Système des contradictions économiques/Tome II/226
Prove to an artist, by the comparison of times and men, that the inequality of works of art, in different centuries, comes especially from the oscillating movements of society, from changes in beliefs and the state of minds; that as much as society is worth, so much is the artist worth; that between him and his contemporaries there exists a community of needs and ideas, from which results the system of their obligations and their relations, such that merit like wages can always be rigorously defined; that a time will come when the rules of taste, the laws of invention, composition and execution being discovered, art will lose its divinatory character and will cease to be the privilege of a few exceptional natures: all these ideas will appear to the artist excessively ridiculous.
He says: You have made a statue, and you propose to sell it to me. But that statue, in order to truly a statue and in order that I give its price, must join certain conditions of poetry and of plastique that au seul aspect I can discover, even though I have never seen a statue, and I am completely incapable of making one. If these conditions are not met, whatever difficulties you have defeated, however superior to my profession your art appears, you have done/made a useless work. Your labor is worth nothing: it does not accomplish the aim, and serves only to excite my regrets by manifesting your powerlessness. For it is not a comparison of you to me that it is a question of establishing; it is a comparison between your work and your ideal. Will you ask me, after that, at what price you can claim to reussite? I respond to you that the price is necessarily proportional to my faculties, and determined as partie aliquote to my expenses. Now, what is that proportion? just the equivalent of what the statue would have cost.
If it was possible that the artist to whom l'on tiendrait in similar language could sense its the force and justice, it would be because reason would replace imagination in him; he woukd begin to no longer be an artist.
What particularly choque that class of men is that one dares to put a price on their talents. A les entendre, weight and measure are incompatible with the dignity of art: that mania of selling everything is the signe of a society in decadence, in