« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
contradiction. Invincible activity, and inexhaustible strength, are his characteristics. The ancient artist has erred, not only in giving him an attitude which upposes his strength wants recruiting, but in the nature of the strength itself, the character of which should not be passive, but active.
Near to Hercules, under the arcades of the same Palezzo Farnese, is a most beautiful statue of Flora. The great advantage which ancient artists had in attending the exercises of the gymnasia, has been repeatedly urged as the reason of their superiority over the moderns in sculpture. We are told, that besides the usual exercises of the gymnasia, all those who proposed to contend at the Olympic games, were obliged, by the regulations, to prepare themselves, by exercising publicly for a year at Elis; and the statuaries and painters constantly attended on the Arena, where
they had opportunities of beholding
muscle was exerted, and all their various actions called forth, and where the human form appeared in an infinite variety of different attitudes. By a constant attendance at such a school, independent of any other circumstance, the artists are supposed to have acquired a more animated, true, and graceful style, than possibly can be caught from viewing the tame mercenary models, which are exhibited in our academies. On the other hand, I have heard it asserted, that the artist, who formed the Farnesian Flora, could not have improved his work, or derived
any of its excellencies, from the cire cumstances above enumerated ; because the figure is in a standing posture, and clothed. In the light easy flow of the drapery, and in the contour of the body being as distinctly pronounced through it, as if the figure were naked, the chief merit of this statue is thought to consist. But this reasoning does not seem just; for the daily opportunities the ancient artists had of seeing naked figures, in every variety of action and attitude, must have given them advantages over the moderns, in forming even drapery figures. At Sparta, the women, upon particular occasions, danced naked. In their own families, they were seen every day clothed in light draperies; and so secondary was every consideration, even that of decency, to art, that the prettiest virgins of Agrigentum, it is recorded, were called upon by the legislature, without distinction, to shew themselves naked to a painter, to enable him to paint a Venus. Whilst the moderns, therefore, must acknowledge their inferiority to the ancients in the art of sculpture, they may be allowed merit, on account of the cause to which, it seems, in some measure at least to be owing.
The fine specimens of antique sculpture are to be seen in the Vatican. In these the Greek artists display an unquestionable superiority over the most successful efforts of the moderns. For me to attempt a description of these master-pieces, which have been described a thousand times and imitated as often, without once having had justice done them, would be equally vain and superfluous. I confine myself to a very few observations. The most insensible of mankind must be struck with horror at sight of the Laocoon. On one of my visits to the Vatican, I was accompanied by two persons, who had never been there before : one of them is accused of being perfectly callous to everything which does not immediately touch his own person ; the other is a worthy, good man: the first, after staring for some time with marks of terror at the groupe, at length recovered himself; exclaiming with
with a laugh,-" Egad, I was afraid these d-d “ serpents would have left the fellows they
are devouring, and made a snap at me ; “ but I am happy to recollect they are of “ marble.”—“ I thank you, Sir, most “ heartily,” said the other, " for putting
me in mind of that circumstance: till you mentioned it, I was in agony
for " those two youths.”
Nothing can be conceived more admirably executed than this affecting groupe ; in all probability, it never would have entered into my own head that it could have been in any respect improved. But when I first had the happiness of becoming acquainted with Mr. Locke, a period
life which I shall always recollect with peculiar pleasure, I remember my conversing with him upon this subject ; and that Gentleman, after mentioning the exe