In my enumeration of the external glories of the Roman world, I only attempted to glance at those wonders which were calculated to strike a traveler with admiration. Among these were the great developments of Art, displayed in architecture, in statuary, and in painting. But I only enumerated the more remarkable objects of attraction; I did not attempt to show the genius displayed in them. But ancient art, as a proud creation of the genius of man, demands additional notice. We wish to know to what heights the Romans soared in that great realm of beauty and grace and majesty.
[Sidenote: Origins and principles of art.]
[Sidenote: Fascinations of art.]
[Sidenote: Development of art.]
[Sidenote: Glory of art.]
The aesthetic glories of art are among the grandest triumphs of civilization, and attest as well as demand no ordinary force of genius. Art claims to be creative, and to be based on eternal principles of beauty, and artists in all ages have claimed a proud niche in the temple of fame. They rank with poets and musicians, and even philosophers and historians, in the world's regard. They are favored sons of inspiration, urged to their work by ideal conceptions of the beautiful and the true. Their productions are material, but the spirit which led to their creation is of the soul and mind. Imagination is tasked to the uttermost to portray sentiments and passions. The bust is "animated," and the temple, though built of marble, and by man, is called "religious." Art appeals to every cultivated mind, and excites poetic feelings. It is impressive even to every order, class, and condition of men, not, perhaps, in its severest forms, since the taste must be cultivated to appreciate its higher beauties, but to a certain extent. The pyramids and the granite image temples of Egypt must have filled even the rude people with a certain awe and wonder, even as the majestic cathedrals of mediaeval Europe, with their imposing pomps, stimulated the poetic conceptions of the Gothic nations. Art is popular. The rude savage admires a gaudy picture even as the cultivated Leo X. or Cardinal Mazarini bent in admiration before the great creations of Raphael or Domenichino. Art appeals to the senses as well as to the intellect and the heart, and is capable of inspiring the passions as well as the loftiest emotions and sentiments. The Grecian mind was trained to the contemplation of aesthetic beauty in temples, in statues, and in pictures; and the great artist was rewarded with honors and material gains. The love of art is easier kindled than the love of literary excellence, and is more generally diffused. It is coeval with songs and epic poetry. Before Socrates or Plato speculated on the great certitudes of philosophy, temples and statues were the pride and boast of their countrymen. And as the taste for art precedes the taste for letters, so it survives, when the literature has lost its life and freshness. The luxurious citizens of Rome ornamented their baths and palaces with exquisite pictures and statues long after genius ceased to soar to the heights of philosophy and poetry. The proudest triumphs of genius are in a realm which art can never approach, yet the wonders of art are still among the great triumphs of civilization. Zeuxis or Praxiteles may not have equaled Homer or Plato in profundity of genius, but it was only a great age which could have produced a Zeuxis or Praxiteles. I cannot place Raphael on so exalted a pinnacle as Luther, or Bacon, or Newton, and yet his fame will last as long as civilization shall exist. The creations of the chisel will ever be held in reverence by mankind, and probably in proportion as wealth, elegance, and material prosperity shall flourish. In an important sense, Corinth was as wonderful as Athens, although to Athens will be assigned the highest place in the ancient world. It was art rather than literature or philosophy which was the glory of Rome in the period of her decline. As great capitals become centres of luxury and display, artists will be rewarded and honored. The pride of a commercial metropolis is in those material wonders which appeal to the senses, and which wealth can purchase. A rich merchant can give employment to the architect, when he would be disinclined to reward the critic or the historian. Even where liberty and lofty aspirations for truth and moral excellence have left a state, the arts suffer but little decline. The grandest monuments of Rome date to the imperial regime, not to the republican sway. When the voice of a Cicero was mute, the Flavian amphitheatre arose in its sublime proportions. Imperial despotism is favorable to the adornment of Paris and St. Petersburg, even as wealth and luxury will beautify New York. When the early lights of the Church were unheeded in the old capitals of the world, new temples and palaces were the glory of the state. Art was the first to be revived of the trophies of the old civilization, and it will be the last to be relinquished, by those whom civilization has enriched. Art excites no dangerous passions or sentiments in a decaying monarchy, and it is a fresh and perpetual pleasure, not merely to the people, but to the arbiters of taste and fashion. The Popes rewarded artists when they crushed reformers, and persecuted inquiring genius. The developments of art appeal to material life and interests rather than to the spiritual and eternal. St. Paul scarcely alludes to the material wonders of the cities he visited, even as Luther was insensible to the ornaments of Italy in his absorbing desire for the spiritual and moral welfare of society. Art is purely the creation of man. It receives no inspiration from Heaven; and yet the principles on which it is based are eternal and unchangeable, and when it is made to be the handmaid of virtue, it is capable of exciting the loftiest sentiments. So pure, so exalted, and so wrapt are the feelings which arise from the contemplation of a great picture or statue, that we sometimes ascribe a religious force to the art itself, while all that is divine springs from the conception of the artist, and all that is divine in his conception arises from sentiments independent of his art, as he is stimulated by emotions of religion, or patriotism, or public virtue, and which he could never have embodied had he not been a good man, rather than a great artist, or, at least, affected by sentiments which he learned from other sources. There can be no doubt that, through the vehicle of art, the grandest and noblest sentiments may be expressed. Hence artists may be great benefactors; yet sometimes their works are demoralizing, as they appeal to perverted taste and passions. This was especially true in the later days of Rome, when artists sought to please their corrupt but wealthy patrons. The great artists of Greece, however, had in view a lofty ideal of beauty and grace which they sought to realize without reference to profit, or worldly advantage, or utilitarian necessities. Art, when true and exalted, as it sometimes is, and always should be, has its end in itself. Like virtue, it is its own reward. Michael Angelo worked, preoccupied and wrapt, without the stimulus of even praise, even as Dante lived in the visions to which his imagination gave form and reality. Art is therefore self-sustained, unselfish, lofty. It is the soul going forth triumphant over external circumstances, jubilant and melodious even in poverty and neglect, rising above the evils of life in its absorbing contemplation of ideal loveliness. The fortunate accidents of earth are nothing to the true artist, striving to reach his ideal of excellence,--no more than carpets and chairs are to a great woman pining for sympathy or love. And it is only when there is this soul-longing to reach the excellence it has conceived for itself alone that great works have been produced. The sweetest strains of music sometimes come from women where no one listens to their melodies. Nor does a great artist seek or need commiseration, if ever so unfortunate in worldly circumstances. He may be sad and sorrowful, but only in the profound seriousness of superior knowledge, in that isolation to which all genius is doomed.
[Sidenote: Great artists labor from inspiration.]
We have reason to believe that the great artists of antiquity lived, as did the Ionic philosophers, in their own glorious realms of thought and feeling, which the world could neither understand nor share. Their ideas of grace and beauty were realized to the highest degree ever known on earth. They were expressed in their temples, their statues, and their pictures. They did not live for utilities. When art became a utility, it degenerated. It became more pretentious, artificial, complicated, elaborate, ornamental even, but it lacked genius, the simplicity of power, the glory of originality. The horses of the sun cannot be made to go round in a mill. The spiritual must keep within its own seclusion, in its inner temple of mystery and meditation.
[Sidenote: Grecian art consecrated to Paganism.]
[Sidenote: Greatness and beauty of Grecian art.]
[Sidenote: Grecian admiration of art.]
Grecian art was consecrated to Paganism, and could not therefore soar beyond what Paganism revealed. It did not typify those exalted sentiments which even a Gothic cathedral portrayed--sacrifice; the man on the cross; the man in the tomb; the man ascending to heaven. Nor did it paint, like Raphael, etherial beauty, such as was expressed in the mother of our Lord, her whom all generations shall bless, regina angelorum, mater divinae gratiae. But whatever has been reached by the unaided powers of man, it reproduced and consecrated, and it realized the highest conceptions of beauty and grace that have ever been represented. All that the mind and the soul could, by their inherent force, reach, it has attained. Modern civilization has no prouder triumphs than those achieved by the artists of Pagan antiquity in those things which pertain to beauty and grace. Grecian artists have been the schoolmasters of all nations and all ages in architecture, sculpture, and painting. How far they themselves were original we cannot decide, although they were probably somewhat indebted to the Assyrians and Egyptians. But they struck out so new a style, and so different from the older monuments of Asia and Egypt, that we consider them the great creators of art. But whether original or not, they have never been surpassed. In some respects their immortal productions remain objects of hopeless imitation. In the realization of ideas of beauty which are eternal, like those on which Plato built his system of philosophy, they reached absolute perfection. And hence we infer that art can flourish under Pagan as well as Christian influences. We can go no higher than those ancient Pagans in one of the proudest fields of civilization; for art has as sincere and warm admirers as it had in Grecian and Roman times, but the limit of excellence has been reached. It is the mission of our age to apply creative genius to enterprises and works which have not been tried, if any thing new is to be found under the sun. Nor was it the number and extent of the works of art among the Greeks and Romans, nor their perfection, which made art so distinguishing an element of the old civilization. It was the spirit of the age, the absorption of the public mind, the great prominence which art had in the eyes of the people. Art was to the Greeks what tournaments and churches were to the men of the Middle Ages, what the Reformation was to Germany and England in the sixteenth century, what theories of political rights were to the era of the French Revolution, what mechanical inventions to abridge human labor are to us. The creation of a great statue was an era, an object of popular interest--the subject of universal comment. It kindled popular inspirations. It was the great form of progress in which that age rejoiced. Public benefactors erected temples, and lavished upon them the superfluous wealth of the State. And public benefactors, in turn, had statues erected to their memory by their grateful admirers. The genius of the age expressed itself in marble histories. And these histories stand in the mystery of absolute perfection--the glory and the characteristic of a great and peculiar people.
