What Rocks Were To
Him, The Common Occurrences Of Everyday Life Were To Those Who Are
Generally Held To Be The Giants Of Painting.
The result of this
neglect to kiss the soil - of this attempt to be always soaring - is
that these giants are for the most part now very uninteresting,
while the smaller men who preceded them grow fresher and more
It was not so with Handel and Shakespeare.
"Ploughman near at hand, whistling o'er the furrowed land,"
is intensely sympathetic, and his humour is admirable whenever he
has occasion for it.
Leonardo da Vinci is the only one of the giant Italian masters who
ever tried to be humorous, and he failed completely: so, indeed,
must any one if he tries to be humorous. We do not want this; we
only want them not to shut their eyes to by-play when it comes in
their way, and if they are giving us an account of what they have
seen, to tell us something about this too. I believe the older the
world grows, the better it enjoys a joke. The mediaeval joke
generally was a heavy, lumbering old thing, only a little better
than the classical one. Perhaps in those days life was harder than
it is now, and people if they looked at it at all closely dwelt
upon its soberer side. Certainly in humorous art, we may claim to
be not only principes, but facile principes. Nevertheless, the
Italian comic journals are, some of them, admirably illustrated,
though in a style quite different from our own; sometimes, also,
they are beautifully coloured.
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