We do not intend to enter here on the history of sculpture in all its phases, but to give the distinctive features which characterize the different styles of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sculpture, as they are visible in statues of the natural or colossal size, in statues of lesser proportion, and lastly in busts and bas-reliefs.
We shall give also the styles of each separate nation which prevailed at each distinct age or epoch, styles which mark the stages of the development of the art of sculpture in all countries. Sculpture, like architecture and painting, indeed all art, had an indigenous and independent evolution in all countries, all these arts springing up naturally, and taking their origin alike everywhere in the imitative faculty of man. They had their stages of development in the ascending and descending scales, their rise, progress, culminating point, decline and decay, their cycle of development; the sequence of these stages being necessarily developed wherever the spirit of art has arisen, and has had growth and progress. The first and most important step in examining a work of ancient sculpture is to distinguish with certainty whether it is of Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, or Roman workmanship; and this distinction rests entirely on a profound knowledge of the style peculiar to each of those nations. The next step is, from its characteristic features, to distinguish what period, epoch, or stage of the development of the art of that particular nation it belongs to. We shall further give the various attributes and characteristics of the gods, goddesses, and other mythological personages which distinguish the various statues visible in Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman sculpture.
This enumeration will be found of use in the many sculpture galleries of the various museums both at home and abroad.
Man attempted sculpture long before he studied architecture; a simple hut, or a rude house, answered every purpose as a place of abode, and a long time elapsed before he sought to invent what was not demanded by necessity.
Architecture is a creation of the mind; it has no model in nature, and it requires great imaginative powers to conceive its ideal beauties, to make a proper combination of parts, and to judge of the harmony of forms altogether new and beyond the reach of experience. But the desire in man to imitate and to record what has passed before his eyes, in short, to transfer the impression from his own mind to another, is natural in every stage of society; and however imperfectly he may succeed in representing the objects themselves, his attempts to indicate their relative position, and to embody the expression of his own ideas, are a source of the highest satisfaction.
As the wish to record events gave the first, religion gave the second impulse to sculpture. The simple pillar of wood or stone, which was originally chosen to represent the deity, afterwards assumed the human form, the noblest image of the power that created it; though the Hermæ of Greece were not, as some have thought, the origin of statues, but were borrowed from the mummy-shaped gods of Egypt.
Pausanias thinks that “all statues were in ancient times of wood, particularly those made in Egypt;” but this must have been at a period so remote as to be far beyond the known history of that country; though it is probable that when the arts were in their infancy the Egyptians were confined to statues of that kind; and they occasionally erected wooden figures in their temples, even till the times of the latter Pharaohs.
Long after men had attempted to make out the parts of the figure, statues continued to be very rude; the arms were placed directly down the side of the thighs, and the legs were united together; nor did they pass beyond this imperfect state in Greece, until the age of Dædalus. Fortunately for themselves and for the world, the Greeks were allowed to free themselves from old habits, while the Egyptians, at the latest periods, continued to follow the imperfect models of their early artists, and were forever prevented from arriving at excellence in sculpture; and though they made great progress in other branches of art, though they evinced considerable taste in the forms of their vases, their furniture, and even in some architectural details, they were forever deficient in ideal beauty, and in the mode of representing the natural positions of the human figure.
In Egypt the prescribed automaton character of the figures effectually prevented all advancement in the statuary’s art; the limbs being straight, without any attempt at action, or, indeed, any indication of life; they were really statues of the person they represented, not the person “living in marble,” in which they differed entirely from those of Greece. No statue of a warrior was sculptured in the varied attitudes of attack and defence; no wrestler, no discobolus, no pugilist exhibited the grace, the vigor, or the muscular action of a man; nor were the beauties, the feeling, and the elegance of female forms displayed in stone: all was made to conform to the same invariable model, which confined the human figure to a few conventional postures.
A sitting statue, whether of a man or woman, was represented with the hands placed upon the knees, or held across the breast; a kneeling figure sometimes supported a small shrine or sacred emblem; and when standing the arms were placed directly down the sides of the thighs, one foot (and that always the left) being advanced beyond the other, as if in the attitude of walking, but without any attempt to separate the legs.
The oldest Egyptian sculptures on all large monuments were in low relief, and, as usual at every period, painted (obelisks and everything carved in hard stone, some funeral tablets, and other small objects, being in intaglio); and this style continued in vogue until the time of Remeses II., who introduced intaglio very generally on large monuments; and even his battle scenes at Karnac and the Memnonium are executed in this manner. The reliefs were little raised above the level of the wall; they had generally a flat surface with the edges softly rounded off, far surpassing the intaglio in effect; and it is to be regretted that the best epoch of art, when design and execution were in their zenith, should have abandoned a style so superior; which, too, would have improved in proportion to the advancement of that period.
After the accession of the twenty-sixth dynasty some attempt was made to revive the arts, which had been long neglected; and, independent of the patronage of government, the wealth of private individuals was liberally employed in their encouragement. Public buildings were erected in many parts of Egypt, and beautified with rich sculpture; the City of Sais, the royal residence of the Pharaohs of that dynasty, was adorned with the utmost magnificence, and extensive additions were made to the temples of Memphis, and even to those of the distant Thebes.
The fresh impulse thus given to art was not without effect; the sculptures of that period exhibit an elegance and beauty which might even induce some to consider them equal to the productions of an earlier age, and in the tombs of the Assaseef, at Thebes, are many admirable specimens of Egyptian art. To those, however, who understand the true feeling of this peculiar school, it is evident, that though in minuteness and finish they are deserving of the highest commendation, yet in grandeur of conception and in boldness of execution they fall far short of the sculptures of Sethos and the second Remeses.
