Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 85.djvu/168

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

represents the creative force of Jehovah. Infinite Deity is not reduced to the figure of a man, but divine power is expressed in transcending harmony of line and movement. The head is great, but it would hardly satisfy us as a symbol of the Creator; the body is super-human, but physical strength can never mean God: the effect on us is rather in the uniting of these elements, and above all, of the lines of the figures and draperies, into a symphonic pattern of crashing harmonies.

Let us see just what this means within ourselves, see how we react to harmony of design. The mechanical process of eye and brain we may leave to the psychologist, but we can recognize a certain sensation which we have before all things we call beautiful. It need not trouble us if we can not agree on a definition of the word "beautiful." We may not be able to bound the town we were brought up in, but we know the look of it. We know that the appearance of a flower, a Persian rug, or a great picture, entirely apart from any meaning or association, produces in us a feeling of pleasure which for the moment drives out of us physical fatigue, desire or any sense of limitation. Beauty of design has been called "supreme order," and harmony, if not the only principle involved, is by far the most important. "The Creation of the Sun and Moon" is an example of such beauty, and an analysis of the picture is helpful.

The sweeping line of the Creator's figure gives the theme of the composition. Around it is a system of repetitions of that theme, in different lengths and positions. The movement through this group and through the. seraph is a larger development of the same curve. About the seraph is another system of lines, partial repetitions of the drapery fold from the left foot under the arm and continued over the back. The little folds over the seraph's back are angular, but each discord is repeated in slight variation so that we feel a clear relation between them. The great black line of Jehovah's arms is in discordant contact with the movement of the body, but the shock is a repetition of the crossings of the drapery about the figure, and the line is echoed in certain opposite diagonals. But what of it? Surely esthetic pleasure is not to be had in such dry analysis of line. Certainly not; the analysis is but a slow and painful following of what the eye feels at once,—a simple relationship of many elements. Harmony is an extraordinarily simple relationship of parts, and our experience of it is an unwonted feeling of clear vision.

It might seem at first, then, that two or three squares set side by side would constitute the most perfect harmony. They would do so only in the sense that an octave is the.most perfect harmony in music. Such an arrangement would not be extraordinarily simple, but ordinary in the last degree; the eye sees it with habitual recognition. But if those squares should change their proportions so that two of them