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tell to future ages the national mind
In his twentieth year, Mr Chan-
His application was great, and his
Sometime in 1810, he fixed his re-
to the living image, and the power and
A curious circumstance had nearly
his ardour; and the power of imagining something noble and original is swallowed up in the contemplation. This may be true of second-rate minds; but the master-spirits rise up to an equality of rank, and run the race of excellence in awe, and with ardour. French sculpture profited little by the admirable models which the sweeping ambition of Bonaparte reft from other nations. The inordinate vanity of the nation, and the pride of the reigning family, encouraged sculpture to an unlimited extent. Yet with all the feverish impatience for distinction which rendered that reign remarkable, not a single figure was created that deserves to go down to posterity. The French have no conception of the awful repose and majesty of the ancient figures, and into native grace and simple elegance they never deviate. Their grave and austere matrons are the tragic dames of the drama, and their virgins the dancing damsels of the opera.
On Mr Chantrey's return from France, he modelled his famous group of Children, now placed in Lichfield Cathedral, and certainly a work more opposite to the foreign style could not well be imagined. The sisters lie asleep in each other's arms, in the most unconstrained and graceful repose; the snow-drops, which the youngest had plucked, are undropped from her hand. Never was sleep, and innocent and artless beauty, more happily expressed. It is a lovely and a fearful thing to look on those beautiful and breathless images of death. They were placed in the exhibition by the side of the Hebe and Terphsicore of Canovathe goddesses obtained few admirers compared to them. So eager was the press to see them, that a look could not always be obtained-mothers stood over them and wept; and the deep impression they made on the public mind must be permanent.
A work of such pathetic beauty, and finished with such exquisite skill, is an unusual sight, and its reward was no common one. The artist received various orders for poetic figures and groups, and the choice of the subject was left to his own judgment. Such commissions are new to English sculpture. The work selected for Lord Egremont has been made publicly known-a colossal figure of Satan: The sketch has been some time finished; and we may soon expect to see the fiend invested with the visible and aw
ful grandeur of his character. A subject selected from Christian belief is worthy of a Christian people. A guardian angel, a just man made perfect, must be dearer to us than all the dumb gods of the heathens. They exist in our faith and our feeling-we believe they watch over us, and will welcome our translation to a happier state. But the gods of the Greeks have not lived in superstition these eighteen hundred years. We do not feel for them-we do not love them, neither do we fear them. What is Jupiter to us, or we to Jupiter. They are not glorious by association with Paradise, like our angels of light-nor terrible, like those of darkness. We are neither inspired by their power, nor elevated by their majesty. Revelling among forgotten gods has long been the reproach of sculptors. The Christian world has had no Raphaels in marble.
A devotional statue of Lady St Vincent is a work created in the artist's happiest manner. The figure is kneeling-the hands folded in resignation over the bosom-the head gently and meekly bowed, and the face impressed deeply with the motionless and holy composure of devotion. All attempt at display is avoided-a simple and negligent drapery covers the figure. It is now placed in the chancel of Caverswell-church, in Staffordshire.
Along with many other productions, his next important work was a statue of Louisa Russel, one of the Duke of Bedford's daughters. The child stands on tiptoe, with delight fondling a dove in her bosom, an almost breathing and moving image of arch-simplicity and innocent grace. It is finished with the same felicity in which it is conceived. The truth and nature of this figure was proved, had proof been necessary, by a singular incident. A child of three years old came into the study of the artist it fixed its eyes on the lovely marble child-went and held up its hands to the statue, and called aloud and laughed with the evident hope of being attended to. This figure is now at Woburn-abbey, in company with a group of the Graces from the chisel of Canova.
Many of Mr Chantrey's finest busts belong to this period. His head of John Rennie, the civil-engineer, is by many reckoned his masterpiece; and we have heard that the sculptor seems not unwilling to allow it that preference. Naturally it is a head of evident exten
sive capacity and thought, and to ex press these the artist has had his gifted moments. A head of the great Watt, is of the same order.
Sometime in the year 1818, he was made a member of the Royal Society, a member of the Society of Antiquaries, and finally a member of the Royal Academy. To the former he presented a marble bust of their president, Sir Joseph Banks-a work of much power and felicity; and to the latter he gave, as the customary admission proof of genius, a marble bust of Benjamin West. The tardy acknowledgment of his talents, by the Royal Academy, has been the frequent subject of conversation and surprise. Institutions to support or reward the efforts of genius may be salutary; for they can cherish what they cannot create; but they seem to take away the charm or spell of inspiration which artists are presumed to share in common with poets. The magic of art seems reduced to the level of a better kind of manufactory, in which men serve an apprenticeship, and try to study "The art unteachable untaught." Genius too, is wayward, and its directors may be capricious-they may be wedded to some particular system-may wish to lay the line and level of their own tastes, and their own works, to those of more gifted minds, and by pedantic and limited definitions of sculpture; confine their honours to those who worship their rules. They were slow in honouring their academy; and in all the compass of art, they could not have admitted one who deserved it more, or who needed it less, than Francis Chantrey.
