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on the SCULPTURE OF THE GREEKS. in every thing which respects the fine -Γενoιμαν
arts very different from ourselves; and Ιν' όλαεν έπεςι πονσε
we must endeavour to determine the
nature and the causes of their taste, Προβλημ’ αλικλυσον, άκραν
without allowing ourselves to be seΥπο πλακα Συνια
duced by the depravity of our own. Τας τερας πως προσet
The character of the individual was ποιμ’ αν 'Αθανάς.
(every thing among the Greeks. They Sophoclis Ajax, v. 1217.
cultivated his moral part, and they For the last two thousand years, a perfected his physical part, because few blocks of marble, cut in resem his physical and his moral qualities blance of the human body, have form- were alike necessary for the purposes ed the almost solitary subject of uni- of the state. The case is very differform opinion among all men, and ex- ent among modern nations. What cited, without qualification, the uni- signifies the beauty, or even the virtue versal admiration of the world. The of an individual, to the overgrown Romans took them from the Greeks, empires of the west ? Removed, as we and were not ashamed to confess them- are, to an inconceivable distance from selves overcome by the artists of a na the Greeks in our appreciation of the tion which they had subdued. In the model, it is no great wonder that we midst of wars and of triumphs, the should have little in common with nations of Modern Europe treat these them on the principles of the imitamarbles as they do cities and provinces tion. Much difficulty might have gain possession of them by victories, been spared us, had the numerous and cede them by treaties. The an- writings of the Greek artists descendcients who have written concerning ed to our hands; these, however, have them, speak of them, like ourselves, all perished in the lapse of centuries; in hyperbolical expressions of enthu- and a few scattered notices, gathered siasm; and by the general consent of from the allusions of their poets and Greeks, Romans, and Barbarians, these philosophers, are all that we have in master-pieces of art have been raised their room. Among the moderns, on to the rank of so many unfailing stand- the other hand, systems concerning ards, by a comparison with which the theory, as well as the practice, of alone the excellencies of the produce the arts,-on the essence of the beautitions of nature herself can be duly ful, on the ideal, and on the principles appreciated and admired. It is yet of imitation,-have been so multiplied, more wonderful, that though these that which ever side we take in any of admirable figures have for some cen these very difficult questions, we are turies been made the subject of un sure to meet with abundance of celeceasing imitation, they maintain to brated writers with whom we must this hour an undisputed superiority contend, and jealous opinions which over all the productions of the mo ve must either confute or reconcile. derns. We are never weary of ask Those authors who, in treating of ing, by what art they have been pro- the history of the arts, have recogduced --and this problem has never nized the superiority of the Greeks yet been entirely solved. In order to over their modern imitators, have geanswer it in a satisfactory manner, it nerally attributed this superiority to is not enough to shew wherein consists the influences of climate, of religion, the perfection of the ancient statues, of political liberty, of the facility with and by what rules of execution they which the naked figure was studied, have been rendered so perfect as they and the recompensés with which their are ; it is necessary to go deeper into artists were distinguished. They have the subject, and to examine what may thought that the genius, the physical have been the causes of this perfection; beauty, and a certain charm of characthat is to say, by what train of actions ter, which they regard as having been and opinions the Greeks arrived at the peculiar to the Greeks, were the proformation and realization of those duct of the temperature of their cliprinciples by which it has been pro- mate. They have said, that the veduced. To do this well, we must for- neration of the Greeks for the statues get our own habits and manners; we of their gods, and the majestic ideas must transport ourselves into Greece of religion, had elevated the imaginaherself-into the country of a people tion of artists above the sphere of Vol. I.
sense ; that the entire liberty which an astonishing circumstance, that with the Greeks enjoyed (that constant in a territory by no means extensive, source of all their revolutions and all and under the influence of a climate their jealousies) had spread abroad almost every where the same, the difamong them the seeds of noble and ferent states of Greece by no means subline sentiments; that the habit of cultivated the arts with the same zeal seeing the naked figure, a habit derived or the same suceess. Despised in not only from the nature of their public Crete, and proscribed at Sparta, they games, but even from the character of were never thought of in Arcadia, their ordinary costume, was of itself Achaia, Ætolia, Phocis, or Thessaly. sufficient to lead many to the imitation In Bæotia (in the native country of of the human body; and that, in fine, Hesiod, Pindar, and Corinna) they the honours with which the artists were proverbially disregarded and conwere signalized, and, above all the rest, temned. In Corinth, they remained the noble use which was made of their stationary in the second rank;—but atworks, by consecrating them as the re- tained, alike, the full consummation of compense of illustrious actions, must their glory in Sicyon and in Athens. have furnished to the enthusiasm of It must moreover be evident, that the their youth, at once opportunity and brilliant qualities which the Greeks impatience for distinction.
