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« Quand les anciens arrivèrent à la decouverte des proportions con“ venables à la beauté ideale, leur analogie avec les proportions bar“ moniques servit à prouver qu'ils avoient incontestablement atteint au “ but de l'art, et l'impossibilité de trouver une beauté supérieure à celle “ qui résulta de ses proportions, elle nous sert maintenant à demontrer “ que l'art des Grecs ne peut en aucun tems, ni en aucun lieu, ni par “ aucun moyen, être surpassé *.”
With an enthusiastic esteem and admiration for the excellence of the Greeks in art and in literature, the moderns ought to cherish a persuasion that even that excellence, great as it is, may possibly be sur passed. Such an idea may be censured as presumptuous : but in every arduous pursuit a degree of presumption is the very source of success. Reason and fancy may unite in refusing to believe that, in cultivating the fine arts, any nation, or any individual has yet arrived at the utmost limits of attainable perfection. In sculpture, indeed, it is not very probable that any modern artist, in any part of the globe, may possess all the advantages to lead him to excellence which the sculptors of antiquity possessed; yet the modern may avail himself of some advantages to which the ancient was a stranger. But I forbear to enter on a topic which may be more properly discussed when modern art is the immediate subject before us.--I return to Polycletus.
Winkelman has styled him a sublime poet in his art ; and he seems, indeed, to have enjoyed that rare mixture of industry, confidence, and imagination which is so favourable to felicity in the works of his profefsion.
Ælian has related the following anecdote, to thew how successfully he corrected the temerity of popular criticism :
* Antiquités Etrusques, Grecques, et Romaines, tom. iv. p. 137.
Polycletus executed two statues at the same time; gratifying, in the one, the caprice of the crowd; in the other, adhering to the rules of art. He gratified the multitude in this manner: According to the suggestion of all his visitors, he retouched and altered something in conformity to the opinion of each. At last he produced his two figures ; the one was universally admired; the other derided. “ Yet this," said Polycletus, “ which you condemn, is your own work; and the other, which you admire, is mine *.”..
It is recorded of this excellent sculptor, that he excelled also as an architect; and Pausanias extols the temple of Æsculapius, which he built for the Epidaurians, as surpassing, in harmonious beauty, all the magnificent structures of the Romans. I shall close my imperfect account of this accomplished artist with the Greek epigram on his statue of Polyxena :
εις τηλης Πολυξενης.
Χειρ εθιγεν τετε δαιμονιε πινακος.
Ταν αιδω γυμναν σωφρονι κρυπτε πεπλω.
Παρθενικας ο Φρυγων κειται ολος πολεμος.
* Δυο εικονας ειργασετο Πολυκλειτος κατα το αυτο, την μεν τοις οχλοις χαριζομενος, την δε κατα τον νομον της τεχνης. Εχαριζετο δε τους πολλοις τον τροπον τατον: καθ' εκατον των εισιoντων μετετιθει τι, και μετεμορφε, πειθομενος τη εκας υφηγησει. Πρoυθηκεν εν αμφοτερας: και η μεν υπο παντων εθαυμαζετο, η δε ετερα εγελατο. Υπολαβων ων εφη ο Πολυκλειτος, αλλά ταυτην μεν, ην ψεγετε, υμεις εποιησατε, ταυτην δε, ην θαυμαζετε, εγω, Ælian. Var. Hift. lib. xiv. c. 8.
Non aliam felix ista tabella manum.
Obducat rupta tegmina veste pudor.
Eft oculis, quantum est de Phryge Marte super.
Pollianus, on the Column of Polyxena.
NOTE III. Ver. 141.
That Athens was eclips’d by her Olympian fane.
The talents and reputation of Phidias were so great, that they are allowed to form the most honourable æra in the history of art. The Abbé Gedoyn has added to his history of Dædalus an account of this his moft illustrious successor, for the sake of displaying at once, in the lives of these two memorable men, the commencement and the perfection of sculpture. Athens had the honour of giving birth to them
both; for Phidias, by the authority of Plato, is proved to be an Athenian. He studied under two masters of no great celebrity, Agelas and Hippias : but he had the advantage of having two brothers distinguished by their talents as painters, and the still greater advantage of having cultivated and brought to maturity his own genius, at that fortunate period when the triumphant state of his country, and the magnificent spirit of Pericles, afforded him a most favourable field for its exertion. With what patriotic pride and delight must an Attic sculptor have exerted his powers in converting that very marble, which the Persian invaders had brought with them to form a trophy of their conquest, into a memorial of their defeat! I allude to the Nemesis of Phidias, a statue executed under these animating circumstances, according to Pausanias, and stationed in a temple at Rhamnus, at the distance of sixty stadia from Marathon -a ftatue, celebrated in the following epigram:
εις το εν Ραμνούντι Νεμεσιως αγαλμα.
Χιονεην με λιθον παλιναυξεος εκ περιωπης ,
Λαοτυπος τμηξας πετρoτoμoις ακισι
Της κατ' Αθηναιων συμβολα καμμονιης.
Και νεες υγροπορουν χευμασιν αιμαλέοις,
Δαιμον' υπερφιαλoις αντιπαλον μεροπων. . .
Νικη Ερεχθειδαις, Ασσυριoις Νεμεσις.
Marmoream rumpens cuspide duritiem,
De Cecropis victrix gente trophæa manus. Cladibus at Marathon poftquam refonavit Eois,
Perque cruore rubens æquor iere rates,
Ulcisci solitam facta superba deam.
Cecropidis, Nemesis nec minus Affyriis.
Theætetus, on the Rhamnusian Statue of Nemesis. Of snowy whiteness, from a mountain rock, A Median sculptor in a massive block Shipp'd me for Attica, and doom'd to stand His mark of triumph o'er this Attic land : But when at Marathon fall’n Persia groan'd, And for invasion Matter'd ships aton'd, By Attic Art (Perfection's nurse) I rose, In form a goddess who the proud o’erthrows. In different characters my figure speaks : To Persians vengeance, victory to Greeks.