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Extra resources for The face of immortality : physiognomy and criticism

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Firenzuola goes on to offer his own compromise solution, which tries to reconcile the theory of beauty as visible symmetry with the theory of beauty as audible harmony. He studiously avoids, thus already confirming its ephemerality, concinnità in favor of “harmony,” although, like Pico, he feels the need to justify its employ of the latter term in reference to visible beauty: beauty is nothing else but ordered concord, akin to a harmony that arises misteriously from the composition, union, and conjunction of several diverse and different parts (una ordinata concordia, e quasi un’armonia occultamente risultante dalla composizione, unione, e commissione di più membri diversi) that are, according to their own needs and qualities, differently well proportioned and in some way beautiful, and which, before they unite themselves into a whole, are different and discordant among themselves.

87 However, the survival of symmetria in transliteration suggests that the difficulty here lies well beyond the shortcomings of the individual translator. No translation has been able to replace the word, which has passed from one language to another, while keeping all its ambiguity in the process. Yet many attempts were made to decode it, especially when the recovery of the forlorn symmetria prisca88 seemed to lie at hand. In the “Proemio” to his commentary on Dante’s Comedy, Cristoforo Landino offers a brief overview of the development of the figurative arts in Florence, which anticipates Vasari’s standard treatment.

77 As a consequence of this process the humanists gathered new evidence of the richness of the Greek language,—Camerarius writes with admiration in his Commentarii that the Greeks, “a nation rich of words,” left no part of the body without a name78—; but they were also reminded of the comparative poverty of Latin,—the egestas Lucretius had first lamented—especially in the borderline domain of ethopoeia, or character description. ”79 The inadequacy of the Latin language had to be particularly felt in the case of those Greek words the Latins themselves had declared untranslatable and directly transliterated in their own tongue.

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