[Sidenote: Principles of art.]
[Sidenote: Devotion of the Greeks for Art.]
Much has been written on those principles upon which art is founded, and great ingenuity displayed. But treatises on taste, on beauty, on grace, and other perceptions of intellectual pleasure, are not very satisfactory, and must be necessarily indefinite. In what does beauty consist? Do we arrive at any clearer conceptions of it by definitions? Whether beauty, the chief glory of the fine arts, consists in certain arrangements and proportions of the parts to a whole, or in the fitness of means to an end, or is dependent on associations which excite pleasure, or is a revelation of truth, or is an appeal to sensibilities, or is an imitation of Nature, or the realization of ideal excellence, it is difficult to settle and almost useless to inquire. "Metaphysics, mathematics, music, and philosophy have been called in to analyze, define, demonstrate, and generalize." [Footnote: Cleghorn, Ancient and Modern Art, vol. i. p. 67.] Great writers have written ingenious treatises, like Burke, Alison, and Stewart. Beauty, according to Plato, is the contemplation of mind; Leibnitz maintained it consists in perfection; Diderot referred beauty to the idea of relation; Blondel asserted it was harmonic proportions; Peter Leigh speaks of it as the music of the eye. Yet everybody understands what beauty is, and that it is derived from Nature, agreeable to the purest models which Nature presents. Such was the ideal of Phidias. Such was it to the minds of the Greeks, who united every advantage, physical and mental, for the perfection of art. Nor could art have been so wonderfully developed had it not been for the influence which the great poets, orators, dramatists, historians, and philosophers exercised on the inspiration of the artists. Phidias, being asked how he conceived the idea of his Olympian Jupiter, answered by repeating a passage of Homer. We can scarcely conceive of the enthusiasm which the Greeks exhibited in the cultivation of art. Hence it has obtained an ascendency over that of all other nations. Roman art was the continuation of the Grecian. The Romans appreciated and rewarded Grecian artists. They adopted their architecture, their sculpture, and their paintings; and, though art never attained the estimation and dignity in Rome that it did in Greece, it still can boast of a great development. But, inasmuch as all the great models were Grecian, and appropriated and copied by the Romans,-- inasmuch as the great wonders of the "Eternal City" were made by Greeks,--we cannot treat of Roman art in distinction from Grecian. And as I wish to show simply the triumph of Pagan genius in the realm of art, and most of the immortal creations of the great artists were transported to Rome, and adorned Rome, it is within my province to go where they were originally found.
"Tu, regere imperio populos, Romane, memento! Hae tibi erunt artes."
[Sidenote: Art first impressive in achitecture.]
The first development of art was in architecture, not merely among the Greeks, but among the older nations. Although it refers, in a certain sense, to all buildings, yet it is ordinarily restricted to those edifices in which we recognize the principle of beauty, such as symmetrical arrangement, and attractive ornaments, like pillars, cornices, and sculptured leaves.
The earliest buildings were houses to protect men from the inclemencies of the weather, and built without much regard to beauty; but it is in temples for the worship of God, that architecture lays claim to dignity. It was the result of devotional feelings; nor is there a single instance of supreme excellence in art being reached, which was not sacred, and connected with reverential tendencies. In the erection and decoration of sacred buildings there was a profound sentiment that they were to be the sanctuaries of God, and genius was stimulated by pious emotions. In India, in Egypt, in Greece, in Italy, the various temples all originated in blended superstition and devotion. Nor did the edifice, erected for religious worship, reach its culminating height of beauty and grandeur until that earnest and profoundly religious epoch which felt as injuries the insults offered to the tomb which covered the remains of the Saviour of the world. Then arose those hoary and Gothic vaults of Cologne and Westminster, the only modern structures which would probably have called out the admiration of an ancient Greek.
[Sidenote: Egyptian architecture.]
[Sidenote: Monuments of Egypt.]
[Sidenote: Temple of Carnack.]
[Sidenote: Features of Egyptian art.]
But architecture is conventional, and demands a knowledge of its system and a mind informed as to the principles on which it depends for beauty. Hence, in the oldest temples of India and Egypt, there was probably vastness, without elegance or even embellishment. But no nation ever left structures that, in extent and grandeur, can compare with those of ancient Egypt; and these were chiefly temples. Nothing remains of the ancient monuments of Thebes but the ruins of edifices consecrated to the deity--neither bridges, nor quays, nor baths, nor theatres. It was when the Israelites were oppressed by Pharaoh that the great city of Heliopolis, which the Greeks called Thebes, arose, with its hundred gates, and stately public buildings, and magnificent temples. The ruins of these attest grandeur and vastness. They were built of stone, in huge blocks, and we are still at a loss to comprehend how such heavy stones could have been transported and erected. All the monuments of the Pharaohs are wonders of science and art, especially such as appear in the ruins of Carnack--a temple formerly designated as that of Jupiter Ammon. It was in the time of Sesostris, or Rameses the Great, the first of the Pharaohs of the nineteenth dynasty, that architecture in Egypt reached its greatest development. Then we find the rectangular cut blocks of stone in parallel courses, and the heavy piers, and the cylindrical column, with its bell-shaped capital, and the bold and massive rectangular architraves extending from pier to pier and column to column, surmounted by a deep covered coping or cornice. But the imposing architecture of Egypt was chiefly owing to the vast proportions of the public buildings. It was not produced by beauty of proportion, or graceful embellishments. It was designed to awe the people, and kindle sentiments of wonder and astonishment. So far as this end was contemplated, it was nobly reached. Even to this day the traveller stands in admiring amazement before those monuments which were old three thousand years ago. No structures have been so enduring as the Pyramids. No ruins are more extensive and majestic than those of Thebes. The temple of Carnack and the palace of Rameses the Great, were probably the most imposing ever built by man. This temple was built of blocks of stone seventy feet in length, on a platform one thousand feet long and three hundred wide, with pillars sixty feet in height. But this and other structures did not possess that unity of design, which marked the Grecian temples. Alleys of colossal sphinxes form the approach. At Carnack the alley was six thousand feet long, and before the main body of the edifice stand two obelisks commemorative of the dedication. The principal structures do not follow the straight line, but begin with pyramidical towers which flank the gateways. Then follows, usually, a court surrounded with colonnades, subordinate temples, and houses for the priests. A second pylon, or pyramidical tower, now leads to the interior and most considerable part of the temple, a portico inclosed with walls, which only receives light through the entablature or openings in the roof. Adjoining to this is the cella of the temple, without columns, inclosed by several walls, often divided into various small chambers, with monolith receptacles for idols or mummies or animals. The columns stand within the walls. The Egyptians had no perpetual temples. The colonnade is not, as among the Greeks, an expansion of the temple; it is merely the wall with apertures. The walls, composed of square blocks, are perpendicular only on the inside, and beveled externally, so that the thickness at the bottom sometimes amounts to twenty-four feet, and thus the whole building assumes a pyramidical form, the fundamental principle of Egyptian architecture. The columns are more slender than the early Doric, are placed close together, and have bases of circular plinths; the shaft diminishes, and is ornamented with perpendicular or oblique furrows, but not fluted like Grecian columns. The capitals are of the bell form, ornamented with all kinds of foliage, and have a narrow but high abacus, or bulge out below, and are contracted above, with low, but projecting abacus. They abound with sculptured decorations, borrowed from the vegetation of the country. The highest of the columns of the temple of Luxor is five and a quarter times the greatest diameter. [Footnote: Muller.]
[Sidenote: The Pyramids.]
But no monuments have ever excited so much curiosity and wonder as the Pyramids, not in consequence of any particular beauty or ingenuity, as from their immense size and unknown age. None but sacerdotal monarchs would ever have erected them--none but a fanatical people would ever have toiled upon them. They do not indicate civilization, but despotism. We do not know for what purpose they were raised, except as sepulchres for kings. They do not even indicate as high a culture as the temples of Thebes, although they were built at a considerable period subsequently, even several generations after Sesostris reigned in splendor. The pyramid of Cheops, at Memphis, covers a square whose side is seven hundred and sixty-eight feet, and rises into the air four hundred and fifty-two, and is a solid mass of stone, which has suffered less from time than the mountains near it. And it is probable that it stands over an immense substructure, in which may yet be found the lore of ancient Egypt, and which may even prove to be the famous labyrinth of which Herodotus speaks, built by the twelve kings of Egypt. According to this author, one hundred thousand men worked on this monument for forty years. What a waste of labor!
The palaces of the kings are mere imitations of the temples, and the only difference of architecture is this, that the rooms are larger and in greater numbers. Some think that the labyrinth was a collective palace of many rulers.
Such was the massive grandeur of Egyptian antiquities: at the best curiosities, but of slight avail for moral or aesthetic culture, they yet indicate a considerable civilization at a very remote period--proving not merely by architectural monuments, but by their system of writing, an original and intellectual people. [Footnote: Muller, Ancient Art; Wilkinson, Topog. of Thebes; Champollion, _Lettres Ecrites d'Egypt; Journal des Sav. 1836; Encyclopedia Britannica; Strabo.]
[Sidenote: Babylonian architecture.]
