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Cursory notes in illustration of the sculptures in the Vatican Museum online

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citizens , aiier his left eye had been struck out
in a quarrel.

531. Periander the Tyrant of Corinth ,
reckoned by flattary amongst the Seven Wise
Men. On the bust is inscribed his favorite
dphorismi: Practise (or care) is everything.

^J9 9 9 ^

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No apartment of the Vatican presents a
more imposing tout-ensemble than this, the
architect of winch having been commissioned by
Pius VI to design a hall for the reception of
the magnificent vase of porphery (S5 pahns in
circumference) which had been found in the
baths of Titus; borrowed from the Pantheon the
idea of the fabric we now enter. The above-
named vase stands in the centre on a pavement
inlaid with beautiful colored mosaics found at
the baths of Otricoli — thtt» subjects : Nereids
Tritons &c. and a combat of C^taurs and La-
pithi — with an outer drcle of mosaics in black
and white, found at Scrofano, representing
Neptune, various monsters of the sea, and
Ulysses sailing past the island of the Syrens.
The statues are colossal, and each stands in its
separate niche , like the Deities of ancient
Temples, with fine singleness of effect. Torch-
light, which most of all develops the superna-
tural , and brings out the religious or heroic
meanings of sculpture, is especudly appropriate
here where all around us seems elevated above
Humanity , an august assemblage of Superior
Beings. Within the niches at l£e entrance are:
Minerva , ornamental rilievi, one with head of
Medusa, and a small figure of Mnemosine (535)
considered a great curioaty in the archseologic
point of view.

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On each side the eutrance are the colossal
Hermse first supposed to be merely Bacchante^
and proved by Visconti to be Tragedy and
Comedy — not indeed the Muses^ but personi-
ficalions of the two forms of dramatic Poetry.
They adorned the entrance to the Theatre of
Adrian's Villa, and are among the best monu-
ments of the Romano-Greek Art, (or that from
Greek hands employed in Rome) distinguished
by the character of exquisite chiselling, which
florished under that Emperor. The stiff head-
dress of both these busts, with double rows of
minute braids round the forehead, and a mass
of large curls, or rather folds of hair, rising
above; resembles that attached to the ancient
masks always worn by Actors. It is conjectured
that a very hght coating of varie^ted marble,
to imitate the rich costume of the stage, ori-
^nally covered the draperies. The countenance
of Tragedy (537) corresponds with a descrip-
tion extant of one of the an<^ent masks used
for matronly characters, such as Andromache or
Medea; it differs from the usual Greek type in
various respects, particularly the aquiline form
of the nose. A certain rigidity of feature and
tension of the eyebrows, has been observed to
convey the effect of pallor of complexion as
exactly as could be done without color. The
synonym of intellectual majestic beauty, so ex-
pressive to English ears — Siddonian^ — might
be appHed to this fine countenance, on which,
though tranquil, a weight of melancholy seems
to brood, without being directed to a specific

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object, without the care-worn character im-
pressed by life's trials on ordinary aspects — but
rather the poetic visionary mood that abandons
itself to abstractions and high contemplation.
The Comedy is crowned with the vine, because
though both forms of the Drama were con-
nected with the worship of Bacchus; it was she
who more especially gave herself up to the in-
spiring influences of the God. The outlines
of the face diflfer from the Greek still more than
is the case with the other; the expression, bland
rather than humorous, seems that of readiness
to receive impressions of joy, more than of actual
participation in mirth, or the disposition to mere
animal excitement. It is Comedy of the In-
tellect, not of the temper only.

539. Jupiter, a Head which has been pro-
nounced the finest in existence of this Deity.

Hercules with an Infimt whom Winckelmann
(the first to correct the erroneous idea that this
Statue *was a portrait of Commodus with the
attributes of Hercules) believed to be Ajax;
Visconti, Telephus his Son. The birth of
Ajax was foretold, and his name determined by
Hercules; and the infant, as soon as born, was
wrapt in the lion's skin by the God, and thus
rendered invulnerable. The head of this Statue
is a much-admired piece of Art, and considered
superior to the rest.

