Imagini ale paginilor

employed porphyry, the head and extremities were usually maile of marble.

4. Expression, gesture, and attitude were the peculiar characteristics of the Grecian statues. These are instanced in three of the most celebrated examples of ancient sculpture. (1.) The Apollo Belvidere represents the god in a fit of rage against the serpent Python, which he kills at a blow. In the mouth may be discovered an air of dissatisfaction bordering on contempt, but this slight dissonance disturbs not the divine harmony of the whole. The faint tint of inquietude discoverable in it is absorbed in an inexhaustible fund of energy and tranquillity, and this last character is perfectly suitable to a god victorious by his own energy alone. (2.) The group of Niobe and her Daughters. The daughters of Niobe, against whom Diana has discharged her fatal arrows, are exhibited in that state of stupefaction, which we imagine must take place when the certain prospect of death deprives the soul of a sensibility. (3.) The Laocoon. This represents Laocoon and his two sons entwined by serpents. While Laocoon was sacrificing to Apollo, two enormous serpents issue from the sea, and attack his two sons, standing by the altar; the father attempting to defend them, the serpents fall upon him, and squeeze him in their complicated wreaths. The sculptor has here exhibited the most agonizing pain that can affect the muscles, the nerves, and the veins. The sufferings of the body, and the elevation of the soul, are expressed in every member with equal energy, and form the most divine contrast imaginable. A beautiful description of the Laocoon may be found in Virgil, Æn. II. v. 199, of the original, or v. 270 of Pitt's faithful and elegant translation.

5. The Venus of Praxiteles, (commonly called the Venus de Medicis) and all the most valuable specimens of ancient sculpture, have been removed by the conquest and rapacity of Buonaparte from Italy to France, and placed in the Museum Napoleon. Thus is the artist deprived of studying those matchless examples of ancient sculpture in their native country, and of imbibing an enthusiasm, which such situations never fail to inspire. Next in value to this mass of every thing grand and noble in sculpture,

[ocr errors]

is the Townleian Collection, deposited by national munificence, in the British Museum. To particularize the beauties of this superb collection would require a volume. It is highly worthy the attention of every individual of taste, and is a treasure to the artist. The arrangement of the statues, reliefs, and terra-cottas is truly admirable, and does equal credit to the ingenuity and the judgment of Mr. Westmacott and his associates in this arduous undertaking

VI. Roman Sculpture. The Romans were fully sensible of the superior excellence of the Greeks in sculpture, and liberally encouraged the artists of this nation. By this means, and by collecting their best works from all parts of Greece, have been transmitted to posterity those fascinating models for imitation which have formed the taste of the Italian sculptors.


1. Italy. Our limits will not permit us to enter into an inquiry as to the comparative merits of the different modern schools of Europe, of which Italy bears away the unrivalled palm through several concurrent circumstances. Of these it is immediately obvious, that piety and superstition are the principal; the legends of iheir saints produce an incredible variety for illustrating the violent emotions of the soul in ardent devotion and the paugs of martyrdom, and it cannot be disputed, that they have in many instances very nearly approached the expression and excellence of their masters. Michael Angelo Buonarotti has been honoured by his countrymen with the title of divine, nor was Bernini much less deserving of this honour. In this country, Algardi and others, but principally Canova, have been much distinguished, Canova is undoubtedly the greatest sculptor now living, and fully equal to the second class of Grecian sculptors. A gentleman at Rome, who was often in the workshop of Canova, on comparing a statue of Perseus executed by him with a cast from the Belvidere Apollo placed in the same room, declared that the former suffered very little by the comparison.

II. France. The French, although favoured with a climate little inferior to that of Italy, and situated upon its borders, have less distinguished themselves in sculpture than might have been expected; but the national character is too volatile for the productions of tedious and incessant exertion, absolutely necessary in the sculptor; hence it is that very few French names are celebrated as statuaries. It would, however, be unjust not to mention Roubiliac, who honoured England with his works, which deserve every praise for just conception; and perhaps there is no modern instance of more beautiful contrast than in his monument to the memory of Lady Nightingale in Westmine ster Abbey, on which the lifeless figure of the dying lady, and the eager and terrified husband, have and ever will be greatly admired.

The skeleton wrapped in sepulchral drapery, aiming a dart at the breast of the female, needs no other encomium than that of the celebrated anatomist John Hunter, who pronounced it a most perfect representation. Frunçois Girardon should also be mentioned as doing honour to the French nation by his numerous works, and by none more than his tomb of Cardinal Richelieu, originally placed in the college of the Sorbonne at Paris.

II. Germany, Holland, and Spain. The Germans and Dutch have distinguished themselves greatly in painting, but taking the subject in an enlarged point of view, they have done next to nothing in sculpture ; neither has the Spanish nation any very strong claim to distinction on this head.

