Naples – Beautiful Venus Callipygus

This exquisite piece of statuary was found on the site of Nero’s Golden House near the Palatine Hill at Rome. It was sadly marred when first brought to light, and the right leg, left arm and hand, also the head, are restorations. If you examine the work carefully, you may see where the plaster repairs join the marble of the statue. Notwithstanding the destruction which made these additions necessary, the statue is one of the most graceful and lovely in the entire museum, which is rich in antique sculpture, both bronze and marble, and retains, in this twentieth century, the same wealth of faultless beauty that it displayed in the first century, when it stood admired and treasured in Nero’s Golden House.

The different objects in the museum are being constantly changed about to suit some new plan of arrangement, but as these statues now stand they are as follows :

Back of this famous Venus Callipygus is a Faun carrying the boy Bacchus on his shoulders. That is a charming work of Greek genius from the Farnese collection at Rome. The Faun, a light and airy figure, seems scarcely to touch the ground, which he spurns with the tip of his toes as he sways to the music of the cymbals which he holds in his hands. His laughing countenance is turned toward the boy, who grasps with one hand the Faun’s hair to prevent his falling, and with the other he holds out a bunch of grapes with a roguish and playful air, at the same time looking down into the Faun’s merry face with a charming and affectionate expression which is beautiful to behold.

Back of the dancing Faun is a torso (a headless and limbless trunk) from a reproduction of the seated Ares Ludovisi at Rome.

Back of this is a most remarkable work of art, long thought to represent Agrippina, the wife of Germanicus, but this designation art criticism has compelled us to abandon. The figure is that of a Roman lady who sits in a cushioned chair and who is of an unpretentious but beautiful form ; her position is easy, graceful and dignified ; her hands are clasped and rest supinely in her lap ; the drapery is finely executed, and reveals rather than conceals the beauty of the figure.

“She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells, A perfect form in perfect rest.”

Back of this Roman lady is seen a finely executed and artistic statue of Adonis, from the amphitheater of Capua. The figure has an easy yet elegant pose, and is so splendidly proportioned that it touches the emotions of the beholder like a delicate yet rapturous strain of music.

Back of Adonis you may detect, in the shadow, the equestrian statue of M. Nonius Balbus, praetor and pro-consul, which was found in the Basilica of Herculaneum.

To the right of the Venus Callipygus is seen the beautiful bust of Homer, which is without doubt the finest of all the representations of the-great poet, and which is one of the loftiest and noblest achievements of Greek art. To have taken an old blind man as a subject and then to work into the cold marble such intellectual power, such luminous insight, such sub-lime inspiration, coupled with the serene and placid expression that usually characterizes the blind, is the mark of transcendent genius.

The first figure seen to the left of the Venus represents AEschines, the Athenian orator, who lived in 350 B. C. He was the champion of Philip of Macedon against Demosthenes. The statue was found in the House of the Papyri at Herculaneum. It is a fine production of high Greek art, the figure being admirable in its oratorical pose and in the disposal of the drapery.

To the left of the orator is a statue of Pallas, an excellent and ancient work of art brought from Velletri; and beyond this is a statue of Juno; while next to this, and seen but imperfectly beyond the right limb of the Faun, is the torso of Bacchus, a genuine Greek work of the highest merit.

Contemplating this hall of ancient masterpieces filled with the immortal gems of resplendent genius, that, for long centuries, were buried in the earth, and now are once more bathed in the light of day, we wonder why it is that the visions of beauty that floated before the minds of the ancients seem ever to elude the men of our day; and we long for the coming once more of the geniuses of that far time, the men of kingly thought and execution who, at the chisel point, could almost make stone breathe and cold marble blend into living grace and beauty and glow like human flesh. Will they ever come again, such souls as these, or have they left the earth forever?

“When will the hundred summers die, And thought and time be born again, And newer knowledge, drawing nigh, Bring truth that sways the souls of men? Here, all things in their place remain, As all were ordered ages since. Come, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain, And bring the fated fairy Prince.”

Let us now step into another room and view a group of statuary which is one of the most famous, and is believed by many to be the greatest, in the world.