Bacchus and Ampelos. I would distinguish this as an elegant group, particularly happy in that delicate and fleshy turn of the body, which nature gives, and marble almost always wants, for statues are very generally finished like portraits, from one view; but these figures turn elegantly and easily, as if the result of many combined views. The countenances are sweet and gentle, the persons slender and elegant, with much nature, and no apparent anatomy.
Cupid;a fair, full, fleshy, round boy, in fine and sportive action, tossing back a heart. But the arm is miserably restored.
A Juno; head superb, the features fine, the expression noble, although severe, and in which something of discontent may be read; the full face is rather heavy, but the profile is truly grand. Statuary should always be round and full; whenever it is minute in its forms, or sharp in outline, even in features, in the eye lids, or in hair, it is unpleasing, and seems poor and common.
Cupid and Psyche. The grouping of the two figures is most exquisite.
Neptune The head is vulgar and ragged: vulgar, from a contracted cunning expression about the eyes; and ragged, from the manner of treating the hair, viz. pointed and uniform.
Ganymede. Small, beautiful, and exquisite as the subject requires; it is wonderfully full and round for an eighteen-inch statue. The head is not well restored; it is the work of Benvenuto Cellini, and, contrary to the usual excellence of that master, we find in the nicely blacked pupil of the eye, and various curling of the hair of this Ganymede, more of the finical littleness of the goldsmith than the taste of the artist.
Genius of Death. A mourning angel, very fine; the expression touching and melancholy.
Bust of Antinous; very fine. The size and manner colossal, the hair rude and neglected, composed of massive short locks; the expression mournful.
A Bust; most singularly fine. It is a portrait, with all the truth of a portrait, but without the quaintness. It is exquisitely finished; the hair treated in a most original manner, the beard equally fine. It is wonderful that the history of such a head should not be known.
The Infant Hercules strangling the Serpents. This is a foolish, impracticable, and unpleasing subject; it may suit poetry, but makes execrable statuary; for, although it may be possible for Hercules, the son of Jupiter, to have attained strength to grapple even with a lion, it is impossible to conceive infant strength struggling with serpents, or at least it is impossible to represent such a group with effect. This Infant Hercules is here regarded as one of the finest specimens of antiquity, and by common consent pronounced exquisite. But I cannot agree to this; and not only quarrel with the subject, but with the statue as a work, the whole figure, in my opinion, presenting only inflated, tumid, and shape less forms. It appears that the torso is the only portion which is indisputably antique.
The Jupiter It is singular, although perhaps arising only from the attempt to represent serenity; but the countenance of this statue has much of the expression usually appropriated to our Saviour. This work is much esteemed. It is unquestionably fine, and possesses much grandeur of idea. It has, however, many faults. The forms are too large, the effect of the whole is formal, and the hair heavy and voluminous. If, how-ever, they needs must have a parent god of this size, this may be very good.
The Bust of Alexander. The hair is finely treated in short hard locks.
Gan with the lyre. This Pan, however much it has been praised, is a most wretched figure. It is not hirsute all over, but feathered only on the hips. The shoulders and back show the most absurd use of anatomy; the artist affecting much science, has, notwithstanding, displaced, and even miscounted the ribs; but the posture and action are both good. Statuaries very often fail in the junction of the loins to the body; they do not know how high the haunch-bone comes, and that the navel is opposite to the cresta ilei. There is a strange fault of this kind in Bandinelli’s dead Christ, which becomes slender in the middle like the body of a wasp.
Mercury, very fine. The Phrygian bonnet, hair, and all are excellent, the body finely formed, and the limbs exquisite. In this Deity the ancient artists have best succeeded.
Agrippina This statue I ever contemplate with renewed admiration; the forms are exquisite, the inclination of the head and neck, the cast of the whole person, the marking of the knees by the fall of the drapery between them, the posture of the right hand, and the graceful ease of the leaning arm, with the richness of the fringes of the drapery, which descend to the feet, are very beautiful. The whole has sweetness, grandeur, richness, and delicacy of work. The original must be very precious; but this, although a copy, is likewise an antique.
