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savage and brutal conduct of the Poissardes of Paris, devouring the flesh, and the raw flesh too, of the unhappy victims of revolutionary frenzy, we should almost be inclined to doubt the existence of the practice among the Battas, even to the limited extent described by Mr. Marsden.
ART. VI.-Memoirs of Antonio Canova, with a critical Analysis of his Works, and an Historical View of Modern Sculpture. By S. Memes, A. M., Member of the Astronomical Society of London, &c. 1825.
THIS is a book of some merit, and more pretension; it contains much useful information concerning art, many just remarks on sculpture, is written with an anxious regard for truth, and displays abundance of enthusiasm about the person and productions of its hero. But the learning and the good taste in sculpture which the author possesses, ought to have been united with a style less ornate and laborious. To communicate useful information in a simple and concise way is not the excellence of Mr. Memes. The polished graces of Canova's marbles have seduced his pen into a cumbrous and glossy style of composition; and it requires some caution in perusal, to follow out the story of the artist's busy career among his biographer's crowded images and grand circumlocutions. All indeed that is worth knowing of the life of the distinguished sculptor can soon be told-it was a period of solitary thought and secluded labour, and his existence was only marked by the works of genius which the world received so willingly from his hand.
Antonio Canova, the only child of Pietro Canova a stonecutter, was born in a mud walled cottage in the little village of Possagno, among the Venetian hills, on the first day of November in the year 1757. His father died when he was three years old; his mother married again in a few months, and left her son to the charity of his paternal grandfather Pasino Canova. Antonio was weak in person, and feeble in constitution: this but endeared him the more to his grandmother Catterina Cecatto, who nursed him with the tenderest care, and sung him ballads of his native hills, infusing a love of poetry into his heart, of which he ever afterwards acknowledged the value. In his tenth year he began to cut stone, and it was his grandfather's wish that he should succeed him as hereditary mason of the village. The weakness of his body and his extreme youth were ill suited for a laborious trade. Old Pasino, who was a man above the common mark, indulged him in modelling of flowers, and in drawing of animals, and such was
his success that, in his twelfth year, he obtained the notice of the noble family of the Falieri who had a palace in the neighbourhood. As the notice of the great can rarely be purchased but by something like a miracle-something like a miracle is told to account for the good fortune and fame of Canova. A great feast was given by the Falieri, the dinner was set forth and the guests assembled, when the domestics discovered that a crowning ornament was wanting to complete the beauty of the dessert, and old Pasino tried in vain to invent something suitable. Young Antonio called for butter, and instantly modelled a lion with such skill and effect as excited the astonishment of the guests-the artist was called in, and he came blushing to receive the caresses of the company and the first applauses of that kind and opulent family. Its head had the sense to see Canova's genius, and the generosity to encourage him. He carried Antonio to Venice in his fifteenth year, in troduced him to the Academy of Arts, and opened his own palace doors to him, both as a residence and a study. The youth's diligence was unwearied-he studied early and late-he drew, he painted, he modelled and he carved. His ambition expanded with his years, his skill kept pace with his ambition, and he was distinguished among the artists of Venice, by a laborious diligence of hand, a restless activity of fancy, and an enthusiastic longing for fame. When he imagined that he could conceive with truth, and execute with facility, he modelled the group of Orpheus and Eurydice as large as life, and carved it in soft Venetian stone. It obtained such applause that the artist exclaimed, this praise has made me a sculptor. A statue of Esculapius was his next work; he carved it in marble, and it is still to be seen in a villa near Venice. It is chiefly remarkable for the circumstance of having received a visit from the artist, a few months before his deathwhen the just conception of the figure, and the skill with which it was executed, seemed to fili him with surprize and sorrow. looked at it for some time, and said, for these forty years my progress has not corresponded with the indications of excellence in this work of my youth.' He studied diligently amongst the remains of ancient art. He also sought for beauty in the safe school of nature, and stored his mind and his sketchbook with images of loveliness, to be used when fortune smiled and the riper judgment of age had sobered down the vehemence of youth.
The people of Venice felt the beauty of Canova's works, and stimulated his genius and rewarded his merit with a small pension. Soon after his twenty-third birthday,' says the member of the Astronomical Society of London, our artist for the first time beheld the shores of the Adriatic disappear as he directed his course to the more classic banks of the Tiber.' Which means
Here he found a
that he left Venice and went to Rome. kind and active friend in Gavin Hamilton the painter, and as the sculptors of the capital had conceived no dread of his talents, they welcomed him warmly. He was soon admitted to the society of the learned and the noble, for Zuliana, the Venetian ambassador, introduced his young countryman to the judges and patrons of art-and, what was wiser and better, gave him an order for a group of Theseus and the Minotaur in marble. This enabled him to display his talents, and work without fear of wanting bread. The commission-we use the language of the profession -was kept a secret; the sculptor laboured incessantly, and in the summer of 1782 at a banquet given on purpose by Zuliana, the marble group was shown by torch-light to the first men in Rome. They stood for some time looking at the hero as he rested himself on the body of the monster which he had slain, and then with one voice pronounced it to be 'one of the most perfect works which Rome had beheld for ages.' From this fortunate hour to the end of his life, he produced a rapid succession of statues and groups, which carried his fame far and wide over the world-noblemen from all countries and more particularly from Britain, purchased his works at any price; and the Pope, whilst he conferred a coronet and a pension on his friend, refused to allow some of his favourite works to go beyond the walls of Rome. His most zealous and also his most judicious patrons were Napoleon and the present king of England. Nor should the late amiable and excellent Lord Cawdor be forgotten, who discovered the merit of the sculptor long before his wide spread fame inspired the 'great vulgar,' with the desire to be numbered among his patrons. The story of Canova is told: he died in the fullness of fame at Venice, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.
