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hesitation in saying, that it would imply a more advanced state of the art of relief, than could be inferred from the most exquisite vase of antiquity. - - This is not the only subject which Homer has furnished to Canova; he has executed in the same manner, and with the same happiness, the Consignment of Briseis from the hands of Patroclus to the Heralds, and the Offering of the Trojan Matrons, from the Iliad; and the Return of Telemachus, from the Odyssea; the second book of the AEneid has been the ground-work for a Death of Priam: Euripides has supplied a Mad Hercules destroying his own children, in which the countenance of the maniac, and the various attitudes, situations, and ages of the children are most exquisitely delineated ; and the illustrious disciples of Socrates have occasioned four pieces commemorative of that great philosopher, with the following titles: Socrates saving the Life of Alcibiades, Socrates near his Death dismisses from him his Family, Socrates in the act of drinking the Poison, and Socrates dead; all evidently subjects well adapted to relief, but totally out of the reach of any other kind of sculpture. The groupes and single figures of Canova are very numerous; from the time that he devoted himself to sculpture alone (for in early life he seems to have hesitated between the sister arts of poetry and sculpture), he has been very regular and industrious in his application, and he executes with great rapidity. A catalogue of his works, however, would give no idea of their number, as the same piece has been frequently repeated, either from his own partiality, or the preference of those who have employed him. We shall speak of none which we have not some personal knowledge of; and, as our limits admonish us, we shall be brief in our observations on these. The general character of Canova's style is marked by great freedom and decision, consistent with a respectful adherence to the models found among the legacies of antiquity. , Perhaps in some instances this adherence has been carried too far; to us it seems a little too learned to give Helen a bald and oval crown to her head; and we object, though we know that we tread even upon the heels of Phidias himself when we venture to object, to the golden frontlet on the brow of Hebe, and the golden urn in her hand. We are aware that no usage is more consecrated by the practice of all antiquity, yet it does appear to us a most inconsistent one. It has of late become usual to vary the shades of a profile, to give lightness to
the hair, and whiteness to the shirt and cravat. It is said that this is an improvement, and an advancement towards a miniature
painting; and so it is—an advancement which makes the thing
itself neither profile nor painting; and the effect produced by
K k 2 this
this change of colours is, to make that attended to, which it is the very essence of profile to disregard; and as the shirt, white in reality, is given white on the paper, we naturally infer that the face black on the paper, is also black in reality. The attempt to give reality to any part of a whole which is intended for imitation, seems to involve the same absurdity in sculpture, as that to which we have alluded in profile drawing. If, because Hebe really poured nectar from a golden urn, her statue is also to have a golden urn instead of a marble copy in its hand, by the same rule some liquor as like nectar as may be, should be placed in the urn; by the same rule, colour should be given to her cheeks, and a muslin or gauze robe thrown round her for drapery. It it easy to see that this practice consistently followed, would end in the total destruction of sculpture as a fine art. No one, we presume, will defend the busts so often exhibited, in which marbles of different colours are adapted to the different parts of the head and dress; no one can behold without a prophane smile, the misdirected devotion, which, in small Catholic churches, is suffered to dress up the pictures of the Virgin and child with real ornaments and clothes; yet both these practices may be well defended, if Phidias or Canova be right in theirs; but the inconsistency to which they necessarily lead, and the false primciple on which they are founded, are manifest in all three. , As compared with sculptors of elder times, Canova is remarkable for the superior interest which he throws into faces of repose or beauty; in this respect, perhaps the very faultless harmony of features observable in antient statues, becomes itself a fault, as diminishing the interest of spectators. Canova was employed to supply a Venus for the Florentine Gallery, in place of the celebrated de Medicis; the substitute stands now with the other choice treasures of that inestimable collection, in the octagon room of the Tribuna, and it may be matter of speculation for the gallantry of the Dilettanti to determine how to dispose of her, when the original Goddess herself returns to her long abandoned shrines. - - *
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Our reason for mentioning the Venus of Canova, was to illustrate the remark preceding. It would be invidious to compare the two statues, and the modern artist has with great judgment put it out of our power, by the size and drapery of his own work; but there can be no question, that in beauty of face, if expression be the life of beauty, he has a decided superiority. Another peculiarity of his style, we imagine, consists in so - - * -- ** polis
polish of the human skin; this is a matter of mere detail, and
wasting and debility, which is in a wonderful manner thrown
over her whole form, and made to consist with still remaining - beauty
beauty. This it is clear was the great difficulty which the artist had to encounter, and which few of the celebrated painters, in treating of the same subject, seem duly to have considered; Canova has certainly overcome it; the traces of fastings and vigils, of penances and mental agonies, are all, as they ought to be, forcibly marked, but inherent beauty still remains, and, wasted as her form is, no portion of graceful contour seems to have escaped. There is a little concetto in our authoress' account, but as we know it on the whole to be very faithful, and as we have cited no specimen of her writing, we will give it.
