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Title: A History of Sculpture

Author: Ernest Henry Short

Release date: May 7, 2021 [eBook #65276]

Language: English

Credits: Turgut Dincer and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)





M. Reinach’s manual has been welcomed with enthusiasm in every European country. It has been translated into every civilised tongue. Never before have the treasures of all the great galleries been laid under such contribution, and thus M. Reinach’s book claims a distinctive place among students’ manuals. The new edition has been revised and corrected throughout by the author with the utmost care. Some new illustrations have been added, certain unsatisfactory blocks have been replaced by new ones, and the bibliographies have been expanded and brought up to date. Interpolations in the text in connection with English works of art or artistic possessions are added by the translator and approved by the author.

“To criticise it would be much the same as to criticise one’s ‘Bradshaw’—it is unique and it is a necessity.”—Bookman.

New and Cheaper Edition, with over
600 Illustrations. Price 6s. net.

The Virgin

From Michael Angelo’s “Pieta”, St. Peter’s. Rome.





Copyright 1907 by William Heinemann




Much that might properly occur in the preface of this book will be found in its opening chapter. I there set out the ground to be covered, and define the point of view from which I have treated my facts. These few remarks will, accordingly, be addressed to any who may think that a work bearing the title “A History of Sculpture” requires a word of introduction.

My justification for the title and, indeed, for the work as a whole, is that I have not attempted to write a new text-book. In my view, all great art is essentially national art. It can therefore only be understood in the light of national and international history. For this reason, I have given much more attention to the artistic interpretation of historical events and social circumstances than most, historians of the arts have deemed necessary. Throughout I have written from the standpoint of one who believes that the great schools of sculpture were created, not, by individuals of genius, but by the peoples to whom they appealed. A work written on these lines can fairly claim to be “A History of Sculpture.”

This general scheme has entailed several consequences. I am conscious that I have dealt curtly with pre-Hellenic art—particularly with that of the Mycenæan age. My reason is that ivory work and goldsmithery, by which Mycenæan art can best be illustrated, do not come within the scope of the book. References to such schools as the modern German and the American have been omitted in the belief that they would have added little to the strength of my main argument. For the same reason I have devoted comparatively little space to biographical details concerning individual artists—even of the first class—and have referred to only the most characteristic of their works.

I trust, however, that I have mapped out the main facts which are essential to a right judgment in sculpture. The list of books will indicate sources of more detailed information about particular schools and artists.

Seeing that I have dealt with general propositions rather than particular facts, I have not burdened my pages with continual references to “authorities.” Any of my readers who regret the absence of the “notes” so dear to many Englishmen, will, I am convinced, be out-numbered by those who will welcome this small relief. I have purposely confined my bibliography to small limits, and, as a rule, have only included books likely to be of use to English readers. I have taken care to choose those which are well illustrated.

In the absence of “notes” and an extensive bibliography, I can only make a general acknowledgment of my obligation to the many writers who have dealt with various aspects of the art. I wish, however, to record the deep debt of gratitude I owe to my friend, Dr. Emil Reich. I am indebted to him for that broad, large-hearted view of general history which is essential to the right understanding of any art. With his name I should like to couple that of my wife, upon whose sympathetic help I have relied from first to last.

I have to thank my father, Mr. Charles Short, and Mr. Edwin Preston, for their kindness in reading my proofs, and Mr. H. L. Weinberg for his help while this book has been passing through the press.

Ernest H. Short.

6, Pitt Street,







THE AGE OF SCOPAS AND PRAXITELES (400 b.c. to 330 b.c.)








THE PORTRAIT SCULPTURE OF ROME (50 b.c. to a.d. 330)

















  INDEX 309


To face page
The Virgin. From Michael Angelo’s “Pieta.”
 St. Peter’s, Rome
Diana (Archaistic).
 The National Museum, Naples
Dedicatory Statue (Archaic).
 The Acropolis Museum, Athens
 National Museum, Naples
The Charioteer.
 Delphi Museum
The Spartan Girl.
 The Vatican, Rome
The Doryphorus.
 National Museum, Naples
Myron’s Discobolus.
 The Ashmolean, Oxford
 British Museum.
A figure from the Eastern Pediment of the Parthenon  30
The Three Fates.
 British Museum.
A group from the Eastern Pediment of the Parthenon  30
From The Parthenon Frieze.
 British Museum.
Scenes from the Panathenaic Procession  32
 The Vatican, Rome. Found at Otricoli
 Terme Museum, Rome. From the Villa Ludovisi
 The Vatican, Rome
The Mausoleum Charioteer.
 British Museum, London
 The Glyptothek, Munich
Menelaus and Patroclus.
 Loggia de Lonzi, Florence
Ares Ludovisi.
 The Vatican, Rome
The “Dexileus” Relief.
 The Ceramicus, Athens
The Hermes (head).
 By Praxiteles. Olympia
The “Eros” Torso.
 The Vatican, Rome. Found at Centocelle
Aphrodite of Cnidus.
 The Vatican, Rome
The Apoxyomenus.
 The Vatican, Rome
 The Vatican, Rome
The Sarcophagus of Alexander.
 The Vatican, Rome
The Head of Alexander (after Lysippus).
 British Museum
The Tyche of Antioch.
 The Vatican, Rome
The Dying Gaul.
 The Capitoline Museum, Rome
The Triumph of Athena.
 From the Altar of Zeus, Pergamus. Berlin
The Laocoon Group.
 The Vatican, Rome
The Nile.
 The Vatican, Rome
The Farnese Hercules.
 National Museum, Naples
The Cerigotto Bronze.
 The Museum, Athens
The Apollo Belvedere.
 The Vatican, Rome
Venus of Medici.
 The Uffizi, Florence
Venus of Milo.
 The Louvre, Paris
Boy strangling a Goose.
 The Louvre, Paris
Child with Lantern.
 Terme Museum, Rome
The Boxer (Bronze).
 Terme Museum, Rome
Orestes and Electra (pseudo-archaic).
 National Museum, Naples
 The Vatican, Rome
Nerva (Head).
 The Vatican, Rome
 The Vatican, Rome
Marcus Aurelius.
A Gothic Panel: “The Last Judgment.”
 A bas-relief from the porch of Bourges Cathedral
Giovanni Pisano: “The Adoration of the Magi.”
 A panel from the pulpit of the Pisan Duomo.
 Now in the Museo Civico, Pisa
Niccola Pisano: “The Pulpit at Pisa” 156
Lorenzo Ghiberti: “The Gates of Paradise.”
 The Baptistery, Florence
Donatello: “Saint George.”
 From the church of Or San Michele, Florence
Donatello: “David.”
 The Bargello, Florence
Jacopo della Quercia: The Tomb of Ilaria
  del Carretto.

 The Cathedral, Lucca
Luca della Robbia: “The Visitation.”
Andrea Verocchio: “The Doubting Thomas.”
 A group for the exterior of Or San Michele, Florence
Verocchio and Leopardi: The Colleoni Monument.
Michael Angelo: “David.”
 Academy of Fine Arts, Florence
Michael Angelo: “The Pieta.”
 St. Peter’s, Rome
Michael Angelo: Monument of Lorenzo.
 Medici Chapel, Florence
Michael Angelo: “Moses.”
 A figure designed for the Tomb of Julius II.
Michael Angelo: Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino.
 The Medici Chapel, Florence
Michael Angelo: “Night.”
 From the monument to Giuliano, Duke of Nemours.
 The Medici Chapel, Florence
Michael Angelo: “Dawn.”
 From the monument to Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino.
 The Medici Chapel, Florence
Benvenuto Cellini: “Perseus.”
 The Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence
Giovanni Bologna: “Mercury.”
 The Bargello, Florence
Giovanni Bologna: “The Rape of the Sabine Women.”
 The Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence
Giovanni Bernini: “Apollo and Daphne.”
 From the Borghese Gallery, Rome
Giovanni Bernini: “The Ecstatic Vision of St. Theresa.”
 The church of S. Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Peter Vischer: “King Arthur.”
Goujon: “The Diana” from Anet.
 The Louvre, Paris
Puget: “The Immaculate Conception.”
Girardon: “Apollo and Nymphs.”
Pigalle: “Mercury.”
 The Louvre, Paris
Falconet: “L’Amour Menaçant.”
 The Louvre, Paris
Clodion: “Satyr with Flute” 240
Houdon: “Diana.”
 The Louvre, Paris
Houdon: “Voltaire” (bust).
 The Louvre, Paris
Antonio Canova: Pauline Borghese as “Venus Victrix.”
 Villa Borghese, Rome
Antonio Canova: “Cupid and Psyche.”
 Villa Carlotta, Lake of Como
Bertel Thorvaldsen: “Venus.”
 Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth
François Rude: The Marseillaise Relief.
John Flaxman: “Satan and the Archangel Michael.”
 From the model in South Kensington
Antoine Barye: “Centaur and Lapith.”
 The Louvre, Paris
Jean Baptiste Carpeaux: “The Dance.”
 Opera House, Paris
Antoine Idrac: “Mercury Inventing the Caduceus.”
 The Luxembourg, Paris
Paul Dubois: “St. John the Baptist.”
 The Luxembourg, Paris
Jules Dalou: “The Triumph of Silenus.”
 Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Auguste Rodin: “The Kiss.”
 The Luxembourg, Paris
Auguste Rodin: “The Thinker.”
 The Pantheon, Paris
John Gibson: “Hylas and the Nymphs.”
 Tate Gallery, London
Alfred Stevens: Figure from the Fireplace,
 Dorchester House, London
Lord Leighton: “Athlete and Python.”
 Tate Gallery
Thomas Brock: “Eve.”
 The Tate Gallery, London
Hamo Thornycroft: “The Mower.”
Meunier (Belgian School):
 “The Mower
Alfred Gilbert: “Saint George.”
 From the Clarence Memorial, Windsor
Onslow Ford: “Egyptian Singer.”
 The Tate Gallery, London
Harry Bates: “Pandora.”
 The Tate Gallery, London
J. M. Swan: “Orpheus” 300
George J. Frampton: “Mysteriarch” 302


[Pg 3]



Nowadays sculpture is not an acknowledged queen in the Tourney of the Arts. The writer who has thrust her colours into his casque and would break a lance on her behalf, struggles for some unstoried damsel about whose very existence he has been playfully twitted by the champions of the reigning beauties.

Rightly considered, art is but a form of speech—sculpture speaking through words formed from chiselled marble and moulded bronze. Such a language can only have lost its meaning if the men of to-day differ fundamentally from those of the past. But is this the case? Can any one doubt that human thought and action are ever substantially repeating themselves, since men and women are at all times actuated by substantially the same passions? The twentieth century simply requires to realise that sculpture throbs with the thought and emotion astir in itself. Though it cannot be claimed that the art is popular in the sense that music and painting are popular, our firm conviction is that its peculiar thrill only needs to be felt, for sculpture to become as widely appreciated as the sister arts. Dancing may be a lost art; we are assured sculpture is not. [Pg 4]

Under these circumstances, honesty compels us to preface this book with a confession. It is a history of sculpture with a purpose. It seeks to entice a few men and women into the belief that sculpture is, essentially, a living art. Its one object is to marshal the evidence in favour of the proposition that the marbles and bronzes of the great sculptors are not dead things which may well be left to gather dust in national museums and unfrequented corners of public galleries.

Though marble and bronze have not lost their potency, it would be folly to regard all sculpture as equally vital. Much has only an archæological or antiquarian interest in these latter days. Consequently, though building from the bricks of the past, everything which has lost its meaning for the men of to-day will be ruthlessly excluded. Our purpose is to write a history of the art itself, to show how its various manifestations arose from social and political circumstances, to trace the emotions and thoughts which stimulated the artists to produce their greatest works and to gauge the action and interaction which created the various national styles. On the one hand is the sculptor expressing what appears to be his own thoughts and emotions. On the other, the men of his country and time providing him with the raw material of thought and feeling, and compelling the production of works which could never have seen the light had he dwelt on a column in the desert after the manner of some Alexandrian mystic. Nor is this all. In addition, there is the influence which the sculptor exerts upon those around him, and particularly upon his fellow craftsmen. Out of the reciprocal modification arises a body of sculptural production, endowed with a definite national style. [Pg 5]

The task of estimating these actions and counteractions and their effects cannot be an easy one. It calls for heart as well as mind, both from writer and reader. It would be fatal to treat the bronzes of Polyclitus, the marbles of Phidias, Donatello, and Michael Angelo, as too many historians do the documents from which they presume to create the past. Even if political history can be profitably reduced to a dull catalogue of charters and enactments—which we deny—the history of an art cannot. That must take human passion and emotion into account, and must be written by those who are not afraid to feel or ashamed of their feelings. From any other standpoint, art becomes divorced from life. The reader is denied a glimpse of its most potent force—its mysterious power of arousing echoes in his own heart.

Fortunately, the ground to be covered is pregnant with interest. The story of the meteoric rise of the art in Greece, so sudden that a paltry half-century separated the dead work of the sixth century from the vitalised marbles of the Parthenon, will be followed by an account of the “Golden Age,” in which sculpture expressed the whole nature—physical, mental, and spiritual—of the most complete men who have ever lived. Thence to the art of the Alexandrian and Roman Empires, leading up to the great revival of sculpture in the city states of Northern Italy. Finally, a consideration of the sculpture of Monarchical, Imperial, and Republican France will lead up to the works of our own time and the final problem—how near such a sculptor as Rodin is to assimilating and expressing the strange and wonderful experiences arising from the stress of modern life.

In the nature of things all our correlations will not be equally exhaustive or correct. The philosophical method is more open to [Pg 6] errors arising from individual prejudice than the more strictly scientific one, which is content to collect and group examples. In some cases, moreover, peculiarities of style and subject will depend upon circumstances extremely remote from present-day experience, and, therefore, peculiarly difficult to express adequately. Nevertheless, we hope to suggest a method, and to lay a foundation upon which our readers will be able to build. Though we shall base our generalisations upon a comparatively few examples, we shall seek to provide niches into which practically all the greater works of sculpture can be fitted.

(1000 b.c. TO 550 b.c.)

Bearing in mind that our only concern is with what may be termed “vital sculpture”—art with a message for the twentieth century—we may ask, where should a beginning be made?

Unfortunately, the art of sculpture, unlike history, has never been blessed with an Archbishop Ussher willing to vouch for the day and hour of its birth in some year after 4004 b.c. As a craft, of course, sculpture dates from the very earliest times. While the prehistoric painter was scratching his first rude picture in the sands about his doorway, his sculptor brother was whittling a stick into the semblance of a human figure, or roughly moulding the river clay to his fancy. The results interest the archæologist, and rightly find a place in our museums rather than in our art galleries. But they are not what we have in mind when we speak of “paintings” or “sculpture.” [Pg 7]

How far then must we go back to find the birth of the art of sculpture? In other words, when did man first awaken to a sense of the real beauty of human form; and, under the impulse of this feeling, when did he first seek to perpetuate the fleeting beauties he saw around him, and the still more fleeting imaginations which these beauties evoked? Where must we begin if we would determine the various human influences—social, political, and religious—which have determined the course of sculpture as an art?

The man in the street answers readily enough—and he is quite right—“Fifth Century Greece.” He is satisfied that, speaking in general terms, it was not until after Marathon and Salamis that

“Human hands first mimicked, and then mocked With moulded limbs more lovely than its own, The human form, till marble grew divine.”

The average man, who has none of the yearnings of the archæologist, sees the interest of some of the plastic art of the earlier civilisations. He even grants it a certain beauty. Yet he knows that it is not what he expects to find in a gallery of sculpture. In Babylonia, the art was too closely identified with architecture to ever attain a vigorous independent growth. In Egypt, the conventionalities that resulted from the influence of an all-powerful priesthood and an extremely narrow emotional and intellectual experience, proved too strong for the native sculptor. The brilliant civilisation that existed during the second millennium in pre-Hellenic Greece and the islands and coasts of the Ægean, was too short-lived to allow of any art reaching maturity. It was only when the final defeat of the Persians permitted [Pg 8] the Greeks to devote their great intellectual gifts to the task that the workers proved the full capabilities of stone and bronze as mediums of emotional expression, and “marble grew divine.”

But the efflorescence of the sculptor’s art in fifth-century Greece can only be realised by reference to the efforts of an earlier age. In comparison with poetry, sculpture developed late in Greece. Homer had lived and died. His epics had been chanted by the minstrels of the feudal courts for hundreds of years; but it was not until the tribal organisation became weakened, and the Greek trading and manufacturing cities arose, that men looked to marble and bronze to give material form to their fleeting imaginations. The case of Greece is, however, typical. The sculptor, like the dramatist, needs the atmosphere of a city and the vivifying effects of a city’s ever-changing influences to kindle the vital spark. Both are inspired, not by the appreciation of the few, but by the homage of the many. So long as the Greek husbandmen met by tens to honour Dionysus, the god’s feast was the occasion of a rude medley of rustic song and dance. When thousands gathered in the theatre below the Acropolis at Athens, an Æschylus showed that an art, using the same elements, could sound the depths of all hearts and imaginations. So, in the spot where a few rustics offered up their prayers and their praises for the increase of their herds, a rude wooden image was sufficient to mark the resting-place of the god. But when the Athenian populace gathered near the shrine of Athene, the goddess was symbolised by the great ivory and gold statue of Phidias.

The earliest Hellenic images were of wood hewn into the rough semblance [Pg 9] of human figures. There was no attempt at more than vaguely indicating the limbs. The heavy blocks were, however, covered with richly embroidered dresses which served to hide some of their rudeness. When stone began to be used instead of the more perishable wood, the masons did not conceive the possibility of any great improvement. Yet these painted wooden images were not the first instances of the sculptor’s art in the Ægean peninsula. Six hundred years before, the Mycenæan civilisation in the south of the Peloponnesus and in the island of Crete, which the excavations of Dr. Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans have recently revealed, had given birth to work far nearer to nature than any produced in the eighth and ninth centuries. But during the years following the so-called Dorian invasion this was lost. Mycenæ, Tiryns, and Cnossus became vague memories—the dwelling-places of mythical kings and heroes—invaders and natives, settling down to an agricultural life in a not-too-fruitful country. The bare necessities of life were hard to come by. There was no leisured class such as alone could support an art like sculpture.

But this is scarcely a sufficient explanation of the extreme roughness of the early temple images of Greece before the sixth century. We still ask why a race in which the artistic instinct was so strong, and which had already inspired a great epic poem, did not produce more natural representations of the deities they had evidently clearly imaged mentally. An answer is suggested by an analogous case in early Egyptian history. Among the temple shrines of the Nile Valley, natural flints have been found that had evidently been selected on account of their rough resemblance to some animal form. Limestone figures have been [Pg 10] found alongside these, the workmanship of which is almost as rough. These carved lumps of limestone are rather the result of improving natural forms than of actual modelling. Applying this analogy to the case of Greece, the early temple images seem to have been chosen, in the first place, on account of some fancied resemblance to a human or superhuman figure. The temptation to commit a pious fraud by adding a nostril, or an eye, or a suggestion of drapery would be very great, but it could not be carried too far. Beauty or naturalism were not aimed at or desired.

The suggestion that the extreme rudeness of the early Hellenic religious sculptures was deliberate, becomes still more probable when we turn to the history of Renaissance art, two thousand years after the age of which we speak. At a time when the artists of Italy were lavishing all their imagination and technical skill upon figures of the Madonna, the old symbolic representations of the Byzantine type were still preserved as precious relics in church and cathedral. Of the Italians of his day, for instance, no man realised the beauty of physical form and the possibility of expressing it by means of pigment and brush, more than Guido, the father of Italian painting. Yet he did not worship at the foot of one of his own pictures of the Madonna. Week by week he knelt before the little Madonna della Guardia from the East, black with age as it was. He felt instinctively that, for all the sheer beauty that he was striving to impart to his pictures of the Mother of Christ, they lacked the spiritual appeal of this old work. And so it was long after the time of Guido. Seeing that the Italian worshipper, who saw the most lovely representations of the Divine Motherhood in every church, still regarded the old conventional types with awe, we [Pg 11] need not be surprised that the Greek peasant was content to worship the rough wood or stone image which he was told was heaven sent.

If this explanation is correct, the image would be an object of awe on account of the very artlessness which is surprising in a race so gifted as the Greeks. We escape the difficulty of believing that such a temple image as the “Hera of Samos,” in the Louvre, was the highest stage that the craftsmanship and the imagination of the Greek sculptor could then attain.

(550 b.c. TO 480 b.c.)

The Ionic Colonies in Asia Minor were the first of the Greek-speaking races to acquire material prosperity, and it was there that the sculptor first began to shake off the old conventional shackles. The Ionians were in touch with the civilisations of Babylonia and Egypt, and merchandise from the East flowed through their markets for Greece and the Grecian Colonies in the far west. Sculpture, in which the Oriental influence was strongly marked, flourished there considerably earlier than in Argos or Attica. About the middle of the seventh century b.c. these Ionian Colonies began to influence Greece strongly, and Athens in particular. This is evidenced by the manner in which the Ionic linen chiton, or sleeved tunic, gradually superseded the woollen peplos which the Athenians had worn earlier.

At this time the Greeks were becoming richer; their Colonies continued to demand ever increasing quantities of their manufactures, and to send more and more of the raw materials. The greater cities were able to replace the old shrines of brick and wood, which had contained the [Pg 12] wooden images of their gods, by new stone structures. During the second half of the sixth century, temples were erected all over the Greek-speaking world, the ruins of those at Ægina and Selinus still remaining to show us the general type. Sculpture was the twin sister of architecture. Pediments, metopes, and friezes were all adorned with marble groups or reliefs. In Greece proper, the tyrants, who had usurped the power in many States, spent vast sums on beautifying their capitals. Such a one as Pisistratus turned to Ionia for the craftsmen he needed, and, particularly, to the school of sculpture in the island of Chios. Many Ionians skilled in the working of marble from Naxos and Paros settled in Athens, and they instructed their Athenian brethren. With the increasing facility that resulted from the greater number of workmen who could give their lives to mastering its technical difficulties, sculpture gradually lost its conventionalities.

By this time the art had made immense strides beyond the rude wooden images of the earlier age, as can be seen from the well-known archaistic “Diana,” in the National Museum, Naples. This particular work was executed in Roman times under the influence of a strong tendency to reproduce the prominent characteristics of the archaic style. But though it dates from a time when sculpture was once more falling into lifeless conventionalism, it gives a good idea of the results of the first earnest efforts after truthful representation. The sculptor is not yet master of his material. Note the strange expression known as “the archaic smile,” a direct consequence of the craftsman’s inability to represent correctly the human eye in profile.


Acropolis Museum, Athens


National Museum, Naples

[Pg 13] A number of painted archaic sculptures have been unearthed in recent years on the Athenian Acropolis, which show the originals upon which the archaistic style of the “Diana” at Naples was formed. They were buried during the improvements consequent upon the rebuilding after the Persian Wars. Many of these were dedicatory offerings. The increasing custom of substituting such statues for the tripods and craters dedicated in earlier days, did much to provide artists at the end of the sixth, and the beginning of the fifth century, with opportunities for experiment. In such work the artist had only to satisfy the donor. Private individuals were less insistent upon conventional forms than the temple priests. Under these influences the drapery gradually became less angular, and the set smile of the older statues gave place to a dignified repose. The illusion of form became more and more complete, and there was less and less insistence upon the reproduction of the detail in every fold of the elaborate Ionic drapery. In other words, the artist was no longer a slave to his material. He was learning how to make the marble express what he had in mind. The numerous discoveries of these archaic statues illustrate the gradual change and, particularly, the growing beauty after which the Athenian artists were striving. Incidentally, they afford interesting evidence of the practice of painting marble which was general in Greece. From the remains of the actual pigments used, it can be seen that the hair was coloured, and the brow, lashes, pupil and iris of the eye indicated. The borders of the dress too were strongly marked, so that one garment could be readily distinguished from another.

With the growing naturalism even portrait statues became possible. For instance, after the dismissal of the sons of Pisistratus, a group in honour of Harmodius and Aristogiton, who had headed an insurrection [Pg 14] against the tyrant, was erected in the Agora by their democratic admirers. When this was carried off by Xerxes, it was replaced by a group, the work of Critius and Nesiotes, a marble copy of which can be seen in the National Museum at Naples. We have chosen the statue of “Harmodius” as an illustration of the earliest Greek iconic statuary. It will be seen that it entirely lacks the ideality of treatment which was to be the leading characteristic of the art fifty years later.

(480 b.c. TO 400 b.c.)

The magnificent full length “Charioteer,” reins in hand, excavated by the French Expedition at Delphi, is not only the finest pre-Phidian bronze in existence, but marks the “border line between dying archaism and the vigorous life of free naturalism.” The statue may have formed part of a chariot group set up as a dedicatory offering by Polyzalus, the brother of Hieron of Syracuse, in honour of a victory in the games at Delphi. The entire work portrayed a high-born youth, waiting in a chariot at the starting-post. A companion was at his side, grooms, no doubt, standing at the horses’ heads. The driver’s chiton is gathered across the shoulders by a curious arrangement of threads, run through the stuff in order to prevent the loose garment fluttering in the wind. It dates from about 470 b.c. The bronze is representative of the highest achievements of Greek art before the advent of the three great sculptors of the fifth century. Traces of archaic workmanship are most noticeable in the face and drapery. The arms and the feet, however, are beautifully natural.


Delphi Museum


National Museum, Naples

[Pg 15] Still the stiffness and conventionality of the archaic period died hard. Even in the works of Myron, whose reputation was established by the middle of the fifth century, there are still traces of archaic treatment, as in the hair. But in such a statue as his “Discobolus,” with its truthfulness to nature, its rhythmic grace of design and its triumphant mastery over all technical difficulties, we can realise how far the sculpture of his age was ahead of the best work possible fifty years earlier.

The mention of Myron, the earliest artist to benefit by the freeing of the plastic arts from the shackles of conventionalism, brings us upon one of the prime problems of Greek sculpture. Practically, the history of Greek sculpture depends upon the connections which can be established between the art and three leading ideals. The difficulty of really understanding it depends upon the distance we moderns have progressed—pardon us the term—from those three dominating ideas.

“How we jabber about the Greeks! What do we understand of their art, the soul of which is the passion for naked male beauty?” So says Nietzsche. And he proceeds to point out that for this very reason the Greeks had a perspective altogether different from our own. Nothing can be truer; nor can anything be more certain than that this truth must be realised absolutely by all who would penetrate beyond the outer courts of the temple of Hellenic sculpture. But though we cannot look at a Greek statue with the understanding of a Hellene, though classic sculpture is, as it were, written in an alien tongue, the historian can readily enumerate the influences by which the art was fostered, and the ideals which it sought to embody.

The first was a civic pride so intense that no Greek of the best period hesitated to sacrifice all individual considerations for the [Pg 16] sake of the common weal. To the true Hellene, life was life in the Greek city-state.

The second was a realisation of the extent and limit of human powers so complete that it left little room for the idea of the extra-mundane God which Christian nations have found so satisfying. The immediate consequence was a religious tolerance so complete that we Christians, who are apt to estimate religious fervour by proselytising energy, too often regard it as proceeding from a mere poetical philosophy.

The third was a love, amounting to worship, for the human physical frame—for the actual bone, flesh and muscle, which make the man.

Every Greek statue owes its greatness to the intensity of the artist’s attachment to one or other of these dominating beliefs. The Panathenaic frieze on the Parthenon was, primarily, the result of the first; the great temple statues of Zeus, Hera, Athena and Asclepius represent the fruits of the second; the glorious series of athletic statues by Hellenic sculptors of every period witness to the potency of the third.

Like most ultimate problems, the puzzle goes back to a question of morality. To-day, virtue is personal, morality is practically a bargain between man and man and between the individual creature and his Creator. We cannot easily realise the position of the fifth-century Hellene, whose moral sense did not depend upon the promptings of an individual conscience, but upon the influence of an unwritten, but unbending, civil code. There was not one such code in Greece, but a hundred and fifty. Each city-state had its own fixed ideals. Greatly as these differed, all agreed that the interests of the individual were as nothing compared with those of the city. And to this all added as [Pg 17] the second great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy body as thyself.” To-day, we appoint Degeneration Commissions. In Greece they went to the root of the matter and made a well-proportioned and strong body a prime condition of citizenship. In Sparta every child was submitted to the inspection of the heads of the tribe, whose task it was to decide if any bodily weakness or deformity was present or seemed likely to develop. If so, the verdict was death. At seven the Spartan boy left home and entered the state schools, his life, until he reached manhood at thirty, being a continual round of exercises, athletic and military. And so it was with the fairer sex. The one end of the education and training of a Spartan woman was to give birth to perfectly-proportioned sons. Each girl attended the public gymnasium. Nor were these customs peculiar to Sparta. The maidens of the Greek world had their athletic festivals, under the guardianship of the goddess Hera. A typical example, the Heræa of Elis, was celebrated once in every Olympiad, and was presided over by the sixteen matrons who had woven the sacred peplos of the goddess. The principal solemnity was the race of the maidens in the Olympic stadium. The course, however, was much shorter than that of the Olympian games, in fact a sixth part. The girls were divided into three classes according to age, their prize being the garland of wild olive awarded at Olympia. The victors were allowed to set up statues of honour, and a marble copy of one of these bronzes, often called “The Spartan Girl,” has come down to us. The forearms have been wrongly restored, but the statue evidently represents a maiden of about sixteen years of age at the starting-point, waiting for the signal. She is clad in the short linen chiton, reaching to the knees. [Pg 18]

But to return to the main thread of our argument. The Spartan system was not singular but typical. It is true that no other Greek state called upon its parents to expose their halt, maimed, and blind weaklings on the wild slopes of Mount Taygetus. So drastic a method was only necessary where military considerations were paramount. But every Greek city relied upon the physical fitness of its citizens, and any Greek commander might confidently have followed the example of the officer who stripped the rich robes and jewels from his Persian captives and exposed their unmanly limbs to his company. “Such plunder as this,” he cried, “and such bodies as those!”

The Hellenic belief in the prime importance of physical fitness and the worship of bodily beauty to which it gave rise explain why the school of “Athletic” sculptors, who first shook off the chains which had hampered the progress of the plastic arts, made such an immediate impression. These men appealed to more than the sense of physical beauty. They touched a chord in the Greek heart which was in a very true sense “religious.” An Athenian of the time of Pericles must have inspired Mr. Arthur Balfour when in answer to the query “What do you mean by a beautiful soul?” he replied, “Well, to tell you the truth, my dear lady, I mean a beautiful body.”

The mythological religion of Greece had retarded, as we have seen, the progress of the sculptor. In its early stages the art, of course, owed much to its position as a handmaiden of religion. The first artists found the priests, and still more those making dedicatory offerings at the shrines of the great gods, their chief patrons. When, however, the craftsmen proved the possibility of not only a truthful but even an ideal representation of nature, and were ready to discard the meaningless conventionalities of the earlier stage, these religious influences proved a bar rather than an aid to progress. When a city desired to erect a new statue in its chief temple, it offered the commission, not to the daring innovator, but to one of the old school, or at least to an artist who was willing to confine his experiments to other classes of subjects.


Vatican, Rome


National Museum, Naples

[Pg 19] In this plight the sculptor, consciously or unconsciously, sealed an alliance with the worshipper at the shrine of bodily beauty. The results were immediate. After the middle of the sixth century it became customary to erect statues in honour of victors in the national games. They were frequently set up by the victor’s colony or state in the sacred grove of Zeus at Olympia, in honour of their subject’s success. An iconic statue was the peculiar privilege of one who had proved the winner on at least three occasions, but others were erected of a more general character. These portrayed the pick of the youth of the Grecian world in all the varied attitudes of the different sports. No subjects could have offered better opportunities to an artist appealing to a race with the characteristics we have sketched.

Moreover, the circumstances under which his work was given to the world were ideal. Compare the sculpture-rooms at Burlington House with the sacred grove of Zeus at Olympia, compare the average private-view “crowd” with the gathering of Greeks every four years for the Olympian festival, and one can see why men speak of sculpture as “a lost art.” [Pg 20]


When the Olympian games started they were confined to the south of Greece, and grew up under the patronage of Sparta. As early as 776 b.c. the meetings determined the chronological system of Greece. A few years later the festival had established itself so firmly in the Hellenic social system that it became the occasion of a national assembly of the Greek-speaking world. At all other times the distinction between Athenian and Spartan, between Argive and Theban, was absolute. During the Olympian games the Greek escaped from the grinding effort to preserve his civic individuality—the price he paid for citizenship in such a state as Athens or Sparta. Under the shadow of Mount Cronus, at the time of the second full moon after Midsummer Day, the competitors and spectators came together from Italy, Sicily, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Ægean. A sacred armistice had been proclaimed by the Olympian heralds in all the states of Greece. The deputies from every part vied with one another in the splendour of their equipment and the value of their offerings to the state of which they were the guests.

Remembering that we are endeavouring to account for the rise of one of the great arts of all time, let us call to mind the scene on the plain between the Alpheus and the Cladeus on one of the five days during which the festival lasted. With one exception—the Priestess of Demeter—there is no woman in the vast assembly. It is the fourth day of the games. The judges can be seen, clad in the purple robes of their office. Near by, in the brilliant sunshine, his naked form standing out in clear outline, is one of the competitors in the Pentathlon. This [Pg 21] comprises leaping, running, wrestling, and hurling the spear and discus. All who enter must excel in each. Victory is not certain until three of the five events have been won. The most famous Pentathli are light men—not bulky wrestlers. Of all the competitions, this needs the finest physique and is most calculated to develop that elasticity and harmonious balance which the Greek prizes in his youth. Well might Aristotle call the Pentathli “the most handsome of all athletes.” The youthful figure, on a space raised slightly above the ground, is of pure Hellenic blood. He rests on his right foot, his knee bent and his body leaning forward. In his hand is the stone discus, ten or twelve inches in diameter, which reaches half way up his forearm. In front, in the distance, stands a friend ready to mark the spot where the stone falls. The eyes of Greece are upon the discobolus. His only reward is the right to lay the crown of leaves in the shrine of the god of his native town. Can it be wondered that the artists of Greece were inspired to their grandest achievements by such sights? It would have been strange indeed if their finest works had not included the representations of the winners of the garland of wild olive.

But the truth goes deeper than this. Without such inspirations Greek sculpture would never have risen to the heights it did attain. And without the achievements of the Hellene, can we be sure that Michael Angelo would have ever been more than a struggler? He might have painted the Sistine ceiling, but would he have modelled the David or carved the monuments in the Medici Chapel? The festival at Olympia and the gymnasia in every Greek city were surely necessary if the art which depends upon “the passion for naked male beauty” was to come to its own. In no other way could “every limb present”—we are quoting from [Pg 22] Schopenhauer—“its plastic significance to criticism and to comparison with the ideal which lay undeveloped” in the imaginations of men. Under circumstances less strenuous the dull anticipation of bodily beauty would never have been raised “to such distinct consciousness that men would have become capable of objectifying it in works of art.”

We have seen that the initiation of the Olympian games was due to Sparta and its Peloponnesian allies. Moreover, the custom of laying aside all clothing for the various sports was first adopted by the Peloponnesians, and only spread slowly through the other Greek city-states. These facts, together with the location of Olympia in the centre of the Peloponnese, suggest why the “Dorian” sculptors devoted particular attention to such subjects as the Olympian festivals offered. In the fifth century Argos was second only to Athens as an artistic centre, and Polyclitus of Argos, who headed “the Dorian School,” was considered the equal of Phidias himself.

The ideal for which Polyclitus worked was the portrayal of the healthy human form in its most complete and harmonious development, and, particularly, the preservation of a due proportion between the various parts of the body. His success may be judged from the fact that his statue, the “Doryphorus”—spear-bearer—was adopted by his artistic successors as the standard of perfection of the youthful male figure, and was known as “The Canon.”

The bronze originals of the “Doryphorus” and its companion, the “Diadumenus,” which depicts a youth binding the diadem of victory about his brow, have perished. We are therefore compelled to gauge the genius of Polyclitus by the marble copies. There is a famous copy of the “Doryphorus” in the National Museum at Naples.

Photo.Holliday, Oxford


The Ashmolean, Oxford

[Pg 23] The chief point of interest in the Dorian school, however, arises from a comparison of the works produced under its direct influence with the better-known examples of the Attic school. Early in the fifth century the school of sculpture located around Argos seems to have been one of the most influential in Greece. The Argive Ageladas, under whom Polyclitus was a student, is credited with having instructed the two other early masters—Myron and Phidias. However this may be, the Argive influence was not all-powerful amongst the Athenian sculptors. The variation between the two schools is more noticeable than the resemblance. And this is of vital interest, depending as it does upon the entirely different mental and emotional atmosphere in the two city-states.

If the two well-known statues of discoboli are compared with the “Doryphorus” of Polyclitus, the characteristic differences between the Athenian and Dorian schools are clear.

The standing “Discobolus” may well be a copy of the “Pentathlon Winner” of Alcamenes, a co-worker with Phidias, who reached his prime about 420 b.c. It shows the athlete holding the discus in his left hand. He is measuring the ground with his eye, testing the elasticity of his limbs and the sureness of his footing as he does so.

The “Discobolus” of Myron represents the Pentathlete in the act of throwing the discus. Lucian speaks of “the discus-thrower, bending into position for the cast: turning towards the hand holding the discus, and all but kneeling on one knee, he seems as if he would straighten himself up at the throw.” The statue is a consummate proof of Myron’s [Pg 24] skill in the rendering of vigorous movement. The copies in the Vatican and the British Museum are in marble. In the original bronze the discus-thrower looked back, not at the ground, as in the restoration. The correct attitude can be seen in the recently discovered replica, now in the possession of the Italian Government, or, still better, in the fine bronze cast in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, which dispenses with the disfiguring support necessary in a marble copy.

Both these statues of discoboli are distinguished above all for the rhythm of their composition—a rhythm which is the expression in bronze of the beautifully balanced and magnificently full lives of the Athenians of the Periclean age. Polyclitus invested his figures with a natural vigour and dignity which won for him the suffrages of his Peloponnesian countrymen. But even allowing for the fact that we judge the Argive from late copies, while such originals as the Parthenon frieze remain to witness to the achievements of the rival school, it cannot be doubted that the Athenian ideal was the nobler and its attainment worthier of praise. Nor can we attribute the difference to anything else than the more vitalising atmosphere in which Athenian art was nourished—a fact which will be clear when we have estimated the circumstances which led to the erection of the Parthenon.

[Pg 25]


(470 b.c. TO 420 b.c.)

On the vast canvas of recorded history one half-century has always stood out. The clearer the vision of the observer and the larger his view, the more every line in the composition has appeared to converge upon and lead up to that central point. Ever and again the imagination of man, fascinated by some new beauty, has been tempted away. It has always returned with a new wonder. The advance of knowledge has changed the world’s estimate of this and that part of the glowing record of human action and endeavour. But the relative importance of those fifty years has been preserved throughout the ages.

This, we believe, represents the true position of Athens during the fifth century before our era in the scheme of general history. But a great art is only the expression of a nation’s moods. As the Greek epigram puts it:

“I sang those songs that gain so much renown: I, Phœbus; Homer merely wrote them down.”

We have therefore only to alter a few phrases to arrive at the real position of Athenian sculpture between 470 and 420 b.c. in the scale of artistic achievement. The proposition may need qualification. [Pg 26] If so, we may well prepare ourselves for the task by the most generous appreciation of this—the Golden Age of Sculpture.

So much for panegyric. What are the facts? How closely was sculpture connected with the every-day and all-day lives of the Athenian citizens? We shall find that the art was interwoven with all that was most vital in the nation’s history; that its roots struck down deep into the hearts of the people.

The victory at Marathon, which broke the spell of Persian invincibility, and the brilliant sea fight at Salamis, which settled the future course of civilisation in Western Europe, had made Athens the principal city in Greece. The smaller states in her vicinity and the great trading cities of Asia Minor, attracted by the position of Athens as a sea power, joined the Confederation of which she was the leading spirit. Even those which refrained from a political alliance could not withhold their admiration from the men who had done so much to save Greece from the dreaded hordes from the East.

The Athenians had, however, only attained this position at the cost of the destruction of their city. Xerxes had sacked and burnt Athens during the second campaign of 480 b.c. Directly peace was assured the Athenians set to work to rebuild the town. Cimon, the aristocrat, and Pericles, the democrat, vied with each other in ensuring that the new city should outshine the capital of any state in Greece. With fresh markets opening up every year the material prosperity of Attica increased by leaps and bounds. Produce poured in from Asia Minor, the islands of the Ægean, the colonies in Sicily and Italy, and the settlements on the shores of the Black Sea. Directly the absolutely necessary rebuilding had been accomplished and the defences [Pg 27] of the town were sufficiently sure, the Athenians prepared to make their city worthy of the headship of the Panhellenic League. In bringing this about they were to do honour to the goddess to whose fostering care they ascribed their victory over the great conqueror of the East. As we have seen, no lack of means hampered the accomplishment of the Athenian ambition.

About 450 b.c. a temple was erected on the south-west of the Acropolis to the honour of Athena Nike—the giver of Victory. A year or two later the colossal bronze statue of Athena was erected in front of the spot where the Parthenon was to be built in the following year.


In the early days of Athens the Acropolis had been a rocky eminence which served as a natural retreat, on which the dwelling of the chiefs was erected with the shrine of the tribal deity. Its precipitous cliffs enabled a body of determined defenders to keep an enemy at bay; so that those living at its foot soon obtained a commanding position among the village tribes of Attica from their ability to offer a place of safety in time of stress. In course of time these tribes became united in the common worship they paid to the Virgin Athena who gave her name to the leading settlement, and all offered their gifts at her shrine in the centre of the fortress when her inspiration gave them the victory. Now, however, Athens was to put the Acropolis to another use. Cimon levelled its rugged plateau, and, by building extensive walls around its slopes and filling in the gaps between the walls and the rock, considerably [Pg 28] increased its area. On the top arose the buildings which were to make Athens one of the wonders of the world. The chief of these was, of course, the Parthenon—the temple of the virgin goddess Athena. On this all the genius of Attica was lavished. Ictinus, the greatest architect in Greece, furnished the design. Phidias was by common consent the most fitted to beautify the buildings with the marble groups and reliefs which were now the great feature of every public building in Greece. Under him were placed the most accomplished bronze-workers and stone-cutters of the day. Born about 500 b.c., Phidias was a boy when Miltiades and his eleven thousand Athenians and Platæans drove the army of Darius to its boats at Marathon. Like Sophocles, he may have borne arms at Salamis. He had grown up in an atmosphere saturated with his countrymen’s successes and ambitions. In temperament, the embodiment of the Attic spirit, Phidias was the very man to compose the pæan in marble which should cry his country’s prowess to the world when every Grecian voice was stilled. The others were to carry out his designs for the decoration of the temple, but his own work was to be the great ivory and gold statue of Athena which the Parthenon was to enshrine.

Ten years later (438 b.c.) the work was finished. When the second statue of Athena was unveiled the goddess was found to be no longer the warlike maiden who, spear in hand, led those who bore her name to victory. Phidias’ colossal figure, some forty feet high, portrayed the virgin in her robes of triumph, with the symbol of victory in her hand. From her shoulders hung the ægis wherewith her father Zeus had destroyed his foes, from the centre of which the dreaded gorgon’s head stared out. The face, arms and feet of the [Pg 29] goddess were of ivory, the dress being decorated with gold. This statue of Athena Parthenos has been lost to the world since the coming of Christianity to Athens about 430 a.d., but the accounts of classical travellers and some rude reproductions enable us to reconstruct the masterpiece of Phidias, at least in imagination.

The Parthenon itself was built from the golden-hued marble of Pentelicus, quarried from the mines near Athens. Its architecture was of the simple yet stately Doric order. The principal chamber of the temple—the cella—in which the statue of Athena Parthenos stood, was surrounded by a colonnade of Doric pillars. The metopes, or square panels above the colonnade, were filled with groups sculptured in high relief, the outside of the cella being decorated with a frieze in low relief. In judging this it is important to remember that these reliefs stood forty feet above the floor of the colonnade. Colour was added to increase their effect, while the bridles and other appointments of the horses were of metal. The triangular pediments above the porticos were filled with two great groups sculptured in the round.

Throughout the series of sculptured marbles with which the Parthenon was decorated, Phidias’ aim was to illustrate the greatness of the goddess of the Athenians. In the pedimental groups the artist showed Athena’s miraculous birth and her victory in the contest with Poseidon. The eastern pediment pictured Olympus just after the axe of Hephaestus had freed Athena from her father’s head. The virgin stood fully armed by the side of Zeus in the midst of the wondering gods. The design for the western pediment portrayed a scene even more closely connected with Athenian history. Poseidon had claimed the right to give a name to the [Pg 30] city of the sons of Cecrops, a demand to which Athena would not agree. It was decided that the one who, in the opinion of Zeus, produced the more serviceable gift for mankind, should secure the privilege. Phidias chose the moment when Zeus had awarded the right to Athena on the ground that the olive tree, which had sprung up on the Acropolis at her command, was of more value to the human race than the horse—the emblem of war—upon which Poseidon had relied.

The carvings of the metopes represented the overthrow of the personifications of the powers of evil of which it was the mission of the goddess of wisdom to rid the world. In some were depicted the victory of the Greeks over the Eastern amazons, in others the victory of the gods over the earth-born giants, and in the rest the contests of Centaurs and Lapiths. They were all in very high relief. It is certain that Phidias had less to do with this portion of the decoration of the temple than with the sculptures in the pediments or the frieze, and the work is of varying merit.

In the low relief on the frieze within the colonnade the sculptor depicted perhaps the most Athenian scene of all—the panathenaic procession. The festival of which this was the culmination was instituted in honour of Athena Polias—the Protectress of the City. Every town in Attica and each colony and subject town contributed its share to the sacrifices in honour of the occasion. On the last day the whole population of the State, some on foot, some on horseback or in chariots, marched in procession to lay the peplos of the goddess in her temple. The concourse included a band of the noblest maidens of the city carrying baskets of offerings, the right to be one of these being the greatest honour to which an Athenian girl could aspire. To adorn the frieze, Phidias imaged this great procession divided into two long lines, running along the north and south sides of the cella respectively. Both met in the eastern face. At this spot the sculptor showed the Athenian maidens with the vessels of sacrifice and the gods, who, though invisible, were among their people on that day. A priest stood in the centre possibly receiving the embroidered robe of the goddess from a little boy. On the right and left were seated the chief divinities of Hellas—on the one side Athena, Hephaestus, Poseidon, and Dionysus, and on the other Zeus and Hera attended by Isis.


British Museum


British Museum

[Pg 31] Enough remains of the various parts of the Parthenon decorations to enable us to judge of the supreme gifts of the artist to whose imagination they were due and under whose direction they were fashioned. An hour in the Elgin room of the British Museum, where the larger part are enshrined, should be sufficient to convince the greatest sceptic. The magnificent group “The Three Fates” show the marvellous skill of the Athenian sculptors in dealing with drapery. There is an ideal nobility in such a figure as that familiarly known as “The Theseus” which places it on a higher plane of art than either the beautifully proportioned forms of Polyclitus or the rhythmical translations of nature by Myron. The wonderful fertility of invention, which is, perhaps, the most noticeable feature of the whole of the Parthenon designs, would have been an impossible achievement for the steady imagination of the Argive sculptor. It needed the temperament of an Athenian artist working under the inspiration of his subject and certain of the appreciation of his countrymen. It is one of the tragedies of art that one who had deserved the esteem of his fellows so fully did not retain it. Phidias died in exile at Elis. An accusation [Pg 32] of misappropriating the gold voted for the statue, together with a charge of sacrilege for engraving his own portrait and that of Pericles on the shield of Athena, caused the great sculptor to leave the city he had served so well. He died about 432 b.c.

So far we have spoken of Phidias, the sculptor, and Ictinus, the architect. Our modern ideas incline us to associate the artist with the work—Wren with St. Paul’s and Raphael with the “Sistine Madonna.” In reality, the foundation-stone of the Parthenon should be inscribed thus: “Pericles and the people of Athens made me.”

A work of art so great, which exemplified the struggles and aspirations of a race so completely, could not but owe the largest debt to the political leader of the State. All the forces of Athens were united to beautify the Acropolis, and these were marshalled, naturally enough, not by an artist but by a politician. The real creator of the temple of Athena was Pericles. He realised that the greatness of his countrymen depended, not upon the breadth of their dominions, but upon the healthy development of every citizen, physically, mentally, and emotionally. He divined that the proud boast “we love the beautiful without extravagance and knowledge without exaggeration” was incompatible with strivings after empire. To engage the Athenian imagination, and to wean it from the road which eventually led to ruin, Pericles bethought him of the erection of the series of monuments witnessing to the glory of the first city of Greece. His was the conception in its entirety, he found the means, and, above all, he never permitted the enthusiasm of his countrymen to flag.


From the Parthenon Frieze


From the Parthenon Frieze

[Pg 33] These are the chief facts. They prove that the temple of the Virgin goddess and the marbles with which it was adorned, played a part in the life of the fifth-century Athenian, for which there is no modern counterpart. The Parthenon brought heaven to earth. It satisfied the individual Athenian’s craving for light as to his personal destiny. But above all, it stood for those social and political ideals which he estimated far above his own personal wants. It spoke to his soul as the idea of Empire speaks to the patriotic Briton of to-day. The pedimental groups, too, were more than decorations or mere pictures of the great gods; they glowed with a message which we should deem inspired. When the Athenian’s gaze wandered towards the Acropolis—still more when, during some high festival, he stood before the temple marbles—he could forget the perpetual sacrifice of will, liberty and individuality—things which we Europeans deem altogether desirable—and say with all sincerity, “it is worth while.”


One thing will have struck our readers throughout the foregoing argument. It has been impossible to avoid a certain tendency towards confusing terms. For instance, stress has been laid upon three factors in Greek life, as exercising an immense influence upon Hellenic sculpture—civic pride, a deep tolerance in religious opinion, and an intense feeling for physical strength and beauty. Yet, directly we have come to grips with these conceptions, they have appeared to be inextricably commingled. The Greek’s pride in his city-state, his absorption in physical beauty, are religious in their fervour and in the way in which they are utilized to uphold a strenuous moral ideal. [Pg 34] Again, the actions which are most akin to what we term religion nowadays, closely resemble philosophy in their rigid rejection of everything approaching mysticism.

