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Graecia, to the best of which many of them are quite
equal both in design and in execution ; and the names of
potters and painters, which, by a peculiarity not previ-
ously detected, are inscribed on most of the Vulcian vases,
are without exception Greek, many of them Attic, and
all written in Greek characters. If there could be a doubt
as to the origin of the Etruscan vases, it would be re-
moved by a comparison with those of Chiusi, most of
which, both designed and executed in an inferior style,
are quite different from the Vulcian, and even the clay
of which they are formed is coarser ; while besides
this, some specimens found in Vulci and elsewhere, and
exactly resembling the Clusian ones, have Etruscan
inscriptions, though the Clusian have none.* The vases,
which we thus recognise as Grecian, exhibit specimens
of art in all its stages, from the rudest of the archaic or
hieratic paintings to the finest design and finish of the
Macedonian times, or, at latest, to the age immediately
preceding the Roman conquest. The only material
question regarding these monuments which can be con-
sidered as still unsettled is, whether they were moulded
and painted in Etruria, or merely imported from abroad
as articles of commerce.

The light which these interesting discoveries throw on
the painting of the Etruscans, is reflected on their sculp-
ture and its kindred processes ; and hence the similarity
to the Greek style, both in their bronzes and their terra-

• The Clusian vases are chiefly in the Grand Duke's gallery at


cottas, is at once explained. But here, as in architecture,
the immediate application of art to religious uses pre-
serves a greater independence both in the subjects and
in their treatment ; and the energy and harsh pro-
portions, sometimes reacliing the height of caricature,
which are not infrequent in the sepulchral paintings,
are much oftener to be traced in the bronze and terra-
cotta figures. As examples, it may be enough to cite
the Chimaera of Arezzo and the Aruspex or Orator,
both bronzes,* and the renowned She- wolf suckling Ro-
mulus and Remus, a bronze of the Capitol, a work whose
stiff accuracy and strong expression make it an excellent
specimen of the time when the Etruscans were most
successful in art ; because, if it is not the group which
was struck by lightning at Caesar's death, it is probably
that which was dedicated in the year of the city 458,
and stood beside the Ruminal fig-tree.t Of the Etrus-
can skill in chasing, we have farther examples in num8<
rous candelabra, paterae (mystic mirrors?), and other
utensils of the temples and sepulchres. Terra-cotta was
the favourite material, for in the best da^^s of the nation
sculpture in stone was little practised, and the few
specimens of it which exist belong almost without ex-
ception to the period when art began to decline among

This decline soon followed the conquest of the pro-
vince by the Romans, and there is sufficient evidence to
show that it was attended by a corresponding depression
among the conquerors. It has been always known,
that, down to their connexion with Greece, the works of
art in all its branches which existed in Rome proceed-
ed from the hands of Etruscans. But we may now
think more highly than we could have done before the
recent discoveries, of the buildings and statues which
were so executed from the reign of Tarquin to the final
conquest of Etruria ; whilst we must also believe, that

• In the Gabinetto dei Bronzi Antichi of the Ducal Gallery of
-f- Dionys, Halic. lib. i. cap. 79.— Liv. lib. x. cap. "^S.


after the latter event, the Romans, like their new sub-
jects, relapsed into a comparative rudeness, which, for
centuries, was interrupted by no improvement that
deserves notice. The victorious people condescended to
borrow from the conquered their sacred architecture,
their roads and bridges ; but in all beyond this they
refused instruction. In the court of the early Roman's
house, his ancestors were represented by rude waxen
images, and the gods in the temples had figures of
terra-cotta. The waxen portraits were in time trans-
ferred to sliields, and at last a few bronze statues of
popular statesmen appeared in the forum.* When, after
the Samnite wars, Rome extended her conquests into
Magna Grsecia, the stem spirit of the nation was softened
by degrees; and the spoils of the enemy, always in part
devoted to the temples, were applied to the erection of
sacred statues, which none but the artists from the sub-
dued towns were found capable of executing worthily.
So early as the year 459 of their era, a colossal statue of
Jupiter stood on the Capitol ; and the taste for art spread
with rapidity, till it was permanently rooted by the con-
quest of Sicily, and raised to a passion by the wars in
Greece and Asia.

