William Spalding.

Italy and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) online

. (page 14 of 35)
Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the arts to any greater extent than depressing them at
one place to raise them at another. None of them, it is
true, preserved the transcendent character of the earlier
age ; and the artists of the Achaean league were distin-
guished by different qualities from those of the great
Macedonian dynasty, as the genius of these again had
differed from that which illuminated the times of the
Peloponnesian war, and the golden reign of Pericles.
But though there was change, there was no degradation ;
or, if there was, it appeared in architecture only, and
even there the deviation from purity of taste was as yet
but slight.

Painting and Architecture.
Even after the discoveries of the last century in
Campania, it is difficult to seize fully the tme character
of Grecian painting, as exliibited by its first masters ;
and it goes for little to be told of the accurate and
noble drawing of Polygnotus, of the softer and more
imaginative beauty which followed it in the works of the
Italian Zeuxis, and his rival Parrhasius of Ephesus,
or of the union of high theory with mechanical per-
fection, which is attributed to the Ionian Apelles and
Protogenes of Rhodes, the great painters of the Mace-
donian times. In the latter ages of the period, after
the foundation of Alexander's empire, this art was
extensively applied to the internal decoration of build-
ings, when still-life and architectural drawings became
common. The practice of painting on terra-cotta vases,
formerly so popular, fell into disuse, or was cornipted ;
and most of the Apulian specimens, from Canusium,
Barium, and other cities, exemplify the artificial man-
nerism which then prevailed. On the other hand.


Mosaics appeared for the first time at Pergamus ; and
the celebrated Drinking Doves, which were the subject
of an early composition, have been supposed to be pre-
served in an imitation discovered in the Villa of Ha-
drian.* A Mosaic lately found, representing one of
Alexander's battles, is an example of an animated style,
not exactly accordant with Grecian principles ; but it
is executed with skill, and is very instructive.t

In architecture, between the time of Phidias and the
siege of Corinth, much was done of which we possess
magnificent remains, and very much that has perished
without leaving a shadow. The Doric order, in the
hands of the Attic artists, attained a simple majesty of
grace perfectly true to its original character. The
Ionic, invented by the Asiatic Greeks, and developed
by them in the form which has been recognised as the
rule of the order, was used by the Athenians as a fit
subject on which to exercise their fancy and love of
ornate beauty ; and about the 85th Olympiad appears
the graceful Corinthian column, whose proportions
gradually arranged themselves in a light and slender
symmetry harmonizing with its style of ornament,
in which the Ionic volute became subordinate to
rich groups of natural foliage. It is worth while to
notice, that in the time of Pericles, the earliest portion
of the period now before us, we discover in at least one
of the great temples of Greece the keyed arch;:|: an
invention which it v/as difficult to unite harmoni-
ously with the prevailing horizontal lines of the orders,

• Capitoline Museum ; Stanza del Vaso, No. 101.

•f In the museum of Naples : discovered at Pompeii, in the
House of the Faun, 10th October 1831.

X See (at sections 107 and 109) the excellent *' Handbuch der
Archiiologie derKunst" (2d edition, Breslau, 1835) : by Miiller,
tho celebrated author of " The Dorians," The authorities are,
Plutarch, in Pericle, cap. 13, compared with Julius Pollux, ii.
54, and Senec. Epist. 90, assigning to Democritus (who died
about the 1st year of the 94th Olympiad) what he calls the inven-
tion of the arch and key-stone ; though, as the keyed arch unques.
tionably existed long before in Rome and elsewhere in Italy, De-
mocritus in all likelihood only borrowed it.


and which, borrowed probably from Italy, the Ro-
mans soon received back. The architecture of Greece,
when thus perfected, was applied in every conceivable
shape. In the free days of the nation, she and her
colonies erected fortifications, theatres, odea, stadia, and
temples ; and her Macedonian conquerors employed
her artists in constructing princely palaces, tombs, and
even cities, like those of Alexandria and Antioch. Of
edifices not within our proper limits, it will be enough,
from the first and purest stage of this period, to call to
mind the magnificent group of temples at Athens.