The skill of the Egyptian artists in drawing bold and clear outlines is, perhaps, more worthy of admiration than anything connected with this branch of art, and in no place is the freedom of their drawing more conspicuous than in the figures in the unfinished part of Belzoni’s tomb, at Thebes. It was in the drawing alone that they excelled, being totally ignorant of the correct mode of coloring a figure, and their painting was not an imitation of nature, but merely the harmonious combination of certain hues, which they well understood. Indeed, to this day the harmony of positive colors is thoroughly felt in Egypt and the East, and it is strange to find the little perception of it in Northern Europe, where theories take upon themselves to explain to the mind what the eye has not yet learned, as if a grammar could be written before the language is understood.
A remarkable feature of Egyptian sculpture is the frequent representation of their Kings in a colossal form. The two most famous colossi are the seated figures in the plain of Thebes. One is recognized to be the vocal Memnon (Amunoph III.) mentioned by Strabo. They are forty-seven feet high, and measure about eighteen feet three inches across the shoulders. But the grandest and largest colossal statue was the stupendous statue of King Remeses II., a Syenite granite, in the Memnonium, at Thebes. It represented the King seated on a throne, in the usual attitude of Kings, the hands resting on his knees. It is now in fragments. It measured twenty-two feet four inches across the shoulders. According to Sir G. Wilkinson, the whole mass, when entire, must have weighed about 887 tons. A colossal statue of Remeses II. lies with his face upon the ground on the site of Memphis; it was placed before the temple of Pthah. Its total height is estimated at forty-two feet eight inches, without the pedestal. It is of white siliceous limestone. Another well-known colossus is the statue of the so-called Memnon, now in the British Museum. It is supposed to be the statue of Remeses II. It was brought by Belzoni from the Memnonium, at Thebes.
In the different epochs of Egyptian sculpture, the Egyptian artists were bound by certain fixed canons or rules of proportion to guide them in their labors, and which they were obliged to adhere to rigidly. The following are the canons of three distinct epochs: 1. The canon of the time of the pyramids, the height was reckoned at six feet from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, and subdivisions obtained by one-half or one-third of a foot. 2. The canon from the twelfth to the twenty-second dynasty is only an extension of the first. The whole figure was contained in a number of squares of half a foot, and the whole height divided into eighteen parts. In these two canons the height above the sixth foot is not reckoned. 3. The canon of the age of Psammetici, which is mentioned by Diodorus, reckoning the entire height at twenty-one and one-fourth feet from the sole to the crown of the head, taken to the upper part. The proportions are different, but without any introduction of the Greek canon. The canon and the leading lines were originally traced in red, subsequently corrected by the principal artist in black, and the design then executed. In Egypt, almost every object of sculpture and architecture was painted. The colossal Egyptian statues are generally of granite, basalt, porphyry, or sandstone. The two colossi on the plain of Thebes are, of course, hard gritstone. The Egyptians also worked in dark and red granites, breccias, serpentines, arragonite, limestones, jaspers, feldspar, cornelian, glass, gold, silver, bronze, lead, iron, the hard woods, fir or cedar, sycamore, ebony, acacia, porcelain and ivory, and terra cotta. All objects, from the most gigantic obelisk to the minute articles of private life, are found decorated with hieroglyphics.
Egyptian sculptors were also remarkable for the correct and excellent representation of animals. They may, indeed, be noticed in their representation a freedom of hand, a choice and variety of forms, a truthfulness, and even what deserves to be called imitation, which contrast with the uniformity, the rigidity, the absence of nature and life, which human figures present. Plato mentions a law which forbade the artists to depart, in the slightest degree, in the execution of statues of the human form from the type consecrated by priestly authority. The artist, therefore, not being restricted in his study of the animal form, could thus give to his image greater variety of motion, and by imitating animals in nature, indemnify himself for the constraint he experienced when he represented Kings and priests. The two colossal lions in red granite, brought to England by the late Duke of Northumberland, may be considered as remarkably good specimens of Egyptian art, as applied to the delineation of animal forms. They evince a considerable knowledge of anatomy in the strongly-marked delineation of the muscular development. The form also is natural and easy, thus admirably expressing the idea of strength in a state of repose. They were sculptured in the reign of Amunoph III. The representations of the sacred animals, the cynocephalus, the lion, the jackal, the ram, etc., are frequently to be met with in Egyptian sculpture.
Greek.—The stages of the cycle of development of the art of sculpture in Greece may be given in five distinct periods or epochs, naming these, for greater convenience, chiefly from the name of the principal artist whose style prevailed at that period.
