Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

arbitrary and conventional. The sculptor employs the representation of the thing itself; but still as a means to a higher end,-as a gradual ascent, always advancing towards faultless form and perfect beauty. It may be thought at the first view, that even this form, however perfectly represented, is to be valued and takes its rank only for the sake of a still higher object, that of conveying sentiment and character, as they are exhibited by attitude, and expression of the passions. But we are sure from experience, that the beauty of form alone, without the assistance of any other quality, makes. of itself a great work, and justly claims our esteem and admiration As a proof of the high value we set on the mere excellence of form, we may produce the greatest part of the works of Michael Angelo, both in painting and sculpture ; as well as most of the antique statues, which are justly esteemed in a very high degree, though no very marked or striking character or expression of any kind is represented.

But, as a stronger instance that this excellence alone inspires sentiment, what artist ever looked at the Torso without feeling a warmth of enthusiasm, as from the highest efforts of poetry? From whence does this proceed? What is there in this fragment that produces this effect, but the perfection of this science of abstract form ?

A mind elevated to the contemplation of excellence, perceives in this defaced and shattered frag

...

ment, disjecta membra poetæ, the traces of superlative genius, the reliques of a work on which succeeding ages can only gaze with inadequate admiration. ...

It may be said that this pleasure is reserved only to those who have spent their whole life in the study and contemplation of this art; but the truth is, that all would feel its effects, if they could divest themselves of the expectation of deception, and look only for what it really is, a partial representation of nature... The only impediment of their judgment must then proceed from their being uncertain to what rank, or rather kind of excellence, it aspires; and to what sort of approbation it has a right. This state of darkness is, without doubt, irksome to every mind; i but by attention to works of this kind, the knowledge of what is aimed at comes of itself, without being taught, and almost without being perceived.

The sculptor's art is limited in comparison of others, but it has its variety and intricacy within its proper bounds. Its essence is correctness: 'and when to correct and perfect form is added the ornament of grace, dignity of character, and appropriated expression, as in the Apollo, the Venus, the Laocoon, the Moses of Michael Angelo, and many others, this art may be said to have accomplished its purpose. .

What Grace is, how it is to be acquired or conceived, are, in speculation, difficult questions ; but causa latet, res est notissima: without any perplexing inquiry, the effect is hourly perceived. I shall only observe, that its natural foundation is correctness of design ; and though grace may be sometimes united with incorrectness, it cannot proceed from it.

But to come nearer to our present subject. It has been said that the grace of the Apollo depends on a certain degree of incorrectness; that the head is not anatomically placed between the shoulders ; and that the lower half of the figure is longer than just proportion allows. · I know that Corregio and Parmegiano are often produced as authorities to support this opinion; but very little attention will convince us, that the incorrectness of some parts which we find in their works, does not contribute to grace, but rather tends to destroy it. The Madonna, with the sleeping Infant, and beautiful group of angels, by Parmegiano, in the Palazzo Piti, would not have lost any of its excellence, if the neck, fingers, and indeed the whole figure of the Virgin, instead of being so very long and incorrect, had preserved their due proportion.

In opposition to the first of these remarks, I have the authority of a very able sculptor of this academy, who has copied that figure, consequently measured and carefully examiped it, to declare, that the criticism is not true. In regard to the last, it must be remembered that Apollo is here in the exertion of one of his peculiar powers, which is

VOL. II.

swiftness; he has therefore that proportion which is best adapted to that character. This is no more incorrectness, than when there is given to an Hercules an extraordinary swelling and strength of muscles.

The art of discovering and expressing grace is difficult enough of itself, without perplexing ourselves with what is incomprehensible. A supposition of such a 'monster as grace, begot by deformity, is poison to the mind of a young artist, and may make him neglect what is essential to his art, correctness of design, in order to pursue a phantom, which has no existence but in the imagination of affected and refined speculators.

I cannot quit the Apollo, without making one obo servation on the character of this figure. He is supposed to have just discharged his arrow at the Python : and, by the head retreating a little towards the right shoulder, he appears attentive to its effect. What I would remark is, the difference of this attention from that of the Discobulus, who is engaged in the same purpose, watching the effect of his discus. The graceful, negligent, though animated, air of the one, and the vulgar eagerness of the other, furnish a signal instance of the judgment of the ancient sculptors in their nice discrimination of character. They are both equally true to nature, and equally admirable.

It may be remarked, that grace, character, and expression, though words of different sense and

swiftness; he has therefore that proportion which is best adapted to that character. This is no more incorrectness, than when there is given to an Hercules an extraordinary swelling and strength of muscles.

The art of discovering and expressing grace is difficult enough of itself, without perplexing ourselves with what is incomprehensible. A supposition of such a 'monster as grace, begot by deformity, is poison to the mind of a young artist, and may make him neglect what is essential to his art, correctness of design, in order to pursue a phantom, which has no existence but in the imagination of affected and refined speculators.

I cannot quit the Apollo, without making one observation on the character of this figure. He is supposed to have just discharged his arrow at the Python : and, by the head retreating a little towards the right shoulder, he appears attentive to its effect. What I would remark is, the difference of this attention from that of the Discobulus, who is engaged in the same purpose, watching the effect of his discus. The graceful, negligent, though animated, air of the one, and the vulgar eagerness of the other, furnish a signal instance of the judgment of the ancient sculptors in their nice discrimination of character. They are both equally true to nature, and equally admirable.

It may be remarked, that grace, character, and expression, though words of different sense and

« ForrigeFortsett »