* The earliest, the statue of Hermodorus, about a.u. 304. The
other instances, down to a. u. 448, are collected by Hirt, Geschichte
der bildenden Kiinste bei den Alien; Berhn, 1833, pp. 271, 272.



Ai't in Italy from the Conquest of Greece till the
Accession of Constantine.

A. D. 608—1059 : or b. c. 146— a. d. 306.

The Fate of Grecian Art under the Romans. Roman Akchi-
TECXURE — Gradual Innovations on the Greek Style — Eminent
Architects — Illustrations from Existing Ruins in Rome — Tombs
— Domestic Architecture — Its Rules Illustrated — A Heathen
Dwelling-house and Christian Monastery. Roman Paint-
IKG — Vases and Wall-paintings — Herculaneum and Pompeii —
Frescoes— Mosaics. Roman Sculpture — lis History till the
Times of the Antonines : (a. u. 608—933, or b, c. 146 — a.u.
ISO): — The Stages of its Progress— Illustrative Specimens — The
Apollo Belvedere — The Laocoon — The Antinous-statues — The
Torso Belvedere— The Pallas-statues— The Diana— T/^e Sxib-
jects of Sculpture during the same Period — Selection of Ciassified
Specimens — Roman and Greek Portraits — INIythological Subjects
— The Twelve Gods — Venus-statues — Apollo-groups — The Bac-
chic Legends — TheAriadne — The Dancing Faun — The Barberini
Faun— The Fable of Eros — The Borghese Centaur — The Heroic
Legends — The Meleager — The Farnese Bull — The Portland
and Medicean Vases— The Iliac Table — Menelaus as Pasquin —
Doubtful Subjects — The Psetus and Arria — The Papirius — The
Dying Gladiator — The Imitative Styles — The Archaic — The
Egyptian — Sculpture after the Antonines : (a. u. 933 — 1059, or
a. D. 180 — 306): — Its Monuments — Chiefly Reliefs on Sarcophagi
— Symbols — Love and Psyche — Ariadne — Endymion — The
Genius of Mortality — Orientalism. The Topography of
Ancient Art in Italy and Sicily — Architecture — Painting
and Sculpture.

The capture of Corinth presents tlie first remarkable
instance of the Roman system of universal plunder.


Statues and pictures were removed from Greece in thou-
sands ; and when the subjugation of that country and
its colonies was confirmed, the artists were employed to
work for their new masters, while the treasures of art
already accumulated seem to have been still unexhausted
by all the robberies of consuls and emperors. Archi-
tecture was prosecuted with equal zeal, but not quite so
exclusively by Greeks.

In the best times of the empire Italy, but more par-
ticularly Rome and some favourite spots in its neigh-
bourhood, presented a scene of such magnificence as no
other age or region has ever paralleled. Within and
around piles of building, whose massive grandeur seemed
the product of more than human skill, there were throng-
ed, besides many inferior ornaments, statues and paint-
ings which peopled the imperial city with the legends of
those antique times, whose poetry was religion. Of this
unequalled pomp the whole peninsula even at this day
abounds with fragments.

But it is not easy to trace, step by step, the history of
Roman art after the lessons received from the Greeks.
One or two important facts, however, are quite fixed ;
and, in the first place, it is certain that it can, in none of
its branches, be traced in any degree of excellence farther
down than the time of the Antonines. If we assume
the reign of Marcus Aurelius as the last age in which it
emulated in any degree its ancient glory, the duration of
high art among the Romans, commencing with the siege
of Corinth, will extend to three centuries and a quarter.
During the whole of this period, we may consider their
architecture, though subjected to many changes of taste,
as quite worthy of a great nation. Painting we must
admit to have decayed, almost from the commencement
of the period, and never to have regained eminence. The
history of sculpture is not so well ascertained. It has
been asserted b}^ some, that its fate was exactly similar
to that of painting ; an opinion originating with Winckel-
mann, who has the distinguished merit of having first
systematized the antiquities of classical art. But a philo-