511. Faustina, wife of Antoninus Pius.

Genius of Augustus, The religious worship
paid to the Genii of the Caesars is attested by
many monuments , and the oath by the Genius

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of the Emperor y was inviolable among the
Romans. Flattery has here giyen the semblance
of Augustus himseK to his Genius, in the spirit
in which the Poets of his court lauded him as
a beneficent Deity, the Saviour of Borne. The
epithet " Tutela " given him by Horace, was
properly that applied to the Divine Genii; and
even in his lifetime it was proposed that the
Temple of Olympian Jupiter at Athens should
be dedicated, instead,' to the Genius of Augustus.
In the ancient belief a Genius — or according
to some, two ; one evil, the other good — attended
every individual from birth, and the ascendancy
of the former, or the latter, determined the cha-
racter for virtue or vice. On birthdays each
person oflPered flowers, wine and incense, but no
bloody sacrifice, to his Genius.

543. Adrian.

Ceres, This Statue of a severe simplicity
peculiarly impressive and single in effect, pos-
sesses the qualities most of all requisite in the
colossal — namely, every outline is so defined
as to tell from the most distant point of view,
whilst from the nearest, the harmony and just-
ness of all are apparent. This Goddess, whose
worship was one of the most universal, whose
mysteries are supposed to have reconciled Phi-
losophy with Religion, to have conveyed indeed
the truths most analogous to those of revealed
Religion among ancient doctrines; is invested
in this Statue with all; the awfulness, and much
of the benignity, attributed to her in Pagan

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545. Antinous as an Egyptian Deity, so
distingfuished by the dressing of the hair, and
the foliage sculptured round the breast.

Antoninus Pkis, an armed colossal Statue
found at the VUla of Adrian.

547. Marine Deity, a Head found near Baia,
to the fertility of whose shores the crown ci
vine leaves is supposed to allude. The horns
just sprouting remind us of the ancient idea
that earthquakes were occasioned by the Sea
Gods dashing Htmr waves with fury against the
shores. The eye*brows and jaws are scaly
the hair and beaid descend in the form of waves,
and two httle dolphins are coiling in the long
twisted masses of the latter. Yet monstrous
as it is, a certain symmetry is preserved amidst
the grotesque, and nowing of the merely
hideous, the character of Northern fentanes in
the Demonologic, is observable in this head
The very odour of the sea-weed seems to
emanate from the &ntastic creature; and hu-
manity, if not lost, has indeed '^ suffered a sea-
change " the most complete in this briny

Nerva deified, and wearing the civic crown
of oak, one of the finest among all Statues of
the Caesars that have been preserved to us.
Among the forms around, this, the only one of
human subject, has an intellectual majesty that
seems to assert superiority over all. It is ob-
served that the likeness is feithful even to the
ftuTows of the countenance, while a fulness
added by the Sculptor to its contours, serves

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both to soflten and elevate the character. The
figure is so far idealised, that we perceive the
apotheosis to be consummated. The drapery
covers the lower limbs in the same manner
as that given, with mystic meaning, to the
Statues of Jupiter; and the spear, originally in
the hand, was a ^mbol of Deity. It is doubted
whether the two mtgments of which this Statue
is formed, belong to each other.

549. Serapis, a bust admired for its grandeur
of style , though belonging to the period of

The vessel called the modms on the head
was an ornament of almost all Asiatic Dei-
ties, — by some explained as a vestige of the
columns anciently adored instead of images;
by others, as a symbol of the abundance the
deities were supposed to dispense. The union
of this with the rays round the head, does not
belong to the Alexandrine Serapis, the King of
the Infernal Re^ons and Father of shades, but
to Serapis amalgamated with the Sim-god and
Pluto of the Greeks. " This beautiful head,
(save Zogga) reminds us of the God, who is
ssai by Pkto to retain the souls of the departed
tmder his dominion, not by the chains of neces-
sity, but by the wisdom and insinuating sweet-
ness of his discom^e ".

JuTW, called the Barberini. Of this noble
Statue Visconti observes, that if it were not
difficult to recognise exactly the style of Pra-
xiteles, he should infer it to be the identical
work of that sculptor described by Pausanias as

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in the Temple of Plat^ea. The drapery, whose
folds partake of the Etrusjcan manner, and a
certain squareness in the design of the head,
are observed by the same critic as amongst the
proofs of its great antiquity. The arms only
are modem, while the preservation of the rest is
perfect. Ilie attitude is that so often repeated
in the statues of propitious Deities, with the
head inclined forward to receive the prayers
and offerings of mortals; and the patera has
been placed in the hand with accordance of
meaning. The massiveness of the general
outline may be objected against as removing too
far from the received proportions of the gracefiil,
but the essentially preternatural chai^ter of
the whole is encreased, and the imposing
effect augmented by this. The costume, (one
vestment of light material falling over the
breast, the other, heavier, gathered round the
limbs below the waist) was that of matrons of
high station in Greece.