In relating any art to the social and political circumstances which gave it birth, it is all-important to remember that the distinctions between such terms as science, art, religion, and philosophy are more or less arbitrary. In the earliest times men did not distinguish between any of the four. When the skin-clad dweller in the forests gazed upon the lightning flashing among the oak branches, and imaged the angry ruler of earth and sky, he did not separate the explanation of the natural phenomenon from the symbolical incarnation, or both from the religious belief. Nor was this less so when the human mind rose to more complex conceptions. The Pueblo Indian, for instance, recognizes a Sky-god and an Earth-goddess, the parents of all living things. The Sky-god passes across the heavens with the blazing shield of the sun’s disc in his hand, to vanish beyond the portals of the dark underworld where the spirits of the dead are at rest. This is at once the science, the art, and the religion of the Pueblo Indian. It satisfies two elemental cravings of his nature. In the first place it translates the phenomena of the natural world into terms which his reason can grasp. In the second place it satisfies his yearning for some superior will—we call this God—to which he may attribute the purpose and order which he instinctively assumes in the world.

So it was in Greece. We may be convinced that the Iliad and the Odyssey should be described as art. They are art to our way of thinking; that is to say, to our minds they are clearly more akin to “Paradise Lost” [Pg 35] than to the religious poetry of the Jews. But to the Greek they were at once religion and art and philosophy.

Exactly the same remark must preface our consideration of the third class into which the sculptures of fifth-century Greece may be divided—the temple statues, erected to such deities as Zeus, Hera, and Athena.

For five hundred years or more the best elements in the religious faith of ancient Greece had been fostered and sustained by the Homeric poems. These, at least, offered an antidote to the brutal temple myths which had gradually gathered around the names of the gods, the nature of which can be realized from the pages of Hesiod. But the Greeks must at times have hungered for more definite representations of the great gods and goddesses.

In the fifth century, however, the sculptors shook off the bonds of realism, which had prevented the portrayal of such a purely ideal figure as the deity “who dwelt in the heights of the air,” and whose voice could be heard in the rustling of the oak-leaves of Dodona. It was realized that a divine image, as satisfying to the imagination of the Greek as the word-pictures of Homer, was possible. The success of the great artists of the fifth century was instantaneous. Within a short time all the great temples of the Hellenic world were furnished with statues of the deities in whose honour they were erected.

The sculptors were content for the most part to follow the imaginations of the earlier poets. They only sought to realize in the god-like forms their highest ideals of human beauty and dignity. They avoided the example of the Babylonians and Egyptians who had emphasized the unworldliness of their deities by investing them with strange shapes and symbols. The Greek imagination was content to add to the human form [Pg 36] a more than human majesty. Gradually these statues became so much a part of their imagination that the Greeks found it impossible to picture the great gods apart from the artists’ portrayals. So widespread was the effect of sculpture on Greek and Roman religious thought that, at length, no other conception of the gods could be formed. In the wall paintings of Pompeii the deities are represented as of the colour and material of statues, the sculptural effect being imitated as closely as possible.

Lucian, too, in one of his dialogues, pictures the assembly of the Olympian deities who are dismayed that men no longer rest upon the faiths of their forefathers. In the course of the dialogue, Zeus orders “that the gods should be seated in order of merit. The gold gods first, then the silver, then the ivory, bronze, and stone,” he commands, “and give preference to any work of Phidias, or Alcamenes, or Myron, or Euphranor, or other artist of distinction.”

The most famous of the religious statues of ancient Greece were erected to Zeus and Hera. Other gods and goddesses were particularly identified with the various cities of Greece, such as Athena with Athens. But for the whole Greek world Zeus and Hera were the recognized rulers among the dwellers in Olympus. The chief temple of Zeus was at Olympia where, as we have seen, the Pan-Hellenic Games were held in his honour. That of Hera lay between Argos and Mycenæ. To these the Hellenic world came from time to time to honour the Father of the gods and his chosen consort. In the inner shrine of each stood a great “chryselephantine” statue—a term used to distinguish the wooden statues, with their veneer of ivory and gold, from the ordinary marbles and bronzes. No [Pg 37] trace of either remains to-day. Wood is perishable, and the plunder of gold would doubtless have proved irresistible to the Turk, even had the Christian been scrupulous enough to resist the temptation. Had they been cut from the cold marble it might have been otherwise. They were, however, still in their places in the time of Hadrian, when Pausanias wrote the greatest of all guide-books.


Vatican, Rome


Terme Museum, Rome

We can picture the great statue of Zeus, possibly the most remarkable creation of the sculptor’s art in Greece. The features of the “Father of the Gods” are majestic, yet not unkindly; the arms and the upper parts of the body are fashioned from the gleaming ivory, the lower limbs being wrapped in the golden mantle. In the days of Pausanias there was a building outside the sacred Grove, which was still treasured by the people of Elis as the workshop in which, for five years, the sculptor wrought the image piece by piece. “Why,” says Pausanias, “the god himself bore witness to the art of Phidias. For when the image was completed Phidias prayed that the god would give a sign if the work was to his mind, and straightway, they say, the god hurled a thunderbolt into the ground at the spot where the bronze urn stood down to my time.” This second-century Baedeker has given us the greater part of our knowledge of the works of antiquity, which are now lost or survive only in Roman copies. He described the statue of Zeus by Phidias thus:

“The god is seated on a throne: he is made of gold and ivory: on his head is a wreath made in imitation of sprays of olive. In his right hand he carries a Victory, also of ivory and gold: she wears a ribbon, and on her head a wreath. In the left hand of the god is a sceptre, curiously wrought in all the metals: the bird perched on the sceptre is the eagle. The sandals of the god are of gold and so is his robe. On [Pg 38] the robe are wrought figures of animals and the lily flowers. The throne is adorned with gold and precious stones, also with ebony and ivory; and there are figures painted and images wrought on it.”

The statue of Hera in the temple between Argos and Mycenæ was the work of Polyclitus. It was erected after 423 b.c., when it was necessary to rebuild the shrine of the goddess owing to the burning of the older temple. The goddess was seated on her throne; the crown on her head was decorated with a design of the Graces and the Seasons in relief. Ivory was used to represent the flesh of the “white-armed” goddess, and her rich garments were elaborately decorated with gold, the finish of every detail being even more complete than was the case with the work of Phidias. If the statue of Hera was second to that of Zeus in its suggestion of god-like majesty and repose, it was nevertheless remarkable for its stately beauty. The head, as would be expected from the hand of Polyclitus, was noticeable for the absolute symmetry of every feature. The ripples of hair falling on either side of the central parting gave an impression of dignified calm to the face of the goddess.

The “Zeus” of Phidias and the “Hera” of Polyclitus are the most famous examples of the Greek statues which we have designated as “religious.” The term is, however, misleading. Religious art proper, religious art in the modern sense of the term, did not exist for the citizens of Periclean Athens: “personal” religion—with its intense subjectivity—was a closed book to him. The mysticism—that yearning to be at one with the ultimate reality—which is the keynote of what we moderns deem religion, would have been simply meaningless to the Argive, [Pg 39] the Spartan, or the Athenian of the fifth century. No Greek could ever have said with Bacon, “Our humanity were a poor thing but for the divinity that stirs within us.” Such sentiments as those of the mystic, Antony, the Egyptian, would have struck him as sheer nonsense. “He who sits still in the desert is safe from three enemies—from hearing, from speech, from sight; and has to fight against only one—his own heart.” The Greek had no conception of a “personal” and quasi-human intelligence working in and through the human agent. Human speech, human sight, and, above everything, the promptings of the heart, were all in all to him.

We are, therefore, unable to correlate such a statue as the Zeus of Olympia with such an every-day human craving as that for communion with a personal creator and ruler of the universe which we experience. It rather depends upon a desire for an all-embracing interpretation of the phenomenal world. In other words, such a statue might more rightly be called philosophical than religious.

With the rise of the city-states, the growth of an intense desire for all knowledge brought a new light to bear upon the whole content of consciousness. Men began to distinguish between those impressions which came from outside, and those which seemed rather to depend upon emotional interpretation supplied by the self. The deductions that appeared to be correctly drawn from sense impressions came to be regarded as having a greater validity than the rest, and science arose as a sphere of thought sufficient unto itself and governed by its own rules. During the fifth century the scientists strove to relate the phenomena of the senses, now to one natural force, now to another. But they never reached a unity that carried conviction. The general law [Pg 40] upon which they seemed to come ever and again was a constant and eternal flux. “Strife is the father of all things,” said Heraclitus.

But while Greek science was growing there were many—say one half of the Greek world—to whom its generalisations were simply uninteresting. They were the men to whom the poet could appeal. The mystery all desired to fathom was deeper than sense. Each felt, rather than saw, that:

“Something is or seems, That touches me with mystic gleams, Like glimpses of forgotten dreams— Of something felt, like something here, Of something done, I know not where; Such as no language may declare.”

To such men the “realities” of the scientists were but shadows behind which lay a more abiding truth. The riddle they desired to solve was what relation the fictional realities of the scientists bore to the abiding truths beyond. And the bolder spirits, spurred on by the great intellectual and emotional flood which followed the Persian wars, started upon the quest.

These were craftsmen all—the artists proper. In obedience to some unreasoned desire, these men bethought them to fashion new representations of “the all of things.” They took the ultimate conceptions of life. For example:

“Him, who from eternity, self-stirred, Himself hath made by His creative word.”

They strove to convey, not only the impressions realised by their brothers, the scientists, but the emotions astir in their own hearts. What matter if the scientists proved these “ideal types” to be mere lies. The artists felt that the unconscious criticism of nature revealed truths far beyond those at which the conscious criticism of science stopped.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 41] By the middle of the fifth century the Greek artist had realized that his true task was not to strive to copy the known, but, “hungry for the infinite,” to seek the ideal whose home was in the unknown. The inmost revelations vouchsafed to Greek thought and imagination in the fifth century found expression in the great temple statues. Earlier they had been embodied in such poems as the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” Later they were to find expression in the dialogues of Plato. But between 450 b.c. and 400 b.c. the natural philosophy of the Greek world was embodied in such sculptures as the “Zeus” of Olympia and the “Hera” of Argos. That is why we call the second half of the fifth century “the golden age of Greek sculpture.” Then, and only then, did it embody all Greek thought; then, and only then, were the workers in marble and bronze inspired to express the passion for physical beauty, the fierce pride in citizenship, as well as the deepest thoughts upon nature and humanity.

The passion for physical beauty found material expression in the great series of athletic sculptures of Argos and Athens. The Parthenon was the outcome of the Hellene’s civic pride. The deepest philosophical beliefs of the fifth-century Greek are to be found in such statues as the “Zeus Otricoli” and the “Hera Ludovisi.” These are certainly the finest conceptions of the great god and goddess which have been preserved to us. Both are based on the statues of Phidias and Polyclitus, though there are traces of a more sensuous and florid taste than would have been possible in the fifth century. In the head of Zeus, for instance, the suggestion of awful power is lacking. The great [Pg 42] sculptor working under the inspiration of Homer’s lines: “Spake the Son of Cronus and nodded thereto with swart brows and the ambrosial lock of the King rolled backward from his immortal head and the heights of Olympus quaked,” could not have missed this. The two heads convey all the beauty of the first conceptions, but they lack the serene austerity—the stern aloofness—that we may be sure characterized the work of Phidias and Polyclitus. The fifth-century artists were appealing to men who preserved a measure of unreasoning faith in the gods of their fathers.

The beautiful full length “Barbarian Hera,” in the Vatican Collection, represents a step further in the emphasizing of sensuous charm, and consequently there is even less insistence upon the severe beauty which the fifth-century sculptor sought to portray. To be understood the statue must be regarded as a work of the fourth century, and be judged by the standards of Scopas and Praxiteles.

The ideal head of Asclepius, in the British Museum, which has been ascribed to Thrasymedes of Paros, the sculptor of the great chryselephantine statue at Epidaurus, is a work bearing a strong resemblance to the “Zeus Otricoli.” It was found in the Island of Melos, in a shrine dedicated to the Physician of the Gods, hence the title. The expression of the God of Healing, whose worship was so general in Greece at one time that it threatened to become almost universal, is, however, more kindly and human than that of Zeus. It is a beautiful example of the joyousness and sweet reasonableness which Greek sculpture possessed through contact with a system of religious belief which left the intelligence unhampered and the human emotions free. It is true that the religion of ancient Greece lacked the [Pg 43] driving power of other and more potent faiths. It was not based upon such personalities as Buddha, Moses, or, greatest of all, the Founder of the faith which eventually Hellenized the Western world. But for a few short years the humane and tolerant religion of Greece was all-sufficient. Any one who would have abundant proof has only to stand for a few minutes before the marbles which sum up and express the Greek belief in an entirely reasonable and beautiful world.

[Pg 44]


(400 b.c. TO 330 b.c.)

There is a wealth of worldy wisdom in the saying “Close sits my shirt, but closer my skin.” It reminds us that the relation of the individual to society answers many a riddle. The Athens of the fifth century has furnished us with one great type of individualism—that in which the citizen was willing simply to add his unit to the energy directed by the State. In its sculpture we saw the consequences of a social system which rested upon a foundation essentially unselfish. But, after all, such social altruism is unnatural. Individuality does stand for a dominant passion in humanity. The Athenian communal spirit lasted for a few short years. Then, like many another truly great ideal, it vanished, and with it the school of sculpture to which it had given birth.

After 400 b.c. the Hellenic sculptor found himself in a new world of thought and emotion. The Greek to whom he appealed looked to marble and bronze to express ideals entirely different from those which had been potent fifty years earlier. It would not have been surprising had the sculptor of the later age been overwhelmed by the sense of the achievements of the earlier era. We could have pardoned a half-century of decadent workmanship, while a method suited to the new ideas was [Pg 45] being evolved. As a matter of fact, the Greek sculptor passed from one to the other without perceptible effort. The succession of great artists was unbroken.

Nevertheless, the break with the old epoch was complete. Indeed, it will ever be one of the mysteries of art how human craftsmanship could successfully express thoughts and emotions so diverse by the same medium. There was the same sleepless criticism of nature, the same overpowering impulse towards generalisation, which gave the keynote to the sculpture of the fifth century. But the younger school found fresh themes for plastic expression. It drew new passions from the pulsating humanity in the city-states. That the Greek sculptor passed so easily from the one to the other is a sure proof of the natural bias of the Hellenic genius towards sculpture. It shows that for one century and a half, at any rate, Greece was peopled by a race of sculptors. Many individuals lacked the technical resources of the craftsman, but the average Athenian thought in terms of marble or bronze. Denied an outlet in one direction, the natural impulse found it elsewhere. The result was a new melody, a harmony equally perfect—so true is it that the poet-soul of a nation of artists has “but to be struck, and the sound it yields will be music.”

It is by no means easy to distinguish thus strongly between the sculpture of the fifth-century Greece and that of the fourth without, in a measure, appearing to depreciate the one or the other. It is particularly easy to convey some such impression when we have to assert that Scopas and Praxiteles, the typical sculptors of fourth-century Greece, failed to embody in their bronzes and marbles the inmost revelations vouchsafed to the Greek imagination. It is as true that [Pg 46] Greece owes to Phidias and Polyclitus the sculpture which is most truly Hellenic, as that we owe to Shakespeare the drama which is most truly English. But the appreciation of the art produced by the England of the twenty years after the Armada does not necessitate our decrying such lyricists as Herrick and Rochester. We know that our literature is the richer for both these elements. We can spare neither the awful pathos of Leah’s recognition of Cordelia, nor Herrick’s “Night Piece to Julia.” We must hold the scales at least as evenly between the art of Phidias and the art of Praxiteles.

In many ways the “Niobe” of Scopas and the “Hermes” of Praxiteles testify even more strongly to the vitality of the Hellenic genius. Certainly the best work of the fourth-century sculptors appeals far more directly to us. The period is that of the Spartan and Theban supremacy. Athens has practically acknowledged defeat in the struggle for the hegemony of Greece. Instead of the all-pervading pride in citizenship, the Athenian is conscious of an increasing interest in himself as an individual. The old absorption in the ideal citizenship vanishes. For this very reason the sculptor strikes a note more akin to our nature. The cold, almost repellent, beauty of the fifth-century sculpture is replaced by a new and more sensuous grace.

What were the historical circumstances which brought about this entire change in the Greek artists’ outlook upon life? Upon the withdrawal of the calm judgment and imaginative grip of Pericles, the Athenian political system degenerated rapidly. Drunk with the lust for conquest, Athens forgot that no single town could hope to conquer and rule any large portion of the Hellenic world. Under the influence of such [Pg 47] firebrands as Alcibiades, Athens pursued the mad phantom of Empire. Defeat was inevitable, and the catastrophe at Syracuse in 413 b.c. was but a prelude to the final disaster nine years later.

There is perhaps no more awful page in the book of human history than that which pictures the scene in the Piræus after Ægospotami, when the last Athenian fleet was destroyed by Lysander in 405 b.c. “That night not a man slept.” Every Athenian remembered the fate of Demosthenes and Nicias at the hands of the revengeful Syracusans. He called to mind the living death of his 7000 countrymen condemned to a slavery in the stone quarries of Achradina. Now that the final catastrophe had come, his memory must have carried him back to his vote in 428 b.c., when the Assembly ordered the execution of the whole adult male population of Mytilene and Lesbos. He recalled the sentence passed upon the inhabitants of the rebellious Melos, which ended in the death of every man of military age. As these thoughts crowded in, each man must have asked if the gods would save him as they had saved the men of Mytilene, or whether his fate would be the death he had meted out to the soldiers of Melos and that of his wife and children the slavery that had befallen the rest of the islanders.

No pleasant picture. But it is to these events that the world owes the sculptures of Scopas and Praxiteles.

Accepting, as we do, the dictum of Pericles, “Athens is the school of Hellas,” we have no hesitation in turning to her social and political history for an explanation of the essential difference between the sculpture of Greece in the fifth and the fourth century. The term “Athenian” cannot be used at will for “Hellenic.” Every city and state in Greece contributed something to the Hellenic genius. Each added its [Pg 48] quota to the fund of intellectual and emotional experience upon which the great Greek artists drew. In these 150 city-states all types of political institutions and social customs flourished. Some developed their citizens in one direction, others in another. Men of all types were created. But Athens alone absorbed and utilized all the artistic energies generated in the Ægean peninsula. In the Athenian character alone do we find those traits which, for want of a better name, we may term Pan-Hellenic.

The first effect of the shattering of the imperial dream was to scatter Athenian culture broadcast over the Hellenic world. The store-house of Athenian genius was opened to all. The typical Greek of the new era was the cosmopolitan Xenophon. The ideal of Pericles, “my state right, or my state wrong, but my state, right or wrong,” was sadly out of date. Phidias was an Athenian, born and bred. His life-work was for Athens, and the one thing that Athens shared with Greece—the worship of Zeus. But Scopas was a Parian by birth and an Athenian only by adoption. He worked everywhere and for anybody—as a young man in Tegea; as an old man in Asia Minor upon the great mausoleum erected by the Ephesian Artemisia to her Carian husband. [Pg 49]


British Museum

For thirty years after Ægospotami, Sparta, with the help of Persia, ruled Greece. After the peace of Callias in 371 b.c. came the domination of Pheræ and Thebes, and the military supremacy of Epaminondas. During all this time Athens looked on. Her commerce had suffered little. The wealth of her capitalists had rather been increased than decreased by the abandonment of the luxury of empire. But if the material difference was small, the psychological difference was immense. Whereas Demosthenes could cry of the Athenian who had fought at Salamis, that he believed himself “not born to his father and mother alone, but also to his country,” the State in the fourth century came to be regarded as a joint stock corporation, to be bled for the benefit of its most noisy members. Mercenaries took the place of citizen soldiers in the army of the State. Regardless of the necessity for providing against emergencies, the citizens voted themselves largesses from the public funds. A popular statesman was the man who lessened the cost of public administration, and so could distribute ever increasing dividends of festival money to the proletariat.

This new regard for the individual was entirely foreign to the ideals which had dominated Hellas fifty years earlier. Each man began to realise that apart from citizenship there was an entity which also claimed attention, an “I” with passions and emotions which required satisfaction and called for artistic expression. The sculptor no longer rejected those subjects which derived their interest from the successful expression of individual emotion.

(400 b.c.-350 b.c.)

Scopas was the first artist to realise the new necessity laid upon the plastic arts. He was the chief architect of his day, and in his work we can trace the effect of the new ideas before sculpture was divorced in great measure from architecture. We have already mentioned his association with the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus—one of the “Seven Wonders.” The Carian ruler Mausolus died in 353 b.c., leaving his widow Artemisia to rule. She determined to erect a great monument [Pg 50] to his memory, and impressed the best known artists of Magna Græcia into her service for the purpose. The restoration by C. R. Cockerell in the Mausoleum Room at the British Museum, or, still better, that by Oldfield (The Antiquary, vol. liv., pp. 273-362), give some idea of the great pyramidical building, glowing with colour, which stood on a lofty basement by the harbour side. The whole was surmounted by a great chariot group by Pythis, containing the heroic figure of Mausolus, possibly accompanied by Artemisia, after the fashion of Zeus and Hera in the chariot of the gods.

To the art historian, however, the most interesting feature is the frieze. The principal subject of the existing fragments in the British Museum is a fight between Greeks and Amazons. But the most beautiful section is perhaps a sadly-mutilated slab from a portion of the frieze whereon was pictured a chariot race. It is known as the “Mausoleum Charioteer.” Nothing could bring home more clearly the immense strides Greek art has made than a comparison of this tiny marble fragment with the “Bronze Charioteer” from Delphi, sculptured about one hundred and twenty years earlier. The Mausoleum figure is also clad in the long close-fitting robe of his calling. But every trace of conventionalism has vanished. Even the calm restraint with which an Alcamenes would have treated the subject has gone. Instead we find a passionate intensity which is altogether new. As Mr. E. A. Gardner reminds us, the “Mausoleum Charioteer” might well be of the company described by Shelley, who:

“With burning eyes, lean forth and drink With eager lips the wind of their own speed, As if the thing they loved fled on before, And now, even now, they clasped it.”  


[Pg 51] The “Mausoleum Charioteer” is a beautiful illustration of the more individualistic melody which the early fourth-century sculptor drew from the great orchestra of Greek genius. But we can gauge the effects of the new sympathies still more clearly in the celebrated “Niobe” group. Even in classical times it was a moot point whether its author was Scopas or Praxiteles. Probably the question will never be settled. Modern criticism, however, generally favours its attribution to Scopas. The group certainly contains all the characteristics which we have associated with his influence.

The series was excavated in Rome in 1583 a.d., near the Church of St. John Lateran. It was acquired by one of the Medici family, and placed in the garden of his villa, where it remained until it was removed to its present resting-place in the Uffizi Palace, Florence.

The Florentine “Niobides” are not from the chisel of a fourth-century craftsman. They are probably copies of those described by Pliny as having been brought to the Temple of Apollo Sosianus in 38 b.c. Indeed, other ancient versions of the great group exist, including a magnificent copy of the daughter of Niobe—“The Chiaramonti”—now in the Vatican. The “Niobides” were almost certainly originally designed to serve an architectural purpose. It has been surmised that they formed a pedimental group for a Temple of Apollo in Asia Minor. To judge of their relation to the rest of Greek art, they must be compared with such a pedimental group as that of the Parthenon, and we have, therefore, preferred to illustrate them from the collection of casts at Munich, instead of from the marbles in Rome or Florence. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that Phidias was content to allow three or four figures in the centre of the group [Pg 52] to tell the story. We do not, for instance, even know whether the “Theseus” is a god, a hero, or merely a personification of one of the Athenian rivers. But in the Niobe group every figure is concerned with the main theme.

Regarded as an incident in the history of Greek sculpture, the “Niobides” brilliantly illustrate the fourth-century artist’s success in the depiction of human expression and passion. The Theban Queen is the incarnation of the belief that womanhood’s greatest glory is to bring into the world “full-breathed, bright-eyed, and happy-hearted human creatures.” She stands for the Hellene’s agreement with Ruskin’s doctrine that the true veins of wealth are purple—“not in rock but in flesh.” But her proud sense of the glory of motherhood has aroused the ire of the Virgin Artemis. The sculptor chooses the moment when Niobe and her fourteen children are suddenly faced with the dread vengeance of Apollo and the goddess. The unseen arrows have stricken some of the fearful boys and girls. Others are as yet unhurt. A brother supports a sister. The centre of the group is occupied by the unfortunate mother, to whom the youngest daughter has fled in her terror.

These Roman copies of the “Niobides” were carved long after the schools of Pergamus and Rhodes had shown the possibility of a far more realistic presentation of physical terror and bodily pain. But they still retain evidence of the Greek sculptor’s determination not to be tempted beyond the limits set by bronze and marble. A desire for dramatic expression does not interfere with that harmony of the planes which to the purest Greek taste made for perfectly beautiful sculpture. There are none of the nervous suggestions of muscular action whereby [Pg 53] later artists conveyed ideas of dramatic intensity. Such figures as Niobe with her shrinking girl rather display a desire to postpone physical to spiritual anguish. Upon analysis, this can be traced to the sculptor’s realisation of the impossibility of expressing the ultra-dramatic in terms of perfect beauty.


(Page 71)

Vatican, Rome


Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence

As we look upon the “Niobe,” we feel at once that so dramatic a theme would have made no appeal to the generation before Scopas. But we must also feel that the fourth century has struck a new note—a note, moreover, to which marble can respond. But what is most wonderful is the magnificent reserve, the perfect moderation, with which the artist has expressed emotions that had been considered beyond the range of the art. The sculptor has not sacrificed that harmony and repose which he regards as essential to the idea of the beautiful.

The group usually called the “Menelaus and Patroclus” displays in equal degree this balance between the expression of deep emotion and the perfect moderation which the Greeks regarded as the hall-mark of the truly beautiful. The limitations incidental to marble as a medium for emotional expression are borne in mind. There is no effort to force the note of pathos.

(360 b.c.-325 b.c.)

If Scopas may be regarded as the first Greek to realise that marble and bronze could express the more passionate intensity of feeling which naturally followed the increasing importance of the individual and the individual’s thoughts and emotions, his successor, Praxiteles, must be associated with the second great characteristic of fourth-century [Pg 54] sculpture—its lyrical appeal. Greek sculpture had been epic. It had concerned itself with the heroic myths of the race. But as art became every year less a matter of communal concern, it began to voice the growing self-assertion of the individual Greek. In other words, sculpture became lyric.

Almost any fourth-century work would illustrate what we mean, but a beautiful practical example is furnished from the history of Attic sepulchral sculpture.

Any visitor to Athens will remember the numerous dedicatory reliefs, chapels and memorial stelæ still to be seen in situ in the Ceramicus, the cemetery near the Dipylon Gate. Reconstructing the scene at the time of Praxiteles, we must imagine the roads leading from the principal city gates as flanked with such sculptured memorials of the dead. The Sacred Way to Eleusis, for instance, became a favourite site.

To-day the Ceramicus is in ruins, but its monuments still present some of the finest examples of original Hellenic sculpture extant. There is the famous “Relief of Dexileus.” It depicts with magnificent vigour an Athenian cavalry-man, triumphing over a prostrate foe. Dexileus died in the war which Athens waged unsuccessfully with the Corinthians, so the monument dates from about 394 b.c., the time when the youthful Scopas was at work upon the pedimental groups at Tegea. The beautiful work often called the “Death of Socrates” is only a few years earlier in date. The connection with Socrates is, of course, apocryphal, the subject really being an Athenian pouring a libation. At the other side is the wife, absorbed as was the wont of Athenian wives in some domestic interest—her dress, or her jewellery. The third figure is a young slave holding the vessel filled with wine.


Ceramicus, Athens

[Pg 55] Neither of the works memorialises any great political or social figure. Nothing could well be more individualistic than a monument erected to an unknown man by his friends or relations. Dating from about 400 b.c., both belong to an age when sculpture was divorcing itself from its close alliance with the State. But the point to be realised is that a few years earlier such works would have been impossible. Sculptors of such power would not have been at the service of mere individuals, however wealthy. Cicero (“De Legibus,” ii. 26) tells that in the period after Solon’s death, the Athenians legislated against elaborate monuments in such cemeteries as the Ceramicus. No tomb was permitted unless it could be made by ten men in three days.

For many years public opinion approved of these sumptuary laws. It was only when the fifth century was well advanced that they fell into disuse. Even then the transition was gradual. The sepulchral monuments were small and stonemasons only were employed. In the fourth century, however, the best known sculptors accepted such commissions. Pausanias, describing the antiquities near the Piræus Gate, says, for instance: “Not far from the gates is a tomb, whereon stands a soldier standing by his horse; who he was I know not, but it was Praxiteles who made both man and horse.”

But the tendency towards an increased interest in the needs of the individual citizen is even more strongly exemplified by the growth of home life. Home life had been sacrificed to public life in the age of Themistocles and Pericles. The victors of Salamis lived in small houses, which were particularly dark and uncomfortable owing to the lack of glass. The poorer citizens lived in a single “cella.” Families [Pg 56] of moderate means had two sets of rooms, the upper floor for the women, and the lower set apart for the men. In the fifth century only a few rich men could afford the series of rooms grouped round the two courts which enabled the wealthy Athenian to receive his friends and enjoy some of the privileges of home life. Under the circumstances, we cannot wonder that the Greek left his home early and preferred the gymnasium or the market-place, the law courts or the covered corridors. A few met in the courtyards of their friends but, as a whole, social life in Athens was public.

In the fourth century, however, the richer members of the community began to build magnificent houses in the suburbs of Athens. Attempts at decorating the interiors followed as a matter of course. It is said that Alcibiades was the first Athenian to try, calling in Agatharchus, the painter, to his aid. The poorness of the light in the majority of the houses doomed the painters’ efforts to failure, but the sculptor had a better chance. His work could be used, at any rate, for the decoration of the courtyards. He was employed to supply portrait busts and a host of single figures, which, appealing as they did to the individual taste alone, would have had no place in the art of the preceding century.

The range of subjects was still further increased by the popular sculptor being no longer chiefly engaged upon huge chryselephantine statues of deities, in which it was manifestly impossible to depart far from the popular types which had been fixed by sculptors like Phidias and Polyclitus. Moreover, the sculptor was no longer compelled to spend most of his time in filling a triangular pediment, a square metope, or shaping his design to the long narrow frieze. The consequence was the [Pg 57] discovery of numbers of mythical subjects capable of objective realisation in bronze and marble.

The “Hermes” is a beautiful example of the use such a sculptor as Praxiteles made of the new opportunities. The place it occupies in the history of the art is unique. Whereas most sculptures of its class are Roman copies, the “Hermes of Praxiteles” is an undoubted original. The marble was found at Olympia in 1877 a.d., on the very spot where Pausanias recorded having seen it. The find was preceded by the identification of a dipteral temple with an Heraion (Temple of Hera) also described by Pausanias. But this was of small interest compared with the statue which the German excavators discovered embedded in a fragment of wall. There was never any doubt as to its identity. It was clearly “the Hermes of stone, carrying the infant Dionysus—a work moreover by Praxiteles”—as Pausanias had recorded.

Every one has seen a cast of the statue. The god is carrying the babe Dionysus to the nymphs. He has stopped for a moment’s rest and is amusing his little charge, may be with a bunch of grapes held in the right hand. The perfect grace of the figure and the pose are essentially Praxitelean. The work illustrates the softer and more sensuous manner of imaging the lesser divinities which arose in the fourth century. In this case the youthful god in the flush of early manhood must be contrasted with the “bearded” Hermes of the age of Phidias. After the time of Praxiteles there was no reversion to the earlier type. He did for Hermes and Apollo what Phidias and Polyclitus had done for Zeus and Hera.

The influence of Praxiteles can be traced in a hundred kindred works produced during the next few centuries. In particular, it led to a fuller appreciation of the value of marble as a medium. Previously most [Pg 58] of these single male statues had been bronze. The use of marble in turn led to increased technical skill. Take Praxiteles’ treatment of the hair in the “Hermes,” for instance. Note the massing of the locks, without an attempt at the realistic representation of the details, and the skilful use of the play of light and shade which such free treatment makes possible.


But even these factors, potent though they were, do not account for the whole of the increased scope afforded to the fourth-century sculptor. We have passed in review various circumstances, political, economic, intellectual and moral. But we have said nothing of a good half of Greek society—the women. Yet the influence exerted by the fairer sex, negatively upon fifth-century, positively upon fourth-century, sculpture was all-important. It must not be overlooked if we would gain a complete understanding of either phase of Hellenic art.

Speaking generally, women occupied a place in Greek society which cannot be readily illustrated from our modern experience. The earliest Greek women is pictured in the pages of Homer. The typical wife is Penelope; the typical virgin is Nausicaa. To Homer, the wife is the trusted friend of her husband. The current belief is that

“The woman’s cause is man’s: they rise or sink Together, dwarf’d or god-like, bond or free.”



[Pg 59] But prosperity brought a change. At the time of the rise of sculpture—in the early days of Pericles—the interests of the citizens were entirely political. At no time, perhaps, in the history of the world have men and women had so little in common. The duty of an Athenian wife was to stay at home, to order the house economically, and to control the numerous slaves. Wedded, perhaps at fifteen, after a childhood spent in strict seclusion, she could not hope to be a companion to the active-minded Athenian. “The best woman,” said Thucydides, “is she of whom least is said, either in the way of good or harm.”

Towards the end of the fifth century, the political interests became less absorbing, as we have seen. Private affairs began to occupy the major part of the wealthy citizen’s time. It might have been expected that the Athenian wife would have been gradually reinstated in the position of intimate companionship she had occupied before city life became general. But the custom of centuries was too firmly rooted. When the Athenian once more looked for the pleasures that might arise from social contact with his womenfolk he found his wife entirely without charm.

Naturally enough he turned to the Hetaerae. The word is too thoroughly Hellenic to be translated. Demosthenes distinguished the class from the rest of the Athenian women when he said:

“By means of wives we become the fathers of legitimate children and maintain faithful guardians of our homes; the Hetaerae are meant to promote the enjoyment of life.”

The “female friends” were usually captives made in war or, at any rate, strangers who found Athens a convenient market for their physical and intellectual charms. Few Athenian women dared to join their ranks. Every Hetaera was an expert dancer. She could play on the flute or lyre. Her wealth was often considerable. The boast of Phryne—the [Pg 60] greatest feminine influence of her day in Greece—did not appear absolutely beyond reason. Yet the courtesan offered to rebuild the walls of Athens at her own cost. Not infrequently the Hetaera’s mental culture was sufficient to enable her to consort with the greatest philosophers and statesmen. Pericles himself imperilled his position in the State by his dealings with Aspasia.

We are not called upon to pass judgment upon these social customs. Our task is rather to estimate the influence of such a state of society upon the child of his time—the artist. Looking the facts in the face, we have simply to note that the old demand for manly vigour and civic unselfishness was giving place to a far less strenuous ideal. The Athenians could applaud a Phryne who at a festival at Eleusis, let down her hair and descended into the sea in the sight of all the Greeks, after the manner of a sea-born Aphrodite. Instead of Zeus and Hera, men looked to Dionysus, the leader of the revels; to Apollo, the chief of the Muses; to Aphrodite, the Queen of Desire, who held in her cestus all the magic of passion.

The greatness of an artist does not rest upon opposition offered to current civic and social ideals. On the contrary, it depends entirely upon the perfect expression which he gives to the body of emotions experienced by the men and women around him. The fame of Praxiteles is due to his complete identification with the paramount influences of his age. A true Athenian, the refined sensuality of his style picked him out as the artist to give objective form to the popular imaginations.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 61] Praxiteles himself was closely associated with the Hetaera, Phryne. One of his most renowned works was the “Eros” which he carved as the artistic expression of his love for the beautiful courtesan, and which was dedicated by Phryne at Thespiae about 360 b.c. The Epigrammatist said of the Thespian “Eros” that it “excited transports of love by hurling, not darts, but glances.” There have been many attempts to identify this statue with marbles that have come down to us. It has been often suggested that the beautiful torso found at Centocelle, and now in the Vatican, may be a copy. Without dogmatising, we can realise some of the qualities of Praxitelean art from the “Eros of Centocelle.” We can see the dreamy melancholy with which the artist no doubt invested the graceful and tender form of the God of Love. It is strongly typical of the Praxitelean imagination that Eros is depicted as on the very verge of youth, at the dawn of the first forebodings of passion.

Praxiteles’ “Aphrodite of Cnidus” is equally associated with the memory of the Hetaera, Phryne. Originally executed for the islanders of Cos, it was refused by them on account of the daring manner in which the sculptor had imaged the goddess—a manner which can be realised from the epigram to which it gave rise.

“The Paphian Cytherea went down to the waters of Cnidus desiring to behold her own image; having beheld it, ‘Alas! Alas!’ she cried, ‘where did Praxiteles behold me thus? I thought only three persons, Paris, Anchises, and Adonis had done so.’”

The people of Cnidus differed from their brothers of Cos. As Pliny suggests, their acceptance of the statue made their island famous. The marble was placed in the centre of a grove of myrtle, and was approached by several paths so that it could be viewed from every side. The Vatican replica of the Aphrodite is the best known copy of the work. It is, however, at present disfigured by the addition of metal [Pg 62] drapery which the taste of the last century considered necessary. The Praxitelean design can be realised from the copy at the Glyptothek, Munich, originally in the Palace Braschi. There is also an undraped cast of the Vatican statue in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington. Our own illustration is from a photo of the Vatican copy taken for the Hellenic Society many years ago.

To the people of Cnidus, the statue was not marble white. The eyes and hair of the goddess were coloured. The drapery and the flesh were delicately tinted. In exactly what manner this was done, we do not know. That such statues were painted is beyond argument. Pliny tells that the painter Nicias assisted Praxiteles. He suggests that the sculptor considered the encaustic additions of prime importance and necessitating the greatest skill. Whatever the purpose of this colouring of statues may have been, it is certain that there was no effort to secure greater realism by this addition. The desire seems to have been to soften the harsher tones of the marble and to increase the decorative effect of the statue by distinguishing the principal masses of the composition.

For hundreds of years after it was set up in the myrtle grove in Cnidus, the “Aphrodite” was the most renowned statue in Western Europe. This can only be attributed to the exquisite sense of artistic fitness with which Praxiteles carried out his task, together with the fact that he had enshrined in marble one of the ever potent human passions. Phryne had been Praxiteles’ model. But the statue was by no means a realistic presentation of the erotic beauties of the Hetaera. No fault can be found with Praxiteles’ treatment of his theme on that ground.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 63] Nevertheless the representation of a goddess in the guise of a woman shrinking from the revelation of her beauty to mankind argues the loss of a certain morality. True, the Greek sculptor had never aimed at the inculcation of moral ideas. But in an age before the religious sense of the Greek had become dulled, he would have confined himself to the creation of an atmosphere in which moral ideas could range without friction. The “Aphrodite of Cnidus” belongs to a time which made no such demand upon its artists. The sculptor no longer believed that he owed a duty to the state in this particular respect. Every work now stood or fell by virtue of its innate truth and beauty.

But Praxiteles was in no sense “a brilliant exponent of decadent art.” On the contrary, his sculptures bear witness to perhaps the most magnificent endowment of the Attic brain—the fineness with which it felt. To-day, we are too apt to regard clarity of thought as the chief attribute of genius. Really genius depends upon the power to call up delicate tones of feeling, of infinite subtlety of texture when compared with the ideas which we often regard as its sole endowment.

Praxiteles has been described as “He who actually blended with his marbles the emotions of the soul.” The phrase is a fitting one with which to close our review of his art. His abiding greatness depends less upon sheer beauty of line than upon the delicacy of the feelings which he made marble convey. The play of the passing emotion on the face of the “Hermes,” the dreamy passion of the “Eros,” and the illusive charm with which the “Aphrodite of Cnidus” shrinks from the revelation of her beauty—these are typical of what is most characteristic in the sculpture of Praxiteles and his fellow workers. [Pg 64] He felt the emotional appeal of the feminine and the youthful male form rather than saw the beauties of line displayed in the new subjects offered for sculptural treatment. It is far from true that the Greek sculptor generally sought for beauty of form to the neglect of all the varied charm that lies in intellectual and emotional expression. This might be said of Phidias and Polyclitus. The insight of the sculptors of the following century into the depths of human emotion, on the contrary, was infinite. Scopas and Praxiteles made marble speak the more delicate emotions of the soul to the last word.

[Pg 65]



It needs little knowledge of human nature to realise that the idealisation of sensuous passion, which was the keynote of the art of Praxiteles, could not express the whole nature of a composite civilisation, and particularly the whole nature of a civilisation great enough to mother an Alexander and a Demosthenes. The presence of a more strenuous ideal was inevitable. The body social in this respect closely resembles the individual. To the individual, merely sensual pleasure is rarely entirely absorbing. It is a matter of hours, weeks—months, it may be, then the impulse weakens, and

“Like the snow-falls in the river, A moment white—then melts for ever!”

It would, therefore, have been possible to diagnose the presence of the colder and more self-contained art hard by the warmly glowing art of Praxiteles.

It is to be found in a large class of sculptures which we shall designate as Lysippic. These contain strongly marked characteristics, and a moment’s consideration will show that they must be traced to a [Pg 66] social opinion entirely different to that pervading such works as the “Olympian Hermes,” the “Aphrodite of Cnidus,” and the “Eros of Centocelle.”

But if a school of sculpture opposed to that of Praxiteles was an artistic necessity, a reaction against the social circumstances which had rendered a Praxiteles possible was equally sure. The art change indeed witnesses to the social revolution; the social change to the artistic.

Nor is the reaction in any sense the result of a merely passive objection to a dangerous method of living and feeling. Athens was impelled by misfortune into adopting sounder ideals. Such an incident as the sack of the shops in the Piræus by the pirate vessels of Alexander of Pheræ after the battle of Mantinea (362 b.c.) had rudely shaken the self-confidence of the Athenians. At the time, the outrage led to no more vigorous step than the exiling of the Athenian statesman, Callistratus. But these rebuffs reached a climax in 338 b.c. when Thebes and Athens were routed by Philip and Alexander at Chæronea. The impossible had happened. With the victory of Chæronea, the hegemony of Greece had passed to Macedonia—a non-Greek power. The Athenians prepared for root and branch reform. As if to justify the taunt of Demosthenes, “the administration has risen from beggary to wealth, while the Treasury wants sustenance for one day’s march,” such an incorruptible as Lycurgus was elected to the Ministry of the Public Revenue. What is more he was permitted to act. The Navy was increased to 400 galleys. The marble store-house for ships’ gear (the Skeuotheke of Philo) was completed. With grim irony, the cases that lined the triple-aisled arcades were left open for public inspection, “that those who passed might see all the gear in the gear-house.” [Pg 67]

It was almost a century since the seeds of decay had been sown in the city-state system. It needed no Demosthenes to prove that with all its faults it was to this system that Athens owed its most enduring glories. It had developed the powers of the citizens to the greatest extent. Faced with the possibility of the absolute monarchy embodied in the power of Macedonia triumphing over the free commonwealth, Athens naturally looked to the past. The rule of Phocion and Lycurgus was the result. It was marked by a closer return to the ideals of the fifth century than had prevailed in Athens since the death of Pericles, a century earlier. Many of the old shrines were restored, and the theatre of Dionysus rebuilt. Aided by the produce of the silver mines of Laurion, Lycurgus was able to rebuild the Lycæan gymnasium and construct the Panathenaic stadion.

But an even more signal proof of the reaction against the selfish policy of the previous fifty years is to be found in the effort made to rid Athens of the mercenary system which was sapping the military strength of the state. After Chæronea the youth of Athens was once more trained to arms. Young men had to serve the state for at least two years. These Epheboi, under the direction of a marshal and ten masters of discipline, wore a common uniform, lived together and dined frugally at a common mess. The system was almost Spartan in its simple temperance. The Epheboi were trained in the exercises of the hoplite. At the end of the first half of their training they gave a public exhibition of athletic and military skill in the Athenian theatre. The ministry of Lycurgus between 338 and 326 b.c. was not a second golden age for Athens. But it was a faithful copy. There was, at least, a partial return to the good old times [Pg 68] when Athenian lads ran races under the sacred olives, redolent of convolvulus and whitening poplar, “rejoicing in the sweet o’ the year when the plane-tree whispers to the elm.”

It was in a world dominated by these ideals that Lysippus (roughly 375 b.c. to 300 b.c.), the last of the great Greek sculptors, worked. In place of the less virile type favoured by the age of Praxiteles he aimed at the expression of natural manly beauty. Lysippus moulded his style upon that of Polyclitus. Like Polyclitus, he preferred to work in bronze. The preference is typical of his departure from the style of the Athenian artists who had dominated sculpture during the forty years before Chæronea. Marble had proved the very medium for the portrayal of the softer graces of the human form and the delicate expression of emotion. But it was inadequate for the representation of the more vigorous human forms which Lysippus sought to portray.

Lysippus, however, was no blind follower of Polyclitus. It is narrated that he once said, “Polyclitus made men as they were, but I make them as they appear to the eye.” Lysippus added the truth of expression which the beautifully symmetrical but impassive figures of Polyclitus lacked. He aimed at imparting to his figures a lightness that those of the Argive sculptor wanted.

The Vatican “Apoxyomenus” is without doubt the finest statue extant embodying these tendencies. This fine marble was excavated in April 1849 from among the ruins of a large private house in the Vicolo delle Palme in Transtevere. It is doubtless a marble copy of the bronze which was one of the most popular works of art in Rome during the Empire. In the bronze original the supports which are necessary for the marble copy were absent.


Vatican, Rome


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 69] But what strikes us first is not the resemblance to the athletic sculptures of Polyclitus, but the marked difference. The subject is of the genre order, which in itself denotes a change. Wrestlers were wont to anoint their bodies with oil and besprinkle themselves with fine sand in order to afford a firm grip. Here we see the athlete scraping the oil-soaked sand from his limbs with a strigil.

But the difference goes still deeper. A physique that would serve the State in good stead at any moment was clearly the essential to the youth who posed for the “Diadumenus” of Polyclitus. Above all, there was no suggestion of training for a single event. The “Apoxyomenus,” on the contrary, rather recalls the system of our own day, in which particular muscle, rather than balanced strength, is the prime desideratum. To-day the athlete never loses sight of the fact that a definite contest has to be won on a fixed date. Mr. K. T. Frost, in a delightful criticism of the “Apoxyomenus” from the point of view of the athletic anatomist, couples the work with the well-known “Fighting Warrior” of Agasias, now in the Louvre. “Both,” he says, “have the physical characteristics which we associate with the thoroughbred.” Comparing them with other Greek athletic statues, he shows that the back and trunk in the earlier works depend for strength upon the general solidity of the frame, not on specially developed muscles. This, as he proves, is not the case with the “Apoxyomenus,” though the steel-like tendons and sinews prevent the resulting slimness from suggesting any lack of power. [Pg 70]


The “Apoxyomenus,” since its discovery in 1849, has always been associated with the name of Lysippus. It certainly shows all the features which are usually associated with his style, including the small head, the long limbs, and the life-like animation which he strove to express in his figures.

The attribution of these characteristics originally depended upon the interpretation placed upon various references to Lysippus in the classical authors. A passage in Pliny, for instance, speaks of his “Constantia,” and seems to suggest that a sleepless regard for truth in detail was a prime feature of the Lysippic style. When we add to this the passages relating to his pupils, we can scarcely fail to regard Lysippus as the founder of the realistic school, which was opposed throughout the Hellenistic age to the more fanciful and idealistic art based upon the marbles of Praxiteles. When we come to the consideration of the portraits of the Lysippic school, we shall see that realism to Lysippus did not mean exactitude to life. He always sought to add that rhythmic beauty which Nature never supplies, but which every true artist, and especially every great Greek sculptor, is persuaded lies at the root of art.

It was upon such evidence as this that the “Apoxyomenus” was attributed to Lysippus. Practically all the well-known and frequently copied sculptures are attributed to the famous sculptors of antiquity upon similar grounds.

In recent years, however, the archæologists have sought to introduce a supplementary method whereby the authorship of well-known sculptures [Pg 71] may be verified. The method depends upon the minute examination of pieces of sculpture and the tabulation of their technical peculiarities. The eye or the ear, the nostril or the chin of a statue, and especially of a Greek original, speaks volumes to the scientific critic. Aided by a collection of prints, he arranges sculptures from any of the European collections into classes. The hint of a date enables him provisionally to associate a class with a well-known craftsman, and the identification of the authorship of masterpieces begins.

Criticism of this kind looms largely in the literature of sculpture in these days. Even the amateur who is interested in art rather than archæology must, therefore, have a clear idea of the type of evidence leading to the ascription of well-known sculptures to particular artists. Almost any famous work would serve to illustrate this. Critical struggles, for instance, have waged around the “Venus of Milo.” Is it a fourth-century work, or can it be roughly dated at 150 b.c.? We have also referred to the critical mystery surrounding the authorship of the “Niobides.”

We, however, choose for the purpose of illustrating our point, two famous works now in the Vatican—“The Ares Ludovisi” and the “Meleager.” Both are generally acknowledged to be copies of fourth-century sculptures of the finest quality. Neither possesses the strongly marked characteristics of the style of Praxiteles; nor do they resemble the “Apoxyomenus.” Are they then to be ascribed to Scopas? That is the critical problem.

The “Ares” depicts the war-god as a youth. This is a fourth-century variation from the robust, bearded, and fully armed type of an earlier period. Ares is pondering fresh feats of arms. Or may be, as the Roman [Pg 72] copyist suggests by the introduction of the tiny Eros, he is solving some deep amatory problem set him by Aphrodite. At first sight the “Ares” seems to be by a sculptor who has imbibed some of the spirit of both Scopas and Praxiteles. The sentiment strikes us as Praxitelean, the expression rather suggests Scopas. Leubke, noting the length of the limbs, says that the “Ares Ludovisi” reminds him of the style of Lysippus. Dr. Waldstein, however, will have none of this. He insists upon the claims of Scopas. To Dr. Waldstein, the overhanging brow which gives the pensive expression to the “Apoxyomenus” is the characteristic of Lysippus. Its absence compels him to refer the “Ares” to Scopas. It all depends upon a wrinkle. Needless to say, we do not propose to decide where doctors disagree.