In Sicily the example was eagerly followed. The great
temple at Agrigentum belongs to this period ; some of
those at Selinus do so likewise, as well as that of iEgeste.
In Magna Graecia all the ruins of Paestum, excepting the
temple of Neptune, may be traced to the same age,
though several of them scarcely do justice to its spirit ;
and to it also may be referred a few less important re-
mains in the same region. Both there and in Sicily the
Doric order was mvariably used, and the two others are
nowhere to be seen, except on coins belonging to those
colonies. Domestic architecture attained elegance in
Sicily much earlier than in the mother- country.*

Grecian sculpture, as it appeared from the time of
Phidias till the Roman conquest, requires more minute
illustration ; and it may be convenient to divide the
period into two eras. The first of these reaches from
the 80th to the 120th Olympiad ; and, in a duration of
about a century and a half, includes two successive ages
of art, both adorned by very celebrated names. The
second era, of about the same length, from the 120th
Olympiad to the 158th, though it furnishes fewer great
masters than the former, has bequeathed to us works
of the highest excellence.

* Stieglitz, Archaolonjie der Baukunst der Griechen und
Rbmer, vol. i. : Historical Introduction.


I. lu the first section of the earlier period five artists
must be named, — Phidias, Polycletus, IMyron, Pytha-
goras, and Calaniis. All of these had some points in
common, and in particular the freedom with which they
treated their subjects as compared even with their im-
mediate predecessors. That strange union of accurate
drawing w^ith stiffness of attitude and design, and other
similar contradictions, which are to be observed in so
many statues of the age preceding Phidias, have been
explained by the best critics, as arising from a designed
adherence to older models, the sacred and patriarchal
idols of the shrines for which these more modern works
were destined. In the Phidian age itself this hieratic
style was discarded, even in the simple figures ; and
freedom of manner was furthered and perfected by the
increased demand which that age made for statues and
reliefs, as ornaments for unconsecrated buildings. In
the time of Pericles, or very soon after it, art was com-
pletely secularized ; for, without being banished from
the temples, it was introduced into every public place,
and into many private dwellings. For the sacred edifices
the artists had to frame images of the gods, and reliefs of
mythic legends ; for the agorce, theatres, and porticos,
there were similar reliefs or statues, and other statues
representing statesmen or athletae ; and for the gratifi-
cation of individual taste or vanity, there were ideal or
portrait statues, with reliefs and groups from mytholo-
gical stories ; while the introduction of sculpture into
private mansions became, in the following age, yet more
common, and added to its former subjects copies of the
celebrated works produced in the era immediately under
our notice. While the artists of the generation of Peri-
cles were guided by a minute study of the human frame,
for which the national costume, modes of life, and public
spectacles, afforded them remarkable opportunities, the
highest among them differed not less in their favourite
subjects, than in their mode of treating them ; and their
characteristics exercised a strong influence on art in all
succeedins: times.


Confessedly at the head of sculpture in his age stood
the Athenian Phidias, and the Attic school over which
he presided. We can scarcely presume that he had
quitted the studio of his master Ageladas before the
commencement of the 80th Olympiad. Besides giving
attention to painting and architecture, he embraced
statuary in all its branches, mcluding even the antique
but already neglected art of carving on wood. His more
usual employments, however, were, sculpture in marble,
which had not yet become the favourite material for
statues, — the working in metal, both by casting and chas-
ing (the latter being in fact the celebrated Toreutic art
of the ancients), — and the union of all those modes of
procedure in the construction of the Chryselephantine
statues, which were compositions of gold and ivory, with
other substances, usually gigantic in size and gorgeously
decorated.* The number of works attributed to this
great sculptor, several of which were colossal, is as in-
credible as the number ascribed to Raffaelle ; unless,
indeed, we suppose the ancient artist, as well as the
modern, to have given his name to productions which
he only designed, and allowed his scholars to execute.
In all his works which were considered successful,
the subjects are such as call for majesty of conception
rather than beauty. His Olympic Jupiter, and his
Minerva Parthenos for the Acropolis of Athens, both
colossal statues, were the embodied images of that
mythic grandeur which reigned in the Homeric hea-
ven. Polycletus, an artist of Sicyon, and a fellow-pupil
of Phidias, led the way in an opposite path of art,
and found, many more imitators. He did not reach the
sublimity of his rival in the representation of divi-
nity ; but his works displayed a completeness of finish,
an exactness of proportions, and an ideal beauty, which
he delighted in applying to the execution of human, and

* The explanation of the Chryselephantine works is the im-
mediate purpose, though far from occupying the whole discussion, of
Quatreraere de Quincy's splendid work, Le Jupiter Olympien ;
Paris, 1815, folio.


