Salomon Reinach

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Salomon Reinach around C.E.1900

Salomon Reinach (C.E.1858 – 1932), French archaeologist and historian.

Apollo General history of the plastic arts:[edit]

  • Egypt has possessed temples far more remarkable than the Parthenon in Athens; but its heavy buildings do not impose themselves except for their size; they are decorated without sobriety and sometimes without good taste. The most significant flaw of the Egyptian temple is that it is too long in proportion to its height, and that it has too many external walls compared to the few openings. From this aspect the Egyptian temple and the Gothic church present the most absolute contrast: here, too many spaces; there, too many voids; Greek and Renaissance art were able to find the right intermediate point. (pp. 17-18)
  • What is most admirable in the Parthenon is the correctness of the proportions. The relationship between the height of the pediments and the other dimensions of the temple has been determined with such precision that the whole is neither too light nor too heavy, that the lines harmonize to produce, at the same time, the impression of elegance and strength. No less surprising is the technical perfection of the construction. The large marble boulders, the drums of the columns are brought together and supported by [sic] and metal pins, but without cement, with joints as precise as those of the finest goldsmith's work. Never has modern art, which uses cement so profusely, been able to rival the workers of Ictino[1]. (p. 50)
  • [...] the art of Lysippus presents itself as a Doric reaction against Attic art, which played an increasing role in sentiment and could seem soft and sensual. Lysippus modified the Canon of Polycletus, i.e. the classical tradition of the C.E.5th century, with a more pronounced tendency towards elegance, giving the body almost eight times the length of the head (instead of seven), making the joints and muscles stand out at the expense of their fleshy envelope. His heads express neither meditation nor passion, they are limited to being nervous and refined. (p. 60)
  • For the invincible impetus and the conquering energy, for the thrill of life transfused into the marble, for the happy contrast between the tumultuous fluttering of the cloak and the adhering of the tunic to the belly and the [sic], this statue [the Nike of Samothrace] is the most beautiful expression of the movement that ancient art has transmitted to us. The sculptor has not only translated the muscular strength and triumphal elegance, but the intensity of the sea breeze, of that breeze that Sully-Prudhomme makes one feel in an equally winged verse: Un peu du grand zéphir qui souffle à Salamine.... (pp. 63-64)
  • A very widespread kind of snobbery consists in speaking ill of Greek art after Phidias, as of Italian art after Raphael. The least flaw of those who delight in this is that they understand nothing of the evolution of art. If Greek art had stopped at the pediments of the Parthenon, it would have remained just as incomplete as that of Assyria and Egypt, because all its incomparable greatness would not have been embraced as is done now by admiring it, at the same time, in the products of his childhood, his adolescence and his mature age. (p. 70)
  • [Commenting on the Apollo of the Belvedere] Apollo's body offers an absolute contrast to those of the gods and giants of the Pergamon frieze. There the muscles are all indicated, as if the artist took pleasure in giving them special prominence; here, however, the skeleton is covered with flesh, and on the flesh you can see the epidermis and you can see more elegance than strength. (p. 70)
  • The head of the Belvedere Apollo presents characters that connect to the school of Scopa. The god has shot an arrow and his gaze is frowning; but he is both passionate and restless. The gods, in Hellenistic art, no longer know Olympian serenity; even if victorious and omnipotent, they are afflicted by some cures. (p. 70)
  • The graceful art of the C.E.18th century never exerted its influence except on small holiday buildings and interiors. The origin of the rococo style is probably to be found in the carving work which was transferred from the furniture to the apartments. No more pillars, nor colonnades, nor architraves; but garlands, festoons, shells, a profusion of sinuous lines, wrapped and intertwined, so that it seems that every ornament wants to be a surprise. With this, an exquisite sense of proportion and prodigious execution. (p. 138)
  • Giovanni Bellini, who lived for about 86 years (C.E.1430?–1516), went through so many different stages that one would call him a school of painting rather than a painter. His first works are still fine and dry, close to Mantegna, not free from harshness and bizarre designs; the compositions of his mature age are masterpieces, which are missing almost nothing, not even a reflection of the palette of Giorgione, his pupil, who died six years before him. This great artist, teacher of many students, traveled the entire path from Mantegna to Titian during a laborious existence. There was only one thing he lacked: the gift or taste for representing movement. (pp. 171-172)
  • The life of Raffaello Santi (or Sanzio) forms a complete contrast to that of Leonardo. If he, who lived for a long time, produced little, Raphael, who died at the age of 37, instead left an immense work, which has come down to us, almost in its entirety. (p. 192)
  • The large painting of Bruges, in which Van [sic] Paele appears as a donor[2] , allows us to appreciate the greatness of Giovanni's genius[3] and at the same time the limits traced to him by nature. He has no religious feeling, no fervor; the Virgin is ugly, the Baby Jesus is stunted, Saint George is a peasant in armour. But Giovanni van Eyck is the greatest portraitist of all time. Never has a more penetrating eye scrutinized the living form, never has a more capable hand fixed its image on the table. (p. 219)