But the archæological method can be illustrated even more happily by the critical history of the Vatican “Meleager.” The stripling stands with his dog, careless of any danger which the future may have in store. The artist would seem to represent a youthful huntsman impatient for his quarry, rather than the trusty hero who sailed with the Argonauts and freed the chace of Calydon from the devastating boar of Artemis. As is the case with most of the well-known Greek sculptures, no signature or inscription connects it with any particular artist. The exceptional evidence present in the case of the “Hermes” of Praxiteles is, as we shall see, also absent. The first clue comes from the pages of Pausanias, who names Scopas as the architect of the temple of Athena Alea at Tegea, and speaks of him as the sculptor of the pedimental groups. Pausanias goes on to describe the marbles, and gives a list of the figures in the eastern pediment whereon was figured, as he says, “The hunting of the Calydonian boar.” These facts, together with the [Pg 73] emotional character of the “Meleager,” justified the statue being associated with the sculptor of the Tegean group.

But the evidence did not end here. During recent excavations, two heads, which had evidently fallen from the eastern pediment, were discovered. (“Journal Hellenic Studies,” vol. xv.) They showed the passionate insistence upon vitality, particularly in the intensity of the gaze of the eyes, which we have already noted in the “Mausoleum Charioteer,” and which certainly characterises the “Meleager” at Rome.

Here was fair material for a dogmatic superstructure of really imposing dimensions. The scientific critic had, of course, to seek for further instances of the sharply rounded eyeballs. He had to find other cases in which the intensity of expression was clearly due to the deep setting of the eyes. Upon the results of these researches he could assign a certain number of the sculptures to Scopas, and by a process of exhaustion many another fourth-century work to the numerous sculptors mentioned in Pliny and Pausanias. So far all was plain sailing. The attributions were admittedly risky, but the interest of the results seemed to justify the method.

Unfortunately the matter did not end here. While one party of excavators was working at Tegea, another party was unearthing a disconcerting inscription elsewhere. This suggested that a statue known as the “Agias,” a figure of an athlete found at Delphi, was a marble copy of a work by Lysippus. The discovery necessitated a fresh examination of fourth-century works, and as a result, such an authority as Mr. Percy Gardner now feels compelled to doubt whether the “Meleager” can be properly associated with the influence of Scopas any [Pg 74] longer. Guided by resemblances to the “Agias,” he suggests that the “Meleager” is much more probably after a work by Lysippus.

But again the critical argument takes a fresh lease. For the “Agias” is found to resemble strongly the “Heracles” at Lansdowne House. Moreover, since neither possesses any of the strongly marked characteristics of the “Apoxyomenus,” doubt is thrown upon the generally accepted attribution of that statue to Lysippus. What is the alternative? Mr. Percy Gardner has a suggestion at once. He turns to his Pliny (“Nat. Hist.” xxxiv. 87). The “‘Apoxyomenus’ is not a genuine fourth-century work; it is rather Hellenistic,” says he; “it may well be a copy of the Perixyomenus of Diappus, the son or pupil of Lysippus.”

We do not refer to the battle of the critics over Scopas, Praxiteles, and Lysippus at this length on account of the intrinsic value of the critical spoils. On the contrary, the value of the accumulation of evidence seems to us to be entirely negative. We are far from wishing to depreciate the value of such researches, but candour compels us to remind the amateur that the modern methods of critical research are full of pitfalls. One can scarcely steer too far from the hasty generalisation which can be so readily drawn from the necessarily flimsy evidence upon which the archæologist is compelled to rely.



[Pg 75] For ourselves we prefer to regard the work of the critical school as scaffolding which will doubtless lead to a permanent erection of ascertained fact. The “Ares,” the “Meleager,” and the “Apoxyomenus” may be neither by Scopas nor Lysippus. It is sufficient if we can honestly detect in them the general characteristics of particular phases of fourth-century sculpture. The “Mausoleum Charioteer,” the “Menelaus and Patroclus,” and the “Niobe” group may none of them be the actual design or handiwork of Scopas. We cannot do more than detect in them the general characteristics of the period in which Scopas was a dominating influence. But there must have been a personality to popularise the new style—a brain and hand through whom the new artistic tendency first found expression. With all the reservations that these remarks imply, we give this personality the name of Scopas, and, as we said before, regard him as the first Greek to realise that marble and bronze could express the more passionate intensity of feeling which naturally followed the increasing importance of the individual and the individual’s thoughts and emotions.

So with Lysippus. The individual is not an essential element in the history of Greek sculpture. If he never lived, another sculptor “of the same name” gave plastic expression to the more realistic ideals aroused by the triumph of Macedonia. Some master inaugurated the realistic school, which persisted beside the idealistic, based upon the art of Praxiteles. Whether Lysippus, Diappus, or an unknown sculptor of the Hellenistic school moulded the “Apoxyomenus” is of small consequence. Moreover, when all is said and done, there is not much to choose between this position and that of Mr. Percy Gardner himself. As Mr. Frost has pointed out, the length of limb and lightness of frame seen in the “Apoxyomenus” are only the tendencies of the “Agias” carried a step further. When Mr. Percy Gardner goes on to suggest that the Vatican statue is not by the master but by the pupil, he practically accepts the general view we hold. Barring the “Hermes” of Praxiteles, [Pg 76] it is practically impossible to attribute dogmatically any of the Hellenic sculptures to the craftsmanship of particular artists. Inscriptions, literary references, and further Greek originals, or Roman copies, may yet be found. For the present, the art lover will do well to content himself with realising the methods which the critical schools have adopted, and the path by which it seeks answers to the high problems it desires to solve.

We cannot pass from our consideration of the last effort of Hellenic sculpture proper without a reference to one other work associated with the Lysippic period. We mean the magnificent sarcophagus now at Constantinople, and sometimes called the “Sarcophagus of Alexander.” This is clearly a Greek original produced about 300 b.c. It was found early in the last decade in the family vault of a Sidonian king at Saida, with several sarcophagi of the finest style. Those who cannot see the original, can gain a clear idea of the great work from the magnificent publication issued by Hamdi Bey, the discoverer, entitled “Une Necropole Royale de Sidon,” of which the British Museum possesses a copy. All sides of the sarcophagus are decorated with a wealth of sculptured design and ornament. Macedonians, Greeks, and Persians all take part in the scenes of battle and chase represented by the sculptor. The work is in the finest preservation. The silver bridles and weapons have been removed, but in all other respects it is perfect. One head is missing but this is due to an accident since its discovery. Even the original colours can be traced. Indeed, any one wishing to obtain a clear idea of the use the Greeks made of colour in sculpture cannot do better than study the fine coloured plates picturing the “Sarcophagus of Alexander” prepared for Hamdi Bey.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 77]


So far few references to the portrait sculptures of Greece either in the fifth or fourth century have been necessary. We have now, however, to redeem the promise to make clear the use Lysippus and his school made of realistic detail in this department of art. The opportunity suggests a few general remarks upon Hellenic portrait sculpture generally. Before the latter half of the fourth century there was no portraiture in Greece, in the modern sense of the word. That is to say, the sculptor made no effort to produce a realistic representation of the sitter. He rather sought to present a type suggested by the individual. Take, for instance, the British Museum bust of “Pericles”—probably a copy of the statue by Cresilas dedicated after the revolt of Samos (440 b.c.). This stood on the Acropolis, hard by the Lemnian “Athena” of Phidias, on the right-hand side as the Athenian passed up through the Propylæa. Even such a well-known figure as the warrior statesman is not highly individualised. The clear-cut brow and the broad mouth tell of the profound judgment and sober will needful to the man who gave Athenian policy its deepest and most imaginative characteristics. The voluptuous lips tell of the passionate emotionalism which brought Pericles into sympathy with his fellow countrymen, and which every true Athenian would have considered it inhuman to crush. But these characteristics are rather those of the ideal statesman which the Athenian system sought to produce. Every trait applicable to Pericles alone has been removed.

Much the same may be said of the well-known “Sophocles,” or the so-called “Phocion” in the Vatican, two of the finest Greek portraits [Pg 78] of the best style extant. Both have all the strongly idealistic qualities of Hellenic portraiture before the Alexandrian age. Neither the “Sophocles” nor the “Phocion” can be termed portraits in the sense that the Roman busts are portraits. Both represent ideal types rather than individual personalities. The Greek thinker desired to look at everything from the universal point of view. He sought to form general abstract conceptions about humanity and nature, applicable to any and every part of the universe. The task of the Greek sculptor was, therefore, to produce figures embodying these types. Phocion was to him the incorruptible statesman. Sophocles was the typical Athenian gentleman—sound in body as in mind.

So when Lysippus set out to carve a portrait statue such as that preserved in the marble bust of “Alexander” in the British Museum, he did not picture the man or the king of Macedon, but the descendant of Achilles, whose mission it was to conquer the world. He abstracted every trait that endured but for the moment, and sought only to express the heroic side of the Macedonian character. Plutarch (“Life of Alexander”) tells of the impression this method made upon Alexander himself. We read:

“When Lysippus first made a portrait of Alexander with his countenance uplifted to heaven, just as Alexander was wont to gaze with his neck gently inclined to one side, some one wrote the following note in appropriate epigram:

‘The man of bronze is as one that looks on Zeus, and will address him thus: “O Zeus, I place earth beneath my feet, do thou rule Olympus.”’


Vatican, Rome


After Lysippus

[Pg 79] “For this reason Alexander gave orders that only Lysippus should make portraits of him, since he alone, as it would seem, truly revealed his nature in bronze and portrayed his courage in visible form, while others in their anxiety to reproduce the bend of the neck, and the melting look of the eyes, failed to preserve his masculine and leonine aspect.”

The portraits of Lysippus therefore differ from such an ideal figure as the “Pericles” in the skilful use made of realism. The portrait is cast in an heroic mould, but this is not obtained at the expense of all likeness. Note the way in which the peculiar eyes of the king and the turn of his neck have been utilised.

The change was not entirely for the better. The passage from Plutarch itself suggests where an artist of less than the front rank would fail. The followers of Lysippus were not content to make this sparing use of detail. Forgetful that general truths and general emotions can be embodied in marble and bronze most clearly and therefore most properly, they made realistic detail an end in itself. Pliny tells of Lysistratus of Sicyon, a brother of Lysippus, and says that he introduced the practice of “life-like portraiture,” previous artists having sought “to accentuate the more beautiful qualities of the sitter.” From this it was but a step to the work of Demetrius of Alopece, whose portraits were so realistic that Lucian called him “the maker of men” rather than the “maker of statues.”

Lucian’s phrase reminds us that we have brought our survey of Hellenic sculpture to a close. The downfall of the city-state system militated against those habits of thought which ever aimed at eliminating every trait applicable to the individual object, and which were so essentially Hellenic. When the aristocratic or monarchical rule of [Pg 80] the country-state was substituted, the rural voter no longer troubled to exercise his franchise. He left the duty of recording a vote to the townsmen on the spot. The earlier constant contact with actuality became a thing of the past.

Speaking of the essential quality of Greek sculpture, Pater has said:

“Hellenic breadth and generality come of a culture, minute, severe, constantly renewed, and concentrating its impressions into certain pregnant types.”

These words exactly describe the relation of Greek sculpture to general culture during the fifth and fourth centuries. When Greece failed to withstand Macedonia, the entire current of social and political life changed. A culture which had been Hellenic became Hellenistic.

[Pg 81]


[Pg 82] 

[Pg 83]



The life story of an idea—the flower of the spiritual world—presents many analogies to the vital phenomena of the natural world. It is born, it lives and, maybe, it suffers the “sea-change” we call death. There are the weeks, months, or years which correspond to the time when the flowers are in their tiring rooms,

“Fast busy, weaving, in those still retreats,
The robes of rainbow dyes, which they must wear.”

Then, with the idea as with the flower, comes the day when Spring,

“Fast running o’er the drowsy earth,
Taps at the closed portals of their homes,
And calls them forth, fresh perfumed and new clad,
To the festival of Nature.”

And after the flower comes the seed and the scattering of the seed.

The blossoming time of the idea which we saw in bud three centuries earlier—Hellenism—was the age during which Hellas consisted of a cluster of self-dependent cities in Greece, with their free colonies in [Pg 84] Sicily, Italy, Asia Minor and elsewhere around the Mediterranean basin. Phidias, Praxiteles, and Lysippus were the sculptors of the age when Athens was still the centre of Greek intellectual thought and artistic action. The seedtime of Hellenism—its second phase—is that in which the Hellenic ideal is given to mankind. Magna Græcia is no longer self-centred and self-contained. The Greek takes upon himself the task of showing the barbarian world the value of that clarity of thought and expression which is at once peculiarly Hellenic and peculiarly sculpturesque.

This second phase is the Hellenistic period. It roughly dates from 323 b.c., when Alexander died, until the Roman occupation of Syria in the first century before our era. During this period independent schools of sculpture arose beyond the Ægean Peninsula. These were animated in the main by the Hellenic spirit, but the resulting works show abundant traces of the alien influences among which the seed was planted and grew up.

Previously, countries within reach of Greek influence turned to such a centre as Athens when they required artists of the first rank to design or decorate a temple or to adorn a public building. Moreover, Greek ideals had never penetrated into the vast countries ruled by Persia. But the union of the country between the Adriatic and the Indus into one Hellenic-Oriental empire, and the foundation of Greek cities throughout the length and breadth of the vast territory, changed all this. Workers in marble and bronze of the first rank arose at centres as remote from Greece as Pergamus and Alexandria. In Greece itself, the peculiar conditions which had produced Hellenism passed away. But a measure of the old artistic force remained, and though the Hellenistic [Pg 85] sculptures possess definite characteristics of their own, evidence of connection with the original stock can still be traced.

The first task—the purpose of the present chapter—is to realise the circumstances under which the experience of the Hellenic sculptor was given to the non-Greeks.

The prime essential was, of course, an immense widening of the borders of the Greek world. In view of our sketch of fourth-century Greece, it is not surprising that the necessary energy came from a non-Hellenic power. The rude force of a people, who a generation earlier had been ploughmen and shepherds, was naturally enough more potent in the task of carving the greater part of the then civilized world into a vast empire, than the artistic instincts of Greece.

Nor is it wonderful that when the mere physical work of conquest was accomplished, the non-Hellenic Macedonians were found to lack the organising powers required to complete the task. They wanted that experience which only comes after centuries of commercial and political struggle. It was at once found that Macedonia was entirely unequal to the work of administering Alexander’s vast empire. Thousands of Athenian younger sons flocked into Asia in search of careers. Twenty years after Alexander’s death, the language and art of Greece predominated in every country from the Mediterranean to India.

In the more eastern portions of Alexander’s empire, the Greek predominance was short-lived. But in the western countries, a sure source of Hellenic influence was present in the cities founded by the conqueror and the generals who followed him. Alexander’s policy had been to bind the conquered provinces together by a stout chain of [Pg 86] cities. In each a garrison was left, and with it a body of merchants to organize the civic life of the new town.

(301 b.c. TO 65 b.c.)

No one centre is entirely typical, but a fair idea of the influences which favoured the spread of Hellenic experience eastwards can be gained from the history of the Empire of Seleucus, and, particularly, from the circumstances under which the city of Antioch, on the Orontes, was founded. Seleucus Nicator was a Macedonian noble, and being only thirty-three on the death of Alexander had his life’s work before him. After two years as commander of the household cavalry he became Satrap in Babylon. It will be remembered that the general political situation was unstable in the extreme. Macedonia and Greece had fallen to the lot of Antipater; Antigonus had taken Phrygia; Ptolemy, Egypt; and Lysimachus, Thrace. A series of encounters ended in the defeat of Antigonus by Ptolemy, Lysimachus and Seleucus at Ipsus in 301 b.c. As the price of his aid, Seleucus claimed firm establishment in a kingdom bounded on the one side by the Taxartes and the other by the Euphrates. But the star of Seleucus continued in the ascendant for many years. The crowning-point in his career of conquest was reached after the defeat of Lysimachus at Corupedion in 281 b.c. Seleucus at this time held practically the entire Empire of Alexander, except Egypt.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 87] How then did Seleucus seek to administer this vast agglomeration of peoples? Briefly he adopted the practice of Alexander. His schemes of military aggrandizement were shot through and through with efforts for the encouragement of commercial, scientific and artistic enterprises. He created centres of Greek influence all over his Empire. The foundation of Antioch, on the Orontes, furnishes a typical instance of the method of the Seleucidæ.

Syria, the stretch of fertile country which bridges Europe and Asia as well as Africa and Asia, was clearly the keystone of the empire which Seleucus sought to establish. How could Syria be converted into an Asian Macedonia? As a first step Seleucus planned three cities in the Orontes Valley, through which the regular land-routes to Babylonia and Persia passed. Seleucia, in Pieria, guarded the mouth of the Orontes. Farther east was Apamea. At the spot where the Orontes ceased to be navigable, Antioch arose. Seleucus peopled the new city with a mixed population drawn largely from Macedonia and partly from Crete and Cyprus. It became the first city in the western world at the time.

How close the contact with Greek ideas was in such a town as Antioch can be judged from the famous Vatican marble known as the “Tyche of Antioch.” The figure with the mural crown represents the tutelar goddess of the city. Holding the symbols of fertility in her hand, she sits upon the rocks above the Orontes. The sculptor, Eutychides of Sicyon, has carried out his task with the reserve and appreciation of formal effect which we should expect from a pupil or follower of Lysippus. But the whole conception lacks the emotional force of a really great Hellenic work. Comparing it with, say, the “Zeus Otricoli” or the “Hera Ludovisi,” we feel that centuries of time separate the two works. The “Tyche of Antioch” is a sound piece of work; it can hardly be said to be profound. It has the graces of a blossom reared in an [Pg 88] alien soil. The sculptor is not working under the impulse of an overpowering emotion. Indeed it is easy to see that the old civic pride which had found vent in the Parthenon marbles was impossible in the Seleucidean Empire. A vigorous political life was out of the question in the semi-oriental kingdom. As rulers, the Seleucid princes have been likened to Albanian chiefs. Their position certainly had the smallest resemblance to the democratic tyrants of earlier Greece. The coins of the Seleucid rulers prove that even the facial type soon lost its Hellenic purity. The self-respect and self-control which had kept the actions of an Athenian within bounds were lost. We read of Antiochus IV. being carried by mummers into his own banqueting-hall as “a swaddled figure,” until, “at the first note of the symphonia, the figure started from its wrappings and there stood the king naked.” Seeing that

“Nothing other than a noble aim Up from its depths can stir humanity,”

it seems unnecessary to search further for an explanation of the absence of a vigorous impulse seeking expression in sculpture in any country controlled by the Seleucidæ.


Capitoline Museum, Rome

(283 b.c. TO 133 b.c.)

But it was otherwise in the second great centre of Greek influence in Asia Minor—the kingdom of Pergamus. The course of Pergamene history led to one of those emotional outbursts which always find an outlet [Pg 89] in national action and often in art. In consequence, evidence remains of a far greater body of sculptural achievement in Pergamus than we find in the Empire of the Seleucidæ. Indeed, the force and originality of Pergamene sculpture raises it far above any artistic effort of its age. This will be granted directly we recall that “The Dying Gaul,” of the Vatican, is a work in the finest Pergamene style. When Byron wrote the two cantos in “Childe Harold” the statue was known as the “Dying Gladiator.”

“I see before me the gladiator lie: He leans upon his hand—his manly brow Consents to death, but conquers agony, And his droop’d head sinks gradually low— And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow.

He reck’d not of the life he lost nor prize, But where his rude hut by the Danube lay, There were his young barbarians all at play, There was their Dacian mother—he, their sire, Butchered to make a Roman holiday.”

We now know that the Pergamene sculptor sought to show one of his country’s Gaulish enemies in the agony of death. The barbarian sinks back on to the narrow shield of his race. At his side is his battle-horn. Round his neck the Gallic torques. The shaggy eyebrows and the matted hair all identify the figure with one of the rude savages whom the Latin and Greek historians describe as fighting naked and ignorant of the elements of military science.

Another work that undoubtedly belongs to the school of Pergamus is the well-known group in the Villa Ludovisi, often called “Paetus and Arria.” A more correct title is “The Gaul killing his Wife.” The warrior realizes his defeat and has just plunged his sword into his [Pg 90] breast. He still supports the woman who sinks in death at his side. The matted hair of the wife and the dress edged with fur are sufficient proof of her race. But there is other evidence that “The Dying Gaul” and the “Gaul killing his Wife” have a similar origin. Both appear together in an inventory of Cardinal Ludovisi, dated 1633. Both are made from a marble found on the island of Furni near Samos. It is evident that the two sculptures are copies of Pergamene bronzes which stood in the open square surrounding the temple of Athena Polias on the Acropolis of Pergamus.

The two works represent a large number of similar marbles after Pergamene originals scattered through the galleries of Europe. They lead us at once to inquire into the historical events they clearly incarnate.

The story of the foundation of Pergamus is full of interest. During the years following Alexander’s death, Lysimachus had accumulated a vast treasure in the impregnable Acropolis of Pergamus. He placed his lieutenant Philetairus in charge, occupying himself with schemes of conquest. But Lysimachus was human and late in life took to himself a young wife. To humour her he assented to the murder of a son by a former marriage. The atrocity finally alienated Philetairus. He headed a rebellion, seized the treasure under his charge and founded the kingdom of Pergamus in 283 b.c.

The dynasty founded in this dramatic fashion was destined to a stormy history. As early as 280 b.c. fresh danger threatened from the hordes of Gauls, who began to pour across the passes of the Balkans. Some of these barbarians marched upon Greece. Others crossed the Bosphorus at Byzantium, and eventually founded the Gallo-Greek kingdom [Pg 91] of Galatia in the heart of Phrygia. But the king of Pergamus felt that his safety depended upon checking the victorious career of the Gauls. Allying himself with the ruling Seleucus, Attalus I. of Pergamus inflicted a signal defeat. This was about 241 b.c. The victory was not the only one gained by the kingdom of Pergamus. Early in the second century, Eumenes II. (197 b.c.-159 b.c.) gained fresh laurels for his countrymen.

The effect of these brilliant victories upon the imagination of the people of Pergamus can only be realized by comparing it with that of Marathon and Salamis upon the fifth-century Athenians. All around them the Pergamenes saw civilized communities acknowledging defeat at the hands of the Gauls. As the Athenians stemmed the tide of Persian invasion at Marathon, so the Princes of Pergamus saved the Greeks in Asia Minor from the barbarian Gauls who seemed destined to sweep away the newly planted Hellenic civilization. The victories made Pergamus the rival of Alexandria and Antioch. As had been the case after Salamis, a long series of public buildings and temples were erected, until the Acropolis at Pergamus threatened to outshine even that at Athens. Among the statues, as we have said, was the bronze original of “The Dying Gaul.”

It was the second defeat of the Gauls, at the hands of Eumenes II., which led to the building of the great altar of Zeus on the Acropolis of Pergamus. It is worth while to reconstruct a picture of the huge edifice with the aid of our memory of the sister Acropolis at Athens. The Altar stood a little below the Temple of Athena, on the south-west terrace, and was surmounted by an Ionic colonnade, which enclosed the actual place of sacrifice. The worshippers approached by a broad staircase cut from the west side of the great pile. Around the whole [Pg 92] structure ran the frieze, with its multitude of figures in the highest relief—the carvings, of course, being interrupted by the staircase. The whole work serves to carry the history of Pergamene sculpture beyond the stage when such a statue as “The Dying Gaul” was produced.

The great frieze was discovered by a young German engineer named Carl Humann. During a business visit to Pergamus, Humann noticed the native workmen breaking up large fragments of sculptured marble, burning them in lime kilns and building them into walls. The exhibition of specimens in Berlin led to systematic excavations in 1879. All that remains of the great work is now exhibited in a specially designed gallery in Berlin, where the frieze can be seen in something approaching its original setting.

No single slab can convey an impression of the bewildering power of the carvings as a whole. The best known is that called “The Triumph of Athena.” The colossal figures (the frieze is almost nine feet high) show the goddess seizing a young giant by the hair, while the serpent of Athena bites at her enemy’s breast. Nike bears a laurel crown in token of Athena’s victory. In the lower part of the slab, the Earth Mother of the giants is seen in anguish. “The Triumph of Athena” was the central group on the Eastern side, and, therefore, faced the square in which the people of Pergamus met. It was balanced by another mighty group, representing Zeus in conflict with three giants. Either affords a fine example of the theatrical style into which the later Pergamene sculpture degenerated. The artist is clearly more interested in the attempt to express excited action than in the more subtle phases of [Pg 93] emotion. Nevertheless, mutilated as it is, a fragment like “The Triumph of Athena” testifies to an extraordinary level of technical skill and a magnificent vigour of imagination, even if it also proves an absence of the earlier emotional balance which gave “The Dying Gaul” a deeper beauty.


From the Altar of Zeus,
Pergamus (Berlin)

(300 b.c. TO 50 b.c.)

If the fame of the school of sculpture at Pergamus is inextricably connected with “The Dying Gaul,” the sister school at Rhodes can claim the even more famous “Laocoon Group.”

Throughout the second and third centuries before Christ, Rhodes was the meeting-place of commerce passing between Asia and Europe. The Rhodians were the finest seamen in the world at the time and to them fell the task of clearing the seas of pirates which had given Athens so strong a position a century or two earlier. Indeed, the commercial mantle of Athens had fallen upon Rhodes. Unlike the kingdoms of Pergamus and of the Seleucidæ, the middle-class was paramount here. Rhodes, like Venice in later years, was practically ruled by an aristocracy of merchants. The vigorous schools of art and rhetoric depended in no small measure upon this. Such a social system provides that prime essential of vital literature and art—large numbers of citizens with the experience that comes from rubbing wit against wit and passion against passion in the market square and the forum.

[Pg 94] Rhodes was eminently the centre in Hellenistic times which most closely approached the standard set in the days of the Greek city-states. This fact, together with the traditions of Hellenic sculptors which Rhodes had received, made “The Laocoon Group” possible.

The statue was the work of three Rhodian artists, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus, who lived about 125 b.c. The group was found in the Baths of Titus in 1506. A recent discovery suggests that the present restoration of the right arm of Laocoon is incorrect. The serpent’s coil should come up to the neck of Laocoon, and his right hand should clasp a coil close to his head.

Ancient tradition held that the statue had been hewn from a single block of stone. In reality, it is constructed from six pieces, though the joints are so cunningly concealed that even Michael Angelo could only detect three. The sculptors display an extraordinary mastery over the problems of human anatomy which they have set themselves to solve, while their treatment of the combination of physical tension and emotional stress is unsurpassed. Indeed the technical beauty of “The Laocoon” has never been questioned.

But “The Laocoon Group” may be regarded from another point of view, displaying yet a new facet of the genius of its authors. Consider the immense difficulty of visualizing such a scene so that the various parts form a complete design capable of translation into marble. The version of the story in the Æneid is known to all.

The priest Laocoon has violated the shrine of Tritonia and unheedful of his doom is sacrificing a bullock at the altar of Neptune. Suddenly, as Virgil pictures the scene, the two great serpents rise from the sea. Their glaring eyes shot with blood and their jaws darting fire, [Pg 95] they make for the shore and move steadily upon Laocoon. His two small boys are taken first. Then the serpents gather the father himself in their mighty folds. One coil grasps Laocoon’s body. Another part of the scaly chain winds twice round his neck. In vain the priest tries to tear asunder the dreadful coil, crying to Heaven, to use the Virgilian simile, like a bull who, having escaped the sacrificial axe, flies wounded from the altar.


Vatican, Rome

The designers of the group have clearly followed an earlier version of the legend in which the younger son escapes. But the difficulty of visualization and expression is the same. It is comparatively easy to find words to convey the general impression. But the three sculptors had to find the momentary action which would suggest the whole story. Yet the design of “The Laocoon Group” tells everything. We see

“The father’s double pangs, both for himself And sons convulsed; to Heaven his rueful look, Imploring aid, and half accusing, cast; His fell despair, with indignation mixed, As the strong curling monsters from his side His full-extended fury cannot tear.”

None of the tragic horror of the scene is lost. It can be said with absolute candour,

“Such passion here, Such agonies, such bitterness of pain, Seem so to tremble through the tortured stone That the touched heart engrosses all the view.”

None of us at once realize the reason we are so moved by a mere echo of an old myth. When the truth dawns upon us, we see that the awful admiration with which “The Laocoon” has always been regarded, finds its [Pg 96] source deep down in the human heart. The emotions we experience do not depend upon the sufferings of the priest of Neptune. Laocoon is mankind himself. His fight with death is an emblem of the far more general struggle which every human being must share—the struggle which is the price we pay for life. “The Laocoon” is not unique in this respect. On the contrary, a similar dominating idea is enshrined in all the greatest examples of Hellenic sculpture. The “Aphrodite of Cnidus” is more than a woman. The statue is the incarnation of the idea of womanly love.

It is the presence of a dominating idea of this kind which distinguishes “The Laocoon” of Rhodes from “The Tyche of Antioch.” Admitting its presence places the sculpture beyond and above both criticism and praise. A sentence, however, of Walter Pater suggests a point of critical vantage which the student of the history of sculpture cannot disregard. He says: “‘The Laocoon,’ with all that patient science through which it has triumphed over an almost unmanageable subject, marks a period in which sculpture has begun to aim at effects, legitimate, because delightful, only in painting.”

No man had a truer appreciation of Greek art than Walter Pater, and no opinion is more entitled to thoughtful consideration. But in view of the fact that the extreme classical school of criticism has always tended to depreciate the value of all Hellenistic art, we may regret that Pater’s argument was not illustrated by a lesser work of the Rhodian school. The suggestion that the Laocoon myth borders upon the illegitimate as far as sculptural treatment is concerned, seems to demand the qualification that supreme success justifies the disregard of any canon of art.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 97] Pater’s judgment, however, applies with real force to other works by sculptors of Rhodes. It might, for instance, be used of “The Farnese Bull,” now in the National Museum at Naples. The group was found in the baths of Caracalla at Rome during the sixteenth century, and has been so largely restored that criticism is, perhaps, unjust. If the present work can be regarded as embodying the ideas of its authors, we see a passion which has degenerated from the dramatic to the theatrical.

The subject of the statue is the punishment of Dirce at the hands of Amphion and Zethus. Below, the sculptors show the rocky ledges of Mount Cithæron—the death-place of the unfortunate woman who is being bound to the horns of the bull. This suggests nothing that can be called ennobling. It is all merely horrible. Comparing “The Farnese Bull” with “The Laocoon” or the figure of the “Niobe” mother, we realize that the loss of reposeful beauty entailed in the treatment of such a subject is not compensated for in any other direction. The great end of art has been forgotten:

“That it should be a friend To soothe the cares and lift the thoughts of man.”

The last great division of the post-Alexandrian Greek world was the kingdom of the Ptolemies which included Egypt and Phœnicia. The Macedonian rulers of Egypt soon made Alexandria, their capital, a flourishing centre both for the arts and sciences. But the genius of the place seemed to favour literature rather than sculpture.

The statue of “The Nile,” excavated in Rome during the pontificacy of Leo X. and placed in the Vatican, is a fine instance of Hellenistic art produced under the influence of Alexandrian civilization. The statue is [Pg 98] always associated with its companion work, “The Tiber.” Apparently both formed part of the decoration of a temple of Isis in Rome. While “The Nile” was reproduced from a fine Alexandrian original, “The Tiber,” an inferior work, was specially designed by a Greek sculptor working in Rome. The Alexandrian work proves, however, that statues of great beauty could be produced in essentially un-Hellenic surroundings. The figure of the sea god is surrounded by a host of putti, the number—sixteen—symbolizing the cubits which the river rises during a maximum inundation. The delightful way in which the little figures are disposed in the design so that they shall not interfere with the lines of the central figure is worthy of all praise. Nevertheless, the judgment we arrived at with regard to the sculpture of the Seleucidæ applies to that of Egypt. The foreign bureaucracy which Ptolemy organized, and the tendency towards an imperial rule of the Eastern pattern, militated against the rise of a strongly differentiated style. Egypt was not favoured as either Pergamus or Rhodes had been.

These are the chief examples of Hellenistic sculpture produced beyond the direct influence of the home of the Hellenic idea. We have next to consider the Hellenistic sculpture of Greece itself.

[Pg 99]


(300 b.c. TO 50 b.c.)

“The wren can soar as high as the eagle—once lodged upon the shoulders of the king of the skies.” So men say. But the high gods only smile. They know that emotions must arise and thoughts be nourished in hearts and minds great enough to contain them, if they are to live in ethereal depths. The sculptor or the painter, with the wings of the wren, must be content to flutter nearer to the flowers.

In this truth lies the key which unlocks the mystery of the sculpture of Hellenistic Greece, one of the most elusive problems in the history of art. Before any marble of this age we feel we are face to face with the work of lesser spirits—men who cannot boast of the eagle wings of their brothers of the fourth and fifth centuries. Few can recall the name of a single Greek sculptor of the later age. There is certainly no Scopas, no Praxiteles, no Lysippus. Yet the mere enumeration of the “Farnese Hercules,” the “Belvedere Apollo,” the “Venus of Milo,” and the “Venus of Medici,” witnesses to craftsmen of the highest technical skill. What the sculpture of Hellenistic Greece lacks is the passionate enthusiasm for emotional and intellectual beauty which impressed the personality of such a man as Praxiteles upon his age, and made him not [Pg 100] only a sculptor of note but a cosmic force. Praxiteles found sculptural expression for new loves and new hates. This is the power which creates a school. It is the absence of men possessed of this faculty, together with the absence of the new loves and hates themselves, which the historian of Hellenistic Greek sculpture must explain.

But, first of all, terms require definition. “Hellenistic Greece” connotes both a period and a locality. In point of time, it roughly includes from 300 b.c., when the immediate influence of Lysippus was removed, to, say, 50 b.c., when Rome realized her task of ruling the Western world. In point of place, the sculpture of Hellenistic Greece is to be sharply distinguished from that of Rhodes, Pergamus, and Alexandria. This is the more important, as the term Hellenistic is properly applicable to all these schools. Moreover, there are many characteristics common both to the Hellenistic sculpture of Greece itself and the art of the various States of the Alexandrian empire. Neither Rhodes nor Pergamus, for instance, gave rise to masterful spirits of the type which directed the course of Hellenic art during the fourth and fifth centuries. Both Pergamus and Rhodes, however, were centres which had never encountered the full tide of Hellenic civilisation.

It was not hard to correlate political and social circumstances which had no counterpart in fourth- and fifth-century Greece with the characteristics which distinguished the “Dying Gaul” and the “Laocoon” from the sculptures of Praxiteles and Scopas. But in Greece, during the post-Alexandrian age, the problem is far more complicated. The old methods of life and thought lingered on. The difference between “Hellenic” and “Hellenistic” is far more intangible than it is in [Pg 101] countries where the Greek city-state system had never taken root. It is true that even in Greece the peculiar political and social conditions which gave rise to Hellenic sculpture passed away. But, once developed, the body of ideas which arose from them continued to influence the sculptor and the public to whom he appealed.


National Museum, Naples


Putting aside then for the moment the characteristics which distinguish the art of Hellenistic Greece from that of the earlier age, let us fix our attention upon the long series of works which owe their inspiration to the great sculptors of the fourth century. Nowhere can any affinity with the works of Phidias and the other fifth-century masters be detected. The men of Hellenistic Greece were entirely out of sympathy with the ideals of Periclean Athens. But they could realize the emotions aroused by Scopas, with his insistence upon the struggles of the individual soul. They could seek to express for themselves the feminine graces of Praxiteles. Above all they realized the value of the more strenuous ideals embodied in the sculpture of Lysippus.

The “Farnese Hercules” affords a striking instance of the effect of the Hellenistic outlook upon a theme which had been closely identified with a Hellenic sculptor of the first order. Lysippus had done for Hercules what Praxiteles had done for Hermes. He fixed the type. The “Farnese Hercules,” however, is the work of the Athenian sculptor, Glycon, and dates from the first century b.c. Glycon has chosen [Pg 102] the moment when the hero, worn out by his labours, stands with every muscle relaxed, resting. The keynote of his statue is to be found in

“The spreading shoulders, muscular and broad, The whole a mass of swelling sinews.”

To the imagination of the Athenian of the age of Lysippus, this would have appeared forced. The muscularity of the hero would have struck him as excessive. Lysippus indeed satisfied the craving for a deeper naturalism, which arose from a surfeit of the sensuous idealism of Praxiteles. But his judgment would have avoided the pitfall of excessive realism which distinguishes Glycon’s conception of Hercules from that which any fourth-century Athenian would have formed.

A less significant example but in some respects an even more interesting one, is to be found in the magnificent nude, the “Cerigotto Bronze,” recovered, near the island after which it is named, about the year 1900. This derives its importance from the fact that it is a bronze original and not the work of a Roman copyist as so many Hellenistic marbles are.

The story of its romantic recovery would alone ensure this bronze becoming historic.

“A thousand years it lay in the sea With a treasure wrecked from Thessaly. Deep it lay ’mid the coiled sea-wrack.”

The second chapter in its history opened when a party of sponge-fishers happened upon what they found to be the wreckage of an ancient vessel which had run upon the rocks to the east of the island of Cerigotto and sunk in thirty fathoms of water. The cargo had evidently been the property of a dealer in antiques, the wreck probably dating from the second century b.c. A considerable portion of the cargo was brought to the surface.



[Pg 103] The marbles, with one exception, were unrecognizable. But the bronzes had fared better. In particular, a life-sized statue of an athlete, with right arm outstretched, proved capable of complete restoration. It now stands in the museum at Athens. The critical battle as to the date of its casting was a long one. General opinion to-day regards it as an early Hellenistic work based upon the Lysippic style. In the “Cerigotto Bronze,” the tendency towards excessive realism noted in the “Farnese Hercules” has not proceeded so far. But in the body, and especially in the treatment of the abdominal muscles, a departure from the idealistic standard approved by the great masters of the fourth century can be clearly detected. Instead of being content with a suggestion of the natural form, the Hellenistic sculptor aims at realistic representation. He seeks to copy the human form, regardless of the lesson afforded by every great sculptor of Greece, that the more indirect methods of idealism are far better calculated to arouse the uplifting emotions which every true man and woman must feel before the grandest object Heaven ever made.

The classical art critics were fully aware of the snare which lay in this passion for extreme realism of detail. They clearly recognized it to be a characteristic feature of much Hellenistic sculpture. They tell, for instance, of the statue of the “Dying Jocasta” in which the Hellenistic sculptor mingled silver with the bronze, to denote the pallor of coming death. Pliny adds that the sculptor Aristonidas of Rhodes mixed iron with the metal from which he cast a statue of Athamas—that the ruddy glow might suggest the blush of remorse which a [Pg 104] father who had hurled his son from the rocks would naturally wear. Both these instances are narrated as mere eccentricities. Their interest for ourselves lies in the fact that they illustrate precisely the same tendency which distinguishes the “Hercules” of Glycon from that which Lysippus had made three centuries earlier or the “Cerigotto Bronze” from a similar work by a fourth-century sculptor.

When analyzed, this tendency towards realism points clearly to an absence of that fine critical faculty with which every supreme artist is endowed. It argues a lack of moderation which in the end must lead to disaster. The admixture of silver to the bronze “Dying Jocasta” was no isolated case. Hellenistic Greece proved itself open to a charge of immoderate folly on many another occasion. The instance furnished by that “Wonder of the World,” the Rhodian Colossus, will occur to every one. The great statue of the Sun-god at Rhodes measured 105 ft. high. It was cast hollow, the separate pieces being set up, one upon another, around an inner structure of masonry. Pliny says of it:—

“The greatest marvel of all, however, was the colossal figure of the sun at Rhodes made by Chares of Lindus, a pupil of Lysippus. This figure was seventy cubits in height, and after standing fifty-six years was overthrown by an earthquake. But even as it lies prostrate, it is a marvel. Few men can embrace its thumb. Its fingers are larger than most statues. There are huge yawning caverns where the limbs have been broken.” [Pg 105]


Considered as a whole the sculpture of Hellenistic Greece exhibits an intensification of the characteristics which distinguish the sculpture of Praxiteles and Lysippus from that of Phidias and Polyclitus. So far we have only traced the indebtedness of the Hellenistic sculptor to Lysippus. We have seen how one branch of the Hellenistic school continued to favour the virile subjects Lysippus had preferred, how it accentuated the natural realism which characterized his style. The second branch, which carried forward the traditions of Praxiteles, was equally potent. Though it cannot be said that these sculptors “blended with their marbles the emotions of the soul,” as had been said of Praxiteles, yet the feeling for grace of line and sensuous beauty, which were the keynotes of the Praxitelean manner, remained.

The finest work of this great division of Hellenistic art is probably the celebrated “Belvedere Apollo” in the Vatican collection. In these days, the “Apollo” is, perhaps, not esteemed as highly as it was a century ago, when opportunities for appreciating the true beauties of the sculpture of the age of Phidias and Pericles were wanting. But it will never entirely lose its power of attraction.

The modelling of the hair and the short cloak show that the original was a bronze. As to the motive of the statue, James Thomson, in his “Liberty,” writes:

“All conquest-flushed, from prostrate Python, came The Quivered God. In graceful act he stands, His arm extended with the slackened bow: Light flows his easy robe, and fain displays [Pg 106] A manly-softened form. The bloom of gods Seems youthful o’er the beardless cheek to wave. His features yet heroic ardour warms; And sweet subsiding to a native smile, Mixed with the joy elating conquest gives, A scattered frown exalts his matchless air.”

For many years, however, the archæologists have been battling, proving and disproving the proposition that the god is really holding the ægis with the head of Medusa before his terror-stricken foes. The suggestion is that the original of the Belvedere was intended to be set up with a statue of Artemis—the “Artemis of Versailles,” now in the Louvre—at Delphi, in commemoration of the defeat of the Gauls in 276 b.c. It will be remembered that Macedonia was invaded by the Gauls about the year 280 b.c., the time when the barbarians from the North overran Asia Minor and founded the kingdom of Galatia after a severe defeat at the hands of Attalus of Pergamus. Sosthenes rallied the Macedonian army, but, in spite of all his efforts, the Gauls under Brennus continued to push south. Thermopylæ was garrisoned as it had been at the time of the Persian invasion. The entire Greek world sent contingents to repel the invaders. Finally, legend tells that the raid was stayed by the divine interposition of Apollo and Artemis. Angered at the daring of Brennus, Apollo called upon the forces of nature to defend the shrine at Delphi. An earthquake and a devastating storm forced Brennus to retire.


Vatican, Rome


(see p. 112)

Uffizi, Florence

[Pg 107] Until recently it was generally believed that the association between the “Apollo” and the defeat of the Gaulish invaders was supported by the evidence of a bronze statuette belonging to Count Sargei Stroganoff. The bronze is undoubtedly a copy of the Belvedere statue, and the object in the god’s hand is not a bow and might well represent the ægis with the head of Medusa. Archæological opinion has, however, now veered round, and since Professor Fürtwangler has pronounced the Stroganoff bronze a modern forgery, it must be admitted that no trustworthy evidence remains for connecting the Apollo Belvedere with one of the few political crises which galvanized Hellenistic Greece into vigorous action.

The coincidence that the crisis was the very Gaulish invasion which created Pergamene art would certainly have afforded a valuable analogy. The great products of the school of sculpture at Pergamus were the direct outcome of the passions and fears aroused in a country where every man and woman stood face to face with death or a slavery worse than death. In Hellenistic Greece the same dread—the selfsame chance of death or slavery—only stirred the individual.

There can be little doubt that this is why almost all Hellenistic sculpture strikes us as wanting some material element. The very refinement of the modelling of the “Belvedere Apollo,” compared with the strenuous naturalism of the Pergamene artists, argues an absence of vital feeling. There is almost a feminine note in the smooth-limbed Apollo, when the sentiment of the Hellenistic statue is contrasted with the vigorous manhood of the “Hermes” of Praxiteles, the product of an age which really knew what manhood was worth. In a phrase, the “Apollo Belvedere” belongs to a time when individual Greek sculptors were producing great bronzes and marbles but when Greece itself had ceased to do so. Seeing that the emotions of an individual can never have the driving force which is given to the feelings and thoughts astir in nations, the absence of this national stress stamps the “Apollo Belvedere[Pg 108] as Hellenistic—the product of a civilization which had lost that sense of communal fellowship which was peculiarly Hellenic.

During the fifth century b.c., and, in a great measure, throughout the fourth century, the individual Greek had sacrificed everything to his membership in the city-state. He cared nothing for individual pleasures and aspirations. But when the civilization which had been Hellenic became Hellenistic, the relationship between the citizen and the state, between the citizen and his fellows, changed entirely. The rise of a new political power—the country-state—led to the abandonment of the intimate interest with which each member had followed every change in the political and social life around him.

Roughly, the new political situation in Greece after the death of Alexander amounted to this. A city-state continued free and independent as long as it was content to remain poor. But any accumulation of this world’s goods was the signal for the descent of a Macedonian garrison and a peremptory demand for a subsidy. If the city-state determined to resist the Macedonian demands, two courses were open. Allies could be purchased or a federation of neighbouring cities could be formed. The federation of neighbouring cities constituted the country-state, which played so large a part in the history of Hellenistic Greece. A typical league is the Achæan. Its early beginnings dated from 281 b.c., but it was thirty years later before a man of genius arose to make the dead arrangement a living force. When Aratus persuaded Sicyon to join the League, a really powerful body was created. Corinth joined in 243 and finally Argos and the rest of the states of North Peloponnesus. The Achæan League was by this time the chief political power in Southern Greece. Its counterpart in the North [Pg 109] was the Ætolian League, whose allies met periodically at Thermus, where the booty won in their piratical expeditions was stored.

Nominally, every citizen in the federation over the age of thirty could exercise his suffrage. Practically, the distance from the seat of government caused the Common Assembly to become more and more a constitutional fiction. The real power passed into the hands of the few who held positions upon the executive. Patriotism naturally lost much of its old force. Certainly it was no longer the one goad to artistic production as had been the case in the age of Pericles.

Nor was this all. With the decay of the virile life in the city, the exquisite sense of form and the power of imaginative generalization which sculpture had derived from continual discussion in the market-place and the law courts, began to weaken. The changed social and political circumstances necessitated an art with fresh methods and fresh ideals.

Passing in review the numberless sculptures of Greece produced after 300 b.c., with a view to finding the intellectual and emotional atmosphere which shaped them, we continually meet with a certain romantic subjectivity which is essentially modern. It is this fact which makes much Hellenistic sculpture peculiarly akin to the art of our own day. Hellenic sculpture implied a type of character and a body of ideas of which the twentieth-century man can have no first-hand experience. The Western European of to-day is a member of a community numbering between forty million and eighty million people. He pays his rates and taxes—under protest. There, unless a system of universal military service prevails, his civic duties end. Any very active [Pg 110] sympathy with the member of a microscopic city-state is impossible. The typical modern cannot be expected to realize clearly how a political or social event struck one whose chief joy was that he, as an individual, played a very real part in every national action. During the Hellenistic age, however, all this was changed. An essentially twentieth-century individualism prevailed—an individualism which rejected the narrowing limits set by the love of a single city.

With the broadening of the individual sympathies, a certain subjectivity replaced the marked objectivity of fourth- and fifth-century Greek thought. With it went much of the earlier depth of passion, much of the old artistic initiative, precisely as it has gone from the “universe-loving” art of to-day. In the new philosophy the individual played a far larger rôle. His own thoughts and feelings, as opposed to the thoughts and feelings of his fellow citizens, became predominant. Private life and the interests arising from the family began to suggest a great majority of the themes of the sculpture by which the Hellenistic Greek expressed himself.

This can be beautifully illustrated by a brief survey of the Hellenistic Greek’s treatment of woman as a theme for his sculptural art. In dealing with Praxiteles we dwelt upon the position which the women of Greece occupied in fourth-century Athens compared with her sister in the fifth century. In the course of the next hundred years the position was reversed. During the Hellenistic period the social necessity for the sacrifice of the Athenian woman vanished completely. She was permitted to share the life of her husband and her sons to the full. The whole of her womanly nature was developed. Nor were her [Pg 111] energies confined to the larger sphere offered by the changed circumstances in the Greek home. Woman in Hellenistic times began to play a rôle upon the world’s stage which would have struck the old-fashioned Greek of the Periclean age as grotesque and immoral. Towns named after such women as Laodicea, Berenice, and Arsinoe, testify to the immense influence of a long line of princesses of the type of Cleopatra of Egypt in national and international politics.

Unfortunately, the Greek woman sacrificed a good deal to gain the new liberty. The mysterious respect with which she had been regarded in the fifth century became a thing of the past. It had depended upon the fact that women lived in a world apart from men. This social convention commenced to wane during the fourth century. It vanished almost entirely during Hellenistic times.

What was the effect of all this upon sculpture? We can trace it most surely in the sculptor’s treatment of the incarnation of true womanhood—Aphrodite or Venus.

The fifth-century sculptor always depicted Aphrodite clad in the full robe of every-day life. In all fifth-century statues of women the girdle was placed low on the figure. The idea was to emphasize the qualities of modesty and reserve which were the cardinal feminine virtues in such a city as Athens at that time. But in the following century, under the influence of the more individualistic age of Praxiteles, the sculptor began to dwell upon the frankly physical attributes of womanhood. The girdle was set well above the level of the natural waist. We have also seen how Praxiteles dared to lay aside drapery altogether when he carved his Aphrodite for the islanders of Cnidus. But even the artistic courage of Praxiteles dared not omit a plausible excuse for the change. [Pg 112] The robe in the hands of Aphrodite gave the necessary suggestion to the Greek imagination, that womanhood had not put off all womanly reserve when it discarded its drapery.

The Hellenistic sculptor, however, not only in Greece but throughout the post-Alexandrian Empire, made no effort to restrain the tendency to insist upon the merely sensuous beauties of womanhood. In the well-known slab from the altar frieze of the Pergamene Acropolis, the girdle of the goddess Athena is placed just beneath the breasts. In the “Venus of Medici”—the typical embodiment of the womanhood of the Hellenistic age—drapery is laid aside altogether. In the sculptor’s view, he owes the world no explanation of the situation in which the goddess finds herself. He is content to offer those external charms of youthful beauty which fascinate the senses but do not satisfy the human heart. Accepting his standpoint, the “Venus of Medici” is one of the most perfect statues in the world. But the Aphrodite of Praxiteles and such a work as “The Three Fates” of Phidias, remind us that the grace of form in the Medicean Venus is, after all, rather humanly human than humanly divine. We feel that the suggestion of reserve to which the earlier sculptors clung only deepened the sensuous emotion which every sculptor seeks to arouse when he sets forth the physical charms of the Goddess of Love.