especially of youtliful figures. Myron of Eleutherae,
who also studied under Ageladas, resembled Polycletus
in his choice of subjects, and was celebrated for his truth
to nature, and a perfect imitation of life, without high
feelmg or individuality of character. Both Polycletus
and Myron executed several celebrated statues of Ath-
letfie, as did Pythagoras of Rhegium, who deserves notice
here as the greatest sculptor of Magna Graecia. Calamis,
the last named of the five great artists of the time, who was
perhaps an Athenian, appears to have been rather older
than the others, and is charged with betraying more of
the antique stifihess than they. To him are ascribed a
list of perished works which indicate a love for the devo-
tional and elevated, and amongst others an Apollo Pro-
tector, erected in the agora of Athens, and supposed by
some, with little reason, to have been the prototype, or
even the original, of the Apollo Belvedere.*

With the exception of architectural sculptures, no
original works of those great masters are known to
exist. But several antique statues are recognised as
being copies, or, which is more likely, free imitations,
either of their mventions, or of those executed by
other less famous statuaries belonging to the same
age. The Amazon of Polycletus was publicly adjudged
superior to those of Phidias, Ctesilaus, and several in-
ferior sculptors. The beautiful Amazon of the Vatican, a
figure in the act of springing forward,t with its repeti-

* Giambattista Visconti : II Museo Pio-Clementino, torn. i. p.
27; tav. 14, 15; 1782: but compare his son's remarks in the
Musee Francais, Article " L'ApoUon du Belvedere."

+ ISliiller's explanation (Handbuch, §417-2). The statue is in
the Museo Pio-Clementiuo, Galleria delle Statue, No. 18 : en-
graved in the Musee Fran9ai5. There is a copy in the Capitol,

and several elsewhere In this and other references to the museums

of the Vatican and Capitol, the present places of the several an-
tiques, and the numbers afiBxed to them, have been verified by a
consultation of the only full catalogues of those galleries which
have yet been published. These are contained in the 2d and 3d
volumes of the German Guide-book to the City of Rome (Beschrei-
bung der Stadt Rom), commenced in 1830 under the editor-
ship of M. Bunsen, and written by that distinguished scholar, by
Gerhard, Platner, Rostell, and other German antiquaries. The


tions, are also regarded as copies or imitations either of
the statue of Phidias, or of that of Polycletus;* and
the wounded Amazon of the Capitol,t preserves the
idea of the work of Ctesilaus. INIyron's Hercules, and
his equally celebrated Cow, have perished ; but seve-
ral excellent imitations have given us his Discobolus,
a bent figure of great truth and merit. | The concep-
tion of the Jupiter-head invented by Phidias may
undoubtedly be traced in those noble busts, of which
several are extant, with the clear powerful forehead, on
each side of which the hair falls backwards like a lion's
mane ; the deep, large, majestic eyes ; the placid, finely
formed lips, and the full beard descending on the mus-
cular breast. § The Pliidian Minerva has scarcely be-
queathed us any thing so good ; but there are several
statues which retain the leading idea, with many acces-
sories of the figure, and three at least may be said to be-
long to the age of the sculptor himself, and to preserve "
verymuchjindeedjof the graveand dignified beauty which
was his characteristic. 1 1 On the brow of the Quirinal

formidable bulk of this learned work disqualifies it for serving
as a popular manual ; but it is almost faultless as a text-book for
the systematic student of classical antiquities,

* Of Phidias : Miiller, ut supra ; Thiersch, in his Epochen
der bildenden Kunst unter den Griechen ; 2d edition, Munich,
1829. — Of Polycletus : Gerhard, in the Beschreibung, vol. ii.
part 2, p. 168.

t Capitoline IMuseum, ^reat hall, No. 9. A copy, ill-restored,
in the Louvre, No. 281 (Clarac's Catalogue, 1830).

+ Among other copies that of the Vatican ; Museo Pio-Clemen-
tino, Sala della Biga, No. 10 ; and another, perhaps the best
extant, in the British Museum; Room x. No. 41 ; (Catalogue of
1832) ; engraved in the Dilettanti Specimens of Ancient Sculp-
ture, vol. i. plate 29.

§ In the \'atican, the grand colossal bust from Otricoli, Mus.
Pio-Clem. Sala Rotonda, No. 3, engraved in the Musee Fran-
cais, and in the Museo Pio-Clementino, torn. vi. tav. i. (1792).
Another in the Florentine Gallery.

