiful; and, on the
Use of Studying Pictures, for the Purpose of Improving
Real Landscape
(1794); and Richard Payne Knight, The
(1794); and An Analytical Inquiry into the
Principles of Taste
(1805). In discussions of “taste,” the
“picturesque” was seen as something of a middle
ground between the relaxing smoothness of the “beau-
tiful” or the exciting infinity of the “sublime,” the
middle ground achieved through a kind of irregularity
or indefiniteness in a landscape. The theory supported
the development of genre painting and local color
writing as well as attitudes toward travel, local history,
gardening, and architecture, with these areas unified
not only through similar content but through a charac-
teristic form of roughness, of tactility often suffused
by pale light. The impact on the sentimental novel
was enormous. It is fair to say that the picturesque
is still very much alive with Sunday painters but that
its most significant influence can be traced from
Constable through J. M. W. Turner to the French

Although landscape description looms so large in
eighteenth-century literature, the human figure was not
neglected. The period's concern with the rational
rather than the mythic reading of epics, with ethics
and psychology, and with Locke's view of the imagi-
nation and language, encouraged a wide use of the
Renaissance tradition of “personification” by poets,
painters, and sculptors, as well as by critics. Because
of the often necessarily generalized visualization of the
passions, the virtues and vices, and natural forces—the
most usual subjects of personification and allegory—the
temptation to see very close parallels among art forms
is particularly strong (Hagstrum, 1958; Chapin, 1955)
either because distinguishing details are absent or be-
cause theories of metaphor to which poets responded
often demanded that “vividness” could be best attained
by the detailed metaphor—or personification—that
could be painted.

It is evident from these many concerns found in the
eighteenth century that the search for a clarification
of the use and limits of art forms was constant. In


general treatises on taste, language, and the association
of ideas and in both the theory and practice of descrip-
tion, sublimity, personification, and the picturesque,
thinkers and creators were keenly aware of the concept
of ut pictura poesis or, increasingly, with analogies of
music, poetry, and painting.

The major attempt at ordering or at least checking
the chaos appeared in Lessing's Laokoön (1766).
Through an adept use of example he affirmed the basic
distinction between the spatial mode of painting and
the temporal mode of poetry, a distinction derived
from Moses Mendelssohn and J. J. Winckelmann and
widely developed and promulgated in much of German
aesthetic theory until the twentieth century (cf.
Friedrich Schiller, Über naive und sentimentalische
1795). A major justification for this position
is that a poet can establish and develop presented
character so that a reader's sympathy and under-
standing will be with that character at any moment,
even a moment that might make us reject an unknown
figure. The painter does not have this opportunity to
develop character but is limited to presenting the
person or god in a single characteristic expressive pose,
for otherwise a viewer simply cannot recognize and
therefore understand the figure portrayed: an angry
Venus is possible for the poet but not for the painter
unless he gives us something in addition to the
figure—a symbolic artifact or a name—to indicate that
the figure does indeed represent Venus.

The entire problem is a very rich one not yet re-
solved. Any repeated motif, whether it be abstract
design or realistically repeated identical figures, tends
toward motion. Just as with a colonnade, the very
repetition moves not only through space itself but, for
the viewer, exists in time. Simply determining the
interrelations of parts in a painting is often a complex
exercise with time introduced into spatial objects by
the use of intricate detail, an obscure theme, multiple
points of views, or varied reactions to an event pictured
within a single space. A viewer must explore and
analyze these various components if he is to compre-
hend or realize the painting, sculpture, or building. For
that matter any three-dimensional object suggests that
movement must take place by either the object or the
viewer if its totality is to be comprehended.

A significantly more complex aspect of time may
be seen by considering the fact that any painting is
in time, is within a culture and within a specific tradi-
tion. Time, then, is part of a painting. For the viewer
of that painting there is the effect of memory in that
culture and tradition, again a fact of time that compli-
cates even further a viewer's exploration of the given
art object. Both time and space then are aspects of
individual memory and of history as well as simply
objects of sensory perception, and the early and com-
mon argument, codified by Lessing, that a painting is
seen and absorbed instantaneously is clearly untenable.

Lessing's position in general was weakened since he
was so committed to a concern for beauty of bodily
form, especially in sculpture, that he tended to confine
the expression of the passions, long a key aspect of
history painting, to poetry alone. At the same time,
one must insist that he was not as rigid as some critics
have suggested. He was clearly aware of the imagina-
tion's capacity to add time to a painting, to complete
an action depicted, or for that matter, to understand,
through the pictured act, that earlier acts had taken
place and were still affecting the present impassioned

One mark of the impact of Lessing is Irving Babbitt's
The New Laokoön: An Essay on the Confusion of the
(1910). He saw the ut pictura poesis of the eight-
eenth century as a dehumanizing rejection of action
for stasis. The emphasis on “things” to be imitated was
compounded by the other imitation, that of diction,
which led to a deadening of all poetry. Like his prede-
cessor, Babbitt sought too neat a compartmentalization
not only of art forms but of genre. The description
of a landscape is “nonhumanistic,” however, only if
“humanistic” is defined as having man as its overt
object. This position is a misrepresentation of the very
humanistic position in the late eighteenth-century
conception of landscape as meaningfully human since
it was viewed as the book of God and was, in addition,
a reflection of human perception or the human mind.
Still further, and perhaps of greater importance
ultimately, was the fact that a viewer was concerned
with that landscape and that for him it had very human
symbolic or emotive value.