Louvre, Paris

[Pg 113] From time to time during the Hellenistic age there was doubtless a return to the older ideals. The magnificent “Venus of Milo,” now in the collection at the Louvre, is a proof of this. Since its excavation in the island of Melos during the nineteenth century, the right of this magnificent marble to rank among the sculptural masterpieces of the world has never been challenged. The motive of the design has always furnished the critics with occasion for controversy. It may be that an exact restoration would give a further specimen of the type exhibited in the “Venus of Capua,” which depicts Aphrodite with the shield of Ares, the goddess using the shield as a mirror. The date of the production of the “Venus of Milo” is as problematical as the subject. At first it is difficult to believe that this statue is rightly assigned to so late a date as 150 b.c. There have always been, and doubtless the critical conflict will continue, differences of opinion as to the time of its production. Some have traced it back to the Aphrodite of Scopas. There is, however, little reason to doubt the opinion generally held, that it is really a work of Hellenistic times. Assuming this to be the case, the statue certainly exhibits a point of view which is in striking contrast to that offered by the “Venus of Medici.” The lofty sentiment of the “Venus of Milo” marks it as essentially un-Hellenistic. The sculptor throughout subordinates the physical beauties of the human form to the deeper sense of beauty which springs from the realization of the idea of the divinity of womanhood. For this reason, the statue stands in glorious solitude apart from the rest of the sculpture of its time.

There can be little doubt that, as a rule, the Hellenistic age could not stand the intensity of emotion aroused by such a work as the “Venus of Milo.” The “golden age” of Greece had passed away when every Greek knew that it was good to be alive. During Hellenistic times Greek citizenship became a doubtful blessing. It chiefly served to remind its possessors of the lost glories of an earlier age. Can we be surprised that men looked to art to redress the balance, and called for the works which would wean them for a few moments from the dreary truths of existence? [Pg 114]

No single formula will explain all the facts, but some connection between the degree of strenuousness in the political and social life of a state and the degree of strenuousness reached in its art, is certain. Consider the case of Homer—the direct outcome of the victorious struggle which the Greeks waged with the barbarians upon the shores of the Eastern Ægean. In the Athenian artists, Phidias, Polygnotus and Sophocles, we find the alliance of restful calm with the deepest thought and emotion which we should expect during a period of relative peace and prosperity, following an intense though victorious struggle. But how, it may be asked, did the long fight with Sparta during the Peloponnesian war affect Athenian art? The old emotional depth became unbearable. Comedy arose. In sculpture, Praxiteles replaced Phidias. Coming to our own artistic history, we find an English audience answering to the deep emotional appeal of Macbeth or Lear in the years which followed the glorious victory over the Armada. The period after the severe self-repression of the puritanical era naturally enough produced such a comedy as Congreve’s Way of the World.

But this antipathy to too strenuous an art is not the only factor which led to a great increase in the range of subjects open to the Greek sculptor, and presented a host of lighter themes to his chisel. The “Rape of the Lock” was the outcome of the boudoir experience upon which the fancy of Pope was nourished. The eighteenth century could not furnish the mental and emotional stimulus needful for the production of Othello. But it could and did suggest a perfectly charming poem to the “unwhipt, unblanketed, unkicked, unslain carcase” we call Alexander Pope. May this not have been the case in Hellenistic Greece? Previously [Pg 115] “Greek life had been too full to put frills on its thoughts,” as De Quincey once said. But the Hellenistic age revelled in the very “frills” which the men of the fourth and fifth centuries had rejected. Allegory replaced natural symbolism. Instead of Aphrodite—Cupid. For Aphrodite, the goddess of Love, and Eros, the personification of the desire which makes powerless the limbs of men—Cupid, the smiling embodiment of the love which flits from fancy to fancy.


Louvre, Paris


Terme Museum, Rome

It is not easy to illustrate this phase of Hellenistic sculpture. But there can be few finer examples than the large bronze statuette, “The Winged Cupid,” belonging to Mr. Pierpont Morgan, long lodged in the South Kensington Museum. It once decorated a Roman villa on the slopes of Vesuvius, and was excavated at Boscoreale, a village near Naples at the foot of the volcano. The bronze is much beautified by the wonderful bluish-green patina with which time has endowed it. The perfectly poised figure, springing forward with the burning torch of desire, stands for an entirely new note in Greek sculpture. Its frolicsome roguishness can be compared with nothing which the Hellenic mind expressed in sculptural form.

A further instance of the same tendency is furnished by the well-known “Boy strangling a Goose,” by Boethus of Chalcedon. This delightful work, one of the few sculptural jokes, is an obvious parody upon one of the adventures of the hero Hercules. Lastly, we may point to the charming “Child with Lantern,” recently taken from the Tiber, and now standing in the rose-decked cloisters of the Terme Museum.

These three unpretentious little works, all remarkable for their easy and graceful humour, happily complete our survey. Greek sculpture had [Pg 116] learnt to smile. It ended with the coming of the Romans. When the Roman imperial rule finally extended over Asia Minor and Egypt, as well as over Hellas itself, Greek art began to lose its individuality, and a Græco-Roman style was evolved which was finally merged into the distinctive sculpture of Rome itself. In 146 b.c. Greece was conquered by Mummius and became a Roman province. In 133 b.c. Attalus III. willed Pergamus to Rome. In 64 b.c. Pompey put an end to the Seleucid rule in Syria. Some thirty years later, the sea fight at Actium ended the Ptolemaic rule in Egypt, and the last Hellenistic stronghold fell. An art impulse which had been predominant for five hundred years was at an end.

[Pg 117]




Roman sculpture and Roman imperialism—these two things are indissolubly connected. That is the proposition, expressed in the baldest terms, that must now be established. As long as the Republican system sufficed for the needs of Rome, her sculpture was entirely Hellenistic in character. It was only with the advent of the Augustan age (between, let us say, 50 b.c. and the year of Our Lord) that traces of a distinctively national spirit began to show themselves. A complete imperial system had commenced to exert its influence upon society. From that time onward, and throughout the three following centuries, characteristics can be traced which clearly differentiate the work of the Roman sculptor from that of any Hellenic or Hellenistic artist. It was only when “the pale Galilean” triumphed and the ideals of Christianity supplanted those of an outworn imperialism that “Roman sculpture,” too, became a thing of the past.

The how and the why suggested by our major proposition must be faced boldly. Reducing the problem to its elements, we require, in the first [Pg 118] place, to gain a clear idea of what “Roman imperialism” denotes. In the second place we must distinguish clearly between “Roman sculpture” and, an entirely different thing, “sculpture produced in Rome.” The one is organically Roman. The parentage of the other is Greek; its birthplace is an accident. It precedes the national art of imperial times by at least a century.

That so widely diffused an appreciation of sculpture existed long before the growth of a native art is in itself highly significant. An imported art is not a rare phenomenon in history, but it rarely persists for the length of time it did in Rome. In the sixteenth century, England welcomed an invasion of Italian “noveletti” and romantic poetry. In a very short while, however, the alien art was replaced by a vigorous national drama. Earlier in the same century, France for a time suffered the Italian school of painting (the school of Fontainebleau). But the stranger never quite made herself at home, and was finally supplanted by an artistic canon which was entirely French in spirit.

Republican Rome, on the contrary, was not only satisfied with her alien school of sculpture for a century and a half, but borrowed at the same time an entire culture from Greece—literature, science and philosophy. The Roman boy was educated by Greek teachers in Rome. During adolescence, he passed over to Athens for a course of philosophy or to Rhodes for instruction in the accepted methods of rhetoric. Afterwards, a year was spent upon “the grand tour” through Greece and Asia Minor where the chief temples and monuments of the Hellenic masters were still to be seen in situ. This Greek education by no means changed the Roman Republican into a Hellenistic Athenian. The Roman was never [Pg 119] more Roman than he was during the Republican age. Yet the same art and philosophy served for both. In other words, peculiarly Roman thought and emotion found no artistic expression whatever.

These facts compel us to retrace some of the ground covered in our last chapter. Both upon the historical and the artistic side we are forced back to the time when Republican Rome furnished the principal market for the wares of the Hellenistic sculptor. We shall, however, regard it from a different ground. Our review of Hellenistic sculpture only interested us in as far as it affected Greece. We judged it from the standpoint of the Greek artist. Now Hellenistic sculpture calls for attention from the point of view of the Roman patron.

During the later Republican age—the period from the defeat of Carthage to the rise of Julius Cæsar—Rome was filled with Greek sculpture. Thousands of original Hellenic and Hellenistic works were carried there. Numberless Græco-Roman sculptors spent their time in producing copies of Greek masterpieces or designing variations upon well-known and popular designs. The process of despoiling Greater Greece of its art treasures began as early as the fall of Syracuse in 212 b.c. Corinth was stripped in 146 b.c. by Mummius. Delphi and Olympia both suffered. Even Athens itself was plundered by Sulla in 86 b.c. during the war with Mithridates. Chryselephantine statues like the “Athena” of Phidias and the decorative sculptures of the great temples were left untouched, but so many works of the Greek masters were carried westward that Myron, Phidias, Polyclitus, Praxiteles, Scopas, and Lysippus became household names in Rome.

We moderns can only be grateful that Roman taste did not prefer the [Pg 120] productions of its own native sculptors. Had it done so, the history of Greek sculpture would have had to be reconstructed from stray works like the Elgin and the Æginetan marbles, the “Charioteer of Delphi” and the “Hermes” of Olympia. As matters stand, we have such books as those of Pausanias and Pliny. We are, moreover, furnished with numberless copies of the principal Hellenic masterpieces. True, these “copies” are not “the real thing.” In many cases they are marble translations from bronze originals, giving us, let us say, that intimacy with the earlier Greek works which the Arundel Society’s prints, or large-sized photo-gravures, afford about the Italian original paintings they reproduce. In addition, the Roman preference for Greek sculpture resulted in the production of many statues which, though they cannot be directly connected with any original Greek work, are clearly little more than variations upon popular Greek themes.


Generally speaking, throughout the first and second century b.c. none of the Greek sculptors working in Rome departed far from the accepted models. Some followed the general standards adopted by Praxiteles; some those of Lysippus; others again preferred the more romantic style of the school of sculpture at Rhodes. When new subjects presented themselves, however, Roman taste began to exercise a direct influence upon the work of the Hellenistic sculptors. We dwelt upon some of the effects of the Roman influence when considering the “Farnese Hercules”—the work of the Græco-Roman Glycon. It is [Pg 121] equally well illustrated by two fine bronzes which have been recently discovered and placed in the Terme Museum at Rome. The first is the life-sized warrior or athlete leaning on his spear, usually called “The Prince.” It closely resembles such a work as the “Cerigotto Bronze” in general style. Nothing except the tendency towards an accentuation of muscular development and the fact that it apparently does not follow an earlier Greek design mark its Græco-Roman origin.


Terme Museum, Rome

The second is the “Seated Boxer,” a magnificently powerful presentation of an utterly ignoble theme. The fighter is resting; he is waiting for his call to another bout. Each hand is still cased in the leather cæstus. The bruised and swollen features of the man are given with savage truth. By reason of its entirely un-Hellenic subject, the “Seated Boxer” affords as fine an illustration of the Græco-Roman style at its best as can be given. We see the grand technical skill which led the Roman connoisseur to give his commissions to Greek sculptors. In the insistence upon realistic detail and the absence of a high ideal guiding the choice of subject, we can trace the influence of a taste far removed from any that Greek sentiment could have fostered.

Hellenistic works showing the influence of Roman taste as clearly as the “Seated Boxer” are rare. The Roman collector, as a rule, was perfectly content with a work which was practically identical with some earlier Greek design. A close resemblance to a Greek original was in itself a strong recommendation. The faithfulness with which Roman taste abided by Hellenic sculpture is proved by the popularity of the pseudo-archaic school of Pasiteles during the last days of the Roman Republic. Pasiteles was an Italian Greek. Pliny says of him that “he [Pg 122] never executed any work without first making a clay model.” Excessive care and excessive emotional sobriety were the keynotes of his style. It is peculiarly interesting to note in the works of this school an obvious revolt against both the sensuous tendencies of the followers of Praxiteles and the theatrical propensities of the Rhodians. The pseudo-archaic sculptors and the patrons for whom they catered had sufficient insight to distinguish between the various epochs of Greek sculpture, that is to say, between work imbued with Hellenic qualities and work which was only Hellenistic.

This can be seen at once in the group by Menelaus known as “Orestes and Electra” (Plate, p. 128), as good an example of the school of Pasiteles as can be found. The sculptor has evidently imitated the style of an Argive artist living just before Polyclitus. In other words, the “Orestes and Electra” represents a reversion beyond even the purely Hellenic style of Polyclitus. So successfully is this archaic manner imitated by the Græco-Roman followers of Pasiteles that modern experts can easily be in doubt, in the case of particular statues, whether the style is real or feigned. Dr. Murray, for instance, has suggested that the Vatican “Spartan Girl,” which is usually assigned to the transitional period of Hellenic sculpture ending with Myron’s “Discobolus,” is actually by a follower of Pasiteles. The likeness of the “Spartan Girl” to the works of the followers of Pasiteles is obvious.

With characteristics like these, how should statues of the school of Pasiteles be classed? That they are not Hellenistic is plain. Equally clearly the resemblance to Hellenic work is so close that it would be absurd to regard the style popularized by Pasiteles as a movement towards a Roman national art. Really a pseudo-archaic statue like the [Pg 123]Orestes and Electra” represents a passing craze. It is the outcome of the fancy of a few art collectors.

One may, however, argue that the popularity of such a school points to a dissatisfaction with the accepted Hellenistic art of the latter Roman Republic. Be that as it may, a genuinely Roman school of sculpture arose directly after.

Roman social and political circumstances began to influence sculpture soon after the year 50 b.c. One hundred and fifty years earlier, the defeat of Hannibal and the fall of Carthage had left Rome with the undisputed headship in Western Europe. Spain was in her hands and her frontiers stretched to the Atlantic. In the East, however, Rome was faced with the Hellenistic kingdoms of Macedonia, Syria and Egypt. One by one these fell before her. Naturally, so tremendous a success was not attained without social and political changes of the first order. Even before the Punic Wars the inner ring of the Roman aristocracy had lost its long-established monopoly of the great offices of State. At the time of the fall of Carthage, the Senate was certainly the supreme authority in Roman affairs, the various magistrates being no more than its executive tools. But the aristocracy had been compelled to recognize a new class of capitalist merchants which had established a claim to Rome’s regard by its ready aid during the Punic wars. The body which directed Rome’s expansion beyond the borders of Italy was therefore composed of a blend of wealthy patricians and plebeians. These were the patrons of the Græco-Roman sculptors. They were the men who composed “the assembly of kings,” whose report the ambassadors of Pyrrhus carried to their master. For close upon a [Pg 124] century a senate of this type guided the destinies of the Roman Republic.

By about 100 b.c.—we express time in the roundest of round numbers—it had become apparent that the political foundations upon which Rome’s career of conquest was based were radically unsound. No body of men—even an “assembly of kings”—could deal with the multitudinous problems which arose from an attempt to absorb the whole of the civilized world. The first man to realize this, and to attempt a practical solution of the difficulty, was Marius. Soon after 107 b.c. he proved that he understood the essentials of the problem by reorganizing the Republican armies. He converted them into fit tools for the first “adventurer of genius” by ordaining that the soldiery should be paid by land grants and booty.

The reforms of Marius were none too early. Between 89 b.c. and 64 b.c. the wars with Mithridates of Pontus showed Rome its weakness. Mithridates overran Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece. Syria was only regained by a gigantic effort. Then came “the adventurer of genius”—Julius Cæsar—the founder of the Roman Imperial system. He was followed by his son Octavius (Augustus Cæsar), the “Organiser of Roman Imperialism.” These two men made Roman sculpture possible. On the day that Cæsar and his eleven legions crossed the Rubicon with the cry “the die is cast,” Roman sculpture was born.

The victory over Pompey at Pharsalia in 49 b.c. left Julius Cæsar in supreme control. Brutus and Cassius led the Republican forlorn hope, and Cæsar himself was murdered in 44 b.c., but he had achieved his end. He had pointed out the only method of consolidating Rome’s vast conquests and bringing peace to the sorely tried State. Augustus realized at once the impossibility of reverting to the [Pg 125] discarded republican form of government. In its place he set up a veiled despotism which enabled him to control all the energies and resources of Rome’s great empire. As Imperator, Augustus made himself commander-in-chief of the armies; as Princeps Senatus, he was leader of the Legislative Assembly of the Senate; as Tribune, he acted as the representative of Roman democracy; as Chief Pontiff, he was the head of an all-powerful ecclesiastical organisation.

With the advent of peace Rome was able to turn her energies to art. The consequences were immediate in all departments of culture. It was the patronage of Mæcenas, the chief minister of Augustus, which placed Virgil in a position to write the “Georgics.” By 19 b.c. the “Æneid” was written in honour of Augustus. It was Mæcenas who provided Horace with the farm among the Sabine hills, where the Roman lyricist and satirist wrote all his later works.


The effects of this social and political revolution upon sculpture could not be more happily illustrated than by two portraits of the men who brought them to pass. The “Julius Cæsar” is the well-known portrait bust in the British Museum;[1] the “Augustus” is the equally famous life-sized figure in the Vatican.

[1] See Furtwängler, “Neuere Fälschungen von Antiken,” p. 14.

In the first place, both are portraits. This emphasizes the prime fact that the branch of sculpture chiefly affected was portraiture. It is not difficult to surmise why this was so. In all other branches, [Pg 126] whether athletic statues, dramatic groups or sculptures of the gods, earlier Hellenic and Hellenistic artists had produced works which the unimaginative Romans could never hope to equal. The copies of, and variations upon, the works of the Greek masters so fitted Rome’s needs that little or no effort was made to produce new works of the same class. But in portraiture this was not the case. In the nature of things portraits cannot be so directly affected by an earlier artistic method. The sculptors of Rome soon found that the methods of their Hellenic masters would not yield the results required. The true Greek portrait sculptor had never aimed at the realistic and life-like representation which was the one desire of the matter-of-fact Roman patron. As we have seen, the Greek had refrained from elaborating expression. He portrayed an ideal type rather than an individualized man or woman.

Take any typical Greek portrait as an illustration—the bust of “Pericles,” in the Elgin Room at the British Museum, for instance. Compare it with the “Julius Cæsar” in the same collection. We see Pericles in the perfection of physical force and mental energy. The ruler of Athens is more than a man. He is an epitome of all that a Greek would be. There is no attempt at characterization. The suggestion of voluptuousness in the lips, which heightens the work so much, is really not an individual trait. It is rather an Hellenic characteristic. It is part of an effort to express a type. But the Roman sculptor of the “Julius Cæsar” never dreamt of embodying a whole race in a single portrait—a philosophy in a statue. He was content to give expression to the man before him. For this very reason the finest Roman portraits possess a vigorous vitality which an Hellenic portrait study lacks. As Pater expressed it: “The seeking of the type in the [Pg 127] individual, the abstraction of all that because of its nature endures but for a moment, this involves loss of expression.” That is why the “Pericles” is the portrait of a fifth-century Athenian and the Roman work is the portrait of Julius Cæsar.

Exactly the same must be said of the great statue of “Augustus addressing his Soldiers,” in the Vatican. Compared with the “Phocion,” the “Augustus” is a carefully individualized character-study. The tendency is not, however, carried to the extreme limit attained in later Roman sculpture. The artist evidently hesitates to break entirely with the idealistic method of the Hellenes. He willingly sacrifices the chance of creating an eternal type, symbolizing the idea of Roman imperialism incarnated in the first Emperor, preferring to convey the impression of life-like portraiture. But he shows an ideal Augustus. The statue does not convey the sensation of a moment of time—good, bad or indifferent—captured and fixed for ever, which is so characteristic of Roman portraits during the next century or two.

For this reason there is much to be said in favour of the view which regards Augustan Rome as the last Hellenistic centre. It is still an artist who is Greek at heart who is at work. But he differs from his predecessors inasmuch as he is striving to give his Roman patrons a thrill which they will feel to be national—to be truly Roman.

The Vatican statue of Augustus Cæsar was discovered in 1863. Apart from its interest as a transitional work leading to the pure Roman style, it claims attention owing to the light it throws upon the much discussed problem of the colouring of marble statuary. We have previously noted the fact that it is established beyond possibility of doubt that the great mass of Greek and Roman sculpture was freely coloured. Traces [Pg 128] of pigment can still be found in numerous works, but the evidence is insufficient to justify any really dogmatic utterances as to actual methods. We have therefore preferred to do little more than allude to the practice. The evidence furnished by the statue of Augustus is so complete, however, that it suggests the desirability of a rather fuller reference. The work was discovered in the Villa of Livia, near Prima Porta. Otto Jahn, in his Aus der Alterthumswissenschaft, published in 1868, gives the following particulars as to its condition:

“The tunic of Augustus is crimson, the mantle purple, the fringe of the armour yellow; on the nude portions of the body no traces of colour are noticeable, except the indication of the pupils with a yellowish tint; and the hair no longer shows colour. But the relief decorations of the cuirass are painted with especial care, although the flat surfaces are left without colour. The god of heaven, rising from the blue waves or clouds, holds a purplish garment in both hands; the chariot of the sun-god is crimson; before him soars a female with outspread blue wings; the goddess of the earth wears a wreath of wheat in her blonde hair. Apollo in a crimson mantle rides upon a griffon with blue wings; the light haired Diana, in a crimson garment, is borne by a reddish brown stag. In the middle stands a Roman Commander in blue and red armour, crimson tunic, and purple mantle, with a blue helmet. A bearded warrior in crimson tunic and blue trousers holds up a Roman standard with insignia painted blue. The barbarian on the right, with auburn hair, in a purple mantle, holds a war-trumpet; the figure on the left is likewise light haired and clothed in a blue mantle.”


National Museum, Naples


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 129] We shall not refer to the problem of how generally Greek and Roman sculptures were coloured again. M. Maxime Collignon, in his La Polychromie dans la Sculpture Grecque, has collected the evidence bearing upon the point. The “Augustus” shows how elaborate the process must have been in many cases. It will, however, be worth while to refer to two typical pieces of evidence supporting the view that the great bulk of Greek and Roman sculpture was coloured.

In a wall-painting, once in Pompeii, now in the National Museum at Naples, a picture represents a woman actually painting a statue. It is a “Herma,” one of the popular figures of Dionysus set on a quadrilateral base. The god’s hair is dark brown, the beard is grey and the mantle yellow. A study of the wall paintings and mosaics unearthed at Pompeii and Herculaneum gives the following result. Out of eighty-one pictures of statues, fifty-nine are coloured completely. The male figures are painted a ruddy brown, the female pink and white. Of the others, fourteen are of a greeny brown tinge suggesting bronze.

Returning once again to our main argument: we have referred to Julius Cæsar, as the father alike of Roman imperialism and Roman sculpture. Roman national art was created when Cæsar and Augustus established a political system which gave Italy peace after close upon a hundred years of strife. It is not difficult to realize the relief with which Italy must have greeted the new era. In the last few lines of the First “Georgic,” Virgil has drawn a picture of the Roman world as it had been until the imperial visions of Julius Cæsar had become living realities for every Roman citizen under Augustus Cæsar. War was raging [Pg 130] everywhere. Corruption was rife. Agriculture was languishing. “The crooked scythes are forged into rigid swords,” says Virgil.

With the advent of peace came the same desire to build which followed the Persian war in Athens. The Augustan age changed Rome—to use the well-worn metaphor—from a town of bricks to a city of marble. The student of sculpture will do well to associate both events—the coming of peace to the sorely tried Empire and the era of Augustan building—with a slab of the great Ara Pacis which has been preserved by a strange chance. The fragment shows Augustus, accompanied by his family and the leading citizens and senators, going to the consecration ceremony on July 4, 13 b.c.—the Independence Day of Roman Imperialism. The Ara Pacis was built to honour the Goddess of Peace, in the style of the Altar on the Acropolis of Pergamus. Just as the Altar at Pergamus memorized the delivery of the Hellenistic state from the Gauls, the Ara Pacis enshrined the fact that Rome was at last the acknowledged mistress of the civilized world. Men could now dream of an era of eternal peace; Rome set itself to enjoy the pleasures of intellectual existence in a way that had been impossible amid the perpetual march and remarch of armies and the rise and fall of factions.

It is true that the Roman Empire did not long remain at peace. But Italy, at any rate, did not experience the horrors of war for some centuries. The years of struggle had aroused a strong sense of national feeling. The imperial system organized by Augustus set men free to cultivate the arts of peace. Patrons with national instincts and artists with the gift of expressing national feelings and thoughts arose. In a few years, the tendencies shadowed forth in such sculptures [Pg 131] as “The Julius Cæsar” and “The Augustus,” became fixed, and a national school of Roman portraiture sprang up. The characteristics of the national style became more and more strongly marked.

(96 a.d. TO 117 a.d.)

The distinctively Roman portrait, untainted with any Hellenic or Hellenistic admixture, is seen in the famous statue of the Emperor Nerva in the Vatican collection. Here the artist has left the idealistic methods of the Hellenic sculptors entirely behind. He has depended upon the cunning use of realistic detail for his effect, emphasizing the impression of life-like portraiture beyond anything attempted in the Augustan age. Even the grace of a statue like “The Augustus” has been sacrificed in the search for vigorous actuality. The English equivalent of the new ideal is “Cromwell, warts and all.” But one cannot but admire the magnificent judgment with which the realistic detail is managed. There is nothing set down which does not add to the vivid sense of a living portrait. As Wickhoff says in his fine study of Roman art, “They gave an exact reproduction of nature, but with a terseness which produced the desired impression of cold distinction.” In the “Nerva” we have the Roman ideal in its most concrete form. Not a word too much, but sufficient to ensure the impression of intense and living reality.

Exactly the same tendency can be observed when the languages of the two races are compared. The Roman—practical man—preferred a narrow and [Pg 132] concrete vocabulary. He willingly sacrificed flexibility of expression to a businesslike conciseness. Hence arose his system of inflectional speech, which is to be contrasted with the analytical speech of the Hellenes with its particles and definite article. Just as the inflectional language of Rome would not have expressed a quarter of what the agile-minded Greek desired to say, so the methods of the Roman portrait sculptor would have been valueless to the Greek to whom philosophical aperçus into the whole of human experience alone seemed worthy of incarnation in marble and bronze. The Roman sculptor, however, was quite satisfied with a narrow and concrete mode of expression. He was content with an intensely concise method entirely unsuited to the abstract thought and emotion in which the Greek had revelled.

Our argument then has led us to this. Roman sculpture, far from being a decadent anticlimax to Greek sculpture, is actuated by entirely new ideals—ideals which arise out of the Roman nature. It is, therefore, in the truest sense a national art. It embodies a temperament bearing no possible relation to that of the Greek. For that very reason the characteristics of Roman sculpture are most strongly accentuated at times when the ideals embodied are most potent. The Roman imperial spirit reached its climax in the age of Trajan (96 a.d. to 117 a.d.). The statue of Nerva dates from the early years of Trajan’s reign, that is a little before 96 a.d., when Nerva, who had raised his vigorous lieutenant to imperial rank, died. For close upon a century the tendency towards terse realism of the Roman method of portraiture had been growing. When we picture a characteristically Roman figure during the height of the imperialistic wave we can readily see why.


Vatican, Rome

[Pg 133] What was the position at the time of Trajan himself? After securing his frontiers in Northern Europe, Trajan passed eastward. He crossed the Tigris and made a determined attempt to gain the control of the overland trade with India. At the time of his death, the Roman empire included Europe south of the Rhine and the Danube; in Asia it stretched to the Euphrates.

What sort of men would be required to administer such an Empire? Can we not picture them from our own experience of Empire-building? Imagine for a moment that Trajan had established a permanent occupation of the Punjab. It might well have been. As it was, he died after receiving a check at the hands of the Parthians. What would Roman rule in India have entailed? While the weaker states would have been absorbed, many of the stronger ones would have entered the Empire as subject kingdoms. The allies of Rome would, doubtless, have been rewarded with grants of territory at the expense of the harder fighters. In other words, the problem of government would have needed an infinity of administrative tact, for all sorts and conditions of subject states would have had to be appeased or held in subjection. The Roman governor of the Punjab would have been in the first place a soldier. But he would only have been guided in his general conduct by a rough lex provinciæ, so that in practice he would have had to combine with his military duties those of our Lord Chief Justice. It was not an age of cablegrams. The decision upon a host of matters would necessarily have been in his hands. So with his subordinates. They, too, would have had to solve the nicest problems of practical administration every day—success being their only justification. [Pg 134]

These were the duties which Rome demanded of her sons. She educated them for such posts as these. The circumstances in which the Romans lived and the characteristics which their lives engendered, in turn, reacted upon their art. As Mr. Dooley has told us, various nations have various methods of treating “what Hogan calls th’ Muse,” when they ask her “f’r to come up an’ spind a week” with them. A country like Rome doesn’t expect her guest “to set all day in th’ hammock on th’ front stoop, singin’ about th’ bur-rds. She’s got to do th’ week’s washin’, clane th’ windows, cook th’ meals, chune th’ pianny, dust th’ furniture, mend th’ socks an’ milk th’ cow be day, an’ be night she’s got to set up an’ balance th’ books iv an Empire.”

Mr. Dooley, of course, has Rudyard Kipling in mind. But the lines so exactly fit the case of the Roman portrait sculptor, that we may well pursue the analogy further.

Kipling is himself the product of political circumstances. He finds expression for the vigorous matter-of-fact vision of an imperialism that is nearly akin to that of Rome. Kipling joined the Civil and Military Gazette at Lahore when he was seventeen. He lived in India during the formative period. At twenty-four he was back in England with the essential features of his style fixed. The man the Roman State required and for whom the Roman sculptor worked, was the man for whom Kipling writes and whose ideals he expresses in throbbing prose and verse.

But we may pursue the analogy even further. Rudyard Kipling and the sculptor of the “Nerva:” Does a comparison of the styles of these two artists reveal any innate resemblance? In both we see an intense interest in strongly individualized humanity. Neither pays much heed to [Pg 135] grace or beauty—in the Hellenic sense of the word. Both are more concerned with actuality than with the more shadowy realms of the ideal. But most striking fact of all, the methods by which both express their body of thought and emotion are strangely similar. Compare a typical Kipling portrait with the “Nerva.” Let us say Miss Minnie Treegan’s picture of Captain Gadsby.

“He belongs to the Harrar set. I’ve danced with him but I’ve never talked to him. He’s a big yellow man, just like a newly hatched chicken with an e-normous moustache. He walks like this (imitates Cavalry swagger) and he goes ‘Ha-Hmm!’ deep down in his throat, when he can’t think of anything to say. Mamma likes him. I don’t!”

This sketch gives us the heart of the Kipling style. Certain as the day—cocksure, some might say. Photographically true? In a sense only. Emphatic? As emphatic as capitals and apostrophes can make it. Imaginative? Yes. If imagination be the faculty for creating a mental image. These are the characteristics alike of the Kipling portrait and the statue of “Nerva.” The sculptor is as emphatic in his message and as certain in his delivery as the poet of English Imperialism. He has not given a transcript of reality but has deepened the essential lines until they speak with telling effect.

It is true that we miss the philosophical calm with which a Greek sculptor would have treated such a subject as the imperial jurist Nerva. But, in some ways we must admit that the Roman portraitist is to be rated higher. If the impression that one is gazing upon reality is the proper object of the portrait sculptor, the Roman gives us the more life-like picture. But if the artist’s first function is to show us [Pg 136] nature, so that we may form our own judgment as to what is essential and organic by the aid of his insight, then the Greek who carved the very soul of men was the truer artist.

“Do you remember your mother, my dear?” was the question put to the under-fed, under-clothed, Bermondsey waif.

“Yes, she was a stout woman, what beat me.”

It was a Roman answer, Roman in its magnificent brevity and extraordinary directness. It typifies the artistic method of a society which can spend no energy upon the production of men devoted to pigment mixing and marble cutting for no better purpose than to dream dreams. Something had to be sacrificed. The price Rome chose to pay was that broad view of the world of nature and humanity which alone produces an idealistic art like that of Greece. This is why when Rome finally began to express its thoughts and emotions through marble and bronze it chose a very different method to that of the Hellene. In Greece, the sculptor had needed men and women, gods and heroes; Rome contented herself with one branch of the art—that of sculpture-portraiture. Instead of expressing herself by means of flesh and muscle, limbs and trunk, Rome concentrated all her attention upon the human face.

(117 a.d. TO 138 a.d.)

Surely it will be admitted that the facts and the historical explanation fall beautifully into line. If further proof of the direct connection between the ideas fostered by Roman imperialism and the [Pg 137] national school of portraiture is necessary, it is to be found in the tendency to revert to a more Hellenic style when the imperialistic wave recedes.


Vatican, Rome

Trajan was succeeded by Hadrian in 117 a.d. The former’s intensely imperial policy had overtaxed Rome’s strength. The keynote of Hadrian’s method was reaction against the forward policy which had been paramount. Hadrian stopped the Parthian war. He abandoned Armenia and the provinces beyond the Euphrates. All Rome’s efforts were concentrated upon the task of finding out how to hold as opposed to how to gain.

There is abundant artistic material in which to trace the effects of this reactionary spirit, for Hadrian was one of the greatest of the Roman builders. His efforts to beautify the cities of his Empire were continuous. Temples and monuments were set up; theatres and baths erected. The grand scale upon which he worked can be judged from Pausanias’ statement that the Library of Hadrian was decorated with one hundred columns of Phrygian marble—the walls of the surrounding porticoes being similarly decorated. Or again, take the case of the City of Antinopolis which Hadrian erected on the banks of the Nile to the memory of his famous Antinous. The walls of Antinopolis enclosed a rectangular space three miles in length. The great avenues that ran through it were bordered by porticoes decorated with Corinthian columns, the principal thoroughfares being ornamented with statues, fountains, and votive monuments.

Upon examination it is found that the leading characteristic of the great artistic wave of the age of Hadrian was a reversion to Greek models. The Maison Carrée at Nîmes was erected at this time—the most [Pg 138] perfectly preserved temple in the Greek style now extant. During the years 132 and 133 a.d., which Hadrian passed in Athens, he spent immense sums upon rebuilding the city. Surely an additional proof of his devotion to Greek art and culture. In all his tastes Hadrian was a philo-Hellene—a “græculus,” as the Romans called him. When in Athens he had himself initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. His very appearance witnesses to his preference for Greece and things Greek. Instead of the clean-shaven face of his imperial predecessors, Hadrian wore a beard after the Hellenic fashion.

Turning to the portrait sculpture of the age of Hadrian we can see the influence of the Emperor’s instinctive preference for Greek modes of thought and expression very clearly.

The most typical pieces are to be chosen from the numberless statues of Antinous, in whose honour Antinopolis was built. Hadrian’s love for the beautiful Bythinian youth was in itself rather Greek than Roman. Looking at the “Antinous” in the Vatican collection, and comparing it with the statue of “Nerva,” the reaction against the Roman preference for a vigorous actuality is apparent at once. The “Antinous” is not a portrait as much as the incarnation of a type. The expression of brooding melancholy, rather than the features of the man Antinous, characterizes all the statues of the Bythinian youth scattered through the galleries of Europe. This is the Greek, not the Roman method.



[Pg 139]


The last Roman sculpture to which reference need be made is the well-known equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. The highest praise that can be accorded to it, is, that it can bear comparison with the finest equestrian statue the world possesses—that of Colleoni at Venice, the joint work of Verocchio and Leopardi.

A melancholy interest attaches to the “Marcus Aurelius” for the reason that it signalizes the close of an artistic movement that had run its course for more than eight hundred years. The transition from Greek to Roman sculpture had been uninterrupted. Now, the art of sculpture was to pass into the shades for almost the same period. Even in the days of Marcus Aurelius himself, the world had dim forebodings of the Dark Ages which were approaching. The effort with which Aurelius arrested the flow of Germanic invasion was far from reassuring. To an Emperor such as Trajan it would have spelt disaster. Every Roman capable of bearing arms was enrolled in the forces defending Italy itself. The outposts of the Empire—the Danubian provinces, for instance—were only saved by the efforts of the barbarians. A Roman Elijah might have warned the Empire of what Alaric’s boastful cry would be when asked what ransom Rome should pay.

“All your gold, all your silver, the choicest of your treasures.”

“What then will you leave us?”

“Your lives!”

As the third century of our era advanced, the system upon which the Roman Empire had been founded showed even clearer signs of breaking down. The supply of capable administrators proved insufficient. Roman citizens no longer took the keen interest in political affairs they had of old. The men who had furnished the brains of the state in earlier times abandoned themselves to lives of luxury and idleness. The [Pg 140] concentration of power in the hands of the few governors of real ability and vigour led to a state of perpetual insurrection. On the contrary, the counter-check of subdivision of provinces and powers, devised by Diocletian and Constantine, led to the rise of a bureaucracy which got entirely out of hand. The ideals of Roman imperialism passed away. With them went the art of portraiture which they had fostered. An effete empire led to an effete art.

As we have said many centuries were to pass before the Catholic Church, which fathered the next great school of national sculpture—the Gothic—realized the possibility of embodying its thoughts and feelings in marble and bronze. The early Christians could never disassociate sculpture from the religious beliefs of the Romans. The art was too closely allied with a pagan faith to be acceptable to the new church. This more or less accounts for the absence of a vigorous school of sculpture in Italy between the fourth and the thirteenth centuries a.d.

The circumstances in Constantinople were not more favourable. During the early years of the Eastern Empire Greek and Roman sculpture never lacked appreciation. Constantine made his new capital an immense museum of classical art. But when the Byzantine artist sought to express the ideals of Christendom by means of sculpture he failed. All Byzantine art tended to become more and more abstract and symbolical. It finally became completely divorced from naturalism—the only sure ground upon which a sculptor can stand. At the same time Christian thought and feeling, which the Byzantine artist might have expressed, passed under the control of a Church which would not recognize the rights of any artist. No other explanation of the absence of a vigorous school of [Pg 141] sculpture during the Dark Ages is required than the recital of the following decision of the Council of the Church at Nicæa. It refers to painting. A similar decree issued by the Empress Theodora, however, forbade any sculpture save low relief. Sculpture in the round was denounced as entirely pagan. The Nicæan decree may, therefore, be accepted as applying to any art effort.

It ran: “The composition of the figures is not the invention of the painters but the law and tradition of the Catholic Church.... Nor is this purpose and tradition the part of the painter (for his is only the craft) but is due to the ordination and disposition of Our Father.”

Principles such as these ruled until about the tenth century, when circumstances led to their gradual decay and the consequent rise of a new school of sculpture. We shall see that this found a wealth of material in Christian myths and personalities which had suggested nothing to the craftsmen of Rome and Byzantium. [Pg 142]

[Pg 143]


[Pg 144] 

[Pg 145] 


(1000 a.d. TO 1350 a.d.)

The period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of communal life in the Netherlands, Normandy, and Lombardy, saw sculpture at a lower ebb than at any time for 1200 years. Such buildings as Santa Sophia in the Eastern Empire and the basilicas of Ravenna in the Western, stand to witness that the artistic sense itself was still alive. But no great political or social force called forth the craftsmanship of the sculptor. As the Dark Ages drew to a close, however, a change came about. Mankind once more sought to find expression for its deepest imaginations and beliefs through sculptured marble and bronze.

We may roughly fix the date of the rebirth of sculpture at 1000 a.d. Scientific accuracy would perhaps demand references to Charlemagne. The historian of art, however, seeks causes of the greatest magnitude. He must point to vast eruptions of human energy and emotion, not to brick upon brick erections of paltry feelings, if he is to really account for the creation of a great art. We are, therefore, safe in starting from the feverish anxiety with which Christendom [Pg 146] awaited the advent of the year 1000 after our Lord. The Millennium had expired. Satan was to be loosed. Men knew not what to expect. He who made a will or executed a deed started with such a phrase as “Seeing that the end of the world is at hand.” The very indefiniteness of the fears only served to increase the terror. Month after month crept by. Nothing untoward happened. At last the mystic year passed. The revulsion of feeling was immense, the immediate result being an enormous devotional impulse, the evidence of which remains to-day in the great number of ecclesiastical buildings erected in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Let us not be misunderstood. The year 1000 a.d. was not the cause of the new spirit. It simply marks the time. To understand why the men of these centuries instinctively lavished wealth and labour upon the cathedrals and abbeys and their sculptured decorations, we must picture the social and political state of Western Europe at the time.

During the years following the break up of the Empire hordes of heathen invaders had poured into the Roman world. The torrent was not stayed until the age of Charles the Great. The first result of the beating of this human tide upon the rocks of the old civilization had been a fund of nervous energy unequalled since the struggle with Carthage had produced vital force sufficient to enable Rome to conquer and rule the Western world. But this fund of energy needed concentration and direction. Politically, Western Europe in the eleventh century was a heterogeneous collection of feudal states. It was soon evident that the only common interests were those aroused by the belief in a common religious creed. In the midst of a general social chaos, the only really [Pg 147] organized community was the Catholic Church. What wonder then that, in search for some sure resting-place, Christendom submitted itself to Rome? By the time of Gregory VII. (1073 a.d.) the occupant of the Chair of St. Peter had become all-powerful. Hobbes’ picture of the Papacy—the ghost of the Empire sitting crowned on its own grave—had been realized to the full. As the Festival at Olympia had been the rallying-point for the Greek world, so the meeting at Clermont, where the First Crusade was inaugurated, witnessed to the only unity Christendom could then imagine. This is why the artistic energies of Western Europe after 1000 a.d. followed channels suggested by the Roman Church.


For one reason and another, the first country to drag itself from the intellectual torpor which had affected Western Europe for hundreds of years was France. The commercial classes, particularly in the north-west, shook themselves free from the dominion of the feudal lords earlier than their brethren, say, in Northern Italy. As material wealth increased, the French bourgeoisie naturally sought for a means of expressing its pride in the communal life which it had created. But in doing so, it could not rid itself of the memory of the even deeper emotions aroused by the realization of the co-ordinating power of the Catholic Church. The cry, “A cathedral for Amiens, a city church for Rouen,” made much the same appeal to the imaginations of these Frenchmen as the idea of a Parthenon had made to the Athenians 1500 years earlier. [Pg 148]

Previously the religious buildings had mostly been abbeys, and the property of the religious orders. Now the laity desired to do what they could. The finest French cathedrals were built by the great lay guilds. Their foundations were planted in the very centre of social and communal life. In this respect, the great Gothic churches of France differ markedly from those of our own island. Nôtre Dame, Bayeux, Chartres, Bourges, Rheims, and the rest are to be contrasted with such a typical English Cathedral as Lichfield, which nestles among the trees and makes, with the Close, a little world entirely apart from the clatter and chatter of the market square. Just because a French cathedral was so direct an expression of popular emotion, it was as a rule a less balanced artistic creation. The builders of Salisbury were not driven by the pricking desire to out-top the topmost which impelled the French Gothic architects and masons. But the French cathedral voiced more truly the inner feelings of the people to whose heart-burnings and soul-aspirations it was due.

Turning now to sculpture, the circumstance common to the Greek temple with its marbles and the French Gothic cathedral with its stone decorations, strikes us at once. In both cases, the prime impulse was civic pride. This is important. But it is even more necessary to realize the essential difference—that the Gothic cathedral owed even more to the inspiration of a great church and an all-powerful priesthood. At the very outset we come upon the fact that whereas the growth of Greek sculpture largely depended upon such a purely human feeling as the passion for physical beauty, sculpture in the Middle Ages was required to incarnate an entirely extra-mundane emotion—the craving for an all-ruling and ever-living deity. It was to this [Pg 149] Coleridge referred when he said that “the principle of Gothic architecture is infinity made imaginable.” Just as the Doric temple—“Simple, erect, severe, austere, sublime”—was an echo of the Greek spirit; so the Gothic cathedral, with its vast spaces and its complex schemes of columns, aisles and chapels, ministered to that mysticism which distinguished the Christian religion of Western Europe from the crystal clear faith of Ancient Greece.

Some will remember William Watson’s lines “Upon a prelude or a fugue of Bach.”

“Contentedly, with strictest strands confined, Sports in the Sun that oceanic mind; To leap their bourn these waves did never long, Or roll against the stars their rock-bound song.”

That is the Greek view. How different is the Gothic. Again we turn to William Watson—four lines upon “The Gothic Spire”:

“It soars like hearts of hapless men who dare To sue for gifts the gods refuse to allot; Who climb for ever toward they know not where, Baffled for ever by they know not what.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that no great sculpture was produced under the influence of the Gothic passion for mystic communion with the Unseen. No one now remembers the name of a single Gothic sculptor. Certainly, no one can recall a single statue of the period as a “joy for ever,”—the test of a work of art of the first order. May we not infer that the art by which the religious instinct most naturally finds expression is architecture, or, as experience has since shown, music? [Pg 150]

The absence of sculpture of real beauty was not due to any lack of opportunity. There were thousands of stone workers. As had been the case with the Greek temples, the great Gothic cathedrals provided abundant opportunities for sculptural decoration. In France the façades of the great churches were often literally covered with carved reliefs, and rows upon rows of statues. The purely architectural work served merely as a background to one huge composition of statuary. The deeply recessed portals and the galleries and columns of the interior were equally designed to receive a profusion of sculptural decoration. The triple portal of the west front at Chartres contained some 720 figures, large and small, the tympanum in the centre depicting Our Lord in Glory. Attached to the pillars of the doorways were numerous large carvings representing the ancestors of Christ. The transept porches were decorated with a similar profusion of statuary.

But whereas the sculpture of the Parthenon not only served perfectly as an architectural decoration, but was also “a thing of beauty” in itself, it was otherwise with the plastic decoration of a Gothic cathedral. The Gothic architect had not the slightest scruple in sacrificing the beauty of any statue for the architectural effect as a whole. At times the Gothic sculptor’s deviations from nature were almost uncanny. In his choice of a subject, and in his method of representation, he was only concerned with the realistic presentation of the beliefs of the Roman Church. His task was to translate the mysteries of life and death into a language which the humblest worshipper could not misunderstand. The well-known alto-relievo in Bourges Cathedral affords a fine illustration of this phase of Gothic art. The scene represents the torturing of the souls of the damned. We are spared nothing. Everything is set down in all its naked horror. The Gothic sculptor had his virtues. One was that he always told his story clearly. He sought to suggest the ideals revealed by the Man Christ as he understood them. His only aim was to give form to the new emotions and thoughts which he believed arose from the teachings of the Church. Can we help admiring the grand sincerity with which he kept his aim ever in the foreground, and the wonderful fertility of his invention in presenting the ideas he had to portray?



A bas-relief from the porch of Bourges Cathedral



A panel from the pulpit of the Duomo at Pisa,
now in the Museo Civico, Pisa

[Pg 151] Though the Gothic sculptor cannot be denied his meed of praise, an equal candour compels us to admit that these are not the virtues of a great artist. They are too utilitarian. Art lends its aid to make religious ideas more persuasive, but it is, properly, neither religious nor ethical. We realize this at once when we compare the Gothic ideal with that which actuated the Greek in the days of Phidias.

How altered are the circumstances under which the two schools worked. Let us catalogue them for the last time. The balance which the Greek preserved between emotion and intellect was no longer regarded as desirable. It was not even considered. Men had ceased to believe that a right judgment accepted the limitations to human endeavour set by the threescore years and ten of human life. Instead, there was an overmastering passion to enter into conscious relation with a mysterious power endowed with the faculty of controlling human destiny.

In place of the sunny myths of ancient Hellas, the Gothic sculptor drew upon the superstitious perversions of Scripture which his age accepted. The Church loved to dwell upon the wrath of God. The sculptor could only follow. [Pg 152]

Whereas the Greek had realized to the full the beauty of the human body, and its possibilities as an emotional agent, the Gothic artist appealed to men who had no reverence for the human form, rather to those who despised it. Asceticism was rampant. Drapery was used, not to display the beauties of the human figure, but to hide them. The art of sculpture, which depends upon the perfectly developed human body and the balanced human mind and heart for all the more impressive notes in its song, could not flourish in such an atmosphere.

The differences between Northern France in the eleventh and twelfth centuries a.d. and Greece in the fifth century b.c. at once show why we must look elsewhere for a social state in which the art of the sculptor could find sustenance. As we should expect we find this in a country where Gothic architecture never achieved the brilliant success that attended it in France and England. We mean, of course, Italy.

The culture of Gothic architecture never bore transplanting from French to Italian soil satisfactorily. Many so-called Gothic cathedrals were erected. But the Italian architects always leant towards the Roman simplicity, and never multiplied the niches and columns in the way the French architect did. As a consequence the opportunities for marble and bronze decorations were greater than in the north, and the art of sculpture at once took a firmer position.

But the chief reason for the immediate growth of sculpture in Italy was not material but psychological. It depended not upon opportunity but upon the mental and emotional temper of those to whom it appealed. The Gothic architect in Italy did not adopt the methods by which his French brother appealed to the mystic instincts of his countrymen, simply [Pg 153] because the Italian temperament was less eager to “dwell overmuch among desired illusions.” With a far fuller emotional and intellectual experience, the Italian did not feel, in the same degree, what Matthew Arnold has called “that passionate, turbulent, indomitable reaction against the despotism of fact.”

For many years the population of Northern Italy had been victimized by the continual invasions which the Holy Roman emperors made against the Pope. At first there were constant efforts to form leagues of townships to combat Emperor or Pope. But the cities could not put large bodies of fighters in the field, and their condition was deplorable. The great struggle between Henry IV. of Germany and the Papacy aided by Matilda and the Normans, brought matters to a head.

The remedy was found towards the end of the eleventh century, when each town discovered that it could best serve its interests by acting alone. In other words, the conception of a city-state was reached. During the struggle in which bishop was pitted against feudal lord, feudal lord against bishop, and both or either against Emperor or Pope, each city developed a political individuality. Genoa became distinguished from Pisa, and both from Milan in marked fashion. Nor was this all. It was soon realized that the bond of citizenship was an asset that could be used with magnificent effect. As had been the case in Greece, a city with a few thousand burghers found it could safely face a power apparently vastly stronger. The enthusiasm of every citizen was fired in a manner unequalled since a similar concatenation of circumstances had given Phidias and Praxiteles to the Ægean Peninsula. Finally, this [Pg 154] civic ideal did not entail the jettisoning of a hundred human ambitions and emotions which were entirely foreign to the Roman Catholic Church.

