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The Modern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics Part I

The Modern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics Part I Author(s): Paul Oskar Kristeller Source: Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Oct., 1951), pp. 496-527 Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Dedicated to Professor Hans Tietze on his 70th birthday


The fundamental importance of the eighteenthcentury in the his- tory of aestheticsand of art criticismis generallyrecognized. To be sure, there has been a great variety of theories and currentswithin the last two hundred years that cannot be easily brought under one commondenominator. Yet all the changes and controversiesof the more recent past presuppose certain fundamentalnotions which go backto that classical century of modernaesthetics. It is knownthat the very term "Aesthetics" was coined at that time, and, at least in the opinion of some historians, the subject matter itself, the "phi- losophy of art,"was inventedin that comparatively recent period and

can be applied


to earlier phases of Western thought only with reser- also generallyagreed that such dominatingconcepts of

It is

*I am indebtedfor several suggestions and referencesto ProfessorsJulius S.

Held, Rensselaer Lee, Philip Merlan, Ernest Moody, Erwin Panofsky, Meyer Schapiro, and Norman Torrey. 1 B. Croce, Estetica comescienza dell'espressione e linguisticagenerale: Teoria e storia, 5th ed. (Bari, 1922; first ed., 1901); Problemidi estetica, 2nd ed. (Bari, 1923); Storia dell'estetica per saggi (Bari, 1942). KatharineE. Gilbert and Hel-

See also: J. Koller,Entwurf

zur Geschichteund LiteraturderAesthetikvon Baumgarten bis auf die neuesteZeit

R. Zimmermann,Aesthetik,pt. I: Geschichteder Aesthetik

als philosophischerWissenschaft(Vienna, 1858).

der Aesthetik (Berlin, 1872). K. Heinrichvon Stein, Die Entstehung der neueren

Aesthetik (Stuttgart, 1886).

B. Bosanquet,

A History of Aesthetic, 3rd ed. (London, 1910).

allgemeineKunstwissenschaft(Stuttgart, 1906).

Aesthetikund Kunstphilosophie: Ein Forschungsbericht(Leipzig,1914).

Chambers,Cyclesof Taste (Cambridge,Mass., 1928); The History of Taste (New

mut Kuhn, A History of Esthetics (New York, 1939).


M. Schasler, KritischeGeschichte

William Knight, The Philosophyof the Beautiful, vol.

I (Being Outlines of the History of Aesthetics) (London, 1891).

Max Dessoir, Aesthetik und

Ernest Bergmann, Geschichteder


York, 1932).

A. Baeumler, Aesthetik (Handbuch der Philosophie,I, C; Munich-

Berlin, 1934).

For poetry and literature: G. Saintsbury, A History of Criticism

and Literary Taste in Europe, 3

theoretical side).

der Kuenste: Eine historisch-systematischeUntersuchung(thes. Jena, 1929).

the visual

vols. (Edinburgh,1900-04; extremely weak on the

For music: H. Sahlender, Die Bewertung der Musik im System


arts: A. Dresdner, Die Kunstkritik:Ihre Geschichteund Theorie, vol. I

(Munich, 1915).

Julius Schlosser, Die Kunstliteratur (Vienna, 1924).









modernaestheticsas taste and sentiment,genius,originality and cre- ative imagination did not assume their definite modern meaning be- fore the eighteenthcentury. Somescholarshave rightly noticedthat only the eighteenth century produced a type of literaturein which the variousarts were compared with each other and discussedon the basis of common principles, whereas up to that period treatises on

poetics and rhetoric, on painting and architecture, and on music had representedquite distinct branches of writing and were primarily concernedwith technical precepts rather than with general ideas.2 Finally, at least a few scholarshave noticed that the term "Art,"

with a capital



A and in its modern sense, and the relatedterm "Fine

(Beaux Arts) originated in all probability in the eighteenth


I shall take all these facts for granted, and shall

closely relatedto the problems so far mentioned,

the terms" Art,""Fine Arts" or "Beaux Arts" are

In this broader meaning, the

These five constitute the

In this

concentrateinstead on a much simpler and in a sense more funda-

mental point that is

but does not seem to have received sufficientattention in its own

right. Although

often identifiedwith the visual arts alone, they are also quite com-



sculpture,architecture, music and poetry.

irreduciblenucleus of the modern system of the arts, on which all writersandthinkersseemto agree.4 Onthe other hand, certainaddi- tional arts are sometimes added to the scheme, but with less regu-

larity, depending on the differentviews and interests of the authors

and the decorative arts, the dance

and the theatre, sometimesthe


opera, and finallyeloquence and prose

concerned: gardening,engraving

"Art" comprises above all the five major arts of painting,

understoodin a broadersense.

