Should the painting be imitation of nature, or creation of the intellect?
The art of painting was very important in Antiquity, although hardly we have a rest from it by the nature of the support on it is usually done.
We get some paint on a wall of buildings, especially in Pompeii, but also in other isolated area, some exceptionally well-preserved table in the warm climate of the Egyptian desert and little else. Certainly they are preserved many mosaics that reproduce many paintings or try to imitate them.
And we have also numerous texts which refer to this art. Among them, for example, a treatise of Lucianus of Samosata and especially the book XXXV of Pliny, who in his encyclopedic Natural History wrote almost about everything.
Well, in Natural History, XXXV, chap. 36 (60). he tells us, even briefly, an in Antiquity well known anecdote and reproduced ad nauseam since the Renaissance, about the method for painting from a natural model.
The story is told in more detail and otherwise set by Cicero in one of his minor works on rhetoric, in his De Inventione rhetorica, On the rhetorical invention, II, 1: 1-4
The story has had a special importance in the history of later art. It raises the question of the pursuit of beauty from a natural model and the matter is linked to the Platonic doctrine of general ideas, because when a painter draws the face of a man or of a woman or of any other being, what really does he express on the canvas or on the table, the face he is watching or the ideal representation of the beautiful face he has created in his mind, that is, the general idea?
We will read these two texts and we will make make three further references to the anecdote, one from the humanist Leon Battista Alberti, another one of the painter Raphael Sanzio and the third one of Francisco Pacheco (1564-1644), teacher and father in law of Velazquez, who naturally could not escape his appointment.
Cicero (106a.C.-43a.C.) wrote his manual entitled De Inventione, On rhetoric invention, being very young, around the year 86, 20 years old. We retain only two of the four books that this work should have. As a work of youth, the mature orator Cicero was not very proud of it, as he tells us in his De Oratore, (Lib.I. 5) and also Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria, III. 1, 20)
Well Marcus Tullius Cicero tells us in "On invention", Book II, 1.1-4:
Some men of Crotona, when they were rich in all kinds of resources, and when they were considered among the most prosperous people in Italy, were desirous to enrich the temple of Juno, which they regarded with the most religious veneration, with splendid pictures. Therefore they hired Zeuxis of Heraclea at a vast price, who was at that time considered to be far superior to all other painters, and employed him in that business. He painted many other pictures, of which some portion, on account of the great respect in which the temple is held, has remained to within our recollection; and in order that one of his mute representations might contain the preeminent beauty of the female form, he said that he wished to paint a likeness of Helen. And the men of Crotona, who had frequently heard that he exceeded all other men in painting women, were very glad to hear this; for they thought that if he took the greatest pains in that class of work in which he had the greatest skill, he would leave them a most noble work in that temple.
Nor were they deceived in that expectation: for Zeuxis immediately asked of them what beautiful virgins they had; and they immediately led him into the palaestra, and there showed him numbers of boys of the highest birth and of the greatest beauty. For indeed, there was a time when the people of Crotona were far superior to all other cities in the strength and beauty of their persons; and they brought home the most honourable victories from the gymnastic contests, with the greatest credit. While, therefore, he was admiring the figures of the boys and their personal perfection very greatly; "The sisters," say they, "of these boys are virgins in our city, so that how great their beauty is you may infer from these boys." "Give me, then," said he, "I beg you, the most beautiful of these virgins, while I paint the picture which I promised you, so that the reality may be transferred from the breathing model to the mute likeness." Then the citizens of Crotona, in accordance with a public vote, collected the virgins into one place, and gave the painter the opportunity of selecting whom he chose. But he selected five, whose names many poets have handed down to tradition, because they had been approved by the judgment of the man who was bound to have the most accurate judgment respecting beauty. For he did not think that he could find all the component parts of perfect beauty in one person, because nature has made nothing of any class absolutely perfect in every part. Therefore, as if nature would not have enough to give to everybody if it had given everything to one, it balances one advantage bestowed upon a person by another disadvantage.