A social philosophy began to arise in which human interests predominated. Here was the very condition for lack of which Gothic sculpture had been still-born.


The city of Pisa is particularly identified with the rise of Italian sculpture. Near the town lay the marble mines of Carrara. The Crusades, by opening up the markets of the East and, particularly, Byzantium, had done much to increase its material prosperity. The citizens of Pisa, for instance, had contributed largely to the success of the second Crusade. Their reward for assistance in the capture of Jerusalem was a series of trading privileges extending over a great part of the East. Pisan banks and warehouses arose in every port. Material prosperity freed social life from many hampering conventions. Economic independence proved the first step towards the consciousness of intellectual liberty which was so striking a characteristic of the Renaissance. Pisa was only nominally a republic. Its aristocrats wielded power, and they realized, as Pisistratus had done in ancient Athens, that their tenure of authority was held at the price of magnificent schemes of public utility. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1118, and forty years later the Baptistery was finished. During this time the Republic, owing to its successful campaigns against Genoa and Lucca, became more and more powerful.

One of the principal results following the opening up of the Eastern world was a revelation of the grace and beauty of the sculpture of [Pg 155] the ancients. The Pisans evinced a strong interest in the few works of antiquity that could be found. The merchants eagerly competed for one of the carved Roman sarcophagi which the Pisan fleets occasionally brought over from the East.

Under these influences, the sculptors who were engaged upon the decoration of Gothic cathedrals in Italy found themselves called upon to add a beauty to their work which was not required in North-west Europe. In their search for this beauty, the harmonious naturalism lacking in the plastic arts prior to the thirteenth century was attained. Craftsmen from Byzantium and architects and masons from the North came to such a town as Pisa to educate a band of local artists. They, too, drank deep at the well of Hellenic genius. The sculptors of Italy still worked under the inspiration of the Catholic Church. But, fired by the achievements of Greece, their work displayed a natural grace far in advance of the realistic fables in stone which the Northern artist fashioned or the symbolic pictures which the Byzantium craftsman produced. Niccola Pisano (1205-1278 a.d.) was the greatest Italian architect of his day and the wealth of his native town early furnished him with opportunities for exercising his skill both as an architect and as a sculptor. From Pisa, Niccola’s reputation spread through Italy. As a sculptor he was influenced strongly by Græco-Roman art. Being intended for Gothic buildings, his sculptural work has many of the characteristics of the French style, but it shows the clearest signs of classical feeling. It is true that he crowds the space he has to fill with a multitude of figures, where the taste of the Greek would have suggested a simpler scheme. His figures and drapery are heavy when [Pg 156] compared with the graceful forms of the Hellenic artists. But all Niccola Pisano’s later work proves how thoroughly he appreciated, and how earnestly he strove to attain, the stately beauty that pervaded the art of Hellas.

Giovanni, a son of Niccola Pisano, worked between 1270 and 1330 a.d. Giovanni Pisano, like his father, was a brilliant architect. As a sculptor, however, he lacked Niccola’s sense of beauty, and he clung too closely to the fantastic exaggerations of the Gothic artists. He abandoned the ideal of tranquillity and self-restraint which his father had learnt from the Hellenic example. But his technical skill was so great and his efforts to give a passionate realization of the scriptural scenes were so sincere that Giovanni’s best work shows a force lacking in the sculptures of Niccola Pisano.

On the whole, the works of Giovanni prove that the influence of Niccola was not very potent. This seems to be due to the fact that to the time of his death the taste for sculpture was not general. It was rather eclectic. It appealed to few beyond the ranks of the aristocrats.

Moreover, though Niccola had realized that “art must anchor in nature, or be the sport of every breath of folly,” the conviction was not general. The feeling for the beauties of the natural world was only growing slowly. It came to the flood early in the thirteenth century, and found its most intense expression in the sermons of Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). It is idle to inquire whether the “First of the Friars” taught the world to look once more for the beauties of nature beneath the hard crudities of external phenomena. Certain it is that he was one

“Who heard the tale The low wind tells, Who read the rune Of moorland wells.”



[Pg 157] Saint Francis never reached the modern conception of nature as the embodiment of the divine spirit such as is found in the poems of Wordsworth. It could not be said of him

“None inlier taught how near to earth is heaven, With what vast concords Nature’s harp is strung.”

But his passion for the beauties of nature added a new note to the prevalent interpretation of Scripture. Consciously or unconsciously, it led him to a far more human conception of the Godhead.

As a result of the preaching of St. Francis and that of his followers, all Italy clamoured for representations of the Christ and the Saints in the new manner. The demand was first satisfied by the painter Giotto (1266-1337). Under the influence of St. Francis, Giotto translated the new Christian thought and emotion into terms of flesh and blood. He pictured this living reality upon the walls of such a building as the Upper Church at Assisi. He did for Italy what Phidias and Polyclitus did for Greece when they gave material form to the Zeus and Hera of Homer.

The sculptor most closely identified with Giotto was Andrea Pisano (1270-1348). A pupil of Giovanni, Andrea carried the principles of sculpture enunciated by Niccola to Florence. The city, at the time, was one of the richest and most enlightened in Italy. It was, moreover, the centre from which the naturalism of Giotto was spreading. Andrea was always greatly influenced by his friend Giotto, and upon the latter’s death carried through the architectural works upon which he was engaged. But the words of Andrea show that Giotto’s influence upon sculpture was not entirely for good. For some time after the great painter’s death a distinctly pictorial character pervaded the works of [Pg 158] the Italian sculptors. Andrea Pisano, for instance, himself spent many years in fashioning one of the great bronze doors of the Florentine Baptistery. This contains some of the finest bronze work in the world. Each panel is decorated with a scene from the life of John the Baptist and each tells its story simply and clearly. But it is at once obvious that the ideal at which Andrea was aiming was rather pictorial than sculptural. At his death sculpture was no longer on the free road of progress started by Niccola Pisano.

Our study of three centuries has therefore brought us to the following conclusion. After centuries of effacement and years of struggle, the art of sculpture has once more discovered the possibility of natural expression. But it is still hampered by its ancient alliance with sacerdotalism. This must be abandoned, and the sculptor must devote himself wholly and freely to Mother Nature, and Mother Nature’s most magnificent achievement—the human form. By no other means can a standard approaching the Hellenic be reached. We are now to learn how the bonds fashioned by the Roman Church were shaken off by the Italian sculptors of the fifteenth century.

[Pg 159]



(1400-1500 a.d.)

It will be remembered that the rise of Greek sculpture was a matter of fifty or, at the most, seventy years. The Muse of the art did not spring fully grown from the head of Apollo, it is true. But within half a century the Greek craftsman realized the possibilities of his materials; he discovered what subjects could be treated most properly, and fitted himself to express the profoundest thoughts and emotions of his countrymen. The result was Phidias and the Parthenon.

Yet by 1400 a.d. we have by no means reached the zenith of Italian sculpture. In other words, after tracing the growth of the art for a century we find that another hundred years is necessary before an Italian Parthenon is possible. To what was the slower evolution of sculpture in Italy due?

It might be suggested that marble and bronze were not the fittest media to embody the teeming experience of fourteenth-and fifteenth-century Italy. This is probably true. Seeing, however, that the sister art of painting had lagged behind in similar fashion, we must trace the deliberate growth of Italian sculpture to the lesser intensity of the [Pg 160] energizing force. The Italians were not stirred to the depths by one heart-searching struggle like that between the Persians and the Hellenes. The contention between city and city was, however, incessant. Within the town walls, too, the strife between class and class was constant. Apart, therefore, from the question of degree, we find in the Italian city-states between 1350 and 1400 a.d. the same restless vortices of intellectual and emotional energy which were the first consequences of Marathon and Salamis.

As in Greece, these vortices were not of one type nor the creation of a single centre. Florence certainly played the part in Italian culture that Athens did in the growth of Hellenism. Of all the cities of Italy, she was most completely in touch with the diverse influences which humanized the arts. But the movement was not a matter of Florentine culture. Just as had been the case in Greece, a hundred centres produced personalities—men and women of every stamp. The theocracy of Rome, the democracy of Florence, the monarchy of Naples, the aristocracy of Venice, and the tyranny of Milan, all did their part. All assisted to mould that grand complexity which we call the Italian Renaissance The leaders of public opinion in all these centres, men and women alike, were continually moving about. Artists were invited now to one court now to another; scholars and poets were welcomed at Siena and Ferrara as they were at Milan and Florence. Hence that all-embracing experience of men and things, which must lie at the foundation of every art which is not only to grow, but to live and bear fruit.

But it is one thing to realize the presence of a number of factors favourable to a great art. It is a more difficult thing to estimate [Pg 161] the circumstances under which a large measure of this force and experience was diverted into channels which made a Michael Angelo not only possible but certain. The inquiry we are embarking upon is the counterpart of that which we undertook with reference to the evolution of Hellenic sculpture between 480 and 450 b.c. Apart from the longer period occupied, we shall find that the most significant feature is the resemblance between the circumstances which led up to Phidias and those which led up to Michael Angelo. This is not surprising. Indeed, were not many circumstances attending pre-Angelesque sculpture identical with those in the first half of the fifth century b.c., our entire critical method would be endangered. As a matter of fact, the identity of circumstance is remarkable. What is even more important is that where there is a really striking variation we can correlate it with a corresponding one in the result. In other words, we can recognize and account for the characteristics which distinguish the sculpture of the Italian renaissance from that of Greece 1900 years earlier.


Turning to the facts: the new spiritual atmosphere, with its strong artistic potentialities, which followed the preaching of St. Francis, was much more favourable to the painter’s art than to that of the sculptor. We have seen that Giotto was able to give adequate expression to the dominant ideas of his age with much greater freedom than such an artist as Andrea Pisano. This general tendency unfavourable to the [Pg 162] growth of a vigorous school of Italian sculpture, continued for a long time. Its effect in turning the budding artist’s dreams towards painting or influencing his work in unsculpturesque fashion cannot be doubted. Perhaps this can be most fully illustrated by the subsequent history of the doors of the Florentine baptistery. It will be remembered that Andrea Pisano had erected the first of the three bronze doors seventy years earlier. The political difficulties in the latter part of the fourteenth century prevented the Florentines completing the work. In 1403, however, as a thank-offering after the great plague of 1400, the Guild of Florentine merchants decided to complete the bronze doors of the baptistery. The commission was offered for public competition and advertized throughout Italy. The account left by Lorenzo Ghiberti, the eventual winner, enables us to realize the effect of the news.

Ghiberti had been born in 1381, so that he was barely out of his teens when the announcement of the Florentine Guild was published. He had been educated as a goldsmith, a craft which always flourishes when wealth is accumulating, civil disorders are frequent and banking systems insecure. It provides a ready means of hoarding a small store against a time of stress. But to an artist of ardent imagination and real ambition like the youth Ghiberti, the narrow limits set by goldsmithery were cramping. Reading between the lines, we can see that he was seriously contemplating abandoning his own art for the more expressive art of painting. He had indeed taken the first step. In a passage from his own manuscript in the Magliabecchian Library, he narrates:

“In my youth, anno Christi 1400, moved both by the corrupted air of Florence and the bad state of the country, I fled with a worthy painter [Pg 163] who had been sent for by Signor Malatesta of Pesaro, and he gave us a room to paint, which we did with great diligence. My soul was at this time much turned towards painting, partly from the hope of the works in which Signor Malatesta promised to employ us; and partly because my companion was always showing me the honour and utility which would accrue to me. Nevertheless, at this moment, when my friends wrote to me that the governors of the baptistery were sending for masters whose skill in bronze working they wished to prove, and that from all Italian lands many maestri were coming to place themselves in this strife of talent, I could no longer forbear, and asked leave of Signor Malatesta who let me depart.”

Coming to Florence, Ghiberti found himself opposed to six of the best sculptors of Italy. There was Filippo Brunelleschi, who afterwards became famous as the architect of the dome of the Florentine Cathedral. There was also Jacopo della Quercia, the Sienese sculptor, to whom we shall refer again. Each competitor received “four tables of brass,” and a year was given to prepare a panel representing the “Sacrifice of Isaac.” At the end of the time it was evident that the contest had resolved itself into a duel between Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. Nor was there any doubt as to the winner. The panels of both men can still be seen side by side in the National Museum at Florence. They witness to the truth of Ghiberti’s boast: “The palm of victory was conceded to me by all the judges and by those who competed with me. Universally the glory was given to me without any exception.” The commission was dated November 23, 1403. The Merchants’ Guild agreed to pay all expenses—the [Pg 164] sum eventually expended upon the pair of gates being 22,000 ducats. The wages of his assistants, who included Donatello, Gozzoli and Uccello, were defrayed by the Guild. Lorenzo himself received 200 florins a year, for which he agreed to give all his time. He was bound to design the panels and execute “the nudes, draperies, and all the artistic parts with his own hand.” Upon the completion of the first pair of gates, those executed by Andrea Pisano (1331-1334) were taken down and Ghiberti’s gates erected in the place of honour facing the Cathedral. Nor was this all. Twenty-five years had been spent already. Yet he was ordered to furnish another pair—those which Michael Angelo called “The Gates of Paradise.” They were unveiled in 1452, when they in their turn displaced the earlier gates of Ghiberti.

The “Gates of Paradise” represent the zenith that sculpture could attain, following the path indicated by the Pisani, who had been compelled to work largely in relief owing to the necessity laid upon them of being primarily illustrators of the Scriptures. Ghiberti’s last pair of gates, therefore, merit a detailed examination. There are ten panels, five on each door. Upon these are pictured scenes from Old Testament history from the Creation to Solomon. In some of the reliefs Ghiberti put as many as a hundred figures. Yet the panels never appear crowded. Throughout there is a fine appreciation of the story to be depicted. The beauty of the drawing of the nudes and of the soft flow of the drapery is extreme. It is almost impossible to select a panel which will illustrate all the charms of design and beauties of technique with which the “Gates of Paradise” abound. If one must choose, the panel upon which Ghiberti depicts the Creation [Pg 165] of Adam and Eve, the Temptation and the Expulsion from Eden, seems to suggest itself. From it we can judge Ghiberti’s treatment of the male and female nude. We can see how marvellously the sense of aerial perspective is rendered by the gradual diminution of relief. The figures nearest the eye are in high relief, the more distant forms being raised to a less and less degree, until “the multitude of the heavenly host” melt imperceptibly into the bronze background.



Baptistery, Florence

Technically—judged from the standpoint of workmanship in bronze—“The Creation Panel” is beyond criticism. Comparing it with a painting by Giotto, or, to take an artist of a later date, by Fra Angelico, we feel, however, that something is lacking. Though the subjects depicted are biblical, Ghiberti’s work lacks the spirituality which an artist working under the influence of Giotto, consciously or unconsciously, infused into his work. Italy in the fifteenth century had realized the fallacies that underlay the narrow creed of the Church and the too rigid philosophy of the Scholastics.

Ghiberti, like many another Italian artist, could not accept the judgment of the extreme ascetics who saw in the beauties of the human form only snares set by the devil to catch the souls of men. Whatever may have been Ghiberti’s personal religious belief, as an artist he knew that such a creed was impossible. He saw that the beauties which the eye could see were his raw material. The mystical artists of the Giottesque school would have cried with Watts, “I paint ideas, not things.” Ghiberti worked upon the principle that an artist holding such a creed only approaches success when he forgets his predilection for [Pg 166] ideas in the interest aroused by the beauties of the natural world and particularly by the beauties of the human form.

At the very root of our argument lies the fact that these broader and more human views are traceable to the growing influence of the democracy in the Italian cities. It must never be forgotten that such a work as the “Gates of Paradise” was in every sense a public work. Its general design and its detailed progress were continually supervised by the hard-headed burghers of Florence. When, for instance, Ghiberti was instructed on January 2, 1425, by the consuls of the Guild of Merchants to commence the third pair of gates, he was not free to choose his own subjects. Here is an extract from the letter of Leonardo Bruni d’Arezzo, the Chancellor of the Republic, who actually drew up the general scheme. After detailing the subjects he added:

“It is necessary that he who has to design them should be well instructed in every story, so that he may dispose the characters and scenes to the best effect.... I have no doubt that the work as I have designed it will succeed well, but I should like to be near the artist that I may interpret to him the many meanings of the scenes.”

It was no small task which the good Chancellor set Ghiberti. Imagine the feelings of a twentieth-century sculptor suddenly faced with a demand to give expression to the following subjects in ten panels, within the limits set by a single door. [Pg 167]

Creation of Adam. Adam, Eve, and children.
Creation of Eve. The two sacrifices.
Temptation. Death of Abel.
Expulsion from Eden. Curse of Cain.
Noah leaving Ark. Moses on Sinai.
Noah’s sacrifice.  
Noah’s drunkenness.  
Abraham and the Angels. Joshua marching round Jericho.
The sacrifice of Isaac. The Fall of Jericho.
Isaac. David and Goliath.
Esau hunting. Defeat of Philistines.
The blessing of Jacob.  
Sale of Joseph. Queen of Sheba at
Pharaoh’s dream. Solomon’s Court.
Joseph’s brethren in Egypt.  

Yet Ghiberti’s ingenuity was sufficient not only to make the designs but to overcome the immense technical difficulties incidental to carrying them out in bronze. Truth to tell, the commission should never have been given to a sculptor. In addition to the difficulties connected with his own art, Ghiberti was faced with the necessity of adding architectural and landscape backgrounds to his reliefs. He strove to solve problems of perspective which even the painters of his day had not mastered. Indeed, for the designer of the Baptistery gates, sculptural relief was rather a branch of the graphic arts than a part of the plastic arts, governed by the rules and subject to the limitations of sculpture. Ghiberti’s life’s work landed his art in a blind alley. For further progress it was necessary that sculpture should be once more informed with its own definite spirit. Ghiberti, or rather his patrons, had failed to realize that sculpture as a descriptive medium has its limitations. It cannot hope to rival painting in the multiplicity of subjects which it can depict with [Pg 168] success. It must, therefore, confine itself to subjects which it can express clearly and vigorously.


What was denied to Ghiberti was given to his assistant Donatello—the foremost sculptor of the transitional period which preceded Michael Angelo. By his example Donatello re-defined the proper limits and the fittest objects of the art of sculpture. His life’s work was one continued reiteration of the Hellenic lesson that sculpture is the concrete expression of man’s joyful interest in the human form. To the end, his figures never possessed the ideal grace with which Ghiberti endowed a hundred forms in the Baptistery panels. But Donatello had the essential quality of a true sculptor within him. He put aside all desire to rival the painter. He willed to express himself by form and form only. This fact alone invests his work with an importance and interest in the history of pure sculpture which the more graceful productions of Ghiberti cannot claim.

Donato di Betto Bardi, to give Donatello his correct title, was the son of a wool-comber. He had entered Ghiberti’s studio as an assistant in 1405, at the age of nineteen. His experience with Ghiberti gave him the technical skill to carry out an ambition that dated from boyhood. Before Donatello was thirty, the chances of the age gave him a series of unique opportunities of making his dreams realities.

As we have seen, a new class of patrons had arisen in Italy with fresh ambitions and ideals. In Florence, for instance, the mercantile class [Pg 169] had gradually ousted the German nobles who had ruled in fief of the Emperor. By 1283 the wealthier guilds had established a form of government delegating all power to members of their own class. Under this Florence became more and more powerful. By 1406 Pisa was captured, and the last stronghold of the feudal party in Tuscany had fallen. During the last years of the fourteenth century Florence had prospered greatly. Trade developed. The manufacture of silk and wool brought a large measure of material prosperity. The pride of the burghers in their city increased correspondingly. The erection of the Baptistery gates must be regarded as only a single instance of a general tendency. All over Italy the case was the same. The appreciation of sculpture was no longer confined to a few score merchants and princes, as had been the case at Pisa. It had spread from the cloister and castle to the market square and the Guildhall.

The result of similar circumstances in the earlier history of sculpture will be remembered. In fifth-century Greece a keen appreciation of sculpture had been developed among a burgher population. Just as the proceeds of the commissions for athletic sculptures provided livelihoods for the budding artists of Greece, so the orders of the Florentine burghers offered at least a competence to a struggling Italian sculptor with a belief in the possibilities of his particular art. What the commission for the Baptistery gates did for Ghiberti, similar commissions did for Jacopo della Quercia, Donatello and the rest.

In dwelling upon the importance of such material considerations as these, we are in no way depreciating the zeal of either the Italian or the Hellenic sculptor, by his old patrons, the Guild of Merchants. It [Pg 172] was followed by a long series of similar commissions. The Guild of Moneychangers realizing the credit which attached to its rival, desired Ghiberti to furnish a companion figure, “Saint Matthew,” which was in its place by 1422. Finally, the Guild of Wool Merchants employed Ghiberti to produce a “St. Stephen” for a third niche.

Long before this, other Florentine Guilds had joined in the public-spirited competition. Moreover, other sculptors were discovered. In 1416 Donatello had been commissioned by the Guild of Armourers to model a figure for Or San Michele. The result was the well-known “Saint George.” It was followed by the statue of “Saint Mark,” of which Michael Angelo said “it would have been impossible to reject the Gospel from so straightforward a witness.” The “Saint Mark” is a typical work of Donatello’s first period (1405 to 1425). The whole conception of the Apostle is based upon a foundation of stern realism. Gothic strength rather than Attic grace is aimed at. Comparing it with such a work as Ghiberti’s “Saint Matthew,” we see at once that an immense step forward has been taken. The opportunity is nothing to Ghiberti. His deep knowledge of perspective is valueless, of course. His ingenuity in the elaboration of detail proves a drawback rather than an advantage. He produces a graceful lay figure. So with the “Saint George.” Donatello revels in the chance of sculpturing a life-sized figure. He makes the masses and lines of the body tell. The ideal aimed at is the ideal of the Greek sculptor, who felt that his true medium of expression was the human form. Donatello has found the essentials common to all great sculpture—the basis upon which the greatness of Greek art depends. He has rediscovered the a b c of the language of marble and bronze which every sculptor must realize, whatever differences of thought and emotion he seeks to express.



From Or San Michele, Florence

[Pg 173]


This brings us to the great problem of fifteenth-century Italian sculpture—its relationship to the art of Greece or Rome. Donatello is frequently cited as the pioneer of the reviving interest in classical sculpture. Following Vasari, the text-books tell of his visit to Rome with Brunelleschi in 1403. They dwell upon the statement that Donatello spent much time in arranging the collection of ancient sculpture in the Medici gardens. Recent investigation, however, shows conclusively that Donatello’s first visit to Rome was made in 1433. In any case, an honest critic must admit that little evidence of direct Greek and Roman influence can be observed in his works. Comparing the “Saint Mark” with such a Hellenic statue as the “Phocion” in the Vatican or the “Sophocles” in the Lateran, what strikes us most strongly is the entire difference in the spirit animating the later work.

And this is equally true of the “Saint George” of Or San Michele, or, to use a clearer example, the nude bronze “David,” now in the Bargello at Florence. Technically, Donatello’s “David” can be compared with any nude male figure, let us say the beautiful bronze “Narcissus” found at Pompeii, and now in the Naples Museum. It is sculptured “in the round.” It is complete in itself. It proves that at last the Italian sculptor is on the high road for complete success. But in sentiment it is utterly un-Hellenic. It possesses none of those external resemblances [Pg 174] to Greek statuary which we detect in the sculpture of Canova or Thorvaldsen, for instance.

Truth to tell, the effort to trace evidences of a direct traffic between one great art and another is based upon a total misapprehension. No great artist can “lift” any considerable idea from a work produced in an entirely different mental and emotional atmosphere. What really happened was that a wave of enthusiasm for Hellenic art and literature broke over Italy. The sculptors shared in the humanizing effects of the realization of the true greatness of Greek culture. One cannot point to the treatment of a fold of drapery here, or to the pose of a torso there, and refer it to a Greek original. But in the Italian sculpture of the fifteenth century we can trace a breaking away from ideals which had held sway for centuries. Inspired by the revelation of what liberty of thought and action had done for the Greek, the Italian no longer prostrated himself before the idols of Catholic dogma and scholasticism. Before Donatello’s death the appreciation of classic culture was no longer confined to a few wealthy dilettanti, as had been the case at Pisa a century earlier. Admiration for the productions of the Attic philosophers and artists threatened to become a religious force capable of engulfing Christianity.

The consequences were tremendous. Consider, for instance, the immense difference between the educational methods and ideals. Compare those which operated during the later years of Donatello’s life with those of the earlier age, when education was entirely in the hands of the Roman Church. Take a typical Italian schoolmaster, such as Vittorino of Feltre. Picture his typical Renaissance school, “The House of Joy,” on the shores of the Mantuan Lake. The spot was hallowed by the memory that it had been the birthplace of Virgil. Nature had lavished upon it avenues of planes and acacias. But dominating all was the grand aim of Vittorino, “I want to teach my pupils how to think, not to split hairs.”



Bargello, Florence

[Pg 175] Born at Feltre, Vittorino went as a youth to Padua, one of the leading humanistic centres at the end of the fourteenth century. After a period as Professor of Rhetoric, the ruling Gonzaga invited Vittorino to Mantua to educate his children. This was in 1425, and Vittorino remained there until his death in 1446. His first step was to abolish the luxury which had environed the young Gonzagas. He made “The House of Joy” a seat of plain living and regular study. Youths from other courts flocked to Mantua. At his own expense, Vittorino maintained a number of poor scholars, who lived near the villa and shared in all the privileges of the school. Music and such elementary sciences as geometry and astronomy were taught, in true Hellenic fashion. The Latin classics were studied without the fantastic pedantries of the ecclesiastical era. The grand truth was accepted that every man was possessed of a free but responsible personality. Each one saw that his task in this world was to mould his individuality, and by the exercise of his own free will to prove how far he was above the brutes. The one end of education was to make the boy or girl, not a specialist, but a perfectly developed man or woman. The expert had no place in Italy in those days. Throughout the Renaissance all education aimed at the production of all-round men and women, physically, emotionally, and intellectually sound.

It needs little imagination to see the effect of this general acceptance of Greek ideals of life and conduct upon sculpture. It rendered possible the production of hundreds of statues which would [Pg 176] have been meaningless a century earlier. Beyond this we may not go. Every vital art must be largely indebted to the Greek tradition, and Renaissance sculpture was no exception. But, in the end, a great style cannot be transferred. A second-hand style, like a second-hand coat, is apt to be an ill-fit. Taking a few typical fifteenth-century sculptures we do not say “how Greek they are.” On the contrary, it is at once apparent that the difference underlying Italian and Greek sculpture is far more noticeable than any external resemblance.

When once we realize the cause, it is easy to see that it could not be otherwise. In Italy, the relation of the individual to society differed entirely from that in any Greek state. Whereas the individuality of the Greek was constantly sacrificed to the interests of his state, in Italy everything tended to the free emergence of individual personalities. The Italian was in touch with no overpowering political unity. Nothing hampered the attainment of personal ambition or the satisfaction of personal passions. What he desired was not civic or national success, but the foundation of a new age of art and culture in which every type of individuality would have its place. The Italian longed for individual fame, for individual power. This could not but entail the loss of that grand unity of aim which was the great glory of Athenian art. Instead, it led to the growth of a wonderful diversity of character and an extraordinary variety of interests. Whereas the Greek had been content to portray a few supreme types, the artist of the Italian Renaissance wished to show humanity in every aspect. He was not even content with the limits set by the bounds of grace and beauty. The expression of spiritual tension and mental energy could not be indicated without a departure from that harmony of the planes which the Hellenic sculptor regarded as essential. The Italian boldly adopted other means. He depicted with cruel emphasis the play of muscles and tendons which accompanies physical and mental tension. His mission was to present strongly individualized character. To him every human energy was fit for sculptural treatment.



Lucca Cathedral

[Pg 177] Reviewing our argument we find that by the last quarter of the fifteenth century the art of sculpture was in this position. A long series of remunerative public and private commissions had educated bands of sculptors of real talent in several Italian centres but particularly in Florence. Their work was held in such public esteem that they no longer regarded themselves as mere artizans. Moreover, while the sculptor had been making himself more and more capable of expressing the thoughts and emotions of his countrymen, they, for their part, were deepening and widening their experience. Not only had they come to realize the manifold beauties of nature, but they were learning man’s intimate relation with it. At the same time the revelation of what the Greeks had done and what Hellenic culture really meant was leading to an entirely new regard for mankind and a desire to cultivate the whole, as opposed to a mere fragment, of the human capital. In other words, while the sculptor was increasing his power of interpretation, thoughts of the highest value and emotions of real depth were being aroused. Comparing the sculpture of Ghiberti, Donatello, Quercia, della Robbia and the rest, with that of the Pisani a century earlier, it is seen that the essential difference depends upon the general adoption of a new philosophical standpoint. [Pg 178] Previously, both the artist and his public viewed man from the heavens and found him a drowning mite in an ocean of divinity. Now both looked man in the face and recognized a brother, set for a time in the world to witness to the abiding beauty of the Eternal Reality. In the light of this conception, what had been negligible became of prime importance. The shameful became entirely satisfying.

The truth of this proposition is seen at once if we look at a few typical fifteenth-century works. Take, as the first instance, the beautiful tomb of “Ilaria del Carretto,” by Jacopo della Quercia (born 1374). It was erected about 1406. The young wife of Paolo Guinigi lies in simple garb upon the bier—the dog at her feet an emblem of womanly faithfulness. Comparing the work with, let us say, the Pisan Pulpit by Niccola Pisano, we are struck by the beautiful simplicity of the design. The over-crowded detail has vanished. Instead we have a scheme of monumental breadth. The difference in spirit is even greater. The nude children, with their wreaths of flowers, which decorate the bier, witness to the transition from the Gothic gloom to the Renaissance joy in the beauties of the natural world.




[Pg 179] Turning to the works of an entirely different type, we note the same tendency in the delightfully human bas-reliefs of the della Robbias. No review of the art of sculpture would be complete without a reference to Luca della Robbia’s marble Singing Gallery. “The Cantoria” was begun in 1431 and was placed in the Cathedral at Florence in 1438. The taste of the seventeenth century, however, demanded the substitution of large balconies of carved and painted wood, and this singing gallery, together with that of Donatello, was taken down. Luca’s carved panels finally found their way to the Museo di Santa Maria del Fiore. Looking at the panels, we first of all note the immense advance in technical skill which enabled Luca della Robbia to represent the very poetry of rhythmic motion in stone. We note this. But we are moved by the human beauty of the whole conception. It is in a very real sense a religious work. The sculptor has taken as his theme the one hundredth and fiftieth psalm:

“Praise ye the Lord ... Praise him upon the loud cymbals; praise him upon the high-sounding cymbals.”

But the religion of Luca is essentially human.

The figures from the “Singing Gallery” are so well known that we have preferred to illustrate the art of Luca della Robbia by the beautiful “Visitation” at Pistoja, particularly as it is a terra-cotta and, therefore, recalls the medium in which the artist made his most constant appeal to his countrymen. The “Visitation” is a comparatively early work and shows that from the beginning Luca’s genius had little in common with that of Donatello. He gives us no hint of the restless search for knowledge which was the first consequence of the Italian’s realization of the powers of humanity. Luca stands to Donatello, the apostle of realism, as an Umbrian painter like Perugino stands to Signorelli. But his quiet self-restraint witnesses to a human virtue at least as noble—a trusting belief in the ultimate reign of peace and love.

The last fifteenth-century sculptor to whom reference must be made is Andrea del Verocchio (1435-1488). His “Doubting Thomas” still stands in the niche of Or San Michele, where it attracted all Florence 400 years ago. It is a fine example of what a first-rate technique apart from the fire of genius can produce. The lines of the drapery perhaps, incline [Pg 180] to angularity; the figures are somewhat rigid, but the group is of real beauty and is conceived by a true sculptor. Whatever his shortcomings, the artist realizes sculpture to be the medium of man’s joy in the beauty of the human form. The fame of Verocchio might well rest upon the “Doubting Thomas.” The name of the Florentine sculptor is, however, associated with another work—the equestrian statue of the Venetian commander, Bartolomeo Colleoni at Venice. That, at any rate, is a work of the very highest order. It was unfinished at Verocchio’s death, and was completed by the Venetian, Leopardi. No one can fairly judge what measure of the success of the statue is due to Verocchio’s earnest technique and how much to Leopardi’s fervid genius. In any case the Colleoni monument fitly closes this review of Italian sculpture during the fifteenth century. No more certain evidence of the capacity of the pre-Angelesque sculptors could be adduced. To this day, the nobility of the pose of horse and rider and the grandly martial spirit pervading the work, mark it as the greatest equestrian statue in the world.

Verocchio was born in 1435. He died when Michael Angelo was still a boy. The period of his life must, therefore, contain the answer to the final problem. Why was the acme of Italian sculpture reached at the end of the fifteenth century? It can be no mere chance that Michael Angelo produced his finest sculptures between 1495 and 1530. Why could it not have been fifty years earlier? Some factor was clearly present at the later date which had not been present when Verocchio was a boy. If it had been there, it had not acquired its subsequent force. Reverting for the last time to the Hellenic analogy we find the clue. Neither the material factors—such as the commissions for public works and memorial monuments—nor such a psychological factor as the broadened sphere of human activity exhaust the circumstances which finally gave Italy its Phidias and its Scopas. The last thing required was a series of dominating personalities able to focus the emotion and intellectual forces generated by the age. Florence, in fact, needed a Pericles.



Or San Michele, Florence

[Pg 181] These final co-ordinating factors were not denied. As in Greece, the personalities were in the first place politicians. The outstanding feature in the history of Italy during the fifteenth century is the number of political, military and commercial figures of real vigour and ability who rose to power. In one state after another they assumed complete control of affairs. We have only to name the Visconti and the Sforzas at Milan, the Gonzagas at Mantua, the Bentivoglio and Este families at Bologna and Ferrara, and the Montefeltro family at Urbino, to bring home their influence upon art. Most potent of all were, of course, the Medici, who centralized the artistic enthusiasms of Florence.

As had been the case in Athens, the domination of the Medici family commenced with the harnessing of the forces of Florentine democracy. The power of the Medici began when Giovanni de Medici succeeded in making the lesser guilds the rulers of Florence at the end of the fourteenth century. Giovanni had made an immense fortune by trade and had established banks all over the peninsula which he readily turned to advantage in furthering his political aims. Cosimo, his son, succeeded to Giovanni’s popularity with the lower classes, and by carefully concealing the mailed fist in the velvet glove reduced Florence to the position of Athens when Cimon and Pericles ruled as the nominal representatives of the people. [Pg 182]

The climax was reached when Lorenzo the Magnificent succeeded Cosimo in 1469. He so altered the constitution of Florence that it became a republic only in name. A few years later he seized control of the public purse and hypnotized the political judgment of his subjects. Lorenzo was the Pericles of the Italian Renaissance. The energies and interest of the Florentine burghers were focused around his personality, and he it was that directed their efforts. As had been the case with Pericles, the great glory of Lorenzo was the unfailing tact which never interfered with the perfect freedom of action of the varied natures with which he surrounded himself—the skill with which he persuaded them that their intellectual interests were his own. His Court was frequented by a brilliant band of scholars, and any youth of ability was assured of patronage.

What was even more important, the young painters or sculptors were brought into daily contact with the men and women who were moulding public opinion and shaping history. Artists who had lived for a few years in the Court of “the Magnificent” were far more than craftsmen. They were cultivated men of the world, abreast of all the practical knowledge of their time. It was among men like these that the sculptor was found, able to give vital expression to even the manifold energies of the Italian Renaissance.




[Pg 183]


1490-1530 a.d.

The year 1475 a.d. has been reached. We have seen the conclusion of the struggle of the sculptors to make marble and bronze bear once more the impress of every imagination of the human heart. Nothing now remains save to estimate the fruits of the victory—a task which entails the appreciation of one man, Michael Angelo.

There is no exaggeration in focussing our attention on one artist. The apotheosis of Italian sculpture connects itself as inevitably with Michael Angelo as the topmost peak of Elizabethan drama—Shakespeare—connects itself with the dramatic hills and hillocks which led up to it. The first fifty years of Angelo’s life were to Renaissance sculpture what the age of Phidias and Polyclitus had been to Greek art. He and he alone found means to express in marble the deepest thoughts upon nature and humanity which the Italian Renaissance had aroused.

As had been the case with the Greek sculptors before Salamis, the pre-Angelesque artists had never quite made their message articulate. Indeed, the whole fifteenth century was a period of probation and [Pg 184] experiment. In the sister art of painting, the draftsmen and colourists were realizing the possibilities of line and paint. The consequences of their efforts were Raphael, Leonardo, Titian and Correggio. What Angelico, Mantegna, Botticelli and Bellini were to the great painters, Ghiberti, della Robbia, Donatello, Pollaiuolo and Verocchio were to Michael Angelo.

But for the fact that Donatello and Ghiberti had raised the plastic arts for the time far above the graphic, it might well have been that sculpture would have been only a minor art to Michael Angelo. As things were in his boyhood, though painting was every year reducing the lead of the sister art, sculpture had still a far greater body of achievement to its credit. From the first it was clear that sculpture was the art by which his nature most naturally expressed itself. In after life he was wont jestingly to remind his friends of his earliest years among the mill-stone quarries of Settignano. He had been given to the wife of a stonecutter to be nursed, and, as he put it, “with the milk of my foster-mother I sucked in the chisels and mallets wherewith I now make my figures.”

We do not propose to attempt the narration of even the main events of Angelo’s life. We can put aside all that is merely personal. Our object is rather to show how he came into contact with the main political and social factors of his age, and how these, in turn, reacted upon his art. Three circumstances single themselves out as all-important—the sculptor’s connection with the Medici family in his early youth, with the city of Florence in his early manhood, and with the Papacy in the prime of life.



Academy of Fine Arts, Florence

[Pg 185] These three powers practically brought into being all that is greatest in Italian art. From our sculptor’s association with them we can understand the influences which were spurring Angelo’s few compeers and his many inferiors to their greatest efforts.


Like many another scholar and artist, Michael Angelo entered the household of Lorenzo de Medici, the merchant-despot of Florence, as a boy. Until his patron’s death he fared like a scion of the family. While it would have been impossible for an impressionable youth to grow up without imbibing something of the spirit of the place, Angelo never thoroughly absorbed the influence of the Medicean court. The time was too short. Before he was twenty it was a thing of the past. But for some years the memory of these joy-days persisted, and it was under their inspiration that the earliest of Angelo’s great works were produced. Of these, the “David,” begun in 1501 and finished in 1503, stands out pre-eminently as embodying the humanist creed.

But the statue of the great loose-limbed youth has an even more vital interest. Nothing could more happily illustrate the relation a great Renaissance artist bore to his countrymen than the circumstances attending the carving of the “David.” It was commissioned by the State of Florence. The first contract signed by the sculptor and the representative of the town sets forth that “the worthy master, Michael Angelo, son of Lodovico Buonarroti, Citizen of Florence, has been chosen to fashion, complete, and perfectly finish the male statue, already rough-hewn and called ‘The Giant,’ 13 feet 6 inches high, now [Pg 186] existing in the workshop of the Cathedral, badly blocked out aforetime by Master Agostino di Duccio of Florence.” In other words, Angelo’s “David”—one of the masterpieces of the world—was cut from a great block of marble that had been so maltreated by an earlier worker that no artist of rank could be found to risk his reputation in finishing it. This alone would be sufficient proof of the immense technical skill of this youth of twenty-six. In addition, Michael Angelo did not even model a full-sized clay figure. He worked with no guidance except a few drawings and wax models some eighteen inches high. His remuneration for this was fixed at £2 6s. a month—workmen, scaffolding, &c., being supplied. “When the said statue is finished,” continues the contract, “the consuls and operai shall estimate whether he deserve a larger recompense, and this shall be left to their consciences.”

History does not record whether the art committee of the Florentine County Council eventually did add to the rather meagre remuneration mentioned in the contract. We have ample evidence, however, that the representatives of the citizens did not shirk their critical duties. Vasari tells of a certain Gonfaloniere, who essayed to justify the opinion that the nose of the David was too big. Angelo listened for a while, and then ascended the scaffolding under which his critic was standing. Taking a chisel in the one hand and a few pinches of marble-dust in the other, the sculptor began to tap lightly around the doubtful spot. From time to time he let fall a little of the dust, but of course did not alter the nose. “Look at it now,” cried Angelo to the Gonfaloniere below. “You have given it life,” replied his victim, rubbing the dust out of his eyes.



Medici Chapel, Florence



St. Peter’s, Rome

[Pg 187] On January 25, 1503, a solemn conclave of artists resident in Florence met in the Opera del Duomo to decide where the great figure should be placed. Piero di Cosimo—readers of Romola will remember him—Cosimo Rosselli, Botticelli, then a man of sixty-six, Filippino Lippi, and Da Vinci were among those present. Francesco Monciatto, a wood-carver, began by advancing the proposition that the statue should be put up before the Duomo, the site proposed for the original work in fact. Cosimo Rosselli and Botticelli supported the proposal. Giuliano di San Gallo then suggested the Loggia dei Lanzi as an alternative on the ground that the marble had been softened by exposure and might not last. The “Second Herald” objected to this, fearing that ceremonies in the Loggia would be interfered with, and his remarks called Leonardi da Vinci to his feet. Finally Piero di Cosimo, a man of the soundest common sense in spite of his reputation for freakishness, with the aid of Salvestro, a jeweller, and Filippino Lippi, carried the proposal that the choice should be left to the sculptor himself on the ground that “he would know better how it should be.” Angelo’s decision was for the steps at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio. The curious may see it in position in the portrait of Francesco Ferruccio, the Florentine general, in which Cosimo used the square in front of the Palace as a background. The work is numbered 895 in the National Gallery collection.

But let us return for a moment to the Court of Lorenzo de Medici and its galaxy of scholars and artists. The creed of the Court of the Magnificent is summed up for ever in the great right hand of the “David.” The sculptor purposely emphasized its size. Michael Angelo desired to lay stress upon the part which the boy took in the struggle [Pg 188] rather than to portray him as a mere instrument. To have been at one with the spirit of the biblical narrative, the weakness of the human agent would have been emphasized—as it was, indeed, in the “David” of Donatello. But the right hand of Angelo’s “David” stands for a new view—the Greek view—of the part mankind must play in the world. Human endeavour, rather than divine interference, is now to perfect man. By his own effort, by the exercise of his own free will, man is to work out his end.

The influence of this new conception upon the art of Michael Angelo is equally noticeable in the “Pieta,” a rather earlier sculpture, and the first work of our artist’s maturity.

The Virgin Mother is seated upon the stone on which the cross had been erected. The dead Christ lies before her. The scene corresponds with nothing in the biblical account. It illustrates no single verse. But it does more. It breathes the very spirit of the Christian narrative, for it interprets its inner meaning in its most vital and useful sense. We can see at once that Angelo would have been false to his art had he been more faithful to the current conception of Christian truth. He was no preacher. He was not expounding a faith. What he took from the Bible story was the divine grief of a mother for an all-perfect son. His task was to translate that without the loss of one iota of physical or moral beauty. Condivi tells us that there were many who complained that the mother was too young when compared with her son, and that he himself laid the matter before Michael Angelo for explanation. The sculptor’s answer is an example of what a perfect humanist—and that is very near to saying a perfect man—would have said. It is so characteristic of the sculptor that no apology for quoting it at length is necessary. “One day,” says Condivi, “I was talking to Michael Angelo of this objection.”




[Pg 189] “Do you not know,” he said, “that chaste women retain their fresh looks much longer than those who are not chaste? How much more, therefore, a virgin in whom not even the least unchaste desire ever arose? And I tell you, moreover, that such freshness and flower of youth besides being maintained in her by natural causes, it may possibly be that it was ordained by the Divine Power to prove to the world the virginity and perpetual purity of the Mother. It was not necessary in the Son; but rather the contrary; wishing to show that the Son of God took upon himself a true human body, subject to all the ills of man, excepting only sin; he did not allow the divine in him to hold back the human, but let it run its course and obey its laws, as was proved in his appointed time. Do not wonder then, that I have for all these reasons, made the most Holy Virgin, Mother of God, a great deal younger in comparison with her Son than she is usually represented. To the Son I have allotted his full age.”

The “Pieta” and the “David” are the typical works of Angelo’s first period—that in which the influences of humanism were paramount. But it is in the sculptures of his second period that we can detect the workings of the deep philosophical poetry which inspired the most characteristic of his works—the tomb of Julius II. and the monuments in the Medici chapel at Florence.

Neither was ever finished. The Medici monuments are the more complete, for the majesty of the sculptor’s first conception for the tomb of Julius II. can now be only guessed from a few rough sketches, half a dozen measurements and the well-known “Moses.” Yet it occupies a unique [Pg 190] place in the history of Italian art as the foremost work by an Italian sculptor which arose directly out of the ambition of the Church to make the Pope’s temporal authority equal his spiritual.

The principle of utilizing the painter, the sculptor, and the architect for this purpose had been enunciated fifty years earlier. Recognizing that the earlier aim, which had sought to enforce a spiritual despotism by making the belief in a God-inspired pontiff universal, had failed, Nicholas V. determined to try the effect of making the Pope into a king. His court was to be the centre of European culture. With the aid of the vast wealth poured into the papal coffers during the Jubilee of 1450, Nicholas began by making the Vatican quarter of Rome a veritable stronghold for the sovereign pontiff. His full ambition was disclosed when his will was read to the princes of the church assembled round his deathbed. In this Nicholas V. showed that the Popes could be secured from internal revolution and external force by one thing only. That was by making the seat of the papacy so splendid in the eyes of Christendom that it would possess the sanctity that had attached to Imperial Rome itself. It was this great aim that Michael Angelo spent the best years of his life in forwarding. The personal ambition of each Pope interfered with the free progress of the great ideal, but it furnished a strong motive for many years, and actuated both of Angelo’s great patrons, Julius II. and Leo X.

After finally settling in Rome Michael Angelo’s first task was the sculptured mausoleum of Julius II. Nicholas himself had started to rebuild the old basilica of St. Peter, in which Julius designed to set up his great tomb. Angelo suggested a great marble monument symbolical of the victory of human energy over death. Upon the lower tiers of a [Pg 191] great pyramid the sculptor showed the arts and sciences which the Pope had loved to patronize. Above were the prophets and graces, of which the great statue of “Moses” was one. The apex of the pyramid was a group in which the earth and the heavens upheld the open tomb where the dead pope awaited the Resurrection hour. In all forty figures. The vastness of the conception can best be realized from the fact that the sculptor spent eight months among the marble mines at Carrara quarrying the necessary stone. The space covered by the design was about twenty-five feet by forty. It was soon found that the basilica was not large enough to contain the monument. “What would be the cost of rebuilding?” asked Julius. “100,000 scudi,” said the sculptor. “Let it be 200,000.” And Michael Angelo set to work.

This great dream was never realized. The sculptor worked upon it for some years and then Julius was persuaded to entrust him with a task at least as great—that of decorating the vault of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.


For almost twenty years Michael Angelo produced no great sculpture. Then came what are perhaps the greatest works of Renaissance sculpture, the monuments in the Medici Chapel at Florence. They were executed at the command of Clement VII., the second Medicean pope. His purpose was to build an abiding testimony to the greatness of his house, which had now become supreme in Italy by making itself as powerful in Rome as it had been in Florence. [Pg 192]

Evicted from Florence, the Medici had turned to Rome. Leo X., a son of the Magnificent, had succeeded Julius. He in turn was followed by Clement VII. To Clement came the idea of building a sacristy in San Lorenzo in honour of the Medici family. His intention was that monuments of Cosimo, Lorenzo, Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, Leo X. and himself should be placed in the sacristy. Only two—those to the Dukes of Nemours and Urbino—were finished. A grim commentary upon the Medicean record, this. The two groups actually completed are identified, not with the memory of Lorenzo the Magnificent and Leo X., but with two illegitimate scions of the house.

The whole building was designed by Michael Angelo himself and was panelled to receive the sculptures, every architectural feature being planned to enhance the emotional effect of the great marble groups. In these, Michael Angelo cast aside the pretty compliments upon which he had exercised his fancy when planning the vast tomb of Julius II.—the sorrowing arts and sciences, for instance. His aim was to create a perfectly beautiful resting-place for the mighty dead. This, and nothing more.

Let us endeavour to follow the train of Michael Angelo’s imagination as it gradually found the definite forms which were to realize its deepest beliefs: “A perfectly beautiful resting-place for the mighty dead.” Could anything be more fraught with all the mingled emotions and thoughts which human philosophy has tried in vain to unravel? Yet Michael Angelo was never surer of anything than that sculptured marble was capable of expressing it all. Even the feelings aroused by this mystery of mysteries—death—were not beyond the cold stone and hot chisel of the sculptor. Allied to this faith—that there was no thought too profound for marble to express—was his favourite fancy that the form of his finished work dwelt in the rough block. His chisel did but release it from its marble tomb. He was not the author, only the agent through whom his work saw the light. As he himself wrote in one of the sonnets:

“The best of artists hath no thought to show Which the rough stone in its superfluous shell Doth not include; to break the marble spell Is all the hand that serves the brain can do.”



The Medici Chapel, Florence

[Pg 193] Moreover, he held that this could be done without the use of symbolism. The simplest natural objects, transfigured by the artist-poet, would carry the profoundest truth.

Let us see how Michael Angelo proved his belief in the all-sufficiency of the art of sculpture in this respect. Choose two typical figures from the groups we are considering.

“Marble griefs, Hewn from a Titan’s heart,”

some one has called them. Say those of “Dawn” and “Night.” Both are female nudes, and illustrate a vital feature in Michael Angelo’s technique—his preference for the male over the female form. The Greek sculptors before Praxiteles had the same preference. The male form made a more vital appeal to them than the female. With its infinitely greater variety of surface and its greater diversity of posture, it expressed more directly the vast complexity of human energies which their age had seen spring into being. Two thousand years later the times gave rise to thoughts no less profound and to emotions of no less [Pg 194] intensity. And Michael Angelo found that they were too heavy a burden for a woman’s form to bear. That the full sentiment aroused by his conception of “Night” may find expression, the sculptor has lengthened the trunk and the limbs. He has twisted the torso upon the hips. He has added, as it were, a masculine character to the feminine form. He has treated the female nude in the male key. This is a direct reversion of the Praxitelean method by which profoundly beautiful sensuous effects were obtained through treating the male figure in the female key—the “Hermaphroditus,” for instance.

