CHAP. 1. (1.)—THE HONOUR ATTACHED TO PAINTING.
I HAVE now given at considerable length an account of the
nature of metals, which constitute our wealth, and of the
substances that are derived from them; so connecting my
various subjects, as, at the same time, to describe an immense
number of medicinal compositions which they furnish, the
thrown upon them by the druggists, and the tedious
minutiæ of the arts of chasing,2
and of dyeing.4
It remains for me to describe the various kinds of earths and
stones; a still more extensive series of subjects, each of which
has been treated of, by the Greeks more particularly, in a great
number of volumes. For my own part, I propose to employ a
due degree of brevity, at the same time omitting nothing that
is necessary or that is a product of Nature.
I shall begin then with what still remains to be said with
reference to painting, an art which was formerly illustrious,
when it was held in esteem both by kings and peoples, and
ennobling those whom it deigned to transmit to posterity.
But at the present day, it is completely banished in favour
of marble, and even gold. For not only are whole walls now
covered with marble, but the marble itself is carved out or
else marqueted so as to represent objects and animals of
various kinds. No longer now are we satisfied with formal
compartitions of marble, or with slabs extended like so many
mountains in our chambers, but we must begin to paint the
very stone itself! This art was invented in the reign of
Claudius, but it was in the time of Nero that we discovered the
method of inserting in marble spots that do not belong to it,
and so varying its uniformity; and this, for the purpose of
representing the marble of Numidia5
variegated with ovals,
and that of Synnada6
veined with purple; just, in fact, as
luxury might have willed that Nature should produce them.
Such are our resources when the quarries fail us, and luxury
ceases not to busy itself, in order that as much as possible may
be lost whenever a conflagration happens.