William Spalding.

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

. (page 15 of 35)
Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the beautiful.

Ancient writers mention numerous works of Praxite-
les, chiefly, like those of Scopas, in marble ; and they
describe several of them with a minuteness which en-
ables us to point out some existing antiques as being at
any rate coincident with his inventions in subject. A
few of these statues are at once so beautiful and so cha-
racteristic, that it is not rash to go a step farther, and pro-
nounce them to belong to the many productions which,
in some cases close copies and in others imitations of the
elder masters, were brought forward to gratify the luxury
and taste of the later Greek period or the earlier times
of Imperial Rome.

The most celebrated works of Praxiteles belonged
to the Dionysiac mythology, to the legends of Venus,
or to those of Apollo. In all of them he delighted to
represent a tender and expressive loveliness, wliich in
the Bacchic scenes partook of the wild enthusiasm of
the mysteries, while his Venus and his Amor finely
united with their human beauty the dignity of godhead ;
and his Apollo, youthful or even boyish, was still the
divinity of the temple. Of all these classes of works,
we possess in the galleries of Italy at least hints and
recollections. In the Dionysiac figures, besides forming
that youthful conception of the character of Bacchus
which appears in all subsequent statues, Praxiteles is
also believed to have invented the poetical figure of the
Satyr or Faun, discarding the older monstrous shapes,
and retaining little of the animal lineaments except the
pleasingly characteristic features and the air of wild
playfulness. His Athenian Satyr, it is generally ad-
mitted, has been imitated in the figure of the boyish
Satyr with the Flute, leaning on the trunk of a tree,
which occurs in several repetitions of excellent design.*

* In the Vatican, Braccio Nuovo, No. 93 ; found at Circeii.
In the Capitoline Museum, Galleria, No, 12,


Of the Apollo Slaying the Lizard there are also several
imitations possessing much natural grace.* In the Vati-
can is a youthful Cupid, one of the best works of anti-
quity, in imperfect preservation, but equally admirable
for its skill of execution and for the force and originality
of its expression, w^hich is that of a tender, pinmg, al-
most sorrowful, beauty. There are strong reasons for be-
lieving that this fine torso is an imitation of a Praxitelcan
statue, either his Eros of Parion or that of Thespioe.t

But by far the most famous productions of this master
were his statues of Venus, especially the undraped one
of Cnidos. This celebrated figure is minutely described
by Lucian, and is represented on the coins of the island ;
and it is, in the first place, quite clear, that the Venus
de' Medici is neither this work nor any copy of it. The
coins and the description farther allow us with much
probability to fix on two existing specimens as copies or
close imitations of the Cnidian Venus ; and these display
such unlikeness of character to the Medicean, as to aid
the certainty of the conclusion which refers to a later
age than that of Praxiteles, the statue in which " the
goddess loves in stone." Of these two copies one, not
of first-rate merit, is in the Vatican, the other has pass-
ed from the Braschi palace in Rome to the Royal Gallery
of Munich. ;|: We cannot, however, fairly appreciate the
changes of character which the Venus underwent in the
liands of the statuaries, unless we begin with the speci-
men lately discovered at Melos.§ This admirable work
is conceived and executed in the boldest and purest style of
ancient art ; and both the broadness of the manner, the

* In the Villa Borghese of Rome ; a bronze in the Roman Villa
Albani : in the Vatican : in the gallery of Florence; and elsewhere.

t Mus. Pio-Clera. Galleria delle Statue, No. 2. The museum
of Naples possesses a much more entire duplicate : Statues, No.

J Mus. Pio-Clem. Galleria delle Statue, No. 38. Glyptothek
of Munich, No. 135 (Schorn's Catalogue of 1833). The Munich
statue is slightly given in the twenty-second plate to Flaxman's
Lectures on Sculpture.