Venturi, History

(Rome, 1945).


of Art Criticism (New York, 1936); Storia della critica d'arte

R. Wittkower, "The Artist and the Liberal Arts," Eidos I (1950),


More special studieswill be quoted in the courseof this paper.

M. Menendez y


Mustoxidi, Histoirede l'Esthetiquefranpaise(Paris, 1920).


Venturi, "Per il nome di 'Arte,'" La Cultura, N.S. I

Historiade las Ideas esteticasen Espana III (Buenos

Aires, 1943). E. Cassirer, Die Philosophie der Aufkldrung(Tiibingen,1932), 368ff.

T. M.

(1929), 385-88. See also the books

R. G. Collingwood, The Principlesof Art (Oxford,1938), 5-7.

of Parkerand McMahon, cited below.

4TheodoreM. Greene, The Arts and the Art of Criticism (Princeton,1940),

35ff. P. Frankl, Das System der

Kunstwissenschaft(Briinn-Leipzig,1938), 501ff.

5 See the worksof Zimmermannand Schasler, cited above, note 1.





The basicnotion that the five " major arts" constitute an areaall

by themselves,clearlyseparatedby commoncharacteristicsfrom the crafts, the sciences and other human activities, has been taken for grantedby most writerson aestheticsfrom Kant to the present day.

It is freely employed


of course by the

a capital A that ever narrowing areaof modernlife whichis not occu-

pied by science,religion, or practicalpursuits.

generalpublic of amateurswho assign to "Art " with

not to believe in " aesthetics "; and it is accepted as a matter

even by those critics of art and literaturewho

It is

purpose here to show that this system of the five major

us all,

I shall not


arts, whichunderliesall modernaestheticsand is so familiarto

is of comparatively recent origin and did not assume definite shape beforethe eighteenthcentury,although it has manyingredients which

go back to classical, medieval and Renaissance thought.

try to discuss any metaphysical theories of beauty or any particular theories concerning one or more of the arts, let alone their actual history, but only the systematic groupingtogether of the five major



other and their place in the general frameworkof Western culture. Since the subject has been overlooked by most historiansof aesthetics and of literary, musical or artistic theories,6 it is hoped that a brief and quite tentative study may throw light on some of the prob- lems with which modernaestheticsand its historiography have been concerned.

This question does not directly concern any specificchanges or

the various arts, but primarily their relationsto each


The Greek term for Art (Trxvq) and its Latin equivalent (ars) do

not specifically denote the "fine arts" in the modern sense, but were applied to all kindsof humanactivities whichwe would call craftsor sciences. Moreover, whereasmodernaestheticsstressesthe fact that Art cannotbe learned, andthus often becomesinvolvedin the curious endeavorto teach the unteachable, the ancients always understood by Art something that can be taught and learned. Ancient statements aboutArt andthe artshave often beenreadand understoodas if they

weremeant in the modernsense of the fine arts.

This may in some

have come across only two authors who saw the problem quite clearly:

A. Philip

McMahon,Preface to an American Philosophyof Art (Chicago,1945). The latter study is better documentedbut marred by polemical intentions. I hope to add to their materialand conclusions.

