網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

NOTE IV. Ver. 170.

Her shame his pride, her ornaments bis prey.

How deplorable was the fate of Athens, repeatedly the captive of two, the most artful, fanguinary, and impious wretches that dishonoured the list of ancient heroes--Lysander and Sylla! Both these barbarous conquerors had a passion for sculpture; so great was the influence of that powerful art over the sternest spirits of antiquity! Plutarch informs us, that after Lysander had taken Athens, he devoted a part of his spoil to the expence of raising his own statue, and those of his officers, at Delphi. Yet so truly savage was this detestable victor, that Plutarch rather seems to believe the report he mentions of Lysander's having proposed, in the council of the allies, to reduce the Athenians to slavery. A Theban officer, according to the same authority, proposed the utter demolition of the city; and Athens is said to have been saved by the happy voice of a Phocensian, who sung to the conquerors, at a banquet, a few verses from a tragedy of Euripides, which awakened their humanity, and made them shrink from their horrible purpose of annihilating a city so admirable, and the parent of men so illustrious.

Milton alludes to this incident in the close of his Sth Sonnet:

" and the repeated air
“ Of sad Electra's poet had the power
“ To save th' Athenian walls from ruin bare.”

[merged small][ocr errors]

Sculpture is assuredly one of the most difficult of the fine arts ; yet it is a striking truth that Greece produced several sculptors of the first rate, though she could only boast a single Homer. It is also remarkable, that the Grecian sculptors were more numerous than the painters of their country. That intelligent and contemplative observer of antiquity, M. de Caylus, has had the curiosity to compare their respective numbers, as far as the narratives of Pausanias and Pliny enabled him to make the comparison. Of the former he says: " Il ne fait mention que " de quinze peintres, tandis qu'il distingue de la manière la plus claire “ cent soixante et neuf sculpteurs. Il faut cependant convenir que “ Pline fait mention de cent trente-trois peintres Grecs, bons ou médi“ ocres. .... On pourroit repondre pour concilier les deux auteurs, que “ Pline a parlé de tous les peintres de la Grèce, de l'Asie Mineure, de “ la Sicile, et de ce que l'on appelloit la grande Grèce, &c. et que “ Pausanias n'a pas même visité toute la Grèce proprement dite, qu'il “ n'écrivoit point l'histoire des artistes, et qu'il parloit seulement de “ ceux dont il avoit vû les ouvrages; ouvrages dont le nombre étoit “ encore diminué, par l'avidité des Romains, qui dévastoient ce pays “ depuis environs quatre-vingt ans; à compter le tems qui s'étoit “ écoulé depuis Pline jusqu'à lui.

“ Il resultera toujours de ce calcul, qu'il y avoit plus de statues que de “ tableaux dans la Grèce.”Antiquités, tom. ii. p. 109.

Of all the arts in which they excelled, sculpture seems, indeed, to have been the prime favourite of the Greeks ; and to the national en

к к

thusiasm in its favour the Grecian statues are principally indebted for their exquisite perfection.

Ver. 206.

Records her forrow, and preserves her fame.

Scopas, a native of Paros, is mentioned by Pliny as a contemporary with Myron and Polycletus, in the 87th Olympiad. He is represented also, by the same author, and by Vitruvius, as one of the eminent artists employed by the magnificent Artemisia in decorating the monument of her husband Mausolus.

· But as a sculptor, who lived so early, could hardly have been living at the time when that sumptuous monument was raised, Winkelman conjectures that more than one artist was distinguished by the name of Scopas. It seems rather more probable that Pliny was mistaken in the period he assigned to this admirable sculptor ; and indeed the chronology of almost all the ancient artists, and their most memorable works, is so full of perplexities and contradiction, that mistakes of this kind are almost unavoidable in a cursory view of their productions.