§ Louvre, No. 232 : discovered in 1820, in the amphitheatre of
the Greek island of INIilo (Melos) : heroic size.


fidelity to nature, and tlie blended loveliness and majesty
of the figure, make it far the nearest in character to the
Phidian age of all the Venus-statues which remain. If
we pass from the partially draped Venus Victrix of Melos
to the Cnidian Venus of Munich, we shall remark, in the
complete unclothing of the figure practised here by
Praxiteles, as by Scopas on another occasion, the first
steps in that secularization of art which at length made
it the handmaid of luxury or sensuality; but the nudity
in this case is excused by the accessories, and the charac-
ter of the Cnidian statue is even liigher and purer than
that of the Venus de' Medici. Its face and figure are
scarcely less beautiful than those of the Florentine statue,
but both are nobler, and the head more ideal, while the
attitude has more of female dignity and less of female
softness. The execution is exquisite ; and, if we must
hold the statue of the Vatican to be a copy at second-
hand, we are under no necessity of having recourse to
this supposition in regard to the other.

Lysippus, who had the sole privilege of representing
Alexander the Great in statuary, as Apelles had in
painting, andPyrgoteles in seal-engraving, was celebrated
for improvements in some details of art, for his careful
study of nature, and for his introduction of a light-
ness and slendemess of proportion, which gave to his
figures an imposing appearance of height. His works
were greatly admired at Rome, and are the subjects of
several anecdotes. His athlete-statue, called the Apoxyo-
menoSy was placed by Agrippa at the gate of his baths ;
but Tiberius carried it ofi^" to the palace, on which the
people at the theatre with one voice called for its restitu-
tion, and it was restored. His Alexander as a child was
gilded by Nero, and destroyed in the attempt to remove
the coating of metal.'"^ His numerous works, the sub-
jects of which had much of an heroic character, were cast
in bronze, and we neither possess any original statue
of his, nor probably the immediate imitation of any.

• Plinii Hist. Nat. lib. xxxiv. cap. 19.


His portraits of Alexander, however, are the originals
of those heads, some of them fine ones, which preserve
the features of the Macedonian exalted into ideality by
an admixture of the Jove-like hair and form.* The
statues of Hercules by Lysippus enjoyed great celebrity ;
and one of them, the Colossus of Tarentum, was removed
by Fabius Maximus to the Capitol of Rome, whence it
passed to Constantinople. Earlier artists, some of whose
works remain, had partially fixed the leading character-
istics of the Hercules figure, — the strong proportions of
the limbs, and the lion- like shape of the head, borrowed
from the Jupiter. But under Lysippus the forms
assumed both a Titanic massiveness of parts and a vigorous
majesty of expression unknown before. The Farnese
Hercules of the Neapolitan museum cannot be consider-
ed as a close copy from him, and must belong to a
time considerably later ; but the character of the hero,
as he represented it, may be assumed as generally imi-
tated in the Farnese statue, and the expressive grandeur
of the head is given with yet bolder proportions, in a colos-
sal marble bust found at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.t

II. In a few years after the death of Alexander we lose
all traces of the great names that embellished his reign,
and enter on the long period which extends from about
the 120th Olympiad to the taking of Corinth. During
the greater part of this time art was lavishly patronised
by the princes among whom the Macedonian empire
was partitioned ; and when some of these d^Tiasties had
decayed, the loss was far more than compensated by
the temporary revival of freedom under the Achaean
League, the last effort of Greek independence.

* A fine colossal bust in the Capitol (Room of the Gladiator,
No. 13), engraved by Winckelmann in the INIonumenti Inediti,
No. 175 : a statue of the king arming himself, formerly in the
Rondanini palace in Rome, now at Munich (Glyptothek, No. 152) :
a small equestrian statue found at Pompeii, m the museum at
Naples (Gallery of Bronzes, No. 83). The head of the dying
Alexander in the Ducal Gallery at Florence. ( ?)

t British Museum, Room ii. No. ID : engraved in Combe's
Marbles of the British Museum, Part i. No. 11.


In sculpture those times were astonishingly fruitful
and most singularly successful. Without anticipating
the dissent which will hereafter he entered to a theory
representing this age as the last period of high art, a few
facts regarding it are, on any assumption, quite certain.
There is sufficient evidence of very remarkable varieties in
the spirit of statuary after Alexander ; but, on the whole,
it was characterized in its best works by a tone of greater
softness and refinement, by a more careful study of
anatomy, and by a greater energy of expression, than
the schools which had preceded it. The subjects were in
many cases original inventions ; in others the artist was
a mere copyist of statues, groups, or reliefs, already cele-
brated ; and in many other instances he studied some
earlier figure of excellence, made himself master of its
leading character, and exercised his own genius in exe-
cuting a work on the same su])ject, which should retain
something of the older model, united with original fea-
tures, proportions, or expression.

