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By Bell Clive

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Apollinare-Nuovo and S. Apollinare-in-Classe belong to the sixth century; so do SS. Sergius and Bacchus at Constantinople and the Duomo at Parenzo. In fact, to the sixth century belong the most majestic monuments of Byzantine art. It is the primitive and supreme summit of the Christian slope. The upward spring from the levels of GraecoRomanism is immeasurable. The terms in which it could be stated have yet to be discovered. It is the whole length of the slope from Sta. Sophia to the Victoria Memorial pushed upright to stand on a base of a hundred years.

Or is the new age born? Is it a new slope that we are on, or are we merely part of a surprisingly vigorous premonitory flutter? These are queries to ponder. Is Cézanne the beginning of a slope, a portent, or merely the crest of a movement? The oracles are dumb. This alone seems to me sure: since the Byzantine primitives set their mosaics at Ravenna no artist in Europe has created forms of greater significance unless it be Cézanne. With Sta. [10] In the same century it took a downward twist at Constantinople; but in one part of Europe or another the new inspiration continued to manifest itself supremely for more than six hundred years.

In that case, an aesthetic judgment will imply some sort of judgment about the general state of mind of the artist and his admirers. In fact, anyone who accepts absolutely my second hypothesis with all its possible implications—which is more than I am willing to do—will not only see in the history of art the spiritual history of the race, but will be quite unable to think of one without thinking of the other. If I do not go quite so far as that, I stop short only by a little. Certainly it is less absurd to see in art the key to history than to imagine that history can help us to an appreciation of art.

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