And yet it cannot be denied that the Praxitelean method is what we should have expected Angelo to follow. If the figure of “Dawn” had conveyed nothing save the virgin fairness of form which Giorgione’s “Venus” at Dresden embodies, it would have been more in accord with the popular taste of the first quarter of the sixteenth century. As the political and social situation in Italy grew more desperate (and it was never more desperate than during the years in which the monuments in the Medici chapel were being carved) painting and sculpture had become more joyous. The themes which the artists treated became less and less religious and more and more pagan. This has always been the case. In times of the greatest stress, when the enemy is beating at the very gates, men cannot sustain the soul-tearing emotions which they welcome in their art during times of prosperity. The defeat of the Athenians at Ægospotami did not bring to birth a greater Æschylus who should give shape to the fearful emotions which the men of the earlier age had been spared. No! tragedy vanished. Comedy arose. So it was with [Pg 195] sculpture. Men turned from the griefs of a Niobe and found consolation in the sheer sensuous beauty of Praxiteles’ “Aphrodite.” They preferred the manly charms of Hermes to the awful sublimity embodied in the brow of Phidias’ Zeus. And so in our period, when the horrors which had overtaken the Greek cities were threatening their heirs in Italy, the same thing took place. We find that the typical work is not the brooding figure of “Lorenzo of Urbino” or the “Night,” which Michael Angelo sculptured beneath the figure of Giuliano, but the melodious dreams that floated from the brush of a Correggio. At this very time Allegri was at work upon the decoration of the great chamber of the Abbess of the Convent of St. Paul, Parma. He chose to depict no titanic forms charged with emotion, but covered his ceiling with a vast trellis of vine-leaves and fruit, and in the oval apertures which these formed he placed his groups of genii toying with the implements of the chase. Correggio’s was the manner of his time. His end was sensuous delight and through it, not the dramatic, but the lyrical note, continually sounds.




From The Medici Chapel, Florence

But Michael Angelo was too true a man to dole out lies which should pander to a joyous carelessness. It was his task to echo, not one emotion, but all the emotions which had stirred the Italy of his age. As a mere boy he had seen the men and women who flocked to the Duomo at Florence to listen to the denunciations of Savonarola. He had seen them pass from the Church speechless—“more dead than alive”—because of the great fear which was upon them. Before he was twenty, he had witnessed the coming of the “Scourge,” which the fate had foretold. Then he had passed to “the Eternal City,” the home of the Princes of the Church, [Pg 196] the centre of Christendom, only to find that, to borrow Symonds’s phrase, “the very popes rose from the beds of harlots to unlock or bolt the gates of heaven and purgatory.” It has been said that Michael Angelo worked upon the Medici tombs during the siege of Florence in 1528. He may have been carving these marbles when the artillery of a Medicean army was actually thundering against the Florence that Lorenzo had made immortal. As his thoughts were thrown back by his subject upon his boyhood days, memories of Savonarola—the Jeremiah of the Renaissance—must have come back in a flood. Well may the sculpture in the sacristy of San Lorenzo have been termed

“Marble griefs, Hewn from a Titan’s heart.”

We shall not attempt to translate Angelo’s message into words, but a happy chance has preserved a story which enables us to realize what the sculptor intended to convey by the figure of the sleeping woman we call “Night.” We might have guessed that the firm hips, contrasting as they do with the long limbs and narrow form of the virgin “Dawn,” symbolized the end of a life of suffering. Those worn breasts have suckled many, and the mother, who has watched her children struggling through the cruel breakers of life, is now herself at rest. The figure of “Night” was never intended to carry the gay, sunny message that a Botticelli felt and longed to give forth when he painted such a picture as the “Birth of Venus” or the “Coming of Spring.” The story goes that [Pg 197] Giovanni Battista Strozzi wrote the following epigram, which he placed beneath the marble figure. It ran:

“The Night, that thou seest so sweetly sleeping, Was by an angel carved in the rude stone. Sleeping, she lives; if thou believ’st it not, Wake her, and surely she will answer thee.”

Angelo, seeing this, wrote in reply:

“Sweet is my sleep, more sweet to be mere stone, So long as ruin and dishonour reign. To hear nought, to feel nought, is my great gain; Then wake me not; speak in an undertone.”

It is by the light of such an agonized philosophy that we must interpret the life-work of Michael Angelo. He lived in the midst of a society that was morally rotten. He saw a foreign foe at the very gates of his native city. Could one, to whom “Art’s the witness of what is behind this Show,” throw out careless hints as to the struggle the spirit of man must face before it is released? The almost unnatural poses in such sculptures as those in the Medici Chapel tell of the vehement emotion with which the soul of their author contemplated the “riddle of this painful world.” Michael Angelo would have been false to his mission had he been content to aim at the graceful repose which satisfied Praxiteles. His glory was to make sculpture—the most limited of the arts in this respect—a vehicle for the expression of the greatest of emotions and passions of which the human heart is capable.

[Pg 198]


ITALIAN SCULPTURE FROM 1527 to 1650 a.d.

The aftermath of Italian sculpture is indissolubly connected with two craftsmen of genius and an historical movement of the first order. The men, Benvenuto Cellini and Giovanni Bologna, stand for all that is best in Italian sculpture during the middle of the sixteenth century. The movement—the Catholic Reaction—dominated the following seventy-five years. Dating the periods a little more precisely, the genesis of the earlier may be associated with the Sack of Rome in 1527 a.d. The beginning of the second period may be roughly fixed by the Pontificacy of Gregory XIII., let us say the year 1580 a.d. It reached a climax with the advent of Bernini, the exponent par excellence of the Baroco style, whether in architecture or sculpture.

To bring to birth a Michael Angelo and to nurture his titanic genius was the supreme effort of the Italian Renaissance in the cause of the plastic arts. That is why post-Angelesque sculpture must be associated with the rather depressing image of “the second harvest.” Compared with the productions of the time of Donatello or the fifty years during which the influence of Michael Angelo was all-potent, the Italian [Pg 199] sculpture of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries shows a marked declension. The enthusiasm which had brought the genius of Donatello and Michael Angelo to fruition was waning. Art was no longer imbued with the old intensity of purpose and fervour of imagination.

For this very reason the century which followed the Sack of Rome is of far less importance in the history of sculpture than that which preceded it. But, as many of the phenomena of health are only clear in the light of experience gathered from disease, the circumstances which gave rise to the post-Angelesque sculpture of Italy possess a unique interest. Against the background of comparative failure, the essentials necessary to the production of vital sculpture stand out in the clearest outline.

Starting from the premises that such an art as sculpture expresses the deepest conviction of the people in which it arises, we are led at once from the works to the social circumstances in which the emotions arose. The briefest study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy, shows that all the factors which had lifted sculpture to the summit operated no longer. The free burghers who had built and decorated the Church of Or San Michele or commissioned the Baptistery Gates had been forced to acknowledge the tyranny of a selfish nobility. A source of inspiration like Lorenzo de Medici was replaced by the crew of degenerates who represented the House of Medici in the sixteenth century. In the Roman Catholic Church, too, the Reformation called forth sterner qualities and less sunny energies. The Papacy was forced to relinquish the ideals of Julius II. and Leo X., at any rate for a time. Above all, [Pg 200] intellectual life was entirely divorced from national feeling. Politics—“the art of leading the majority, not where they wish, but where they ought to go”—interested the individual, not, as in the earlier age, the mass of the people.

We have then at our hand the key to the problem. A picture of Italy between 1527 and 1580 will give us the source of the characteristics of the art of Cellini and Giovanni Bologna. A sketch of the political and social consequences of the Catholic Reaction will explain the popularity of Bernini, the typical sculptor of our second period.

First, the politics of sixteenth-century Italy. The outstanding feature of political life at this time was its utter instability. With the solitary exception of Venice, every principality and city was in a condition of constant ferment. State after state ceased to possess the essential elements of political stability. They had been ruined, for the most part, by the attempt to combine freedom within the city walls with dominion beyond. During the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the success attending the methods of Cæsar Borgia had suggested that a combination of moral agility and political knavery might produce the needful balance of power. The advent of the French, the Germans, and later of the Spaniards, destroyed even this semblance of political stability. Italian liberty became a thing of the past. The old absorbing interest in politics vanished, and with it the clarity of thought and logicality of form which public political discussion does so much to foster. In such a country art exists. It does not live. As Mazzini said two hundred years later:

“Without a country and without liberty we might perhaps produce some prophets of art but no vital art. Therefore it is better for us to [Pg 201] consecrate our lives to the solution of the problem, ‘are we to have a country?’ and turn at once to the political question. If we are successful, the art of Italy will bloom and flourish over our graves.”

So much for the political state of Italy between 1527 and 1580. The social was even more anarchical. No reference need be made to the moral code adopted by the leaders of thought and action—to the organized murder by hired bravi, to the general winking at adultery, to the convent intrigues. A low standard of morals by no means involves a low standard of art. But the peculiar viciousness of the morality of sixteenth-century Italy seems to depend upon the connection of this degraded moral sense with a general chaos of social order. The condottieri of the age of Cosimo de Medici were replaced by banditti in the pay of feudal nobles. The old respect for trade disappeared. With the growth of the aristocratic ideals of Spain, the wealthy burgher class, which had been the most stable element in towns like Florence and Milan, vanished. Monopolies were granted to all and sundry. The agents of the Italian princes and the Pope, together with the Spanish viceroys, placed imposts upon all sorts of goods, regardless of the necessities of commerce.

The prosperity of the great art centres of Italy decreased rapidly. Take the case of Rome. A passage from the official report of the Venetian envoy in 1565, Giacomo Soranzo, furnishes a striking contrast between the condition of Rome in the mid-sixteenth century and Rome when Michael Angelo was in his first vigorous youth. In 1565 the aristocracy consisted of a fluctuating nobility and priesthood depending upon the largesses of the chief members of the Papal Court. [Pg 202] At times the population totalled 100,000. During an unpopular pontificacy it fell as low as 40,000.

“The Court of Rome,” writes Soranzo, “is no longer what it used to be either in the quality or the numbers of the courtiers. This is principally due to the poverty of the cardinals and the parsimony of the popes. In the old days, when they gave away more liberally, men of ability flocked from all quarters. This reduction of the Court dates from the Council; for the bishops and beneficed clergy being now obliged to retire to their residences, the larger portion of the Court has left Rome. To the same cause may be ascribed a diminution of the numbers of those who serve the Pontiff, seeing that since only one benefice can now be given and that involves residence, there are few who care to follow the Court at their own expense and inconvenience without hope of greater reward. The poverty of the cardinals springs from two causes. The first is that they cannot now obtain benefices of the first class, as was the case when England, Germany, and other provinces were subject to the Holy See, and when, moreover, they could hold three or four archbishoprics apiece together with other places of emolument, whereas they now can only have one apiece. The second cause is that the number of the cardinals has been increased to seventy-five, and that the foreign powers have ceased to complement them with large presents and benefices, as was the wont of Charles V. and the French Crown.”

The consequence can be readily realized. There was the old demand for pictures and sculptures. But quick returns rather than sound accomplishment were required by the artists and their patrons. A delayed commission would stand but a poor chance of payment. For it [Pg 203] would not fulfil its main purpose—the aggrandizement of a prince or cardinal whose term of power depended upon the life of the Pope or the tenure of office by such a ruler as one of the Medicean tyrants of Florence.

Nor was this all. Not only were the circumstances less favourable but the artists themselves were unfitted for the accomplishment of the greatest tasks. The age, not the earthly parent, is the real father of the man. Lesser spirits attempted to wield a giant’s tools and struggled with themes which Michael Angelo oftentimes failed to make articulate. They sought to obtain his sublime effects by insistence upon such accidents of his style as the exaggerated muscular development or contorted poses of his figures. Immense monuments, suggested by the achievements of the earlier age, were called for. A striving after exaggerated effect replaced the former determination to base every work of art upon the accurate observation of nature and the definite proportion of part and part. The later artists lacked the simple reserve which is only given to men who see life steadily and see it whole. In place of the deeps of Angelo, we find the shallows of Giovanni Bologna and his even less gifted contemporaries. Just because they are shoals, the turmoils surrounding them oftentimes appear tempestuous. But they never suggest the tremendous power which evidences the oceanic depths of the passions of a man who is not only a sculptor but a seer.


The character of a typical sixteenth-century Italian artist has been preserved to us in the “Autobiography” of Cellini. From its pages [Pg 204] we can conjure up the lives of the men who made this fifty years of Italian sculpture. Cellini, be it remembered, is no Bohemian hanging around the outskirts of the artistic world. On his death in February 13, 1571, his brothers of the Accademia delle Belle Arti record: “Messer Benvenuto Cellini was buried with great funeral pomp in our Chapter House at the Annunziata in the presence of our Academical Body and the Company.”

But the “Autobiography” pictures a born swaggerer, a swashbuckler—a bully, if you like—though a gay-hearted genius withal.

Let us examine Cellini’s life story rather more closely. When little more than a youth Cellini was banished from Florence on account of an affray with a party of his fellows. Returning, a second affair necessitated a flight to Rome, where he took part in the celebrated defence of the town against the Constable de Bourbon in 1527. Once more restored to favour in his native Florence, Cellini took upon himself to avenge his brother’s death. A murderous affray with a notary and an ultra-energetic manner of dealing with a rival goldsmith, ended in the two years’ confinement in the Castle of Saint Angelo with which all readers of the “Autobiography” are familiar. And in all these excitements, Cellini is never in the wrong. “What I have done, I have done in defence of that body which God has lent me.” Adopting the apologia which he attributes to one of the numerous Popes with whom he came in contact, Cellini calls upon the world to recognize “that men like myself, unique in their profession, are subject to no laws.”


MERCURY (p. 210)

Bargello, Florence



Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence

[Pg 205] These darker times heralded the halcyon days of Cellini’s life, which began when he exchanged the dungeons of Saint Angelo for the court of Francis I. With a salary of 700 golden scudi a year and the title of “Seigneur,” Cellini joined the painters, sculptors and goldsmiths whom Il Rosso had gathered together for Francis I. (the school of Fontainebleau). Cellini’s work at this time is of small interest to the student of the history of sculpture. In those days he was a goldsmith. The great bronze personification of a water nymph, now in the Louvre, shows that Cellini had already dreamt of fame as a sculptor. It equally shows that as yet his conceptions would not bear the scrutiny a life-sized design necessarily challenges. Cellini’s “Water Nymph” is a glorified piece of goldsmithery.

But on his return to Florence in 1545, Cellini started upon a work that was to silence all doubt as to his capacity to succeed in the realm of pure sculpture. By this time Francis I. had tired of the hot-tempered Florentine. Coming home, Cellini persuaded the reigning Medicean prince to entrust him with a commission for a “Perseus” for the Loggia dei Lanzi. The “Autobiography” gives a vivid account of the sculptor’s four years’ struggle with circumstance. Now, the interest of the Duke and his Duchess waned. Now, money, material, or both, were wanting. The promised salary was not forthcoming. Qualified assistants were denied. Constant quarrels with rivals added to these general difficulties.

We can realize a measure of Cellini’s troubles from his story of the casting of the “Perseus”—one of the most vigorous romances in the history of art. We take up the tale where the cast has been placed in the furnace and the metal introduced. Disaster follows disaster. Whether the details have been coloured by the vivid imagination of the [Pg 206] artist or no matters little. We hear how the heat sets fire to the shop on the one hand. On the other, a rain-storm threatens to cool the furnace, in spite of the stacks of pine that have been piled around the statue and its metal casing. In the midst of the excitement Cellini is suddenly attacked by a violent intermitting fever. “In short, I was so ill that I was forced to take to my bed.” Cellini therefore left his ten assistants to carry on as best they could.

“In this manner did I continue for two hours in a violent fever, which I every moment perceived to increase, and I was incessantly crying out, ‘I am dying, I am dying!’

“My housekeeper, whose name was Mona Fiore da Castel del Rio, was one of the most sensible and affectionate women in the world; she rebuked me for giving way to vain fears, and at the same time attended me with the greatest kindness and care imaginable; however, seeing me so very ill and terrified to such a degree, she could not contain herself, but shed a flood of tears which she endeavoured to conceal from me. Whilst we were both in this deep affliction, I perceived a man enter the room who in his person appeared to be as crooked and distorted as a great S, and began to express himself in these terms, with a tone of voice as dismal and melancholy as those who exhort and pray with persons who are going to be executed: ‘Alas! poor Benvenuto, your work is spoiled, and the misfortune admits of no remedy.’

“No sooner had I heard the words uttered by this messenger of evil, but I cried out so loud that my voice might be heard to the skies, and got out of bed. I began immediately to dress, and giving plenty of kicks and cuffs to the maidservants and the boy as they offered to help me on [Pg 207] with my clothes, I complained bitterly in these terms: ‘O you envious and treacherous wretches, this is a piece of villainy contrived on purpose; but I swear by the living God that I will sift it to the bottom, and before I die give such proofs who I am as shall not fail to astonish the whole world.’ Having huddled on my clothes, I went with a mind boding evil to the shop, where I found all those whom I had left so alert and in such high spirits, standing in the utmost confusion and astonishment. I thereupon addressed them thus: ‘Listen all of you to what I am going to say; and since you either would not or could not follow the method I pointed out, obey me now that I am present; my work is before us, and let none of you offer to oppose or contradict me, for such cases as this require activity and not counsel.’ Hereupon one Alessandro Lastricali had the assurance to say to me: ‘Look you, Benvenuto, you have undertaken a work which our art cannot compass, and which is not to be effected by human power.’

“Hearing these words I turned round in such a passion, and seemed so bent upon mischief that both he and all the rest unanimously cried out to me: ‘Give your orders, and we will all second you in whatever you command; we will assist you as long as we have breath in our bodies.’ These kind and affectionate words they uttered, as I firmly believe, in a persuasion that I was upon the point of expiring. I went directly to examine the furnace, and saw all the metal in it concreted. I thereupon ordered two of the helpers to step over the way to Capretta, a butcher, for a load of young oak which had been above a year drying, and had been offered me by Maria Ginevra, wife to the said Capretta.

“Upon his bringing me the first bundles of it, I began to fill the [Pg 208] grate. This sort of oak makes a brisker fire than any other wood whatever; but the wood of alder-trees and pine-trees is used in casting artillery, because it makes a mild and gentle fire. As soon as the concreted metal felt the power of this violent fire, it began to brighten and glitter. In another quarter I made them hurry the tubes with all possible expedition, and sent some of them to the roof of the house to take care of the fire, which through the great violence of the wind had acquired new force; and towards the garden I had caused some tables with pieces of tapestry and old clothes to be placed, in order to shelter me from the rain. As soon as I had applied the proper remedy to each evil, I with a loud voice cried out to my men to bestir themselves and lend a helping hand; so that when they saw that the concreted metal began to melt again, the whole body obeyed me with such zeal and alacrity that every man did the work of three. Then I caused a mass of pewter weighing about sixty pounds to be thrown upon the metal in the furnace, which with the other helps, as the brisk wood fire, and stirring it sometimes with iron and sometimes with long poles, soon became completely dissolved. Finding that, contrary to the opinion of my ignorant assistants, I had effected what seemed as difficult as to raise the dead, I recovered my vigour to such a degree that I no longer perceived whether I had any fever, nor had I the least apprehension of death. Suddenly a loud noise was heard, and a glittering of fire flashed before our eyes, as if it had been the darting of a thunderbolt. Upon the appearance of this extraordinary phenomenon, terror seized on all present, and on none more than myself. This tremendous noise being over, we began to stare at each other, and perceived that the cover of the furnace had burst and flown off, so that the bronze began to run.



Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence

[Pg 209] “I immediately caused the mouths of my mould to be opened, but finding that the metal did not run with its usual velocity, and apprehending that the cause of it was that the fusibility of the metal was injured by the violence of the fire, I ordered all my dishes and porringers, which were in number about two hundred, to be placed one by one before my tubes, and part of them to be thrown into the furnace; upon which all present perceived that my bronze was completely dissolved, and that my mould was filling; they now with joy and alacrity assisted and obeyed me. I, for my part, was sometimes in one place, sometimes in another, giving my directions and assisting my men, before whom I offered up this prayer: ‘O God, I address myself to Thee, who, of Thy divine power, didst rise from the dead and ascend in glory to heaven. I acknowledge in gratitude this mercy that my mould has been filled: I fall prostrate before Thee, and with my whole heart return thanks to Thy divine Majesty.’ My prayer being over, I took a plate of salad which stood upon a little bench, and ate with a great appetite. I then drank with all my journeymen and assistants, and went joyful and in good health to bed, for there were still two hours of night; and I rested as well as if I had been troubled with no manner of disorder.”

All that splendid energy and craftsmanship could do, Cellini did. The “Perseus” was finished in 1554 and placed in its present position in the Loggia dei Lanzi amid the enthusiastic plaudits of the Florentines. Of the vigour of the design there can be no doubt. The beauty of much of the decoration of the base may be admitted. The figure of the Gorgon at the feet of Perseus is instinct with passion. Note the manner [Pg 210] in which the right arm lies inert, while the lower limbs are still palpitating with life. But one cannot but feel the loss of intellectual beauty and breadth of outlook which might have enshrouded a more philosophical conception of the Greek hero. There can be no question about Cellini’s full-blooded, self-assertive vitality. At any rate, the sculptor of the “Perseus” was no copyist. But he lived in an age when the first spontaneous outburst of imaginative enthusiasm had spent itself. Italy had given up thinking and feeling. So Cellini could express nothing beyond his own passionate personality. He would have approached Michael Angelo if he could have echoed the prayer which Socrates sent up in that plane-tree glade on the banks of the Ilissus.

“Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one.”

Giovanni da Bologna, or John of Douay, as he is also called, was a sculptor of even greater natural talent than Cellini. He was equipped with almost every gift that a sculptor can desire. It has been well said of him that he had “the power of seeing a definite idea incorporated in a form which is the distillation of all the related sensations which go to make up the idea.” This is the Hellenic gift—the essential characteristic of a man who has to express himself by means of marble and bronze. With it went, in the case of Giovanni Bologna, a wonderful feeling for the beauty of line. Technically, his finest endowment was, perhaps, his unique power of expressing swift movement—the best known example of which is the well-known “Mercury” now in the Bargello. Giovanni images the Messenger of the gods as borne on a light zephyr through space. The figure is the very embodiment of energetic action. Yet the harmony which is essential to sculptural beauty is never sacrificed.



Borghese Gallery, Rome



S. Maria della Vittoria, Rome

[Pg 211] But Giovanni Bologna, like Cellini, worked at a time when the force of the humanistic revival had spent itself. He lacked two things, either of which might have placed him among the immortals. One was the perfection of taste which kept Praxiteles in the straight way. The other was the philosophic depth which saved Michael Angelo from overstepping the bounds that separate noble from ignoble art.

As it was, Giovanni Bologna’s craftsmanship continually led him astray. He preferred to master a technical difficulty rather than to find the one design which would vitalize an idea or emotion of real worth. The consequence was such a work as the well-known “Rape of the Sabine Women.” Primarily this group is a study in the contrast between the strength and vigour of the male form and the shrinking softness of the female. The knotty muscles of the man are sharply contrasted with the soft flesh of the woman whom he bears off. The work is full of beauties, whether we regard it as a design or a piece of modelling. It was the precursor of a long line of similar statues, particularly in France, where the influence of Giovanni Bologna was considerable. “The Rape of Proserpine” by Girardon at Versailles is a good example.

But Giovanni Bologna’s “Rape of the Sabines,” considered as an incident in the history of sculpture, is superfluous. The world is surfeited with examples of the magnificent conquest of technical difficulties. Looking at it critically, we are struck with the qualities it lacks rather than with the qualities it possesses. In a sentence, it witnesses to the characteristics of the age for which Giovanni Bologna worked—its material outlook, and its utter neglect of that side of [Pg 212] human experience which, for want of a better word, we call spiritual or divine.

It is with Giovanni Bologna as with Benvenuto Cellini. Some source of inspiration is lacking. Both have lost the habit of artistic worship. They no longer regard every blow of the chisel as in a very real sense forwarding some extra human end. The statue to them is a statue—nothing more. This had not always been the case. As we know it was no empty phrase when Michael Angelo began one of his sonnets with the words:

“When that which is divine in us doth try To shape a face, both brain and hand unite To give, from a mere model frail and slight, Life to the stone by Art’s free energy.”


Angelo really did believe in the divinity of his art. So did the artists of the age succeeding Cellini, Giovanni Bologna, and Sansovino. And it is this fact which adds an absorbing interest to the sculpture of the period dominated by the counter reformation which the sculpture of the previous half-century did not possess. The painters and sculptors who came under the influence of the wave of religious enthusiasm known as the Catholic Reaction fully realized that their efforts were forwarding a great ideal. The patrons for whom they worked, and the men and women to whom they appealed also felt that art which dealt with such matters was of real consequence.

Looking at the problem after the centuries have cleared the air of the dust of dogmatic discussion, we can see that a lasting settlement of the religious controversy had become a necessity for every country [Pg 213] of Europe. We now know that, for one reason and another, peace could only be secured upon a foundation of Protestantism in Scandinavia, in Northern Germany, England, and Scotland. Over the greater part of Southern Europe, Catholicism was finally proved to be essential. Spain, Italy, France, ten of the seventeen provinces of the United Netherlands, Poland, Bohemia and South Germany either declined to be seduced from the authority of the Pope, or eventually returned to the fold.

The fact that the problem was of European rather than national importance, and the memory of the position the Church of Rome had held throughout the middle ages, explains why its regeneration was felt to be a social and political event of the greatest significance. During the first half of the sixteenth century a king like Francis I., and an emperor like Charles V., had reduced the occupant of the Papal chair to the position of little more than a counter in the political game. Now the Roman Church threatened to lead European thought and action as it had during the Crusades.

The seeds of this regeneration were planted in 1542, when Paul III. empowered Caraffa to establish the Inquisition in Rome. At the same time Paul III. sanctioned the Company of Jesus. Caraffa himself became Pope in 1555. His whole policy was inspired by a determination to re-establish the political dominion of the papacy. Caraffa’s successor Pius IV., made an immense step forward when he obtained the sanction of the General Council of the Church to the principle of papal absolutism. A more militant policy was at once possible. Added to this, Pius IV. suggested a return to the older and more subtle forms of political intrigue which the Papacy had used with such effect during the middle [Pg 214] ages. The change ushered in an age of emotions. Note the religious origin of the numberless wars which convulsed Western Europe at this time. Is it surprising that the circumstances which brought this great change about added a passion, an imaginative glow, to the art of the later sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries?

For several reasons, the religious enthusiasm which revivified Italian painting and sculpture proved a poor substitute for the civic enthusiasm of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries which it replaced. The point we are making now is that for good or ill, the Catholic Reaction added a vitality to art in general, and to sculpture in particular, which had been absent for half a century.

The effects of the Catholic Reaction began to be felt upon Italian art about 1580 a.d. Painting quickly offered its aid in spreading the new ideals. Some time, however, elapsed before a sculptor of sufficient genius arose to express the regenerated enthusiasm for Catholicism by means of the chisel and the marble block. Giovanni Bernini (1598-1680), who was born in the full tide of the Catholic Reaction, made sculpture once more a living, social force. The influence he exercised over his age is comparable with that exercised by Michael Angelo. Bernini was a favourite of Maffeo Barberini (Pope Urban VIII.) and played a great part in the reconstruction of St. Peter’s. He had a large school and with the aid of his assistants produced numberless works. He brought an art which had become alienated from every-day life back to the people.

Bernini’s services to sculpture may be likened to those of Giotto to the sister art. What Giotto did for painting by allying his art with the ideals of the Seer of Assisi, and the Franciscans in the thirteenth [Pg 215] century, Bernini did for sculpture by cementing an alliance with the ideals of Ignatius of Loyola and the Order of Jesus. In both cases it is impossible to separate the artist from the general body of thought and emotion which it was his life’s work to express.

Let us look more closely into the ideals which arose with the returning political power of the Church of Rome, and which were destined to find expression in the marbles and bronzes of Bernini.

The necessities imposed upon the men who waged the battle of the Roman church can be gathered from the fourth vow of the Order of Jesus.

“That the members will consecrate their lives to the continual service of Christ and of the Popes, and will fight under the banner of the Cross, and will serve the Lord and the Roman pontiff as God’s vicar upon earth, in such wise that they shall be bound to execute immediately and without hesitation, or excuse, all that the reigning Pope or his successors may enjoin upon them for the profit of souls or for the propagation of the faith, and shall do so in all provinces whithersoever he may send them, among Turks or any other infidels, to furthest Ind, as well as in the region of heretics, schismatics or unbelievers of any kind.”

So far the ideals of the Jesuits were those of the earlier missionary orders of the Roman Church—implicit obedience and whole-hearted devotion. But Ignatius Loyola realized that the times had created a fresh set of circumstances. These circumstances called for a new “regula.” In a letter to Francis Borgia in 1548, the founder of the Jesuit Order wrote— [Pg 216]

“It is better to strengthen your stomach and other faculties, than to impair the body and enfeeble the intellect by fasting. God needs both our physical and mental powers for His service; and every drop of blood you shed in flagellation is a loss.”

In other words, for the sake of enlisting the sympathy of those beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, Loyola was willing to jettison convictions which had been held most strongly in an earlier age. It is all important to realize that these were the very convictions which had militated against a vigorous school of sculpture during the previous papal dominion before the Renaissance. The fresh body of ideals and impulses led to the creation of a new style—the Baroco. Taught by failure, the Jesuit advisers of the Pope now sought the close alliance with the arts exemplified in the sculptures of Bernini.

No more apposite example could be taken than Bernini’s group of “St. Theresa” in S. Maria della Vittoria at Rome. It is an example of all that is best and worst, and most characteristic, in the sculpture of the Catholic Reaction. On the one hand, its striving after the expression of passionate emotion tells of the intensity of faith which animated the militant section of the Church at that time. On the other hand, the vividness with which the scene is portrayed tells of the determination to attract attention and compel comprehension, whatever might be the æsthetic sacrifice.

It is almost impossible for a twentieth-century Englishman to describe the “St. Theresa” group sympathetically. Bernini shows the saint sinking back in an ecstatic swoon on to a marble cloud behind. On one side an angel is discharging an arrow from the quiver of divine love. Perhaps the real spirit of the sculptured scene can be best realized from one of “The Advices which the Holy Mother Theresa of Jesus gave to [Pg 217] her children during her life,” which tells of one of these spiritual trances.

“Once” (says the Saint) “when I was in the hermitage of Nazareth at the convent of St. Joseph in Avila, it being the vigil of Pentecost; and while I was reflecting on the exceeding great favour which our Lord had bestowed upon me on that same day twenty years before, I was seized with an ecstasy, and with strong impetuous and interior movements, which quite suspended all my senses.

“While I was in this wonderful rapture, I heard our Lord speaking.”

It is no exaggeration to say that the true Hellene would have shuddered at the very idea of visualizing such a scene. To have translated it into marble would have seemed to the Hellenic sculptor in the last degree immoral. But it was otherwise with the seventeenth-century Italian. For the sake of the message—for the sake of the spiritual thrill conveyed by such a group as the “St. Theresa”—he was willing to dispense with the repose which had been everything to his Hellenic forerunner. The historical critic can only accept the position. To say that Bernini did wrongly, that his influence made for ill, is really beside the point. The times were against him. But we can truly say that, in view of the experience furnished by the Hellenic and Florentine sculptors, an art other than sculpture could have more properly expressed such scenes as the ecstatic transports of Saint Theresa—possibly poetry, possibly music, certainly not sculpture.

Bernini’s reputation, fortunately, does not depend entirely upon works executed as directly under the influence of the Catholic Reaction as the “Saint Theresa” of S. Maria della Vittoria. In estimating his [Pg 218] genius we are not compelled to rely entirely upon the long series of colossal groups packed with half-draped nudes in wildly fluttering draperies which issued from his studio. His early work, “Apollo and Daphne,” is an effort of extraordinary ability. The design was wonderfully graceful, and the technical skill with which it was worked out promised more abundant result than Bernini’s life’s work eventually showed. For the rest the admirer of Bernini can point to the magnificent series of fountains which he designed and erected. Of these, the “Fountain of Trevi” stands supreme.

The death of Giovanni Bernini in 1680 marks the end of the last effort to keep Italian sculpture alive. The works of Donatello, of Angelo, of Cellini, of Bologna, live to-day. But vital sculptures embodying national or civic aspirations or the ideals of that truly Italian institution, the Roman Catholic Church, were produced no longer. For more than a century, Italian art effort practically ceased. Foreigners came to the great sources of inspiration in Italy, drank, and returned to carry a measure of the precious fluid to their homes in the North. But the Italian knew that “the outward and the inward man” were not at “one.” He felt that “Beloved Pan” would not bestow that “beauty in the inward soul” which had made Greek sculpture a joy for ever. A single sentence of Mazzini gives the historical explanation:

“The Pope clutches the soul of the Italian nation; Austria the body, whenever it shows signs of life; and on every member of that body is enthroned an absolute prince, viceroy in turn under either of these powers.”

[Pg 219]


[Pg 220] 
[Pg 221]



(FROM FRANCIS I., 1515 a.d., TO

Among the commonplaces uppermost in latter-day thought is that which usually finds expression in the phrase, “For East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Whether this dogma be ultimately true or not it certainly enshrines a far-reaching truth. The difference between the typical Eastern and the typical Western mind goes down to the deepest philosophical beliefs of both. The circumstances under which the two types have been moulded differ so widely that they hardly appear to move on the same mental plane.

But the Eastern and the Western are not the only types which offer the strongest contrast the one to the other. Between the North and the South, too, there is a great gulf fixed—a vital historical fact which Heine has expressed with unforgettable vividness in two short stanzas. In the first, he pictures the black fir-tree on the bald hill-brow of the North. He speaks of its icy garb, and shows it sleeping and dreaming amid the eternal snows:

“It sleeps and dreams of a palm-tree, Far off in the morning land, Lonely and silent, pining On a cliff o’er the shimmering sand.”

[Pg 222] For thousands of years the great mountain chains of mid-Europe cut off the man in the North from the man in the South, as completely as the barren steppes of Eastern Europe and Western Asia divided East from West. To this very day the long winters and cool summers, the sombre skies and deep forests, have operated to produce a body of thought and emotion in the North of Europe that differs entirely from that nourished under the clear skies and in the warm winds of Italy and Greece. The mysticism of the Northman, his yearning to be at one with the Ultimate Reality, is foreign to the typical Southern intellect—as foreign as the dim forests, in which the mystical gloom of the Northern imagination arose, are to the fruitful plains in which the sunnier creed of the Southerner had its birth.

These general considerations prepare the way naturally enough for a review of the history of sculpture in Northern Europe. Hitherto we have considered the progress of the art in Italy and Greece. The sunny human creed of the Southern temperament, at any rate, was able to find full expression in marble and bronze. Can we say as much for the mystical philosophy of such countries as Germany, France, Holland and England?

The influence of the prevailing trend of thought can be clearly traced in several northern arts—in architecture and music, for instance—or, again, in a Rembrandt portrait. Surely this is as typical a product of the northern imagination, with its mysticism and gloom, as a picture by Botticelli or Correggio, with its wealth of fancy and its delight in light and space, is of the southern temperament.

But, turning to the work of the northern sculptors, we cannot say this. The deepest emotions of the northern artist have found more natural [Pg 223] expression in the drama, in poetry, music and painting. The reason is not far to seek. All these arts are far more universal in their range. Sculpture depends entirely upon so human a thing as the body of a man or a woman. It is naturally more fitted for the exposition of a creed in which mankind occupies the chief place. Equally naturally, the other arts serve better for the unfolding of a belief which bases everything upon the will of an extra-mundane God, manifesting Himself not in man alone but in the whole of the natural world.

Be that as it may, it is certain that when we turn to the sculpture of the North, we find few traces of the mystical outlook upon life which is implicit in other northern art. By the time the sculptors of the North had acquired the technical skill to express their thought and emotion they apparently found themselves unable to embody their deepest belief in their works. This, no doubt, explains why sculpture has never been a popular art in any Northern country, why it has never occupied the place there which it did in Greece or Rome; why it has always been a stranger art, making its appeal to the few and not to the many.

It must not be imagined that the failure of sculpture to take a strong hold upon the popular imagination of the North has been due to the absence of craftsmen of the first order. Directly the Renaissance in Italy made itself felt in the countries beyond the Alps, a vigorous school of sculpture arose. Nothing could exceed the technical skill and the sincerity of purpose displayed in Peter Vischer’s “King Arthur,” one of the twenty-eight colossal figures surrounding the tomb of Maximilian at Innsbruck. But seeing that the sculptor died in 1529, and [Pg 224] that the best years of his working life practically correspond with the age of Luther’s Reformation, surely something more than earnestness of purpose and profound technical skill might have been shown. The Maximilian memorial certainly proves that the leading German sculptors of the Reformation era had progressed beyond the Gothic decorators whom they succeeded. But why has not the “King Arthur” the vital interest of a Durer engraving? Why does it lack the inspiration of a really fine Holbein portrait? Surely it is because the sculptor had never realized the true meaning of the word “humanity.” He lacked that passionate delight in the beauty of the human body which lay at the root of the Hellenic sculptor’s success. The vital element of a vigorous school of sculpture was wanting. Under these circumstances it is not wonderful that even the standard of craftsmanship attained by Peter Vischer was not maintained by the German sculptors who followed him. The conversion of Germany to Protestantism entailed a general discouragement of all art effort. As had been the case in the early history of the Christian Church, the leaders of the religious movement sternly opposed anything that satisfied the æsthetic cravings of mankind.



The Maximilian Tomb, Innsbruck


Fortunately this sternly anti-humanistic creed was not adopted throughout Northern Europe. In particular, it failed to find acceptance among the Frenchmen who made their country the first power in Western Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As in Germany, [Pg 225] the growth of an independent school of sculpture in France dated from the early years of the sixteenth century when the influence of the Italian Renaissance began to spread beyond the peninsula. The French equivalent of Peter Vischer was Michel Colombe. Colombe was the tailleur d’images to three kings of France, Louis XI., Charles VIII., and Louis XII. His best known work is the tomb of Francis II., Duke of Brittany, at Nantes. But it is rather as the founder of the school of sculpture at Tours that Colombe claims our attention.

Early in the sixteenth century Tours was the foremost art centre in France. Fouquet, the miniaturist, who died about 1480 a.d., was a native of the town. Jean Clouet (Janet), the portrait painter, also lived at Tours for some time. About 1520 there was an official studio in the town, presided over by Babou de la Bourdaisière with a full complement of sculptors, jewellers, engravers, and painters. The chief product of the school of sculpture at Tours was the long series of Royal Tombs at St. Denis, set up by the French kings of the sixteenth century. It is here that we can best estimate the capacity of the earliest native French sculptors.

The similarity in the general design of the royal tombs at St. Denis is so marked that almost any example would be equally illustrative. In many respects the most representative is that of Henri II., upon which Germain Pilon worked for sixteen years. It is remarkable for the magnificent kneeling figures of the French King and Catherine of Medici. But, perhaps, from the historical standpoint, a more instructive example is the tomb of Louis XII., by Jean Juste. This was [Pg 226] removed from Tours to St. Denis in 1531. It therefore represents the sculpture of a period midway between Michel Colombe and Germain Pilon.

Jean Juste’s design is of a highly conventional character. As in the tomb of Germain Pilon, the central figures are the nude corpses of the King and Queen, rendered with a realistic fidelity which, at any rate, commands respect. Above the tomb Louis and Anne of Brittany figure again. This time they are pictured as in life and fully dressed. The keynote of Jean Juste’s work—its vigorous truth—is the same as that pervading Peter Vischer’s “King Arthur.” Like the work of the Nuremburg sculptor, it is devoid of real charm. It entirely lacks the emotional quality which attracts us in Quercia’s “Tomb of Ilaria del Caretto,” though five hundred years have passed since it was set up in the Cathedral at Lucca. Unlike the Italian sculptor, the French artist has failed to realize the peculiar power of marble and bronze as a medium of artistic expression.

Even in the days of Jean Juste (about 1530), however, a change was beginning. It became an accomplished fact a few years later, when the French sculptors finally abandoned the effort to express the thoughts and emotions of the masses and accepted the lesser responsibility of catering for the needs of the few. The importance of French sculpture during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries arises entirely from its association with the dominating factor in the history of the time. The age in which France was the first power in Europe was an age of the few, not of the many. This fact entailed the loss of much that might have been stimulating. But, at any rate, it enabled the sculptor to appeal to those who were shaping the history of their time. [Pg 227]

Roughly, the political situation was as follows:

As the sixteenth century advanced it became evident that France could only preserve its place in the councils of Europe through an all-powerful monarchy. The earliest French king to realize this was Francis I., who succeeded to the throne in 1515 a.d. He was then twenty-one years of age. He proved to be the first Renaissance king of France, as Louis XII., his predecessor, had been the last mediæval monarch. Francis’ experience during the early years of his reign showed the absolute necessity of concentrating the resources of France into the hands of the king. His first step was naturally to deprive the French nobility of the power it had exercised in the past.

The effect of this general policy upon sculpture was instantaneous. If Julius Cæsar and Augustus were the fathers of Roman portraiture, Francis I. was the creator of what we term French sculpture. In the first place, Francis was forced to create an imposing Court where his turbulent nobles could be tamed into courtiers. This required the building of palaces where the reformed Court could meet. In other words, circumstances compelled Francis I. to be a great builder. The fortresses, which had been necessities during earlier centuries, were needed no longer. These were either suffered to fall into disrepair or the gloomy buildings with their turrets and moats were replaced by manorial châteaux with their lawns and their bowers. Naturally the king led the way. Equally naturally the necessity of building compelled him to become an energetic patron of the decorative arts. When Francis started to put up the Château of Chambord he employed such sculptors as Goujon, Bontemps, Cousin and Germain Pilon as a matter of course.

Francis’ greatest effort was the building of the Palace of [Pg 228] Fontainebleau. It was begun in 1528. In a very short while he found that he could not rely upon French native talent for the extensive decorative scheme which he had planned. The discovery was not a new one. As early as 1495 Charles VIII. of France brought “makers of ceilings and turners of alabaster” from Florence and Milan. Cardinal d’Amboise, the minister of Louis XII., persuaded a number of Italian artists to try their fortune in Paris. He also installed several others at the Château de Gaillon. In those days the art instinct in France was dead. At the time when Raphael was working in the Vatican, the walls of the Cardinal d’Amboise’s castle at Gaillon were decorated with leathern hangings or simply-patterned cloths. No Frenchmen had considered the possibility of decorating his living rooms with pictures.

Under these circumstances Francis I. was compelled to turn to Italy. First Rosso and Primaticcio were summoned. A few years later, in 1537, Cellini accepted an invitation and spent some time at the French court. We can judge of the artistic enthusiasm of the kind and the marked change in the general appreciation of art owing to the growth of Court life from a spirited chapter in Cellini’s “Autobiography.”

While Cellini was in France, Primaticcio had been sent to Italy to collect art treasures on behalf of the king. The painter returned with the moulds of some of the most celebrated statues of antiquity. Bronze castings were made from these at the foundry at Fontainebleau and the statues were finally set up in the long gallery at Fontainebleau ready for the king’s inspection. They included the Vatican “Ariadne,” the “Apollo Belvedere,” the “Laocoon,” the “Aphrodite of Cnidus” and the “Hercules Commodus.” Cellini had certainly some ground for complaint [Pg 229] when he found his silver statue of Jove placed in such a company, and it is not surprising that he attributed the chance to the envy of his rival, the painter. Readers of the “Autobiography” will remember the wealth of artistic detail intended to “add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative” with which Cellini narrates how the malice of Francis’ mistress, Mme. d’Estampe, was used against him. The visit of Francis to the gallery was delayed until evening in the hope that Cellini’s silver statue would appear mean among the ancient masterpieces with which it was to be shown. Of course the wayward Florentine was fully equal to the emergency. He placed a great torch in the hand of Jove and ordered his assistant to avoid lighting it until the king had passed the rest of the statues and was inspecting the silver one. The flood of light produced the effect which Cellini had anticipated. It was the modern statue, not the old-time bronzes which appeared the more effective.

The experience of Cellini at the Court of Francis I. proves that sculpture in France had now a body of influential and appreciative patrons—the first essential of a strong art movement. As we have seen, these patrons had very solid reasons for the interest they extended to the artists they employed. Francis’ marked preference for painting and sculpture of the Italian manner was not, however, without drawbacks. By selecting Rosso and Primaticcio to supervise the decoration of the palace at Fontainebleau, Francis practically endowed a foreign style. No doubt his judgment was sound. The native sculptors and painters had neither the experience nor the skill to carry out a scheme so foreign to anything upon which they had worked before. [Pg 230]

In a very short while, however, the example of the Italians and the heavy premium placed upon any artistic talent led to the rise of native sculptors of distinction. The first French sculptor of supreme ability was Jean Goujon. The name first occurs in the building accounts of St. Maclou at Rouen in 1540. By 1547 Jean Goujon had entered the service of Francis I. Two years later he was at work upon the Fountain of the Innocents of Paris. The most instructive example of Goujon’s work is, however, the famous “Diana” now in the Louvre. The statue originally surmounted a fountain in the courtyard of Diana of Poitiers’ Castle of Anet, built by Henry II. for his mistress. The marble rested upon a sarcophagus raised upon tier after tier of carved decorative work. It was, therefore, intended to be viewed at an elevation, as can be seen in the well-known drawing by Goujon himself at the British Museum.

In estimating the genius of Goujon, the fact that he was first and foremost an architect must never be forgotten. The full beauty of his statues can only be properly appreciated when considered in connection with the sites for which they were designed. When we realize the decorative scheme of which a statue like “Diana” was intended to be the culminating-point, we can see that the claims of Goujon to be considered as the founder of modern French sculpture are not ill-founded. In addition to its fine decorative effect, the “Diana” possesses that balance which has always been a feature in the finest French art. For the rest, Goujon owes some prominent characteristics of his style to Cellini and the painters of the Fontainebleau school. Note, for instance, the elongated limbs and the over-slender proportions of his figures which Goujon has accentuated [Pg 231] in his endeavour to endow his statues with all possible grace. The justification for the inclusion of Goujon among the great masters of sculpture depends upon the fact that he was the first French sculptor to introduce the nude figure as an object of æsthetic admiration into French decorative art. In doing so he freed French sculpture from the bonds of asceticism, and showed how its eventual greatness was to be secured.



Louvre, Paris

Nor does this exhaust the interest attaching to Goujon’s “Diana.” It equally emphasizes the second great characteristic of French sculpture—its connection with the feminine element, which has always been a dominant factor alike in French art and French social life.

It is said that in the statue of “Diana,” Goujon has portrayed the form of his patroness, Diana of Poitiers. And, indeed, the cold nude figure of the goddess of Chastity might well serve as a character-sketch of the passionless beauty who captivated the Dauphin Henry when he was half her age, ruled France for half a decade, and—a poseuse to the last—died leaving large sums to found a home for repentant Magdalens of Paris. Almost every prominent French artist during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries was closely connected with one or other of the Court favourites. In the case of Goujon it was Diana of Poitiers. His career was immensely helped by the friendly aid of the mistress of Henry II.

The part played by Diana of Poitiers in the career of Goujon can be paralleled from the history of almost every prominent French artist. Indeed, women played so great a part in French Court life that it would be strange if traces of their influence could not be readily found. French sculpture was in the first place an art of the Court. It was [Pg 232] equally an art of the boudoir. For the market-place and the forum of the Hellene, the Frenchman substituted the bedroom. Here policies were discussed and shaped; here culture grew and the arts were moulded. A complete history of the relationship between French sculpture and French womanhood would certainly prove that the influence of the French Court beauties upon sculpture was at least as potent as that of the “blue stockings” led by Madame de Rambouillet upon literature.

One thing, however, must be remembered. This influence differed entirely from that which Phryne exercised over the art of Praxiteles, La Bella Simonetta over Botticelli, or Emma Hamilton over Romney. It was not emotional, but material. The impulse behind it was not love, but a desire for power. Indeed, the same thing may be said of the influence of the Court beauties upon French life in general. When the Marquise de Montespan set herself to attract the attention of Louis XIV., she knew that he did not love her. “He knows that he owes it to himself to possess the most beautiful woman in France.”

This holds true of most of the other women who exercised such power throughout this period of French history. Montesquieu has summed up the motives inspiring their efforts in a sentence in the “Persian Letters”:

“Do you think, Ibben, that a woman consents to be the mistress of a minister for love of him? What an idea! It is in order that she may lay before him every morning five or six petitions.”

The far-seeing Frenchman enables us to grasp what the blackguardly old father-in-law of the Marquise de Montespan meant when he heard of his [Pg 233] daughter’s success, and cried, “Here’s fortune knocking at my door at last.”

Had the influence of the women of France been of a more emotional character, French sculpture would doubtless have approximated much more closely to that of Greece during the age of Praxiteles. As it was, it leaves us cold. It has the feminine grace but not the feminine passion. It seems to be inspired by a love which would stop at flirtation, fearing to lose itself in the depths of complete surrender.


The insistence upon the social circumstances which moulded the earliest phase of French sculpture is justified when it is remembered that they were no less important during the two following epochs. Until the coming of the Revolution, France was ruled by an absolute monarch, and practically all the artistic life of the country centred around him. Throughout this time French sculpture was dominated by its connection with a great court, and by the feminine influences which were so potent in French Court life. The great revival of sculpture during the reign of Louis XIV., which now claims consideration, is at once explained when it is correlated with the fact that political considerations forced France to accept an even more absolute monarchical rule, and an even more complete centralization of French culture than had been necessary in the time of the Valois kings.

At the end of the sixteenth century Henry IV. had settled the religious difficulties in France, and had proved how heartily the advent of a [Pg 234] monarchy able and willing to vindicate its authority was welcomed. The administrative zeal of Sully, Henry’s minister, and the taxation reforms which he carried through, laid the foundations of the vast wealth which Louis XIV. controlled. Without this the great efflorescence of art, a few years later, would not have been possible.