The dispositions ascribed to Juno by Poetry
and fable, are often the most unamiable; thie
passions and the littleness, without the softness
of her sex, are conspicuous in her as depicted by
Homer — Sculpture (happily repugnant to the
morally as well as physically deformed) has here
embodied her with the majesty of the heavenly
Queen and the benignity of the Mother.

The Roman piety which interdicted women of
stained character from entering or even touching
the Temple of Juno, — which worshipped her
as the Guardian of conjugal virtue, and espe-

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taally the protecting Deity of woman — attested
the influence of the purer ideal of the Goddess
which this statue in vindicating, yiudicates also
the dignity of human Nature in its conceptions
of the morally heautiful.

551. Claudius crowned with the civic oak.

Juno Sospita^ (or the Preserver) represented
as in the Temple of Lanuvium, ( near Rome )
with a garment made from the skin of the goat
Amalthea, covering the head and figure, a shield
and lance. The serpent alludes to the worship
of one which was kept in a consecrated grove
near this Temple, where the Roman Consuls of-
fered sacrifice to Juno hefore entering on their
office. The statue probably belongs to the age
of Antoninus Pius.

553. Plolina, wife of Trajan.

554. Julia Pia, wife of Septimius Severus.
Bacchus with a Faun and Panther, formed

on the type which a group, supposed to be that
mentioned by Pausanias, ( 1, 20) had rendered
familiar to Art in later ages. - The figure of
Bacchus is one of the most graceful ; and me idea
of the countenance is observed by Viseonti "to
unite (developed with a few lines) a marvellous
beauty to a perfect simplicity ".

556. Pertinax, the son of a slave, who was de-
clared the successor of Commodus, and murdered
by the Pretorian guards after a reign of a few
weeks, during which his mildness, wisdom and
measures of economy had gained the affection of
all save the corrupted solchery.


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liie beantifiil arrajigements and graceM
architecture of this Hall, will attract admiration
before we begin to examine its contents. It was
designed by the same Architect as the one out
of which it opens, and terminates in the grand
staircase with majesty and elegance of effect.
An eternal freshness seems to pertain to all
the courts of the Vatican, harmonising with the
immutability of the silent inhabitants to whom
they are dedicate. The colossal portal of this
Hall, with posterns of the finest Egyptian gra-
nite brought from the baths of Nero, is im-
posing, and finely guarded by the enormo\is
statues, Egyptian in style, though actually of
Boman execution, in the same material, which
support the architrave , and were originally
placed in the Villa of Adrian, to whose epoc
they belong. Winckelmann supposed these to
be miages of the deified Antinous. Above the
marble cornice are two great vases of granite
with a semi-circular bassorilievo, brought from
the same Villa, representing, with much spirit,
two Gladiators fighting with a lion and a tiger.
Three beautiful mosaics are set in the pavement:
the central (found at Tusculum) has the design
of a shield dedicated to Pallas, with the he^
of the Goddess in the midst and arabesques
around, but immediately encircled by a blue
belt on which are delineated 12 planets and the

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Moon in her several, phases. The figures
repeated at the angles , in blue and white , are
intended for Telamons. On the mosaic near
the entrance is Bacchus, watenng (if we may
use the phrase) a rose-tree with wine. Passing
on to the right of the entrance , the order of
Sculptures is the following: Augustus, supposed
at the age when he overthrew the Republic and
prepared the fall of his colleagues in the
Tiumvirate — a statue half draped in the Greek
manner adopted first by Koman Artists about
this period. The adjustment of the mantle ,
and probably this was a refinement of flattery,
resembles that observed in the Statues of the
youthful Jupiter , with the attributes of which
Deity, tins Emperor, who at the age of 28 al-
lowed himself to be enrolled among the Gods ,
was in various instances imaged. The likeness
to Napoleon has been observed in the more
youtbd&l pertraits of Augustus, but is in none
so striking as the Bust of the Chiaramonte

. Two Busts (incogniti) and a small portrait .
statue with the attributes of Mercury, found in
a sepulchre. Colossal statue (564) of Lucius
Verus, the voluptuous colleague of Aurelian,
whose countenance is as coarse as was his
character. On the pedestal is a relievo of
Hercules at table with a little attendant who
presents him a cake. Statue of Hercules with
his club and the cornucopia; of a Priestess
wearing the infula on the head, assumed, from
the Greeek dr^ to be a minister of Ceres, the

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temple of tliat Goddess in Borne liaving been
served by Grreek females.