The Venus de' Medici, which now adorns the Floren-
tine gallery, and once graced the imperial villa of
Hadrian at Tivoli, is an example of this last kind. Its
author, Cleomenes of Athens, has engraved his name on
the pedestal, and it may be inferred that his age fell
within a century and a half of the time of Praxiteles,
and certainly not later than the 145th Olympiad.'^
Between the reign of Alexander and the entire fall of
Greece innumerable figures of the goddess were executed,
for temples, for other public places, or for private dwel-
lings, and forming either single statues, or groups with
Eros, Mars, and other divinities. An immense number of
such works have been found both in Greece and Italy,
very many of them below criticism, many more of con-
siderable merit, and a few of very high excellence indeed,

* Thiersch, Epochen, p. 288, &c. Miiller, however (Handbuch,
§ 160), adopting with some strictness Pliny's notion of a decay of
art about 01. 120, followed by a revival just before the Roman
conquest, places the Venus a little later, but still before the taking
of Corinth.


among which, by universal consent, the Medicean Venus
occupies the first rank. This exquisite statue is known
to every one. It is not a repetition of the figure which
has been already mentioned as identified with the Cnidian
masterpiece of Praxiteles. Its attitude is considerably
different, and its air has more of a shrinking timid grace,
which corresponds well with the delicate proportions
of the figure. The lovely countenance has smaller and
more finely cut but less ideal features, and the style and
execution display a high finish as well as a minute obser-
vation of anatomical particulars, which contrast especially
with the broader manner of the noble statue of Milo.
Of the numerous antiques which, like the Venus de' Me-
dici, represent the goddess leaving the bath, and which
partake of the same expression, the best is that of the
Capitol,* — a figure less ideal and less delicately youth-
ful than the Florentine one, but remarkable for its close
adherence to nature in form, and for its masterly exe-
cution, especially in the imitation of the flesh.

In the Tribune of the Florentine gallery, which con-
tains the Venus, is a beautiful figure of a boyish Apollo,
called the Apollino, leaning on the trunk of a tree,
and crossing his right arm above his head. This statue,
equally admirable for its beauty of form and for its
graceful air of repose, has much of the character of the
Venus, and may be properly compared with it in a
review of the age to which that work is referred.

Other qualities of art at this time are illustrated by
the statue, commonly though wrongly, called the Fight-
ing Gladiator, which, like the other chief ornaments of
the Borghese gallery, is now in Paris.t This celebrated
statue, whose artist, Agasias of Ephesus, has inscribed his
name on the trunk which supports the figure, repre-
sents a soldier on foot, who defends himself against an

* Capitoline Museum, Stanza del Gladiatore Moribondo, No. 9.
Found in Rome, in a house beside the Suburra, where it had pro-
bably been placed in one of the baths.

•f* Louvre, JNo. 2(32 : found early in the 17th century, among the
ruins of the imperial palar.e at Anti^im.


assailant placed higher than he, probably a horseman. In
point of expression, it forms a marked contrast to the
Discobolus of Myron, already cited ; and in execution
it exhibits an equally remarkable departure from the
broad massive manner displayed in another Discobolus.
This other ••■ is a figure in repose, upright, and holding the
discus in his hand ; and, clearly belonging to an early but
high stage of art, it has been presumed an imitation of
a celebrated bronze by Naucydes of Argos, who was a
little younger than Polycletus, and perhaps his scholar.
This Discobolus of Naucydes is excellent for its propor-
tions and its breadth of style.

The Borghese Gladiator is most minute in its develop-
ment of muscles and other details, and this minuteness,
admirably true, is united with great force of general effect ;
but when we look to its expression, the statue of Myron,
which was peculiarly admired for its character of life,
seems coldness itself beside the newer work. The mo-
ment selected is the very crisis of the fight ; the figure
of the warrior is thrown violently forward, and turns to
the left, while his face looks upward in the opposite direc-
tion ; the shield is held up, and the right arm drawn
back for a thrust. Every thing denotes a strained and
desperate exertion ; the veins are swollen, the muscles in
severe tension, and remarkably developed ; and the coun-
tenance, in its fixed eyes and parted lips, is full of eager
and breathless watchfulness.