But since the inclination has arisen in my mind to write a treatise on the art of speaking, we have not put forth any single model of which every portion was necessarily to be copied by us, of whatever sort they might be; but, having collected together all the writers on the subject into one place, we have selected what each appears to have recommended which may be most serviceable, and we have thus culled the flower from various geniuses. For of those who are worthy of fame or recollection, there is no one who appears either to have said nothing well, or everything admirably. So that it seemed folly either to forsake the sensible maxims brought forward by any one, merely because we are offended at some other blunder of his, or, on the other hand, to embrace his faults because we have been tempted by some sensible precept which he has also delivered.
(Translation by C. D. Yonge (1853))
Crotoniatae quondam, cum florerent omnibus copiis et in Italia cum primis beati numerarentur, templum Iunonis, quod religiosissime colebant, egregiis picturis locupletare voluerunt. itaque Heracleoten Zeuxin, qui tum longe ceteris excellere pictoribus existimabatur, magno pretio conductum adhibuerunt. is et ceteras conplures tabulas pinxit, quarum nonnulla pars usque ad nostram memoriam propter fani religionem remansit, et, ut excellentem muliebris formae pulchritudinem muta in se imago contineret, Helenae pingere simulacrum velle dixit; quod Crotoniatae, qui eum muliebri in corpore pingendo plurimum aliis praestare saepe accepissent, libenter audierunt. putaverunt enim, si, quo in genere plurimum posset, in eo magno opere elaborasset, egregium sibi opus illo in fano relicturum.
 neque tum eos illa opinio fefellit. nam Zeuxis ilico quaesivit ab iis, quasnam virgines formosas haberent. illi autem statim hominem deduxerunt in palaestram atque ei pueros ostenderunt multos, magna praeditos dignitate. etenim quodam tempore Crotoniatae multum omnibus corporum viribus et dignitatibus antisteterunt atque honestissimas ex gymnico certamine victorias domum cum laude maxima rettulerunt. cum puerorum igitur formas et corpora magno hic opere miraretur: ‘Horum,’ inquiunt illi, ‘sorores sunt apud nos virgines. quare, qua sint illae dignitate, potes ex his suspicari.’ ‘Praebete igitur mihi, quaeso,’ inquit, ‘ex istis virginibus formonsissimas, dum pingo id, quod pollicitus sum vobis, ut mutum in simulacrum ex animali exemplo veritas transferatur.’ tum Crotoniatae publico de con- silio virgines unum in locum conduxerunt et pictori quam vellet eligendi potestatem dederunt. ille autem quinque delegit; quarum nomina multi poetae memoriae prodiderunt, quod eius essent iudicio probatae, qui pulchritudinis habere verissimum iudicium de- buisset. neque enim putavit omnia, quae quaereret ad venustatem, uno se in corpore reperire posse ideo, quod nihil simplici in genere omnibus ex partibus per- fectum natura expolivit. itaque, tamquam ceteris non sit habitura quod largiatur, si uni cuncta concesserit, aliud alii commodi aliquo adiuncto incommodo muneratur.
 Quod quoniam nobis quoque voluntatis accidit, ut artem dicendi perscriberemus, non unum aliquod proposuimus exemplum, cuius omnes partes, quocumque essent in genere, exprimendae nobis necessarie vi- derentur; sed omnibus unum in locum coactis scriptoribus, quod quisque commodissime praecipere videbatur, excerpsimus et ex variis ingeniis excellentissima quaeque libavimus. ex iis enim, qui nomine et memoria digni sunt, nec nihil optime nec omnia prae- clarissime quisquam dicere nobis videbatur. quapropter stultitia visa est aut a bene inventis alicuius recedere, si quo in vitio eius offenderemur, aut ad vitia eius quoque accedere, cuius aliquo bene praecepto duceremur.
Moreover, the reader will easily understand how the matter was to be frequent theme in painting from the Renaissance and of course in the Baroque and neoclassicism, as lovers of classic themes. I also will reproduce a couple of illustrations on the content of the texts; which it comes next seems the representation of a modern casting selection of candidates for representation, as I comment at the bottom of it.
