What is meant by art?—The art faculty—How artists may be compared—The aim of illumination—Distinction between illumination and miniature—Definition of illumination—The first miniature painter—Origin of the term “miniature”—Ovid's allusion to his little book.
The desire for decoration is probably as old as the human race. Nature, of course, is the source of beauty, and this natural beauty affects something within us which has or is the faculty of reproducing the cause of its emotion in a material form. Whether the reproduction be such as to appeal to the eye or the ear depends on the cast of the faculty. In a mild or elementary form, probably both casts of faculty exist in every animated creature, and especially in the human being.
Art being the intelligent representation of that quality of beauty which appeals to any particular observer, whoever exercises the faculty of such representation is an artist.
Greatness or otherwise is simply the measure of the faculty, for in Nature herself there is no restriction. There is always enough of beauty in Nature to fill the mightiest capacity of human genius. Artists, therefore, are measured by comparison with each other in reference to the fraction of art which they attempt to reproduce.
The art of illumination does not aim at more than the gratification of those who take pleasure in books. Its highest ambition is to make books beautiful.
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