H. Parker, The Nature of the Fine Arts (London, 1885), esp. 1-30.








caseshave led to fruitful errors, but it does not do justice to the origi- nal intention of the ancient writers. When the Greekauthors began to oppose Art to Nature, they thought of human activity in general. When Hippocrates contrastsArt with Life, he is thinking of medi- cine, and when his comparison is repeatedby Goetheor Schillerwith referenceto poetry, this merely shows the long way of change which the term Art had traversed by 1800fromits originalmeaning.7 Plato puts art abovemereroutinebecauseit proceedsby rational principles


rules,8 and Aristotle,who

lists Art among the so-calledintellec-


virtues, characterizesit as a kind of activity basedon knowledge,

in a definition whose influence was felt through many centuries.9

The Stoics also definedArt as a system of cognitions,10 and it was in this sense that they consideredmoralvirtue as an art of living.1 The other central concept of modernaesthetics also, beauty, does not appear in ancient thought or literaturewith its specific modern connotations. The Greekterm KaXovand its Latin equivalent (pul- chrum) werenever neatly or consistentlydistinguished fromthe moral good.12 When Plato discusses beauty in the Symposium and the Phaedrus, he is speaking not merely of the physicalbeauty of human

persons, but also of

nitions, whereashe fails completely to mention worksof art in this connection.l3 An incidental remark made in the Phaedrus14and elaborated by Proclus15was certainly not meant to express the mod- ern triad of Truth, Goodnessand Beauty. When the Stoics in one of their famous statements connected Beauty and Goodness,16 the con- text as well as Cicero'sLatin rendering 17 suggest that they meant by

beautiful habits of the

soul and of beautiful cog-

7 ofilos PLpaXv,

8e TrevXrUaKpx'.

Hippocrates, Aphorisms, 1.

Seneca, De

brevitate vitae, 1.

Studierzimmer 2, 1787.

Schiller, Wallensteins Lager, Prolog, 138.

Goethe, Faust I,

4, 1140a 10.

II, p. 23 and 30;

9 Nicomachean Ethics, VI

10 StoicorumVeterum Fragmenta, ed. H. von Arnim,I, p. 21;

8 Gorgias, 462b ff.

III, p. 51.

11 Ibid., III, pp.

49 and 148f.

12 R. G. Collingwood, "Plato's Philosophy of Art," Mind, N.S. 34 (1925), 154-


Symposium, 210a ff.

Phaedrus, 249d.

72, esp. 161f.



TO 83

OEOV KacAov,crooV,


KaU rarv OT



I am indebted



Commentary on Plato's AlcibiadesI (ed. Cousin,356-57).

for this referenceto

Dr. LaurenceRosan. The KaXovdoes not denote aesthetic

beauty in this passageany morethan in Plato, and to interpret the arofov as

seems arbitrary. Yet the


passagemay have influencedits editor, Cousin.

p. 9ff. (to'vov

TOKaXov ayaOov).

Cicero, De finibusIII,

16 StoicorumVeterum FragmentaIII,

17 Ibid., III, p. 10f., and I, pp. 47 and 84. honestumsit id solum bonum).

26 (quod





"Beauty " nothing but moral goodness, and in turn understood by

"good" nothing but the useful.

Only in later thinkers does the

speculation about "beauty " assumean

nificance, but without ever leading to a

in the modernsense.

rum,18 a termhe borrowsfromAristotle's Rhetoric,19 and consequently likes to compare the variousarts with each other and with the moral

life. His doctrineis known chiefly through Cicero, but it may also have influencedHorace. Plotinus in his famous treatises on beauty

problems, but

he doesincludein his treatmentof sensuous beauty the visible beauty

of works of sculpture and architecture, and the audible beauty of

music.20 Likewise, in the speculations on beauty scattered through



is concerned primarily with metaphysical and ethical

increasingly " aesthetic" sig- separatesystem of aesthetics

Panaetius identifies moral beauty with deco-

worksof Augustine there are referencesto doctrinewas not primarilydesigned for an

the various arts, yet interpretation of the

Whether we can speak of aesthetics in the case of

"fine arts." 21

Plato, Plotinus or Augustine will depend on our definition of that term, but we should certainly realize that in the theory of beauty a considerationof the arts is quite absent in Plato and secondary in

Plotinus and Augustine. Let us now turn to the individualarts and to the mannerin which they wereevaluatedand groupedby the ancients. Poetry was always most highly respected, and the notion that the poet is inspiredby the

The Latin term (vates) also

suggests an

is hence drawingupon an early notion when in the Phaedrushe con-

siders poetry one of the forms of divine madness.22 However, we

shouldalso rememberthat with a certain irony in the

Muses goes backto Homerand Hesiod.

old link between poetry and religiousprophecy, and Plato

the same conception of poetry is expressed Ion 23and the Apology24 and that even in

18 Cicero, De officiis I 27, 93ff. R. Philippson, "Das Sittlichschoenebei

Panaitios,"Philologus 85 (N.F. 39, 1930), 357-413.