Work of neoclassical painter François-André Vincent (Paris, 1746-1816), "Zeuxis et les filles de Crotone", "Zeuxis and daughters of Crotona" (3.23 m. X 4.15 m.), Painted in 1789 . Louvre Museum.
In the picture, like it were a modern "casting", we can appreciate the beauty of each girl, the shame of some because remaining naked, the content of the selected, the nerves on edge of waiting, the anger of rejected ... well, like a "casting" is involved.
I extend a little more the corresponding text of Pliny, which refers to a statue of the goddess Juno, to include another famous anecdote referring to the rivalry between Zeuxis and Parrasius, which I have already referred in http://en.antiquitatem.com/zeuxis-parraxius-classical-art-painting
In these two stories it is illustrated with examples the discussion between aesthetic theory of exact imitation of nature to fool the eye, from the concept of "trompe l'oeil" , "trap for the eye", comes and the perfect imitation, and transcending the inherent beauty of nature.
Pliniy, Naturalis Historia, XXXV, 36 (60)
Aetists who painted with the pencil.
In the ninetieth Olympiad lived Aglaophon, Cephisodorus, Erillus, and Evenor, the father of Parrhasius, one of the greatest of painters, and of whom we shall hare to speak when we come to the period at which he flourished. All these were artists of note, but not sufficiently so to detain us by any further details, in our haste to arrive at the luminaries of the art ; first among whom shone Apollodorus of Athens, in the ninety-third Olympiad. He was the first to paint objects as they really appeared ; the first too, we may justly say, to confer glory by the aid of the pencil." Of this artist there is a Priest in Adoration, and an Ajax struck by Lightning, a work to be seen at Pergamus at the present day : before him, there is no painting of any artist now to be seen which has the power of rivetting the eye.
The gates of art being now thrown open by Apollodorus,- Zeuxis of Heraclea entered upon the scene, in the fourth year of the ninety-fifth Olympiad, destined to lead the pencil — for
it is of the pencil that we are still speaking — a pencil for which there was nothing too arduous, to a very high pitch of glory. By some writers he is erroneously placed in the eighty-ninth Olympiad, a date that must of necessity be reserved for Demophilus of Himera and Neseus of Thasos, of one of whom, it is uncertain which, Zeuxis was the pupil. It was in reference to him that Apollodorus, above-mentioned, wrote a verse to the effect, that Zeuxis had stolen the art from others and had taken it all to himself.' Zeuxis also acquired such a vast amount of wealth, that, in a spirit of ostentation, he went so far as to parade himself at Olympia with his name embroidered on the checked pattern of his garments in letters of gold. At a later period, he came to the determination to give away his works, there being no price high enough to pay for them, he said. Thus, for instance, he gave an Alcmena to the people of Agrigentum, and a Pan to Archelaus. He also painted a Penelope, in which the peculiar character of that matron appears to he delineated to the very life ; and a figure of an athlete, with which he was so highly pleased, that he wrote beneath it the line which has since become so famous, to the effect that it would be easier to find fault with him than to imitate him. His Jupiter seated on the throne, with the other Deities standing around him, is a magnificent production : the same, too, with his Infant Hercules strangling the Dragons, in presence of Amphitryon and his mother Alcmena, who is struck with horror.
Still, however, Zeuxis is generally censured for making the heads and articulations of his figures out of proportion. And yet, so scrupulously careful was he, that on one occasion, when he was about to execute a painting for the people of Agrigentum, to be consecrated in the Temple of the Lacinian Juno there, he had the young maidens of the place stripped for examination, and selected five of them, in order to adopt in his picture the most commendable points in the form of each. He also painted some monochromes in white.
