In a letter dated January 19, 1712, two months after his arrival in Naples, the Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713), philosopher and theoretician, complained of being unable to meet a painter worthy of the name. But shortly afterwards he said that he was happy to have found an eminent one, Paolo de Matteis. His accounts book contains mention of a payment for preparatory drawings for the painting to illustrate his treatise entitled A Notion of the Historical Draught or Tablature of the Judgment of Hercules according to Prodicus (1713). In this, he held that the decisive element of pictorial creation is in the intellectual conception of the subject, with the intervention of the painter being completely secondary. The subject of the painting-Hercules' choice between the world of appearances and objective values-actually forms the conclusion to the book: "Tis evident however from Reason it-self, as well as from History and Experience, that nothing is more fatal, either to Painting, Architecture, or the other Arts, than this false Relish, which is govern'd rather by what immediately strikes the Sense, than by what consequentially and by reflection pleases the Mind, and satisfies the Thought and Reason."




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