Panaitios (Leipzig,1934).

I 6, 1-3.

Lotte Labowsky, Die Ethik des

19III 7, 1408a 10ff. There is no evidencethat Plotinus

20Enn. V 8, 1.

See also I 3, 1.

intendedto apply his remarkson music to all the other fine arts, as E. Krakowski believes (Une philosophie de l'amouret de la beaute: L'esthetique de Plotin et son

influence[Paris, 1929], 112ff.). The triad of Goodness, Truth and Beauty is made a basis of his interpretationby Dean WilliamR. Inge (The Philosophyof Plotinus II [London,1918], 74ff.and 104) but does not occurin the worksof Plotinus.

(Brno, 1933).

E. Chapman, Saint Augustine'sPhilosophyof Beauty (New

son, Introductiona l'etudede Saint Augustin, 3rd ed. (Paris, 1949), 279f.


K. Svoboda, L'esthetique de Saint Augustin et ses sources

York, 1939).

E. Gil-


23533e ff.

2422 aff.







the Phaedrusthe divine madnessof the poet is compared with that

of the lover and of the religiousprophet.25 There is no mention of the "fine arts" in this passage, and it was left to the late sophist Callistratus26 to transferPlato's concept of inspiration to the art of sculpture. Among all the "fine arts" it was certainly poetry about which



to the one he gives to rhetoricin some of his other writings. Aris- totle, on the other hand, dedicateda whole treatise to the theory of poetry and deals with it in a thoroughlysystematic and constructive fashion. The Poetics not only contains a great number of specific

ideas which exerciseda lasting influence upon later criticism; it also establisheda permanentplace for the theory of poetry in the philo- sophicalencyclopaedia of knowledge. The mutualinfluenceof poetry and eloquence had been a permanent featureof ancientliteratureever sincethe time of the Sophists, andthe close relationship betweenthese two branchesof literaturereceived a theoreticalfoundation through the proximity of the Rhetoric and the Poetics in the corpus of Aris- totle's works. Moreover, sincethe orderof the writings in the Aristo- telian Corpus was interpreted as early as the commentatorsof late


the place

as a schemeof classificationfor the philosophicaldisciplines, of the Rhetoricand the Poetics after the logical writings of

the Organon established a link between logic, rhetoric and poetics that was emphasizedby some of the Arabic commentators, the effects of whichwerefelt downto the Renaissance.27 Music also held a high place in ancient thought; yet it shouldbe

remembered that the Greek term iovUTK,, which is derived from the

Muses,originallycomprised muchmorethan we understand by music.


not only

and the dance.28 Plato and Aristotle,

can still see in Plato's Republic, included

had most to say, especially in the Republic, but the treatment to it is neither systematic nor friendly, but suspiciously similar

education, as we

music, but also poetry

who also employ the term music in the more specific sense familiar to us, do not treat music or the dance as separate arts but rather as

25 244 a ff.

26 Descriptiones, 2.

27 L. Baur, "Die philosophischeEinleitungslitteratur bis zum Ende der Scho- lastik," in: Dominicus Gundissalinus, De divisione philosophiae, ed.L. Baur (Beitrdge zur Geschichteder Philosophie des Mittelalters,IV, 2-3, Muenster, 1903), 316ff. See also J. Mari6tan, Probleme de la classification des sciences d'Aristote a St. Thomas (thes. Fribourg,1901).

28 Republic II, 376 e if.





elements of certain types of poetry, especially of lyric and dramatic

poetry.29 There is reason to believe that they were thus clinging to an older tradition which was actually disappearing in their own time through the emancipation of instrumental music from poetry. On the other hand, the Pythagorean discovery of the numerical propor- tions underlying the musical intervals led to a theoretical treatment

of music on a mathematical basis, and consequently musical theory entered into an alliance with the mathematical sciences which is already apparent in Plato's Republic,30 and was to last far down into early modern times. When we consider the visual arts of painting, sculpture and archi- tecture, it appears that their social and intellectual prestige in antiquity was much lower than one might expect from their actual achievements or from occasional enthusiastic remarks which date for


