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before the time of Moses to the invasion and subjugation of the country by Cambyses the Persian, a period of about 1000 years; and the arts of Greece, from their rudest beginnings before the time of Dædalus, rose to high perfection in about 900 years, or the reign of Alexander the Great. In the early times of Greece, Pausanias informs us the twelve gods were worshipped in Arcadia, under the forms of rude stones, and before Dædalus the statues had eyes nearly shut, the arms attached to their sides, and their legs close together; but as geometry, mechanics, arithmetic and anatomy improved, painting and sculpture acquired action, proportion, and detailed parts.': -pp. 53—55.
Were such principles as these virtually acted upon by our sculptors, instead of attending to expression, to action, or repose, even the finest proportioned figures would fail to please us, and would only excite us to examine nicety of execution, and other points of inferior consideration, which would never come into our thoughts in looking at any master-piece of art. The Antinous, for example, or the young Apollo, may be admired for their beauty, their synimetry, and their execution ; but what is this when compared with the expression in the Laocoon, or even in the Venus de Medicis ? In the former there is a want of action, like that we find in the old style of portraits, which considered nothing but a dead and lifeless mass of uninformed features, that resembled the original only in outline and in proportion—as geometrically exact as Mr. Flaxman or Pamphilus could have wished, but wanting the impress of that peculiarity of thought and feeling, which even the least intellectual countenance, more or less, displays. The effect is exceedingly different in the case of statues, expressive of some action supposed to be begun, or just finished -- some attitude declaratory of feeling or contemplation, which cannot be mistaken. Taking this principle for our guide, we are clearly entitled to pronounce the statue of the youth extracting a thorn from his foot, or that of the fawn playing on the flute, to be infinitely superior to the young Apollo, or the Antinous, neither of whom seems to be engaged either practically or mentally; they appear to be no more than alphabet exercises in modelling by some great statuary, like the school nonsense verses of some great poet.
Mr. Flaxman, however, will be found to have had two views of the principles of his art, diametrically opposed to each other; and appearing no less incongruous in the pages before us, than any attempted union might be of the peculiar characteristics of Venus and Minerva—of Mercury and Jupiter—or of Michael Angelo's Moses, and Westmacott's Cupid. Seemingly in utter forgetfulness of the miraculous influence which geometry and arithmetic had produced upon sculpture, he ascribes the superior conception of Phidias to the philosophic doctrines of Plato respecting beauty, though there can be little doubt that the abstract, and nearly unintelligible views of the philosopher on this subject, could not exert any practical influence whatever on those to whom he had
Let us hear what our author lays down upon this subject.
Of all the advantages which the sister arts derived from the restoration of Greek literature, nothing seems more extraordinary than the following coincidence, and few circumstances relating to the subject deserve a more serious attention.
* Previous to the time of Phidias, the Grecian sculpture, both gods and men had the same ordinary outline of body, limbs, and countenance, usually found in common pature ; and it has been remarked, the ancient statue of Minerva in the Villa Albani was characterised as the Goddess of Wisdom, by an aged countenance.
* Phidias, however, began the reformation. He gave dignity to Jupiter from Homer's description. Succeeding artists continued to refine and elevate the different orders of divinity, until each personage of the mythology received the appointed portion of ideal beauty from selected nature and abstracted reasoning:
• We must remember that Phidias and Plato were nearly contemporaries; and cousidering the astonishing influence of this philosopher's discourses and writings, particularly concerning the power of the soul's energies in the configuration of the countenance and person, according to established habits of virtue or vice-his distinction of the spiritual orders—his accurate investigation of the good, the perfect, and the beautiful itself-when we consider the high and extensive veneration in which these discourses were held, little doubt can be entertained of their influence in directing the artist's mind in his choice of subjects, and the expression of qualities for the perfection of beauty.
• The coincidence, then, alluded to above, was, that in the very zenith of the restoration of the art, in the time of Michael Angelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael, the magnificent Lorenzo di Medici formed a society of Platonic philosophers, consisting of the most celebrated scholars of his time and country, and caused the Philosopher's dialogues to be translated and commented on by Marsilus Ficinus ; and as this work was highly esteemed by the Medici family, the pontiffs Leo the Tenth, Clement the Seventh, and Julius the Third, as well as by the learned and ingenious generally, there can be as little doubt that Plato's reasoning on the beautiful and its characteristics, supplied as happy assistance in the determination of sublime and spiritual characters to the restorers of art in Italy, as it had done to the ancient Greek artists.'—pp. 324–326.
