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certainly in air, excepting that part of the foot which sustains the whole weight of the figure on earth. Why did not the sculptor copy Nature, and represent an opera-dancer actually in the air? He could not. The painter has an advantage over the statuary, in the means of outraging nature and credibility. After all, Lady Morgan acknowledges, that," the conception is, perhaps, a conceit.” The figure is probably that which a man would assume, who had the power of mounting in air without wings—for those appendages to the human form, in Mercury's case, can have no operative effect on the spring which he is taking from the ground.
There is one shew-room in this gallery which the Grand Duke should close. It is a public nuisance. When the ladies get into it, the custodes take their seats and go to sleep. There is an end to all progression for that dayand even the TRIBUNA is neglected. A lady only could give an idea of this chamber.
“The CABINET OF Gems-the boudoir of a Cresus, or a Sheba, is a thing in itself unique, and peculiar to the age, the family, and the country, of which it is an epitome. This room or casket,
• Enchased with all the riches of the world,' is worthy, by its beauty and magnificence, of its splendid deposit. Four columns of purest oriental alabaster, and four of precious verd-antique, support the glittering roof of this cabinet. Six armoires of exquisite workmanship contain the brilliant produce of Indian mines, sculptured into every form, receiving every impression which the magic finger of Genius could give to their unyielding surfaces. For this, Cellini was forced to neglect his Perseus, Bandinello his Hercules, and Valerio Vicentio, to give those powers to chiselling a toy, which might have produced a Laocoon, or a Niobe. This cabinet is a monument of a new and rare epoch in the history of the Arts—it marks a period when public taste declined with public spirit, and when the caprice of powerful individuals, seconded by their unparalleled wealth, gave a fantastic direction to talent; and, diverting it from its higher purposes, substituted private patronage for public encouragement, and replaced the stimulus of competition by the salary of dependence.
“The six armoires of the Cabinet of Gems are decorated with eight columns of agate, and eight of crystal, whose bases and capitals are studded with topazes and turquoises. They contain vases cut out of rubies, and urns each
• Of one entire and perfect crysolite,' cups of emerald, in saucers of onyx; Roman emperors, in calcedony; and Roman beauties, shedding from their amethyst brows, the true lumen purpureum of love and loveliness. But the objects most curious are, St. Paul and St. Peter preaching, in jasper ; a knight fighting in a mail of diamonds; a
pearl dog, with a tail of gold and paws of rubies ; Duke Cosimo the Second, in gold and enamel, praying before an altar of gems and jewels; and a shrine of crystal, representing the passion : the whole infinitely fitter for a Parisian Magazin de Bijouterie, in the Palais Royal, than for the high altar, for which they were destined by the toy-shop piety of that true Medici, Pope Clement the Seventh."
It was not want of respect for the ancient Queen of Love that led me to pay my devoirs first to her younger sister. It was principally owing to want of fore-knowledge. Various professional and literary avocations had prevented me from reading the tours of modern travellers—and when unexpectedly on the road myself, I purposely avoided the perusal of descriptions and reflections, in order that all impressions might fall on a mind unbiassed and unencumbered by the impressions received by other minds. I do not regret this mode of proceeding ; but I would not recommend it to others. It has its advantages, in a few cases ; but, generally speaking, a tour in Italy requires a very considerable course of previous study, otherwise many things will not be seen at all-and still more will be seen unprofitably. Such a systematic procedure, however, was out of the question in my case,
and the same WEAR and TEAR” of avocation which sent me unprepared to this classic soil, prevented all but a very limited comparison of my own ideas with those of others, after my return to “ Modern BABYLON." This comparison, however brief, has been productive of profit as well as plea
It has convinced me that impressions cannot always have fair play, where the mind is pre-occupied, if not tinctured by the conceptions of others; and that the reflections growing out of these impressions cannot be quite genuine under such circumstances. It is wonderful, indeed, to trace the ideas of one man strained through the brains of twenty others, not only without clarification, but often with a positive addition of alloy !
