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 final characteristic in my list is the hardest to elucidate. Stokes's word is 'emblematic' and his uses of the word range from the most specific, the most literal - so the lily is Florence's emblem, the Tempio is encrusted with the emblems of Sigismondo and Isotta - to a highly generalized use in which the emblematic just is art. But in the most creative use, 'emblem' seems to gather together the sense of objectification of the inner, the revelation of something in the outer world that realizes or makes concrete a subjective state, and also the sense of something that can be looked at meaningfully only if it is seen as the product of work or of engagement with the material. The match between the inner and the outer has not been borrowed from a code or preconception. It has been 'thrown out', there is 'exuberance'. At the time of writing The Quattro Cento Stokes had no way of unifying these characteristics: he had identified no underlying mode of activity from which they derived. Then, by the time he came to write Stones of Rimini he had found one. He found it in the phenomenon of carving: taking the term 'carving' out of the contrast, enshrined in traditional art-theory, between carving and modelling.
Interestingly, in a couple of places in The Quattro Cento, Stokes had already taken up his carving-modelling antithesis, but he could not see that it gave him the distinction he needed, and this was because he conceived no way of taking the distinction except literally: as referring to actual techniques of art. So he thought it a definitive objection to the antithesis, for his purposes, that some pure Quattro Cento work, such as Donatello's reliefs on the base of 'Judith', were in bronze, and therefore literally modeled, whereas the way in which some northern Italian sculptors characteristically tend to hew stone, or literally carve, was quite un-Quattro Cento. However, a few years later Stokes had evolved a more metaphorical way of making the distinction, freed direct reference to technique, in which it could nevertheless be used, both with precision and with perspicuity, to pick out two profoundly different ways or modes of working with material - what Stokes called 'the two main aspects of labour' - and these cohered with the difference between what was and what was not Quattro Cento in Renaissance sculpture and architecture. I quote from Stones of Rimini a passage repeated in Colour and Form:
Whatever its plastic value, a figure carved in stone is fine carving when one feels that not the figure, but the stone through the medium of the figure, has come to life. Plastic conception, on the other hand, is uppermost when the material with which, or from which, a figure has been made appears no more than as so much suitable stuff for this creation.
And Stokes goes on to characterize the impression that a work of carving - still in the centre of his attention - is calculated to make on the spectator. It confronts him with a carefully modulated, carefully graded, progression of unemphatic forms: recalling - and I quote - 'a panorama contemplated in an equal light by which objects of different dimensions and textures, of different beauty and of different emotional appeal, whatever their distance, are seen with more or less the same distinctness, so that one senses the uniform dominion of an uninterrupted space.' And the word here that might seem the most expendable is the most carefully chosen: 'panorama'. For it is a point to which Stokes often returned that the visual values exemplified in works of carving are just those to be found in a good landscape - that is, a southern or Mediterranean landscape - just at the hour at which the sun has gone down after a hot day. 'Things stand'.