« PreviousContinue »
Canova and Thorwaldson.
rivalled; they may deem them worthy of compari son with the Elgin, or any other, marbles that may yet survive in proof of those days of purest sculp ture; and may think that the genius of Phidias inspires, and kindles, the statuary of this Icelandic descendant.
Superadd to this merit, the greater difficulties under which the modern artist in this style labours. The pomps of ancient triumphs; the Olympic games; public gymnastic sports; and by such games the perpetual inspection of the finest male forms in every variety of attitude, and exercise, undraped, long since have ceased; the study of the human figure is confined to the artist's own chamber, while the copy of Grecian pomps, and festivals, and rites, is only from relics comparatively few, vague, and contradictory.
Yet the works of Thorwaldson's in this style are matchless, while in his bassi-rilievi generally he is pre-eminent: and he has, moreover, conceived and executed, some poetic subjects with equal felicity of fancy, and finish. Witness his Night, -his Hope-his Shepherd Boy.
But when we speak of Canova, we speak of one whose luxuriant, yet chastened, fancy seems to revel in purest regions of classic fiction :-of one who has embodied in the breathing marble all the dreams of the poets:-the sculptor of the Graces: -the artist we should deem selected by the Gods,
and Goddesses, of Olympus to recall their attributes, their perfections, their omnipotence, as acknowledged when Greece, and Rome, worshipped their potent sway.
Yet in the heroic, the tremendous, the colossal, he has also proved his power, and the terrific group of Hercules and Lichas will ever remain to show it.
In the serious, the solemn, the pious, where is grief more poignant, contrition more profound; mortality under anguish, and godhead combined, more divine; with affliction, or beauty, more soulstriking than in his Madonnas, Magdalens, and Christ? but when, descending from religion, or from the aerial regions of poetic creation, he evokes only feminine, existing, beauty, how fascinating! what combinations of charms and perfections! how nearly voluptuous, yet still, and ever, how chaste! Methinks, the fair sex owe him no little tribute for the homage he has paid to, and for the perfection with which he has chiseled, the beauties they are endowed with; and if, Pygmalion-like, my heated fancy could lead me to love the breathing marble, assuredly it were the nymphs of Canova.
PALACES AND PICTURES-DORIA-ROSPIGLIOSI, AND GUIDO'S AURORA-BARBERINI-COLONNA― SPADA, AND POMPEY'S STATUE-CHURCHES-ST. LAWRENCE IN LUCINA-ST. PETER IN VINCULIS-MICHAEL ANGELO'S MOSES, AND MIRACULOUS CHAINS-ST. COSMO AND ST. DAMIEN, WITH MIRACLE-TEMPLE OF REMUS-ST. JOHN LATERAN, AND OBELISK-CORSINI CHAPEL-HOLY RELICS-SACRED STAIRCASE, AND MODE OF ASCENT.
ROME abounds with palaces, most of which contain a gallery of works of art in sculpture and painting, and where all visitors are free to enter at certain hours, the only expence, or obligation, being a trifling fee to the custode who shows it.
Many of these palaces are of great extent, great architectural beauty, and well worthy of the name of palace; but how different, most generally, in other respects, is their appearance to an Englishman contrasted with those of his own country, the splendours, the luxuries, and the comforts of which residences of the English nobility form a national characteristic, and wherein they exceed immeasurably any continental nation. The Roman palaces seem cold, and deserted, perhaps oftener explored by strangers than by their noble possessors, whose limited incomes induce them to retire to comparative privacy; and in two of which, the Barberini, and the Spada, I was much grieved
when, after viewing their collections of art, the domestics showed us other rooms where pictures, and statues, were set out for sale.
But, be it remembered, that when we judge a range of rooms as cold, or destitute of those warm comforts which our northern climate imperiously demands, it were unfair to apply this criterion, without qualification, to an Italian residence, whose chief desideratum seems to be the freer current of air, the marble pavement, and the open terrace. However not to dwell on defects, but to proceed to beauties, I mean to particularize some of the chefs d'œuvré in each palace;-It were tiresome, and unmeaning, to hunt out different phrases, and epithets, to eulogise these, as such would convey no distinct idea to those who have not seen them: by simply naming them I evince my admiration of the art which created them, and preserve a more accurate recollection of the pre-eminent amid the variety of similar subjects.
Palazzo Doria.-On the Corso, and one of the handsomest in Rome; the princely inheritance of the descendant of that illustrious name.
Among many valuable pictures, I think that the two jewels of the collection are Claude's well-known landscapes, the Mill, and the Temple of Apollo. Rome does not pretend to boast, nor perhaps can the world produce, finer, yet softer, colours, and more glowing scenery in the style, and manner, of
this great artist than these. Their noble owner rejects every overture for their sale, and for them it is said that a distinguished English amateur and munificent patron of the fine arts, the late Earl of Bristol, had offered in vain an immense
Il Palazzo Rospigliosi. Built upon the ruins of the baths of Constantine, and containing several antique busts of Roman Emperors, with other relics brought to light from time to time by digging. On the ceiling of the grand saloon is that famous fresco of Guido, representing Aurora preceding the chariot of Apollo, or the Sun.
Among the few pre-eminent, surpassing, painters let me select Guido. For exquisite expression of perfect feminine beauty, taste, colour, grace; for all that can charm in painting; all that can satisfy the most critical eye, and strike the least conversant, his is the pencil. I presume not to lay down laws or rules of art; I speak only as I feel, and of Guido, I think I cannot speak adequately. This picture has been so well engraved that all must know the design, and expression. The figures are actually in buoyant motion. How gracefully the dancing Hours sail upon the ethereal skies! How proudly do the immortal coursers cleave the yielding clouds! No tie, or traces to the car, their fiery course restricted only with one rein guided by the beamy, refulgent, Lord of Day,