Stones of Rimini. Adrian Stokes. (Faber and Faber.) 1 2s. 6d. net.
With 48 illustrations in half-tone.
Whether one accept Frobenius' hypothesis as fact or as an indisputably advantageous means of synthesis, the sense of personal property in art is, I think, breaking down.
The idea of 'style of a period' takes on a new significance. In criticism of honest work we need rather a collaboration than mere destructive picking at another man's work, whether or no such collaboration fall definitely in the domain of book reviewing.
With his Quattro Cento Mr. Stokes demonstrated to the satisfaction of at least a few readers that, despite the superficies of his writing, he was not merely another follower of Walter Pater. He got down 'to bedrock' in using STONE as the basis for his criticism of certain qualities of Quattrocento architectural ornament. He quite astutely refused to be entangled by a set of axioms which my decade, or the period from Brancusi to Gaudier-Brzeska had erected for the totally different problem of SCULPTURE 1910 to 1930, in an attempt to interpret the use of stone in fifteenth century building.
He gave his own personal colouring to the work with the term 'stone-blossom', where another might have stuck to the more usual 'emergence'. Whatever reminiscences showed in the manner of his own verbal manifestation, he had been to the places, he had LOOKED at the stone, and the whole of his verbal floridity had at any rate that unity of source.
He has been right in zoning his work. The present volume seems perhaps a link between two larger works, it contains technical material that he obviously had to deal with were he to escape charges of superficiality. He has relied on his halftone reproductions very greatly, but without giving the duller reader a lead, which would have been useful self protection. You cannot so greatly trust readers to understand that certain effects of a book arc not merely fortuitous.
Say that the present reviewer knows the TEMPIO as perhaps not another dozen men, apart from professional architects and conservators know it. He has learned quite a good deal from the shock of seeing the, as it were microscopic, slides of the detail in this particular juxtaposition. He does not therefore think this due to undesigned chance.
I. What a medley! The Tempio in Rimini would have been a far less daring synthesis had all its details been fully digested and reduced to a unity of style, à la Palladio. As a human record, as a record of courage, nothing can touch it.
As to the medley-looking straight at it: buddhism, the far cast, as distinct from any scheme of composition you could identify with the near east. Always the perfect hellenism of the straight columns and non-representative features. Very late clumsy Roman forms. In plate 33, a pattern sense unrivalled or unsurpassed out of Africa, and as it were digesting the very snappy and forth-going Hercules (lower right).
In all of which Stokes has found at least one basic unity or antithesis: Water and Stone.
For that alone the book is worth printing. For wisdom to unhorse the whole gnat-tribe of ergoteur logic-chopping 'critics': (p. 25)
'The writer is a fool… who formulates a definition when his whole book is intended as such.'
II. The jacket design seems to me anything but fortuitous, but the key not quite distinctly indicated. Another principle of unity seems to me to exist, and to be given not by the building, but by Pasti's medal of the intention.
I believe the construction to have a spherical basis-fortunately foiled in the effect, but there always as principle and as cause of a solidity, a satisfaction which no other base-form could have attained.
Take a full set of photos of the Tempio and start counting the CIRCLES. Reverse, for a moment, Stokes' stone-blossom criterion or rather augment it by the idea of the flattened sphere.
Again and again we find the sphere squashed down. Whereas greek sculpture is weak in comparison with the best African work, because the latter is conceived solid as mass, and the greek so often as merely a profile on a pivot, or the set of profiles taken by someone walking around the subject, the Rimini bas relief is conceived in three dimensions and then squashed. I mean at its best.
That seems to me the 'formal' adjunct which might aid in pursuing Mr. Stokes’ analysis further.
As to sources and conjectures of what was in Sigismundo's mind etc., etc. There is Gcmisto Plethon's greek manuscript in Florence, someone should check up on Schulze or whatever his name was, who dealt with Plethon in German. The seven side arches, three front arches, in relation to the basic sphere; the clear lead to metempsychosis in Basinio's Isottaeus are all indispensible elements in any conjecture that is to be taken seriously, and are all more intimately connected with Rimini than is Pontano's 'Urania'.
Stokes' 'water' concept is, whether he remember it or no,-in harmony with the source of all gods, Neptune, in Gemisto's theogony.
As for the triumph of Agostino di Duccio, the actual work has gamut from registration. of, so far as I am concerned, a concept of absolute physical beauty, achieved in its proportion, having nothing to do with Milos or Greece, say Italic beauty and sanity. This at its apex, down to simple botch, and physical figures so defective that they wouldn't get by a simple Atlantic City or Ziegfield judging committee.
And thank heaven, there is nothing, utterly and completely nothing that theory can now do to it; or about it.
Pound, Ezra. Review of The Stones of Rimini, by Adrian Stokes. Criterion XIII. 52 (Aril 1934): 495-97. P&P VI: 159-60.