sopliical discoverer is often like one who carries the lamp
in exploring a mine, and who, from his position, is unable
to see objects which the light he holds up makes plain to
others. Perhaps no antiquary of the present day asserts,
to its full extent, the doctrine of the great archaeologist ;
and m our own country, the weight of authority de-
cidedly inclines to that opinion which ascribes to the
Roman age of sculpture a farther development of the art,
and considers many masterpieces as works of that time.*

* Winekelmann, in his great work, the Storia delle Arti del
Disegno presso gli Antichi, refers (besides antiques whose dates are
admitted) the so-called Dying Gladiator to the interval between
Phidias and Alexander the Great, and the Laocoon to the age of
Alexander. To the period between that king's reign and the taking
of Corinth, he gives the Farnese Bull, the Torso of the Belvedere,
and, with a little hesitation, the Belvedere Apollo. But his hypo-
thesis goes farther in its consequences ; for, founding chiefly on the
Grecian subjects and style, which he was the first to recognise in
the ancient sculptures of Italy, he virtually refuses to assign to the
Roman times any work belonging to a high class of art In Ger-
many, his system is still substantially held by Meyer, Hirt, and
Miiller. The opposite theory, which was first propounded in that
country by Thiersch, has been, with some modifications, adopted and
illustrated by Gerhard, and is vehemently combated. But Thiersch's
theory, however excellently stated, is less original than it appears ;
and to students of art among ourselves it probably will not seem at
all startling. It is true that no English writer has both stated the
elements of such a doctrine, and applied them to a classification of
ancient monuments ; but in criticisms on particular works of art,
almost all our good connoisseurs have been inclined to bring the
dates very far down indeed; and the aesthetical principles w^hich have
been lately inculcated in England, may fairly be regarded as having
anticipated, or perhaps suggested, Thiersch's view. If we adopt
from Fuseli (Tenth Lecture on Painting, Works by Knowles,
vol. ii. p. 381-386), the chronological classification of works" of
art into three styles, the Essential, the Characteristic, the Ideal,
we shall find it impossible to believe that the last step was reached
till Ibngafter the conquest of Greece ; and indeed, from the examples
which that author gives, he seems himself to have fully admitted
this consequence. Flaxman, again, without laying down any broad
principle, is quite unequivocal in his critical opinion and his in-
stances. " After this time, however," the close of Pliny's list of
artists, "the Laocoon, and some of the finest groups and statues,
seem to have been executed. Nor can we believe, from the ad-
mirable busts and statues of the imperial famihes, that sculpture
began to lose its graces till the reign of the Antoniuei." — (Flax-
raan's Lectures on Sculpture, 18.29, Lecture III.) " Grecian



The Romans had already adopted the general forms of
the Greek architecture ; and it is tolerably clear that
they exerted little originality of invention till the times
of the Caesars. But Augustus had scarcely ascended the
throne, Avhen the first steps were taken in the formation
of that mixed style wliich characterized the most remark-
able fabrics in Rome. The rules of the Grecian archi-
tects were still recognised as the canon of taste ; and in
sacred buildings they were not for some time violated
unless in particulars of internal aiTangement, which
appear to have depended on the ritual of the temple-
services, and to have become fixed before the imported
system was fully understood. These changes chiefly
affected structures of the Tuscan order ; but in no long
time, the three foreign orders, the Doric, Ionic, and
Corinthian, all but superseded the other style, and were
used from or before the time of Augustus, according
to precepts drawn from the edifices and writings of the
Greeks. The Roman or Composite, which appears
for the first time in the Arch of Titus, is a mixture, in
the capital and some other members, of the Ionic with
the Corinthian, united with even lighter proportions
than those of the latter. It does not seem, and certainly
does not deserve, to have been ever cultivated so far as to
form the groundwork of a new architectural school.