Of Babylonian architecture we know but little, beyond what the Scriptures and ancient authors allude to in scattered notices. But, though nothing survives of ancient magnificence, we feel that a city whose walls, according to Herodotus, were eighty-seven feet in thickness, three hundred and thirty-seven in height, and sixty miles in circumference, and in which were one hundred gates of brass, must have had considerable architectural splendor. The Tower of Belus, the Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, and the Obelisk of Semiramis, were probably wonderful structures, certainly in size, which is one of the conditions of architectural effect.
[Sidenote: Tyrian monuments.]
The Tyrians must have carried architecture to considerable perfection, since the Temple of Solomon, one of the most magnificent in the ancient world, was probably built by Phoenician artists. It was not remarkable for size; it was, indeed, very small; but it had great splendor of decoration. It was of quadrangular outline, erected upon a solid platform of stone, and having a striking resemblance to the oldest Greek temples, like those of aegina and Paestum. The portico of the temple, in the time of Herod, was one hundred and eighty feet high, and the temple itself was entered by nine gates thickly coated with silver and gold. The inner sanctuary was covered on all sides with plates of gold, and was dazzling to the eye. The various courts and porticoes and palaces with which it was surrounded, gave to it a very imposing effect.
[Sidenote: Early Doric monuments.]
[Sidenote: The principles of Doric architecture.]
[Sidenote: The features of the Doric order.]
[Sidenote: The Parthenon.]
Architecture, however, as the expression of genius and high civilization, was perfected only by the Greeks. Egyptian monuments were curiosities to the Greek and Roman mind, as they are to us objects of awe and wonder. And as we propose to treat of the arts in their culminating excellence chiefly,--to show what the Pagan intellect of man could accomplish, unaided by light from heaven, we turn to the great teacher of the last two thousand years. It was among the ancient Dorians, who descended from the mountains of Northern Greece eighty years after the fall of Troy, that art first appeared. The Pelasgi, supposed to be Phoenicians, erected cyclopean structures fifteen hundred years before Christ, as seen in the giant walls of the Acropolis, [Footnote: Dodwell's Classical Tour, Muller.] constructed of huge blocks of hewn stone, and the palaces of the princes of heroic times, [Footnote: Homer's description of the palace of Odysseus.] like the Mycenaean treasury, the lintel of the doorway of which is one stone twenty-seven feet long and sixteen broad. [Footnote: Mure, Tour in Greece.] But these edifices, which aimed at splendor and richness merely, were deficient in that simplicity and harmony which have given immortality to the temples of the Dorians. In this style of architecture every thing was suitable to its object, and was grand and noble. The great thickness of the columns, the beautiful entablature, the ample proportion of the capital; the great horizontal lines of the architrave and cornice, predominating over the vertical lines of the columns; the severity of geometrical forms, produced for the most part by straight lines, gave an imposing simplicity to the Doric temple. How far the Greek architects were indebted to the Egyptian we cannot tell, for though columns are found amid the ruins of the Egyptian temples, they are of different shape from any made by the Greeks. In the structures of Thebes we find both the tumescent and the cylindrical columns, from which amalgamation might have been produced the Doric column. The Greeks seized on beauty wherever they found it, and improved upon it. The Doric column was not, probably, an entirely new creation, but shaped after the models furnished by the most original of all the ancient nations, even the Egyptians. The Doric style was used exclusively until after the Macedonian conquest, and was chiefly applied to temples. The Doric temples are uniform in plan. The columns were fluted, and were generally about six diameters in height. They diminished gradually from the base, with a slight convexed swelling downward. They were superimposed by capitals proportionate, and coming within their height. The entablature which the column supported is also of so many diameters in height. So regular and perfect was the plan of the temple, that, "if the dimensions of a single column, and the proportion the entablature should bear to it, were given to two individuals acquainted with the style, with directions to compose a temple, they would produce designs exactly similar in size, arrangement, and general proportions." Then the Doric order possessed a peculiar harmony, but taste and skill were nevertheless necessary in order to determine the number of diameters a column should have, and, accordingly, the height of the entablature. The Doric was the favorite order of European Greece for one thousand years, and also of her colonies in Sicily and Magna Graecia. The massive temples of Paestum, the colossal magnificence of the Sicilian ruins, and the more elegant proportions of the Athenian structures, like the Parthenon and Temple of Theseus, show the perfection of the Doric architecture. Although the general style of all the Doric temples is so uniform, yet hardly two temples were alike. The earlier Doric was more massive; the latter were more elegant, and were rich in sculptured decorations. Nothing could surpass the beauty of a Doric temple in the time of Pericles. The stylobate or pedestal, from two thirds to a whole diameter of a column in height, was built in three equal courses, which gradually receded from the one below, and formed steps, as it were, of a grand platform on which the pillars rested. The column was from four to six diameters in height, with twenty flutes, with a capital of half a diameter supporting the entablature. This again, two diameters in height, was divided into architrave, frieze, and cornice. But the great beauty of the temple was the portico in front, a forest of columns, supporting the pediment, about a diameter and a half to the apex, making an angle at the base of about 14 degrees. From the pediment projects the cornice, while, at the apex and at the base of it, are sculptured ornaments, generally, the figures of men or animals. The whole outline of columns supporting the entablature is graceful, while the variety of light and shade arising from the arrangement of mouldings and capitals produce a grand effect. The Parthenon, the most beautiful specimen of the Doric, has never been equaled, and it still stands august in its ruins--the glory of the old Acropolis, and the pride of Athens. It was built of Pentelic marble, and rested on a basement of limestone. It was two hundred and twenty-seven feet in length, and one hundred and one in breadth, and sixty-five in height, surrounded with forty-eight fluted columns, six feet and two inches at the base, and thirty-four feet in height, while within the peristyle, at either end, was an interior range of columns, standing before the end of the cella. The frieze and the pediment were elaborately ornamented with reliefs and statues, while the cella, within and without, was adorned with the choicest sculptures of Phidias. The grandest was the colossal statue of Minerva, in the eastern apartment of the cella, forty feet in height, composed of gold and ivory; while the inner walls were decorated with paintings, and the temple itself was a repository of countless treasure. But the Parthenon, so regular, with its vertical and horizontal lines, was curved in every line, with the exception of the gable,--pillars, architrave, entablature, frieze, and cornice, together with the basement--all arched upwards, though so slightly as not to be perceptible, and these curved lines gave to it a peculiar grace which cannot be imitated, as well as solidity.
[Sidenote: The Acropolis.]
Nearly coeval with the Doric was the Ionic order, invented by the Asiatic Greeks, still more graceful, though not so imposing. The Acropolis is a perfect example of this order. The column is nine diameters in height, with a base, while the capital is more ornamented. The shaft is fluted with twenty-four flutes and alternate fillets, and the fillet is about a quarter the width of the flute. The pediment is flatter than of the Doric order, and more elaborate. The great distinction of the Ionic column is a base, and a capital formed with volutes, with a more slender shaft. Vitruvius, the greatest authority among the ancients in architecture, says that, "the Greeks, in inventing these two kinds of columns, imitated in the one the naked simplicity and dignity of a man, and in the other, the delicacy and ornaments of a woman; the base of the Ionic was the imitation of sandals, and the volutes of ringlets."
[Sidenote: Temple of Minerva.]
The Corinthian order exhibits a still greater refinement and elegance than the other two, and was introduced toward the end of the Peloponnesian war. Its peculiarity is columns with foliated capitals, and still greater height, about ten diameters, with a more ornamented entablature. Of this order, the most famous temple in Greece was that of Minerva at Tegea, built by Scopas of Paros, but destroyed by fire four hundred years before Christ.
Nothing more distinguished Greek architecture than the variety, the grace, and the beauty of the mouldings, generally in eccentric curves. The general outline of the moulding is a gracefully flowing cyma, or wave, concave at one end, and convex at the other, like an Italic f, the concavity and convexity being exactly in the same curve, according to the line of beauty which Hogarth describes.
[Sidenote: Architecture among the Greeks seen in greatest perfection in temples.]
The most beautiful application of Grecian architecture was in the temples, which were very numerous, and of extraordinary grandeur, long before the Persian war. Their entrance was always to the west or the east. They were built either in an oblong or round form, and were mostly adorned with columns. Those of an oblong form had columns either in the front alone, in the fore and back fronts, or on all the four sides. They generally had porticoes attached to them. They had no windows, receiving their light from the door or from above. The friezes were adorned with various sculptures, as were sometimes the pediments, and no expense was spared upon them. The most important part of the temple was the cella, where the statue of the deity was kept, and was generally surrounded with a balustrade. Beside the cella was the vestibule, and a chamber in the rear or back front in which the treasures of the temple were kept. Names were applied to the temples, as well as the porticoes, according to the number of columns in the portico at either end of the temple, such as the tetrastyle with four columns in front, or hexastyle when there were six. There were never more than ten columns in front. The Parthenon had eight, but six was the usual number. It was the rule to have twice as many columns along the sides as in front, and one more. Some of the temples had double rows of columns on all sides, like that of Diana at Ephesus, and of Quirinus at Rome. The distance between the columns varied from a diameter and half of a column to four diameters. About five eighths of a Doric temple were occupied by the cella, and three eighths by the portico.
[Sidenote: Simplicity of Grecian temples.]
