« PreviousContinue »
in expression, he had lost it. It is unjust, you ,
say, that men should not sympathize with homely women in distress, in the same degree as they do with the beautiful. That is very true; but it is the business of the sculptor to apply his art to men as he finds them, not as they ought to be. Besides, this principle has full force, and is strictly true, only in sculpture and painting. For, in real life, a woman may engage a man's esteem and affections by a thousand fine qualities, and a thousand endearing ties, though she is entirely deficient in beauty.
This villa is also enriched by one of the most animated statues in the world, and which, in the opinion of many men of taste, comes nearest, and in the judgment of some, equals the Apollo of the Vatican. I mean the statue of the fighting Gladiator. It is difficult, however, to compare two pieces whose merits are so different. The Apollo is full of grace, majesty, and conscious superiority; he has shot his arrow, and knows its success.
There is, indeed, a strong expression of indignation, which opens his lips, distends his nostrils, and contracts his brows; but it is the indignation of a superior being, who punishes while he scorns the efforts of his enemy. The Gladiator, on the contrary, full of fire and youthful courage, opposes an enemy that he does not fear; but whom, it is evident, he thinks worthy of his utmost exertion ; every limb, nerve, and sinew, is in action ; his ardent features indicate the strongest desire, the highest expectation, but not a perfect security of victory. His shape is elegant as well as nervous, expressive of agility as well as strength, and equally distant from the brawny strength of the Farnesian Hercules, and the effeminate softness of the Belvedere Antinous. The action is transitive, (if the term may be so used), and preparatory only to another disposition of body and limbs, which are to enable him to strike, and which he cannot do in his present position ; for the moment his right arm crossed the perpendicular line of his right leg, the whole figure would be out of its centre. His action seems a combination of the defensive and offensive ; defensive in the prem
sent moment, the left arm being advanced to secure the adversary's blow; and preparing for offence in the next, the left leg already taking its spring to advance in order to give the figure a centre, which may enable it to strike, without risk of falling, if the blow should not take place. The action of the right arm, however, will always remain in some degree problematical, the ancient being lost ; by whom the modern arm is restored, I never heard.
Though this fine figure generally goes by the name of the fighting Gladiator, some antiquarians cannot allow, that ever it was intended to represent a person of that profession, but a victor at the Olympic games; and allege, that Agasias of Ephesus, the sculptor's name, being inscribed upon the pedestal, supports their opinion, because the Greeks never used gladiators. But I fear this argument has little weight; for the Greek slaves at Rome put their name to their work; and the free Greek artists, working in Greece, in public works, found difficulty in obtaining the same indulgence. Those who wish to rescue this statue from the ignoble condition of a common gladiator, say further, that he looks up as if his adversary were on horseback, adding, that gladiators never fought on foot against horsemen on the Arena. Here again, I am afraid, they are mistaken. He looks no higher than the eye of an enemy on foot; the head must have a much greater degree of elevation to look up to the eye of an horseman, , which is the part of your adversary which you always fix
Some learned gentlemen, not satisfied that this statue should be thrown indiscriminately among gladiators and victors of the Olympic games, have given it a particular and lasting character ; they roundly assert, that it is the identical statue, made by order of the Athenian state, in honour of their countryman Chabrias; and that it is.precisely in the attitude which, according to Cornelius Nepos, that her) assumed, when he repulsed the army of Agesilaus. This idea is in the true spirit of an antiquary.
If, upon turning to that author, you may remain unconvinced, and are interested in the honour of the statue, I
can furnish you with no presumptive proof of its original dignity, except, that the character of the face is noble and haughty, unlike that of a slave and mercenary gladiator. And there is no rope around the neck, as the gladiator Moriens has, whom that circumstance sufficiently indicates to have been in that unfortunate situation.