|I.||The Dædalean, or early||( -580 B.C.)|
|II.||The Æginetan, or archaic||(580-480 B.C.)|
|III.||The Phidian, or the grand||(480-400 B.C.)|
|IV.||The Praxitelean, or the beautiful||(400-250 B.C.)|
|V.||The Decline||(250- )|
Prior to the age of Dædalus, there was an earlier stage in the development of art, in which the want of art, which is peculiar to that early stage, was exhibited in rude attempts at the representation of the human figure, for similar and almost identical rude representations are attempted in the early stages of art in all countries; as the early attempts of children are nearly identical in all ages. The presence of a god was indicated in a manner akin to the Fetichism of the African, by the simplest and most shapeless objects, such as unhewn blocks of stone and by simple pillars or pieces of wood. The first attempt at representation consisted in fashioning a block of stone or wood into some semblance of the human form, and this rude attempt constituted a divinity. Of this primitive form was the Venus of Cyprus, the Cupid of Thespiæ; the Juno of Argos was fashioned in a similar rude manner from the trunk of a wild pear tree. These attempts were thus nothing more than shapeless blocks, the head, arms, and legs scarcely defined. Some of these wooden blocks are supposed to have been, in a coarse attempt at imitation, furnished with real hair, and to have been clothed with real draperies in order to conceal the imperfection of the form. The next step was to give these shapeless blocks a human form. The upper part assumed the likeness of a head, and by degrees arms and legs were marked out; but in these early imitations of the human figure the arms were, doubtless, represented closely attached to the sides; and the legs, though to a certain extent defined, were still connected and united in a common pillar.
The age of Dædalus marks an improvement in the modeling of the human figure, and in giving it life and action. This improvement in the art consisted in representing the human figure with the arms isolated from the body, the legs detached, and the eyes open; in fine, giving it an appearance of nature as well as of life, and thus introducing a principle of imitation. This important progress in the practice of the art is the characteristic feature of the school of Dædalus, for under the name of Dædalus we must understand the art of sculpture itself in its primitive form, and in its first stage of development. According to Flaxman, the rude efforts of this age were intended to represent divinities and heroes only—Jupiter, Neptune, Hercules, and several heroic characters, had the self-same face, figure, and action; the same narrow eyes, thin lips, with the corners of the mouth turned upwards; the pointed chin, narrow loins, turgid muscles; the same advancing position of the lower limbs; the right hand raised beside the head, and the left extended. Their only distinctions were that Jupiter held the thunderbolt, Neptune the trident, and Hercules a palm branch or bow. The female divinities were clothed in draperies divided into few and perpendicular folds, their attitudes advancing like those of the male figures. The hair of both male and female statues of this period is arranged with great care, collected in a club behind, sometimes entirely curled.
Between the rudeness of the Dædalean and the hard and severe style of the Æginetan there was a transitional style, to which period the artists Dipœnus and Scyllis are assigned by Pliny. The metopes of the temple of Selinus in Sicily, the bas-reliefs representing Agamemnon, Epeus, and Talthybius, in the Louvre, the Harpy monument in the British Museum, and the Apollo of Tenea, afford examples of this style.
Æginetan.—In the Æginetan period of sculpture there was still retained in the character of the heads, in the details of the costume, and in the manner in which the beard and the hair are treated, something archaic and conventional, undoubtedly derived from the habits and teachings of the primitive school. But there prevails at the same time, in the execution of the human form, and the manner in which the nude is treated, a knowledge of anatomy, and an excellence of imitation carried to so high a degree of truth as to give convincing proofs of an advanced step and higher stage in the development of the art. The following are the principal characteristics of the Æginetan style, as derived from a careful examination of the statues found in Ægina, which were the undoubted productions of the school of the Æginetan period. The style in which they are executed is called Hieratic, or Archaic.
The heads, either totally destitute of expression, or all reduced to a general and conventional expression, present, in the oblique position of the eyes and mouth, that forced smile which seems to have been the characteristic feature common to all productions of this archaic style; for we find it also on the most ancient medals, and on bas-reliefs of the primitive period.
The hair, treated likewise in a systematic manner in small curls or plaits, worked with wonderful industry, imitates not real hair, but genuine wigs, a peculiarity which may be remarked on other works in the ancient style, and of Etruscan origin. The beard is indicated on the cheek by a deep mark, and is rarely worked in relief, but, in the latter case, so as to imitate a false beard, and consequently in the same system as the hair. The costume partakes of the same conventional and hieratic taste; it consists of drapery, with straight and regular folds, falling in symmetrical and parallel masses, so as to imitate the real draperies in which the ancient statues in wood were draped. These conventional forms of the drapery and hair may, therefore, be considered as deriving their origin from an imitation of the early statues in wood, the first objects of worship and of art among the Greeks, which were frequently covered with false hair, and clothed with real draperies. The muscular development observable in these figures is somewhat exaggerated, but, considering the period, is wonderfully accurate and true to nature. The genius for imitation exhibited in this style, carried as far as it is possible in the expression of the forms of the body, although still accompanied by a little meagreness and dryness, the truth of detail, the exquisite care in the execution, evince so profound a knowledge of the structure of the human body, so great a readiness of hand—in a word, an imitation of nature so skillful, and, at the same time, so simple, that one can not but recognize in them the productions of an art which had arrived at a point which required only a few steps more to reach perfection. To the latter part of this period belong the sculptors Canachus, Calamis, and Pythagoras. Canachus was the sculptor of a famous statue of a nude Apollo in bronze, termed Philesius, at Didymi, near Miletus, and was considered as very hard in his style.