The contemporaries and rivals of Zeuxis were Timanthes, Androcydes, Eupompus, and Parrhasius. This last, it is said, entered into a pictorial contest with Zeuxis, who represented some grapes, painted so naturally that the birds flew towards the spot where the picture was exhibited. Parrhasius, on the other hand, exhibited a curtain, drawn with such singular truthfulness, that Zeuxis, elated with the judgment which had been passed upon his work by the birds, haughtily demanded that the curtain should be drawn aside to let the picture be seen. Upon finding his mistake, with a great degree of ingenuous candour he admitted that he had been surpassed, for that whereas he himself had only deceived the birds, Parrhasius had deceived him, an artist. There is a story, too, that at a later period, Zeuxis having painted a child carrying grapes, the hirds canae to peck at them ; upon which, with a similar degree of candour, he expressed himself vexed with his work, and exclaimed — '' I have surely painted the grapes better than the child, for if I had fully succeeded in the last, the birds would have been in fear of it." Zeuxis executed some figures also in clay," the only works of art that were left behind at Ambracia, when Fulvius jS'obilior'® transported the Muses from that city to Rome. There is at Ptome a Helena by Zeuxis, in the Porticos of Philippus, and a Marsyas Bound, in the Temple of Concordia there. (Translated by John Bostock,M.D.,F.R.S., and H.T.. Riley,Cambridge)
LXXXX autem olympiade fuere Aglaophon, Cephisodorus, Erillus, Euenor, pater Parrhasii et praeceptor maximi pictoris, de quo suis annis dicemus, omnes iam inlustres, non tamen in quibus haerere expositio debeat festinans ad lumina artis, in quibus primus refulsit Apollodorus Atheniensis LXXXXIII olympiade. hic primus species exprimere instituit primusque gloriam penicillo iure contulit. eius est sacerdos adorans et Aiax fulmine incensus, quae Pergami spectatur hodie. neque ante eum tabula ullius ostenditur, quae teneat oculos.
Ab hoc artis fores apertas Zeuxis Heracleotes intravit olympiadis LXXXXV anno quarto, audentemque iam aliquid penicillum — de hoc enim adhuc loquamur — ad magnam gloriam perduxit, a quibusdam falso in LXXXVIIII olympiade positus, cum fuisse necesse est Demophilum Himeraeum et Nesea Thasium, quoniam utrius eorum discipulus fuerit ambigitur.
in eum Apollodorus supra scriptus versum fecit, artem ipsis ablatam Zeuxim ferre secum. opes quoque tantas adquisivit, ut in ostentatione earum Olympiae aureis litteris in palliorum tesseris intextum nomen suum ostentaret. postea donare opera sua instituit, quod nullo pretio satis digno permutari posse diceret, sicuti Alcmenam Agragantinis, Pana Archelao.
fecit et Penelopen, in qua pinxisse mores videtur, et athletam adeoque in illo sibi placuit, ut versum subscriberet celebrem ex eo, invisurum aliquem facilius quam imitaturum. magnificus est et Iuppiter eius in throno adstantibus diis et Hercules infans dracones II strangulans Alcmena matre coram pavente et Amphitryone.
reprehenditur tamen ceu grandior in capitibus articulisque, alioqui tantus diligentia, ut Agragantinis facturus tabulam, quam in templo Iunonis Laciniae publice dicarent, inspexerit virgines eorum nudas et quinque elegerit, ut quod in quaque laudatissimum esset pictura redderet. pinxit et monochromata ex albo. aequales eius et aemuli fuere Timanthes, Androcydes, Eupompus, Parrhasius.
descendisse hic in certamen cum Zeuxide traditur et, cum ille detulisset uvas pictas tanto successu, ut in scaenam aves advolarent, ipse detulisse linteum pictum ita veritate repraesentata, ut Zeuxis alitum iudicio tumens flagitaret tandem remoto linteo ostendi picturam atque intellecto errore concederet palmam ingenuo pudore, quoniam ipse volucres fefellisset, Parrhasius autem se artificem.
fertur et postea Zeuxis pinxisse puerum uvas ferentem, ad quas cum advolassent aves, eadem ingenuitate processit iratus operi et dixit: uvas melius pinxi quam puerum, nam si et hoc consumassem, aves timere debuerant. fecit et figlina opera, quae sola in Ambracia relicta sunt, cum inde Musas Fulvius Nobilior Romam transferret. Zeuxidis manu Romae Helena est in Philippi porticibus, et in Concordiae delubro Marsyas religatus.
