Art Theory – Relation Of Constiuents

The various personages and parts in a composition should bear the same relation to one another, and to the principal figure or individual in it, as the different members of the same body, although varying extensively in their nature and purposes, and exercising very different functions one from the other, bear to one another, and especially to the head. Indeed, the several features in a particular individual face may be made to match as ill one with another as the different limbs in the same figure, or the different figures in the same group.

Although these several parts of the composition may be all actually disconnected, they are all related to each other. Each part, as it were, fits and adapts itself to the rest ; and each is essential for the completion of the whole. Like the different creations in nature, all bear their respective and appropriate parts in the same grand system ; or like the various animals of the same species, although they are each different, and each independent one of another, yet they are all of the same nature, and all aid in the economy of the race.

The subordination to the principal of the secondary parts of the composition, should also be analogous to what we see in the civil government of a country, where each person preserves his proper gradation, from the supreme ruler, through all the various ranks. Moreover, by the observance of this principle the several portions of the composition are not only united together, but are made to occupy and preserve their due and appointed position.

Not only should every figure and every expression and action contribute to the general effect, but whatever does not tend to this purpose more or less deteriorates from it. A useless figure is an intruder, and hinders the development of the story. And there should be the same harmony and proportion between the different figures and colours and lights and shades in a picture, as between the different parts and colours and shades of each object in it.

A considerable effect as regards the general vigour and impressiveness of the entire piece, is produced by the concentration together into one composition of a variety of different objects and circumstances which all tend to the same result, and to excite the same emotions in the mind, whether painful or pleasurable, and whether of sublimity, beauty, terror, or surprise. In the ‘Last Judgment’ of Michael Angelo, notwithstanding the great diversity of incidents represented, every attendant circumstance, as well as the expression and attitudes of the various figures, contribute to the result of the whole. This is also seen in Raphael’s admirable cartoons of Christ’s Charge to Peter,’ and of ‘ Paul Preaching at Athens;’ and is, indeed, a characteristic feature of excellence in all the compositions by Raphael. Attention to nature is of great use in this branch of art ; and her example, and the effect of it here, are deserving of attentive observation, and of close imitation.

This principle is obvious in all architectural compositions, as well as in those in music and eloquence ; in the management of a dramatic representation, and in the arrangement of the parts of a dress, In gardening, too, it should always regulate the composition. In each of the arts, moreover, the general style of the composition should ever be throughout in accordance with, and should bear relation to the subject of it, and to the particular characters introduced.