Phidian.—”This period (we here adopt Mr. Vaux’s words) is the golden age of Greek art. During this period arose a spirit of sculpture which combined grace and majesty in the happiest manner, and by emancipating the plastic art from the fetters of antique stiffness, attained, under the direction of Pericles, and by the hand of Phidias, its culminating point. It is curious to remark the gradual progress of the arts; for it is clear that it was slowly and not per saltum that the gravity of the elder school was changed to the perfect style of the age of Phidias.” In this phase of the art, the ideal had reached its zenith, and we behold a beauty and perfection which has never been equaled. In this age alone sculpture, by the grandeur and sublimity it had attained to in its style, was qualified to give a form to the sublime conceptions of the deity evolved by the mind of Phidias. He alone was considered able to embody and to render manifest to the eye the sublime images of Homer. Hence, he was called “the sculptor of the gods.” It is well known that in the conception of his Jupiter Olympus, Phidias wished to render manifest, and that he succeeded in realizing, the sublime image under which Homer represents the master of the gods. The sculptor embodied that image in the following manner, according to Pausanias: “The god, made of ivory and gold, is seated on a throne, his head crowned with a branch of olive, his right hand presented a Victory of ivory and gold, with a crown and fillet; his left hand held a sceptre, studded with all kinds of metals, on which an eagle sat; the sandals of the god were gold, so was his drapery, on which were various animals, with flowers of all kinds, especially lilies; his throne was richly wrought with gold and precious stones. There were also statues; four Victories, alighting, were at each foot of the throne; those in front rested each on a sphinx that had seized a Theban youth; below the sphinxes the children of Niobe were slain by the arrows of Apollo and Artemis.” This statue, Flaxman observes, sixty feet in height, was the most renowned work of ancient sculpture, not for stupendous magnitude alone, but more for careful majesty and sublime beauty. His Minerva in the Parthenon was of gold and ivory. The goddess was represented standing robed in a tunic, and her head covered with the formidable ægis; with her right hand she held a lance; in the left she held a statue of Victory about five feet high; her helmet was surmounted by a sphinx and two griffins, and over the visor eight horses in front in full gallop. The shield erected at the feet of the goddess was adorned on both sides with bas-reliefs. At the base of the statue were a sphinx and a serpent. This colossus was thirty-seven feet high. The gem of Aspasus and the silver tetra-drachm of Athens are said to be copies of the head of this Minerva.
Another remarkable statue of Phidias was the Athene Promachus, in the Acropolis. It represented the tutelary goddess of the Athenians, fully armed and in the attitude of battle, with one arm raised and holding spear in her hand. This work was of colossal dimensions and stood in the open air, nearly opposite the Propylæa. It towered above the roof of the Parthenon and it is said the crest of the helmet and the point of the spear could be seen far off by ships approaching Athens from Sunium. Its height is supposed to have been, with its pedestal, about seventy feet, the material was bronze. There are two marble statues which have come down to us, and which give some idea of the Minervas of Phidias. One is the Pallas of Velletri, which is supposed to be a copy of the Minerva Promachus (cut is on p. 530). The Farnese Minerva, at Naples, may afford some idea of the chryselephantine statue of the Parthenon. It does not, however, present the accessories of the Athenian figure. The Sphinx, the serpent and the shield are not represented. The sculptures of the Parthenon, now in the British Museum, can lead us to appreciate the manner of Phidias, and the character of his school, so observed by Flaxman. The statues of the pediments, the metopes, and bas-reliefs, are remarkable for the grandeur of style, simplicity, truth, beauty, which are the characteristics of this school. On the eastern pediment was represented the birth of Minerva, and on the western the contest between Minerva and Neptune for the guardianship of the soil of Attica. Of the figures still preserved to us of the eastern pediment, it has been generally supposed that the reclining figure may be identified as Theseus, that another is Ceres, a third Iris, the messenger, about to announce to mortals the great event of the birth of Minerva, which has just taken place, while the group of three female figures are considered to represent the three Fates. Of the western pediment, the remaining figures are Cecrops, the first King and founder of Athens, and Aglaura, his wife, and the river god, Ilissus, or Cephisus. The metopes, which generally represent single contests between the Athenians and the Centaurs, are in strong high relief, full of bold action and passionate exertion—though this is for the most part softened by great beauty of form and a masterly style of composition which knows how to adapt itself with the utmost freedom to the strict conditions of the space. These reliefs were placed high, as they were calculated for the full light of the sun, and to throw deeper shadows.
The frieze may be considered as the chief glory of the art of Phidias. The artists here expressed with the utmost beauty the signification of the temple by depicting a festive procession, which was celebrated every fifth year at Athens, in honor of Minerva, conveying in solemn pomp to the temple of the Parthenon the peplos, or sacred veil, which was to be suspended before the statue of the goddess. The end of the procession has just reached the temple, the archons and heralds await, quietly conversing together, the end of the ceremony. They are followed by a train of Athenian maidens, singly or in groups, many of them with cans and other vessels in their hands. Then follow men and women, then bearers of sacrificial gifts, then flute-players and musicians, followed by combatants in chariots, with four splendid horses. The whole is concluded by prancing horsemen, the prime of the manly youth of Athens. This frieze was within the colonnade of the Parthenon, on the upper part of the wall of the cella, and was continued round the building. By its position it only obtained a secondary light. Being placed immediately below the soffit, it received all its light from between the columns, and by reflection from the pavement below. Mr. Westmacott remarks that these works are unquestionably the finest specimens of the art that exist, and they illustrate fully and admirably the progress and, as it may be said, the consummation of sculpture. They exhibit in a remarkable degree all the qualities that constitute fine art—truth, beauty, and perfect execution. In the forms, the most perfect, the most appropriate and the most graceful have been selected. All that is coarse or vulgar is omitted, and that only is represented which unites the two essential qualities of truth and beauty. The result of this happy combination is what has been termed ideal beauty. These sculptures, however, which emanated from the mind of Phidias, and were most certainly executed under his eyes, and in his school, are not the works of his hands. Phidias himself disdained or worked but little in marble. They were, doubtless, the works of his pupils, Alcamenes, Agoracritus, Colotes, Pæonios, and some other artists of his time. For, as Flaxman remarks, the styles of different hands are sufficiently evident in the alto and basso rilievo. To the age of Phidias belong the sculptors Alcamenes, Agoracritus, and Pæonios. The greatest work of Alcamenes was a statue of Venus in the Gardens, a work to which it is said Phidias himself put the finishing touch. He also executed a bronze statue of a conqueror in the games, which Pliny says was known as the “Encrinomenos, the highly approved.” Agoracritus, who, Pliny says, was such a favorite of Phidias that he gave his own name to many of that artist’s works, entered into a contest with Alcamenes, the subject being a statue of Venus. Alcamenes was successful, Pliny tells us, not that his work was superior, but because his fellow-citizens chose to give their suffrages in his favor, in preference to a stranger. It was for this reason that Agoracritus, indignant at his treatment, sold his statue on the express condition that it should never be taken to Athens, and changed its name to Nemesis. It was accordingly erected at Rhamnus.