In leaving this age of Grecian sculpture, it is sufficient,
besides referring to the Farnese Hercules, which pro-
bably belongs to it, to mention two other specimens.
The portrait-statue which has been improperly named
Grermanicus, the production of a Cleomenes, the son of
another Cleomenes (perhaps the artist of the Venus),
is a work of excellent proportions and execution, but
little ideality and less expression ; and the so-called Cin-
cinnatus or Jason, a bending figure of a man tying his

•In the Vatican, Mus. Pio-Clem. Sala della Biga, No. 8:
found by Gavin Hamilton on the Appian Way.


sandal, has proportions which seem to indicate that the
statue is a portrait, while the air and attitude have
induced antiquaries rather to refer it to some ancient
heroic fable.*

We have now traced the fine arts of Greece down to
the point at which they merge in those of Rome, and
before proceeding farther, we must look back on their
progress in the Latin city and her nearest Italian pro-
vinces, down to the same epoch ; remarking, meanwhile,
that the Greek colonies both in Sicily and in Magna
Grsecia, which the Romans subdued before they carried
their arms beyond the Adriatic, had recently begun to
sink in art as well as in commerce and political strength.



PERIOD ENDING B. C. 146 ; — OR A. U. 608.

Till the Romans came into immediate contact with the
Greeks, first in Lower Italy, and then in the mother-
country, they derived their art, in all its branches, al-
most entirely from the Etruscans. The history of archi-
tecture, painting, and sculpture, among this people, which
was long a riddle unsolved in all its parts, has lately been
studied in a more intelligent spirit, and with the aid of
more insti-uctive monuments. The conclusions which
have been reached by the antiquaries of the present age,
are on many points yet involved in the old doubts and
contradictions ; while several of the most important sub-
jects of inquiry are not only deficient in general interest,
but would demand a very minute investigation, if they

* The Germanicus( Louvre, No. 712), is supposed by Clarae to re-
present Marias Gratidianus (Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. xxxiii. cap. 9; lib.
xxxiv. cap. 6) ; and by Thiersch to represent Flamininus, the con-
queror of Greece. In either view, the statue forms, so to speak,
the link between the Greek ;md the Greco-Roman sculpture. — The
Jason is in the Louvre, No. 710. It derives this name from Winckel-
mann (lib. vi. cap. 6), and has smgularly heavy limbs, with a small
head (perhaps not the original), and an energetic but undefined
expression. Both statues came from the Villa Montalto or Negroni
in Rome, where they stood in the gardens of Sextus the Fifth.


were to be discussed at all. A few facts, however, denied,
unknown, or very imperfectly apprehended, even by such
writers as Winckelniann and Lanzi, may noAv be con-
sidered as quite ascertained. In particular, the theory
which claimed high originality for the Etruscans, deny-
ing or extenuating their obligations to the Greeks, is
completely overthrown ; and in painting and statuary the
defeat is signal. There are, indeed, many traces and some
undoubted monuments of an early species of art peculiar
to their province ; but this indigenous style disappears
before it has emerged from rudeness ; and in every stage,
which claims any regard on its own merits, art in
Etruria is to be held strictly as a branch of Grecian art,
and was perhaps exclusively practised by artists of that
country. It was in this Greco -Etrurian school that the
Romans learned the few lessons which they condescended
to receive ; but, after the conquest, art was for a time
stationary, and then retrograde, except perhaps in archi-
tecture ; and even this pursuit made few advances till the
conquerors revived it in a new form, along with sculp-
ture and painting.

The most ancient and remarkable of the architectural
works of the Etruscans, the fortifications of their towns
and citadels, will invite our notice again amidst some of
their magnificent ruins, where they exhibit a character
which it is generally very difficult to discriminate from
that of the Pelasgic walls. But, passing from this obscure
question, our attention is next drawn, though only in
ancient description, and without existing monuments, to
a style of sacred architecture which the people of Etniria
taught to the Romans, and which they themselves had
undeniably learned from Greece. The Tuscan or Etrus-
can order is in principle identical with the Doric ; and,
indeed, according to the most probable theory of its
origm, it is nothing else than the oldest form of the
latter, received by the Italian tribe from its inventors
before its rules were fuUy developed.* The Etruscans