The characteristic style of the Romans was fashioned
on different principles. It was used in those unconse-
crated buildings in which religious precedents had no
force, and vastness of dimensions was the primary re-
quisite. For the people, whom the emperors feared
and wished to please, and in a less degree for the adorn-

genius continued its admirable productions under the Roman em-
perors. The fine groups of INIenelaus and Patroclus, Haemon and
Antigone, Paetus and Arria, Orestes and Electra, the Toro Far-
nese, and the Laocoon, were executed between the latest years
of the Roman republic and the times of the last Caesars."— (Flax -
man, Lecture VII, j


ment of the city, were designed the batlis, theatres,
amphitheatres, circuses, and some other fabrics more
practically useful. The amphitheatres, and similar
edifices, demanded an extent both of ground-plan and
elevation, which the structures of the Greeks had never
reached, and their architecture was ill calculated to
admit. The kej'^cd arch was introduced for strength ;
and the distinguishing feature of the Roman style
was the union of the arch with the Grecian orders.
This combination has been censured as a deviation from
purity of taste ; but it seems to have ti-uly originated in
the peculiar nature of the demands made on the art ;
and for a time the arch was not allowed to become a
prominent part of the edifice, being used only in the
internal construction, while in the external fronts ap-
peared the Grecian columns and entablature.

Of the architects who effected these changes, we know
next to nothing. Some of them appear to have been
Italians of the native races ; such as the celebrated Vi-
truvius, born at Formise ; Cocceius Auctus, who by the
command of Agrippa excavated the hill of Pausilypus,
near Naples ; Celer and Severus, the architects of
Nero's Golden House ; and Rabirius, who built Domi-
tian's Palatine Palace. Apollodorus, who erected the
grand Forum of Trajan, and was executed by Hadrian
for criticising the temple of Venus and Rome, was a
Syrian, born at Damascus. To Detrianus are attributed
Hadrian's Tomb and the Bridge in front of it.

In Rome itself we may trace most of the changes in
the national style. We see the pure Greek, probably
belonging to the last days of the republic, in the church
of Santa Maria Egiziaca ; and in the Pantheon we have a
splendid example of the richest form of that school, or
rather of a form in which the multiplicity and variety
of parts overstep the limits of Grecian art, but where
the principle of the orders is not infringed except in
the arches of the internal recesses. In the Theatres and
Amphitheatres the elements of the new architecture
are fully developed. Sometimes choosing plains for


the sites, in opposition to the rule followed by their
teachers, the Romans had to rear stupendous masses of
masonry in order to gain the huge dimensions required.
Here the arch was in its proper place, and vaults rose
above vaults in magnificent galleries, forming the body
of the fabric, wliich was masked outside by Grecian
colonnades. The Circus, an extensive enclosed space,
borrowed from the Stadium and used by the Italians
from the earliest times for races and other games, fur-
nished, though in a less degree, opportunity for the same
kind of building as the amphitheatre. In the Triumphal
Arch, the same principles exhibit themselves in another
shape. The arch becomes not only the essence of the
building but its most prominent feature. Square pil-
lars support it, and it again sustains the entablature ;
but the Greek columns are not wanting. They stand
out before the pillars as excrescences, which bear no
part of the erection ; and their uselessness is exposed
rather than concealed by the statues which are placed
on them. In the earliest triumphal arch, that of Titus,
the character just described is not quite reached ; but
in that of Septiraius Severus it is, and the example is
faithfully followed in the construction of the Arch of
Constantine. The art, if it was to retain any prmciple
of the Grecian, had only one step more to take, that
of bringing the column into immediate contact with
the arch, and resting the latter directly on the former,
— a style Avhich became common after the reign of
Titus. The Triumphal Column was a far nobler idea
than the arch, and in that of Trajan the architecture
leaves little room to wish for improvement, either in
design or in execution, although, if such structures are
critically analyzed, they must always suggest the notion
of something incomplete or fragmentary. In the three
huge vaults of the BasUica of Constantine, or Temple
of Peace, we see the remains of a buUding on whose
character it is not easy to pronounce, but in which, at
whatever time it may have been erected, the essence of
the Greek style appears to be entirely lost.