That which gives so much simplicity and harmony in the Greek temples, which are the great elements of beauty in architecture, is the simple outline, in parallelogrammic and pyramidal forms, in which the lines are straight and uninterrupted through their entire length. This simplicity and harmony are more apparent in the Doric than in any of the other orders, and pertain to all the temples of which we have knowledge. Nor can any improvement be made upon them, or any alteration which does not conflict with established principles. The Ionic and Corinthian, or the Voluted and Foliated orders, do not possess that harmony which pervades the Doric, but the more beautiful compositions are so consummate that they will ever be taken as models of study.
[Sidenote: Matchless proportions of the Grecian temples.]
It is not the magnitude of the Grecian temples and other works of art which most impresses us. It is not for this that they are important models. It is not for this that they are copied and reproduced in all the modern nations of Europe. They were generally small compared with the temples of Egypt, or the vast dimensions of Roman amphitheatres. Only three or four would compare in size with a Gothic cathedral, like the Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, and the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. Even the Pantheon at Rome is small, compared with the later monuments of the Caesars. The traveler is always disappointed in contemplating their remains, so far as size is concerned. But it is their matchless proportions, their severe symmetry, the grandeur of effect, the undying beauty, the graceful form which impress us, and make us feel that they are perfect. By the side of the Colosseum they are insignificant in magnitude. They do not cover acres like the baths of Caracalla. Yet who has copied the Flavian amphitheatre? Who erects an edifice after the style of the Thermae? But all artists copy the Parthenon. That, and not the colossal monuments of the Caesars, reappears in the capitals of Europe, and stimulates the genius of a Michael Angelo or a Christopher Wren.
The flourishing period of Greek architecture was during the period from Pericles to Alexander--one hundred and thirteen years. The Macedonian conquest introduced more magnificence and less simplicity. The Roman conquest accelerated the decline in severe taste, when different orders were used indiscriminately.
[Sidenote: Beginning of Roman art.]
[Sidenote: Romans copied the Greeks.]
In this state the art passed into the hands of the masters of the world, and they inaugurated a new era in architecture. The art was still essentially Greek, although the Romans derived their first knowledge from the Etruscans. The Cloaca Maxima was built during the reign of the second Tarquin--the grandest monument of the reign of the kings. It is not probable that temples and other public buildings were either beautiful or magnificent until the conquest of Greece, when Grecian architects were employed. The Romans adopted the Corinthian style, which they made even more ornamental, and by the successful combination of the Etruscan arch with the Grecian column, laid the foundation of a new and original style, susceptible of great variety and magnificence. They entered into architecture with the enthusiasm of their teachers, but, in their passion for novelty, lost sight of the simplicity which is the great fascination of a Doric Temple. "And they deemed that lightness and grace were to be attained not so much by proportion between the vertical and the horizontal, as by the comparative slenderness of the former. Hence we see a poverty in Roman architecture in the midst of profuse ornament. The great error was a constant aim to lessen the diameter, while they increased the elevation, of the columns. Hence the massive simplicity and severe grandeur of the ancient Doric disappear in the Roman, the characteristics of the order being frittered down into a multiplicity of minute details." [Footnote: Memes, Sculpture and Architecture.] And when they used the Doric at all, they used the base, which was never done at Athens. They also altered the Doric capital, which cannot be improved. Again, most of the Grecian Doric temples were peripteral, that is, were surrounded with pillars on all the sides. But the Romans did not build with porticoes even on each front, but only on one, which had a greater projection than the Grecian. They generally are projected three columns. Many of the Roman temples are circular, like the Pantheon, which has a portico of eight columns projected to the depth of three. Nor did the Romans construct hypaethral temples, or uncovered, with internal columns, like the Greeks. The Pantheon is an exception, since the dome has an open eye; and one great ornament of this beautiful structure is in the arrangement of internal columns placed in the front of niches, composed with antae, or pier- formed ends of walls, to carry an entablature round under an attic on which the cupola rests. They also adopted coupled columns, broken and recessed entablatures, and pedestals, which are considered blemishes. They again paid more attention to the interior than to the exterior decoration of their palaces and baths, as we may infer from the ruins of Adrian's villa at Tivoli, and the excavations of Pompeii.
The Roman Corinthian, like the Greek orders, consisted of three parts, stylobate, column, and entablature, but the stylobate was much loftier, and was not graduated, except in the access before a portico. The column varied from nine and a half to ten diameters, and was always fluted with twenty-four flutes and fillets. The height of the capital is a diameter and one eighth; the entablature varies from one diameter and seven eighths to two diameters and a half. The portico of the Pantheon is one of the best specimens of the Corinthian order. The entablature of the temple of Jupiter Stator, like that of the Pantheon, is two diameters and one half. The pediments are steeper than those made by the Greeks, varying in inclination from eighteen to twenty-five degrees. The mouldings used in Roman architectural works are the same as the Grecian in general form, although they differ from them in contour. They are less delicate and graceful, but were used in great profusion. Roman architecture is overdone with ornament, every moulding carved, and every straight surface sculptured with foliage or historical subjects in relief. The ornaments of the frieze consist of foliage and animals, with a variety of other things. The great exuberance of ornament is considered a defect, although when applied to some structures it is exceedingly beautiful. In the time of the first Caesars architecture had a character of grandeur and magnificence. Columns and arches appeared in all the leading public buildings, columns generally forming the external, and arches the internal construction. Fabric after fabric arose on the ruins of others. The Flavii supplanted the edifices of Nero, which ministered to debauchery, by structures of public utility.
[Sidenote: Changes made by the Romans.]
[Sidenote: Invention of the arch.]
[Sidenote: Uses of the arch.]
The Romans invented no new principle in architecture, except the arch, which was not known to the Greeks, and carried out by them to greater perfection than by the Romans; but this, for simplicity, harmony, and beauty, has never been surpassed in any age, or by any nation. The Romans were a practical and utilitarian people, and needed for their various structures greater economy of material than large blocks of stone, especially for such as were carried to great altitudes. The arch supplied this want, and is perhaps the greatest invention ever made in architecture. No instance of its adoption occurs in the construction of Greek edifices, before Greece became a part of the Roman Empire. Its application dates back to the Cloaca Maxima, and may have been of Etrurian invention. It was not known to Egyptians, or Persians, or Indians, or Greeks. Some maintain that Archimedes of Sicily was the inventor, but to whomsoever the glory of the invention is due, it is certain that the Romans were the first to make a practical application of its wonderful qualities. It enabled them to rear vast edifices into the air with the humblest materials, to build bridges, aqueducts, sewers, amphitheatres, and triumphal arches, as well as temples and palaces; its merits have never been lost sight of by succeeding generations, and it is at the foundation of the magnificent Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Its application extends to domes and cupolas, to arched floors and corridors and roofs, and to various other parts of buildings where economy of material and labor is desired. It was applied extensively to doorways and windows, and is an ornament as well as a utility. The most imposing forms of Roman architecture may be traced to a knowledge of the properties of the arch, and as brick was more extensively used than any other material, the arch was invaluable. The imperial palace on Mount Palatine, the Pantheon, except its portico and internal columns, the temples of Peace, of Venus and Rome, and of Minerva Medica, were of brick. So were the great baths of Titus, Caracalla, and Diocletian, the villa of Adrian, the city walls, the villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, and most of the palaces of the nobility; although, like many of the temples, they were faced with stone. The Colosseum was of travertine faced with marble. It was the custom to stucco the surface of the walls, as favorable to decorations. In consequence of this invention, the Romans erected a greater variety of fine structures than either the Greeks or Egyptians, whose public edifices were chiefly confined to temples. The arch entered into almost every structure, public or private, and superseded the use of long stone beams, which were necessary in the Grecian temples, as also of wooden timbers, in the use of which the Romans were not skilled, and which do not really pertain to the art of architecture. An imposing building must always be constructed of stone or brick. The arch also enabled the Romans to economize in the use of costly marbles, of which they were very fond, as well as of other stones. Some of the finest columns were made of Egyptian granite, very highly polished.
The extensive application of the arch doubtless led to the deterioration of the Grecian architecture, since it blended columns with arcades, and thus impaired the harmony which so peculiarly marked the temples of Athens and Corinth. And as taste became vitiated with the decline of the Empire, monstrous combinations took place, which were a great fall from the simplicity of the Parthenon, and the interior of the Pantheon.
[Sidenote: Magnificence of Roman architecture.]
But whatever defects marked the age of Diocletian and Constantine, it can never be questioned that the Romans carried architecture to a perfection rarely attained in our times. They may not have equaled the severe simplicity of their teachers, the Greeks, but they surpassed them in the richness or their decorations, and in all buildings designed for utility, especially in private houses and baths and theatres.
[Sidenote: The effect of columns in architecture.]