derived from the influence of their It is impossible to doubt that all climate, might have been as likely to these different causes have contributed lead them astray as to conduct them to the perfection of the artists. These aright. The poetical genius which was theories are, in many respects, full of habitual to them, was very far from justice and truth, but they involve, at resembling in every thing that which the same time, many errors, and it is the inspiration of painting and of is no difficult matter to detect the in- sculpture. These Athenians, in every sufficiency of the systems which they thing else so light, so imprudent, so would propose.
irascible, who alternately crowned and The history of the arts, in truth, exiled their great men—who slumwhether we compare Greeks with bered during peace, and formed vast Greeks, or Greeks with other nations, projects of empire in the midst of irpresents many phenomena which can reparable defeats,-shewed, in their only be explained by a great multipli- taste relative to the fine arts, a wisdom city of researches. In this study, as and a coolness which may be said to in that of the natural sciences, we form the exact reverse of their natural must be not unfrequently content to disposition. Faithfully attached to the make almost as many definitions as same principles, they avoided, during there are individuals.
a long course of ages, all error and all 1. The Greeks had received from novelty. Somewhere else, then, than the hand of nature a climate full of in the mere heat and effervescence of contrastsmasky sometimes of the pur- the Athenian blood, must we seek for est azure, sometimes surcharged with the causes of this firmness, and of the the most dark and the most tempestu- perfection to which it conducted. ous clouds-destructive winds—the 2. Although there may be some extremities of heat and cold-delight- ground for believing that the forms ful vallies, full of fertility and cultiva- of the human body were in general tion-and naked mountains, trod only more beautiful among the ancient by a few wandering goat-herds—ca- Greeks than they were among the verns full of deep mephitic vapours- greater part of modern nations, the freezing springs and boiling fountains, difference between them and us, in this all peopled with supernatural inhabito respect, could never have been so conants, by the superstitious fancy of the siderable as to have had any great inheroic times. The natural effects of fluence on the arts. The countries in these circumstances were an extreme- which these arts had made the greatly delicate and irritable organization, est progress, were by no means those a spirit active and curious, but capable which abounded in the most beautiful of every excess—a character change- models. “ Quotus enim quisque forable, turbulent, and passionate, alike mosus est ?” says Cicero: “ Athenis disposed to love, to vanity, and to suc cum essem, e grege epheborum vix sinperstition.
guli reperiebantur.” Phryne was of But, first of all, it must strike us as Thebes, Glycera of Thespis, Aspasio of
Miletus; and as we, to praise our fine than rude masses of stone, or ill-fawomen, call them Grecian beauties, the shioned pieces of timber. He adored, European Greeks were accustomed to at Mount Elaius, a horse-headed Cecall their mistresses Ionian beauties, res; at Phygalia, an Eurynome, who zaies es lours. Besides, the difficulty was half woman and half fish, like would be by no means resolved by the idol of the barbarians of Gath; this difference of form, even were it and at the temple of Ephesus itself, granted in its fullest extent; for I which was one of the seven wonders imagine there are few who will deny, of the world, a gigantic or hieroglythat the difference between our most phical monster, with nine or ten tiers handsome men and the most hand- of breasts. Civil usages and manners, some Athenian, is much less consider, and the general taste, had happily able than the difference between our more effect on the religion of Greece most beautiful statues and the master than that religion had upon them. pieces of the Greeks. Moreover, the But for the revolution which national Greeks had no models in nature for genius, taste, and the arts themselves, their architectural monuments: never- operated in the creed of the Greeks, theless, the same character,—the evi- that people, so celebrated for the beaudent product of the very same prin- ty of their gods, would have remainciples,-is displayed in their temples ed prostrate before the monsters of as in their statues ; and, equally as in the Nile, under the despotism of their them, it is to be seen in their vases, priests. The religion of the Greeks, in their furniture—and in the most moreover, is far from being the only common of their utensils.