The TRIBUNE (the sanctum sanctorum of the gallery) is wisely reserved by the custodes for the last exhibition in their Sisyphean occupation. I entered it the first day, without knowing where I was going. The VENUS DE MEDICI instantly told me I was in the presence of beauty personified. Her averted look certainly indicates, according to my impression, some degree of shame, or even denial. When we advance and turn to the right, so as to command her countenance, I fancied that I could perceive a triumphant, if not a sarcastic smile, playing on features that are mellowed rather than faded by: The position of the hands is more artful than honest.
• Ipsa Venus pubem, quoties velamina ponit,
This charmer has been called the MADONNA DELLA CONFORTA, for ladies of low stature, and a certain, or rather uncertain age-being herself under five feet in height, and some three centuries on the wrong side of the Christian æra, in years. Time has embrowned her complexion ; but her figure remains the admiration of the world. It may appear somewhat paradoxical to say that, the whole form is perfection, though many of the principal parts are faulty. The critics have determined, among other blemishes, that the head and the hips are too small—that the nose and the hands are too large that the fingers are like marlin-spikes, and have only one joint among ten of them. The diminutive head would not have been of much consequence, had not the phrenologists with their callipers, ascertained that the owner of the head was an idiot!, Well! This would not much diminish the number of her admirers. Praxiteles or Cleomenes was not so silly as to give Venus as much brains as MinervA. It is not necessary—it is not desirable, that a BEAUTY should be a BLUE-STOCKING. What did Sappho gain by her towering intellect and tender lyrics ? Not a husband certainly-unless under the Ægean wave!
Say lovely youth that do'st my heart command,
Can Phaon's eyes forget his Sappho's hand ? No, truly! Phaon remembered her head as well as her hand, and kept at as respectful a distance from the tenth Muse as a butterfly BEAU does from a literary BELLE, of the present times.
But then the pelvis is not so broad, nor the stern so prominent, as among the Hottentot Venuses of our own day. This is true. The poor VENUS DE Medicis had not a Parisian milliner to exaggerate the deformities of Nature. Yes, the deformities of Nature ! Unless the critic is prepared to maintain that black and white are the same colour—that great and small dimensions are of the same admeasurement, I do assert that Nature, for wise purposes, has imposed a tribute of deformity on the graceful beauty of the female sex, which, it is the duty of the sculptor and painter to diminish, in beau-idealism, rather than exaggerate-to veil rather than expose. Praxiteles, Cleomenes, or whoever it was that sculptured the Medicean Venus, acted judiciously in diminishing the size of the female pelvis, the full dimensions of which, however useful and natural, can never, I imagine, be pleasing to the eye of the spectator. I could illustrate this position, and demonstrate that NATURE does not always study symmetry and proportion in her formations or operations ; but I think it unnecessary. The most beautiful female figure, in youth and in health, differs totally in the course of a few months. Poets, painters, and sculptors, have taken care, very properly, to delineate but one side of the portrait. It is, however, sickening to hear the various criticisms on the Queen of Love, no two of which agree in their censures or praises—a proof of the unstable basis on which their criticisms rest.
VENUS DE MEDICIS-NAKED STATUES.
Were the Venus de Medicis, the Apollo Belvidere, and other master-pieces of ancient sculpture, copied from Nature, or composed from the imagination? I think they were constructed from the memory of fine forms, heightened by the imagination. Hence they are more beautiful than Nature :-in short, they are beau-idealisms. How is it that modern sculptors cannot equal the ancients ? I think the reason is, that they are inferior in point of genius. If they attempt to chisel from memory and imagination (that is, if they attempt the BEAU-IDEAL) they fail, from the inferiority of powers which I have assumed. If they copy from NATURE, they fail ; because the ancients surpassed Nature. If they copy from the ancient models, they necessarily fail, because copies must be inferior to the originals. The result appears to be, that the moderns, who imitate Nature, and Nature only, are more correct while the ancients, who embellished Nature by powerful imaginations, are more pleasing. We see this exemplified every day by comparison of real life with romance of living faces with their portraits. Homer and Scott, as well as the million of intervening poets, who embellished fact by fiction, and memory by imagination, have excited more general interest, and diffused more universal pleasure, than the whole host of historians, from Herodotus to Hume.