A marble statue of Victory, a beautiful Nike in excellent preservation, has been lately discovered at Olympia, bearing the name of Pæonios. This statue is mentioned by Pausanius as a votive offering set up by the Messenians in the Altis, the sacred grove of Zeus at Olympia. The statues in the eastern pediment of the temple of Jupiter at Olympia were by Pæonios, and those in the western by Alcamenes. The first represented the equestrian contest of Pelops against Oenomaus, and in the second the Lapithæ were represented fighting with the centaurs at the marriage of Pirithous.
The frieze of the temple of Apollo at Bassæ, near Phigaleia, in Arcadia, belongs to this period. It was the work of Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon. Contests with the Amazons and battles with the centaurs form the subject of the whole. The most animated and boldest compositions are sculptured in these reliefs. They exhibit, however, exaggeration, and are wanting in that repose and beauty which are the characteristics of the works of Phidias.
In the half draped Venus of Milo now in the Louvre, we have a genuine Greek work, which represents an intermediate style between that of Phidias and Praxiteles. “Grandly serious,” Professor Lubke writes, “and almost severe, stands the goddess of Love, not yet conceived as in later representations, as a love requiring woman. The simple drapery, resting on the hips, displays uncovered the grand forms of the upper part of the body, which, with all her beauty, have that mysteriously unapproachable feeling which is the genuine expression of the divine.”
Praxitilean. This period is characterized by a more rich and flowing style of execution, as well as by the choice of softer and more delicate subjects than had usually been selected for representation. In this the beautiful was sought, after rather than the sublime. Praxiteles may be considered the first sculptor who introduced this more sensual, if it may be so called, style of art, for he was the first who, in the unrobed Venus, combined the utmost luxuriance of personal charms with a spiritual expression in which the queen of love herself appeared as a woman needful of love, and filled with inward longing. He first gave a prominence to corporeal attractions, with which the deity was invested. His favorite subjects were of youthful and feminine beauty. In his Venus of Cnidos he exhibited the goddess in the most exquisite form of woman. His Cupid represented the beauty and grace of that age in boys which seemed to the Greeks the most attractive. His Apollo Sauroctonos presented the form of a youth of exquisite beauty and proportion. The Venus of Cnidos stands foremost as one of the celebrated art creations of antiquity. This artist represented the goddess completely undraped; but this bold innovation was justified by the fact that she was taking up her garment with her left hand, as if she were just coming from her bath, while with her right she modestly covered her figure. Many as are the subsequent copies preserved of this famous statue, we can only conceive the outward idea of the attitude, but none of the pure grandeur of the work of Praxiteles. In the Vatican (Chiaramonte gallery, No. 112) there is one of very inferior execution, but perhaps the only one which gives a correct idea of this Venus, as it corresponds as nearly as possible with the pose of the statue on the coin of Cnidos and with the description of Lucan.
His Cupid is represented as a slender, undeveloped boy, full of liveliness and activity, earnestly endeavoring to fasten the strings to his bow. A Roman copy of this statue is in the British Museum.
He also executed in bronze a Faun, which was known as “Periboetos, the much famed;” the finest of the many copies of this celebrated statue that have come down to us, is in the Capitol; and a youthful Apollo, styled Sauroctonos, because he is aiming an arrow at a lizard which is stealing towards him; a copy of this statue in marble is in the Vatican, and one in bronze in the Villa Albani.
Contemporary with Praxiteles was Scopas. His works exhibit powerful expression, grandeur, combined with beauty and grace. The group of Niobe and her children, at Florence, has been attributed to him. Another very celebrated work of Scopas was the statue of the Pythian Apollo playing on the lyre, which Augustus placed in the temple which he built to Apollo, on the Palatine, in thanksgiving for his victory at Actium. An inferior Roman copy of this statue is in the Vatican. He was also celebrated for his heads of Apollo. Of these many excellent copies are still extant, the finest being that formerly in the Giustiniani collection, and now in the British Museum.
The late discoveries at Halicarnassus have yielded genuine works of Scopas in the sculptures of the bas-reliefs of Mausoleum, erected by Artemisia in memory of her husband, Mausolus, King of Caria, the east side of which is known to have proceeded from his hands; the other sides by his contemporaries, Bryaxis, Timotheus and Leochares. Parts of these are now in the British Museum.
The bas-reliefs of the temple of Nike Apteros have been associated with the peculiarities which characterize the productions of Scopas. A figure of Victory, stooping to loose her sandal, in bas-relief from this temple, is remarkable for its admirably arranged drapery.