“Genuflessa, an2i sui propri talloni abbandonata, coi capelli sparsi, e dalle lunghe vigilie, e dalle astinenze lunghe indebolita spossata, con l'anima, tutta sugli occhi, e questi fisi tenendo ad una Croce, chesostiene con ambe le mani appoggiate sopra lesue ginocchia, questameravigliosa figura, mirabile sforzo d'una sublime idea riunisce in séad un tratto il tempo passato, il presente, l'avvenire; ció ch” ella fu, ció ch” ella e, ció ch’ella in breve sarà. La sua passata bellezza tuttavia si manifesta nella purità dei bei contormi del suo volto, che pur rimangono intatti, e mella somma regolarità delle ben scelte, ed armoniche sue proporsioni. Con le sue lagrime cocentissime che bruciano gli occhi da cui escono, e le gote sopra cui cadomo, col suo intenso dolore, che laaera l'anima, con la funesta degradazione di tutto il suo individuo ella ci fa conoscereil suo stato presente. L'avvenire finalmente nella vicina sua estinzione, poiche pare veramente, ch? ella sia vicina a spirare l'ultimo soffio della sua misera vita, e che le manchi perfino quel raggio
di spene, che. lucido brilla in quei miseri istanti, ultimo, e miste- .
rioso dono d'un Dio oltre ogni espressione demente.” P. 84.
We shall conclude what we have to say with a remark or two on one of Canova's statues, to which we have before alluded, the Hebe. From the very mature of the subject, it bears no comparison with many other of his works, in point of grandeur or sublimity; but we think it by far the most beautiful and most pleasing. We know not that we ever saw any thing to compare with it for lightness and airiness of expression, with the exception of a Pomona among the antiques of the Florentine gallery, which is of much larger size, stepping forward on a foot that Cinderella herself might have envied. The Hebe of Canova is rather under the common size; she has no dress, or even ornament of any kind (excepting the frontlet commented on in a former part of this article) down to the waist, below which, a plain cincture collects, and sustains a slight drapery, and is then tied behind in a careless, but not imelegant knot. The drapery, which rises a very little above the cincture, flounces over it in the most natural manner imaginable, and as the figure is in the attitude of
one advancing, floats behind in a light fold or two, and gathers
so tightly in front, as to have a transparent appearance. It - - reaches
reaches only to the knee, and the Goddess stands with one foot advanced on a gently swelling cloud. The right hand, raised on high, holds a golden urn, and the left a cup of the same metal; she seems in the act of pouring from one vessel into the other ; and this circumstance, perhaps, affords the only ground of exception that we are aware of, to the conception of the statue. It will have occurred to our readers, that there is some inconsistency in this employment with the rapid motion which both her attitude and drapery imply. To this objection, we confess we have no answer ready; but in the contemplation of her beautiful form, of the composed cheerfulness of her expressive face, and in the general character of sprightly innocence, so congenial to her, whom the poetic and fanciful devotion of the Greeks worshipped as the Goddess of Youth, criticism is constrained to be silent. - Our Italian readers will not be displeased at the insertion of the following elegant compliment to Canova, addressed to the Hebe, by Ippolito Piniemonte, one of the most distinguished poets of modern Italy. He has published some translations
from Homer and Virgil, and a tragedy Arminio of no common merit.
E natura, onde legge ebbe ogni cosa, . . . . . "
We trust we shall be excused for detaining our readers so long on a subject, which may almost seem foreign to the purpose of our labours; but the fine arts are among the appropriate ornaments of a great and flourishing empire, and we shall think that'. we have done some service, if we stimulate domestic talent, b turning its attention to foreign excellence. It is an unwise, as: well as an illiberal patronage, which confines itself to the encouragement of native genius. There is no commerce, in which monopoly is of so fatal a tendency, as in that of the fine arts; ‘. . - without