The ancients seldom, I believe, chose ludicrous subjects; or only inferior artists in brass or metal, were accustomed to this lower style, the grotesque. But the Dancing Fawn does not come under this description: it is allied with their mythology, similar to their basso relievos of fawns, satyrs, and bacchantes, and is rather to be designated by the word sportive, than ludicrous. This statue is perhaps the most exquisite piece of art of all that remains of the ancients. The torso is the finest that can be imagined, the serrated muscle upon the ribs, the pectoral muscle of the breast, the bulk of the shoulder, the swell of the bended chest, the setting on of the trunk upon the flank, the swell of the abdominal muscle above the haunch-bone, the forms of the thigh, and the manner in which its tendons meet the knee, the flatness and nakedness of the rotula, and the fine forms of the head of the tibia, the simple and perfect forms of the legs, the fine joinings of the anclebones, and the exquisite finish of the tendons of the feet, and flat points of the toes, make this a perfect and perpetual study. But there is that in it which might spoil an artist’s conceptions. It is all true, but all too much. If it were used as a study, it would serve to correct and purify; suiting well as an anatomical figure, to ascertain the forms, or suggest them; and a good artist, even from this little, dancing, drunken fawn, little and curious as it is, might draw a warrior’s limbs in a grand and noble style; the anatomy of the parts would help him to individual forms, if studied judiciously, although, without care and taste, it would obstruct all high conceptions of genius. It is adventurous indeed to differ from so great a master as Michael Angelo, who, when he restored it, must have studied the subject well, and who is even said to have taken the idea of the head and arms from an antique gem. He has given round and fleshy forms to a shrunk and somewhat aged figure, evidently intended for the caricature of drunkenness and folly; having mistaken the design, which is assuredly that of a drunken old fawn, balancing with inebriety, rather than dancing with glee. The limbs are all in a strained and staggering attitude. The action arises not from the exertion of dancing, but from the loss of balance, and a desire to pre-serve it. The whole body inclines forward in a reeling posture; and there must have been a proportioned bend backwards of the head, to counterbalance the inclination of the trunk. The hands dangling forwards, the chin protruded, the head thrown back, and the tongue lolling out, in drollery or drunkenness, would have rendered the expression corresponding with the general character of the figure. Buonarroti has given too fresh and full a face for this shrunk, meagre, and dried-up body, which, being without a particle of fat, or any covering of skin, is almost an anatomical figure. We find in it nothing of the round well-nourished limbs, nor of the blood or fleshiness of youth, nor any aptitude for dancing. Instead of the dancing, it should be the drunken fawn. The ancients give many dancing figures, especially in basso relievos; but the forms are always long in limb, yet full of flesh, and round, to show the supple and limber form of youth, combined with all the vigorous bending and elastic spring of the body.
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