The sculptural decorations of the temple of Artemis, at Ephesus, the foundations of which have been lately discovered by Mr. Wood, there is every reason to believe were contributed by Praxiteles and Scopas. The drum of a column, with figures in bas-relief from this temple, has been lately added to the British Museum.
The beautiful figure of a Bacchante in bas-relief in the British Museum is generally referred to Scopas.
The following are some of the more particular characteristics of the human form, adopted by the Grecian sculptors of this age:
In the profile, the forehead and lips touch a perpendicular line drawn between them. In young persons, the brow and nose nearly form a straight line, which gives an expression of grandeur and delicacy to the face. The forehead was low, the eyes large, but not prominent. A depth was given to the eye to give to the eyebrow a finer arch, and, by a deeper shadow, a bolder relief. To the eyes a living play of light was communicated by a sharp projection of the upper eyelid, and a deep depression of the pupil. The eye was so differently shaped in the heads of divinities and ideal heads that it is itself a characteristic by which they can be distinguished. In Jupiter, Apollo, and Juno the opening of the eye is large, and roundly arched; it has also less length than usual, that the curve which it makes may be more spherical. Pallas likewise has large eyes, but the upper lid falls over them more than in the three divinities just mentioned, for the purpose of giving her a modest maiden look. Small eyes were reserved for Venuses and voluptuous beauties, which gave them a languishing air. The upper lip was short, the lower lip fuller than the upper, as this tended to give a roundness to the chin; the short upper lip, and the round and grandly-formed chin, being the most essential signs of genuine Greek formation. The lips were generally closed; they slightly open in the statues of the gods, especially in the case of Venus, but the teeth were never seen. The ear was carefully modeled and finished. The beauty, and especially the execution of them, is, according to Winkelman, the surest sign by which to discriminate the antique from additions and restorations. The hair was curly, abundant, and disposed in floating locks, and executed with the utmost imaginable care; in females it was tied in a knot behind the head. The frontal hair was represented as growing in a curve over the temples in order to give the face an oval shape. The face was always oval, and a cross drawn in the oval indicated the design of the face. The perpendicular line marked the position of the brow, the nose, the mouth, and the chin; the horizontal line passed through the eyes, and was parallel to the mouth. The hands of youth were beautifully rounded, and the dimples given; the fingers were tapered, but the articulations were not generally indicated. In the male form the chest was high, arched, and prominent. In the female form, especially in that of goddesses and virgins, the form of the breasts is virginal in the extreme, since their beauty was generally made to consist in the moderateness of their size. They were generally a little higher than nature. The abdomen was without prominence. The legs and knees of youthful figures are rounded with softness and smoothness, and unmarked by muscular movements. The proportion of the limbs was longer than in the preceding period. In male and female figures the foot was rounded in its form; in the female the toes are delicate, and have dimples over their first joints gently marked.
It is evident that this type of beauty of form, adopted by the Grecian sculptors, is in unison with, and exhibits a marked analogy to the type of face and form of the Greeks themselves, for, as Sir Charles Bell observes, the Greek face is a fine oval, the forehead full and carried forward, the eyes large, the nose straight, the lips and chin finely formed; in short, the forms of the head and face have been the type of the antique, and of all which we most admire.
The sculptors of this age, instead of aiming at an abstract, unattainable ideal, studied nature in its choicest forms, and attained the beautiful by selecting and concentrating in one those charms which are found diffused over all. They avoided the representation of all violent motions and perturbations of the passions, which would have completely marred that expression of serene repose which is a prominent characteristic of the beautiful period of Greek sculpture. Indeed, the chief object of the Greek sculptor was the representation of the beautiful alone, and to this principle he made character, expression, costume, and everything else subordinate.
Lysippus, the successor of Praxiteles and Scopas, was a contemporary of Alexander the Great. He contributed to advance their style by the peculiar fullness, roundness, and harmonious general effect by which it appears that his works were characterized. His school exhibited a strong naturalistic tendency, a closer imitation of nature, leading to many refinements in detail. It was unquestionably greater in portrait than in ideal works. Pliny thus speaks of his style: “He is considered to have contributed very greatly to the art of the statuary by expressing the details of the hair, and by making the head smaller than had been done by the ancients, and the body more graceful and less bulky, a method by which his statues were made to appear taller.”
The portrait statues of Alexander the Great by Lysippus were very numerous. The great King would only allow himself to be modeled by Lysippus. The head of Alexander, as the young Ammon on the coins of Lysimachus, is said to have been designed by him. An athlete, scraping his body with a strigil, was the most famous of the bronze statues of Lysippus. The statue of an athlete in the Vatican, in a similar position, is supposed to be a marble copy of the original bronze of Lysippus; though an inferior work, it illustrates the statements of Pliny regarding the proportions adopted by Lysippus—a small head and the body long and slim. The bas-reliefs also on the monument of Lysicrates, representing the story of Dionysus and the Tyrrhenian pirates, presented all the characteristic features of the school of Lysippus. It was erected in the archonship of Euænetus, B.C. 335.
The canon of Polycletus began to be generally adopted at this period. It was followed by Lysippus, who called the Doryphoros of that artist his master. In his practice of dealing with the heads and limbs of his figures, Lysippus was followed by Silanion and Euphranor, and his authority may be said to have governed the school of Greece to a late period of the art.