II The colossal Pallas of Velletri, now in the Louvre, No 310;
engraved in the Musee Francais. The Giustiniani ^Minerva of the
Vatican, Mus. Belvedere, Braccio Nuovo, No. 23. The colossal
Minerva of IMr Hope's Collection, engraved in the Specimens,
vol. ii. No. 9. A duplicate of Mr Hope's statue is in the Museo
Borbonico of Naples : JNIarble statues, No. 125 ; (Catalogue of


in Rome still stand two colossal and singularly striking
figures in marble, eacli reining in a horse. They give to
the hill its modern name of Monte Cavallo, and bear
respectively on their pedestals, in Latin characters, the
names of Phidias and Praxiteles. Antiquaries entertain
very discordant opinions regarding them ; but artists are
almost unanimous in declaring them to be copies (one of
them excellent) of Greek works in the style of the times
to which those mighty masters belong.

Till within the last quarter of a century, the students
of ancient art were compelled to glean their knowledge
of the Phidianage from these and a few other antiques,
none of them rising above the rank of copies or imitations.
But with the removal of the Elgin Marbles to England,
and their public exhibition in the British Museum,
there opens a new era for our acquaintance with ancient
statuary. The most important of these monuments are
the admirable sculptures of the Parthenon, consisting
of (1.) the reliefs of the metopes, or slabs which,
separated by triglyphs, ran along the frieze of the
peristyle, or external colonnade ; (2.) the uninter-
rupted series of reliefs which adorned the frieze of the
cella ; and (3.) the statues of heroic size, completely
disengaged from the walls, which filled the tympana,
or triangular spaces of the pediments at both ends of the
temple. The two sets of reliefs are unequal ; but their
design, as well as the superintendence of their execution,
undoubtedly belong to Phidias ; and the lofty beauty
of the statues of the pediments, authorizes us to assign
to him a more immediate share in their production.
The study of these wonderful reliques is essential, as a
preparative, to the due appreciation of those later pieces
of sculpture, which, till the exhibition of the Elgin
^larbles, formed the highest specimens of ancient art.
The Phigaleian Marbles, discovered in 1812, and also
transferred to the British Museum, are palpably modelled
after the metopes of the Parthenon ; but though in-
ferior, both in conception and execution, they are works
of high excellence, and prove the immediate influence

VOL. 1. K


which the school of Phidias exercised on the rest of
Greece, as some of the recently found metopes of
Selinus exhibit its influence on the Sicilian colonies.

As to the mechanical department, statuary may be
considered as having then reached its height ; and while
bronze, and the various complex compositions of which
that or similar materials formed a part, continued to
be the favourites, marble became gradually more com-
mon, though for a long time it was not frequent enough
to allow us to look for many existing specimens except
in architectural ornaments. The application of sculp-
ture, however, became every day more extended ; and
with the swift rise of the Macedonian monarchy there
began a system of patronage, perhaps exceeding in its
amount that which had been enjoyed in the days of Peri-
cles. The munificence of Philip and Alexander gave
birth to that school of art which was marked for us as
occupying the second age in the period ending -svith the
120th Olympiad. The great names of the time are
Scopas, Praxiteles, and Lysippus, of whose works we
have some traces, with Leochares and Euphranor, whose
character we must take on trust. Scopas and Praxiteles,
with Leochares, may be considered as the successors, in
spirit as well as in locality, of their countryman Phidias ;
while Lysippus and Euphranor in like manner followed
the path opened by Polycletus, whose birthplace Sicyon
was also that of Lysippus.

"With decisive differences of character, Scopas, Praxite-
les, and Lysippus, had common tendencies. In the style
and execution of their works it would be unreasonable
to expect the continuance of that broad, massive, severe
classicism which marked the newly emancipated age of
Phidias ; and it would be hopeless to look for a preservation
of the grand and simple spirit of invention and arrange-
ment, which had distinguished that master individually
from other sculptors of his time. The members of the
new Sicyonic, as well as those of the new Attic school, in-
spired art ynth a greater softness of design as well as of


execution, and, departing from the negative indication of
general forms, they for the first time introduced indivi-
dual character. But the great feature of their vrorks
may he said to have been beauty, — a beauty which, bor-
rowing its outward form from the most careful study of
nature, was yet the representative of internal loveliness
and repose of soul, — a beauty which, while it wanted the
sublimity of the oldest races of the gods, still breathed the
air of Olympus, — a beauty which had in it more of the
expression of human feeling than elder art had allowed,
but was too loftily ideal to exhibit the energy of passion.