The works of Scopas seem to have been full of fancy and feeling; yet it is not easy to form an exact idea of his three statues, representing the variations of Love, as they are briefly described by Pausanias *

Pliny has enumerated many works of Scopas, that held, in the period when he wrote, a very high rank among the sculptural decorations

• Σκοπα δε Ερως, και Ιμερος, και Ποθος, ειδη διαφορα εσι, κατα ταυτα τοις ονομασι και τα εργα σφισι. The commentator on Pausanias, to elucidate these three Greek titles of Cupid, refers his reader to the Grecian Phurnutus “ De Natura Deorum :" but on' consulting Phurnutus, I find no light, but rather the “ darkness visible” of ridiculous etymologies.

of Rome. The Palatine Apollo, a sitting Vesta with two female attendants, and a collection of marine divinities, which, according to the lively expression of the enthusiastic Pliny, might be termed a glorious performance, ifit had employed the whole life of the artist *.

M. de Caylus imagines that these Nereids, riding on their sea-horses, were executed in bas-relief. Falconet is of a different opinion. It is, however, probable that they were so, and that they are still preserved.

I have seen admirable sketches of such Nereids as answer to Pliny's description, executed at Rome by Mr. Howard, an English artist, who has the rare talent of drawing from sculpture with such precision and delicacy, that England may soon furpass other countries in a just and graceful representation of those ancient statues which her men of fortune and taste have collected; especially as the Dilettanti Society have judiciously confided to this artist the conduct of such a work, peculiarly calculated to display his abilities, and to reflect an honour on their own institution. It is much to be lamented, that almost all the prints, designed to illustrate the many voluminous and costly books upon sculpture, are rather caricatures of ancient art, than a faithful copy of its perfections.

But to return to the ancient artist whose works are the immediate subject of this note.—Pliny has very highly praised a Venus by Scopas, and is supposed to have said that it excelled the Gnidian Venus of Praxiteles, which he had just celebrated as the most beautiful statue to be found on earth. Falconet, with his usual petulance, derides Pliny for so gross a contradiction; and even his liberal friend and admirer, M. de Caylus, laments this striking inconsistency. Let me hazard

* “ Sed in maxima dignatione Cn. Domitii delubro in Circo Flaminio Neptunus ipfe, et u Thetis, atque Achilles, Nereides supra Delphinos, et Cete et Hippocampos fedentes. « Item Tritones chorusque Phorci, et Pristes, ac multa alia marina, omnia ejusdem manus, « præclarum opus, etiamfi totius vitæ fuisset. -Plin. lib. xxxvi. c. 5.

what appears to me a probable conjecture, to save the credit of an author to whom the lovers of art have infinite obligation. I am perfuaded that all the blame which Pliny has incurred for this supposed contradi&tion arose solely from a flip of the pen in the original manuscript: but to elucidate the point, I must transcribe the passage as it stands, and add the new reading I wish to introduce : “ Præterea Ve“ nus in eodem loco nuda Praxitelicam illam Gnidiam antecedens, et " quemcunque alium locum nobilitatura.”—According to the present reading, there is not only a contradiction of what he had just asserted concerning the pre-eminence of the Gnidian statue, but the latter part of the sentence has little or no meaning. By the following flight change in the orthography the absurd contradiction will be utterly removed, and a significant spirit will appear in the close of the fentence : “ Præterea Venus in eodem loco nuda Praxitelicam illam Gnidi non « antecedens, at quemcunque alium locum nobilitatura.”-“ A naked “ Venus, not surpassing, indeed, that of Praxiteles at Gnidos, but « such as would ennoble any other place."

Pliny mentions it as a doubt, in his age, whether the Niobe at Rome is the work of Praxiteles or of Scopas. M. de Caylus makes a pleasant remark on the modesty of the Roman author, and recommends it as a leffon to modern connoisseurs :

“ On doit lui savoir gré de l'aveu de son ignorance sur le nom des “ auteurs des ouvrages, qui decoroient la ville de Rome. Il donne · “ en ce cas une leçon à tous les curieux presens et à venir, dont la “ décision est pour l'ordinaire imperieuse et sans appel.”-Mem. de Academie, tom. xxv. p. 322.

Among the impassioned works of Scopas, his Bacchanal was particularly admired. Junius, in his account of this artist, has inserted two Greek epigrams from the Anthologia, in praise of the figure to which I allude: but there is a third epigram, by Paulus Silentiarius,

« 上一頁繼續 »