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ONE who is familiar with the remains records of a period which could have of ancient art and the traces of ancient reached us in no other way. life, in Italy and Greece, and the islands Pompeii is, indeed, a priceless treasof the Mediterranean-who knows the ury of the annals of an ancient city, and Baths of Titus and Caracalla, the Par- if from this one we cannot learn all, we thenon, the temple of Phigagia, and at least come away with an instinct even the almost forgotten cities of Lycia sharpened by positive knowledge, and and Caria—will find that a new experi- we begin to guess, not blindly as hereence awaits him at Pompeii. However tofore, but by repeating, modifying, and close may have been his observations, expanding the facts we have gathered. however thorough his studies, all that It is a veritable Rosetta stone, a key he has learned becomes poor and scanty which expounds the domestic and pubby contrast with the wealth of knowl- lic life of the ancients, making their edge which the unburied Vesuvian city hieroglyphics in art and literature an now gives to the day. Sitting on the intelligible language to us.
Such a steps of the Parthenon, and looking mine of intelligence belongs not to over the ruins of the structures of Italy, but to that world of newer civili Phidias and Ictinus to the ever-young zation which is built upon the ashes of and unchanging features of the immor- the Past. There is not a house or shop, tal Attic landscape, one may bring the even of the most insignificant tradesGrecian era nearer; but when one man or artificer, which does not keep stands where the chief thoroughfares for us some revelation of the habits of of Pompeii cross, and sees Vesuvius its occupant. Since the Cavalier Fiorelli over walls still gay with frescoes, doors has directed the excavations, a thousand still surmounted by the symbols of minute relics, or signs, hitherto lost, are trade and traffic, and taverns, where the preserved. The hollow ashes give back empty amphoræ keep their place under the forms and garments of the flying the marble counters, the life of the city, citizens who were smothered in the in its simplest and commoncst details, be- streets and passages; the charred wood, comes a thing of yesterday. It impresses replaced by exactly similar posts and one like a miracle-or rather, let us say, beams, restores for us the hanging bala Providential deposit of the most hon- conies, and the roofs shading the atria est and intelligible, because undesigned, and peristyles; even the kitchens and
Estered, is the year 1808, by G. P. PITXAY & Sox, in the Clerk's Once of the District Court of the U. 9. for the Southern District of X Y
ovens yield up their deserted loaves top, and the walls can thus be strengthand viands, and the bronze water-jars ened as they are laid bare, preserving keep their unevaporated contents. not only, in many cases, the arrange
A single illustration will serve to ment of the upper chambers, but—what show the difference between the former is of much more importance—the fresand the present mode of conducting the coes which adorned the rooms below. excavations. Here let me say that the How many of these latter treasures have Bourbons have already been engaged been stolen, wantonly destroyed, or lost for more than a hundred years, with by exposure to the weather, we can only long intervals of neglect, in the disin- conjecture. Those which remain form terment of Pompeii, and that not more a collection unique of its kind in the than two fifths of the city have yet been world, and of inestimable value for the laid bare. The first excavations were insight which it gives us into ancient not only so rudely made that many pictorial art. slight and delicate articles were lost, but Herculaneum and Pompeii, although much else was either disfigured or sto- they have furnished many exquisite len, from the carelessness with which statues, cannot be said to have enlarged the ruins were guarded. The reign of our knowledge of the character and Murat, whatever it might have been excellence of ancient sculpture. This politically, was auspicious for Pompeii, being the art which endures through and the work of excavation began to the material in which it works, War, assume an ordered and intelligent sys- nor Time, nor natural convulsions, cantem. Nevertheless the excavation was not so thoroughly destroy its achievestill carried on, and until very recently, ments, that the Future does not receive by vertical sections, and thus, in remov- a tolerable legacy. These cities rather ing the mass of ashes and lapillæ, the illustrate for us the richness of their age walls, covered with the debris of the in noble works. They have given us wooden upper stories, often tumbled the exquisite Narcissus, the dancing down in fragments before they could be Faun, the Apollo, the portrait-statues strengthened. Neither was any atten- of the Balbi, the Alexander, the Tiberition given to the hollow moulds left by us, and a host of minor works, all of fragile objects, which the heat of the which belong to schools and are treated ashes had destroyed while retaining in styles with which we are already their shape. The recklessness and neg- familiar. They are enrichments, but lect of the former century was avoided, not revelations. Michel Angelo underbut the hand which led the work was stood the excellences of antique sculpnot yet directed by feeling and con- ture as well as any artist of our day. science.