• Stieglitz, part i. section 4. vol. i. pp. 140, 150.


gave lighter proportions to the columns, placed them on
bases, made them support a less heavy entablature, dis-
posed them at wider intervals, and altered the forms of
some of the component parts both of these members and
of those which they sustained ; and the temples, to which
the colonnades thus composed communicated their cha-
racter, received also modifications in the ground-plan as
well as in the internal aiTangements, to suit the purposes
of the national ritual. This style was the earliest in the
Roman places of worship ; the CapitoUne temple of the
Tarquins was a specimen of it ; and that of Ceres, near the
Circus Maximus, dedicated in the year of the city 261,
was taken by Vitruvius as the model of the order.

The sepulchral architecture of the Etniscans pre-
served, even after they had ceased to exist as a nation,
much more of original character. The most remarkable
of its remains, wliich are chiefly subterranean, may be
easily reduced to a few classes. Most of those, for in-
stance, in the Necropolis of Vulci, on Lucien Bonaparte's
estate called Canino, are chambers or suites of chambers,
excavated in the soft rock, entered by descending gal-
leries or staircases, and without any erection rising above
the ground. Others, like those of Tarquinii, near Cor-
neto, are in the interior similar to the tombs of Vulci, but
are covered by larger or smaller mounds of earth. We
have an example of a third class in that huge sepulchre
or collection of sepulchres at Vulci, which the peasants
call the Cocumella ; being a cluster of excavated cham-
bei*s, over which is piled one immense tumulus, more than
200 feet in diameter, and composed externally of heaped
soil, but having internally considerable masses of stone-
work. A fourth kind are hevm in the perpendicu-
lar sides of cliffs, like those in the forest of Bomarzo, and
have either plain entrances or ornamental facades, some
of which form complete Doric fronts, with volutes and
other decorations foreign to the order.* In the few

• See Miiller, Handbuch, sect. 170; and consult Micali's work
and its plates.


which were raised above ground, and composed entirely
of masonry, the favourite form seems to have been that
of a conical tower, which in some cases contained the
sepulchral chambers ; while in others, as in the struc-
ture called the Tomb of the Horatii at Albano, it was only
an embellishment, and rose from a quadrilateral build-
ing, in which the body was laid.

From those ancient burial- cities we derive most of
the knowledge we possess as to the other arts of Etruria.
A few painted walls had been early discovered and de-
scribed, and sepulchral urns, with some other kinds of
monuments, have long been accessible in different mu-
seums ; but the discoveries of the last few years have
been beyond all comparison rich, and on one estate (that of
Canino), as many vases have been dug up in one year
as had been placed in all the cabinets of Italy during the
preceding century.* The Necropolis of Vulci has as yet
been by far the most fertile in antiques, some of which
have been carried to Berlm, while several thousand vases,
besides similar monuments, are still possessed by the
owner of the lands, and a few have been found by other
proprietors. Tarquinii has furnished comparatively a
small proportion, its sepulchres having been apparently
ransacked. Agylla or Caere, now the picturesque and
dirty little town of Cervetri, has not been examined with
so much attention as its ancient fame deserves ; but a good
many painted vases, and other utensils of terra-cotta,with
some very richly ornamented tombs, have been discover-
ed in its Necropolis. At Chiusi, the ancient Clusium,

* The discoveries in Etruria are most fully detailed in the Annali
and Bullettino of the Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica,
a society established at Rome in 1829, under the direction of Ger-
mans. The most minute and valuable account which has yet ap-
peared in English, is contained in a paper by Mr Millingen, already
cited, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, vol,
ii.; 1834, Mr Millingen's interesting communication brings its
narrative no farther down than 1829; and for more recent dis-
coveries, none of which, however, possess the importance of the
early ones, reference must be had to the transactions first above
named. Consult also Sir William G ell's Topography of Rome and
its Vicinity, vol. i, article " Etruria-"


Porsena's city, many similar remains of early art have
been excavated.

With the exception of the Clusian vases, almost every
painting which has been lately discovered, whether on
such vessels or on the walls of tombs, is decidedly Grecian.
The subjects, embracing mythology, religion, and funeral-
ceremonies, symbolical groups, and scenes from ordinary
life, have evidently the same origin ; the vases resemble,
in every essential particular, those of Sicily and Magna

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 15 of 35)