Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/508

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

multiply labor by the introduction of mechanical improvements; and we supply our homes with luxuries that have become necessaries at extraordinarily economical rates. In short, we produce quickly and cheaply, and in all that relates to action we leave the dreamy East immeasurably behind, as the Easterns are ready enough to acknowledge, and, for the most part, rather with commiseration than envy. But, on the other hand, in much that is highest and most perfect in art we are the scholars and they the teachers. Our best-informed and most experienced technical and practical men are the most ready to acknowledge this. It is not wealthy connoisseurs and capricious dilettanti who lounge about the courts of Japan, China, and Turkey, cheapening the strangely attractive wares which are exposed by the merchants from those distant countries. It is the European manufacturers and tradesmen—especially the English—who rush into the Eastern departments, eagerly bidding against each other for every thing that strikes their fancy. This is one of the most characteristic features of the Vienna Exhibition. On no previous occasion of the kind has there been such wholesale buying and selling in the very earliest days, and the traffic goes forward most briskly in the Oriental quarters. As yet, Japan has not cleared her goods at the custom-house; China has scarcely imported the better part of hers. Those countries cannot as yet pretend to set a price upon their wares, while the prices fixed by the Persians seem high enough in all conscience, and the Ottomans are following suit after the time-honored fashion of Eastern dealers. Yet already the choicest of the Persian prayer-carpets are snatched up at the high prices set upon them; the best of the Japanese porcelain, bronzes, cloisonnée ware, and silks, have been sold several times over, the charges being left to the conscience of the commissioners, and the cards of the fortunate purchaser lying on the fragments of the torn tickets that had been affixed by rejected bidders; while even in Turkey and Tunis, which come far behind Japan and Persia in taste and quality of workmanship, many of the goods have changed owners already, the Prince of Wales being among the earliest and most considerable buyers.

The truth is, the more closely we look into the special productions of the East, the more we recognize its incontestable superiority in design and color, and in perfection of form and finish. The Orientals have plenty of time, no doubt, and do not grudge it; they can afford to work leisurely and carefully where we must economize labor by the rapidity of our processes and the multiplying power of our machinery. But then they have taste as well, and a taste which is older than schools of art, and seems nearly independent of technical education. Compare the graceful turbans and draperies of the Oriental with the stiff "chimney-pot," cutaway, and trousers of the Frank. The latter, although open to criticism even as convenient wear, doubtless look more like business. They give the idea of stripping easily