Memoirs of Socrates
Whenever Socrates had a discussion with any professional artists, he was helpful to them too. On one occasion he called on the painter Parrhasius and had a discussion with him.
‘Does painting produce a likeness of what is seen, Parrhasius?’ he asked. ‘You imitate hollows and heights, dark and light, hard and soft, rough and smooth, young bodies and old, using colours to give a likeness.’
‘That is true,’ he replied.
‘And indeed when you make likenesses of beautiful figures, since it is not easy to come across one person who is blameless in all respects, you draw on many models, combine the most beautiful aspects of each and so make bodies appear entirely beautiful.’
‘Yes, that is what we do,’ he said.
‘Well then,’ said Socrates, ‘do you imitate the character of the soul, the most appealing, pleasing, likeable, desirable and lovable part of us? Or can this not be imitated?’
‘How could it be imitated, Socrates?’ he said. ‘It has neither symmetry nor colour nor any of the qualities you mentioned just now, and it is not even visible at all.’
‘Well then, can people look at others in a friendly or hostile way?’ he asked.
‘I think they can,’ said Parrhasius.
‘Can this then be imitated in the expression of the eyes?’
‘I agree,’ he said.
‘Do those who are concerned about the good and bad fortune of their friends have the same expressions on their faces as those who are not?