The Romans do not seem to have used other than semicircular arches. The Gothic, or Pointed, or Christian architecture, as it has been variously called, was the creation of the Middle Ages, and arose nearly simultaneously in Europe after the first Crusade, so that it would seem to be of Eastern origin. But it was a graft on the old Roman arch,--in the shape of an ellipse rather than a circle. Aside from this invention, to which we are indebted for the most beautiful ecclesiastical structures ever erected, we owe every thing in architecture to the Greeks and Romans. We have found out no new principles which were not equally known to Vitruvius. No one man was the inventor or creator of the wonderful structures which ornamented the cities of the ancient world. We have the names of great architects, who reared various and faultless models, but they all worked upon the same principles. And these can never be subverted. So that in architecture the ancients are our schoolmasters, whose genius we revere the more we are acquainted with their works. What more beautiful than one of those grand temples which the heathen but cultivated Greeks erected to the worship of their unknown gods: the graduated and receding stylobate as a base for the fluted columns, rising at regular distances, in all their severe proportion and matchless harmony, with their richly carved capitals, supporting an entablature of heavy stones, most elaborately moulded and ornamented with the figures of plants and animals, and rising above this, on the ends of the temple, or over a portico several columns deep, the pediment, covered by chiseled cornices, with still richer ornaments rising from the apices and at the feet; all carved in white marble, and then spread over an area larger than any modern churches, making a forest of columns to bear aloft those ponderous beams of stone, without any thing tending to break the continuity of horizontal lines, by which the harmony and simplicity of the whole are seen. So accurately squared and nicely adjusted were the stones and pillars of which these temples were built, that there was scarcely need of even cement. Without noise or confusion or sound of hammers did those temples rise, since all their parts were cut and carved in the distant quarries, and with mathematical precision. And within the cella, nearly concealed by the surrounding columns, were the statues of the gods, and the altars on which incense was offered, or sacrifices made. In every part, interior and exterior, do we see a matchless proportion and beauty, whether in the shaft, or the capital, or the frieze, or the pilaster, or the pediment, or the cornices, or even the mouldings--everywhere grace and harmony, which grow upon the mind the more they are contemplated. The greatest evidence of the matchless creative genius displayed in those architectural wonders is that, after two thousand years, and with all the inventions of Roman and modern artists, no improvement can be made, and those edifices which are the admiration of our own times are deemed beautiful as they approximate the ancient models which will forever remain objects of imitation, No science can make two and two other than four. No art can make a Doric temple different from the Parthenon without departing from the settled principles of beauty and proportion which all ages have endorsed. Such were the Greeks and Romans in an art which is one of the greatest indices of material civilization, and which by them was derived from geometrical forms, or the imitation of Nature.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Perfection of Grecian sculpture.]
The genius displayed by the ancients in sculpture, is even more remarkable than in architecture. It was carried to perfection, however, only by the Greeks. But they did not originate the art, since we read of sculptured images from the remotest antiquity. The earliest names of sculptors are furnished by the Old Testament. Assyria and Egypt are full of relics to show how early this art was cultivated. It was not carried to perfection as early, probably, as architecture; but rude images of gods, carved in wood, are as old as the history of idolatry. The history of sculpture is in fact identified with that of idols. It was from Phoenicia that Solomon obtained the workmen for the decoration of his Temple. But the Egyptians were probably the first who made considerable advances in the execution of statues. They are rude, simple, uniform, without beauty or grace, but colossal and grand. Nearly two thousand years before Christ, the walls of Thebes were ornamented with sculptured figures, even as the gates of Babylon were of sculptured bronze. The dimensions of Egyptian colossal figures surpass those of any other nation. The sitting figures of Memnon at Thebes are fifty feet in height, and the Sphinx is twenty-five, and these are of granite. The number of colossal statues was almost incredible. The sculptures found among the ruins of Carnac must have been made nearly four thousand years ago. [Footnote: Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians.] They exhibit great simplicity of design, but without much variety of expression. They are generally carved from the hardest stones, and finished so nicely that we infer that the Egyptians were acquainted with the art of hardening metals to a degree not known in our times. But we see no ideal grandeur among any of the remains of Egyptian sculpture. However symmetrical or colossal, there is no expression, no trace of emotion, no intellectual force. Every thing is calm, impassive, imperturbable. It was not until sculpture came into the hands of the Greeks that any remarkable excellence was reached. But the progress of development was slow. The earliest carvings were rude wooden images of the gods, and more than a thousand years elapsed before the great masters were produced which marked the age of Pericles.
It is not my object to give a history of the development of the plastic art, but to show the great excellence it attained in the hands of immortal sculptors.
[Sidenote: Admiration for sculpture among the Greeks.]
[Sidenote: High estimation of sculpture among the Greeks.]
The Greeks had an intuitive perception of the beautiful, and to this great national trait we ascribe the wonderful progress which sculpture made. Nature was most carefully studied, and that which was most beautiful in Nature became the object of imitation. They ever attained to an ideal excellence, since they combined in a single statue what could not be found in a single individual, as Zeuxis is said to have studied the beautiful forms of seven virgins of Crotona in order to paint his famous picture of Venus. Great as was the beauty of Thryne, or Aspasia, or Lais, yet no one of them could have served for a perfect model. And it required a great sensibility to beauty in order to select and idealize what was most perfect in the human figure. Beauty was adored in Greece, and every means were used to perfect it, especially beauty of form, which is the characteristic excellence of Grecian statuary. The gymnasia were universally frequented, and the great prizes of the games, bestowed for feats of strength and agility, were regarded as the highest honors which men could receive--the subject of the poet's ode and the people's admiration. Statues of the victors perpetuated their fame and improved the sculptor's art. From the study of these statues were produced those great creations which all subsequent ages have admired. And from the application of the principles seen in these forms we owe the perpetuation of the ideas of grandeur and beauty such as no other people have ever discovered and scarcely appreciated. The sculpture of the human figure became a noble object of ambition, and was most munificently rewarded. Great artists arose, whose works adorned the temples of Greece, so long as she preserved her independence; and when it was lost, their priceless productions were scattered over Asia and Europe. The Romans especially seized what was most prized, whether or not they could tell what was most perfect. Greece lived in her marble statues more than in her government or laws. And when we remember the estimation in which sculpture was held, the great prices paid for masterpieces, the care and attention with which they were guarded and preserved, and the innumerable works which were produced, filling all the public buildings, especially consecrated places, and even open spaces, and the houses of the rich and great,-- calling from all classes admiration and praise,--it is improbable that so great perfection will ever be reached again in those figures which are designed to represent beauty of form. Even the comparatively few statues which have survived the wars and violence of two thousand years, convince us that the moderns can only imitate. They can produce no creations which were not surpassed by Athenian artists. "No mechanical copying of Greek statues, however skillful the copyist, can ever secure for modern sculpture the same noble and effective character it possessed among the Greeks, for the simple reason that the imitation, close as may be the resemblance, is but the result of the eye and hand, while the original is the expression of a true and deeply felt sentiment. Art was not sustained by the patronage of a few who affect to have what is called taste. In Greece, the artist, having a common feeling for the beautiful with his countrymen, produced his works for the public, which were erected in places of honor and dedicated in temples of the gods." [Footnote: Encyclopedia Britannica, "Sculpture," R. W. T.]
[Sidenote: Phidias and his contemporaries.]
[Sidenote: The statue of Zeus by Phidias.]
But it was not until the Persian wars awakened in Greece the slumbering consciousness of national power, and Athens became the central point of Grecian civilization, that sculpture, like architecture and painting, reached its culminating point of excellence, under Phidias and his contemporaries. Great artists, however, had previously made themselves famous, like Miron, Polycletus, and Ageladas; but the great riches which flowed into Athens at this time gave a peculiar stimulus to art, especially under the encouragement of such a ruler as Pericles, whose age was the golden era of Grecian history. Pheidias or Phidias was to sculpture what Aeschylus was to tragic poetry, sublime and grand. He was born four hundred and eighty-four years before Christ, and was the pupil of Ageladas. He stands at the head of the ancient sculptors, not from what we know of him, for his masterpieces have perished, but from the estimation in which he was held by the greatest critics of antiquity. It was to him that Pericles intrusted the adornment of the Parthenon, and the numerous and beautiful sculptures of the frieze and the pediment were the work of artists whom he directed. His great work in that wonderful edifice was the statue of the goddess Minerva herself, made of gold and ivory, forty feet in height, standing victorious with a spear in her left hand and an image of victory in her right; girded with the aegis, with helmet on her head, and her shield resting by her side. The cost of this statue may be estimated when the gold alone of which it was composed was valued at forty-four talents. [Footnote: This sum was equal to $500,000 of our money, an immense sum in that age. Some critics suppose that this statue was overloaded with ornament, but all antiquity was unanimous in its admiration. The exactness and finish of detail were as remarkable as the grandeur of the proportions.] Another of his famous works was a colossal bronze statue of Athena Promachus, sixty feet in height, on the Acropolis, between the Propylaea and the Parthenon. But both of these yielded to the colossal statue of Zeus in his great temple at Olympia, represented in a sitting posture, forty feet high, on a pedestal of twenty. In this, his greatest work, the artist sought to embody the idea of majesty and repose,--of a supreme deity no longer engaged in war with Titans and Giants, but enthroned as a conqueror, ruling with a nod the subject world, and giving his blessing to those victories which gave glory to the Greeks. [Footnote: The god was seated on a throne. Ebony, gold, ivory, and precious stones formed, with a multitude of sculptured and painted figures, the wonderful composition of this throne.] So famous was this statue, which was regarded as the masterpiece of Grecian art, that it was considered a calamity to die without seeing it; and this served for a model for all subsequent representations of majesty and power in repose among the ancients. It was removed to Constantinople by Theodosius I., and was destroyed by fire in the year 475. Phidias executed various other famous works, which have perished; but even those that were executed under his superintendence, that have come down to our times, like the statues which ornamented the pediment of the Parthenon, are among the finest specimens of art which exist, and exhibit the most graceful and appropriate forms which could have been selected, uniting grandeur with simplicity, and beauty with accuracy of anatomical structure. His distinguishing excellence was ideal beauty, and that of the sublimest order. [Footnote: Muller, De Phidiae Vita.]
[Sidenote: Colossal statues of ivory and gold.]
