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workmanship. And, what is still inore remarkable, arts and lite rature had not then revived in Italy. Down to the time of the final contest of the people with the church of Rome a love of
a sculpture prevailed ; domestic monuments crowded our cathes drals; and, in the chapel of Henry the Seventh alone, several thousands of figures were carved by native artists with good taste and more than common skill.
The works which we have so hastily described in the mass were of the right kind, since they reflected the religion of the people and the bistory of the land. They were the offspring of the Christian belief, and, though darkened by superstition, and dedicated to propagate improbable legends and absurd miracles, still they were easy to be understood, and, indeed, were intended for the instruction of the people. The reformed religion disdained the aid of sculpture; it had no saints, no miracles, no legends, and, though it had many martyrs, it refused to have them done in stone; it took up the pen and told their sufferings in history. It had the Angels, and it had the Trinity, and it had the twelve Apostles; but the latter had already been monopolized by the Church of Rome: the Three Persons were held too holy for the chissel; so there was nothing left but the angels. On the angels, accordingly, the sculptors fell, and our monuments have ever since had a copious garniture of tigures with wings, both male and female, and a goodly generation of cherubs.
During a century and more our demands for sculpture were mostly supplied by foreign hands, and often from a foreign market. The heathen gods, under the protection of modern names, gained a footing in the island; and a crowd of allegorical creatures came after them-Hopes, Charities, Sensibilities, Fears, Fames, Victories, Valours, Temperances, Modestys, Geniuses, Rapines, Anarchies, Faiths, Religions, Muses, Cities, Kingdoms, Countries
-nay, Asia and Africa, America and Europe followed, and London and Thames, and Bristol and Britannia went down to the shore to welcome them. Neither Hume nor any other historian mentions this invasion, which has done more lasting nischief than the Spanish Armada. Look into our cathedrals—there this marble offspring of Affectation and idle Learning are seated; and who shall remove them. It is painful to see our churches crowded with riddles too hard to be read—to hear Sculpture speaking over English dust with an alien tongue. The artists of those days did, however, undertake sometimes to represent nature; but they gave only the lifeless image--they missed the serenity of slumber, and carved the horror of death. We gladly turn away
. from such misconceptions.
All this evil, or almost all of it, bappened to the sculpture
of Italy.herself, as well as to that of England. No influence can prevail against want of genius, and an artist who wants it will, with the best examples before bim, only do something silly or absurd.. The genius of Michael, in particular, has misled many more than it has wisely inspired. His thoughts were colossal. The forms and the subjects on which he loved to me, ditate are above the mark of common minds, and it is only a great and a daring master who can wield such elements of art. Even with Angelo the original vivid conception sometimes waxed cold and indistinct during the progress of execution--the first heat of fancy was lost ere the figure started from the block.* His followers had his extravagance without his loftiness-and proved, had any proof been wanting, that tranquil dignity and subdued action are most congenial to sculpture.
The sculpture of the last hundred years has partaken more largely of English feeling and intellect; and, though often deformed by allegory and affectation, debased sometimes by vulgarity, and in general unelevated and monotonous, it contains works of
high and pure order. Of some of her domestic monuments in particular England may be justly proud; here the soundness of the heart has happily prompted many daring acts of rebellion against the false tendency of professional taste.
Cibber was among the first of our artists who returned to sense and nature, and his statues of Raving and Melancholy Madness
are the earliest of our works after the Reformation which show an original grasp of mind. The cold insult of Pope is forgotten as we look on those · Brainless Brothers,' who yet stand foremost in conception and second in execution among all the productions of English sculpture. Those who see them for the first time are fixed to the spot with sorrow and awe; an impression is made on the heart never to be removed-nor is the impression of a vulgar kind. The poetry of those terrible infirmities is presented ;-- from the degradation of the actual madhouse we turn overpowered and disgusted, but from these statues of Cibber we retire with mingled awe and admiration. The basreliefs on the sides of the Fire Monument, and some statues at Chatsworth, revivals of antique gods, are from his chissel. His other labours may be allowed to descend quietly into oblivion.
Rysbrach succeeded Cibber, and Sheemaker came and divided with bim the public patronage. Though' feeble, literal, and languid, they maintained something of the elevation of style which Cibber introduced; they produced several recumbent figures which seem nature transcribed rather than nature exalted by art, -yet they are nature still, and welcome from that novelty. They saw little but what others had seen far better before them. They were heavy and ungraceful—they had not the skill to use Allegory so as to make it understood, or nature so as to render it attractive. Many of their designs indeed were produced by architects: it was the fashion of the day for one man to think and another to carve; and these men had not firmness or genius enough to cast off the great architectural dry-nurse who seemed in a fair way to overlay them both.
* An unfinished marble in the collection of Sir George Beaumont shows at once the genius and impatience of the artist. The group is rough-hewn only-a virgin and child are imaged fairly out, and the character fully expressed; yeťtbere it stands, coarse from the gradina or toothed-chissel, to tell, alung with most of liis labours, ibat he wanted the patience and deliberation of well-regulated genius.