The coincidence which he names seems to us to have had no more influence upon the statues of Phidias, than Mr. Flaxman's Lectures upon the contemporary works of Chantrey and Westmacott; and to be as much out of place in a professed course of instructions, as what follows about 'the general history of the times,' which he says is so much interwoven with the nature of our subject,' as to require a sketch of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire-of the Arabic and Saracen dynasties, &c. &c., to preserve the connection of argument.
But what are we to think of Mr. Flaxman's extraordinary heresy in advocating the painting of statues, a fancy which could only come into his head through the medium of one of his absurd theories. It appears, indeed, that he would have esteemed the grapes painted by Zeuxis (reported as having deceived the birds), a perfect master-piece. The truth however, is, that were deception the summit of perfection, as is often fallaciously maintained, it would afford much greater pleasure to look at the realities, than at these imitations, however perfect :-it would be more delightful to witness such a scene as the Fall of Nineveh, the death of Laocoon, or the murder of the Innocents at Bethlehem, than any representation of these, however faithful; to be present when such a ruffian as Niacbeth plunged the midnight dagger into the breast of his prince, than at the imitation of it on the stage. We are quite certain that any attempt to produce such deceptions would be, and has been, the bane of the fine arts; and the pursuit of such a phantom, has been the ruin of many a man of genius.
We are inclined to look upon the art of the statuary as being still less capable than painting of admitting close imitation, or any approach to deception ; for should such an attempt be made, the infallible result must be disgust. Upon these principles, we conclude, that to put natural colours on a statue would only produce a stone monster, lifeless and voiceless, and the beholder would be filled with nearly the same feelings of horror as at a sight of Lot's wife, actually transformed into a pillar of salt. It would make the very blood run cold; for it would be more an image of such a transformation than any other thing, as it would not exactly look like death, and it would look still less like life. It would, in fact, be a representation, or rather an attempt at representing what cannot be represented. In statuary, then, attempts at any deceptive imitation can be nothing but egregious folly. What, then, are we to think of Mr. Flaxman's advocacy of the justly exploded practice of colouring statues in imitation of nature? One easy experiment would have cured him, we think, of this theoretical aberration of intellect; he had nothing more to do than colour one of his own fine pieces, or still better, some good copy of any of the admired statues left by the ancients. The result would have shown how far his principles were capable of standing the ordeal of correct taste.
Some singular heresies are maintained by Alison, in his Essays on Taste, about imitations being so perfect as to deceive us into a belief of reality; but that whenever we are told that an object which we admire is an imitation in iron or any other metal, the beauty instantly vanishes: and why? because, says he, the conviction of the force and labour employed in the imitation destroys the feeling of beauty. It clearly follows from this explanation, that imitations, in proportion to the stubbornuess of the material employed, must approach to beauty or recede from it, which is contrary to fact. It would also follow, that the beauty of a painting, or statue, or a poem, would disappear as soon as we should be convinced that they had required long, and patient, and hard labour to perfect them. Statues, in particular, could never be beautiful when executed in bronze or marble, though they might be so in wax or plaster of Paris, so that they did not indicate long labour by the artist. The apology, upon these principles, for admiring a statue, is, that it expresses excellence in the workmanship; but if an imitation in iron, or any other rigid material, destroys our notions of beauty, because it explodes our conceptions of reality, then we can never admire a staiue at all, for we are never deceived-no, not for a moment, are we deluded into the notion, that a statue is a living object—no, though it be as exquisitely coloured as Mr. Flaxman, in the height of his theoretical zeal, could have desired. He surely must have been either dreaming, or in a high state of reverie, when he penned the following passage:
• We possess in England the most precious examples of Grecian power in the sculpture of animals. The horses of the frieze in the Elgin collection appear to live and move, to roll their eyes, to gallop, prance, and curvet; the veins of their faces and legs seemed distended with circulation ; in them are distinguished the hardness and decision of bony forms, from the elasticity of tendon, and the softness of flesh. The beholder is charmed with the deer-like lightness and elegance of their make, and although the relief is not above an inch from the back ground, and they are so much smaller than nature, we can scarcely suffer reason to persuade us they are not alive.'-p. 104.
