Preface to Chippendale's Director
¶ Of all the arts which are either improved or ornamented by architecture, that of cabinet making is not only the most useful and ornamental, but capable of receiving as great assistance from it as any whatever. I have therefore prefixed to the following designs a short explanation of the five orders. Without an acquaintance with this science, and some knowledge of the rules of perspective, the cabinet maker cannot make the designs of his work intelligible, nor show, in a little compass, the whole conduct and effect of the piece. These, therefore, ought to be carefully studied by every one who would excel in this branch, since they are the very soul and basis of his art.
¶ The Title Page has already called the following work, The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director, as being calculated to assist the one in the choice, and the other in the execution of the designs ; which are so contrived, that if no one drawing should singly answer the Gentleman's taste, there will yet be found a variety of hints sufficient to construct a new one.
¶ I have been encouraged to begin and carry on this work not only (as the puff in the play-bill says) by persons of distinction, but of eminent taste for performances of this sort; who have, upon many occasions, signified some surprize and regret, that an art capable of so much perfection and refinement, should be executed with so little propriety and elegance. How far the following sheets may remove a complaint which I am afraid is not altogether groundless, the judicious reader will determine: I hope, however, the novelty, as well as the usefulness of the performance, will make some atonement for its faults and imperfections. I am sensible there are too many to be found in it ; for I frankly confess, that in executing many of the drawings, my pencil has but faintly copied out those images that my fancy suggested ; and had they not been published till I could have pronounced them perfect, perhaps they had never seen the light. Nevertheless, I was not upon that account afraid to let them go abroad, for I have been told that the greatest masters of every other art have laboured under the same difficulty.
¶ A late writer, of distinguished taste and abilities, speaking of the delicacy of every author of genius with respect to his own performances, observes, that he has the continual mortification to find himself incapable of taking entire possession of that ideal beauty that warms and fills his imagination.
¶ Never, says he, (in a quotation from Tully) was any thing more beautiful than the Venus of Apelles, or the Jove of Phidias, yet were they by no means equal to those high notions of beauty which animated the geniuses of those wonderful artists. The case is the same in all arts where taste and imagination are con- cerned ; and I am persuaded that he who can survey his own works with entire satisfaction and complacency, will hardly ever find the world of the same favourable opinion with himself.
¶ I am not afraid of the fate an author usually meets on his first appearance, from a set of critics who are neve wanting to show their their wit and malice on the performances of others: I shall repay their censures with contempt. Let them unmolestled deal out their pointless abuse, and convince the world they have neither good nature to commend, judgment to correct, nor skill to execute what they find fault with.
¶ The correction of the judicious and impartial I shall always receive with diffidence in my own abilities and respect to theirs. But though the following designs were more perfect than my fondness for my own offspring could ever suppose them, I should yet be far from expecting the united approbation of ALL those whose sentiments have an undoubted claim to be regarded; for a thousand accidental circumstances may concur in dividing the opinions of the most improved judges, and the most unprejudiced will find it difficult to disengage himself from a partial affection to some particular beauties, of which the general course of his studies, or the peculiar cast of his temper may have rendered him most sensible. The mind, when pronouncing judgment upon any work of taste and genius, is apt to decide of its merit according as those circumstances which the most admires either prevail or are deficient. Thus, for instance, (says the ingenious author before quoted) the excellency of the Roman masters in painting consists in beauty of design, nobleness of attitude, and delicacy of expression, but the charms of good colouring are wanting : On the contrary, the Venetian school is said to have neglected design a little too much, but at the same time has been more attentive to the grace and harmony of well disposed lights and shades. Now it will be admitted by all admirers of this noble art, that no composition of the pencil can be perfect, where either of these qualities are absent; yet the most accomplished judge may be so particularly struck with one or other of these excellencies, in preference to the rest, as to be influenced in his censure or applause of the whole tablature, by the predominacy or deficiency of his favourite beauty. Something of this kind, though the following sheets had all the perfection of human composition, would no doubt subject them in many things to the censure of the most approved judges, whose applause I should esteem my greatest honour, and whose cor- rection I shall ever be proud to improve by.
¶ Upon the whole, I have here given no design but what may be executed with advantage by the hands of a skillful workman, though some of the profession have been diligent enough to represent them (especially those after the Gothic and Chinese manner) as so many specious drawings, impossible to be worked off by any mechanic whatsoever. I will not scruple to attribute this to malice, ignorance and inability: And I am confident I can convince all Noblemen, Gentlemen, or others, who will honour me with their commands, that every design in the book can be improved, both as to beauty and enrichment, in the execution of it, by Their Most Obedient Servent. St. MARTIN's LANE MARCH 23, 1754. Thomas Chippendale. COLLIGIT UT SPARGAT
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