Canova imagined that he had realized the boast of Lysippus, by commencing art where art itself began-in the study of nature. But nature was not used so wisely by the Venetian as by the Greek. He looked on it with an eye less simple and poetic, and brooded over it with a mind less vigorous and manly. An operastage taint infects all his earlier works; his most careful studies are full of extravagance; his figures are forced into painful action, and his dancing ladies labour hard to press all their beauties upon the curiosity of mankind. He gradually learned to feel the superiority of simplicity over affectation; and advanced from violent motion towards tranquil grace, from the sentiment of action towards that of repose. But he never wholly freed his conceptions from the opera malady; the rudiments of his youthful productions are still visible in the soberest efforts of his ripest years; that unhappy spirit would not be conjured away when solemn
solemn thought was most wanted. Even in the statue of the Kneeling Magdalen there is enough of affectation to poison the charms of the most exquisite workmanship and the loveliest shape. In the progress of Canova's taste, however, the student in sculpture may read a salutary lesson. He will see that nature must be looked upon with modest eyes; that her charms, as she sometimes chuses to display them, are not always suitable for his art; and that genius alone may hope to seize the grace of that composure which gives vigour to sentiment in proportion as it chastens action. He will see too how an artist may gradually emancipate himself from affectation and return to sobriety of conception, simplicity, and strength. But whilst he observes all this and lays up the lesson in his heart, he will likewise feel that there is hardly any entire escape to be made from early and long cherished impurity of style; that it still follows thought where thought should be most severe, and glides uninvited into the brightest dreams of the imagination. So was it with Canova. No man ever missed the true feeling of sculpture so far, and returned towards it with such signal success. It is indeed no easy thing to sober down the darling style of our youth, to dismiss notions of excellence endeared by time, to give up some neat conceit, some sparkling absurdity long cherished and hallowed. The revolution which Canova accomplished was the labour of many years. In his youth, violence was vigour, affectation was grace, and the spirit of the startling and the staring was the novelty which he desired to infuse into sculpture. To work in this way was only to record in marble the fruitless throes of Nature, her artificial gestures and actions without soul. Look at his early Dancers, his Market of Love, his designs for Homer: no damsels of the ballet ever leaped so high, or exposed their charms so lavishly, or cut such painful capers as the first; no melo-dramatic heroines ever ran so madly after the little god, showed such ridiculous affection, and such absurd sorrow as the second; and for the third, take up Homer himself, or Flaxman, and then say how poor were Canova's notions compared to the poet's verse and the Englishman's sketches. From such productions turn at once to his latter works, his Pauline, his Mother of Buonaparte, his Endymion, his Magdalen-we mean his Recumbent, not his Kneeling Magdalen-and there can be no need to say another word concerning the affectation of his early, and the comparative simplicity of his concluding works..
Canova's genius, when he had gone so far in weaning it from its unnatural singularities, gave a new impulse to Italian sculpture. Italy had long contented herself with vulgar transcripts of nature, and with a sordid adherence to the mere shapes of the antique.
The human form, clothed in grace and breathing many soft attractions, was something new. With an original power of conception immeasurably below the illustrious artists of Greece, he fairly rivalled them in the vivid grace and exquisite skill of his execution, and his success infused fresh life into the expiring arts of Rome. But if he looked impartially, as he imagined he did, to living nature and to finished art, for aid and inspiration, his true ambition was nevertheless to work in the antique spirit; he was far more anxious to re-create works which time had destroyed than to awake any new emotions by fresh images of life and loveliness. More than fifty of his groups and statues are from heathen history, fabulous or real, and most of them indeed bear the very names of works of Greece which the world has lost. The vanity of his nature made him aspire to restore the perished wonders of antiquity to their pedestals. The names of most of his productions will show the bent and aim of his mind;—-Apollo crowning himself; Theseus and the Minotaur; Statue of Cupid; Venus crowning Adonis, with Cupid bringing Flowers; a Statue of Psyche; Briseis delivered to the Heralds; Socrates drinking the Poison; Return of Telemachus; Death of Priam; Procession of Trojan Matrons; Dance of the Daughters of Alcinous; Socrates pleading before the Judges; Crito closing the eyes of Socrates; Cupid and Psyche recumbent; Adonis and Venus; Hebe pouring out Nectar; a winged Cupid; Venus. dancing with the Graces; Death of Adonis; Birth of Bacchus; Socrates saving Alcibiadesin battle; Cupid and Psyche standing; Perseus with Medusa's Head; Creugas and Damoxenus, boxers; Hercules destroying his children; Hercules and Lychas; Venus victorious; Venus coming out of the bath; Theseus combating the Centaur; a Dancing Nymph; Statue of Paris; Statue of Hector; Statue of the Muse Terpsichore; the Cymbal Nymph; the Garland Nymph; Statue of Ajax; the Muse Polyhymnia; group of the Graces; Recumbent Nymph listening to the Lyre of Cupid; Venus and Mars; Statue of Venus; Statue of Endymion; and many more of the same ancient families of heroes and gods.
Upon such materials historical accuracy compelled him to work, as much as his natural genius permitted him, in the antique spirit and character; and that he imagined he was working in that manner we have his own boast and the reproaches of his brother artists to assure us. When he was thinking of what Lysippus or Phidias had done, he was not consulting the emotions of his own bosom; when he was seeking to revive anew the demigods of Greece, he was casting away sense for the sake of shape: Could he feel as a Greek felt? What was Hecuba to him? The intense nationality of feeling, the genuine ardour with which of old