  • [...] the famous painting by Guido Reni, L'Aurora, in the Palazzo Rospigliosi in Rome (C.E.1609), although somewhat strident in color and too easy to draw, it is one of the great works of decorative painting. Guido Reni also created some types of Christ, the Virgin and the Magdalene, who can be accused of a certain sentimental affectation; but it is certain that their prodigious success shows them to be responsive - and this is no small merit - to the religious ideal of the time. (p. 247)
  • Claudio Lorrain He is the undisputed master of that false and conventional genre called the Italian landscape, in which the great scenery of nature, expertly manipulated, serves as the backdrop to a historical or mythological composition. The temples, trees and [sic] of Claudio Lorrain have very little of reality; his characters have even less; but what saves his paintings, what gives them legitimate admiration, is the poetic feeling of space, sky, water, light. (p. 279)
  • [...] Meissonier treated anecdotal subjects of the 18th century with prodigious mastery as a miniaturist and a science of form, superior even to that of the Dutch. But the most beautiful of his little paintings pales next to a Pieter de Hoock or a Vermeer, because Meissonier draws too much, colors more than he paints and never knows how to envelop the form in a luminous and caressing atmosphere. (pp. 309-310)
  • [...] the dominant school [of the romantic tendency] was that of the Nazarenes, based in Rome and which aimed in particular at imitating the Italian C.E.15th century. [...]; they painted as badly as Ingres, they drew much less well and they differed from him in their love of large symbolic compositions which are tedious and require comment. (pp. 320-321)
  • In the first half of the nineteenth century, the greatest of English artists was Turner (C.E.1775-1851), a painter in love with light to the point of ecstasy, a Claudio Lorrain romantic, feverish and sometimes theatrical, [...]. (p. 322)
  • The [sic] saw in Raphael an apostate from the Ideal and an apostle of savoir faire; they took Botticelli and Mantegna as examples. But they were not vulgar "smugglers". The salient character of their school is intellectualism, the disdain of art for art's sake; they want to narrate and teach, move the soul of the crowds, descend among the people and convert them to beauty. (pp. 322-323)
  • [On the Pre-Raphaelites] Although several of them preceded, since C.E.1848, the French school on the path of plenarianism[4] and divisionism, they are not impressionists; they have a horror of sloppy and hasty execution; their workmanship, meticulous and pedantic, superimposes, without trying to harmonize them, intense and raw colors.
    This arid and fictitious art, however placed at the service of a very high ideal, must have ended up tiring. (p. 323)
  • Will the art of the future be above all realist? I don't believe it. One of the beautiful discoveries of the 19th century, photography, made reality more familiar. Which artist, even if he were a Van Eyck, would want to fight with the sensitized plate today? We ask of art what photography, even polychrome, cannot give us: the suggestive beauty of shapes and movements, the radiance, the intensity, or the mystery of colour, in a word, the equivalent, in the field of art, to what poetry is in that of literature. (p. 330)
  • Antonio Canova is the deity of Italian art in the first twenty years of the C.E.19th century. He was hailed "prince of sculpture and art reformer in Italy". And whatever the judgment that today's artists make of him, it remains and will always remain that he greatly advantaged himself over his predecessors in style and execution. His monuments to Pope Rezzonico (Clement XIII) and Pope Ganganelli (Clement XIV) made such an impression as to mark a new artistic era. (p. 335)
  • However, among all [the painters who came to Rome to study ancient models] Vincenzo Camuccini, born there in C.E.1775, stood out. He followed David's ideas, but also took care of the study of the Italian Renaissance masters or, rather, of Raphael, with little advantage of his complexion. He was an easy designer and a quick executor, but of little inspiration and no originality. Therefore, perhaps, his portraits are more appreciated today than his great compositions on Roman subjects or from the heroic period of Christianity. In all of them he piled up reminiscences of ancient sculptures and sixteenth-century paintings, with so little fusion, that Pierre Guérin[5] said: «He fed on Raphael and of the ancients, but he did not digest them!...". (p. 338)
  • Bertel Thorvaldsen: No one was a more fanatical supporter of the theories of Mengs, Winckelmann and David than he was[6]. Indeed, it seemed dangerous and useless to him to seek the laws and principles of art in reality, when they had already materialized in Greek statuary, from which it was best to derive them. (pp. 338-339)
  • In other Italian cities [like in Florence] different ideals were not followed, and classicism reigned everywhere without envy, cold and composed even in architecture, when a cry of war. Lorenzo Bartolini had launched it. Having grown up indomitable amidst misfortunes and hostilities, he had strengthened his spirit for the fight, which he sustained until he broke down the doors of the Academy and installed himself as arbiter of official teaching in Florence. (pp. 339-340)
  • While the outcry raised by the audacious polemic of Bartolini spread throughout Italy, as he dared to slap the pseudo-classicists to the point of introducing a hunchback as a model into the school; Romanticism arose against classical painting, initially confined to a few aspects, then overwhelming everything: in themes, in attitudes, in colour. (p. 340)


  1. Ictino (5th century BC), architect of ancient Greece, designer of the Parthenon.
  2. Refers to the painting Madonna by Canon van der Paele, preserved in the Groeninge Museum in Bruges.
  3. Italianization of Jan, van Eyck's name.
  4. Painting en plein air, that is, practiced outdoors and not in the confines of the artist's studio.
  5. Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (C.E.1774–1833), French painter.
  6. Anton Raphael Mengs (C.E.1728–1779); Johann Joachim Winckelmann (C.E.1717–1768); Jacques-Louis David (C.E.1748–1825).


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