compared to

Horace,35 as it was


Halicarnassus 37 and other writers.38 It is also true that architecture

was included among the liberal arts by Varro 39 and Vitruvius,40 and

the most part from the later centuries.31 It is true that


poetry by Simonides 32 and Plato,33 by Aristotle 34 and

compared to rhetoric by Cicero,36Dionysius

29 Poetics 1, 1447a 23ff. Laws II, 669e f.

30 VII, 531a ff.

31 Dresdner,l.c., 19ff. E. Zilsel,Die Entstehung des Geniebegriffs(Tiibingen, 1926), 22ff. B. Schweitzer, "Der bildendeKiinstlerund der Begriff des Kiinstler-

ischen in der Antike,"Neue HeidelbergerJahrbiucher, N.F. (1925), 28-132.

Jucker, Vom Verhaltnisder Romer zur bildendenKunst der Griechen (Frankfurt,

For ancientart theoriesin general: Eduard Mueller, Geschichteder Theorie


der Kunst bei

Julius Walter, Die Geschichte

der Aesthetik im Altertum (Leipzig, 1893).

S. H. Butcher, Aristotle's A. Rostagni, "Aristotele

e Aristotelismonella storia dell'estetica antica," Studi italiani di filologiaclassica,

N.S. 2 (1922), 1-147.

4 (1927), 281-390. E. Cassirer, "Eidos und Eidolon: Das Problem des Sch6nen und derKunstin Platons Dialogen,"Vortrdge derBibliothek Warburg, II: Vortrage

Platon und die AristotelischePoetik (Leipzig, 1900).

Theoryof Poetry and Fine Art, 4th ed. (London,1911).


den Alten, 2 vols. (Breslau,1834-37).

For Plato and Aristotle: G. Finsler,

U. Galli, " La mimesiartisticasecondo Aristotele,"ibid., N.S.

R. G. Collingwood, " Plato's Philosophy of

1922-23,I (Leipzig-Berlin,1924), 1-27. Art," Mind, N.S. 34 (1925), 154-72.

E. Bignami, La Poetica di Aristotelee il con-

cetto dell'arte pressogli antichi (Florence,1932).

P.-M. Schuhl, Platon et l'art de

son temps (Arts plastiques;Paris, 1933).

R. McKeon, " Literary Criticismand the

Concept of Imitationin Antiquity," Modern Philology, 34 (1936-37), 1-35.

32 Plutarch, De gloria Atheniensium 3, 346F ff.


Poetics 1, 1447a 19ff.; 2, 1448a 4ff.

33 RepublicX, 605a ff.

35 De arte poetica 1ff.; 361ff.

36 De inventione II, 1.

38 Quintilian, Institutio

39 F. Ritschl,

37 De veteribusscriptoribus1.

Oratoria XII, 10, 3ff.


De M. TerentiiVarronis disciplinarum libris commentarius," in

his Kleine philologischeSchriften III (Leipzig,1877), 352-402.

40 Cf. De architectura I, 1, 3ff.







painting by Pliny 41 and Galen,42 that Dio Chrysostom compared the art of the sculptor with that of the poet,43 and that Philostratus and

Callistratus wrote enthusiastically about painting and sculpture.44 Yet the place of painting among the liberal arts was explicitly denied by Seneca 45and ignored by most other writers, and the statement of Lucian that everybody admires the works of the great sculptors but would not want to be a sculptor oneself, seems to reflect the prevalent view among writers and thinkers.46 The term 87tLovpyo', commonly applied to painters and sculptors, reflects their low social standing,

for manual work. When

which was related to the ancient

painting 47 and

even calls his world-shaping god a demiurge,48 he no more enhances the importance of the artist than does Aristotle when he uses the statue as the standard example for a product of human art.49 When Cicero, probably reflecting Panaetius, speaks of the ideal notions in the mind of the sculptor,50 and when the Middle Platonists and Plotinus compare the ideas in the mind of God with the concepts of the visual artist they go one step further.51 Yet no ancient philoso- pher, as far as I know, wrote a separate systematic treatise on the visual arts or assigned to them a prominent place in his scheme of


contempt Plato compares the description of his ideal state to a

41 Natural History XXXV,


42 Protrepticus(Opera, ed. C. G. Kuehn, I [Leipzig,1821], 39).

43 OratioXII.

Cf. S. Ferri, "II discorsodi Fidia in Dione Crisostomo," Annali

dellaR. ScuolaNormale Superiore di Pisa, Lettere, Storia e Filosofia, Ser. II, vol. V



44 Philostratus, Imagines.

Callistratus,Descriptiones. Ella Birmelin, "Die

KunsttheoretischenGedankenin Philostrats Apollonios,"Philologus 88, N.F. 42

(1933), 149-80; 392-414.