The propriety or impropriety of exhibiting the undraped heroes and heroines of antiquity to the gaze of all ranks and both sexes, is a question which seems to have been blinked by most travellers—even by the ladies, some of whom have given their tongues ample licence upon other subjects. I certainly have my own opinion on this point; but I do not think it would be of any use to state it here. There is one remarkable expression which has dropped, as it were, accidentally from the pen of a philosopher, critic, and anatomist, not very strait-laced in matters of this kind-the late John Bell. Speaking of the Venus de Medici, he observes—“The whole work, as it presents itself, is most beautiful ; and, if such nude figures are to be permitted, nothing can be conceived more exquisite.". Mr. Bell's internal conviction on this subject may be gathered very readily from the above sentence.*
But however this may be, we may safely aver that the senses are liable to more serious and offensive presentations in fair Italy, than any which the galleries of Florence, Rome, or Naples can exhibit. We need not, therefore, alarm ourselves about squibs and crackers, after smoking our cigars so quietly over magazines of gun-powder.
One or two words before we quit the Tribune. Mr. Matthews tells us that he would have taken the MedicEAN Venus for an angel, which is of no sex, had he not discovered that the ears were pierced for pendants ! Bracelets he
I waive the
* Mr. Matthews is a strong advocate for things as they are. question.
could have pardoned—but, ear-rings-proh pudor! I am rather surprized that so acute an observer could discover no other marks of the feminine gen, der about the Queen of Love than the holes in her ears.
The Venus de Medicis has got other rivals in Florence besides the daughter of Canova. Immediately behind the “ bending statue that delights the world,” reclines a figure-about whose sex there can be little scepticism the Venus of Titian:-and not far from thence the Fornarina of Raphael. From the number of people whom I saw devouring with their eyes, these “Houries of a Mahomedan Paradise,” I doubt the correctness of Mr. Matthews' assertion that “the triumph of the statue is complete”_"in whose eye there is no Heaven, in whose gesture there is no love."*
The TRIBUNE, indeed, concentrates within the space of a small ante-chamber, t a host of the most wonderful efforts, or rather prodigies of human genius. It is a focus of intellectual excitement, in which the soul receives an electric shock with every ray of light that enters the organ of vision. And yet the promiscuous assemblage of divine and human actors of Christian and Pagan personages of heathen fables and holy legends of dancing drunkards and grim-visaged executioners, is well calculated to swell the tumultuous tide of incongrnous ideas that rush through the mind, when first we enter this magia apartment. The eye glances from a naked Venus to a sainted Madonnafrom a capering Faun to a decapitated Apostle-from Diana ogling Endymion to Herodias receiving the head of St. John—from a wrestling-match to the Crucifixion of our Saviour-from a knife-grinder to the “ Massacre of the Innocents”—from a naked Nymph auditing the soft nonsense of Cupid, to a naked slave listening to a band of conspirators ! Such are a few of the cons flicting, contrasting, but exciting objects of contemplation in the TRIBUNE, which we enter with eager curiosity, linger in with tumultuous pleasure, and tear ourselves from with reluctance and regret !
The numerous and interesting objects of antiquity and art at Florence, left
* “ The fact is (says Lady Morgan), that the Venus de Medicis, like other long-revered antiquities, has felt the blighting breath of revolutionary change; and daily sees her shrine deserted for that of a rival beauty, who is no goddess, and still less a saint—who is, after all, a mere woman—the model and inspiration of Raphael-his own Fornarina."
+ About 12 feet in diameter. | I cannot conceive why the connoisseurs call this a group of wrestlers. They are surely boxers. The clenched fist of the victor, who is aiming a blow at the averted face of his prostrate competitor, is not in keeping with a wrestling-match.