Colossal statue of Clio: tbb and the colossal
Euterpe in another part of the Hall , though
of inferior executioD, are supposed to be copies
fix>m ori^nals of higher merit. Though the
countenances are heavy and unexpressive^ the
effect at a distance is good , t£e draperies
majes^c. They oriiginally stood in the Theatre
at Otricoli, for the Statues of l^e Muses, all by
their functions brought into some relatioti ynwt
the Stage , were among tho usual decorations
of the ancient Theatres, where the predion of
Sculpture is said to have been marvellous-^
thus, we are told by Pliny, the Theatre of
Scaurus in Rome contained 3000 statues. Bust
of Faustina (570) small statue of Euterpe
with the double flute, and Didus Julianus who
purchased the Roman Empire from the Preto-
rian Guards, — all on brackets. The Yenus
called "of Gnidos" a copy from the chef-'
domvre of Praxiteles wluch is mentioned by
Pliny as illustrious throughout the world. Tra-
vellers sailed from distant ports to Gnidos at-
tracted by the fame of this work, which was
considered to eclipse the most admired of other
artists , and curious examples are narrated of
the fanalidsm of admiration, the positive, and in
one case sacrilegfious passion , of which this
marble became the object. Nieomedes, King
of Bythinia, offered an immense sum to the
Gnidians for its purchase, but was refused.
The original perished by fire at Constantinople

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in the year 475 , and a bronze duplicate at
Home was also destroyed in the [same manner,
in the Neronian conflagration. Majesty, even
more thanloveliness,d]stinguishes this statue ;tho'
the countenance (seldom expressive in the image
cf Venus) does not serve to convey character
equally with the figure: There is nothing of
the sminking timidity we observe in some figu-
res of this Goddess, but rather a consciousness
of charms , and assertion of their invincible
might. The "febled Cytherea's zone, binding
all things with beauty'* might be proudly
idaimed as the due attribute of such an Enchan-
tress. Like other superstitions the worship of
Yenus had no doubt its one ^pect for the
vulgar, and its other for the cultivated mind;
and if she was merely the Goddess of pleasure-*
the "laughter-loving Dame'* to some, — a far
higher pkice belong^ to her in Mythology, as
invested with (lU the attributes of the Divmity
personifying the principle that animated Nature
with Hte, infusing the soul of joy and beauty.
Thus the magnificent exordium of Lucretius
(De Rer. Nat.) to "alma Venus^, before whom
the tempests are laid , the clouds disperse , the
heaven and ocean become radiant with smiles ,
and the earth strews its surface with flowers —
comprises her more lofty and beneficent aspects;
And the Apostrophe of the Poet seems inspired
by the same idea as the creation of the sculptor.
575. Adrian , a semicolossal head. Above ,
€n the two arches, Bassirilievi with Bacchic
figures. Two Sphynxes of Egyptian granite ,

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on each side the Arch, are fuU of that character
of immutability which gives even to monstrous
forms, in the monuments of this worslup of
symbols, a certain mysterious dignity.

581. Colossal head of Trajan' and Bassori-
lievi of three Muses above. It is questioned
whether the statue that follows, with the laurel
crown and lyre , should be oonsidered Apollo
Palalinus , or the Muse Erato. The dress is
femmine like that of the Citharoedus , but the
forms of the figure have left its sex doubtful.
It resembles , though not exactly , the Apollo
of Scopas (as presented to us on medals)
which adorned fiie Palatine Temple erected
by Augustus to commemorate his victoiy at

583. Marcus Aurelius, a semi-colossal head;
small statue of Diana the Huntress; Marciana ,
sister of Trajan. Winged Victory, which with
a similar riUevo near, ori^nally ornamented
the large inscription found at tibe Baths of
S. Helena , new set in the wall on the side we
are examining. 507, Euterpe, the colossal
statue alluded to in connecticm with that of
Clio; beneath is a small rilievo Of Menelaus
dedicating the arms of Euphorbus to ApoHo:
Roman P^cess as the Goddess Pudicitia. A
Statue the size of life , heroic m style; and a
larger one of an Orator in the act of harangu-
ing. Fortune , a small statue , with the hehn
of a ship resting on a globe, the wheel and cornu-
copia , emblems of the Goddess oonsidered
superior even to Jupiter, and having jurisdiction

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OTer all things save life and death , which
remained at the arbitration of the Farcse. Anto-
ninus PiuS; a colossal Head. Augustus (oppo-
site his statue at the entrance) veiled as Pontifex
Maximus, with the patera in the hand for
sacrifice; since the Emperors not only assumed
the dignity , but exercised the functions and
Tights of the Supreme Priesthood. This statue,
disinterred at the Ocriculana Basilica, belongs to
the school of Art produced in the Roman colo-
nics, naturally inferior to that of the Metropolis.
Above each of these statues of Augustus are
Bassorilievi of the Chimaera.