The walls of Pompeii, however, give The true hand has at last been found. us, by almost a miracle, certain knowlWithin the last ten or fifteen years, since edge of an art which may be said to the Cavalier Fiorelli has been entrusted have been known to us only by tradiwith the direction of the labors, they tion. From the perishable nature of have been so conducted as to destroy painting, even in fresco, its most durathe least possible, and preserve the most ble form, the world could never have possible. The Italian Government can hoped to possess a single specimen of afford but sixty thousand francs a-year the pictorial art of the Greeks and (which, however, is very much more Romans, but for the singular chance (or than the Bourbons expended) for the design) by which they have been prework, so that only from thirty to forty served. Let the reader imagine that laborers can be steadily employed; but not a single antique statue or bas-relief if the excavations advance slowly, they were known to us, and that—we will advance regularly and save what they not say the Laocoon, and the Aristides, reveal. The ashes are now removed in and the Venus of Milo, but—a hundred horizontal sections, beginning at the works of sculpture were suddenly exhumed ! what wonder, what joy, what an average of manner and skill, we can knowledge would thereby be given to easily project upwards as well as downthe world! Pompeii has wrought this wards. miracle for painting. What we pre
I believe there is no evidence whatviously knew was confined chiefly to ever that the Greek and Roman painters those arabesque decorations of the Baths were acquainted with oil as a vehicle for of Titus, which were the delight of color. Oil, as Ruskin truly says, alone Raphael (his only models, after Perugi- comes near to Nature in its opaque no and Masaccio), and to a few frag- lights and its transparent shadows, ments of mutilated fresco, all rather while in practical use it is more facile illustrative of decorative art than paint and free than any other material. We ing. It had become a conventional idea can, therefore, in fairness to the Pomwith scholars, that, in spite of Apelles peiian painters, only contrast them with and Zeuxis and Protogenes, the Greeks such artists as work in fresco or temwere very indifferent painters. Their pera, or, perhaps, that form of encaustic coloring, it was surmised, was crude painting which has been recently reand flashy: they had no comprehension vived in Germany. The depth, strength, of perspective or foreshortening, and and brilliancy of a picture in oils on their drawing might be estimated by canvas cannot possibly be obtained by that upon the sepulchral vases and urns. these earlier methods. The ancients, To one who has been fed with these undoubtedly, had their detached picconjectures, which have been asserted tures upon wood or canvas, and the so frequently and so positively that most famous works of the great artists they are still generally believed, the could thus be bought, sold, and transwalls of Pompeii will indeed be a reve- ferred from place to place. It is probalation.
ble that such pictures exhibited the The value of the specimens already triumphs of their genius, and that the rescued is more than their artistic char- mural painters were an inferior class of acter. Not being portable, they were artists. So much the higher, then, must executed on the spot, and for the most the ancient painters rise in our estimapart by local artists. Pompeii was but tion, when we find that the latter class, a third-rate city; it had nearly been whose works we can now judge, underdestroyed by an earthquake, ten years stood drawing, color, perspective, and previous to its entombment, and the (to a certain extent) chiar oscuro. most of its frescoes must have been Many fine pictures must have been painted during that period of restora- lost by the action of the weather, since tion. It cannot be supposed that, when the first private dwellings of Pompeii Rome was 'most luxurious, and the were opened. Others have been greatly shores of the Mediterranean were cover- damaged by neglect, while, incredible ed with magnificent towns, artists of as it may seem, some were wantonly established fame could be spared for a destroyed, in former years, because it place so unimportant as Pompeii. What was difficult or expensive to detach we now possess cannot, therefore, be them from the walls! At present, every considered as more than tbe ordinary picture of value which is unearthed is art of the age; but it is none the less a carefully sawed from the walls, secured basis of clear knowledge in regard to in a solid frame, and transported to the modes of painting, treatment of sub- National Museum (formerly the Museo jects, and skill in the various techni. Borbonico) at Naples. It is singular calities of the art. In this respect, the 'that Pompeii itself should not only mural paintings of Pompeii are as sat- have given the hint, but also the isfactory, as would be a collection of method, of transferring and preserving antique statues, which did not include frescoes. In the Temple of Venus, adthe master-pieces, in regard to the char- joining the chief Forum of the city, acter of the ancient sculpture. Having there is still a picture to be seen, in one
" Like some watcher of
of the chambers occupied by the priests ornaments of vines, birds, and scroll-a fresco representing Bacchus pouring work, disposed in irregular panels. The a goblet of wine over his panther, while object seems to have been, first, to cheer he leans upon the shoulder of Silenus, by the breadth and warmth of the who plays the lyre. A close inspection ground-color, and then to pleasantly of this picture revealed the fact that it occupy the fancy with light, easily had been transferred from a former untangled labyrinths of form. Nothing building, and was fastened in its place could be better adapted for domestic by iron clamps; and, further, that in architecture, and the wonder is that, making the transfer, a space was left for having once been so generally employthe circulation of air at its back, in ed, it was ever lost. order to preserve it from possible injury The department of still-life is most from damp. The Pompeiian paintings amply illustrated. Fish, birds, game, are now arranged in the same manner fruit, and even drinking-vessels were on the walls of the Museum at Naples. the usual fresco decorations of dining
The pictures on these walls, including rooms, of eating-houses, and even in the decorative arabesques, and those some cases of the kitchen itself. Landwhich have been allowed to remain in scapes, especially in combination with situ, in the houses of Pompeii, will architecture, or as backgrounds to innumber nearly, if not quite, a thousand. ferior figure-pieces, are also frequent. In Naples they form a marvellous gal- Genre pictures, the existence of which lery of antique painting, which has not, denotes a certain amount of developand cannot have, its like in the world. ment and taste, are by no means rare. One truly feels, there,
Of portraits, there are few, if which
profess to have that exclusive character; When a new planet swims into his ken—" but there are many faces and figures so rich, so varied, so entirely satisfactory which betray an individuality that in regard to method and treatment, are could only have been derived from livthe pictures. From mere decorative ing models. Religious and mythical forms—that mingling of the graceful subjects are the most numerous, and and the grotesque which has its own represent the highest skill; repetitions peculiar charm-to what, in the classic of the same subjects enable us to detertimes, must have been considered “High mine how far their treatment was in Art,” all the departments of painting accordance with conventional or tradiare represented. If landscape remains tional ideas (like that of Saints and in the background, we must remember Holy Families in the Italian Schools), that the love of Nature, the fine appre- and in what particular the individuality ciation of the features of scenery and of the artist expressed itself. This, the atmosphere, is but scantly represented highest field of painting, is of course in literature. Art rarely, if ever, moves the most interesting and important. in advance of letters, in its aims and its Here we find the finest works, whether achievements, and we cannot expect to original or copies of older pictures. find that painted which existed so very The first characteristic which strikes dimly and imperfectly in the tastes of the eye is the simplicity and breadth of the people.