Pliny tells us that Euphranor was the first who represented heroes with becoming dignity, and who paid particular attention to proportion. He made, however, in the generality of instances, the bodies somewhat more slender and the heads larger. His most celebrated statue was a Paris, which expressed alike the judge of the goddesses, the lover of Helen, and the slayer of Achilles. The very beautiful sitting figure of Paris, in marble, in the Vatican, is, no doubt, a copy of this work.
Subsequently to these sculptors we have Chares, the Rhodian, who constructed the famous colossus of Helios at the entrance of the harbor of Rhodes, which was 105 feet high. It appears there is no authority for the common statement that its legs extended over the mouth of the harbor.
Of the later Asiatic or Rhodian schools we have the famous groups of the Laocoon, on page 555, and of Dirce tied to a bull, commonly called the Toro Farnese. In both of these the dramatic element is predominant, and the tragic interest is not appreciated. In the Laocoon consummate skill is shown in the mastery of execution; but if the object of the artist was to create pity or awe, he has drawn too much attention to his power of carving marble. The Laocoon was executed, according to Pliny, by Agesander, Polydorus and Athenodorus, natives of Rhodes. This group, now in the Vatican, was found in the baths of Titus. From the evidence of an antique gem, on which is engraved a representation of this group, we find the right arm of the Laocoon has been wrongly restored. In the gem the hand of Laocoon is in contact with his head, and not, as restored by Giovanni da Montorsoli, raised high.
The Farnese Bull, a work in which we possess the most colossal group of antiquity, was executed by Apollonius and Tauriscus, of Tralles. To the same school belongs the Dying Gladiator, who unquestionably represents, as usually supposed, a combatant who died in the amphitheatre. It is remarkable for the entire absence of ideal representation, and for its complete individuality and close imitation of nature. This statue is probably one of the masterpieces of the celebrated Pyromachus, who executed several groups, and large compositions of battle scenes for Attalus, King of Pergamus, to celebrate his decisive victory over the Gauls (B.C. 240).
To the later Athenian school belong probably the Belvidere Torso, so much admired by Michael Angelo, the Farnese Hercules, the Venus de’Medici, and the Fighting Gladiator. The Belvidere Torso is now considered to be a copy by Apollonius, the son of Nestor, of the Hercules of Lysippus, and probably executed in the Macedonian period. The Farnese Hercules is so exaggerated in its style as to have been deemed a work as late as the Roman empire. According to Flaxman, the Venus de’Medici is a deteriorated variety or repetition of a Venus of Praxiteles. It is now generally admitted that it is a work of the latest Macedonian period, probably by Cleomenes, whose name appears on its base. The Fighting Gladiator bears the name of Agasias of Ephesus. From the attitude of the figure it is clear that the statue represents not a gladiator, but a warrior contending with a mounted combatant, probably an Athenian, warding off a blow from a centaur.
The Macedonian age, to which most of these statues belonged, commenced with Alexander the Great, and terminated with the absorption of Greek art by the Romans.
Art having, in the two previous periods, reached its culminating point of perfection, as is the law of all development, when a culminating point is reached, a downward tendency and a period of decline begins, for the cycle of development must be completed and the stages of rise, progress, maturity, decline and decay run through.
No exact date, however, can be assigned to the beginning of the stage of decline; no sharp line of demarcation can be pointed out dividing one stage from the other. The decline was so gradual that there was an inevitable blending of the two. We perceive evident signs of decline in the fourth stage, while, in the fifth, or stage of decline, we sometimes meet some noble works of art partaking of the perfect style of the earlier periods. A period of decline inevitably and invariably follows an age of maturity and perfection. As Mr. Lecky observes, “The sculptor and the painter of the age of Praxiteles precipitated art into sensuality; both of them destroyed its religious character, both of them raised it to high æsthetic perfection, but in both cases that perfection was followed by a speedy decline.” Muller remarks, “The creative activity, the real central point of the entire activity of art, which fashions peculiar forms for peculiar ideas, must have flagged in its exertions when the natural circle of ideas among the Greeks had received complete plastic embodiment, or it must have been morbidly driven to abnormal inventions. We find, therefore, that art, during this period, with greater or less degrees of skill in execution, delighted now in fantastical, now in effeminate productions, calculated merely to charm the senses. And even in the better and nobler works of the time there was still on the whole something—not, indeed, very striking to the eye, but which could be felt by the natural sense, something which distinguished them from the earlier works—the striving after effect.” The spirit of imitation marked the later portion of this period of decline. The sculptors of this age, despairing of equaling the productions of the former age, gave themselves up completely to servile imitation. The imitation was naturally inferior to the original, and each succeeding attempt at imitation was but a step lower in degradation of the art. When they ceased to study nature they thought to repair the deterioration of the beauty of form by the finish of the parts, and in a still later period they gave, instead of a grandeur of style, an exaggeration of form. Lastly, being utterly unable to cope with their predecessors in the sculpture of statues, they had recourse to the manufacture of busts and portraits, which they executed in countless numbers. The art reached its lowest ebb, and thus the cycle of the development of Greek sculpture terminated in its last stage—utter decay and degradation.
