Wednesday, May 11


Apollonius: Tell me, Damis, is there such a thing as painting?

Damis: Of course.

Apollonius: And what does this art consist of?

Damis: Well, in the mixing of colors.

Apollonius: And why do they do that?

Damis: For the sake of imitation, to get a likeness of a dog or a horse or a man, a ship, or anything else under the sun.

Apollonius: Then, painting is imitation, memesis?

Damis: Well, what else? If it did not do that it would just be a ridiculous playing about with colors.

Apollonius: Yes, but what about the things we see in the sky when the clouds are drifting, the centaurs and stag antelopes and wolves and horses? Are they also works of imitation? Is God a painter who uses his leisure hours to amuse himself that way?

Damis: No...

Apollonius: But does this not mean that the art of imitation is twofold? One aspect of it is the use of hands and mind in producing imitations, another aspect the producing of likenesses with the mind alone?

Damis: Yes...

Apollonius: And for this reason I should say that those who look at works of painting and drawing must have the imitative faculty and that no one could understand the painted horse or bull unless he knew what such creatures are like.

-- Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana
Translated by F.C. Conybeare