A few days since I went to call on an arțist of my aca A quaintance. I met, coming out of his door, an old wo man, and a very handsome girl, remarkably well shaped. I rallied him a little on the subject of his visitors, and his good fortune in being attended in a morning by the prettiest girl I had seen since I came to Rome. "I think myself fortunate,' said he, ' in having found a girl so perfectly well made, who allows me to study her charms without restraint, and at a reasonable price; but I assure you, I can boast of no other kind of good fortune with her.' • I am convinced,' rejoined I, that you take great pleas
« ure in your studies, and there can be no doubt that you have made a very desirable progress. Of that you shall
6 be the judge,' replied he, leading me into another room, where I saw a full length painting of the girl, in the cha racter of Venus, and in the usual dress of that goddess. • There,' said he, is the only effect my studies have had hitherto, and I begin to suspect that they will never produce any thing more nearly connected with the original.!
He then informed me, that the old woman I had seen was the girl's mother, who never failed to accompany her daughter, when she came as a model to him; that the father was a tradesman, with a numerous family, who thought this the most innocent use that his daughter's beauty could be put to, till she should get a husband; and to prevent its being put to any other, his wife always accompanied her. I have drawn her as Venus,' added he ; • but, for any thing I know to the contrary, I should
have approached nearer to her real character if I had painted her as Diana. She comes here merely in obedience to her parents, and gains her bread as innocently as if she were knitting purses in a convent from morning to night, without seeing the face of a man.'
· However innocent all this may be,' said I, there is something at which the mind revolts, in a mother's being present when her daughter acts a part which, if not criminal, is, at least, highly indelicate.'
“ To be sure,' replied the painter, the woman has not quite so much delicacy as to starve, rather than let her daughter stand as a model ; yet she seems to have atten. tion to the girl's chastity, too.'
• Chastity ?' answered I, ' why this would shock an English woman more than any thing which could be proposed to her. Every other kind of liberty must have been previously taken with her. She must be a complete prostitute in every sense of the word, before she could be brought to submit to appear in this manner.'
• Your observation is true,' replied he; but it does not prove that those who submit to this, to prevent their becoming prostitutes, do not judge better than those who become prostitutes, and then submit to this. In different countries,' continued be,“ people think very differently on subjects of this kind. The parents of this girl, to my knowledge, have refused considerable offers from men of fortune, to be allowed the privilege of visiting her. They are so very careful of preventing every thing of that nature, that she actually lies in the same bed with them both, which is another piece of indelicacy not uncommon among the lower people in Italy. These parents have the more merit in refusing such offers, as their acting otherwise would by no means be thought extraordinary; nor would it raise the same degree of indignation here as in some other countries of Europe. Breach of chastity, in females of low rank, is not considered here in the same heinous light that it is in some parts of Germany and Great Britain; where it is deemed a crime of such magni
tude, as to require expiation, by a public rebuke from the parson in the middle of the church. I have heard of a clergyman in the north, who had occasion to rebuke a young woman for having born a child before marriage. The accomplice in her guilt had married her immediately after her recovery; but this did not abate the parson's indignation against the wickedness they had previously committed. Magdalen,' said he, with an awful tone of voice, to the woman, - you stand before this congregation to be rebuked for the barbarous and unnatural crime of fornica, tion.'
“The reverend clergyman,' said I, 'in all probability in. tended to terrify his parishioners from such irregularities; and for this purpose imagined there would be no harm in putting them in the most odious point of view.. This is attended, however, by one dreadful consequence,' replied the artist," that these unhappy creatures, to conceal a fault of which such a horrible idea is given, and to prevent the shame of a public exposition in the church, are sometimes tempted to commit a crime which is in reality bar, barous, and unnatural in the highest degree.'
There is nothing,' continued he,' which has a greater tendency to render any set of people worthless, than the idea that they are already considered as such. The women all over Great Britain, who live in an open and an vowed breach of chastity, are generally more daringly wicked, and devoid of principle, than the Italian women who take the same liberties.'
. Would you then,' said I, have women of that kind more respected in Great Britain, in hopes that it might, in time, make them more respectable ??
• I express no desire on the subject,' replied he; I was only going to remark, that, in avoiding one inconveniency, mankind often fall into another; and that we are too apt to censure and ridicule customs and opinions different from those which prevail in our own country,
with out having sufficiently considered all their immediate and remote effects. I did not intend to decide, whether the