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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/851

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EXAGGERATION AS AN ÆSTHETIC FACTOR.

plied this measurement to twenty-seven profiles of statues of celebrated men, passing by all that could not be certainly identified, and taking only those on which the name was engraved, and which bore evident resemblance to the figures on their medals. We likewise passed over mythological personages like Homer, Sappho, and others, whose existence is not fully proved, and kings whose features might have been idealized for the sake of flattery. The angle thus determined measures from seven to fifteen degrees on the master-works of ancient statuary, statues of divinities and heroes. Of the twenty-seven human statues measured, five had angles of fifteen degrees or less, seven of between fifteen and twenty degrees, eight of between twenty and thirty degrees, and seven of thirty degrees and more. A small number of these profiles, it will be observed, present angles not departing greatly from those of the statues of the gods. We do not establish a mean from these, for we recognize that the sculptor may have exaggerated in the case of subjects who presented marked profiles. It can not be objected that the artist sought to idealize these men of genius; for the purest profiles are not those of the most celebrated characters. Solon, Plato, and Socrates, who enjoyed so great fame, appear to less advantage than Hermarchus, Bias, and Epaphroditas, who were much less well known.

We can obtain a more exact conception of the special characteristic of these statues by comparing them with the figures in Visconti's Iconographie Romaine. The Romans all had a very convex nose with the root usually depressed; and a tangent could not be drawn from that point to the forehead, even if the projection of the sinus were neglected. Of fourteen persons examined, only four had that line tangent to the forehead, while it was secant on all the others. The Grecian bust, on the other hand, had it tangent, with only two exceptions. Furthermore, the angle is very open in the Roman busts, ranging from twenty-four to forty-eight degrees. It appears, then, that the Greeks, like other peoples, established their ideal type by starting with the real and exaggerating certain qualities.

In this study of exaggeration as an element of æsthetic art, I make no criticism, but rather place myself in the position of those artists who see in the ideal something beyond and above the real. This conception has been assailed. In the eyes of many, the artist should confine himself strictly to copying the real, and be nothing but the inferior rival of the photograph—or rather, perhaps, of the composite photograph, which gives the mean of the features of several persons by fixing them upon a single sensitive plate. When anthropologists recognize the merits of artists canons, they regard them as the expression of the truth, because they represent the mean proportions of a large number of in-