But the complete supremacy of the French king in the seventeenth century was due rather to pressure from surrounding nations than to internal considerations. The reign of Louis XIV. was the age in which Europe reconstructed her political system upon the principle of territorialism under a system of absolute monarchy. The natural complement of Sully, with his maxim, “Plough and cow—these are the breasts of France whereat she sucks,” was Richelieu, with his vigorous foreign policy. Richelieu carried the ideals of Francis I. and Henry IV. to their furthest limit. In everything Richelieu was pro-Louis—never pro-France. He was not satisfied until the whole financial and judicial administration had been brought under royal control by means of a bureaucracy depending entirely upon royal favour.

The brilliant success of Richelieu’s policy was evident when the peace of Westphalia left France with an Eastern frontier bordering on the Rhine. The Frankish kingdom of Charles the Great, for which France had been struggling for centuries, was secured. In 1661, after the death of Mazarin, Louis found that he could carry the policy of centralization one step further. As he himself put it, “In future, gentlemen, I shall be my own Prime Minister.”



Church of St. Philip of Neri, Genoa

One of Louis’ first acts as a complete autocrat was to commence building the Palace at Versailles. The place lay ten miles out of Paris, and the king had visited it in 1651 when a lad of thirteen. [Pg 235] The Château evidently engaged his fancy, for between 1662 and 1669 he did much to adorn the parks. At the end of this time he started to build in real earnest. The magnitude of the work can be realized from the fact that 36,000 men were still at work in the palace and park when the Court moved in on May 6, 1682. Some twenty million pounds sterling were spent in twenty years. But expense, after all, was a small consideration. The palace at Versailles was not a luxury but a necessity. It was to Louis XIV. what Fontainebleau had been to Francis I.

The first impulse of the courtly party had been to make the Louvre the headquarters of Louis. Colbert, Louis’ financial adviser at the time, was an ardent advocate of the Louvre. So much importance did he attach to the scheme that in 1665 the great Bernini was summoned from Italy to advise as to extension of the Louvre. Louis’ judgment was sounder than that of Colbert’s in this matter. He saw that a Court in the centre of Paris was out of the question. The nobles composing it would have been far too easily influenced by intrigues started amongst the restless bourgeoisie of the French capital. Moreover, apart from this political objection, there was the practical difficulty caused by the absence of sufficient space. Room for a great palace was not the only requirement. If the nobility were to be permanently settled around the king, a small township was essential. The hotels de Richelieu, de Condé, de Soissons, de Noailles, du Plessis, de Guise, and de Saint Simon, which eventually arose at Versailles, had to be provided for.

Yet Colbert, who realized the difficulty of meeting the heavy [Pg 236] expenditure, was very insistent. In a last effort to dissuade Louis from the enterprise he wrote:

“Your Majesty knows that, apart from brilliant actions in war, nothing marks better the grandeur and genius of princes than their buildings, and that posterity measures them by the standard of the superb edifices which they erect during their lives. Oh, what a pity that the greatest King, and the most virtuous, should be measured by the standard of Versailles.”

Louis, however, had his way, and Colbert was forced to find the necessary funds.

Could the subtle relation between art and politics be more aptly illustrated? The connection between the patronage of Louis and the growth of French sculpture in the latter half of the seventeenth century is equally clear.

Perhaps the best known sculptor who depended upon the patronage of Louis XIV. was Pierre Puget, who came to the Court in 1688, late in his career.



The Gardens, Versailles

The “Milo of Crotona,” in the Louvre, is often cited as Puget’s most typical work. An equally good illustration is the colossal group “Perseus and Andromeda.” Both were commissioned by Louis XIV., and the anecdotes relating to the statues prove the close interest the king took in their execution. The story runs that after seeing the “Milo,” Louis proposed that the sculptor should start upon another work, “if he is not too old to undertake it,” he added. The remark was repeated to Puget, who replied characteristically: “I am in my sixtieth year, but I still have ample force and vigour, for great works sustain me.” The “Perseus and Andromeda” took two years. Finally Puget sent his son to present it to Louis. “Your father is great and illustrious; there is no man in Europe to equal him” was Louis’ verdict. Even more attractive [Pg 237] is Puget’s “Immaculate Conception,” which dates from about 1665, and was designed for the Oratory of Saint Philip of Neri at Genoa, where it still remains. At fourteen years of age Puget had started by carving the ornamental decorations of the galleys at Marseilles. A few years later, however, he visited Italy, where he fell under the spell of the Italian artists of the Catholic Reaction and, particularly, of Bernini. “The Immaculate Conception” represents Puget in his Bernini mood. The French sculptor never altogether escaped from Bernini’s tendency towards theatrical restlessness, but when his statues are compared with the passionless and artificial productions of most of the French sculptors of his day, it is clear that the Marseilles artist represents a real advance. For the rest, Puget introduced into sculpture the sensuous representation of flesh—the suggestion of the living texture—which the Italians term morbidezza. In this respect, he has fathered a long progeny of sculptors, ending with such ultra-modern artists as Jules Dalou and the Belgian, Jef Lambeaux.

If Pierre Puget was closely connected with Louis XIV., Francis Girardon (1628-1715), the second great sculptor of the seventeenth century, was equally identified with Versailles. The decoration of the palace proceeded under the general direction of Charles Lebrun, the painter. Girardon acted as chief inspector of sculpture under Lebrun. The post was no sinecure. In all, ninety-five sculptors were employed, and about half a million sterling was spent upon sculptural decorations. The greater part of this was expended upon the fountains in the gardens.

The elaborate nature of these garden decorations can be realized from Girardon’s great group “Apollo and the Nymphs.” This is still at [Pg 238] Versailles, but it has been moved to the grotto in which it is now to be seen—the so-called Temple of Thetis.

But the greatness of the seventeenth-century sculptors of France cannot be properly appreciated from any single work. The keynote of the Louis Quatorze style is the fact that the work was intended to enhance the effect of the room or garden in which it was placed. Alone it is as meaningless as a Greek pedimental group away from the temple it was designed to decorate. A just judgment of the genius displayed in Girardon’s “Apollo and the Nymphs” presupposes a mental picture of the Gardens at Versailles.

They were designed by André le Notre. When Louis commenced to rebuild the old château the gardens consisted of two groves. The rest was practically an uncultivated wood. It is told that after André le Notre had satisfied himself as to the general scheme to be followed he laid it before Louis. The king wandered with the great garden-architect through the grounds talking the matter over. As le Notre explained his ideas Louis became more and more enthusiastic. “I give you 20,000 francs,” he cried. André le Notre moved on to another point and developed a new aspect of his scheme. “I give you another 20,000 francs,” exclaimed the delighted Louis. After the third or fourth repetition André began to feel hurt. “Your Majesty,” he said, “if I tell you more you will be a ruined man. You must leave the rest to me.”



Louvre, Paris



Louvre, Paris

The results must have more than reached the king’s anticipations. In those days, the gardens were studded with statuary. There was, for instance, the early Fountain of the Dragon. Water spouted from the beast’s mouth to a height of twenty-eight metres. Around sported four [Pg 239] dolphins, while the design was completed by the cupids seated on swans, which darted their arrows at the dragon in the centre. Similar groups arose from every basin. Two of these were set up on the terrace. A double flight of stairs, richly ornamented with statuary, led thence to the grounds. Here the wanderer came upon such a beauty spot as the Allée d’Eau, with its border of pines and its hundred and four copper vases set with yew-trees. Throughout the Walk were groups of statues. Or, maybe, he visited Girardon’s “Pyramid.” This consisted of four superimposed basins. The highest was supported on four cray fish, the second on four dolphins and the others on tritons, the lowest tier rising from the four larger tritons who swam in the great basin. The lavish expenditure upon the sculpture at Versailles may be judged from the payment of 1400 livres in 1671 to the painter-gilder Bailly “on account of the gilding and bronzing applied to the fontaine en pyramide.”


If a clear realization of the gardens at Versailles is necessary for the true appreciation of such a work as Girardon’s “Apollo and the Nymphs,” the interior of a French palace must be pictured if the smaller sculptures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are to be understood. The sculptors worked with the knowledge that their works were eventually to be placed in such rooms as the Salon of Venus at Versailles with its marble walls, its green velvet hangings and silver chandeliers, or the Throne Room, with its decorations of crimson and [Pg 240] gold, its ceiling by Delafosse and pictures by Titian, Guido Reni, Rubens and Van Dyck, or even the great Galérie des Glaces, 240 feet in length, with its seventeen great windows framed by Corinthian pilasters, and faced by the seventeen mirrored arches running along the opposite side. Many sculptures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which we rightly consider insipid and unsatisfying, may well have served their purpose at the time. They cannot, however, be properly judged apart from the richly decorated salons which they were designed to complete.

This is true of a portion of the sculpture of Louis Quatorze. It is even more true of practically all the sculpture of Louis Quinze and Louis Seize. If the seventeenth century was the period of the great decorative sculptors, the characteristic of the eighteenth century was its demand for smaller works. The reign of Louis Quatorze had been a building age. In the main, it called for architectural sculpture. Eighteenth-century taste, however, ran in the direction of the single-figured statue and the statuette. The tendency was exactly that which, in the art of painting, produced a Watteau and a Fragonard in place of a Nicholas Poussin and a Charles Lebrun. The growing popularity of smaller statues was the equivalent of the increased demand for easel pictures.

Under the circumstances it is not to be wondered that the eighteenth-century French sculptors lost the fine sense of decorative effectiveness with which the school of Louis XIV. had been endowed. As a consequence they were far less successful in carrying out the larger public works which every nation demands from time to time. On the contrary, the smaller works produced in the eighteenth century were [Pg 241] often instinct with vivacity and charm. It was only when they essayed the greater tasks that the sculptors failed to throw off completely what may be termed the boudoir manner.



Musée Cluny, Paris

Our meaning may be illustrated from the history of the tomb of the Marshal de Saxe in the church of St. Thomas, at Strasbourg. It was designed in 1756, by Jean Baptiste Pigalle—then the foremost sculptor in France.

Marshal de Saxe was, of course, the victor at Fontenoy, and Pigalle depicts Death welcoming the hero while France vainly attempts to stay Death’s hand. The scattered trophies, as well as the Austrian eagle, the Belgian lion, and the English leopard, speak of the Marshal’s success as a soldier. The work is clearly a national memorial, and, had it been the work of a great national sculptor, would have suggested national feeling and pride in every line and mass. In point of fact it is evident that it does nothing of the kind. The sculptor, finding himself unable to feel the design as a whole, has been content with “building up” the memorial. Being a competent craftsman he naturally produced a satisfactory, if uninspired, work.

There is a quaint little story concerning the inception of the Saxe Memorial which happily illustrates the mood in which Pigalle designed the work. The Marshal’s reputation for gallantry was by no means confined to military affairs. He was, perhaps, the only commander who ever entered into a campaign accompanied by a first-rate opera company. Pigalle was well aware of this. That no side of the dead commander’s character might be unrepresented, he added the figure of Love with torch reversed. “The Marshal cared equally for love and war. Love must figure among the mourners,” he explained. The Marshal’s friend objected, and finally Louis XV. was asked to intervene. To satisfy all [Pg 242] parties, the King decreed that Cupid should wear a helmet—“the insignia of the genius of war,” as he explained. But Pigalle was not to be moved, “Aujourd’hui,” he said; “je plie, mais je me redresserai bientot.”

It will be seen that Pigalle proved right. To this day Love is without his helmet. Moreover, the tiny god is perhaps the most charming figure in the great monument, a lasting reminder that the genius of the eighteenth-century sculptor dealt more naturally with the dainty and the graceful than with the great and the sublime. Pigalle’s own reputation depends much more upon his charming “Mercury putting on his Sandal” (The Louvre) than it does upon the far more ambitious memorial at Strasbourg. This is equivalent to saying that Pigalle was at his best when he was most interested. The same remark applies to his fellow sculptors. Seeing that men’s interests had moved in the direction of the boudoir, a boudoir art naturally followed.

The demand for smaller works increased as the eighteenth century went on. No sculptor reached the height attained by Watteau and Fragonard in the sister art of painting, but an immense amount of fine sculpture was produced.

The typical Louis Quinze and Louis Seize style is well represented by the work of the Parisian sculptor, Etienne Maurice Falconet (1716-1791), a pupil of Lemoyne. His “L’amour Menaçant” is a charming instance of the skill with which the eighteenth-century sculptors adapted themselves to the wider range of subjects created by the new demand.



Louvre, Paris

Falconet shows the god of Love, with a finger of caution at his lips. The idea of the hand slyly stealing round to the quiverful of arrows [Pg 243] slung across his shoulder is expressed with delightful art. The dainty work is remarkable for its grace and the vivacity of expression animating it. It is significant that the work was commissioned by Madame de Pompadour in 1756.

Two more sculptors call for notice before we close this chapter—Clodion and Houdon. Both were followers of Pigalle and both lived to a good old age and worked well into the nineteenth century. But in essence their work was dominated by the factors which moulded the rest of the sculpture of Louis XV. and Louis XVI.

The lesser of the two men, Claude François Michel, called Clodion, was to sculpture what Boucher was to painting. His favourite subjects were satyrs and bacchantes, as, for instance, in the “Satyr with Flute,” with which we illustrate his art. Some of his most delightful works are at the Musée Cluny. There is also a fine “Satyr and Nymph” in the Wallace collection at Hertford House, London. With rare exceptions, all Clodion’s works were designed for the drawing-room or the dancing-hall. He was a master of the statuette and, perhaps, without a rival in the skilful use of terra-cotta.

It is easy to cavil at the frankly sensuous style of Clodion but, after all, his justification is complete. It depends upon the success with which he carried out that at which he aimed.

On the whole, the great body of eighteenth-century French sculpture defies criticism by the same triumphant grace and vivacity and the same plea that what was aimed at has been done. There are times when

“Eternal smiles its emptiness betray As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.”

But, judging it by its own standard and looking for neither deep [Pg 244] feeling nor high thinking, it amply justifies its place among the art movements which have given humanity a fresh thrill.

Houdon (1741-1828), the last of the eighteenth-century French sculptors, was a far greater artist than either his master Pigalle or Clodion. He lived throughout the sculptural period dominated by Canova, and might, on that account, claim consideration in our next chapter. Houdon as an artist, however, seems to have been little impressed by the events of the French Revolution, so we have chosen to represent him by two of his earlier works.

Like many other French sculptors of genius, Houdon won the Grand Prix at the outset of his career and directly after visited Italy. While there he modelled the well-known “St. Bruno,” of which Clement XIII. said “he would speak were it not that the rules of his order enjoin silence.” A little later came the celebrated “Diana,” perhaps the most remarkable work by an eighteenth-century French sculptor in view of the originality of its design and the skill with which the technical difficulties incidental to such a pose are overcome. There are various replicas of the “Diana.” The Hermitage copy is in marble, and dates from 1780. The Louvre bronze was cast in 1790.

Houdon’s “Voltaire” is equally famous. This, too, exists in more than one state. There is the seated figure belonging to the Comédie Française—recently moved to the Louvre—as well as the bust which we have preferred to reproduce. The latter represents the old cynic during the last weeks of his life. It is a magnificent instance of Houdon’s unrivalled power in the expression of mental vivacity. It is said that the sculptor had complained to a friend, the Marquis de Villevieille, that the old wit’s face had lost every vestige of life. Villevieille [Pg 245] realizing that Houdon’s sitting might well result in failure, bethought himself of the crown which Brizard, the actor, had placed on Voltaire’s head during his triumph at the Français. The next day while Houdon was working before his model, Villevieille suddenly placed the crown on the old man’s head. For a moment the ancient fire returned. It was only for a moment. Bursting into tears, Voltaire cried: “What are you doing, young man?” Then he added bitterly: “My tomb is already prepared; put it on that.”



Fortunately the momentary impression was sufficient. Houdon was able to fix for all time the insight which chance had given him into the secret of the man who, perhaps, did more to prepare the way for the French Revolution than any other thinker. Houdon’s “Voltaire” appropriately closes the history of the sculpture of the French Court. Equally appropriately it ushers in the history of European sculpture during the Revolutionary era.

[Pg 246]



(1789-1848 a.d.)

The period we are now to consider, covering the last few years of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth, is one of the most elusive in the history of sculpture. That is to say, it evades characterization. Moreover, when its individual qualities are stated, it is still more difficult to correlate these with the very definite ideas and emotions astir during a time which includes the French Revolution and the consequent Reaction.

The difficulty in tracing the connection between such men as Canova, Thorvaldsen, Flaxman, and the age in which they worked, seems to be due to the necessity for first abandoning the method which has served us hitherto. In dealing with Greek and Roman, Italian and French sculpture, we have appealed to national history—national circumstances. Now we are concerned with a body of thought and feeling which is not national but European. Instead of thinking in states, we have to think in continents. The men who created the sculpture of the Revolution and Reaction were essentially cosmopolitans; [Pg 247] Winckelmann—Saxon; Raphael Mengs—half-Dane, half-Bohemian; Canova—Venetian; Thorvaldsen—Danish; Flaxman and Gibson—Englishmen, long resident in Rome. They did not drift towards Rome as the Hellenistic sculptors had done, because the city was the centre of the political force of the age. Nor did they come with the purpose of Michael Angelo, that they might add to the glory of a universal church seeking to extend its power over the known world. Far from this being the case, in the early part of the nineteenth century Rome was a no-man’s land. If it stood for anything, it was for a disintegrated Italy and an enfeebled Papacy. At the very time Canova was working there, Italy was powerless to prevent Napoleon stripping it of its choicest art treasures. Anything approaching a national stimulus to sculptural production was entirely lacking.

The first result was the rise of the essentially eclectic style which we recognize in the sculptures of Canova and Thorvaldsen. Nominally, it was based upon a return to the Greek example. In reality, it was no more than a borrowed Hellenism, misunderstood and misapplied by men who did no more than steal “The livery of the Court of Heaven.” We shall not be misunderstood. No one can deny—it is impossible to do so—the graceful beauty of very many statues of the later eighteenth and earlier nineteenth centuries. Indeed, no school of sculpture has produced a larger number of popular works—in the best sense of that rather dubious term. But our criticism is justified by the fact that such men as Canova and Thorvaldsen deliberately set out to interpret their experience in the terms of classic art. They rightly judged this to be the highest achievement attained by the sculptor. Unfortunately, they only filched the Hellenic externals. [Pg 248]

Strange to say, this fervid adoption of a bastard Hellenism coincided with the re-discovery of the principles at the root of Greek art, and, in consequence, with a renewed appreciation of the best qualities in Hellenic sculpture. Throughout the Renaissance and until the middle of the eighteenth century, Europe did not understand Greek sculpture. Even the best judges rated the “Apollo Belvedere” above the “Theseus” of the Parthenon pediment. A truer standard was advanced by Johann Joachim Winckelmann (murdered 1768). His dictum, “Greek art has been perpetuated by Roman copies,” revealed the error which had vitiated all earlier criticism. Aided by the poet-philosopher Lessing, Winckelmann led men to distinguish between the Roman and the Greek elements in classic sculpture—between the Hellenic and the Hellenistic. Winckelmann’s “History of Greek Art,” published in 1764, enunciated all the great principles we now recognize in the best Greek sculpture—its truth to nature, its almost austere reserve, the preference accorded to the typical as opposed to the particular. The “History of Greek Art” in turn led to Lessing’s “Laocoon” and the magnificent exposition of Hellenism in the works of Goethe. Through these three men the very soul of Greek sculpture lay bare to the later eighteenth-century artists.



Villa Carlotta, Lake of Como


Borghese Gallery, Rome


The first really gifted sculptor to absorb the new revelation and give expression to it in marble and bronze was Antonio Canova. Born in 1757, Canova came of a family of sculptors. In his youth he manifested a facility as a modeller which was sufficient to lead his patron, the [Pg 249] Senator Falieri, to make it possible for him to visit Rome. Coming there at the age of twenty-two, Canova encountered the full tide of the ideas enunciated by Winckelmann and his school. Like most successful sculptors, the Venetian was a man of boundless energy. His patrons and rivals in Rome soon became impressed with the belief that Canova was capable of founding a school of sculpture worthy of comparison with those of classic times. Indeed, to-day, it is quite easy to realize the intense enthusiasm aroused by the works of Canova. Such a statue as the beautiful “Cupid and Psyche,” produced in the year 1787, has not yet lost its power to charm. Canova has chosen the moment when Cupid comes to aid the unfortunate girl who has opened the box of Proserpine and has sunk fainting to the earth. It is characteristic of Canova’s sentimental method that he should choose the moment when Psyche, throwing back her head, discovers the god-youth bending over her.

An equally fine example of Canova at his best is the famous statue of “Pauline Borghese,” a work of later date than the “Cupid and Psyche.” The light-hearted sister of Napoleon is represented as Venus, despite the fact that she was the wife of Prince Borghese, the ruler of Piedmont. The story runs that a friend remonstrated with her and ended with the question whether Pauline had not found the ordeal “a trying one.” “Trying, not at all,” replied the Princess, “there was a stove.” The anecdote serves to illustrate the difference between Canova and his Greek predecessors. Comparing the story of Pauline Borghese with that of the Hetaera Phryne, the difference between the spirit animating Hellenic art and that animating the imitation Greek art of two thousand years later is unmistakable. Praxiteles’ statue of Phryne was the incarnation of womanhood as he felt it. Pauline Borghese merely [Pg 250] suggested to Canova a number of graceful lines and masses, which his sense of form enabled him to combine in a pleasing fashion. He willingly preserved a sufficient likeness to compliment the fair model, who had risked a physical and spiritual chill in the cause of art. But the difference between the lasting value of Canova’s “Venus” and that of Praxiteles’ “Aphrodite of Cnidus” can be estimated exactly. It is that which separates the idea of womanhood from the idea of the princely light-o’-love—Pauline Borghese. Canova’s work has not a suggestion of that contact with the eternal verities which is the very essence of a great Greek statue.

No one can doubt that both the “Cupid and Psyche” and the “Pauline Borghese” are the works of a man who feels the full beauty of pure line. If formal grace were the best that sculpture could give us, there would be no more to be said. But the achievements of the Greek masters prove that this is not the case. A work of sculpture can convey a sense of palpitating life, of vigorous emotion, which is worth far more than the graceful beauty with which Canova has endowed his conception of Cupid and Psyche, and the Goddess of Desire.

It cannot be said that Canova lacked any opportunity vouchsafed to the earlier sculptors. Before he died, his reputation rivalled that of the great artists of the Renaissance. In 1802 he was appointed curator of the Vatican art treasures, a post resembling that held by Raphael and Michael Angelo. Like Bernini, he was called to France. Instead of a bust of Louis XIV., Canova’s task was to model a colossal statue of Napoleon. If Canova had had it in him, he might have been a Michael Angelo. As it was, he lived and died Antonio Canova. [Pg 251]

If our estimate of Canova is correct, can more be said for his rival, the Danish sculptor, Thorvaldsen? Thorvaldsen was born about the year 1770, his father being a journeyman wood-carver of ship’s figure-heads. As a boy he worked on the quays at Copenhagen, much as Puget had done a century earlier at Marseilles. In 1793 Thorvaldsen, then a youth of twenty-three, won the Copenhagen Academy’s gold medal and a travelling scholarship, which made a visit to Rome possible. Four years later, in 1797, Thorvaldsen came to Rome.

Between May and December of the previous year, Italy had been overrun by the French. In October 1797 the Venetian territories were divided by Austria and France. In the following February Pius VI. was deposed by Napoleon. Italy had never stood lower in the scale of nations. Perhaps for that very reason Rome was able to welcome artists from all parts of Europe, and imbue them with entirely non-national ideals, drawn from the treasures of art stored in the Eternal City.

“I was born on March 8, 1797,” said Thorvaldsen himself. “Up to that time I did not exist.”

The Dane’s scholarship only amounted to £24 a year, insufficient for the bare necessities of life. But the young sculptor struggled along until 1803, when his “Jason” was purchased by the English banker, Thomas Hope, and he was relieved from his most pressing difficulties. A little later Thorvaldsen found himself the talk of artistic Rome. The Baron de Schubart, Danish Ambassador at Naples, had commissioned a “Cupid and Psyche.” The sculptor was in the midst of the work when his studio at Montenero was struck by lightning. The only model which escaped destruction was the Baron’s “Cupid and Psyche.” Thorvaldsen [Pg 252] himself was in Rome at the time, and the pretty little story naturally ran the round of the studios. The tale caught the fancy of the smart set, ever on the look-out for an excitement, and “the miracle of the marble” became the sensation of the hour. A flood of sonnets and epigrams resulted. Thorvaldsen found himself suddenly recognized as the coming sculptor—second only to Canova.

There is no finer example of the genius of Thorvaldsen than his “Venus.” There is certainly no statue upon which he lavished more care. It exists in several forms, including a fine marble copy in the Duke of Devonshire’s collection at Chatsworth. Starting in 1805, he took ten years to complete the design to his satisfaction. Not that Thorvaldsen was a slow worker. He had no love for the actual carving, and left the greater portion of the marble-work to his assistants. But in the clay he worked with extreme facility, and few sculptors have excelled him in the number and variety of his designs. A statue like the “Venus” proves that he also possessed qualities of breadth and emotional austerity, which cannot be claimed for the prettier works of Canova.

But, judging the life-work of the Danish sculptor in its broadest aspects, the only possible verdict is that which must also be passed upon Canova. Both men preferred to echo an earlier art. They made no attempt to realize nature afresh. This acceptance of a purely artificial creed, based upon their admiration for their Greek predecessors, entailed an abandonment of the personal standpoint which alone gives an art the highest value. [Pg 253]



Duke of Devonshire’s Collection,


Why Canova and Thorvaldsen should have found this necessary in an age which was full of pregnant thought and feeling, is hard to say. One can only note a similar tendency in other branches of European activity in the latter years of the eighteenth century. The painter David, for instance, was content to work to a pseudo-Greek standard, instead of constructing a fresh one, fitted to the new state of things in France. The great picture in the Louvre, “The Intervention of the Sabine Women,” is almost icy on account of the artist’s pre-occupation with the externals of classical art. Were it not for the evidence of David’s portraits one would regard the painter of the “Sabine Women” as entirely lacking in human emotion. As it is, we know that the assumption of classical externals is merely the outcome of a bad habit.

A similar tendency to pose in the outworn robes of an earlier civilization was a common fault among the men and women who sought to bring the ideals of the French Revolution home to Europe. Witness the days which the National Assembly devoted to the unending wrangle over the precise wording of the “Rights of Man.” The time was wasted, not because the Declaration really forwarded the ideal of equality before the law and the abolition of all class distinctions, but because the founders of the American Republic had framed a similar Declaration of Rights. The civic dinners in Paris in imitation of the Spartan manner were equally mere poses. Parisians sat, surrounded by their servants, [Pg 254] at tables spread in the very streets, while fashionable hostesses called upon passers-by to note “how we love equality.” The tendency which led the Parisians to such follies, led Canova, Thorvaldsen, and Flaxman to follow a pseudo-classic style instead of allowing the passions and thoughts astir in their souls to find an adequate method of expression. This initial error deprived even their most ambitious works of that almost mystical appeal which gives the statuary of the greatest Hellenes and Florentines its unique value. Though full of grace and charm, their marbles impress us at once as devoid of either deep feeling or high thinking.

The one sculptor, who absorbed the patriotic spirit generated by the French Revolution, and also found means to express it in marble, was François Rude (1784-1855). Unlike Thorvaldsen, Canova and Flaxman, Rude never lived in Rome. He was French to the marrow. Indeed, when he won the Grand Prix in 1812, he did not take advantage of the opportunity to visit Italy. The son of a Dijon blacksmith, Rude came to Paris in 1807 with £16 in his pocket. He had nothing except an invincible determination to become a sculptor, to ensure success. However, he secured work and joined the École des Beaux Arts. “Seven lost years,” was Rude’s opinion of the time he spent in this centre of academical method. Rude had always been an ardent politician, and the support he gave to Napoleon during “The Hundred Days” led to his exile. After twelve years in Brussels, he returned to Paris—aged forty-three. The exhibition of the “Neapolitan Fisher Boy” in 1833, established Rude’s reputation. The work is now in the Louvre. The circumstances under which it was carved recall those under which Michael Angelo produced [Pg 255] his “David.” Rude was furnished with an odd prism-shaped piece of marble. The delightful ingenuity with which he has used the happy pose arising from the boy’s crossed legs is worthy to be remembered along with the achievement of Michael Angelo himself.



Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Charming as the “Neapolitan Fisher Boy” is, Rude’s genius is more completely illustrated by his great bas-relief in the Arc de Triomphe at Paris. Thiers was Louis Philippe’s minister at the time, and he gave Rude the commission for all the “grande sculpture” upon the Arch. The intrigues of rivals, however, resulted in half of the work being handed over to Etex, and finally, Rude only contributed a single group. This was the “Chant du Départ,” generally known as “The Marseillaise.” The magnificent force and vigour with which Rude has carried out the purpose of the memorial is beyond praise. His task was to perpetuate the fame of the Imperial armies which cowed Europe and won such fights as Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, and Friedland. Surely the difference between the emotion expressed in Rude’s “Chant du Départ,” and any works by the more highly endowed Canova and Thorvaldsen is beyond question. Surely it is equally certain that the difference can only be traced to one thing. The Frenchman was expressing what he felt, whereas, the other two men were only expressing what Wincklemann and Lessing had proved to be correct. Rude was able to infuse his marble with the passion it contains because he had lived through a stirring age. The “Chant du Départ” only nominally dates from the ’thirties of the last century. Really, it was carved in the year 1793, when Rude as a boy of nine, marched up and down the squares of Dijon, with his child-companions in the Royal Bourbon Regiment of the National Guard, [Pg 256] and felt his loyal little heart burning within him as he sang the Marseillaise before the bust of Marat or Robespierre. It makes us feel that it is the direct outcome of real feeling—experienced at first hand.


The sculpture of Rude leads naturally enough to that of Great Britain—the only other country in Europe with national emotions capable of being translated into a vital art at that time.

Unfortunately, no lover of sculpture, writing in English can turn from the art of France to that of his own country without a pang. For hundreds of years, the sculptor met with no encouragement in Great Britain. The land which had nourished the genius of a Shakespeare, a Milton and a Wren, of a Gainsborough and a Reynolds, could only advance a list of shadowy names against the tangible achievements of its great rival on the other side of the Channel. In the early days of the Renaissance, there was some promise that sculpture might obtain a foothold in England as it was doing in France. Henry VIII. and Wolsey took a keen interest in the infant art, and persuaded several Italian artists to take up their abode in England. Such a tomb as that of Henry VII. in the Abbey, the contract for which was made in 1512, affords an interesting comparison with the tombs of the French kings of the sixteenth century. It was the work of the Italian Torrigiano, best known nowadays as the breaker of Michael Angelo’s nose. Unfortunately, Torrigiano was the greatest, and not the least, of the band of foreign [Pg 257] artists who came to England in those days. Consequently, our native sculptors never had the advantage of seeing men like Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Sarto working among them. Torrigiano and Antonio Toto were poor substitutes for Cellini and Primaticcio.

No one can say what would have happened had a more vigorous artistic impulse been received from the country of Michael Angelo and Donatello. But this is certain. Neither sculpture nor painting in England became the living things they were in France. While Francis I. and the three Louis were purchasing statues by Goujon and Pajou, the English kings and nobles preferred to repeat lyrical snatches by such men as Lovelace and Rochester. Almost the only British sculptures from the end of the Tudors to the middle of the reign of George III. were the memorial monuments which still decorate our older churches. For the rest, there was such a work as the Nightingale monument by the foreigner Roubilliac, the still-life carvings of Grinling Gibbons, and the fine tombs by Nicholas Stone in Westminster Abbey.

The profound difference between the English character and the French accounts, in great measure, for Britain’s slowness to develop a national school of sculpture. The temperament which really feels that pure form can adequately express the emotional experience of mankind is rare at any time. It is far less likely to develop among men who prefer positive, concrete mental images than among those who seek the definite, abstract conceptions which the French mind creates. Moreover, during the century after Shakespeare, Britain was fully occupied in settling her religious and political difficulties, and upon such tasks as the absorption of Ireland and Scotland. During the seventeenth [Pg 258] century and the early part of the eighteenth England should be pictured by the aid of Arnold’s magnificent image:

“The weary Titan, with deaf Ears, and labour-dimm’d eyes, Regarding neither to right Nor left ... Staggering on to her goal.”

The Scottish Revolution of 1745 marked the conclusion of the period of political and social stress. By the middle of the eighteenth century Great Britain had “found itself.” The foundations of a system of party government had been laid. The rule of Walpole, “the first Prime Minister of England,” had indicated the direction in which the future of English politics lay. For the first time the country was able to devote a portion of its spare energy to an art which was admittedly not quite attuned to the national temperament.

The establishment of the British Museum was an early indication of the new mood. The Royal Academy, founded in 1768, with Reynolds as its first president, indicated the public recognition that a national school of sculpture was possible. Finally, society—with a capital S—condescended to interest itself in classical art. The influence of this upon English sculpture can be happily illustrated from the history of the “Society of Dilettanti.”

At the time of the foundation of the Society of Dilettanti, between 1733 and 1735, young British noblemen were wont to make the “Grand Tour” through France and Italy, much as the Roman aristocrats had visited Greece and Asia Minor, during the later days of the Republic and the Empire. Usually the Englishman was accompanied by a tutor, who enabled his young charge to acquire the rudiments of a classical art [Pg 259] education. The youth came back to London equipped as an arbiter in all matters of taste. The Society of Dilettanti only admitted such men as these, and its avowed object was to cultivate a taste for works of art which had attracted them during their tours. At first the Society of Dilettanti was little more than a dining club. Horace Walpole, writing in 1743, sneered: “The nominal qualification is having been in Italy; the real one being drunk.”

As the Society became more staid, with the advancing years of its founders, more ideal methods were adopted. Several of the promoters took leading positions in English life. Sir Francis Dashwood, for instance, became Bute’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. The fourth Earl of Sandwich not only enriched the language with a new term and a novel article of diet, but posed as a leader in all branches of English activity from gambling and theatricals to art criticism. In course of time such men as these had the spending of very considerable funds accumulated by the society. The sources whence the Society derived its income make amusing reading. There was, for instance, the “face money,” levied under a rule which ordained that every member’s portrait should be painted by Kneller for the benefit of the Society. Still larger sums accrued from the “Rule Ann. Soc. Undec.” This set forth that any member who was fortunate enough to secure an advance in his salary should contribute one per cent. of the first year’s rise to the Dilettanti coffers. In the Annals, under date January 6, 1744-5, one finds the following: “Received of the Duke of Bedford eleven guineas for having received the place of the first Commissioner of the Admiralty.” [Pg 260]

On the whole, the funds of the Society of Dilettanti were expended with good judgment. Students’ scholarships were endowed in connection with the Royal Academy schools. Finely illustrated works dealing with various antiquarian subjects were published from time to time. Excavations were encouraged. Above all, a body of public opinion was created which took a real interest in classic sculpture.

Proofs of a sincere appreciation of classical art among the leaders of English society in the second half of the eighteenth century could be readily multiplied. We might instance the case of Charles Lennox, third Duke of Richmond, who celebrated his Italian tour by setting up a collection of painting, sculptures and casts in a gallery of his house in Whitehall and establishing schools of art there under Cipriani, the painter, and Wilton, the sculptor. But the supreme evidence of the value of the system is furnished by the case of Thomas, Earl of Elgin. That nobleman was engaged about 1802 upon a mission to the Ottoman Porte. He was fortunate enough to obtain a firman to examine and remove certain “inscriptions” from the Acropolis of Athens, at that time a Turkish fortress. His agents, under this firman, collected the Elgin marbles, which were conveyed to England in 1812 and finally purchased by the British Government in 1816. Even at this date, in spite of the writings of Lessing and Winckelmann, public opinion was in grave doubt as to the desirability of paying the beggarly £35,000 which the Earl of Elgin asked for his treasures. He had spent upwards of £70,000, so the offer was an exceptionally generous one. Even a man like Flaxman was doubtful as to the real value of the marbles. Like many art-lovers of his age, he preferred Raphael to Rembrandt—the “Venus of Medici” to the “Three Fates.”



Victoria and Albert Museum,
South Kensington

[Pg 261] Flaxman was the first English sculptor of European reputation. He was born in 1755 and died in 1826, so his career practically coincided with that of Canova. The son of a manufacturer of plaster of Paris casts, the boy Flaxman was terribly handicapped by a threatened deformity. But when he laid aside his crutches at ten years of age, his natural bent towards art began to display itself definitely. In 1770 he won the silver medal for sculpture at the Royal Academy. Patrons, however, proved few and far between and the necessity for making a living drove Flaxman to accept the commissions for the classical designs made famous through their association with Wedgwood pottery. His real career as a sculptor began in 1787. Like Thorvaldsen he could have said: “I was born when I first saw Rome. Before I merely existed.” When Flaxman returned to England eight years later, his future was assured. He became an A.R.A. in 1797 and an R.A. in 1800.

Perhaps no modern artist has produced work more nearly approaching the sculpture of Greece in spirit. In Flaxman’s best known work, the “Michael and Satan,” we can trace a severe restraint which is foreign to the more florid styles of Canova and Thorvaldsen and which brings the Englishman far closer to the masters of the Hellenic school whom he sought to follow. He equalled either Canova or Thorvaldsen in fertility and purity of design, particularly in bas-relief. But Flaxman also suffered as they had done from a too close adherence to the eclectic influences derived from Winckelmann. When Flaxman sought to portray the intense passions, his borrowed style betrayed him. If intensity of emotion was of little moment in sculpture, Flaxman would rank among the immortals. As a fact, we know that it constitutes its very life. [Pg 262] Consequently, one can only regret that it was not given to the first great English sculptor to emulate the achievements of Gainsborough and Reynolds, and evolve a style capable of expressing the manifold energies of his age in marble, as truly as they did on canvas. As it was, the genius of Flaxman only served to perpetuate a false ideal. His English followers made no effort to rid themselves of the methods which had marred even the finest work of the earlier masters of their school. Truth to tell, Flaxman’s reputation depends much more upon his non-sculptural work than it does upon his marbles—upon his Homeric illustrations, upon his drawings, with their mysterious reminiscences of Blake, for instance. Flaxman’s facility in design was so tremendous that it alone made him stand out far above his fellow sculptors. Added to this, there is a certain natural austerity in his sculptures which distinguishes them from the conventional theatricalities of the earlier eighteenth-century artists and the Georgian and early Victorian sentimentalities which followed. But it would be untrue to suggest that as a sculptor he rose superior to his age. Weighed in the scale of European art, ancient and modern, the life-work of Flaxman contains the same lesson as that of Canova and Thorvaldsen. It stands as a perpetual memorial of the eternal law, that no living art can be built upon a borrowed style—even though that style be Greek.

[Pg 263]


(AFTER 1848)

We are now approaching the end of our task. It only remains to gather together the various strands of our argument, with a view to the solution of the final problem—the position of sculpture in our own times. Though we shall first deal with the art of France and then turn to that of England, the sequence of events will be found to be practically the same in both countries. A single super-title—“The Renascence of Individualism”—might properly characterize both chapters.

Speaking roughly, the pseudo-Hellenic style of Canova and his followers persisted until the middle of the nineteenth century. So long as it lasted, the sculptor chose to fit his thoughts and emotions into an entirely alien form. It was a form of his own choosing, it is true, but it could scarcely be said to be of his own making.

Now, we have seen again and again, that the production of vital sculpture, whether by the nation or the individual, depends upon absolute sincerity. It must spring from the deep-felt emotions of the artist. The class of work—portraiture or what not—matters little. The subject matters even less. What is all-important is that the design in [Pg 264] which the sculptor seeks to embody his ideas shall grow spontaneously from his experience in the world of Nature. Apart from that—n’importe!

“There are nine-and-sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, And-every-single-one-of-them-is-right.”

But the adoption of an alien form was not the only obstacle to a revival of sculpture. During the greater part of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the prevailing philosophy had condemned the intellectuals of Western Europe to the suppression of all natural passion and emotion. A cataclysm like the French Revolution was necessary to regain for mankind the right to feel. Once this right had been asserted, the results were immediate. At first, individualism took a political form. Napoleon arose—the incarnation of the Frenchman’s desire to impress his newly discovered social ideas upon the civilized world. When the Emperor fell in 1815, the passion for individual expression took artistic shape. What Napoleon did in the world of politics, Shelley and Victor Hugo, Delacroix and Turner did in the world of art. Romance in action became Romance in imagination. Criticism, which had been academic, became individual; thought became profoundly subjective. The philosopher was no longer content with a few abstractions and an elaborate terminology; he sought to know the import of the broad earth and the still broader heaven. These were times

“In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways Of custom, law, and statute, took at once The attraction of a country in romance.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,  But to be young was very Heaven.”



Louvre, Paris

Numberless emotions and ideas, glowing with a strange and unearthly [Pg 265] light presented themselves for artistic expression—emotions and ideas which art had entirely lost sight of during the previous century and a half.

It is, therefore, evident that the effects of the Romantic Movement upon sculpture call for immediate definition by all who seek to formulate the circumstance which led to the modern revival.

We propose to start with France. In spite of the strong lead which Rude gave his fellows, the whole body of French sculptors were slow to realize the importance of the new vistas of experience opening before them. A few, David d’Angers for instance, expressed a measure of the revolutionary spirit in their art. But, in the main, the elegant grace of a philo-Hellene like Pradier was appreciated above the vigorous naturalism of Rude and David. It was not until the genius of Barye and Carpeaux forced itself upon the public notice that a definite step forward was made.

Of the two, Antoine Barye (1795-1875) was the first in point of time, though the second in point of influence. In many ways, however, Barye marks, more clearly than Carpeaux himself, the gulf separating the typically modern school from that which contented itself with ringing the changes upon an endless series of mythological abstractions.

Barye was first and foremost a sculptor of wild animals. The famous exhibit in the Salon of 1831, which first brought him into notice, could only have been modelled by one who knew the anatomy of the beasts of the forest as completely as the Greeks knew the human form. The group represented a death struggle between a crocodile and a tiger. Barye showed the crocodile clutching, in mortal agony, at the neck of [Pg 266] the tiger. The tiger, with gleaming eyes, bites fiercely into its enemy’s body.

When we compare such a subject with the Venuses and Apollos with which his fellows concerned themselves, Barye’s connection with the Romanticists is at once evident. The pith and marrow of Romanticism is a distrust of the commonplace and a longing to bring new worlds of experience within the ken of the artist. Take a few of the leaders of the Romantic Movement at random. In literature, Scott, Byron, Heine, and Victor Hugo. In painting, Gericault, Turner, and Delacroix. One and all sought to arouse the world from a state of contentment which Ruskin adroitly illustrated by the image of the happiness of the squirrel in his circular prison. The end of their endeavour was to extend the sphere of art beyond the graceful, the fanciful, and the commonplace.

But the mere discovery of a fresh field for the sculptor is only a part of the debt which we moderns owe to Barye. His supreme gift lay in his power to treat the new subjects without ever transgressing the limits set by his medium. “A genius in his conception of art and by his power of expressing it,” is the verdict of his pupil, Rodin. The truth of this can be seen at once in any of Barye’s famous works—the “Lion” in the courtyard of the Louvre, for instance, or the brilliant “Centaur and Lapith,” in the same collection. Nothing to be compared with them as studies in animal life, had been given to the world since the days of the Assyrian sculptors, who worked with the knowledge that only a race of hunters can possess.

Barye’s supreme skill in his own sphere militated against his influence ever becoming as general as it deserved. As a rule he confined himself [Pg 267] to small works. In the nature of things, he could not expect the numerous commissions which an equally gifted craftsman with a larger range of subject would have secured. Hence, though Barye must be recognized as one of the pioneers of Romanticism in his art, only a pedant can regard him as the father of modern French sculpture. This position belongs to Carpeaux.

Born in 1827, Jean Baptiste Carpeaux started his career under the most favourable circumstances. He was a pupil of Rude. Not only did he inherit the technical skill of his master, but he carried away something of the fine human sympathy which characterized the great sculptor of the Revolutionary period. Carpeaux was wont to say that he “never passed Rude’s ‘Chant du Départ’ without raising his hat.” Winning the Prix de Rome in 1854, Carpeaux proved that a new force had arisen in French sculpture when he exhibited his “Neapolitan Fisher Lad” in 1858, a work which strongly recalls Rude’s very similar study. Carpeaux’s full power was revealed three years later, when he finished his famous group of “Ugolino and his Sons,” now in the Louvre at Paris.

Perhaps no work contains more of the spirit of Carpeaux than the delightful high relief, “Flora.” It comes from the Pavilion of Flora, in the Palace of the Tuileries. The very conventionality of the subject emphasizes the originality of Carpeaux’s treatment. The Goddess of the Spring is surrounded by a band of dimpled putti, dancing attendance upon her. Whether we like it or whether we do not, we recognize that the relief strikes an individual note. It owes nothing to [Pg 268] philo-Hellenism. Carpeaux has treated the subject in a particular manner for one reason only—that is how he saw and felt it.

An equally good example of Carpeaux at his best is furnished by the famous group, “The Dance,” on the façade of the Opera House in Paris. When it was unveiled in 1869, “The Dance” was greeted with a storm of angry protest. Small wonder. What we have come to regard as the great charm of the group—the insistence upon the joy of motion—must have seemed sheer impertinence to an age which regarded a graceful calm as the one end of sculpture. No doubt, Carpeaux’s critics really believed that, in “The Dance,” Genius, in truth, danced a bacchanal; in their view, he crowned

“The brimming goblet, seized the thyrsus, bound His brows with ivy, rushed into the field Of wild imagination and there reeled, The victim of his own lascivious fires, And, dizzy with delight, profaned the sacred wires.”

The saner judgment of to-day sees that Carpeaux resolved for his generation one of the ultimate difficulties of his art. He showed how marble might be robbed of its specific gravity. In “The Dance” it leaps. The sculptor has deprived stone of its essential deadness. His figures live.



From the Opera House, Paris


The technical tradition established by Carpeaux has never been lost. To this day, France boasts of a band of sculptors who can make marble “dance” and “live,” as surely as Carpeaux himself. In this respect, the [Pg 269] French school is far better endowed than the English. The technical superiority is, in great measure, traceable to the École des Beaux Arts. Before we embark upon the inevitable criticism, let us render our meed of praise.

The École des Beaux Arts was founded as far back as 1648. It is open to Frenchmen of all classes, entrance being by an examination consisting of modelling in clay from “the life.” The test occupies two hours daily for a week—twelve hours in all. The aim of every sculptor at the École des Beaux Arts is the Prix de Rome, which has been held by most of the famous French Masters and brings with it the very tangible advantage of a four years’ residence in Italy at the Government’s expense. The school employs a large staff of highly gifted professors and provides technical instruction which is worthy of all praise. Few men of talent leave its walls without, at any rate, knowing how to model and what sculptural design actually means.

Unfortunately the École des Beaux Arts does not escape the fault of all academies. Its system reduces the chance of failure to a minimum, but it does nothing to increase the proportion of supreme successes. The insistence upon tradition which is inseparable from academic teaching, seems to prevent those who accept its methods from ever expressing their full individuality. To find what is most vital in French sculpture one has therefore to look beyond the ranks of those who have been trained in the École des Beaux Arts. Nevertheless, no record of modern French art would be complete without some reference to the sculptures to be seen in every salon, which clearly owe their finest qualities to the teaching of that school.

The task of selecting two or three typical examples is an invidious one. The general level of sculptural achievement in France is so [Pg 270] high, and the sculptors who claim inclusion in the first rank are so numerous, that it is almost impossible to single out one man without remembering that another has at least an equal claim to notice. Bearing this proviso in mind, few will be found to object to the inclusion of Antoine Idrac. No finer choice can be made than his beautiful “Mercury inventing the Caduceus” in the Luxembourg collection at Paris. Graceful, suave, restrained, it shows French academic art at its very best.

Another instructive instance can be found among the works of Paul Dubois (born 1829), a sculptor with rather less of the Greek and a little more of the fervid Italian in his temperament. His most famous work is the monument to General de la Moricière in the Cathedral at Nantes, but Dubois’ art is equally well represented by the charming “St. John”—in the Luxembourg. The early date of this work—it was modelled during the sculptor’s stay in Florence in 1860—perhaps saves it from an accusation which may be levelled against the greater portion of the sculpture of the academic school. Too often, its only fault is its faultlessness. For a time the senses are satisfied, but after a second and third visit we come

“To loathe the taste of sweetness, whereof a little More than a little is by much too much.”

In connection with this phase of modern French art, reference must be made to the work of Falguière. Apart from its intrinsic merit, Falguière’s influence among the younger French sculptors is enormous. The wonderful facility in modelling which is so common in France is in large measure due to his teaching and example.



Luxembourg, Paris



Luxembourg, Paris

[Pg 271] From these illustrations it will be plain that the whole of the French academical school inclines to sacrifice too much to the graces. Aided by an almost perfect technique, its masters have little difficulty in securing their one aim—abstract beauty. But they fail to avoid showing in their marbles and bronzes a marked lifelessness obviously due to the adoption of a foreign convention. In these days, the French sculptor does not follow Canova. He forms his style upon semi-Italian, semi-Greek lines, laid down by an entity—the École des Beaux Arts.

For this reason, it is no coincidence that the two foremost sculptors in France not only failed to gain anything from the École des Beaux Arts, but can actually trace their supreme position to this very fact. Jules Dalou succeeded in securing admission to the École’s classes, but agreed that “in the end they did him no good.” Rodin actually sat for the entrance examination three times. On each occasion he failed to persuade the authorities that his talent was worth fostering. Had the École des Beaux Arts succeeded in dragging these two men into their all-enfolding net, the world would certainly be the poorer by the very qualities which give the sculpture of Dalou and Rodin its unique value.

Of the two, Jules Dalou approaches most closely to the academic ideal. He is the link between the École des Beaux Arts and Rodin. The coupling of the two names must not be taken to suggest any close similarity between the two men. In his general view of the world, Dalou is far more akin to his master, Carpeaux, than he is to Rodin. The historical connection between Dalou and his more famous contemporary arises from the evidence of a revolt against the high conventionalism of the academic school to be found in his work. Moreover, like Rodin’s, [Pg 272] Dalou’s figures never suggest the model; on the contrary, they are utterly unlike those of the “realists,” who also oppose the teachings of the École des Beaux Arts. This can be seen in such a work as Dalou’s great group—“The Triumph of Silenus,” in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The statue has the exuberant strength, the irresistible gusto for the living flesh, of a Rubens painting.

