Page images
PDF
EPUB

e by 10.02. so thometimes

romances. With respect to the latter, different scenes of the same story are sometimes painted in the different recesses, so that you have the whole narrative by looking at them one after another. Very often, however, the end is left out where there is not room enough for the whole.

Mr. D. Surely it would be better if they left out some of the middle parts of the story, in order to have room for the conclusion ?

U. O. Yes, Sir; but the Persians are not at all nice in such matters. As, on the one hand, they sometimes leave out the end of a story, so, on the other, they sometimes make amends, by putting the beginning and the end of a story in the same picture.

It is in their paintings of single figures that we must look for whatever merit the Persian pictures possess; for when the artists come to arrange different objects in a landscape, or figures in a battle or hunting scene, their ignorance becomes very evident. Such pictures are often very large, with a multitude of figures in them; and then a European who has the slightest knowledge of drawing cannot help laughing at them.

H. But what are their defects?
VOL. II.

a flats things indeed, it hand

ap he in front. Thus, you may sees behind, a

U. O. One of the principal is their perfect · ignorance of perspective. They have scarcely

any notion that things should be made gradually smaller in size as their distance increases. Thus you may sometimes see a man as tall as a mountain; and figures a mile off as large as those that are close at hand -and sometimes larger. But, indeed, they do not know how to make things look as if behind one another upon a flat surface. The objects they wish to have appear as behind, are placed above those intended to be in front. Thus in large pictures of battles, even in royal palaces, you may see a line of foot-soldiers placed over, instead of behind, a line of cannon; and, in the same way, a line of horse-soldiers placed above these. In fact, in paintings of this sort, and in hunting pieces, the figures are strewed all over the painting, from top to bottom, without any regard to place or natural variation of distance, with such a neglect of perspective, that the horsemen seem to be riding into the sky, and over houses, castles, bridges, mountains and rivers.

J. How I should like to see that!

U. O. If you want to see bad pictures, you need not go to Persia for the purpose. The sight of pictures is always pleasant-even the sight of bad pictures, if you cannot see good ones. But I remember that I used to feel a good deal of vexation to see large paintings, such as the Persians consider master-pieces of art, treated in this way ; particularly as the figures which made them up were comparatively well done, and were sometimes portraits of living persons.

Another great defect in the paintings of the Persians is their disregard of light and shade. This is the more difficult to understand in a country where the sun is seldom obscured, and where they have, therefore, always before their eyes the effects of strong lights and strong shadows. These two great faults - ignorance of perspective, and neglect of light and shade, are shared with the Persians by all Eastern nations; and until they are corrected, they will never produce any pictures entitled to respect.

H. Is there no way of teaching them to do better?

U. 0. I know no other way than by sending good pictures from this country as presents to their princes and great men. Their own artists might, perhaps, in time come to imitate them,

2

or at least to get some useful hints from them. They have already some good portraits by English painters; but they appear to have done little good in this way, perhaps because the appearance of an European and a Persian is so different in dress and other points, that the artist does not clearly discern how much of the difference between their portraits and our own is owing to the superior art of our painters. They have also some poor landscapes from England, and some, still poorer from China. They are regarded as master-pieces by the Persians, and their landscape painters study one sort or both if they have opportunity. I am afraid much improvement is not to be expected, when Chinese landscapes are, equally with those from England, master-pieces in their opinion. They say our figures are best; but they greatly prefer the glaring bright colours of the Chinese painters. They certainly consider strong colours the most important part of a picture. And, mind, I dont say any thing against their colours, but only against the way in which they use them. I certainly have never seen colours so bright and so lasting as those which the Persians use. In our own climates the dampness of the air soon deadens the brightness and clearness of all colour; but in Persia the colours are not only of incomparable brightness in themselves, but through the dryness of the air they remain clear and brilliant for an astonishing length of time, even when painted on the walls. Such colours may, of course, often be employed to advantage, though in a picture a general glare of bright colour is offensive.

You will understand that such pictures as these of which I have been speaking, occupy the recesses in a room, and sometimes the whole face of the wall between the lower recesses and the ceiling.

Now : shall we go?

F. Pray stay a bit longer to look at the ornaments of the walls.

U. O. Well: you will observe that in some rooms, a larger proportion of the fanciful devices, the trees, flowers, and birds are wrought in the fine and hard plaster. These raised ornaments are sometimes left white, sometimes painted with the natural colours, sometimes covered with gilding, sometimes partly gilt and partly done with a beautiful blue colour, and sometimes the whole is done with this blue, of which they are

« PreviousContinue »