In 1818, he produced the statue of Dr Anderson, which, for unaffected ease of attitude, and native and unborrowed and individual power of thought, has been so much admired. The figure is seated, and seems in deep and grave meditation. When
we look at the statues of this artist, we think not of art, but of nature. Constrained and imposing theatrical postures, make no part of his taste. All his figures stand or sit with a natural and dignified ease; and they are all alike remarkable for the truth and felicity of their portraits, and the graceful simplicity of their garb. The Statue of Anderson has been esteemed y many as the most masterly of all is large works; and we have heard
him make something very like such an admission himself. But the subject, though an eminent and venerable man, is by no means so interesting as that of the famous Two Children. The very circumstances of the untimely death of two such innocent and lovely beings, is deeply affecting, and the power of association, a matter for meditation to all artists, is too strong for the statue, admirable as that production is. In the same year, he placed the statues of Blair and Melville in Edinburgh, and was treated by the people of Scotland with great kindness and distinction.
In the following year, he made a journey, which he had long meditated, through Italy. Rome, Venice, and Florence, were the chief places of attraction; but he found leisure to examine the remains of art in many places of lesser note. He returned through France, and arrived in London, after an absence of eighteen weeks. Of the works of Canova, he speaks and writes with a warmth and an admiration he seeks not to conceal. These two gifted artists are on the most friendly terms, "Above all modern art in Rome," he thus writes to a friend, "Canova's works are the chief attractions. His latter productions are of a far more natural and exalted character than his earlier works; and his fame is wronged by his masterly statues which are now common in England. He is excelling in simplicity and in grace every day. An Endymion for the Duke of Devonshire, a Magdalen for Lord Liverpool, and a Nymph are his latest works and his best. There is also a noble eques trian statue of the King of Naplesthe revolutions of its head have kept pace with those of the kingdom. A poet in Rome has published a book of Sonnets, on Canova's works, each production has its particular sonnet-of their excellence I can give you no information.'
Such is the account given by our illustrious Englishman, of the productions of the famous Roman; but there is a kindness, a generosity, an extreme tenderness about the minds of men of high genius, when they speak of the works of each other, which must not glow on the page of stern and candid criticism. The character of Canova's works seems neither very natural nor original. What Phidias and the im
FRANCIS CHANTREY, SCULPTOR.
A MAN of genius and taste, Gray the poet, lamented that his native country had made no advance in sculpture. This reproach has been removed, and removed too by a masterly hand. Those who wish to trace the return of English sculpture from the foreign artificial and allegorical style, to its natural and original character-from cold and conceited fiction to tender and elevated truth, will find it chiefly in the history of Francis Chantrey and his productions. Of him, and of them, we shall try to render some account. For it is instructive to follow the progress of an original and powerful mind, from the rudeness of its early conceptions, till it comes forth with native and unborrowed might in creations of grace, and beauty, and dignity.
Francis Chantrey was born at Norton, a small village on the borders of Derbyshire, on the 7th of April, 1782. His ancestors were in respectable if not opulent circumstances, and some heritable possessions still belong to the family. He was deprived of his father very early in life, and being an only child, was educated by his mother with abundance of tenderness and solicitude. He attended the school at Norton-but of his progress there, we have been unable to obtain any particular account. Education and agriculture shared his time between them till his seventeenth year; and a farmer's education is not always the most liberal. About this time he became weary of the pursuits of his forefathers, and resolved to study the law under a respectable solicitor at Sheffield. Whether this was his own choice or that of his relations we have not learned, and it matters not, for another destiny awaited him. To accident, we owe much of what we are willing to attribute to our wisdom; and, certainly to pure accident, we owe whatever delight we have received from the productions of Mr Chantrey.
During the hours of intermission from labour at the farm, and instruc tion at the school, he had amused himVOL. VI.
self in making resemblances of various objects in clay, and to this employment he was much attached. But his affection thus early shown for art was but a matter of amusement-he calculated as little of the scope it presented to the ambition of genius, as he was unconscious that it was the path which nature had prepared for his fame. The day named for commencing his new profession arrived, and with the usual eagerness of youth for novelty, he reached Sheffield a full hour sooner than his friends had appointed to meet him. As he walked up and down the street, expecting their coming, his attention was attracted by some figures in the window of one Ramsay, a carver and gilder. He stopped to examine them, and was not without those emotions which original minds feel in seeing something congenial. He resolved at once to become an artist; and perhaps, even then, associated his determination with those ideas and creations of beauty from which his name is now inseparable. Common wonder is fond of attributing the first visible impulse of any extraordinary mind to some singular circumstance, but nothing can be better authenticated than the fact which decided the destiny of his talents. What his friends thought of his sudden resolution it is useless to inquire-we have heard that they did not condole with him, like the illustrious Burns over the pursuits of Fergusson:
"Thy glorious parts
Ill suited laws dry musty arts." The labours in which Ramsay employed him were too limited for his powers; his hours of leisure were therefore dedicated to modelling and drawing, and he always preferred copying nature. He had no other idea of style but that with which nature supplied him he had his own notions of art and of excellence to rough-hew for himself, and the style and character he then formed, he pursues with success now. These we have learned were much more pleasant speculations to him than to Ramsay, who, incensed