Roubiliac's name still stands deservedly high; though it is at this moment suffering under something like an eclipse. His ideas are frequently just and natural, and his execution is always careful and delicate. He spared no labour; he was not afraid of strong relief, of deep and difficult folds and sinkings, and of attitudes which ate up marble and consumed time. But he sacrificed nature and simplicity for the sake of effect; his works are all too lively and too active. He followed the precept of Punch; he still kept moving. He has little sedate beauty, little tranquil thought. Violent passion can be carved by a commouer hand than men imagine. A broad mark is easily hit: but quiet agony of mind and deep thought are less palpable things that demand the hand of a master. Roubiliac dealt largely in abstract ideas, nor did he use them wisely. We may take his monument of Mrs. Nightingale as an example; it is his most famous work, and a work of beauty and pathos--a dying wife and an agonized husband. So far all is natural and consistent. But he could not be satisfied with nature and with simple emotion. He opens an iron door; and sends forth a skeleton-a Death, projecting his allegorical dart against the woman, while the man-seeks to stay it with a band of flesh and blood. Can any thing be more absurd than this strange mixture of shadow and substance? See with what discretion Milton has escaped from the difficulty of describing Death, and yet we feel satisfied with the indistinct image which he gives :
? What seemed bis head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.' We have no grinning jaws nor marrowless bones here. When blood was first shed on earth, the same great poet makes death rejoice as a bird of prey. smelling coming carnage :
• So scented the grim Feature, and upturned
His nostrils huge into the dusky air.' The poet saw the difficulty; ordinary minds see none; and hence
the sculptor has given us an image which startles and disgusts. It was a saying of Lord Chesterfield's, that Roubiliac was a sculptor, and all his rivals stonecutters; and there is some appearance of truth in this, when we consider only the few of his works wherein conceit and allegory failed to share his affections between them. But he loved, in his heart, Roman togas and antiquebreastplates, and trophies and symbols, and doted on winged boys. His favourite notion was to express lofty thought and heroic feeling, by a crowd of figures and much stir and action : but those high qualities reside neither in multitudes nor in startling attitudes. The statue of Sir Isaac Newton is a splendid exception to this censure. Lord Orford indeed
that the air is too pert for so grave a man ;- but was his lordship ever pleased with any thing but himself? Serene thought inspires the whole figure; the character of the philosopher probably sobered down the French fancy of the sculptor; at all events, whether it be the fortunate offspring of a lucky hour, or the deliberate creation of settled thought, it is one of the noblest statues in the island. The library of Trinity College, Cambridge, contains, moreover, six busts from his chissel, which Chantrey has admired, studied, and scarcely surpassed.
Wilton has all the distempered fancy of Roubiliac, without any of the Frenchman's poetry. He never deviates into nature; never disturbs the heart of the spectator with any kind of emotion. His
groups are mobs; his figures seem reeling and intoxicated : there is no gravity, no repose; all is on the stretch till action becomes painful. In those strange confusions of his, called public monuments, the eye seeks in vain for a resting-place; the whole mass seems moving like a wave of the sea, and the sentiment which all this stir aspires to embody is generally very silly or conceited. His monuments are of the form of pyramids, down the slopes of which the figures seem tumbled at random. There is some mechanical skill in his workmanship, and some figures might be singled out worthy both of praise and imitation, but his general fault is weakness. He was the first who freed the sculptors from the ridiculous guardianship of architects; his love of independence and the spirit with which he asserted it were greater than his genius. He shook off the fetters only that he might have the pleasure of committing absurdities for himself.
Bacon infused more English sense into sculpture than any his predecessors. He added a little dignity and a little manliness to the allegorical school of design. Amidst his personifications of cities and countries, and virtues and qualities, and his crowds of chubby boys, large about the middle and long in the wing, there frequently appeared something of a better nature;
his happier judgment seemed often on the point of vanquishing allegory, but the dark abstraction always prevailed. Forms which came without the pain of study or the labour of meditation, were made too welcome; he was ambitious of finding a new labour for Hercules, and a Christian employment for Minerva, Nor was he content with the common circulating medium of allegory; he added new figures, without succeeding in making us understand them. His ingenuity in letting us into the secret of his meaning was something in the way of a badge or tabel; a pot with a sensitive plant indicated the statue of Sensibility. Bacon's skill in workmanship was great, and he never spared it. His draperies are too fluttering and voluminous. His monuments are crowded with figures, and overloaded with auxiliary symbols, British lions, horns of plenty, and idle boys abound.
But let us conclude with praise: Bacon's statue of Samuel Johnson is an excellent work-stern, severe, full of surly thought and conscious power: and his Howard has the look of the philanthropist. The limbs, arms and necks of both are naked; but the sentiment overcomes historical inaccuracy. These statues stand at the entrance to the choir of St. Paul's; and Johnson with his scroll, and Howard with his key, have been mistaken for St. Paul and St. Peter.
Bankes with some poetry in his nature failed in impressing it strongly on his productions. He dismissed all the idle pageantry with which Wilton and Bacon had overlaid their monuments, and sought to make a few figures express an intelligible story. His allegories--for artists were long in learning to tell in a simple way that a man died for his country-his allegories are obvious, or at least not easy to be mistaken. Victory crowns Captain Westcott with laurel — and Victory gives Captain Burgess her sword. There are two monuments and but four figures, yet no artist has contrived with such small means to give so much offence. Only think of Victory, a modest well dressed lady, presenting a sword to à naked gentleman!-historical truth and national delicacy are alike wounded. He thought that dress concealed sentiment, and that his hero had only to be naked to be heroic. He was ever aspiring after simplicity and loftiness—had a profound contempt for all that was modern, and thought that the charm of the antique arose from its nudity. The present costume of our country is much more comfortable than poetic, nor is it to be compared for a moment with the flowing robes of the Asiatic Greeks. Yet in a monument which pretends to record history, there should be some little attempt at historical accuracy. No British warriors carry aptique shields--wear sandals--or go naked into battle. Bankes, however, did sometimes condescend to court British na