The Athlete with the perfumed Vase; very fine, displaying much simplicity of character, and roundness of limb, united to great bulk of muscle and squareness of bones. The clavicles especially are well expressed, and every portion of the work is superior. The shoulders are admirably and delicately rounded, the rotula very square, the tibia clearly defined, the ancle beautiful, being strongly, but not coarsely pronounced. The whole carriage of the body possesses ease and grace, united with every characteristic expression of strength and energy, with varied action and beauty of posture, such as the happiest dancer or actor could hardly imitate. The figure bends a little forward, looking with curiosity and pleasure upon the vase, having a gentle inclination on one side, to balance the body, and on the other to sup-port the vase, the vase making a fine connexion betwixt the two hands. In such subjects, and in such direct portraits, the ancients seldom failed, and it is in such points that we discern the peculiar excellence of statuary, as distinguished from painting.
There are four athletic figures in the gallery, fine, but not equal to this which I have described; they are rather coarse, but still display much of the grandeur and simplicity of nature, combined with the characteristic attributes belonging to this cast.
The draped Uranias, &c. are not worth criticising; they are not deserving of a place in this gallery. Bresciano thought all kinds of motion and expression might be intimated by the flowing of the garments;a theory which has weighed down many an unfortunate statue with heavy loads of drapery. It is indisputable, that unless an artist can bear in mind the precise form of the limbs he is encircling, he cannot drape his figure with effect, nor even with any portion of grace.
The Bacchus of Michael Angelo; superb, although touched more with the grandeur characterizing the sublimity of that great artist, than the gay, pleasant, care-less, debonair spirit, applicable to this God of Joyousness.
Two statues of Esculapius; the second is good. The countenance possesses a certain grandeur of cast, which, although mingled with something of severity in the expression, is dignified and noble. The drapery flows with much simplicity and grace. This statue seems to have been one of a group probably with Hygeia, something of the forms of a female hand being to be traced on the left shoulder.
Laocoon, the Priest of Apollo. This work, to my feelings, is a caricature representation of a subject in itself equally unpleasing and shocking. It is as if an artist should undertake to represent, as a public spectacle, the tortures of the Inquisition. I can never contemplate this group without something of horror, mingled with disgust; and I also think that much of the interest that it might command is destroyed, from the forms of the two youths, whose countenances and make, instead of exhibiting the charm and helplessness so touching in childhood, resemble only diminutive men.* This statue was copied
I am fully aware, in these criticisms, of the temerity of opposing the general suffrage in favour of this group. In other works of art (even among the most from the original in the Vatican, by Bandinelli, and brought to Florence in the year 1550. It was much injured in the memorable fire of the year 1762. It is not well restored; the right arm, in particular, is so badly executed, that it seems as if the arm of the statue had been made of wood, turned in a lathe, and stained to resemble the other parts. How rarely are even the greatest artists successful in restoring !
The Discobolus; this statue is executed in a grand style, the action and anatomy good. He was once numbered among the Niobes; but on his real character being discovered, he was dismissed. The Mars, with the Silenus and Young Bacchus, are noble copies of the antique.
The Hermaphrodite; a most exquisite statue. The figure is recumbent, lying on the skin of a lion; the posture is full of nature; the supple elegant turning of the body, the finely-formed bosom, the rounded limbs, admirable,) we encounter a diversity of judgment, but of this piece only one opinion seems to prevail. Virgil represents the brother of Anchises as howling wider his agony with all the force and strength of a bull dragged to sacrifice, while, in the hands of the sculptor, his mouth is closed, he writhes in silent anguish, undoubtedly a more dignified picture of suffering, which has in consequence procured for the artist the praise of being more philosophic than the poet. It is not altogether denied, that the youths are executed with a skill less exquisite than that displayed in the Priest of Apollo himself, but this is vindicated as being essential to render the accessories subordinate to the main object of the group.Note by the Author.
the noble head and countenance, are all beautiful. The whole composition is simple, and free from the slightest affectation of anatomy. Yet I know not if any beauty, any skill, however admirable, can compensate for an exhibition so little consonant with delicacy, and admired only as a fable. The Hermaphrodite, like the Mermaid, may amuse a sportive imagination; but as for imitation, it is out of the question. Such subjects are unsuitable either to statuary or painting.