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the lower half of the figure is longer than just proportion allows.
I know that Corregio and Parmegiano are often produced as authorities to support this opinion; but very little attention will convince us, that the incorrectness of some parts which we find in their works, does not contribute to grace, but rather tends to destroy it. The Madonna, with the sleeping Infant, and beautiful group of Angels, by Parmegiano, in the Palazzo Piti, would not have lost any of its excellence, if the neck, fingers, and indeed the whole figure of the Virgin, instead of being so very long and incorrect, had preserved their due proportion.
In opposition to the first of these remarks, I have the authority of a very able Sculptor of this Academy, who has, copied that figure, consequently measured and carefully examined it, to declare, that the criticism is not true. In regard to the last, it must be remembered that Apollo is here in the exertion of one of his peculiar powers, which is swiftness; he has therefore that proportion which is best adapted to that character. This is no more incorrectness, than when there is given to an Hercules an extraordinary swelling and strength of muscles.
The art of discovering and expressing grace is difficult enough of itself, without perplexing ourselves with what is incomprehensible. A supposition of such a monster as Grace, begot by Deformity, is poison to the mind of a young Artist, and may make him neglect what is essential to his art, correctness of Design, in order to pursue a phantom, which has no existence but in the imagination of affected and refined specuJators.
I cannot quit the Apollo, without making one observ. ation on the character of this figure. He is supposed
to have just discharged his arrow at the Python; and, by the head retreating a little towards the right shoulder, he appears attentive to its effect. What I would remark is the difference of this attention from that of the Discobolus, who is engaged in the same purpose, watching the effect of his Discus. The graceful, negligent, though animated, air of the one, and the vulgar eagerness of the other, furnish a signal instance of the judgment of the ancient sculptors in their nice discrimination of character. They are both equally true to nature, and equally admirable.
It may be remarked, that Grace, Character, and Expression, though words of different sense and meaning, and so understood when applied to the works of Painters, are indiscriminately used when we speak of Sculpture. This indecision we may suspect to proceed from the undetermined effects of the Art itself; those qualities are exhibited in Sculpture rather by form and attitude than by the features, and can therefore be expressed but in a very general manner.
Though the Laocoon and his two sons have more expression in the countenance than perhaps any other antique statues, yet it is only the general expression of pain ; and this passion is still more strongly expressed by the writhing and contortion of the body than by the features.
It has been observed in a late publication, that if the attention of the Father in this group had been occupied more by the distress of his children, than by his own sufferings, it would have raised a much greater interest in the spectator. Though this observation comes from a person whose opinion, in every thing relating to the Arts, carries with it the highest authority, yet I cannot but suspect that such refined expression is scarce within the province of this Art; and in at
tempting it, the Artist will run great risk of enfeebling expression, and making it less intelligible to the spectator.
As the general figure presents itself in a more conspicuous manner than the features, is there we must principally look for expression or character; patuit in corpore vultus ; and, in this respect, the Sculptor's art is not unlike that of Dancing, where the attention of the spectator is principally engaged by the attitude and action of the performer, and it is there he must look for whatever expression that art is capable of exhibiting. The Dancers themselves acknowledge this, by often wearing masks, with little diminution in the expression. The face bears so very inconsiderable a proportion to the effect of the whole figure, that the ancient Sculptors neglected to animate the features, even with the general expression of the passions. Of this the group of the Boxers is a remarkable instance; they are engaged in the most animated action with the greatest serenity of countenance. This is not recommended for imitation (for there can be no reason why the countenance should not correspond with the attitude and expression of the figure), but is mentioned in order to infer from hence, that this frequent deficiency in ancient Sculpture could proceed from nothing but a habit of inattention to what was considered as comparatively immaterial.
Those who think Sculpture can express more than we have allowed, may ask, by what means we discover, at the first glance, the character that is represented in a Bust, Cameo, or Intaglio? I suspect it will be found, on close examination, by him who is resolved not to see more than he really does see, that the figures are distinguished by their insignia more than by any variety of form or beauty. Take from Apollo his Lyre, from
Bacchus his Thirsus and Vine-leaves, and Meleager the Boar's Head, and there will remain little or no difference in their characters. In a Juno, Minerva, or Flora, the idea of the artist seems to have gone no further than representing perfect beauty, and afterwards adding the proper attributes, with a total indifference to which they gave them. Thus John de Bologna, after he had finished a group of a young man holding up a young woman in his arms, with an old man at his feet, called his friends together, to tell him what name he should give it, and it was agreed to call it The Rape of the Sabines *; and this is the celebrated group
which now stands before the old Palace at Florence. The figures have the same general expression which is to be found in most of the antique Sculpture; and yet it would be no wonder if future critics should find out delicacy of expression which was never intended; and go so far as to see, in the old man's countenance, the exact relation which he bore to the woman who appears to be taken from him.
Though Painting and Sculpture are, like many other arts, governed by the same general principles, yet in the detail, or what may be called the by-laws of each art, there seems to be no longer any connection between them. The different materials upon which those two arts exert their powers, must infallibly create a proportional difference in their practice. There are many petty excellencies which the Painter attains with ease, but which are impracticable in Sculpture; and which, even if it could accomplish them, would add nothing to the true value and dignity of the work.
Of the ineffectual attempts which the modern
* See " Il Reposo di Raffaelle Borghini."
Sculptors have made by way of improvement, these seem to be the principal ; The practice of detaching drapery from the figure, in order to give the appearance of flying in the air ;
Of making different plans in the same bas-relievos ; Of attempting to represent the effects of
To these we may add the ill effect of figures clothed in a modern dress.
The folly of attempting to make stone sport and flutter in the air, is so apparent, that it carries with it its own reprehension ; and yet to accomplish this, seemed to be the great ambition of many modern Sculptors, particularly Bernini : his art was so much set on overcoming this difficulty, that he was for ever attempting it, though by that attempt he risked every thing that was valuable in the art.
Bernini stands in the first class of modern Sculptors, and therefore it is the business of criticism to prevent the ill effects of so powerful an example.
From his very early work of Apollo and Daphne, the world justly expected he would rival the best productions of ancient Greece ; but he soon strayed from the right path. And though there is in his works something which always distinguishes him from the common herd, yet he appears in his latter performances to have lost his way. Instead of pursuing the study of that ideal beauty with which he had so successfully begun, he turned his mind to an injudicious quest of novelty, attempted what was not within the province of the art, and endeavoured to overcome the hardness and obstinacy of his materials ;
which even supposing he had accomplished, so far as to make this species of drapery appear natural, the ill effect and con