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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 ποντο
we must endeavour to determine the Προβλημ’ αλικλυσον, άκραν
nature and the causes of their taste,
without allowing ourselves to be se Υποπλακα Συνια
duced by the depravity of our own. Τας ιερας 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 unic 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 recompenses 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 whát 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 sublime 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 slum, whether 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 contrasts
ma sky sometimes of the pure 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.
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 inhabit- 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 su- 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-fa
one which has attributed to deities the
cuse, under Dionysius or Gelon? or its energy in the midst of those nume. were 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 suffic 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 segarmies 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, Bæotia, and the Pelthose of their absence, in climates the oponnesus, that we are occupied with most favourable—in the midst of riches, 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 whether, 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 overwhelmcertain 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 meaus 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 posiIt 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 tencommerce, 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 direcBaotians, 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 pubThe 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 opie 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
* De Rep. L. viii.