The Sarcophagi of porpheiy,the most conspi-
caous objects in this hall, remarkable for their
vast scale in a stone one of the most unyielding
to the instruments of Sculpture, are magnificent
as decorations, but of fiu' inferior merit as works
of Art. Belonging to a period when the Arts
were sinking to the mere purposes of luxury or
flattery, they have an extrinsic interest as proofs
how inevitable must be the decline of those
Arts when the opinions and religious belief on
which they hare been based, are passing away,
lintil other opinions and belief have so taken
root in the mind as that a new school, develop-
ing their proper expression , may have birth —
the consequence of a renovation. That to the
left from the entrance was in the Church of
S. Costanza, supposed to have been ori^ally
the Mausoleum of the fisunily of Constantine the
Great, and is believed to have held the bones of
his daughter, the above-named Saint. It had

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been vulgarly called, on account d the subjects
sculptured in its reliefs , the tomb of Bacdbus.
When Alexander lY consecrated that building-
in the thirteenth century , as a Church , it was
removed , to give place to the High Altar, to

. another part of the building; and afterwards being
destined by Paul 11 for his own sepulchre, was

. on its way to St Feter^s, its intended location,
when the death of the Pope occurring, the
purpose was abandoned and the sarcophagus
taken back to the Church of S. Costanza, where
it remained till placed in this Museum by
Piu& VI. The deposit is formed in a single

. mass of porphery , and the covering in another
mass. The vintage scenes in the nlievi ,
though of rich e£Pect from a distance , are of
coarse ^ execution , and no christian symbol
appears in any part , unless we may consider
the grape , introduced frequently on early
Christian monuments, and in the frescos of the
Catacombs, intended, as unquestionably in the
above-named works, to bear symbolic reference
to the Sacrament of the Altar. The Sarcophagus

. opposite^ under the large inscription, is that of
. the Empress Helena, brought from her Mauso-
leum, which was recognised, (after long oblivion)
in the XYI century, in the building now called
Tor Pignattara , beyond the Porta Maggiore.
It had been transported to the Lateran Basilica
by Anastasius IV, in the XII century, to serve
as his own tomb; when the attempt was made
to remove it in ^e year 1600, the whole fell to
pieces, which were with great labor refitted;

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and the Lateran continued its resting place till
the present Museum was formed. The alto-
rilieyi refer to the victories of Constantine, and
are very superior to the sculptures on the other
sarcophagus, if not to those on the Arch of that
Smperor. The husts of Constantine and Helena
stand out in lower relief on each front.

Approaching the heautiful staircase, in four
• flights, adorned hy columns of Oriental granite,
breccia and black porpheiy, we observe on the
- first landing place, in two niches, an Athlete
and Hercules; in a recess opposite the entrance
to the Egyptian Museum, &e recumbent statue
of a Biver-god, supposed to be the Tigris, the
head, right arm and left hand restored, either
by Michelangelo, or, under his superintendance,
by Fra Giovanni Montorsoli. The figure has
much dignity; the restored head a sternly vi -
gorotts character, but with a. certain exaggera-
tion and straining at effect, that betrays inferio-
rity to the conceptions of antique Art; and the
style of the great Master, to whom, or his pupil,
the work is ascribed, has been considerd open
to the same objections. We are reminded a
Utile of tiie ^ Moses '' by this head, which when
compared with the Nilus in the Braccio
NuovOy must be allowed to want the majestic
repose so impressive in the latter. -^

Ascending to the highest landing places we
observe the following: A Tripod in alto-rilievo
with the combat of Hercules against either the
sons of Hippocoon or the Ligurians; supposed to
have served for the lustral water in the atrium

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to a Temple of Hereules. The execution is
adnurable, the ornamental details finished with
much delicacy. On each side of an oval vase
in a very rare granite, the handles of which rise
from four masks of Sileni, are the following
Reliefs: above^ Two figures of Victory; Group
illustratbg the Tragedy of Medea, a firagment

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Online LibraryVatican. Museo vaticanoCursory notes in illustration of the sculptures in the Vatican Museum → online text (page 9 of 11)