As I said above, the anecdote, well known since Antiquity itself is remembered, for example, by the great humanist Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), who devoted himself as a good humanist all the arts and knowledge of the most varied disciplines and was the first theorist of art. He wrote the treatise De pictura, On painting, first in Latin and then he translated it into Italian. I also offer in Spanish what he says in Book III, chapter 56 about the story of Zeuxis and the question of imitating or not to paint nature.
In order not to waste his study and care the painter should avoid the custom of some simpletons. Presumptuous of their own intellect and without any example from nature to follow with their eyes or minds, they study by themselves to acquire fame in painting. They do not learn how to paint well, but become accustomed to their own errors. This idea of beauty,  which the well trained barely discern, flees from the intellect of the inexpert.
In order to make a painting which the citizens placed in the temple of Lucina near Croton, Zeuxis, the most excellent most skilled painter of all, did not rely rashly on his own skills as every painter does today. He thought that he would not be able to find so much beauty as he was looking for in a single body, since it was not given to a single one by nature. He chose, therefore, the five most beautiful young girls from the youth of that land in order to draw from them whatever beauty is praised in a woman.
 He was a wise painter. Frequently when there is no example from nature which they can follow, painters attempt to acquire by their own skill a reputation for beauty. Here it easily happens that the beauty which they search is never found even with much work. But they do acquire bad practices which, even when they wish, they will never be able to leave.  He who dares take everything he fashions from nature will make his hand so skilled that whatever he does will always appear to be drawn from nature.
The following demonstrates what the painter should seek out in nature. Where the face of some well known and worthy man is put in the istoria --even though there are other figures of a much more perfect art and more pleasing than this one-- [p. 93] that well known face will draw to itself first of all the eyes of one who looks at theistoria . So great is the force of anything drawn from nature. For this reason always take from nature that which you wish to paint, and always choose the most beautiful. (http://www.noteaccess.com/Texts/Alberti/Intro1.htm Alberti, Leon Battista. On Painting. [First appeared 1435-36] Translated with Introduction and Notes by John R. Spencer. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1970 [First printed 1956]).
56. Sed quo sit studium non futile et cassum, fugienda est illa consuetudo nonnullorum qui suopte ingenio ad picturae laudem contendunt, nullam naturalem faciem eius rei oculis aut mente coram sequentes. Hi enim non recte pingere discount sed erroribus assuefiunt. Fugit enim imperitos ea pulchritudinis idea quam peritissimi vix discernunt. Zeuxis, praestantissimus et omnium doctissimus et peritissimus pictor, facturus tabulam quam in tempio Lucinae apud Crotoniates publice dicaret, non suo confisus ingenio temere, ut fere omnes hac aetate pictores, ad pingendum accessit, sed quod putabat omnia quae ad venustatem quaereret, ea non modo proprio ingenio non posse, sed ne a natura quidem petita uno posse in corpore reperiri, idcirco ex omni eius urbis iuventute delegit virgines quinque forma praestantiores, ut quod in quaque esset formae muliebris laudatissimum, id in pictura referret. Prudenter is quidem, nam pictoribus nullo proposito exemplari quod imitentur, ubi ingenio tantum pulchritudinis laudes captare enituntur, facile evenit ut eo labore non quam debent aut quaerunt pulchritudinem assequantur, sed plane in malos, quos vel volentes vix possunt dimittere, pingendi usus dilabantur. Qui vero ab ipsa natura omnia suscipere consueverit, is manum ita exercitatam reddet ut semper quicquid conetur naturam ipsam sapiat. Quae res in picturis quam sit optanda videmus, nam in historia si adsit facies cogniti alicuius hominis, tametsi aliae nonnullae praestantioris artificii emineant, cognitus tamen vultus omnium spectantium oculos ad se rapit, tantam in se, quod sit a natura sumptum, et gratiam et vim habet. Ergo semper quae picturi sumus, ea a natura sumamus, semperque ex his quaeque pulcherrima et dignissima deligamus.