Of all the wonders and mysteries of ancient art, the colossal statues of ivory and gold were perhaps the most remarkable, and the difficulty of executing them has been set forth by the ablest of modern critics, like Winkelmann, Heyne, and De Quincy. "The grandeur of their dimensions, the perfection of their workmanship, the richness of their materials; their majesty, beauty, and ideal truth; the splendor of the architecture and pictorial decoration with which they were associated, all conspired to impress the beholder with wonder and awe, and induce a belief of the actual presence of the god."
[Sidenote: The school of Praxiteles.]
After the Peloponnesian War, a new school of art arose in Athens, which appealed more to the passions. Of this school was Praxiteles, who aimed to please, without seeking to elevate or instruct. No one has probably ever surpassed him in execution. He wrought in bronze and marble, and was one of the artists who adorned the Mausoleum of Artemisia. Without attempting the sublime impersonation of the deity, in which Phidias excelled, he was unsurpassed in the softer graces and beauties of the human form, especially in female figures. His most famous work was an undraped statue of Venus, for his native town of Cnidus, which was so remarkable that people flocked from all parts of Greece to see it. He did not aim at ideal majesty so much as ideal gracefulness, and his works were imitated from the most beautiful living models, and hence expressed only the ideal of sensual charms. It is probable that the Venus de Medici of Cleomenes was a mere copy of the Aphrodite of Praxiteles, which was so highly extolled by the ancient authors. It was of Parian marble, and modeled from the celebrated Phryne. His statues of Dionysus also expressed the most consummate physical beauty, representing the god as a beautiful youth, crowned with ivy, engirt with a nebris, and expressing tender and dreamy emotions. Praxiteles sculptured several figures of Eros, or the god of love, of which that at Thespiae attracted visitors to the city in the time of Cicero. It was subsequently carried to Rome, and perished by a conflagration in the time of Titus. One of the most celebrated statues of this artist was an Apollo, many copies of which still exist. His works were very numerous, but chiefly from the circle of Dionysus, Aphrodite, and Eros, in which adoration for corporeal attractions is the most marked peculiarity, and for which the artist was fitted by his life with the hetaerae.
Scopas was his contemporary, and was the author of the celebrated group of Niobe, which is one of the chief ornaments of the gallery of sculpture at Florence. He flourished about three hundred and fifty years before Christ, and wrought chiefly in marble. He was employed in decorating the Mausoleum which Artemisia erected to her husband, one of the wonders of the world. His masterpiece is said to have been a group representing Achilles conducted to the island of Leuce by the divinities of the sea, which ornamented the shrine of Domitius in the Flaminian Circus. In this, tender grace, heroic grandeur, daring power, and luxurious fullness of life were combined with wonderful harmony. [Footnote: Muller, 125.] Like the other great artists of this school, there was the grandeur and sublimity for which Phidias was celebrated, but a greater refinement and luxury, and skill in the use of drapery.
[Sidenote: The works of Lysippus.]
Sculpture in Greece culminated, as an art, in Lysippus, who worked chiefly in bronze. He is said to have executed fifteen hundred statues, and was much esteemed by Alexander the Great, by whom he was extensively patronized. He represented men, not as they were, but as they appeared to be; and, if he exaggerated, he displayed great energy of action. He aimed to idealize merely human beauty, and his imitation of Nature was carried out in the minutest details. None of his works are extant; but as he alone was permitted to make the statue of Alexander, we infer that he had no equals. The Emperor Tiberius transferred one of his statues, that of an athlete, from the baths of Agrippa to his own chamber, which so incensed the people that he was obliged to restore it. His favorite subject was Hercules, and a colossal statue of this god was carried to Rome by Fabius Maximus, when he took Tarentum, and afterwards was transferred to Constantinople. The Farnese Hercules and the Belvidere Torso are probably copies of this work. He left many eminent scholars, among whom were Chares, who executed the famous Colossus of Rhodes, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus, who sculptured the group of the "Laocoon." The Rhodian School was the immediate offshoot from the school of Lysippus at Sicyon, and from this small island of Rhodes the Romans, when they conquered it, carried away three thousand statues. The Colossus was one of the wonders of the world, seventy cubits in height, and the Laocoon is a perfect miracle of art, in which group pathos is exhibited in the highest degree ever attained in sculpture. It was discovered in 1506 near the baths of Titus, and is one of the choicest remains of ancient plastic art.
The great artists of antiquity did not confine themselves to the representation of man; but they also carved animals with exceeding accuracy and beauty. Nicias was famous for his dogs, Myron for his cows, and Lysippus for his horses. Praxiteles composed his celebrated lion after a living animal. "The horses of the frieze of the Elgin Marbles appear to live and move; to roll their eyes, to gallop, prance, and curvet; the veins of their faces and legs seem distended with circulation. The beholder is charmed with the deer-like lightness and elegance of their make; and although the relief is not above an inch from the back-ground, and they are so much smaller than nature, we can scarcely suffer reason to persuade us they are not alive." [Footnote: Flaxman, Lectures on Sculpture.]
[Sidenote: Cameos and medals.]
The Greeks also carved gems, cameos, medals, and vases, with unapproachable excellence. Very few specimens have come down to our times, but those which we possess show great beauty both in design and execution.
[Sidenote: Sack of the Grecian cities.]
Grecian statuary commenced with ideal representations of deities, and was carried to the greatest perfection by Phidias in his statues of Jupiter and Minerva. Then succeeded the school of Praxiteles, in which the figures of gods and goddesses were still represented, but in mortal forms. The school of Lysippus was famous for the statues of celebrated men, especially in cities where Macedonian rulers resided. Artists were expected henceforth to glorify kings and powerful nobles and rulers by portrait statues. The plastic art then degenerated. Nor were works of original genius produced, but rather copies or varieties from the three great schools to which allusion has been made. Sculpture may have multiplied, but not new creations; although some imitations of great merit were produced, like the "Hermaphrodite," the "Torso," the Farnese "Hercules," and the "Fighting Gladiator." When Corinth was sacked by Mummius, some of the finest statues of Greece were carried to Rome, and after the civil war between Caesar and Pompey the Greek artists emigrated to Italy. The fall of Syracuse introduced many works of priceless value into Rome; but it was from Athens, Delphi, Corinth, Elis, and other great centres of art, that the richest treasures were brought. Greece was despoiled to ornament Italy. The Romans did not create a school of sculpture. They borrowed wholly from the Greeks, yet made, especially in the time of Hadrian, many beautiful statues. They were fond of this art, and all eminent men had statues erected to their memory. The busts of emperors were found in every great city, and Rome was filled with statues. The monuments of the Romans were even more numerous than those of the Greeks, and among them some admirable portraits are found. These sculptures did not express that consummation of beauty and grace, of refinement and sentiment, which marked the Greeks; but the imitations were good. Art had reached its perfection under Lysippus; there was nothing more to learn. Genius in that department could soar no higher. It will never rise to loftier heights.
[Sidenote: Degeneracy of art among the Romans.]
It is noteworthy that the purest forms of Grecian art arose in its earlier stages. In a moral point of view, sculpture declined from the time of Phidias. It was prostituted at Rome under the emperors. The specimens which have often been found among the ruins of ancient baths make us blush for human nature. The skill of execution did not decline for several centuries; but the lofty ideal was lost sight of, and gross appeals to human passions were made by those who sought to please corrupt leaders of society in an effeminate age. The turgidity and luxuriance of art gradually passed into tameness and poverty. The reliefs on the Arch of Constantine are rude and clumsy compared with those on the Column of Marcus Aurelius.
[Sidenote: Imitation of ancient art.]
But I do not wish to describe the decline of art, or enumerate the names of the celebrated masters who exalted sculpture in the palmy days of Pericles, or even Alexander. I simply allude to sculpture as an art which reached a great perfection among the Greeks and Romans, as we have a right to infer from the specimens which have been preserved. How many more must have perished, we may infer from the criticisms of the ancient authors! The finest productions of our own age are in a measure reproductions. They cannot be called creations, like the statue of the Olympian Jove. Even the Moses of Michael Angelo is a Grecian god, and the Greek Slave a copy of an ancient Venus. The very tints which have been admired in some of the works of modern sculptors are borrowed from Praxiteles, who succeeded in giving an appearance of living flesh. The Museum of the Vatican alone contains several thousand specimens of ancient sculpture which have been found among the debris of former magnificence, many of which are the productions of Grecian artists transported to Rome. Among them are antique copies of the Cupid and the Faun of Praxiteles, the statue of Demosthenes, the Minerva Medica, the Athlete of Lysippus, the Torso Belvidere, sculptured by Apollonius, the Belvidere Antinous, of faultless anatomy and a study for Domenichino, the Laocoon, so panegyrized by Pliny, the Apollo Belvidere the work of Agasias of Ephesus, the Sleepy Ariadne, with numerous other statues of gods and goddesses, emperors, philosophers, poets, and statesmen of antiquity. The Dying Gladiator, which ornaments the capitol, alone is a magnificent proof of the perfection to which sculpture was brought centuries after the art had culminated at Athens. And these are only a few which stand out among the twenty thousand recovered statues which now embellish Italy, to say nothing of those which are scattered over Europe. We have the names of hundreds of artists who were famous in their day. Not merely the figures of men are chiseled, but animals and plants. Nature, in all her forms, was imitated; and not merely Nature, but the dresses of the ancients are perpetuated in marble. No modern sculptor has equaled, in delicacy of finish, the draperies even of those ancient statues, as they appear to us after the exposure and accidents of two thousand years. No one, after a careful study of the museums of Europe, can question that, of all the nations who have claimed to be civilized, the ancient Greek and Roman deserve a proud preeminence in an art which is still regarded as among the highest triumphs of human genius. All these matchless productions of antiquity, it should be remembered, are the result of native genius alone, without the aid of Christian ideas. Nor, with the aid of Christianity, are we sure that any nation will ever soar to loftier heights than did the Greeks in that proud realm which was consecrated to Paganism.