45 Epistolae Morales 88, 18.


47 RepublicV, 472d.

49 Physics II 3, 194b 24f. and 195a 5f.

Cf. VI, 501a ff.

Cf. Plutarch, Pericles1-2.

48 Timaeus29 a. Metaphysics IV 2, 1013a 25f. and b 6f.



Orator 8f.

51 W. Theiler, Die Vorbereitung des Neuplatonismus(Berlin, 1930), 1ff.

E. Panofsky, Idea (Leipzig-

melin, I.c., p. 402ff. Plotinus, Enn. I 6, 3; V 8, 1.

Berlin), 1924. The ancient comparison of God with the craftsmanwas reversed by the modernaestheticianswho compared the " creative" artistwith God. Cf. Milton

C. Nahm, "The TheologicalBackground of the Theory of the Artist as Creator,"

this Journal, 8 (1947), 363-72. E. (Vienna,1934), 47ff.

Kris and 0. Kurz, Die

Legende vom Kiinstler


The opinion of S. Haupt (" Die zwei Biicher des Aristoteles



N.F. 23 [1910], 252-63) that a lost section of Aristotle's

Poetics dealt with the visual arts, as well as with lyrical poetry, must be rejected.

TrXVi, Philologus 69,





If we want to find in classical philosophy a link between poetry, musicand the fine arts, it is providedprimarilyby the concept of imi-


( rIL'a s).

Passages have been collected from the writings of

Plato and Aristotlefromwhichit appearsquite clearly that they con- sidered poetry, music, the dance, painting and sculpture as different forms of imitation.53 This fact is significant so far as it goes, and it has influenced many later authors, even in the eighteenth century.64 But aside from the fact that none of the passages has a systematic characteror even enumeratesall of the "fine arts" together, it should be noted that the schemeexcludesarchitecture,55that music and the dance are treated as parts of poetry and not as separate arts,56and that on the other hand the individual branchesor subdivisions of poetry and of music seem to be put on a par with painting or sculp- ture.57 Finally, imitation is anything but a laudatory category, at least for Plato, and whereverPlato and Aristotletreat the "imitative arts" as a distinct group within the larger class of " arts," this group seems to include,besides the"fine arts" in which we are interested,

other activities that are less " fine," such as sophistry,58 or the use of the mirror,59of magic tricks,60 or the imitation of animal voices.61

Moreover, Aristotle'sdistinctionbetweenthe artsof

arts of pleasure 62 is quite incidental and does not identify the arts of pleasure with the "fine" or even the imitative arts, and when it is

emphasized that he includesmusic and drawing in his schemeof edu- cation in the Politics,63 it shouldbe addedthat they share this place with grammar(writing) and arithmetic.

necessity and the

53See above, note 31.

Cf. esp. Plato, Republic II, 373b; X, 595a ff.

Rhetoric I 11, 1371b 6ff.



II, 668bf.

VIII 5, 1340a 38f.

Aristotle, Poetics 1, 1447a 19ff.

64 It seems clear, at least for Plato (Republic X and Sophist 234a ff.) that he

arrived at his distinctionbetween the

exclusiveconcernfor the

concept whichhe uses to describethe relationbetween things and Ideas.

productive and imitative arts without any

" fine arts," sinceimitationis for him a basic metaphysical

excluded. It is not discussed by Aristotle,

there are passages in Plato's Republic (X,

Perhaps lyrical poetry is also

except for certain special kinds, and

595 a)


that imply that only certainkinds of poetry are imitative.

I6See above, note 29.


Plato, Sophist



Ibid., 602d.

234e f.

Cf. Sophist, 235a.

Plato, Cratylus, 423c.