Scopas may without hesitation be described as ap-
proaching nearest to the spirit of Phidias. We read of his
works as embracing subjects from the legends of Venus
and Eros, from those of Bacchus and the Maenads, and a
magnificent group of Neptune with other sea-divinities
and Achilles, which afterwards stood in the Circus Flami-
nius at Rome. We do not possess any trace of these
masterpieces, unless we conclude that, as is more than
probable, the character exhibited by some of the later re-
presentations of Bacchus and his Maenad-nymphs is
founded in that of his figures. His Apollo, however, in the
character of the Lyre-player, which Augustus set up in
his temple of Apollo Actiacus on the Palatine, is in all
likelihood substantially preserved in the fine statue of the
Vatican, in a long flowing dress, almost feminine.*

The temple of Apollo Sosianus in Rome possessed a
group of Niobe and her Children, which the ancients pas-
sionately admired, doubting, however, whether it were
the work of Scopas or of Praxiteles.t On the assump-
tion that the leading figures of the celebrated family of

* :\Jus. Pio-Clem. Sala delle Muse, No. 17. Found with the
statues of the Muses (now in the same hall) in the villa of Cassius
at Tivoli. But both Ennio Quirino Visconti and his father suppose
the statue a copy of the Apollo which was erected with the Muses
of Philiscus in the Portico of Octavia, and was the production of
Timarchides, an artist who seems to have flourished a short time
before the Roman conquest. II Museo Pio-Clementino, torn. i.
p. 30, tav. 16, and IMusee Francais.

t Plinii Hist. Nat. lib. xxxvi.'cap. 4-


Niobe, which was, in 1588, found at Rome near the gate
San Giovanni, and is now in the Florentine gallery,
convey to us the character of the classical group com-
memorated by Pliny, modern critics are inclined to at-
tribute the original to Scopas. Of these sixteen statues,
six at least, it is quite manifest, do not in any way
belong to the story ; and the opinion is all but universal,
that even those which are really parts of the series are
only copies or imitations of the work so celebrated in
antiquity. Among the figures which may certainly be re-
garded as connected with it, we have the mother clasping
the youngest daughter to her breast, and looking up to
heaven ; a dead son lying on the ground ; a son who has
fallen on his right knee ; an older son in flight with his
mantle wrapt round the left arm ; a wounded daughter ;
a young boy in flight ; another older son in the attitude
of the fleeing youth first mentioned ; a daughter in
flight ; and finally, the Paedagogus. To these, on the
strength of Thorwaldsen's opinion, we may add a statue
of the Florentine gallery usually called a Narcissus, a
kneelmg youth, whose left hand presses a wound on his
back.* The figures now enumerated are of very unequal
execution. The daughter on the mother's left, and the
dead son, are admirable, being indeed only second to the
group of the mother and the youngest daughter. In
this sublime composition, the heroic grandeur and ener-
getic life of the elder figure, and the fixed air of agony
which animates the beauty of its countenance, are per-
haps the most exquisite things which Grecian art has

* See Miiller, Handbuch, § 126 : Thiersch, Epochen, p. 3b8,
&c. Of several figures there are good repetitions. The dead
son is both at Dresden and Munich. There are several antique
busts of the mother, one of which, wonderfully grand, is in Lord
Yarborough's Collection : (Engraved in the Dilettanti Specimens,
vol. i. plates 35, 36, 37). The fleeing daughter is repeated in the
Vatican (IMuseo Chiaramonti, No. 174) ; and the son fallen on his
1-nee is in the Capitoline IVIuseum (Galleria, No. 40). A fragment
of a group in the Vatican (Mus. Pio-Clem. Galleria delle Statue,
No. 40), representing a female figure sunk down and supported by
a male, has also been supposed a Niobide group. The Niobide
statues are illustrated by the well-designed reliefs of a sarcophagus
in the Vatican (Mus. Pio-Clem. Galleria de' Candelabri, No. 36).


bequeathed us, and the most characteristic production of
that highest age, which united in perfection life with
repose, the intensity of feeling with the purest sense of

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 35)