III, 56. Ma per non perdere studio e fatica si vuole fuggire quella consuetudine d'alcuni sciocchi, i quali presuntuosi di suo ingegno, senza avere essemplo alcuno dalla natura quale con occhi o mente seguano, studiano da sé a sé acquistare lode di dipignere. Questi non imparano ipignere bene, ma assuefanno sé a' suoi errori. Fugge gl'ingegni non periti quella idea delle bellezze, quale i bene essercitatissimi appena discernono. Zeusis, prestantissimo e fra gli altri essercitatissimo pittore, per fare una tavola qual pubblico pose nel tempio di Lucina appresso de' Crotoniati, non fidandosi pazzamente, quanto oggi ciascuno pittore, del suo ingegno, ma perché pensava non potere in uno solo corpo trovare quante bellezze egli ricercava, perché dalla natura non erano ad uno solo date, pertanto di tutta la gioventù di quella terra elesse cinque fanciulle le più belle, per torre da queste qualunque bellezza lodata in una femmina. Savio pittore, se conobbe che ad i pittori, ove loro sia niuno essemplo della natura quale elli seguitino, ma pure vogliono con suoi ingegni giugnere le lode della bellezza, ivi facile loro avverrà che non quale cercano bellezza con tanta fática troveranno, ma certo piglieranno sue pratiche non buone, quali poi ben volendo mai potranno lassare. Ma chi da essa natura s'auserà prendere qualunque facci cosa, costui renderà sua mano sì essercitata che sempre qualunque cosa farà parrà tratta dal naturale. Qual cosa quanto sia dal pittore a ricercarla si può intendere, ove poi che in una storia sarà uno viso di qualche conosciuto e degno uomo, bene che ivi sieno altre figure di arte molto più che questa perfette e grate, pure quel viso conosciuto a sé imprima trarrà tutti gli occhi di chi la storia raguardi: tanto si vede in sé tiene forza ciò che sia ritratto dalla natura. Per questo sempre ciò che vorremo dipignere piglieremo dalla natura, e sempre torremo le cose più belle.
Little later the great Raphael (1483 -1520), also known as Raphael Sanzio or Raphael of Urbino, says in a letter to Baldassare Castiglione, who feels admired by painting "Triumph of Galatea":
IV. Letter to Castiglione
On the Galatea, I think a great teacher if I did half the things so great that Your Lordship writes me. But I recognize in your words your love for me and I tell you that to paint a beautiful one, I should need to see many beautiful ones, with this condition, that Your Lordship will be with me to choose the best. But as there is a shortage of good judges and of lovely ladies, I use a certain idea that which comes into my mind. Wheter it has in it self any excellent art, I do not know. But I do strive to it have it. To which send Your Lordship. From Rome ".
IV. Lettera al Castiglione
Signor conte….Della Galatea mi terrei un gran maestro se vi fossero la metà delle tante cose che V.S. mi scrive. Ma nelle sue parole riconosco l´amore che mi porta: et le dico che per dipingere una bella mi bisogneria veder più belle, con questa conditione, che V.S. si trovasse meco a far scelta del meglio», Ma, essendo carestia e di buoni giudici e di belle donne, io mi servo di certa idea che mi viene nella mente. Se questa ha in sé alcuna eccellenza d'arte, io non so; ben m'affatico di averla. Vostra Signoria mi comandi. Di Roma.
