ORNAMENTAL ART must be considered as originally the offspring of High Art, though
now, in great measure, detached from its parent stock. It is become altogether a new
branch, which has a free and independent sphere for its development, and enters into a not
unsuccessful rivalry with sculpture and painting. Yielding to them, without dispute, the
honours belonging to the more elevated department of historical composition, it surpasses
them in regard to its wider range of influence ; and, in proportion to the humility of the
position which it assumes, does its own peculiar value become more conspicuous.
It may be said, indeed, that art is more indebted, for the sway it exercises over the
civilized world, to the ornamental, than even to the higher branches. For, though deco-
rative art is generally looked upon as little more than the utterance of changing and transient
ideas of fashion, even, perhaps, as a trifling occupation of the lower faculties of the
mind, still, much more depends on its skilful treatment than is generally supposed. The
influence exercised by good or bad ornamental design has even a moral value.
Considering the question, therefore, from a practical point of view, it becomes one of
national economy, and the watchful eye of the experienced statesman, intimately acquainted
with the real interests of his country, speedily perceives the great and important advantages
to be derived from a judicious management of forms and colours, and is aware of the degra-
dation of taste which must necessarily follow a superficial treatment, adapted merely to the
captivation of the outward sense.
As yet, it must be confessed, we have not arrived at the knowledge of the theory of
those eternal laws, on the just observance of which depend the salutary effects that art is
capable of producing on the mind of a nation, while their transgression is always followed
by an unhealthy excitement of perverted taste. It is to be hoped, however, that the course
of philosophic inquiry will, in time, succeed in discovering and demonstrating, even in the
arbitrary realm of taste, that order and logical harmony, which has been attained in the
other spheres, both of actual and metaphysical existence.
Not many years ago, manufacturers, looking for help from science, would have been
ridiculed as mere theoretical enthusiasts. The soap-maker, for instance, would have been
regarded as unpractical for inquiring too closely into the mysteries of chemistry ; and farmers,
who were not satisfied with the strict unthinking observance of the empirical rules of their
ancestors, would have been looked upon as mere schemers. The case is now completely