The artists repository and drawing magazine: exhibiting the principles of the polite arts in their various branches — 4.1790

Page: 103
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ICG 103

ICONOLOGY, or the fcience of Emblems, often
exprefles, by direct means, what narration or poetry-
fails of, when moft prolix; and has the advantage
over writing, of being more generally underftood. Its
antiquity is unqueftionable ; whether we recur to
the /acred writings, or trace it in the hieroglyphics of Egypt y
certain it is, that emblematical reprefentations were cul-
tivated, and even communicated as a fcience, in ages of
remoter! antiquity.

In later ages, figns of a very general and extenfive
nature have been chofen to convey the ideas of the ico-
nologift:: Thefe are taken from ordinary occurrences
of nature, or from various properties of natural produc-
tions, which, being open to general obfervation, are pre-
fumed to be generally intelligible.

To moft fpecies of creatures, nature has given a cer-
tain character, diftinc"t. from all other ; to the lion, cou-
rage ; to the eagle, quicknefs of fight as well as celerity;
to the elephant, fagacity; to the fox, cunning: not
that we credit every tale related of thofe animals, yet
prefume enough to be truth to juftify their reprefenta-
tions as fymbolical of the fame propenfities in the hu-
man mind.

Not only fubje£ts of the animal, but alfo of the vege-
table kingdom, are ufed as expreffive infignia^ in
this fcience; Trees remarkable for their ftrength, or
fhrubs obfervable for their fragrance, are emblems ex-
tremely eafy to the mind; and,"when well adapted,
equally pleafing. Who is there but imagines fome-
thing mournful in the Cyprefs, or plaintive in the
weeping Willow .? Who is not fenfible of the beauty

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