the larger pictures, and the arrangeThe decorative painting of Pompeii ment, both of colors and forms, in has been so extensively copied, that its
This is not accidental, but colors and its forms are now tolerably intentional, in order to produce an effect well known, and I need not describe it in the dim light in which they were in detail. Its chief characteristic is the seen. In the private houses both the employment of a broad, warm field of atrium and the peristyle were roofed, color-gencrally that which is now dis- except the square aperture over the tinguished as “ Pompeiian red"--with impluvium in the centre; and the picvery gracefully and delicately drawn tured walls, therefore, did not receive a fourth part of the light under which breathe life from every limb. With the they are now seen. There is evidence exception of Giotto and Masaccio, I find that some of them were only designed no such power of expression in the Ital. to be seen by artificial light. The ian artists before Raphael, as in the ancients understood the secrets of effect Medea, the Achilles, and the Theseus so well—so much better than we do, in of the Pompeiian walls. Although fact—that we must not suppose they there are few figures wherein certain painted without special reference to the minor details are not faulty, the masses conditions under which the picture are so boldly and beautifully drawn would be seen. The walls were lighted the grouping so symmetrically balanced, principally from above, which would and the heads and eyes so spirited, that also require a particular disposition of the total effect is truly admirable. Each the shadows. For the same reason fine picture tells its own story in the directgradations of tints could not be employ- est way: nothing is introduced—scarce ed, since they could not be clearly seen. ly the simplest furniture—which has The picture must be simple, painted in not a right to be there. In short, so few but harmonious colors, and especial- much skill and knowledge are displayed ly those which attract light. When one that we are forced to suppose that freis acquainted with this circumstance, he quent faults of omission—as in complo is not surprised at the predominance of tion wanting to figures in the backthe reds and yellows.
ground--were not occasioned either by Couture says he has ascertained, by ignorance or carelessness, but so left careful examination of pictures, that because they could not be observed in the Venetian artists had each a favorite the shadowed rooms where the pictures base, or ground-color, upon which he were painted. relied to give tone to bis picture—that The landscapes, I have said, are inTitian's base, for example, was amber, ferior; but the manipulation also shows Giorgione's golden, and that of Paul them to have been the work of inferior Veronese silver-gray. The Pompeiian artists. That landscape-paintings were painters seem to have adopted the same popular at that period, we know from principle, and perhaps amber would the letters of Pliny, who not only nearly express the prevailing tone of praises, but describes, the works of a their pictures. The walls appear to certain Ludius. In Pompeii, however, have been painted al fresco, for the most the artists appear to have been mostly part, with their decorative borders and Greek (“ Alexandros of Athens” being panels, the latter being left for the paint- the only name that has descended to ings to be afterwards added in tempera. us), and mythological pictures, in the I believe the vehicle which they used- manner of what was then the Greek whether glue, wax, resin, or albumen— school, were the prevailing taste. In has not been positively ascertained. fact, the position which the landscapes Fortunately we have their colors out of generally occupy on the walls denotes the shops, as they were sold for use--all that a lesser value was attached to mineral, comprising the earths and them. Many are rude sketches of a ochres still employed, with lapis lazuli temple and tree, with the sea or a for blue.
mountain as background; others are There are, of course, great differences islands or shores, crowded with archiin the execution of many of the pictures. tecture. In the latter there is not much It is easy to see that some are weak perspective, either linear or aerial, but (and probably cheap) copies of good the temples are executed with a certain works, like those Assumptions and degree of care, while the trees and rocks Nativities which tourists are wont to have been slighted. One exception is a purchase in Italy at the present day. view of a rocky landscape, with shepOthers as certainly show the hand of an herds, the background being a mountindependent artist, and the figures ain, with a winding row of cypresses,