Francisco Pacheco knows this opinion of Raphael Sanzio. Pacheco is the teacher and father in law of Velazquez, and he says in his “Arte de la pintura”, (The art of painting), book I, chap 12:
And if this should fail, or it is not caught with the beauty that should, or by discomfort of place or of time, it is admirably take advantage from the beautiful ideas that the brave architect has acquired. As Raphael of Urbino gave to understand writing to Baltasar Conde Castellon, who urged much the figure of Galatea which he had frescoed. Saying this way: Ma essendo carestia, e de buoni giudecij et de belle dome, io mi servo di certa iddea, che mi viene nellamente ; si questa ha in se alcuna escellenza d'arte, io non so : ben me affatico di haberla. It means: But as there is a shortage of good judges and of lovely ladies, I use a certain idea that which comes into my mind. Wheter it has in it self any excellent art, I do not know. But I do strive to it have it, so that perfection is to move from ideas to nature, and from nature to the ideas: always looking for the best and safest and perfect. So Leonardo de Vinci, a man of very subtle wit, teacher of Raphael, did it so, tending to follow the ancients; who, before putting himself first to invent any story, investigated all proper and natural effects of any figure, according to his idea. And made then many scratches, then went where people, similar whom he would paint, were gathered; and watched the way of their faces and clothes and body movements and when he found things that please him, according to his attempt, he drew on the libretto he always carried (we will see below his words under this attempt) and thus he ended his works beautifully. This is finally what should be done in this last stage, with the example of the old Zeusis, who for the beautiful Helena whom the people of Agrigentum offered him to paint, he chose five beautiful maidens and from each of them he was choosing the most perfect to make an equally ended figure, outstripping the art to nature: because he painted in a fellow the beauty that just was in many.
Y cuando esto faltare , ó no se hallare con la belleza que conviene, ó por incomodidad de lugar ó de tiempo, viene admirablemente el valerse de las hermosas ideas que tiene adquiridas el valiente artífice. Como lo dió á entender Rafael de Urbino escribiendo al Conde Baltasar Castellón, que le encareció mucho la figura de la Galatea que había pintado al fresco. Diciendo de esta manera : Ma essendo carestia, e de buoni giudecij et de belle dome, io mi servo di certa iddea, che mi viene nellamente ; si questa ha in se alcuna escellenza d'arte, io non so : ben me affatico di haberla. Quiere decir : « Mas careciendo de buen juicio y de hermosas mujeres , yo me sirvo de cierta idea que se me ofrece á la imaginación ; si esta tiene alguna excelencia en el arte , no lo sé ; pero bien me fatigo para alcanzarla, de manera que la perfección consiste en pasar de las ideas á lo natural , y de lo natural á las ideas : buscando siempre lo mejor y más seguro y perfecto. Así lo hacía también su maestro del mismo Rafael, Leonardo de Vinci, varón de sutilísimo ingenio , atendiendo á seguir los antiguos ; el cual primero que se pusiese á inventar cualquier historia, investigaba todos los efectos propios y naturales de cualquier figura , conforme á su idea. Y hacia luego diversos rasguños, después se iba donde sabia que se juntaban personas de la suerte que las había de pintar y observaba el modo de sus semblantes y vestidos y movimientos del cuerpo ; y hallando cosa que le agradase , conforme á su intento, lo dibujaba en el libreto que siempre llevaba consigo (veremos adelante sus palabras conforme a este intento ) y de esta manera acababa sus obras maravillosamente. Esto es finalmente lo que conviene hacer en este último grado, con el ejemplo del antiguo Zéusis , que para la bellísima Helena que se le ofreció pintar al pueblo de Agrigento, eligió cinco hermosas doncellas , y de cada una de ellas fue escogiendo lo más perfecto para hacer una figura igualmente acabadísima, aventajando la arte á la misma naturaleza: pues pintó en un sugeto la hermosura que apenas se hallaba en muchos. (Arte de la pintura, book I, chap. 12, Arte de la pintura, page 216-218. Edit. 1866 by Manuel Galiano)
Concerning the numerous pictorial representations of the story, in addition to the one presented above, I show another one, which is an illustration of a manuscript of the Roman de la Rose, edited in the year 1525 in Rouen, preserved in New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.0948, page 159.