* * * * *
We are not so certain in regard to the excellence of the ancients in the art of painting as we are in reference to sculpture and architecture, since so few specimens have been preserved. We have only the testimony of the ancients themselves; and as they had so severe a taste and so great susceptibility to beauty in all its forms, we cannot suppose that their notions were crude in this great art which the moderns have carried to so great perfection. In this art the moderns may be superior, especially in perspective and drawing, and light and shade. No age, we fancy, can surpass Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the genius of Raphael, Correggio, and Domenichino blazed with such wonderful brilliancy.
Nevertheless, we read of celebrated schools among the ancients, all of which recognized form as the great principle and basis of the art, even like the moderns. The schools of Sicyon, Corinth, Athens, and Rhodes were indebted for their renown, like those of Bologna, Florence, and Rome, to their strict observance of this fundamental law.
[Sidenote: Antiquity of painting.]
[Sidenote: Painting among the Egyptians.]
Painting, in some form, is very ancient, though not so ancient as the temples of the gods and the statues which were erected to their worship. It arose with the susceptibility to beauty of form and color, and with the view of conveying thoughts and emotions of the soul by imitation. The walls of Babylon were painted after Nature with different species of animals and combats. Semiramis was represented on horseback, striking a leopard with a dart, and her husband Ninus wounding a lion. Ezekiel
[Sidenote: Cimon of Cleona.]
But whether the Greeks or the Etruscans were the first to paint, the art was certainly carried to the greatest perfection among the former. The development of it was, like all arts, very gradual. It probably commenced by drawing the outline of a shadow, without intermediate markings; the next step was the complete outline with the inner markings, such as are represented on the ancient vases, or like the designs of Flaxman. They were originally practiced on a white ground. Then light and shade were introduced, and then the application of colors in accordance with Nature. We read of a great painting by Bularchus, of the battle of Magnete, purchased by a king of Lydia seven hundred and eighteen years before Christ. And as the subject was a battle, it must have represented the movement of figures, although we know nothing of the coloring, or of the real excellence of the work, except that the artist was paid munificently. Cimon of Cleona is the first great name connected with the art in Greece, and is praised by Pliny, to whom we owe the history of ancient painting more than to any other author. He was contemporary with Dionysius in the eightieth Olympiad. He was not satisfied with drawing simply the outlines of his figures, such as we see in the oldest painted vases, but he also represented limbs, and folds of garments. He invented the art of foreshortening, or the various positions of figures, as they appear when looking upward or downward and sideways, and hence is the first painter of perspective. He first made muscular articulations, indicated the veins, and gave natural folds to drapery. [Footnote: Pliny, xxxv. 34.]
[Sidenote: Greatness of Polygnotus and his school.]
A much greater painter than he was Polygnotus of Thasos, the contemporary of Phidias, who came to Athens about the year 463 B.C., one of the greatest geniuses of any age, and one of the most magnanimous; and had the good fortune to live in an age of exceeding intellectual activity. He was employed on the public buildings of Athens, and on the great temple of Delphi, the hall of which he painted gratuitously. He also decorated the Propylaea, which was erected under the superintendence of Phidias. His greatness lay in statuesque painting, which he brought nearly to perfection by the ideal expression, the accurate drawing, and improved coloring. He used but few colors, and softened the rigidity of his predecessors by making the mouth of beauty smile. He was the first who painted woman with brilliant drapery and variegated head-dresses. He gave great expression to the face and figure, and his pictures were models of excellence for the beauty of the eyebrows, the blush upon the cheeks, and the gracefulness of the draperies. He was a great epic painter, as Phidias was a sculptor, and Homer a poet, since he expressed not passion and emotion only, but ideal character. He imitated the personages and the subjects of the old mythology, and treated them in an epic spirit. He strove, like Phidias, to express character in repose. His subjects were almost invariably taken from Homer and the Epic cycle. His pictures had nothing of that elaborate grouping, aided by the powers of perspective, so much admired in modern art. His figures were grouped in regular lines, as in the bas-reliefs upon a frieze. He painted on panels which were afterward let into the walls. He used the pencil, instead of painting in encaustic with the cestrum.
Among the works of Polygnotus, as mentioned by Pliny, [Footnote: H. N.
[Sidenote: Contemporaries of Polygnotus.]
Dionysius and Micon were the great contemporaries of Polygnotus, the former of whom was celebrated for his portraits. His pictures were deficient in the ideal, but were remarkable for expression and elegant drawing. [Footnote: Plutarch, Timol. 36.] Micon was particularly skilled in painting horses, and was the first who used for a color the light Attic ochre, and the black made from burnt vine twigs. He painted three of the walls of the Temple of Theseus, and also the walls of the Temple of the Dioscuri.
[Sidenote: The school of Apollodorus.]
With Apollodorus, of Athens, a new development was made in the art of painting. Through his labors, about 408 B.C., dramatic effect was added to the style of Polygnotus, without departing from his pictures as models. "The acuteness of his taste," says Fuseli, "led him to discover that, as all men were connected by one general form, so they were separated each by some predominant power, which fixed character and bound them to a class. Thence he drew his line of imitation and personified the central form of the class to which his object belonged, and to which the rest of its qualities administered, without being absorbed; agility was not suffered to destroy firmness, solidity, or weight; nor strength and weight agility; elegance did not degenerate to effeminacy, nor grandeur swell to hugeness." [Footnote: Fuseli, Lect.
[Sidenote: Peculiarities of Zeuxis as a painter.]
This great painter prepared the way for Zeuxis, [Footnote: Born 455 B.C.] who belonged to his school, but who surpassed him in the power to give ideal form to rich effects. He began his great career four hundred and twenty-four years before Christ, and was most remarkable for his female figures. His "Helen," painted from five of the most beautiful women of Croton, was one of the most renowned productions of antiquity, to see which the painter demanded money. He gave away his pictures, because, with an artist's pride, he maintained that their price could not be estimated. There is a tradition that Zeuxis laughed himself to death over an old woman painted by him. He arrived at illusion of the senses, regarded as a high attainment in art, as in the instance recorded of his grapes. He belonged to the Asiatic school, whose head- quarters were at Ephesus, the peculiarities of which were accuracy of imitation, the exhibition of sensual charms, and the gratification of sensual tastes. He went to Athens about the time that the sculpture of Phidias was completed, which modified his style. His marvelous powers were displayed in the contrast of light and shade which he learned from Apollodorus. He gave ideal beauty to his figures, but it was in form rather than in expression. He taught the true method of grouping, by making each figure the perfect representation of the class to which it belonged. His works were deficient in those qualities which elevate the feelings and the character. He was the Euripides rather than the Homer of his art. He exactly imitated natural objects, which are incapable of ideal representation. His works were not so numerous as they were perfect in their way, in some of which, as in the Infant Hercules strangling the Serpent, he displayed great dramatic power. [Footnote: Lucian on Zeuxis.] Lucian highly praises his Female Centaur as one of the most remarkable paintings of the world, in which he showed great ingenuity in his contrasts. His Jupiter Enthroned is also extolled by Pliny, as one of his finest works. He acquired a great fortune, and lived ostentatiously.
[Sidenote: Parrhasius of Ephesus.]
Contemporaneous with him, and equal in fame, was Parrhasius, a native of Ephesus, whose skill lay in accuracy of drawing, and power of expression. He gave to painting true proportion, and attended to minute details of the countenance and the hair. In his gods and heroes, he did for painting what Phidias did in sculpture. His outlines were so perfect as to indicate those parts of the figure which they did not express. He established a rule of proportion which was followed by all succeeding artists. While many of his pieces were of a lofty character, some were demoralizing. Zeuxis yielded the palm to him, since he painted a curtain which deceived his rival, whereas Zeuxis painted grapes which deceived only birds. He was exceedingly arrogant and luxurious, and boasted of having reached the utmost limits of his art. He combined the magic tone of Apollodorus with the exquisite design of Zeuxis, and the classic expression of Polygnotus.
[Sidenote: Contemporaries of Zeuxis.]
Many were the eminent painters that adorned the fifth century before Christ, not only in Athens, but the Ionian cities of Asia. Timanthes of Sicyon was distinguished for invention, and Eupompus of the same city founded a school. His advice to Lysippus is memorable--"Let Nature, not an artist, be your model." Protogenes was celebrated for his high finish. His Talissus took him seven years to complete. Pamphilus was celebrated for composition, Antiphilus for facility, Theon of Samos for prolific fancy, Apelles for grace, Pausias for his chiaro-oscuro, Nicomachus for his bold and rapid pencil, Aristides for depth of expression.
[Sidenote: Art culminates in Apelles.]
[Sidenote: The Venus of Apelles.]