one which has attributed to deities the 3. The same remarks may, with a forms of men. If this religion, by very little variation, be applied to their the poetical mystery which it involve religion, and to the facility of seeing ed, favoured the perfection of the arts, the naked figure. It was the virgins and lifted the imagination of the artof Sparta who were so much celebrated ists above the sphere of the senses, why for displaying their charms in the is it that the Christian religion propublic festivals, and yet the Spartans duces no similar effects ? Did the were no lovers of the arts. Shut up poetry or the religion of the Greeks within the impenetrable walls of their contain any thing more lofty and more apartments, the women of the other imposing than the imagery of the Grecian states did not appear even at Scriptures? The beauty of Angels is the Olympic games, and courtezans all that imagination can represent as were the only models of the artists. most admirable and most divine. MarOur artists, on the other hand, who tyrs, Prophets, and Apostles, are at see every day, without restraint, heads least equal in dignity with Philosoand hands of the most exquisite ele- phers, Fauns, and Pentathletæ. The gance, well worthy of the finest days dying resignation of the holy Stephen of Miletus or of Sparta, produce nei- is surely as good a subject as the exther heads nor hands which can bear piring shudder of a hireling gladiator. the most remote comparison with the Moses found lying among the bul. antique. As for the spirit of religion, rushes by the daughter of Pharoah, I confess I am greatly inclined to is as picturesque an incident as the banish it altogether from the number discovery of Edipus by the shepherds of those influences which were favour- of Cithæron. Samson was as strong able to the arts of Greece. Easily ex- as Milo; and many beauties are recited, and disposed for unquestioning corded in the Bible, who were at admiration, it is little fitted for the ex- least as worthy of the chisel of a Phiercise of a severe judgment; it becomes dias, as the Laises and the Elpinices every day more and more attached to of an Athenian brothel. its ancient idols, and adores in them 4. With regard to political liberty, less that which it sees in reality than we see in Greece, as every where else, what it believes is to be seen. The free people, who have rejected the devout Greek, who bowed himself at arts; and others, ruled by despots, who Olympus before the Jupiter of Phi- have cultivated them with the greatest dias, revered at Argos, at Thespis, success. Did the arts languish at and even in the bosom of Athens, fi- Sicyon, under Aristatus and the Cypures of J uno, of Venus, of the Graces, selides ; at Athens, under Hippias; and of Love, which were nothing more at Samos, under Polycrates ; at Syra
cuse, under Dionysius or Gelon? or its energy in the midst of those numewere the Spartans enslaved at the time rous states which had succeeded them. when they banished Timotheus ? and Their legislators had wished to make was it not from a free republic that use of this dangerous principle of Plato proposed to exclude both Homer emulation-none of them seems even and Phidias? But there are other to have endeavoured to destroy it. causes, concerning the power of which The laws of the different states were there can be less matter of dispute. different. Their characters, determinThe abundance and the beauty of the ed by those laws, were, in many infruits of the earth are the reward of stances, little similar, except in the the labours and the wisdom of the cul- jealousy and hatred with which they tivator, and the very same rule holds were mutually agitated against each concerning the productions of genius. other. But this very spirit of rival
5. It is an ancient maxim, written in ship, which entailed upon them so every page of the history of the world, many calamities, gave birth at the that honours are the food of the arts. same time to those prodigies of genius But honours, properly so called, that and art with which the world has so is, recompenses accorded to artists, long been astonished. Every thing are far from being of themselves suffi- had a definite character—every thing cient to conduct the arts to perfec. was great in a little space--because tion. The arts require subjects of every human faculty was developed exertion capable of inspiring noble by the contending passions of the ideas, and à sane inflexible theory, Greeks. We see wars by land and which the general taste has sanctioned wars by settarmies and fleets rapidly and protects, and which is above being destroyed and incessantly renewed altered or impaired by the fluctuation victories at which we cannot too much of individual opinion. In order to wonder-and historians still more wonappreciate the causes of their progress derful. It seems to us, in reading the and of their decline, and most of all history of Attica, Beotia, and the Pelthose of their absence, in climates the oponnesus, that we are occupied with most favourable—in the midst ofriches, that of some immense territory, or raof intelligence, and even of liberty it- ther of the whole world. self-we must principally examine One great line of distinction among
hether, in the countries under our the Greeks was that, never altogether present observation, they were so hon- forgotten, of their various origination. oured and protected, or altogether The Dorians and the Ionians never abandoned to their own exertions; ceased to regard each other as different whether they were enslaved or left at people. The one were proud of their liberty; whether they were reduced ancient conquest-the other of their to flatter the tastes of private frivolity, yet more ancient liberty and civilizaor directed by the government itself to tion. Sparta was the patroness of the the public utility, and the glory of the Doric states, and of oligarchy; Athens state. These causes are more power of the Ionians, and democracy. These ful than climate, or riches, or peace, unhappy divisions, fomented by interor liberty; but these causes are depen- nal ambition and external violence dent on the will of legislatures. It by Persia in the first instance, next becomes then matter of the highest by Macedon, and last of all by the interest, to examine by what motives treacherous policy and the overwhelm. certain legislatures of Greece were in- ing force of Rome seemed to increase duced to make the arts the subject of in strength as Greece advanced in her their most anxious solicitude, while decline, and never terminated but in among so many of their neighbours her ruin. It is evident, that in this they were altogether neglected or pro- constant opposition of spirits and of scribed.
