« IndietroContinua »
Here the forms are more carefully studi- are invariably too sharp in drawing, ed, the coloring is warm and harmoni- and too gaudy in coloring, and thereous, and the sentiment of the scene is fore do not fairly represent the grace delicately felt and expressed.
and richness of the originals. They The largest landscape yet discovered were not intended to be seen close at measures ten feet by eight-which ap- hand : the features and finer folds of proaches the colossal proportions of the drapery only appear when you step some of our own painters. There are back three or four paces. Moreover, also a number of illustrations of Homer, they abound in exquisite half-tints, a class which might be called mytho- which the copyists generally overlook logical landscape, where the scenery is or neglect. Whatever faults there may adapted to the story told by the figures. be in the drawing of these figures, These are much superior to the archi- scarcely one of which is faultless, all tectural pieces.
are free, soaring, elastic-all bound or The field of genre-painting is also fly, as if by an independent life of their richly illustrated, in all its branches
No line is stiff or ungraceful, no the comic, the purely fanciful, the home- figure repeats the other, and the spirit ly and realistic-and it includes some and invention displayed in them seem of the most interesting specimens of the to be really inexhaustible. art. One of the pictureš represents a Here Thorwaldsen found the hint for female-painter in her studio, copying a his “Sale of the Loves;" the Pompeiian hermes of Bacchus upon a tablet which picture is identical in design. Many rests on an easel, while some of her of the paintings, indeed, from their friends or admirers are watching the grace, simplicity, and freedom, and the process. Another is a scene in a thea- fact of the figures being represented tre, where a comedy is being acted by nearly upon the same plane, might be performers in masks. Another is a four- converted into bas-reliefs. I found that wheeled wine-cart, stopping at the door the principal mistake in drawing conof a tavern to fill the empty amphoræ. sisted in making the head and trunk There are, also, a school in which a bad much longer than the legs. Nearly all boy is being flogged, rope-dancers and the second-rate Pompeiian artists seemharlequins, jolly tavern-scenes, and illus- ed to have taken the umbilicus for the trations of country-life.
central point of the body, instead of the A single head, of cabinet size, belong- base of the pelvis. This is a proportion ing to this class, is one of the most which is often approached in Nature, charming things I ever saw.
but it is never agreeable to the eye. resents a girl, dressed as a Muse, hold- Among the working classes, especially, ing her tablets in one hand, while with the thighs and upper arms are generally the other she thoughtfully touches her too short, and the trunk too long, for lips with the point of the stylus. The beauty. In pictures of the better class face is perfectly abstracted, and the soft, this fault does not exist. gleaming eyes look at you without see- I can only describe a few of the iog you. A smile has just left her lips, mythological subjects, and rather for and it is a pleasant fancy for which she the purpose of suggesting the manner pauses to find the proper words. It in which they were treated by the artmight be a young Sappho, or a Lesbia ists, than with any hope of representing writing to Catullus. Drawing, coloring, in words their commingled grace and and expression are alike admirable, and repose, and the purity and harmony of I scarcely know a single head by any their coloring. They are of all proporlater artist which I would sooner pos- tions, from small cabinet to life size.
Some subjects, such as Perseus and The series of dancing-figures on red Andromeda, the flight of Phryxus and or black panels is known all over the Helle, Mars and Venus, Medea, Achilles, world. The reproductions, however, and Theseus, are repeated frequently,
but are always varied in the representa- into attention. The Centaur, at once tion. The figures exhibit a freedom and grave and tender, betrays the struggle variety of posture which is remarkable, of a tragic double existence in his furand which betrays, at least, a thorough rowed brow and deep-set, mournful eyes. knowledge of the human form.
His equine part—as in every Centaur One of the most striking pictures is a represented in the collection-is astonsingle figure of Medea, meditating re- ishingly small: it is the head and trunk venge. She stands in a somewhat list- of a large man united to the body of a less attitude, with hanging arms and Shetland pony. The background of hands clasped around the hilt of the the picture is a piece of richly decorated sheathed sword. Her head is turned to architecture. one side, and the face powerfully ex- Within the last year or two a picture presses the conflict of her passions. of Theseus in the Labyrinth has been Nothing could be simpler or more effect- exhumed and added to the Museum. ive. Welcker considers this picture a The hero is of life-size, nude, and admircopy of a celebrated original by Timo- ably drawn. At his feet lies the Minomachos of Byzantium,
taur, somewhat foreshortened, while a There is another picture, representing crowd of grateful and graceful youths the sacrifice of Iphigenia, which is be- press around the deliverer, clasping his lieved to be, if not a copy, at least a knees, kissing his hands, and in other suggestion, of the famous picture of lively ways expressing their joy. Here Timanthes. There are but five figures, is nothing of the stiffness of Byzantine yet the story is told with a pathos and and early Italian art. The figures move force which still touches the beholder, or rest without constraint, and there are In the centre of the picture Iphigenia is some of the youths who even suggest held in the arms of Ulysses and Mene- the splendid impetuosity of Tintoretto. laus : on the right stands Calchas, with The more one studies this and the other the knife in his hand; on the left equal Pompeiian pictures, the more one Agamemnon, his veiled head betraying feels that the Painting of the ancients his grief. The background is a bright was worthy to be set beside their Sculpsea and sky. Iphigenia does not strug- ture. gle, but lifts her hands imploringly. To The parting of Achilles and Briseis is her body is given a soft, clear carnation- another of the more important pictures, tint, while the limbs of Ulysses and although preserved in a very damaged Menclaus are a ruddy brown.