The art probably culminated in Apelles, the Titian of his age, who united the rich coloring and sensual charms of the Ionian with the scientific severity of the Sicyonian school. He was contemporaneous with Alexander, and was alone allowed to paint the picture of the great conqueror. He was a native of Ephesus, studied under Pamphilus of Amphipolis, and when he had gained reputation he went to Sicyon and took lessons from Melanthius. He spent the best part of his life at the court of Philip and Alexander, and painted many portraits of these great men and of their generals. He excelled in portraits, and labored so assiduously to perfect himself in drawing that he never spent a day without practicing. [Footnote: Pliny, xxxv. 12.] He made great improvement in the mechanical part of his art, and also was the first who covered his picture with a thin varnish, both to preserve it and bring out the colors. He invented ivory black. His distinguishing excellence was grace, "that artless balance of motion and repose, springing from character, founded on propriety, which neither falls short of the demands nor overleaps the modesty of Nature." [Footnote: Fuseli, Lect. I.] His great contemporaries may have equaled him in perspective, accuracy, and finish; but he added a grace of conception and refinement of taste which placed him, by the general consent of ancient authors, at the head of all the painters of the world. His greatest work was his Venus Anadyomene, or Venus rising out of the sea, in which female grace was personified. The falling drops of water from her hair form a transparent silver veil over her form. It cost one hundred talents, [Footnote: 243 pounds x 100 = 24300 pounds x 5 = $121,500.] and was painted for the Temple of Aesculapius at Cos, and afterwards placed by Augustus in the temple which he dedicated to Julius Caesar. The lower part of it becoming injured, no one could be found to repair it. Nor was there an artist who could complete an unfinished picture which he left. He was a man who courted criticism, and who was unenvious of the fame of rivals. He was a great admirer and friend of Protogenes of Rhodes, who was his equal in finish, but who never knew, as Apelles did, when to cease correcting. [Footnote: Cicero, Brut. 18; De Orat.
[Sidenote: Introduction of pictures into Rome.]
After Apelles, the art of painting declined, although great painters occasionally appeared, especially from the school of Sicyon, which was renowned for nearly two hundred years. The destruction of Corinth by Mummius, B.C. 146, gave a severe blow to Grecian art. He carried to Rome more works, or destroyed them, than all his predecessors combined. Sylla, when he spoiled Athens, inflicted a still greater injury, and, from that time, artists resorted to Rome and Alexandria and other flourishing cities for patronage and remuneration. The masterpieces of famous artists brought enormous prices, and Greece and Asia were ransacked for old pictures. The paintings which Aemilius Paulus brought from Greece required two hundred and fifty wagons to carry them in the triumphal procession. With the spoliation of Greece, the migration of artists commenced, and this spoliation of Greece and Asia and Sicily continued for two centuries; and such was the wealth of Rhodes in works of art that three thousand statues were found for the conquerors. Nor could there have been less at Athens, Olympia, or Delphi. Scaurus had all the public pictures of Sicyon transported to Rome. Verres plundered every temple and public building in Sicily.
[Sidenote: High value placed by them on painting.]
Thus Rome was possessed of the finest paintings of the world, without the slightest claim to the advancement of the art. And if the opinion of Sir Joshua Reynolds is correct, art could soar no higher in the realm of painting, as well as of statuary. Yet the Romans learned to place as high value on the works of Grecian genius as the English do on the paintings of the old masters of Italy and Flanders. And if they did not add to the art, they gave such encouragement that, under the emperors, it may be said to have been flourishing. Varro had a gallery of seven hundred portraits of eminent men. [Footnote: Pliny, H. N. xxx. 2.] The portraits as well as the statues of the great were placed in the temples, libraries, and public buildings. The baths especially were filled with paintings.
[Sidenote: Subjects among the Greeks.]
The great masterpieces of the Greeks were either historical or mythological. Paintings of gods and heroes, groups of men and women, in which character and passion could be delineated, were the most highly prized. It was in the expression given to the human figure--in beauty of form and countenance, in which all the emotions of the soul as well as the graces of the body were portrayed--that the Greek artists sought to reach the ideal, and to gain immortality. And they painted for people who naturally had taste and sensibility.
[Sidenote: Landscape Painting.]
Among the Romans, portrait, decorative, and scene painting engrossed the art, much to the regret of such critics as Pliny and Vitruvius. Nothing could be in more execrable taste than a colossal painting of Nero, one hundred and twenty feet high. From the time of Augustus, landscape decorations were common, and were carried out with every species of license. Among the Greeks we do not read of landscape painting. This has been reserved for our age, and is much admired, as it was at Rome in its latter days. Mosaic gradually superseded painting in Rome. It was first used for floors, but finally walls and ceilings were ornamented with it, like St. Peter's at Rome. Many ancient mosaics have been preserved which attest beauty of design of the highest character, like the Battle of Issus, lately discovered at Pompeii.
In fact, neither statuary nor painting was advanced by the Romans. They had no sensibility, or conception of ideal beauty. The divine spark of genius animated the Greeks alone. Still the wonders of Grecian art were possessed by the Romans, and were made to adorn those grand architectural monuments for which they had a taste. Greek productions were not merely matters of property, they were copied and reproduced in all the cities of the Mediterranean; and though no artist of original genius arose from Augustus to Constantine, galleries of art existed everywhere in which the masterpieces of Polygnotus, Pausias, Aristides, Timanthes, Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Pamphilus, Euphranor, Protogenes, Apelles, Timomachus, and of other illustrious men, were objects of as much praise as the galleries of Dresden and Florence.
[Sidenote: Probable perfection of the ancients in painting.]
"The glorious art of these masters, as far as regards tone, light, and local color," says Muller, "is lost to us, and we know nothing of it except from obscure notices and later imitations; on the contrary, the pictures on vases give us the most exalted idea of the progress and achievements of the arts of design." [Footnote: Muller, Ancient Art, 143.] It is surprising that, with four colors, the Greeks should have achieved such miracles of beauty and finish as are represented by the greatest cities of antiquity. The great wonders of the schools of Ephesus, Athens, and Sicyon have perished, and we cannot judge of their merits as we can of the statues which have fortunately been preserved. Whether Polygnotus was equal to Michael Angelo, Zeuxis to Raphael, and Apelles to Titian, we have no means of settling. But it is scarcely to be questioned that critics like the Greeks, whose opinions respecting architecture and sculpture coincide with our own, could have erred in their verdicts respecting those great paintings which extorted the admiration of the world, and were held, even in the decline of art, in such high value, not merely in the cities where they were painted, but in those to which they were transferred. What has descended to our times, like the mural decorations of Pompeii and the designs on vases, go to prove the perfection which was attained in painting, as well as sculpture and architecture.
[Sidenote: Perfection of art among the ancients.]
And thus, in all those arts of which modern civilization is proudest, and in which the genius of man has soared to the loftiest heights, the ancients were not merely our equals: they were our superiors. It is greater to originate than to copy. In architecture, in sculpture, and in painting the Greeks attained absolute perfection. Any architect of our time, who should build an edifice in different proportions than those which were recognized in the great cities of antiquity, would make a mistake. Who can improve upon the Doric columns of the Parthenon, or the Corinthian capitals of the Temple of Jupiter? Indeed, it is in proportion as we accurately copy the faultless models of the age of Pericles that excellence with us is attained. When we differ from them we furnish grounds of just criticism. So, in sculpture, the Greek Slave is a reproduction of an ancient Venus, and the Moses of Michael Angelo is a Jupiter in repose. It is only when the artist seeks to bring out the purest and loftiest sentiments of the soul, and such as only Christianity can inspire, that he may hope to surpass the sculpture of antiquity in one department of the art alone--in expression, rather than beauty of form, on which no improvement can be made. And if we possessed the Venus of Apelles, as we can boast of having the sculptured Venus of Cleomenes, we should probably discover greater richness of coloring, as well as grace of figure, than in that famous Titian which is one of the proudest ornaments of the galleries of Florence, and one of the greatest marvels of Italian art.
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REFERENCES.--Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art; Muller's Remains of Ancient Art; A. J. Guattani, Antiq. de la Grande Grece; Mazois, Antiq. de Pomp.; Sir W. Gill, Pompeiana; Donaldson's Antiquities of Athens; Vitruvius, Stuart, Chandler, Clarke, Dodwell, Cleghorn, De Quincey. These are some of the innumerable authorities on Architecture among the ancients.
In Sculpture, Pliny and Cicero are the most noted critics. There is a fine article in the Encyclopedia Britannica on this subject. In Smith's Dictionary are the lives and works of the most noted masters. Muller's Ancient Art alludes to the leading masterpieces. Montfaucon's Antiquite expliquee en Figures; Specimens of Ancient Sculpture, by the Society of Diettanti, London, 1809; Ancient Marbles of the British Museum, by Taylor Combe; Millin, Introduction a l'etude des Monumens Antiques; Monumens Inedits d'Antiquite figuree, recuellis et publies par Raoul- Rochette; Gerhard's Archaol. Zeit.; David's Essai sur le Classement Chronol. des Sculpteurs Grecs les plus celebres.
In Painting, see Caylus, Memoires de l'ac des Inscr. Levesque, sur les Progres successifs de la Peinture chez les Grecs; I. I. Grund, Mahlerei der Griechen; Meyer's Kunstgischichte; Muller, Hist, of Ancient Art; Article on Painting, Ency. Brit., Article "Pictura," Smith's Dict.; Fuseli's Lectures; Sir Joshua Reynolds' Lectures. Lanzi's History of Painting refers to the revival of the art. Vitruvius speaks at some length on ancient wall paintings. The finest specimens of ancient painting are found in catacombs, the baths, and the ruins of Pompeii. On this subject, Winckelmann is the great authority.