Roman.—In the very early periods the Romans imitated the Etruscans, for, generally speaking, all the works of the first periods of Rome were executed by Etruscan artists. Their earliest statues of gods were in clay. Etruscan art exercised the greatest influence in Rome, for Rome was adorned with monuments of Etruscan art, in its very infancy; it was a Tuscan called Veturius Mamurius who made the shields (ancilia) of the temple of Numa, and who made, in bronze, the statue of Vertumna, a Tuscan deity, in the suburb of Rome. The Romans owed all their culture to the Etruscans, from whom they learned the arts of architecture, terra-cotta work, and painting; calling in artists of that more tasteful race when anything of that sort was required for the decoration of their simple edifices. The most ancient monuments of Rome thus corresponded with the contemporaneous style of Etruscan art; there is thus a similarity in the figures; the attributes alone can lead one to distinguish them, as these attributes tell if the statue was connected with the creed or modes of belief of Etruria or Rome. There was not, therefore, any Roman style, properly so called; the only distinction to be remarked is that the statues of the early periods, executed by the Romans, are characterized, like the Romans themselves of the same period, by a beard and long hair. At a late period all the architecture, all the sculpture of the public edifices at Rome, were in the Tuscan style, according to the testimony of Pliny.
After the second Punic war, Greek artists took the place of Etruscan artists at Rome; the taking of Syracuse gave the Romans a knowledge of the beautiful works of Greece, and the treasures of art brought from Corinth chiefly contributed to awaken a taste among them, and they soon turned into ridicule their ancient statues in clay; Greek art was gradually transferred to Rome; Greek artists began to abound there, and the history of Roman art was thenceforward confounded with that of the vicissitudes of Greek art. The style of the works of sculpture under the first Emperors may be considered as a continuation and sequel of the development of Greek sculpture. These works, more particularly the portrait statues, which were the prevailing works of this period, exhibit a great deal of force and character, though a want of care is visible in some parts, especially in the hair. The characters of the heads always bear out the descriptions which historians have given of the person they belong to, the Roman head differing essentially from the Greek, in having a more arched forehead, a nose more aquiline, and features altogether of a more decided character. It may be observed, however, as a general remark, that the Roman statues are of a thicker and more robust form, with less ease and grace, more stern, and of a less ideal expression than Greek statues, though equally made by Greek artists. Under Augustus, and the following Roman Emperors, to meet the demand for Greek statues to embellish their houses and villas, several copies and imitations of celebrated Greek works were manufactured by the sculptors of the age. The Apollo Belvidere, the Venus of the Capitol, and several copies of celebrated Greek works, in various Museums, such as the Faun, Cupid, Apollo Sauroctonos, and Venus of Praxiteles, the Discobolos of Myron, and several works of Scopas and Lysippus, are supposed to be of this age. Archæologists are now generally agreed in thinking that the Apollo Belvidere is only a copy of a Roman period of a very fine Greek statue of about the beginning of the third century B.C., and that the original was in bronze. Another copy has been identified in a bronze statuette now in St. Petersburg, known as the Stroganoff Apollo. From this statuette it is found that the Apollo Belvidere held forward in his left hand, not a bow as was thought, but the ægis, in the attitude of spreading consternation among an enemy. The production of this statue is generally assigned to the period after the invasion of the Gauls, whom, in 278 B.C., the god drove in alarm from his sanctuary, at Delphi. (A cut of Apollo Belvidere is seen on page 495.)
Of the Faun of Praxiteles there are two copies in the Vatican, but both are inferior to that in the Capitol. A copy of the Cupid of Praxiteles is in the British Museum. Of the Apollo Sauroctonos there are two copies, one in the Vatican, and another in bronze in the Villa Albani. Of the Venus of Cnidos of Praxiteles there are several copies in the Vatican; one in particular, in the Chiaramonte Gallery, No. 112, though very inferior as a work of art, gives the exact pose of the original statue as it appears on the coin of Cnidos. The Venus of the Capitol is a Roman version of the Praxitelean statue; it differs in attitude. Several copies of the Discobolos of Myron are still in existence: one in the British Museum, one in the Vatican, and a third, much finer than either of the others, in the possession of Prince Massimo. A very fine marble copy of the celebrated bronze of Lysippus is in the Vatican. A copy of the Pythian Apollo by Scopas is in the same museum.
The noble statue of Augustus, discovered in 1863, and now in the Vatican, is a grand example of the portrait statues of this period. It is full of life and individuality. The pose is simple and majestic, as befitting the portrait of an Emperor. The bust of the young Augustus in the Vatican for depth of expression, individuality, truth to nature, and delicacy of finish and treatment, is a marvel in portraiture.
Under Tiberius and Claudius a limit was placed to the right of having statues exposed in public; consequently a lesser number of statues were made, and less attention was paid to the perfection of the portrait. However, some excellent works were produced in this period. The style became purer and more refined under Hadrian, for a partial revival of Greek art is attributed to this Emperor. The hair was carefully worked, the eyebrows were raised, the pupils were indicated by a deep cavity—an essential characteristic of this age, rare before this period, and frequently introduced afterwards; the heads required greater strength, without, however, increasing in character. Of the most remarkable productions of the age of Hadrian are the numerous repetitions of the statue of Antinous, an ideal portrait of Hadrian’s favorite, exhibiting much artistic perfection. That in the Capitol is remarkable, not only for its exceeding beauty, but also for its correct anatomy. Of the Emperor Hadrian there is a fine portrait statue in the British Museum. Under the Antonines, the decay of the art was still more manifest, displaying a want of simplicity, and an attention in trivial and meretricious accessories. Thus, in the busts, the hair and the beard luxuriate in an exaggerated profusion of curls, the careful expression of features of the countenance being at the same time frequently neglected. This age was remarkable also for its recurrence to the style of a primitive and imperfect art in the reproduction of Egyptian statues.