57 Aristotle, Poetics 1, 1447a 24ff. 69Republic X, 596d f.

Cf. Aristotle, Poetics 1, 1447a21

(a controversial


and language.

See also RhetoricIII 2,

1404a 20ff. for the imitative characterof words

63 VIII 3, 1337b 23ff.

62 Metaphysics I 1, 981b 17ff.







The final ancient attempts at a classification of the more impor- tant human arts and sciences were made after the time of Plato and Aristotle. They were due partly to the endeavors of rival schools of

philosophy and rhetoric to organize secondary or preparatory educa- tion into a system of elementary disciplines (Ta 'yKV'KXta). This sys- tem of the so-called " liberal arts " was subject to a number of changes and fluctuations, and its development is not known in all of its earlier phases.64 Cicero often speaks of the liberal arts and of their mutual connection,65though he does not give a precise list of these arts, but we may be sure that he did not think of the " fine arts" as was so often believed in modern times. The definitive scheme of the seven liberal arts is found only in Martianus Capella: grammar, rhetoric,

Other schemes

dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

which are similar but not quite identical are found in many Greek and

Latin authors before Capella. Very close to Capella's scheme, and

probably its source, was that of Varro, which included medicine and architecture, in addition to Capella's seven arts.66 Quite similar also

is the scheme underlying the work of Sextus Empiricus.

only six arts, omitting logic, which is treated as one of the three parts

of philosophy. The Greek author, Sextus, was conscious of the differ- ence betwen the preliminary disciplines and the parts of philosophy, whereas the Latin authors who had no native tradition of philosophi- cal instruction were ready to disregard that distinction. If we com- pare Capella's scheme of the seven liberal arts with the modern system of the " fine arts," the differences are obvious. Of the fine arts only music, understood as musical theory, appears among the liberal arts. Poetry is not listed among them, yet we know from other sources that it was closely linked with grammar and rhetoric.67 The visual arts have no place in the scheme, except for occasional attempts at insert- ing them, of which we have spoken above. On the other hand, the liberal arts include grammar and logic, mathematics and astronomy,

64 Moritz Guggenheim, Die Stellung der liberalenKiinste oder encyklischen Wissenschaften im Altertum (progr.Zurich,1893). E. Norden, Die antike Kunst- prosa II, 4th ed. (Leipzig-Berlin,1923), 670ff. H.-J. Marrou, Histoire de l'educa-

tion dans l'antiquite (Paris, 1948), 244f. and 523f.; also Saint Augustin et la fin de la culture classique(Paris, 1938), 187ff.and 211ff.

It contains

65 Pro Archia poeta 1, 2: " etenimomnesartes quae ad humanitatem pertinent

habent quoddam communevinculum." 66See


note 39.

67 CharlesS. Baldwin, AncientRhetoricand Poetic (New York, 1924), esp. 1ff.,






that is, disciplines we should classify as sciences. The same picture is gained fromthe distributionof the arts among the nine Muses. It should be noted that the numberof the Muses was not fixedbeforea comparatively late period, andthat the attempt

to assign particular arts to individualMuses is still later and not at

all uniform. However, the arts listed in these late

variousbranchesof poetry and of music, with eloquence,history, the dance,grammar,geometry and astronomy.6 In other words,just as in the schemesof the liberal arts, so in the schemes for the Muses

poetry and music are grouped with

visual arts are omitted. Antiquity knew no Muse of painting or of sculpture; they had to be invented by the allegorists of the early moderncenturies. And the five fine artswhichconstitutethe modern

system werenot groupedtogether in antiquity, but kept quite differ- ent company:poetrystays usually with grammar and rhetoric; music is as close to mathematicsand astronomy as it is to the dance, and


and of the liberal arts by most authors, must be satisfied with the

modest company of the othermanualcrafts.

Thus classical antiquity left no an aesthetic nature,70 but merely a

suggestions that exerciseda lasting influencedown to moderntimes

schemesare the

some of the sciences, whereasthe

69and the visual arts, excludedfrom the realm of the Muses

systems or elaborate concepts of numberof scatterednotions and

but had to be carefullyselected, takenout of their context,rearranged, reemphasized and reinterpreted or misinterpreted before they could

be utilized as building materials for aesthetic systems.

to admit the conclusion, distasteful to many historiansof aesthetics but grudgingly admitted by most of them, that ancient writersand thinkers,though confrontedwith excellentworksof art and quite sus- ceptible to their charm, were neither able nor eager to detach the aesthetic quality of these worksof art from their intellectual,moral, religious and practical functionor content, or to use such an aesthetic quality as a standardfor grouping the fine arts together or for making them the subject of a comprehensivephilosophicalinterpretation.

