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TIMANTHES. him at Olympia, the work of Myron. (Pans. vi.
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'timanthes (tm^s), artists, i. The
celebrated Greek painter, contemporary with Zeuxis and Parrhasius (about 01. 95, b. c. 400; Plin. H. N. xxxv. 10. s. 36. § 3), is said by Quintilian (ii. 13) to have been a native of Cythnos, but Eustathius (ad II. xxiv. 163, p. 1343. 60) makes him a Sicyonian : these testimonies may be reconciled by supposing him to have been a native of Cythnos, and to have belonged to the Sicyonian school of painting. Our information respecting his personal history is confined to the facts of his having contended with Parrhasius and Colotes ; the works which he painted on those occasions will be mentioned presently. Native genius, power of expression and suggestion, and entire mastery of the resources of his art, seem to have been the chief qualities which characterised Timanthes. (Plin. 1. c. § 6.) His pictures were distinguished, Pliny tells us, from those of all other painters by suggesting more than they expressed ; and, striking as was the art displayed in them, they showed a genius which surpassed that art. (Atque in unius hujus operibus intelligitur plus se?nper, quam pingitur: et cum sit ars summa, ingenium tamen ultra artem esi). Only five of his works are mentioned ; but they are evidently masterpieces, and one of them involves one of the most interesting questions in the history of art.
(1) The work referred to, and that which appears to have been regarded by the ancients as his masterpiece, is the celebrated picture of the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, which he painted in competition with Colotes of Teos (Quintil. I. c.); and the question involved in it is, whether Timanthes displayed consummate skill, or was guilty of a mere trick, in painting Agamemnon with his face hidden in his mantle. It is evident that the ancients regarded this stroke of art with the most unbounded admiration. Pliny tells us that it was " oratorum laudibus celebrata; " and it is praised also by Cicero (Orat. 22), Quintilian (I. c.), and Valerius Maxiinus (viii. 11. ext. 6). Unfortunately, however, these writers display in this, as in other cases, their ignorance of the true principles of art, by giving an unsound reason for their right judgment of the work. The picture, they tell us, showed Iphigeneia, standing by the altar, surrounded, among the assistants, by Calchas, whose prophetic voice had demanded her sacrifice, and whose hand was about to complete it, Ulysses, who had brought her from her home, and Menelaus, her father's brother, all manifesting different degrees of grief, so that, when the artist had painted the sorrow of Calchas, and the deeper sorrow of Ulysses, and had added all his powers to express the woe of Menelaus, his resources were exhausted, and, unable to give a powerful expression to the agony of the father, he covered his head with a veil. In the present state of aesthetic criticism, it is hardly necessary to point out the absurdity of thus making out Timanthes to be the Epimetheus of painting. The very writers, who have given this false judgment, let fall expressions, borrowed doubtless from their Greek authorities, which intimate the true reason of the manner in which Timanthes painted Agamemnon: " patris ipsius vultum velavit, quern digne non poterat ostendere," says Pliny ; " non reperiens quo die/no modo patris vultum posset exprimere," says Quintilian. In one word, it was
his knowledge of aesthetic principles, not his want of artistic power, that dictated to Timanthes this mode of representation. His conduct has been most admirably vindicated by Fuseli, in reply to the (in this case) mistaken judgment of Reynolds, and the shallow flippancy of Falconet (Reynolds, Discourse viii.; Fuseli, Lecture i. vol. ii. pp. 44— 58, in Knowles's Life and Writings of Fuseli). The whole of Fuseli's remarks should be read ; but the following extract will perhaps convey their spirit sufficiently. " The subject of Timanthes was the immolation of Iphigenia ; Iphigenia was the principal figure, and her form, her resignation, or her anguish, the painter's principal task ; the figure of Agamemnon, however important, is merely accessory, and no more necessary to make the subject a completely tragic one, than that of Clytemnestra the mother, no more than that of Priam, to impress us with sympathy at the death of Polyxena. It is therefore a misnomer of the French critic, to call Agamemnon ' the hero' of the subject.
" Neither the French nor the English critic appears to me to have comprehended the real motive of Timanthes, as contained in the words, ' decere, pro dignitate, and dignej in the passages of Tally, Quintilian, and Pliny ; they ascribe to impotence what was the forbearance of judgment. Timanthes felt like a father: he did not hide the face of Agamemnon, because it was beyond the power of his art, not because it was beyond the possibility, but because it was beyond the dignity of expression, because the inspiring feature of paternal affection at that moment, and the action which of necessity must have accompanied it, would either have destroyed the grandeur of the character, and the solemnity of the scene, or subjected the painter with the majority of his judges to the imputation of insensibility. He must either have represented him in tears, or convulsed at the flash of the raised dagger, forgetting the chief in the father, or shown him absorbed by despair, and in that state of stupefaction, which levels all features and deadens expression ; he might indeed have chosen a fourth mode, he might have exhibited him fainting and palsied in the arms of his attendants, and by this confusion of male and female character, merited the applause of every theatre at Paris. But Timanthes had too true a sense of nature to expose a father's feelings, or to tear a .passion to rags ; nor had the Greeks yet learnt of Rome to steel the face. If he made Agamemnon bear his calamity as a man, he made him also feel it as a man. It became the leader of Greece to sanction the ceremony with his presence, it did not become the father to see his daughter beneath the dagger's point: the same nature that threw a real mantle over the face of Timoleon, when he assisted at the punishment of his brother, taught Timanthes to throw an imaginary one over the face of Agamemnon ; neither height nor depth, but propriety of expression was his aim."
The question as to whether Timanthes invented this mode of representation, or whether he borrowed it from Euripides, is altogether beside the mark ; and, in raising such a question, Falconet merely showed his ignorance of the true relation between pictorial and poetic invention. It may be worth while, however, to mention that Eustathius supposed the idea to have been suggested to Timanthes by a line of the Iliad (xxiv. 163). An imitation of the picture of Timanthes was found on