We are much more disposed to agree with our author in what he says of the effects of Christianity on art, a subject which we have never seen brought so prominently into view, as its importance unquestionably demands. It is here, indeed, where some critics have made their stand, to show that the superstitious systems of the heathen world were alone fitted for all the grand and magnificent displays of human superiority, in the regions of imagination and taste; and that Christianity has frozen up, and blasted all the fair promise of modern genius; has left the ancients the undisputed masters of every talent and every excellence; has made it impossible for a modern painter, or a modern sculptor, to do more than an infant could have done, when Paganism reigned in all the splendid magnificence of its mythology, with its wild and lofty conceptions. Now they aver all this has been swept away by the plain realities of Christianity. The vision of Olympus and its multitudinous population of Gods and Demi-Gods is no more; the rays of their divinity have faded before the dazzling light of the Christian Religion, while, in the blaze, all the fire of genius has been out-shone, and poetry has ceased to come upon us with the power of its former inspiration, painting has been tamed down to sober reality, and it charnis us no more with the heavenly freshness which breathed from the canvas of Zeuxis and Apelles. Architecture is now heavy, deformed and tasteless-a ludicrous and jarring mixture of barbarism and beauty—the result of an abortive effort to conjoin the light, and tasteful, and harmonious style of antiquity with the ungraceful and the rude taste which Christianity, as they allege, has entailed on genius in every department of the fine arts.
A vast corruption of taste is plainly, they say, chargeable on Christianity-averred upon the same critical authority to be the very bane of genius—the deadening draught which makes the heart beat languidly, which checks the dance of the spirits, and cramps the wings of fancy the instant she tries to soar. A man of genius, therefore, they infer, who now arises, is lost-must be lost--from the baneful effects of the Christian Religion.
Such are the charges which the admirers of the ancients, in the depth of their judgment, have discovered and preferred against Christianity. This is an instance among many, in which critics have boasted of discoveries where none were to be made, have fancied that they found out something which really has no existence, merely because they suppose the public expect something from them, -expect them to come forward fraught with new wonders and new miracles. The worst of it is, that it is difficult either to affirm or reject a conclusion, so vaguely and uncircumstantially made out; the whole is set down, in sweeping terms of general import which cannot easily be analysed or understood. The sensible remarks of our author are well worth quoting, as a contrast to these most partial views.
* In comparing ancient and modern compositions, we shall find the excellence of each was derived from the systems and moral habits of the times and countries. The Greeks admired, encouraged and cultivated personal beauty by gymnastic exercises and public rewards in the Olympian meeting of the states; consequently, what they admired, they represented. The most choice selections of countenance and form, the most elegant display in the folds of drapery, was seen in their councils of divinilies: in combats and heroic adventures, grace, elasticity of action and personal courage were conspicuous.
• The modern arts have been more zealously employed to commemorate the acts and events of that dispensation which governs their conduct, and determines their future condition; and even in their celebrations and memorials of political occurrences, or private characters, they are always combinations of the moral virtues, or the influences of providential directions. What has been done, and what may be done from such subjects, is proved by Michael Angelo's Old Testament and Judginent, in the Sistine Chapel,—the Calling of Paul, and the Martyrdom of Peter, in the Pauline 'Chapel—the Plagues in the last days of the Church, by Signorelli, in the Cathedral of Orvieto—the Cartoons of Raphael—the scriptural bassorelievos by John and Nicholas Pisani, Donatello, and Lorenzo Ghiberti. These subjects are more than sufficient to employ the greatest human powers, comprehending whatever is most sublime or beautiful in energy or repose—most tender, most affectionate, most forcible, or most terrific.
. An additional distinction between the subjects of ancient and modern composition is occasioned by parental affection and domestic charities being cherished in the Christian dispensation much more powerfully than in the Grecian codes : to these graces of benevolence we owe those lovely groups--the Holy Families of Raphael and Correggio, and the Charity of