68 J. von Schlosser, " Giusto'sFreskenin Padua und die Vorlauferder Stanza della Segnatura," Jahrbuchder Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhochsten

We have

Kaiserhauses XVII,

paedie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft 16 (1935), 680ff.,esp. 685f. and 725ff.


1 (1896), 13-100, esp. 36.


69Carolus Schmidt, Quaestionesde musicis scriptoribus Romanis



70 Schlosser,Kunstliteratur, 46ff.








The early Middle Ages inherited from late antiquity the scheme of the seven liberal arts that served not only for a comprehensive classification of human knowledge but also for the curriculum of the monastic and cathedral schools down to the twelfth century.71 The subdivision of the seven arts into the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic) and Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music) seems to have been emphasized since Carolingian times.72 This classification became inadequate after the growth of learning in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The classification schemes of the twelfth century reflect different attempts to combine the tra- ditional system of the liberal arts with the threefold division of phi-

losophy (logic, ethics and physics) known through Isidore, and with the divisions of knowledge made by Aristotle or based on the order of his writings, which then began to become known through Latin trans- lations from the Greek and Arabic.73 The rise of the universities also established philosophy, medicine, jurisprudence and theology as new and distinct subjects outside the liberal arts, and the latter were again reduced from the status of an encyclopaedia of secular knowledge they had held in the earlier Middle Ages to that of preliminary disci- plines they had held originally in late antiquity. On the other hand, Hugo of St. Victor was probably the first to formulate a scheme of seven mechanical arts corresponding to the seven liberal arts, and this scheme influenced many important authors of the subsequent period,

such as Vincent of Beauvais and Thomas Aquinas.

chanical arts, like the seven liberal arts earlier, also appeared in artis-

tic representations, and they are worth listing: lanificium, armatura,

Architecture as

navigatio, agricultura, venatio, medicina, theatrica4

The seven me-

71 p. Gabriel Meier, Die sieben freien Kiinste im Mittelalter (progr.Einsiedeln,


Norden, I.c.

A. Appuhn, Das Triviumund Quadrivium in Theorieund

Praxis (thes. Erlangen,1900).

University, New York, 1906).

P. d'Ancona, " Le rappresentazioniallegoriche delle arti liberalinel medioevo e

P. Abelson, The SevenLiberalArts (thes. Columbia

For artistic representations of this scheme, see


E. Male, L'art

rinascimento,"L'Arte 5 (1902), 137-55; 211-28; 269-89; 370-85.

religieux du XIIIe siecle en France, 4th ed. (Paris, 1919), 97ff.

72 P. Rajna, "Le denominazioniTriviume Quadrivium," Studi Medievali, N.S.

1 (1928),



Besidesthe worksof Baur and Marietan, cited above (note 27), see M. Grab-

mann, Die Geschichteder scholastischenMethodeII (Freiburg,1911), 28ff.


Hugonis de Sancto Victore Didascalicon, ed. Ch. H. Buttimer (Washington,





well as variousbranchesof sculpture and of painting are listed, along with severalother crafts, as subdivisionsof armatura, andthus occupy

a quite

appears in all these schemes in the company of the mathematical disciplines,76 whereas poetry, when mentioned, is closely linked to grammar, rhetoricand logic.77 The fine arts arenot groupedtogether or singled out in any of these schemes, but scattered among various

sciences, crafts, and other human activities of a quite disparate nature.7 Different as are these schemes from each other in detail, they show a persistent general pattern and continued to influence later thought. If we compare these theoretical systems with the reality of the

same period, we find poetry and music among the

many schoolsand universities, whereasthe visual arts were confined to the artisans' guilds, in which the painters were sometimesassoci-

ated with the druggists who prepared their paints, the sculptors with the goldsmiths, and the architectswith the masons and carpenters.79 The treatisesalso that werewritten,on poetry and rhetoric, on music, an