IV. Great Britain. The sculpture of Great Britain was formerly almost confined to the interiors and exteriors of churches, and the statues which adorn them are all, without exception, ancient. When the religion of ou rancestors was the same as that of the greatest part of the continent of Europe, they gave large sums for the production of shrines and saints without number, but they seem to have had no idea of encouraging the noblest part of the art, by selecting men of superior genius, and employing them on groups or single figures in white marble, the only substance calculated to give due effect to the skill of the statuary. This parsimonious conduct, and probably very indifferent rewards, was the cause that all our old statues are made of coarse and perishable stone, and that they are in truth little better than copies of each other. The admirers of this art, however, cannot fail of being highly gratified by

tracing the progress of English sculpture in that vast field for observation, Westminster Abbey; where, in the cloisters, they will find the rude figures of abbots coeval with the time of William of Normandy, from which period down to the present moment there is almost an annual succession of figures ornamental and monumental.

1. Ha gthus directed the attention of the reader to the place where a perfect knowledge of this subject niay be obtained, we shall proceed to notice another branch of the art, which has been continued in Great Britain from the time of the Reformation, at which period sculpture received its fiat, as far as relates to the use of it for pious purposes. We know but little of the statues which were placed about the altars and shrines of old times in this country, as they were destroyed without mercy; but vast numbers of tombs remain uninjured in every country. In speaking of those, we must premise, that very little opportunity

was given the artist to expand and improve his ideas; as a slavish custom prevailed of placing all the statues on the tombs in a posture, of all others, the most rigid and ungraceful, which was on their backs, and with the hands joined in prayer. Under this obvious disadvantage our ancient sculptors contrived to make many excellent and interesting figures in beautiful transparent alabaster, although almost all the males are represented in armour.

2. It appears, upon an attentive comparison, that the figures executed between the reigns of Henry III. and Henry VII. are infinitely superior to those placed on tombs during and after the time of Henry VIII. as in his and the two preceding reigns the effigies were generally exhibited either kneeling at prayer, or cumbent, in a most miserable taste indeed, which was made still more disgusting by the custom of painting and gilding the drapery. In the period of the interregnum nothing was done in the art of sculpture, as, unfortunately, the æra alluded to completed the destruction begun at the Reformation, by the application of a blind principle of dislike, which prevented the preservation of the statues of saints, not as objects to excite devotion, but as the only mementos that existed that the art had ever been encouraged in England.

3. As might have been anticipated, sculpture sunk into a state of total neglect, if not of contempt; but, after the


Restoration, the ancient habits of the people recurring, statues of the dethroned king, and of his son and successor, were erected in every direction, and in some instances they are tolerable figures; but the monumental of the same date are wretched indeed, as they are clad in Roman armour, and their heads and shoulders sustain enormous wigs. Encouragement increasing, the art began to be roused from its torpid state. Though from the time of the Reformation until very recently, it has been almost wholly (as practised in England, we mean) in the hands of foreign artists. Cibber, Gibbons, Rysbrach, Scheemaker, Roubiliac, and some others, were employed on all public occasions, to the exclusion of native artists.

4. The principal works of Cibber are the statues on the front of Bedlam, those of several of our kings round the Royal Exchange, and others at Chatsworth and Cambridge. He was the father of the celebrated dramatic writer, Colley Cibber. Grinling Gibbons executed that bronze statue of James II. now in Scotland-yard, in the Roman costume. In minute ornaments, carved in wood, Gibbons has few equals. His works of that kind are frequent : some of the best_are at Lord Egremont's at Petworth, Windsor, and the Duke of Norfolk's at Holm Lacey. In the chapel of Trinity-college, Oxford, are cther striking proofs of his genius.

5. Rysbrach's first appearance in England was about the year 1720, when the statuaries of Paris, particularly Le Paútre, Vaucleve, Bouchardon, and Le Gros, enjoyed the first reputation, and had many scholars, whose invention was exhausted in the classical fopperies of the royal gardens. Wherever he acquired the elements of his art, he displayed talents of a masterly artist in England. His bronze equestrian statue of King William at Bristol, and his monument of bishop Hough in Worcester cathedral, are counted among his superior works. Some of the busts by his hand are, John Baliol, king of Scots, at Baliol college; Alfred, at the university, finished by Wilton ; Gibbs, the architect, in the Radcliff library; Dr. R. Friend, archbishop Boulter, and probably the buşts of George I. and II. at Christ-church.

6. Scheemaker has left many valuable works : his statue of Shakspeare, on the monument of our immortal bard, in

« ÎnapoiContinuați »