In the nineteenth century, concrete detail was used
to individuate character and place, to set, intellectually
as well as visually, a particular entity apart from all
others of its class. The formation of a picture with
language was no longer seen as a significant goal,
although many writers and painters revealed a warm
preoccupation with each other's medium. The use of
concrete detail took two basic directions, both easy
to anticipate. The first was the continuation of scientific
observation and reporting, close, precise, and extensive,
which is best exemplified in the local color or historical
novel popularized by Walter Scott. His long descrip-
tions of both places and people are in defiance of
Lessing's argument that no reader can “compose” a
clear picture from a mass of detail; he can only admit
to the existence of the facts. Balzac, of course, very
consciously saw himself as an historian of his own time,
and throughout the enormous bulk of his work he
details clothing and architecture, making that record


an essential part of his contemporary history. In keep-
ing with both his scientific and his mystical bent, his
facial descriptions always reflect the popular pseudo-
sciences of physiognomy and phrenology in his
attempts to use all observable means to reveal the

The other direction of the use of concrete detail is
in the suggestive; the selected dominant detail or very
few details will give the reader a direction to pursue
concerning a person or place. This more compressed
approach may be easily seen in the works of Jane
Austen and Stendhal, both of whom but very rarely
describe the physical appearance of a person or place.
The literature of the nineteenth century can well be
examined by asking such simple questions as why the
writer uses concrete detail and why just this much if
there is to be anything approximating the painting of
a picture. The nineteenth-century painter continued
to develop the interest in the audience's imaginative
involvement and so, through the use of vague sugges-
tion rather than through the completeness of the medi-
eval effictio. The cooperative creative art was, then,
necessarily sequential: painting was moved from the
simply spatial, poetry from the passively temporal.
French criticism, since A. C. Quatremère de Quincy,
Essai sur la nature, le but et les moyens de l'imitation
dans les beaux arts
(1823), is based on the audience's
awareness that the art object is in fact an art object
and that the audience will both cooperate with and
submerge itself in the illusion (Gombrich, 1948).

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
both accidental and deliberate mixing of the arts is
constantly evident. Rimbaud arbitrarily assigned color
values to vowel sounds, and D. G. Rossetti both wrote
and painted The Blessed Damozel. With the nine-
teenth-century Pre-Raphaelites and parnassiens, as
well as the twentieth-century members of the Bauhaus
and De Stilj, workers in a wide variety of art forms
saw their arts as sisters (Fosca, 1960; Hatzfeld, 1952;
Praz, Studies, 1964; and Ringe, 1960). Both opera and
ballet grew enormously in popularity, bringing many
art forms together to effect one whole. Many novelists
clearly saw their world through the painter's eye. The
film, especially the “animated cartoon,” has enriched
the complexities of the drama and opera since it is
indeed an art of “moving images” with, usually but
by no means necessarily, interaction of language and
music. The old problems of space and time seem to
merge in a film such as Last Year at Marienbad (1962).

In language development through “show and tell,”
in industrial and military training films, and in adver-
tising on television, both language and visual image
are deliberately combined to reinforce each other, both
to clarify and to intensify meaning. In his prophetic
Brave New World (1932) Aldous Huxley invented
“feelies,” films for which the audience was wired to
receive tactile impressions analogous to, and thereby
reinforcing, its visual ones. Post-World War II film
makers have, admittedly only sporadically, attempted
an olfactory reinforcement by having various scents
carried through the ventilating systems to make more
real their depictions of forest or sea movies.

In the older art forms the twentieth century has the
concrete poetry discussed earlier, and Cézanne broke
the space-time problem in painting. In Cubism, the
eye moves through different planes on the flat surface
and, in effect, moves around the object rather than
viewing it from a fixed point. One can consider all art
following Cézanne as little but a footnote, although
Picasso was even more radical in that he not only
moved around an object but through it. A variation
on space-time in twentieth-century painting was the
attempt in Futurism to give a single view of successive
movements, which can be found in Balla's Girl Run-
ning on the Balcony
(1912) and Duchamp's Nude
Descending a Staircase, No. 2
(1913). Extremely
effective multiple-exposure photographs by such artists
as Gjon Mili (Life, October, 3, 1969) give this sense
of a full sequence of movement within a single frame,
within a single figure. But perhaps the ultimate in the
history of Uu pictura poesis is found in the mobile of
Alexander Calder. It is painting and sculpture and
narrative as it continuously describes in time its own
ever-varying space. If sound and language is included,
as it often is in developments by such “New Tendency”
artists as Jean Tinguely and Len Lye, the traditional
questions about the discrimination of the arts seem