A D R I A N S T O K E S
M A I N I N T R O D U C T I O N - Richard Wollheim
The first characteristic Stokes calls love of stone: where 'love of ' stone is explicitly contrasted with mere 'attention to' stone.The lover of stone or (a nice phrase) the 'stone-struck' artist is one who has such a powerful relationship with the stone that the stone is for him animate. He does not, like Michelangelo, have to 'force' the stone to life. It lives for him, and this sense of it as something alive means that he is attuned to its potential. He is attuned to its potential as means or medium, and he loses no opportunity of displaying this. But he is also attuned to its potential as content, in that fantasies, which are of course fundamentally his, he finds it natural to ascribe to the stone itself. The stone is treated as a repository of contents, of figures, of things stirring within it, and the Quattro Cento artist typically sees it as his task to summon the stone to 'realize its own life'. An art born out of this love of stone exhibits what Stokes calls 'stone-blossom', with which he goes on to associate another feature, 'incrustation'. Stone-blossom and incrustation aren't exactly the same: for, whereas stone-blossom grows out of the work, incrustation has been fetched to it from outside. But they have in common the negative property that (as he puts it) 'they never give an effect of having been put there, just like that'. More importantly, they have in common the positive property of being 'in a tense communion with the plane' which shows them off.
The second characteristic is called 'mass' or 'mass-effect', again introduced through a contrast: this time at once with massiveness or the 'scenic' effect loved by Roman or Baroque architects and with any highly linear treatment of space such as we find in Brunelleschi, one of the villains of the piece. The effect of mass is one that is directly visual: it makes no appeal, or no original appeal, to touch or to tactile memory, it is directed solely to the 'quickness of the eye'. A building that exhibits mass does not require time to communicate itself, nor is it to be seen as an accumulation of unit upon unit. Such buildings are said to resemble in their immediacy the face, the wide face, the open face, of a rose. In an elaborately wrought early essay entitled 'Pisanello', rescued for the recent collected edition and which incidentally carries no reference to the painter of that name, Stokes says that any architecture that is 'even vaguely Quattro Cento in spirit' refutes Pater's dictum that all art aspires to the condition of music, and just what Stokes means is that such art has nothing to do with time, nothing to do with rhythm, nothing to do with process. It discloses itself instantaneously.
The third characteristic is perspective: again the 'love' of perspective, not the mere 'use' of perspective in which the un-Quattro Cento Florentines were adept. And if at first perspective seems out of place in this list, this is because we naturally think of perspective as primarily a representational aid, whereas Stokes conceives of it more as a way of neutralizing the side-effects of representation. For any attempt to render space on the flat (as in representational painting) or deep space in shallow space (as in representational relief) readily lends itself to a powerful attack on the surface. Depth may be gouged out, and, once this attack on the stone has been launched, then all the prettifying attempts to cover up the damage, to impart 'finish' (one of Stokes's pejorative words, much applied to Ghiberti), are in vain; for the tension of the plane has been destroyed. It is here that perspective - love of perspective - comes in, for it offers a new order to contain the dangers implicit in spatial representation. If the original single plane has to be given up, an equivalence is restored in the multi-planed picture of relief, where all the various gradations observe degree or progression.