interests, the arts could by no means In the first place, the Greeks are not be every where appreciated in the more celebrated for the masterpieces of same manner. Aristotle reckons up no art, than for the unequalled series less than one hundred and fifty-eight of their political dissensions. That various forms of government, which spirit of rivalship, which had so long had existed, or which still existed, in agitated their petty hordes in the first Greece in his own days. It is evident, ages of their history, lost nothing of that the arts, not being equally neces
sary in all these governments, could not general spirit of the people. Compossibly receive in them all the same merce is the parent of many evils, to degree of favour.
which antidotes must be discovered. Again-the difference of local posi- It instigates to luxury; it polishes tion divided the Greeks into two class- the manners, and it corrupts them. es; those who applied themselves to Rich in moveable property, its ten, commerce, and those who did not. dency is to make all men cosmopoThe one honoured it because it was lites. Such, at least, was the opinion necessary to their existence; the other of the Greek philosophers, and the despised it as useless to themselves, severity of their doctrines on this head and exaggerated the inconveniences is well known. The arts, said they, which sometimes attend its extension. are necessary in commercial countries, Commerce would never have been not only in respect to their manufacadapted for the haughty Thessalians, tures, for the enlightening and direcBæotians, and Spartans. It was not tion of the taste,-but, in a moral the detail of commerce alone which point of view, for the animation of these men condemned, but commerce virtue and of patriotism. To decorate in its most general and liberal form our native country with superb monuas the parent of factitious and dan- ments of art—to embellish the pubgerous wealth.
The states whose lic festivals—to immortalize illustrious territory was poor, looked on com- actions and to place before the eyes merce as a mean of increasing their of the people the true and undegraded power; those, again, which were fa- images of purity and beauty,—is at voured by nature, could see in it only once to ennoble the ideas of men,--to a principle of danger and destruction. excite and nourish national pride and
It seems to be a very general opi- enthusiasm,--and to plant the most nion, that commerce and the fine arts generous of passions in the room of are inseparately connected: neverthe- meanness and cupidity. less, in reviewing the history of the Plato rejected from his republic both most celebrated commercial cities, it commerce and the arts; but it was is impossible not to observe, that these with a very important restriction. “If two sources of wealth have by no commerce must be introduced into our means been in every instance united. republic,” says he, “it is necessary that Commerce, in fact, when left to follow the arts come with it ; that so, by beits own proper inclinations, is little holding every day the masterpieces of attentive to the fine arts,-or rather painting, sculpture, and architecture, appears to be wholly, ignorant of the full of grace and purity in all their important benefits which may be de- proportions, dispositions least inclined rived from their cultivation. The in- for the perception of elegance may terests which occupy the mind of the be, as it were, removed into a purer trader, are too important to admit of and more healthy atmosphere,—and any such participation. Surrounded learn, by degrees, a taste for the by his merchandise and his ledgers, it beautiful--the becoming and the deis not always an easy matter for him licate. They will learn to observe, to lift his view towards the higher with accuracy, what is lovely or deregions of taste and intellect. Who, fective in the works of art and of nabesides, would be willing to devote ture; and this happy rectitude of himself to long and painful studies, judgment will become a second nature -to labours which are little lucrative, to their souls."* But in what reand as little esteemed, when he has gards governments, the same favour so many means of fortune in his will be granted to the fine arts—there power, and sees every day the com- only where the same benefits are exparative promptitude and facility, pected to accrue from their cultivawith which commercial wealth is re tion. Their object is to make men alized ? If the arts then prosper in love their country by the attraction commercial cities, they are far from of honourable recompenses; how then doing so by the mere effect of the re
can they be useful in an oligarchy? finement of commercial men. The If they are there employed, it is alparticular vigilance, on the contrary, ways with regret. Immense edifices and unremitting care of the legislature, are sometimes built; but there are are necessary; and these, not unfrequently, in total opposition to the
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