Dalou’s sculpture has a peculiar interest for Englishmen. He is perhaps better known in England than any other French sculptor. He had to fly from Paris after the Commune, owing to having accepted the Curatorship of the Louvre during the troublous times. In the course of his eight years exile in England, he became professor of sculpture at South Kensington. Dalou was, throughout his career, a man of strenuous purpose, able and willing to drive home the ideals which he had made his own. It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence of his instruction and example upon the younger school of English sculptors.



Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris


Rodin—Dalou’s comrade in the fight against the influence of the École des Beaux Arts—is a man of equally vigorous personality. Even more than Dalou, he has come to his own in spite of circumstances. Born in 1840, Rodin is now sixty-seven years of age. At fourteen, he started to earn a living as a maker of ornaments, managing, however, to find time for classes at a Parisian art school and lessons from the veteran Barye. Little trace can now be found of the influence of the great [Pg 273] animal sculptor upon his more famous pupil, but Rodin has put on record his indebtedness to Barye.

“It was he,” he said, “who, by fixing my attention upon Nature, carried my artistic education to a point from which I could pursue it alone.”

Truth to tell, Rodin owes his success to no one except himself. He is essentially the sculptor of modern individualism in its most intense form.

A few years later Rodin engaged himself as a workman in the studio of the fashionable sculptor, Carrier-Belleuse, prior to emigrating to Brussels, as assistant to the Belgium sculptor, Van Rasbourg. Thirteen years were spent in these employments. It was not until Rodin returned to Paris, aged thirty-one, that his career as an independent sculptor commenced. In 1877, he sent the famous male nude, “The Age of Brass,” to the Salon. The story of its reception is well known. The jury, astonished at its realism, admitted the works. But so perfect did they consider its modelling, that they refused to believe that the sculptor had not taken a cast from the life. Fortunately, a friend was at hand—M. Turquet, of the Ministry of Fine Arts—who secured the statue for the Luxembourg collection. The struggle continued until 1880, when officialdom finally decided to approve the purchase of the “Age of Brass” and withdrew an entirely unjustifiable charge. In the same year, the State purchased the “St. John Baptist,” a fine bronze replica of which can be seen at South Kensington Museum.

At the age of forty, when many men have abandoned all hope, Rodin found the path to fame open. The long struggle over the “Age of Brass” had brought notoriety, no small matter in an age of advertisement. Events soon proved that it had done much more. A dogmatic revolutionary like [Pg 274] Rodin only required to realize how utterly his ideals clashed with those of his rivals to cling to them with fourfold energy. The treble rejection by the École des Beaux Arts and the cruel struggle with the Salon Jury turned a sculptor who would only have been a mediocre academician into a reactionary of genius.

Rodin’s reputation as a fighter has led many to believe that his work is essentially uncouth. His technical powers matured slowly, but to-day no French sculptor is more richly endowed. When he pleases, Rodin can render, say, the velvety softness of a woman’s flesh with an ease and delicate grace that any sculptor might envy. A beautiful example of this side of Rodin’s genius is furnished by the “Fallen Danaid” (1888).

The girl has fallen, in a paroxysm of grief, on a rocky stretch—the very roughness of the setting offering a beautiful contrast to the soft modelling of the limbs. The face is half buried. The dishevelled hair trails amid the broken fragments of the water jar. As we said of Carpeaux’s “Flora,” the “Danaid” is a subject which might occupy the chisel of the most academic sculptor. But there is not a suggestion of an earlier imagination in Rodin’s rendering. He has simply felt the thing afresh and expressed himself in the manner which seemed most suitable.

The “Danaid” represents one side of Rodin’s genius, but perhaps the life-work of the sculptor can be most readily appreciated from some account of the mysterious “Gate of Hell,” which looms so largely in all biographical notices of the sculptor.

The commission for the “Gate of Hell” (the Porte de l’Enfer) dates from 1880, and was a direct consequence of the settlement of the controversy [Pg 275] which arose out of the “Age of Brass.” The original idea was to provide an entrance to the projected Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which, if it did not vie with, would at least recall Lorenzo Ghiberti’s “Gate of Paradise,” in the Baptistery at Florence. The original site for the Musée in the Cour des Comptes has, however, since been utilized for a railway station, and the French Government has, accordingly, never required the completion of its contract. For twenty-seven years the “Gate of Hell” has stood in Rodin’s studio in the Rue de l’Université—subject to constant modification and elaboration.

No one who has ever been absorbed in a particular art will find it difficult to realize the consequences of this chance. The “Gate of Hell” has become the store-house from which Rodin draws his sculptural inspiration. All his thoughts and emotions which call for sculptural expression seem to spend themselves upon it. Rodin’s philosophy is a mixture of Dante and Baudelaire. Consequently, the “Gate of Hell” has practically become a twentieth-century paraphrase of the teachings of the two men, expressed in terms of sculpture. Some of Rodin’s ideas, naturally, fail to find a convenient niche in the gate. Others prove capable of translation into individual works on a larger scale.

For instance, the first idea for the well-known group in the Luxembourg, “The Kiss” (Le Baiser), was designed for the Porte de l’Enfer, and showed Paolo and Francesca falling hellward, in the very throes of their guilty passion. In the larger marble, the idea has been purged of its Dantesque character, and Rodin gives us a picture of the eternal beauty of true passion. Primarily, “The Kiss” is a study in [Pg 276] vigorous manhood, though Rodin is no less successful in his treatment of the softer form of the woman. Neither is reminiscent of the model. But while Rodin has idealized the figures, he has never reached the false idealism which spells convention.

But the real worth of “The Kiss” does not lie in its technical achievement, but in the pure, human emotion with which the work is suffused. Note—it is only a minor point—the hand on the woman’s thigh, quivering with passion. Compare it with the unresponsive fingers of the other hand which rest upon the stony rock.

When finished, the “Gate of Hell” is to be of bronze, and it will be executed in high relief after Ghiberti’s model. At present it consists of a two-leaved door, with a frieze, a tympanum, and two lateral columns. In the panels and upon the wide uprights are a multitude of figures—perhaps 100—also in high relief. The whole gate will be at least twenty feet high. Crowning the whole design will be the famous figure of the “Thinker.”

As in the case of “The Kiss,” Rodin has translated the “Thinker” into a larger size, and the replica now stands in front of the steps of the Pantheon. The nude figure rests his right arm on his left knee, the hand supporting the chin of the dreamer. In the “Thinker” we may see the father of men, uncultured and uncouth, brooding over the mad doings of his children. These roll below in the panels and framework of the gate, the victims of all the passions to which mankind is heir.



Luxembourg, Paris

There is no affectation in reading a profound philosophy into the sculptures of such an artist as Rodin. The nature of the greatest art is such that profundity of thought cannot be divorced from a supreme work. He is not a conscious preacher and moralist. But he is impelled [Pg 277] to bear witness to the eternal verities which manifest themselves in nature in the form of beauty. A Turner feels their message in the light and colour of the sky and sea, a Correggio in the glint of the hair or the soft skin of a woman. A sculptor like Rodin gazes upon a well-shaped throat, follows the lines of a well-poised trunk or the bend of a strong man’s loins, and cries, with John Addington Symonds:

“I know not anything more fair than thou.— God give me strength to feel thee, power to speak Through this dumb clay and marble all the thoughts That rise within my spirit while I gaze!— What saith the Scripture? ‘In His image God Shaped man, and breathed into his nostrils breath Of life.’—Here then, as nowhere else, shines God; The Thought made flesh, the world’s soul breathing soft And strong, not merely through those lips and eyes, But in each flawless limb, each mighty curve, Each sinew moulded on the moving form.”

With such a belief Rodin, naturally, rarely drapes his figures. He holds that not only the head and the hand, but every part of the body, expresses human emotion. Again he says: “I never give my model a pose. It is my habit to let them wander about the studio as they will. They rest or move as their mood may dictate. I thus become familiar with every natural, unforced movement of the human body.” In his “St. John the Baptist,” Rodin worked from a model who had never posed before. Before he commenced, he asked the man to raise his arm and begin walking. A moment later he cried: “There now, stop.” The result was a statue organically true, and showing a fine spontaneity which is in the strongest contrast to the highly conventionalized figures of the academics.

Finally, Rodin’s technique and, particularly, the quality in his [Pg 278] modelling which has earned him the title of the “First of the Impressionist Sculptors.”

The absence of sharp definition which characterizes Rodin’s later work is evidently based upon principles closely allied to those of the impressionist painter. By relying upon masses of colour, light and shade, the latter secures breadth and an impression of unity which a too rigid adherence to line often destroys. By exaggerating the contour in one place, and by lessening the outline here and sharpening it there, Rodin seeks to get closer to the natural effect produced by the action of light and shadow upon the natural object than a sculptor who relies upon pure form alone.

The case of the sculptor, however, differs considerably from that of the painter. It is, of course, obvious that form is, in a sense, a mere convention, whether in painting or sculpture. No one can argue that the eye has any immediate knowledge of form, any more than it can be said that lines really exist in nature. But form is a convention which every sculptor, from Phidias to Donatello, and from Michael Angelo to Houdon, has accepted. True, no sculptor is concerned with form and form only. Michael Angelo did not forget that his formal arrangements—to describe the figures of “Dawn” and “Night” in the baldest possible terms—would be seen by the aid of the sun and through the Florentine atmosphere. But it is a long cry from this intelligent use of light and shade to the ultra-modern justification for the distorted grotesques of such a sculptor as Rosso. Here are Rosso’s words:

“Art must be nothing else than the expression of some sudden sensation given us by light. There is no such thing as painting or sculpture. There is only light.”



The Pantheon, Paris

[Pg 279] It cannot be denied that if Rosso’s works are viewed from a given distance, the proportions are rectified by the play of light and shade, and that the result is a surprising illusion of life. But, regarded as statues, the things are little more than fascinating tricks.

In such an absolute sense as this, the term “impressionist” cannot properly be applied to Rodin. It may, however, be used in another and broader sense as indicating an artist who seeks to express the synthesis of things as he sees them under the influence of a mood.

Rodin knows that he is neither a contemporary of Phidias nor Donatello. He rightly refuses to confine himself to forms which the Athenians and the Florentines happened to find most suitable for the expression of their experience. This is the simple justification for much that is regarded as iconoclastic in his artistic creed. When he cries: “Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump, not of the clean, well-smoothed, unmodelled figures,” Rodin merely asserts a closer kinship with the Gothic than the Greek ideal. Whether Phidias, Scopas, and Praxiteles are right and Rodin wrong, matters little. The all-important question is whether Rodin’s reliance upon the ridges which express spiritual tension, and his willingness to utilize tortuous poses which a Greek would have rejected, have enabled him to sound a new note of passion in sculpture. We hold that they have.

It is too early to judge of the value of this new note. A hundred years hence the world will be able to give a decision. A contemporary can only see a man who expresses what he feels, strongly and fearlessly.

[Pg 280]



This is an English book. It is written for men and women who look upon the world from the distinctive standpoint arising from the use of a common language. At the head of a chapter devoted to sculpture in modern England, let it be said, definitely and defiantly, that there is an English school.

The proposition is by no means as sure of general acceptance as it should be. There are many critics who appear to doubt the existence of English sculpture. They seem to regard Paris as the only source of modern work and the English school as a mere branch of the French. The real truth is that, apart from technique, the English sculptor has little to learn from his Continental neighbour. We are not writing of clay-thumbers or marble-chippers, who work for the promise of a measure of material prosperity. We have in mind earnest craftsmen who turn to sculpture naturally—joying in an art which enables them to give form to the thoughts and feelings astir around them. Great Britain has no cause to fear a comparison between the number of such men working in England and France. Owing to the lack of a gallery like the Luxembourg [Pg 281] and the absence of the magnificent facilities offered by the Salons, the quality and the quantity of the work produced by the English school is hard to gauge. Nevertheless, it exists. When the English National Gallery is rebuilt according to Barry’s design and the two glazed loggie, flanking the main entrance and each running for 300 feet by 15 along the face of the building, are filled with British sculpture, doubt will be impossible.

Nor is this all. English sculpture is, in a very true sense, a national art. Not as we should apply the term to the art of seventeenth-century Holland or Ancient Athens, but in the sense that modern French sculpture is national. In both England and France, a body of sculptors has arisen, able and anxious to express to the full individualities which have been moulded by the influences among which it works.

As we have seen, this became possible in France about the middle of the last century. In England the growth of a similar movement may be traced back some thirty years. A convenient date is 1877, when Sir Frederic Leighton exhibited his epoch-making bronze “Athlete struggling with a Python.”

After the death of Flaxman, the English sculptors drifted into the same blind alley in which most of the Frenchmen found themselves. For fifty years they made little or no effort to rid themselves of the false canons of Canova and the philo-Hellenes. Westmacott, MacDowell, and Wyatt, to mention three English sculptors, all based their style upon that of the Venetian master. Arguing from the supreme achievements of the Greeks, they chose to imitate the classic manner as closely as possible. Their technique was Greek; their subjects were Greek; everything was Greek except their habits of thought and feeling. To [Pg 282] Canova and Thorvaldsen, the ideas of Winckelmann and Lessing had come with the freshness of a newly discovered truth. They had the stimulating force of novelty. During the following fifty years, however, the pseudo-Greek canon was merely accepted as a convenient form which at least had the merit of sparing the artist the trouble of fresh invention.

The consequences, as far as English sculpture is concerned, can best be realized from a visit to the Gibson Gallery at Burlington House, London.

Gibson, who was born in 1790, was, perhaps, the most popular of Canova’s English pupils—assuming that he did not forfeit all claim to be regarded as an Englishman during his twenty-seven years’ stay in Rome. Upon his death, in 1866, he bequeathed the contents of his studio to the British public, and they are now housed in the Diploma Gallery at the Royal Academy. Gibson is perhaps best known through his “Venus.” It created a stir at the time of its first exhibition, owing to the sculptor’s attempt to popularize “tinted” sculpture, in imitation of the classical fashion. The statue was designed to stand in a pale purple-blue niche. The hair and eyes of the goddess were decidedly coloured, the body being stained a rose tint. Gibson, however, failed to persuade the public and the sculptors of his age that any departure from an absolute dependence upon pure form was desirable. The “Tinted Venus” was the first and the last of its race.



Tate Gallery, London

An equally illuminating example of Gibson’s style can be seen at the Tate Gallery. This is the group, “Hylas and the Nymphs,” modelled in 1826. The technical industry of the sculptor and his feeling for sculptural form are obvious at once. But no one, comparing the “Hylas[Pg 283] with the modern works of the British school which surround it, can fail to see the sickly conventionalism with which it is imbued. Notice, for instance, the modelling of the limbs of the two nymphs, and compare them with those of the boy. Surely any imaginative sculptor of the modern school would insist, above all, upon the obvious contrast between the male and the female form, seeing that the story of Hylas itself depends upon this very point. Gibson, however, practically models the male and the female limbs, the male and the female flesh, alike. Hylas has not the legs of a youth, nor have the nymphs, who have been smitten by his beauty, the legs of women. Gibson has chosen to adopt a conventional compromise, unrelated to anything in nature, and selected for no other reason than a fancied resemblance to the Greek style. The three figures are graceful enough. But they are unsatisfying in the last degree to all who have felt the far more potent emotions arising from a rigid adherence to nature. Hence “Hylas and the Nymphs” and the works in the Gibson Gallery remain as perpetual memorials of all that the artists of our own day had to rid themselves before the rebirth of English sculpture was possible.

Matters improved very little during the thirty years following the production of Gibson’s “Hylas.” What can we learn from the exhibitions of 1851 and 1862, which may be fairly taken to represent the apotheosis of mid-Victorian artistic taste?

In his official guide to the Fine Art Section of 1862 the editor, F. T. Palgrave—of “Golden Treasury” fame—refers to sculpture as “the forlorn hope of modern art,” and proceeds to answer the question “whence this deathly decline?” The exhibition contained examples of all [Pg 284] that was best in English sculpture to that time. “The Falling Titan,” by Banks, now in the Diploma Gallery; the “Thetis and Achilles” relief, now in the Tate Gallery; Nollekens’ “Cupid and Psyche” Joseph’s ”Wilberforce” (Westminster Abbey), and works by Flaxman, Westmacott, Chantrey, Wyatt, Watson and Park represented the earlier masters. Sculptures by Armstead, Baily, Foley, Gibson, MacDowell, Marshall, Woolner and the younger Westmacott witnessed to the achievements of the living. Yet Palgrave could only grieve over the decline in natural taste and the entire absence of that healthy severity and earnestness of spirit in which sculpture flourishes. “Serious as the subject claims to be,” says Palgrave, “I confess it is difficult to think of Nollekens’ ‘Venus,’ Canova’s ‘Venus,’ Thorvaldsen’s ‘Venus,’ Gibson’s ‘Venus,’ everybody’s ‘Venus’ with due decorum. One fancies one healthy, modern laugh would clear the air of these idle images—one agrees with the honest old woman in the play who preferred a roast duck to all the birds in the heathen mythology.”

In the “Albert Memorial” erected in Kensington Gardens, London, “by the Queen and people of a grateful country,” we have a concrete example of what was in Palgrave’s mind when he wrote.

Prince Consort was himself a man of real artistic perception. By his magnificent work in connection with the 1851 Exhibition he had done an immense amount to raise the standard of taste in England. Funds were not wanting. £50,000 was subscribed by the nation and at least another £60,000 was raised by public subscription. The Eleanor Cross was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and all the leading sculptors were invited to co-operate. If the mid-Victorians had had it in them to produce a noble work, surely we should have seen the result in the [Pg 285] “Albert Memorial.” An examination only confirms the general impression which every Londoner has about the monument. The “Asia” by Foley, for instance; the “Africa” by Theed; the “Agriculture” by the elder Thornycroft—in none of these can we see any clear evidence that the sculptors had yet rid themselves of the conventions which had been hampering them for at least fifty years.


Nevertheless, among those engaged upon the Albert Memorial were men who were to see the advent of a new spirit. Foley himself, who died in 1874, lived to carve the fine equestrian statue of Sir James Outram. This was one of the earliest works to show a clear trace of the return to the observation of nature, which was necessary if the English sculptors were to follow the lead given by Carpeaux in France. Even in H. H. Armstead’s work upon the frieze running round the podium of the Albert Memorial there are traces of a largeness and vigour of treatment indicative of better things. Both, however, were born too early to give English sculptors a decisive lead.

Strangely enough at the very time the sculptors of England were working upon the Albert Memorial, one of the greatest geniuses in the history of English sculpture was working upon another national monument. We mean Alfred Stevens, the sculptor of the “Wellington Memorial” in St. Paul’s Cathedral—the most complete piece of decorative sculpture ever set up in this country.

Born in 1817, Stevens went to Italy in 1833. He spent a portion of [Pg 286] the nine years he lived there in Thorvaldsen’s studio, but his first study was painting. On his return to England he became a teacher of architectural drawing at Somerset House and then started a career as a decorative designer. Helped by such followers as Godfrey Sykes and Moody, who carried his principles into the Government art school, Stevens founded a school of domestic decorators which influenced decorative art in England through the remainder of the nineteenth century. A brilliant example of this side of Stevens’s genius is furnished by the magnificent “Fireplace” at Dorchester House.

Stevens’s great chance as a sculptor came in 1856 when he secured the commission for the Wellington Memorial. Such a group as the “Truth tearing out the tongue of Falsehood” is alone sufficient to prove how far Stevens was ahead of the English sculptors of his time in originality of treatment and breadth of design. It is true that the sculptor’s indebtedness to Michael Angelo is obvious, but the work of Stevens does not show any slavish copying of the great Florentine. The English sculptor has merely solved his problem by the light of Angelo’s experience. He has sought to reach the boldness of mass and line which he found in the master’s sculpture. A certain naturalism, also derived from his study of Renaissance art, together with its magnificently bold design and architectural fitness, gives the Wellington Memorial a unique place in the history of English sculpture. Nevertheless, Alfred Stevens was the Baptist of English Naturalism. He died—a voice crying in the wilderness. So little was his work esteemed that the Wellington Memorial itself was not brought up from the crypt and placed in the nave of the Cathedral, where it could be seen, until long after the sculptor’s death in 1875.




[Pg 287] In spite of Stevens’s apparent failure, the elements of a regenerated school of English sculpture existed. It only needed a man of real artistic influence and established reputation to focus attention upon the possibility of better things. In view of the position which the sister art of painting held in England, it is not surprising that the lead came from two painters. Both were men of commanding personality, and both were in the very prime of their artistic careers. The one was G. F. Watts, the other, of course, was Frederic Leighton.

Watts’s bronze bust, “Clytie,” was modelled some years before Leighton’s “Athlete Struggling with a Python,” and never aroused the enthusiastic admiration which fell to the later work. Nevertheless, the “Clytie”—it can be seen at the Tate Gallery—was a work of real beauty and power. Moreover, it displayed a naturalism which distinguished it from almost all the plastic art produced in England earlier in the century. This alone entitles G. F. Watts to an honourable place in the history of the renascence of English sculpture.

Leighton’s “Athlete and Python” was a far more ambitious work than Watts’s “Clytie.” It began as a small study, and the story goes that Dalou—some say Legros—persuaded Leighton to carry out the design in life-size. Three years later it was ready.

Probably sheer beauty of formal design was Leighton’s chief aim. But what struck his contemporaries was the finely vigorous pose, the splendid rendering of energetic movement and the magnificent naturalism with which an unfamiliar subject was rendered. The man holds the creature at arm’s-length, striving to prevent the thrust of the ugly jaws, which threaten death if once they can bring the full weight of [Pg 288] the crushing coils to bear. The reception accorded to Leighton’s “Athlete and Python” was such that it is no exaggeration to date the model school of English sculpture from its exhibition. Appropriately enough, it became the first purchase under the bequest of the sculptor, Chantrey.

But all great artistic revivals are two-sided. There must be a spiritual stimulus as well as a technical. If the first may be credited to Leighton as far as the revival of English sculpture is concerned, the improvement in technique is undoubtedly traceable to Jules Dalou, the French sculptor. Our readers will remember how Dalou fled from Paris, on account of his connection with the Commune. During his stay in England he was persuaded to conduct the modelling class at South Kensington. The influence of his technical example and forceful personality began to show itself at once. Dalou made South Kensington one of the first centres of sculptural training in the world. When he returned to Paris, he was succeeded by Professor Lanteri—the sculptor of the virile “Head of a Peasant,” in the Tate Gallery—whose influence has since rivalled that of Dalou. Both were magnificently facile workers in clay. By continued practical demonstration they proved to the younger English sculptors the inestimable value of ease in modelling. The English school, as a whole, is still behind the French in facility of execution, but Dalou and Lanteri have done very much to remedy the defect.

The Dalou influence was continued in the second great training school of London—the Lambeth School of Art—by his pupil, W. S. Frith. The success of Mr. Sparks’ school may be judged from the fact that Alfred Gilbert, Frampton, Goscombe John, Harry Bates, Pomeroy and Roscoe Mullins all graduated there. Indeed, at one time, studentship at Lambeth seemed a necessary preliminary for all sculptors of ambition. Year after year, the gold medal at the Royal Academy and the £200 travelling scholarship were taken by Lambeth students.



Tate Gallery, London

[Pg 289] If South Kensington and Lambeth have shared the honour of laying the foundations of the art education of the younger English sculptors, there are few cases in which the Academy schools cannot claim to have completed the task. The fact is often forgotten by the Academy’s many detractors. Under the present system, any sculptor of real promise can practically command a complete art education. The schools are free, the professors being the members of the Academy, who take monthly turns in the schools. Admission is by examination—that for a sculptor entailing the presentation of an anatomical drawing, showing bones and muscles, a model in the round of an undraped antique, and a life-sized medallion from the living model.

In many respects the Academy system is superior to that of the École des Beaux Arts. Such a judge as Mr. Edwin Abbey has even recommended American art students to choose London in preference to Paris on this account. “In Paris,” he says, “all the personality is rubbed out of a student. French methods and technique are hammered into him so unceasingly that he departs a mere reflection of the movement of the latest school. In London there is more catholicity in art matters; originality is strongly encouraged, and the student, particularly at the Royal Academy, is given every chance to develop along individual lines.”

This is proved by the fact that almost all the foremost English sculptors have been trained in the Academy schools. In France, men [Pg 290] of pronounced originality like Rodin and Dalou become anti-Academic by instinct. In England, some men leave the beaten track which every academic course must follow, more readily than others. But even the most pronounced innovators seem able to benefit from the influence of the Academicians during their studentship.

Still the distinction between the sculptors who preserve the academic spirit throughout their careers and those who prefer to rely upon their native individuality does exist. It furnishes a convenient method for dividing the modern English school into two distinct parts. Among the first may be reckoned Thomas Brock and Hamo Thornycroft, while the second, and more important class, is headed by Alfred Gilbert, and includes Onslow Ford, Harry Bates, Frampton and Swan.

Thomas Brock was born in 1847. He was a pupil of Foley and, therefore, came sufficiently under the influence of the mid-Victorian school to mark a transition rather than a break from the older traditions. To-day he is pre-eminently the “safe” man in English sculpture—a fact which accounts for his receiving the commission for the Queen Victoria Memorial to be erected in front of Buckingham Palace. But Brock’s “safeness” does not prevent him executing work of real beauty. The “Eve,” in the Tate Gallery, is a work which any school of sculpture would be proud to claim. It shows the Mother of Men as a frail girl. She realizes for the first time what the loss of primal innocence entails and, with bowed head, moves slowly from the garden. The design is one of the most beautiful in English sculpture. The grace of line displayed in the treatment of the abdomen—so beautiful in womanhood—and the pose of the lower limbs are beyond criticism. If the “Eve” has a fault it is that the subject is clearly susceptible of highly dramatic treatment. In Mr. Brock’s statue there is no attempt to express the intensity of passion which a sculptor of the temper of Rodin would have regarded as the one thing worth rendering.



Tate Gallery, London



Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

[Pg 291] If Thomas Brock stands for the English academic ideal on its romantic side, Hamo Thornycroft represents the more naturalistic side of the same movement.

W. Hamo Thornycroft—who must be distinguished from his father, the sculptor of a group on the Albert Memorial—was born in 1850. His first exhibited work dates from 1871. A year later, he entered the Academy schools, gaining the gold medal in 1874, with his group “A warrior bearing his Wounded Son from Battle,” one of the very finest works which ever gained a studentship. It was no empty triumph. The young Thornycroft defeated no less an opponent than Alfred Gilbert, and his design challenged attention against such an exhibit as Stevens’s model for the Wellington Memorial. A man capable of such work in his student days was bound to go far.

The Mower” (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) shows to what the virile naturalism of Thornycroft led. There is no sculpture which contains more of the thoroughly British spirit. Englishmen have little natural affection for the Whistler method of dashing off a “Harmony” in a couple of days and charging 300 guineas for it. They like to detect some definite proof of high thinking and strenuous workmanship in their art as in everything else. A sculpture of Thornycroft always leaves this impression. Added to that we feel that the artist is working [Pg 292] towards a definite end, sufficiently ideal to demand effort, yet near enough to earth to come within his powers.

In the original sketch model of “The Mower,” the upper part of the figure was draped. Thornycroft, however, finally discarded the shirt. He evidently felt that the subject could be treated in a thoroughly modern manner without departing altogether from the classical method. He succeeded in producing a statue which is neither conventional nor iconoclastic.

Whether this is to be counted a virtue or a vice depends upon the critic’s temperament, but the question is, perhaps, worthy of examination.

Meunier, the Belgian sculptor, has modelled a bronze “Mower,” which Thornycroft’s statue irresistibly recalls. A comparison of the two works not only throws a searching light upon the whole school of sculpture which the Englishman represents, but, incidentally, brings into relief the leading characteristics of Meunier’s own work. No excuse is, therefore, necessary for interrupting our general survey of British sculpture with a reference to a sister school which really merits a chapter to itself.

Meunier is a man who has devoted himself to themes suggested by the colliery and artizan life of his country.

Brought up in the Belgian Black Country, the sombre gloom of the life there became part of his very being. After a period of continuous struggle against poverty and sickness, he turned to sculpture at the age of fifty, under the influence of the achievements of Rodin. As a result, we see in Meunier’s “Mower” the thought and emotion of a man who feels the beautiful misery of labour in the depths of his soul. The intense human pathos enshrined in the bronze is something which the English sculptor neither feels nor seeks to express.



[Pg 293] In saying this we are in no sense disparaging Mr. Thornycroft’s work. True, he makes no attempt to suggest the vague poetry with which Meunier invests his Flemish or Walloon labourers. But, at any rate, the classic severity with which he has treated an essentially modern theme strikes us as thoroughly honest. There is no trace of a pose. Thornycroft has set down what he saw and what he felt. The hint of the Greek manner in the representation of the English labourer only reminds us that the sculptor who would express the beauty of the male form to-day is faced with the very task which the Athenian essayed 2000 years ago.

Leighton’s “Athlete and Python,” Brock’s “Eve” and Thornycroft’s “Mower” must, then, be compared with the works of such Frenchmen as Chapu, Idrac and Dubois. From the three Englishmen we turn naturally enough to the sculptors who represent the movement in English art corresponding to the anti-academic revolt in France. The characteristic common to Leighton, Brock, and Thornycroft is a certain emotional restraint. They seem to content themselves with the truthful representation of natural beauty. From none of the three do we gain the impression of a forceful individuality striving after self-expression. Nevertheless, there is a movement in English art comparable with the anti-academic revolt in France.


Alfred Gilbert is the Carpeaux and the Rodin of English sculpture. The analogy must not be pressed too closely. But, as the first sculptor to widen the bounds of his art by arousing his fellows to a sense of fresh [Pg 294] technical possibilities, the influence of Alfred Gilbert may rightly be compared with that of Carpeaux. Through the constancy and power with which he has asseverated his belief in sculpture as a means of emotional expression, Gilbert ranks as the English Rodin.

Unlike Rodin, Gilbert has never severed his connection with the academic school. Indeed, the Professorship of Sculpture at the Royal Academy was actually revived in his favour in 1901. But Gilbert’s artistic creed is essentially Rodinesque. Again and again he has preached from the text:

“Be your own star.”

Again and again he has impressed upon the sculptors of to-morrow the vital truth—that the future lies with men who will dare to put themselves into marble and bronze. He has never tired of reiterating his belief that for the sculptor:

“Strength is from within, and one against the world will always win.”

Born in 1854, Alfred Gilbert realized his vocation in early youth. As a boy it is said that he carved heads of walking sticks for his schoolmates. He confesses himself that he hired a small room near Aldenham School at 1s. a week as a studio. Coming up to London, he finally entered the Royal Academy schools and joined Sir Edgar Boehm—Queen Victoria’s sculptor in ordinary—as an “improver.” After losing the R.A. Gold Medal to Thornycroft, he crossed to Paris, studying at the École des Beaux Arts.

Gilbert has put on record his reasons for leaving France. They are thoroughly typical of the sculptor. Finding the influences at work were too potent to allow of the due assertion of his own personality, he [Pg 295] determined to go to Italy—a stronghold of individualism. “In Florence,” he tells us, “I saw, for the first time in my life, the works of the fathers of the Renaissance, and I was struck by the absolute independence and freedom of thought and truthful representation of the ideas they possessed. So impressed was I with the fact that their representations were not mere photographs and yet so true to nature, that they seemed to reveal to me what I then understood as style, but which I have since learnt to regard as the expression of an individuality.”

This is the essence of the artistic philosophy of Alfred Gilbert. It adumbrates a high ideal, but allied with sane craftsmanship, it is one which has always served the sculptor who honestly strove to put its precepts into practice. What has been the outcome in Gilbert’s case?

There is a strain of pathos in the answer. No sculptor of our day has had more abundant opportunities. Yet, somehow, Fortune has proved a fickle jade to Gilbert. This is particularly the case with his larger works.

The Shaftesbury Memorial, in Piccadilly Circus, should be regarded by every Londoner as an epoch-making work. It compares with Stevens’s monument to the Duke of Wellington in the wealth, imagination and craftsmanship lavished upon it. In point of fact, it is held in universal disregard. Not one Londoner in a thousand even troubles to remember the name of the sculptor.

The Shaftesbury Memorial was conceived under an unlucky star. Alfred Gilbert was about thirty years of age when the commission reached him. He accepted it as the chance of a lifetime. The design has always been admitted to be a masterpiece, but throughout its erection, the Memorial was dogged by misfortune, until, as it stands to-day it can hardly be [Pg 296] said to represent the sculptor’s idea at all. This is due to causes largely outside his control. It is true that the aluminium figure of the archer which surmounts it has darkened and has lost its first silvery lightness. It may be alleged that Gilbert should have foreseen the eventuality. But in several material respects the Memorial differs entirely from what he proposed. At the very last moment a new base was added at the request of a party of humanitarians who were anxious that the thirsty Londoner might not be disappointed. Alfred Gilbert’s design did not contemplate this, but the London County Council held that, since the monument had taken the form of a fountain, it was only logical—logical, forsooth!—that water should be there for man and beast. Later the design was shorn of its ground-floor—which was to have been a bronze basin. This space is now occupied by the steps. The sculptor contemplated the water from the fountain playing into the basin. The change actually reduced the structure by six feet. Finally, the cry of a too large water bill was raised, and the jets of all shapes and forms, which were to have played among the fishes that form the principal part of the decorative scheme, were reduced to the present trickle.

Our readers may remember how the artists of Florence turned out to debate what site the “David” of the youthful Michael Angelo was to occupy. A less tragic note would sound through the story of the Shaftesbury Memorial if the sculptor had had to deal with a similar body of men, instead of a committee chosen for its ability to collect subscriptions and a soulless corporation like the London County Council.



From the Clarence Memorial,

[Pg 297] In the nature of things it is hard to illustrate the whole of a full and vigorous personality from one or two of his works. Perhaps Gilbert, in his double capacity of craftsman and imaginative designer, can best be judged from the Tomb of the late Duke of Clarence, in the Memorial Chapel, Windsor. It has a double interest, inasmuch as it reveals at once the strength and the weakness of his method.

Directly after the sad death of the Prince in 1892, the sculptor was called to Sandringham. He arrived on the Saturday and learnt the wishes of the present King and Queen. During the Sunday night Gilbert conceived and designed the whole monument. Three days later he submitted the completed sketch.

He knew the Wolsey Chapel in which the tomb was to be placed to be of Gothic design and, consequently, determined upon a sarcophagus, surrounded by an open-work grille, such as Peter Vischer might have chosen. As it is to be seen to-day, the recumbent figure of the Prince lies upon the bier. Two angels kneel, the one at the head, the other at the feet. With beautiful fancy, Gilbert has carved the first holding a crown above the dead man’s head—the crown of immortality, which prince, peer and peasant can earn. The angel at the base of the sarcophagus places a broken wreath on the feet—in memory of a death upon the eve of marriage.

The figure of the “Saint George” is one of a series of Patron Saints introduced into the grille. St. Nicholas, St. Edward the Confessor, St. Barbara, and St. George are included, the selection depending upon some legendary connection with the Royal House of Britain.

The “Saint George” was exhibited in the form of a statuette at the [Pg 298] Royal Academy. The poetical design and fine craftsmanship aroused general enthusiasm. What could be more charming, for example, than the grace with which Gilbert has played with his pretty fancy of basing the armour of the Saint upon forms suggested by the sea-shells? Yet there is nothing oppressive in the sculptor’s use of this idea. It is never permitted to interfere with the main lines of the figure. The insistence upon the shell-like forms has, rather, a fugal charm, the fancy being treated now in one part of the design, now in another, a slightly varying form here, answering a similar one there, until all have been interwoven into one beautiful complexity.

Unfortunately, the praise that is due to a work as beautiful as the “Saint George” cannot be given to the Clarence Memorial as a whole. Indeed, in its place, the effect of the statuette, instead of being heightened, is diminished. The instance is typical of the impression left by the complete work. Brilliantly imaginative as the general conception was, the original ideas have not fused into that grand unity which is the last test of the greatest works of art. Between the first conception of a great memorial—say the Medici Chapel, the Tomb of Maximilian, or the Clarence Memorial—and the final result, there is a great gulf fixed. More than imaginative craftsmanship is required to bridge this. The task calls for unswerving patience and not a little business tact. In one or another of these faculties, Gilbert seems to be lacking. The imagination and craftsmanship which produce a work like the “Saint George” flag before a commission of the first magnitude is completed. An artistic creed like Alfred Gilbert’s is a magnificent thing. But it needs to be allied with strength of character and a rigid self-criticism. Had the English sculptor added a measure of the nature of Michael Angelo to the strain of rich poetry and high artistic ideality with which he has been endowed, England would have been able to boast a genius of the first order. As things are, it can be grateful for—an Alfred Gilbert.



Tate Gallery, London

[Pg 299] The sculptor who shared with Alfred Gilbert the honour of having been the earliest Englishman to express through marble and bronze the whole of a rich poetical philosophy was Onslow Ford. Born in 1852 and sending his first work of sculpture to the Academy in 1875, Onslow Ford received his early training as a painter. Indeed, he never had any systematic instruction as a sculptor. He came into notice by winning the “Rowland Hill” competition, the result being the statue which stands behind the Royal Exchange, within a stone’s-throw of Dalou’s charming bronze fountain, “Maternity.”

Very shortly after he carved the magnificent marble “Henry Irving as Hamlet,” now at the Guildhall, the property of the Corporation of London. The “Henry Irving” is one of the most complete efforts in English art. The beauty of the design and the powerful modelling of the face and hands, place the statue in the very forefront of modern English sculpture. Added to this is the magnificent realism with which the sculptor has preserved the sense of theatrical portraiture. The figure is not Henry Irving; nor is it Hamlet. The imaginative insight of the artist has been able to reach an absolute fusion of the two ideas. It really is “Henry Irving as Hamlet.”

No reference to the genius of Onslow Ford would be complete without a word as to his statuettes, particularly as “sculpture in little” may [Pg 300] well prove to be the means whereby the English sculptor will regain the attention of the art-buyer in the near future.

One of Onslow Ford’s most charming efforts in this direction is the delightfully whimsical “Folly.” It represents a figure with the adolescent charms of budding womanhood balancing herself on the edge of a precipitous rock. Toes clutching at the slippery edge—a fancy which is characteristic of Onslow Ford—“Folly” is calling to the foolish to follow the dream picture she can see in the distance. The charm of the little work lies in the freshness of the conception, the perfect balance of the figure and the beautiful realism with which form and flesh have been rendered. “The Egyptian Singer” (Tate Gallery) is an equally charming example of the sculptor’s art.

Onslow Ford died in 1901. A sculptor of almost equal genius, though of less prolific accomplishment, was lost to English sculpture at an equally early age. We are referring to Harry Bates (1847-1899). There are two fine examples of his work at the Tate Gallery, London. Note the grace with which the artist’s imagination has given a new turn to so hackneyed a theme as the myth of Pandora: Bates’s “Pandora” is less an illustration of the Greek story than it is of an episode in the life-history of a woman of to-day. A sweet, virginal figure, she is opening the box in which Fate has hidden the unknown, without a premonition of the sorrows which must attend the revelation of the secret.

The equally well-known “Hounds in Leash,” was sculptured by Bates to prove that he was as much at home in treating a subject requiring the expression of vigorous action as he was in the treatment of figures at rest.



Tate Gallery, London



[Pg 301] There are many sculptors in England at the present time who would claim attention were our survey an exhaustive one. This, of course, is not our purpose. It will therefore suffice to recall two other works in proof of the intense individualism of latter-day sculpture in Great Britain.

The first is J. M. Swan’s charming statuette “Orpheus,” exhibited in the Royal Academy of 1895.

J. M. Swan is, of course, the painter. He studied first at Lambeth, then at the Academy and finally at Paris, where he came under the influence of Frémiet, the animal sculptor. It is as a sculptor of animals that Swan has made his reputation. Indeed he may be roughly labelled as the English Barye.

Note how delightfully the sinuousness of the lithe figure of the “Orpheus” is rendered. Here we have the spirit, not the echo, of the Greek myth. Like Barye, Swan is a realist, though his method is the reverse of realistic, since he is more concerned with the masses than the details. Swan’s supreme gift lies in his power to detect character in the whole of the human and animal form. His charm depends on the delightfully individualistic methods by which he expresses his insight. None of his statuettes ever strike us as coming from another man’s studio.

An equally strong individualistic note is struck in George Frampton’s “Mysteriarch.”

This beautiful marble was exhibited in the Academy of 1893. It affords a fine example of the sculptor’s art at its best. The bust is set in front of a gilded disc supported upon an architecturally treated screen, the figure being cut, Florentine fashion, just below the [Pg 302] shoulders. The treatment of the subject is in a high degree imaginative, while the subtlety with which the serene severity of the face is rendered proves the possession of fine technical powers.

George Frampton was born in 1860. He studied, like Harry Bates, under Mr. Frith at Lambeth, passed on to the Academy school, and finished by gaining the Gold Medal in 1887. He has since acted as an art adviser to the Technical Education Board of the London County Council, a position which has enabled him to give a wide currency to very definite artistic ideals. He is one of the men with whom the future of English sculpture rests.

This brief sketch of modern British sculpture completes our task. Our aim has been to map out the entire history of the art. In our view the study of the development of sculpture in terms of isolated craftsmen would have involved a basic fallacy. The individual is no more than the crest of a wave in the sea of mental, emotional and physical energy, whence art arises. We have, therefore, been content to note the various forms in which a common temper has found expression.

Doubtless it would have been possible to trace an international traffic in thought and emotion. Its main channels might have been correlated with the manifestations of an international art spirit. We have preferred to avoid the standpoint of cosmopolitanism and individualism alike, choosing the middle position—that of nationalism. The proposition that every great art is essentially a national art may be disputed. But it has the merit of not requiring actual demonstration. Most of us feel that the artist must draw the greater part of his inspiration from the men and women with whom he lives and to whom he appeals. The only thing to avoid is a too narrow use of the word. “National” does not connote a merely territorial or a supposed racial bond. Coleridge defined the term for all time when he wrote: “I, for one, do not call the sod under my feet my country; but language, religion, laws, government, blood, identity in these make men of one country.”



[Pg 303] That art alone is truly living which is a record and an interpretation of national life—an epitome of the loves and the hates, the sorrows and the joys, the caprices and the enthusiasms, of men like ourselves.

We have demonstrated that the marbles and the bronzes of the greater schools of sculpture of the past answer to this supreme test. Surely this justifies the proposition with which we started—“that they are not dead things which may be left to gather dust in unfrequented museums and galleries.”

One further claim upon the affection and regard of this restless century may be made. Much of the greatest sculpture speaks of other days than ours. It tells of times

“Before this strange disease of modern life, With its sick hurry, its divided aims, Its heads o’ertax’d, its palsied hearts, was rife.”

[Pg 304]

[Pg 305]



Sturgis (Russell). Annotated Bibliography of Fine Art, Boston (Mass.). 1897

Quaritch (Bernard). Catalogue of Works on the Fine Arts (London). 1904

Jellinek (Arthur L.). Art Bibliography. 1902

Greek Sculpture in General

Jones (Henry Stuart). Select Passages from Ancient Writers illustrative of the History of Greek Sculpture (with a Translation). 1895

Frazer (J. G.). Pausanias (translated). 1900

Gardner (Percy) and Imhoof-Blumer. A numismatic Commentary on Pausanias, &c. 1887

Gardner (Ernest Arthur). Ancient Athens (Illustrated). 1902

Collignon (Maxime). La Polychromie dans la Sculpture Grecque. 1898

Collignon (Maxime). Manual of Mythology in relation to Greek Art. 1890

Löwy. Inschriften griechischer Bildhauer. 1885
Journal of Hellenic Studies. Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. 1880, &c.
American Journal of Archæology (Baltimore). 1885, &c.

Furtwaengler (Adolf). Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture Translated by Eugénie Sellers (Illustrated). 1895

Gardner (Ernest Arthur). A Handbook of Greek Sculpture. 1905

Collignon (Maxime). Histoire de la Sculpture Grecque (Illustrated). 1892-93 [Pg 306]

Murray (Alexander Stuart). A History of Greek Sculpture (Illustrated). 1890

Amelung and Holtzinger. Museums and Ruins of Rome (edited by Mrs. Strong)

British Museum. Official Guide to Sculpture Galleries.

Murray (A. Stuart). Greek Bronzes (Portfolio). 1899

Walters (Henry Beauchamp). Catalogue of the Bronzes British Museum (Illustrated). 1899

Perrot (Georges) and Chipiez (Charles).
Histoire de L’Art dans L’Antiquité. 1891
Les Fouilles de Delphes, vol. ii. Sculpture

Paris (Pierre). Polyclete (Les Artistes Célèbres). 1895

Murray (A. Stuart). The Sculptures of the Parthenon (Illustrated). 1903

Waldstein (Charles). Essays on the Art of Phidias. 1885

Collignon (Maxime). Phidias (Les Artistes Célèbres). 1886

Defrasse (A.). and Lechat (H.) Épidaure—Restauration et description des principaux monuments du Sanctuaire d’Asclépios (Illustrated). 1895

Gardner (Percy). Sculptured Tombs of Hellas (Illustrated). 1896

Perrot (George). Praxitèle (Les Grands Artistes Series) (Illustrated). 1905

Curtius (E.) and Adler (F.). Olympia (Illustrated). 1898

Hamdi Bey and Reinach (T.). Necropole la Royale á Sidon (Illustrated). 1892-6

Collignon (Maxime). Lysippe (Les Grands Artistes Series) (Illustrated). 1905

Post-Alexandrian and Roman Sculpture

Bevan (E. R.). House of Seleucus. 1902

Collignon (Maxime). Pergame (Restauration par E. Pontremoli) (Illustrated). 1900

Torr (C.). Rhodes in Ancient Times. 1885

Mahaffy (J. P.). Empire of Ptolemies. 1895

Wickhoff (Franz). Roman Art. Translated by Mrs. S. A. Strong (Illustrated). 1900

Mrs. S. A. Strong. Roman Art (Illustrated). 1907

Symonds (J. A.). Antinous, from Italian Sketches and Studies. 1898 [Pg 307]

Italian Sculpture in General

Vasari. The Lives of the Painters and Sculptors.

Symonds (J. A.). Renaissance in Italy (vol. iv. The Fine Arts). 1877

Venturi (A.). Storia dell Arte Italiana (Illustrated). 1901

Bode (Wilhelm). Renaissance Bronzes (Illustrated). 1907

Perkins (C. C.). Italian Sculpture. 1883

Reymond (Marcel). La Sculpture Florentine (Illustrated). 1897

Freeman (L. J.). Italian Sculpture of the Renaissance. 1901

The Pisani and the Fifteenth Century

Conway (W. Martin). Early Tuscan Art. From the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Centuries (Illustrated). 1902

Weir (J. P.). Photographs of Baptistery Gates (L. Ghiberti), Yale College. 1873

Douglas (R. L.). History of Siena. Chapter upon Jacopo della Quercia

Lord Balcarres. Donatello (Illustrated). 1903

Crutwell (Maud). Luca and Andrea della Robbia (Illustrated). 1902

Michael Angelo and the Sixteenth Century

Symonds (J. A.). Life of Michael Angelo (Illustrated). 1893

Holroyd (C). Michael Angelo, with translation of Life by Condivi. 1903

Benvenuto Cellini. Autobiography. Translated by J. A. Symonds

Desjardins. Jean Bologne—La Vie et l’œuvre

Fraschetti (S). Il Bernini (Illustrated). 1900

Sculpture of Monarchical France

Headlam (Cecil). Peter Vischer (Handbook of the Great Craftsmen). 1906

Gonse (Louis). French Sculpture in the Fourteenth Century. 1895

Gonse (Louis). Chefs d’œuvres des Musée de France (Illustrated). 1900-4

Pattison (Mrs. E. F. S.) (Lady Dilke). Renaissance of Art in France (Illustrated). 1879

Lister (Reginald). Jean Goujon (Illustrated). 1903 [Pg 308]

Auquier (Philipe). Pierre Puget (Les Grands Artistes Series) (Illustrated).

Pattison (Mrs. E. F. S.) (Lady Dilke). French Sculptors of the Eighteenth Century (Illustrated). 1900

Tarbé (Prosper). Vie et œuvres de Pigalle (Illustrated). 1859

Thirion (Henri). Les Adam et Clodion (Illustrated). 1885

Dierks. Life of Houdon (In German). 1887

Post-Revolutionary Sculpture

Cicognara. Works of Canova (Illustrated). 1876

Plon (Eugene). Thorvaldsen. Life and Works. Translated by Mrs. Cashel Hoey (Illustrated). 1874

Hamerton (P. G.). Life of Rude (Modern Frenchman). 1878

Fourcaud (L. de.). Life of Rude (Illustrated). 1904

Scott (W. B.). British School of Sculpture. 1872

Colvin (Sidney). Flaxman. 1876

Modern Sculpture

Brownell (W. C.). French Art. 1902

Clarétie (J.). Contemporary Sculpture (Illustrated). 1881-7

Arsène (Alexandre). Life of A. L. Barye (Illustrated). 1889

Chesnau (E.). Le Statuaire de J. B. Carpeaux (Illustrated). 1880

Dreyfous (M.). Dalou. La vie et son Œuvre (Illustrated). 1903

Lawton (F.). Life of Rodin (Illustrated). 1906

Mauclair (C.). Rodin. 1905

Spielmann (M. H.). British Sculptures and Sculptors of To-day (Illustrated). 1901

Hatton (Joseph). Alfred Gilbert. Art Journal (Illustrated). 1903

Armstrong (W.). Life of Stevens. 1881

Stannus (Hugh). Alfred Stevens (Illustrated). 1891

Willard (A. R.). History of Modern Italian Art (Illustrated). 1900

Taft (L.). History of American Sculpture (Illustrated). 1903

Destree (O. G.). Sculpture in Belgium (Portfolio) (Illustrated). 1905

Lemonnier (Camille). Constantin Meunier (Illustrated). 1904

Wiegand (Otto). German Sculpture.

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Transcriber’s Notes:

The cover image was created by the transcriber, and is in the public domain.

The illustrations have been moved so that they do not break up paragraphs and so that they are next to the text they illustrate.

Typographical and punctuation errors have been silently corrected.

Pages 170 and 171 are missing.