The Romans, who had perhaps horrowed tlie idea of
their gigantic triumphal columns from the diminutive
l)illars of the Grecian graves, preferred in their own
sepulchral architecture the massive Etruscan piles, to
which, however, they generally adapted the parts and
ornaments of the several orders. The plain surrounding
Lvome is covered with the mins of huge towers erected as
jilaces of burial ; and the internal arrangements of the
.ave-chambers, with their small niches for urns, or
LJieir long recesses for sarcophagi, are illustrated by some
of these, and by the Street of the Tombs at Pompeii.

To this little town of Campania, likewise, we owe all
our knowledge as to the domestic architecture of ancient
Italy. Some of the more perfect remains enable us to
identify the most important parts of a Roman dwelling
of the middle class. The exact construction of a huge
house in the capital, of the kind which was called an
insula, partitioned out among numerous poor families,
and rising to the utmost height allowed, we possess no
means of determining ; and we have scarcely better
materials for describing an imperial palace or villa.

The Roman houses resembled the Grecian in the
smallness and inconvenience of the private chambers as
compared with the public apartments, to which the
habits of both nations gave so much importance. They
agreed also in the want of external ornament, which in
the capital was, for a time at least, enforced by law ; the
richness of decoration being reserved for the interior.
The plan also of these habitations resembled the Gre-
cian in those inner courts, partly open to the sky, which
foiTQed the central portions, and from which the smaller
rooms branched out. But the semi-feudalism of the
Italian customs introduced a material alteration in the
interior of their dwellings. In a Greek house, one
had only to cross a short vestibule in order to reach
the peristyle or colonnaded court, which was the central
point of the habitation ; and although the women's
apartments were shut off from the rest, this was the
only division in the mansion, and the whole seemed


intended for the reception of none but friends and equals.
The Romans, on the other hand, whose women were not
confined, did not assign to them exclusively one portion
of their houses ; but they divided their dwelKngs strictly
into a public and a private part, in the former of which
the owner received his clients and other dependents,
who had no right to penetrate into his domestic re-
tu-ement. The public quarter was reached immedi-
ately on passing the vestibule ; and it consisted (with
occasionally some smaller apartments contiguous) of an
Atrium or Cavaedium. This was a court, roofed over,
except a space in the midst, which contained a reser-
vou- (impluvium) for the rain from the eaves, or the
water of a fountain. The atrium in its simplest shape,
called the Tuscan, had no columns, and its roof was
merel}'' composed of four beams crossing each other, the
quadrilateral space betvreen their intersections being
left open to the sky ; but in other cases pillars were
added, forming, if they were more than four, the Corin-
thian atrium, which differed little from the peristyle.
In this court the powerful Roman transacted busmess ;
and a closed door or curtain, sometimes with the inter-
vention of a Tablinum or charter-room, separated it
from the private part of the dwelling. In this latter
portion there was usually one Perist^^le as in the Greek
houses, but sometimes more ; and in the best mansions
a portico, at the retired side of the building, skirted
a garden, which, though always diminutive, seems to
have admitted of being made very beautiful, with its
narrow walks, its vases of flowers, its trellised plants
supported on stone pillars as at Naples in the present
day, and its seats of masonry placed beside fountains,
and beneath an ai-bour or awning.

The piling of one story above another may be con-
sidered as ha\ing been almost wholly confined to houses
of the lower class. Ai-istocratic residences covered large
spaces of ground, and seldom rose higher than one floor.
The Ccenacula, or upper chambers, used as eating rooms,
in which the Christians so frequently met, in the apos-


j ii,,. I. (TRorvB FLAX of- the ffoi'M-: ,

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 35)