state. The weeping Briseïs is led forth But perhaps the finest specimen of by. Patroclus, while Achilles, seated in color is the glorious picture of the front of his tent, gives the order to Centaur Chiron teaching the young deliver her into the hands of the Achilles to play upon the lyre. The heralds. There is a wonderful contenboy, naked and of perfect form, stands tion of the emotions of love, anger, and between the fore-legs of the Centaur, regret in his countenance, and it is diffiwho is seated upon his hind-legs, while cult to say which is predominant. his strong breast and head tower grand- Among the other more striking comly over his pupil, behind and beyond positions I may mention Hercules findwhom he holds the lyre, his right arm ing his son Telephus, who is sitting on half embracing him as he strikes the the ground, suckled by a doe, together wires with the plectrum. Achilles is with another where the son stands at golden-bright and fair with immortal his father's knee, and reaches a green beauty: Chiron is dusky and in shadow, bough to his gentle foster-mother. A except his head, shoulder, and right noticeable characteristic of all these arm, which the light touches with a pictures is the ease, simplicity, and warm, bronze-like tint. The boy's fea- naturalness with which the story is tures express intense pride and aspira- told. All is unforced and effortless ; tion, yet he is for the moment subdued the figures seem to have grown in some
joyous, sportive mood of the artist, and One fact, evident to any one who sees therefore their failings suggest rather the collection, is worthy of notice. In wilful indolence on his part than want hundreds of pictures, a single example of power.
In this respect they differ of disagreeable, inharmonious color can remarkably from those works which scarcely be found. The instinct of the mark the revival of painting, in Italy ancients, never equalled since their time and Germany. In the latter, we have in regard to form, appears to have been serious, passionate effort, finding its fully as true and delicate in regard to way slowly, and sometimes by agoniz- color. The common workman dealt in ing energy, towards form and color, and ruder effects, and was generally ignothe speech which grows from them : in rant of the management of half-tints, the former, we feel only the easy play which is so charming in the best picof a dexterous hand and an inexhausti- tures; but if he never triumphed, at ble fancy.
least he never offended. How sunny, and cheerful, and alive Our modern life is very barren of with the spirit of imperishable beauty, grace and beauty, when contrasted with are those halls in the basement-story of that of Pompeii, where the vulgarest the Museum, contrasted with the hag- wine-shop, and the poorest abode of the gard, suffering saints and tormented mechanic, had its ornamental frescoes. martyrs of later Neapolitan art, in the Here, too, is another remarkable evi
halls above them! Even in the houses dence of the skill of the cheapest work: of Pompeii, where the glaring sun looks Where the paintings are simple
down into the roofless chambers and patterns or arabesque borders, they were illuminates every incomplete feature never executed by means of cut-out meant to be unobserved in the twilight models laid upon the plaster and paintof the day, or the lamp-light of the ed through, but with the “free hand.” banquets, and every crack and scale of The workman had a ruler and compass, time and ruin, the pictures exercise an but no more ; and the slight differences undiminished charm. They suggest in the repetition of the same forms in a wealth and luxury, it is true, yet at the border attest his dexterity even more same time they speak of an artistic than his want of it. culture, so general and of so high a Painting and sculpture were necessistamp, that one knows not whither to ties of all domestic or public life in turn, to match it at this day. Yet the Pompeii. Diomed, Marcus Lucretius, golden era of Grecian painting was and Cornelius Rufus, had their mosaic already long past, and these pictures pavements, their marble and bronze were to the then still-existing master- statues, their grottoes of shells, and pieces, as the figures of—(let the reader their illustrations of Homer; but the here insert the name of an inferior art- fuller and soap-boiler had also their ist !) to those of Titian or Tintoretto. terra-cotta heroes and deities, and the The Pompeiian pictures have, it is pictures of their profession, on their true, limited perspective (partly because walls. In the wine-shop and the eatingdepth is purposely omitted from the house, the guests sat under panels of backgrounds), little foreshortening, lit- still-life which no doubt made their ile chiar oscuro ; yet they show enough mouths water. It is as difficult to find of each to justify us in supposing that an undecorated wall in Pompeii, as to the great masters achieved as much, in find one tastefully decorated in New this respect, as the nature of the vehicle York, The town must have been a in which they painted would allow. grand panorama of Art, and every street, The Pompeiian artists seem to have or arch, or atrium, or peristyle an harbeen fully conscious of what was lack- monious picture. What, then, must ing to them, in the astonishing skill with have been Baiæ, and Capua, and the one which they generally avoid the necessity
supreme Rome of foreshortening and perspective.
We are loth to believe that
or faculty once possessed by Man, can consider how slowly and painfully we have perished. We cannot even admit moderns must be educated, in order to without a sense of mortification, that appreciate correctly their commonest any people were more generally devel- works,—what monstrosities we bow oped in any particular direction, than down before, and worship-how inert ourselves. Yet, when we learn how is the love of harmonious form and universal was the instinct of proportion color among the masses of the people : among the ancients—how taste and the when all this is clear, we realize that love of symmetry came as natural to mankind has lost that much of its grace them as hunger or gambling, and then and the Earth that much of her glory.
MY BERKSHIRE HOME.
WHERE, having passed the cliffs of Monument,
The pines that stand around the house—a host
And dies, at eve, exhausted with excess
Better is the mood
But sweeter is the perfume of the trees
Fair are these hillside paths,
More distant scenes invite Το
urge the steeds through meads with clover blown, Or corn-fields purple-tipt, to leafy woods, Where calls the waterfall to come; or heights, Whereon the eye enchanted looks o'er vales, And lakes, and streams, and intermingling hills. In spots like these, on Dome, or Monument,