+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

lordly head clustered about with ringlets,
ambrosial and hyacinthine. Here is the
celebrated Pallas of Velletri, and here that
astounding torso of Hercules from the Vatican,
which one might almost regard as the
embodiment of omnipotence in the brawny
muscles of a demi-godmuscles no less than
himself most wonderfully clubbed. Here
glares upon us from under its diadem of
spikes, the noble bust of Serapis, the rayed
and gorgon-like fragment found, long years
back, upon the Appian way at Colombaro;
and here again the wondrous head of Jupiter
from the Vatican, that awful and sublime
effigy discovered, also long ago, upon the Flaminian
way at Otricoli. These, confronting each
other on either side, we recognise upon the
instant as the well-known busts of Homer
and Euripidesthe one transported hither
from the Academy of Mantua, the other (the
classic and idealised presentiment of Homer)
withdrawn from the Eternal City where it was
accidentally dug up a few centuries earlier in
the garden of the Palazzo Gaetani, near Santa
Maria Maggiore. Here, as a contrast to the
mighty torso of Hercules, mark well the delicate
and exquisitely beautiful torso of the
Greek Lovealso from that same rifled
museum of the Vatican. And from the selfsame
costly repository of ancient rarities in
sculpture you note the next moment, upon one
hand the immortal Venus coming from the
bath, and upon the other, the maternal stature
of Ceres swathed in the undulating outlines
of a drapery but very little short of the
miraculous. Therecontrasting as well as
confronting each the otherthe picturesque
river-gods of the Tiber and the Nile; giant
forms, carved out of the dædal granite by
some chisel held, perhaps, in the grasp of
Phidias or of Praxiteles: twin statues
solemnly secured to France by a distinct
article in the Treaty of Tolentino. Yonder,
the lovely Adonis, found by a fortunate excavator
at Centocelle, on the road to Palestrina.
And, to close at last a catalogue that
might otherwise threaten to be interminable,
the dainty shapes of Cupid and Psyche kissing
with lips of all but sentient marble, the very
types of Love and Beauty, the visible evidence
of all that is most tender and bewitching in
the essence of the Greek mythology.
Turning from the peopled pedestals to the
pictured walls what treasures of painting have
there not been amassed together in this
bewildering concentration of all that is most
precious in artthe Musée de Napoléon!
Conspicuous even here by its transcendent
beauty the glorious Transfiguration of
Raphael, torn ruthlessly from its shrine in
Rome, over the high altar in San Pietro di
Montorio. The far-famed Descent from the
Cross of Rubens, also abstracted from its time-
honoured corner in the cathedral at Antwerp,
to be hung up here in the great national exhibition
of France: a composition still extorting
universal admiration by the incomparable
excellence of its grouping. What though its
originally lustrous hues have long since faded
under the deteriorating influence of cleansing
and miscalled renovation, when, during his
journey to Flanders and Holland, Sir Joshua
remarked with concern that even then its brilliant
effect was "lost in a mist of varnish
which appeared to be chilled and mildewed."
Another matchless Raphael d'Urbino attracts
our gaze irresistibly as we loiter on; it
is the awe-inspiring Vision of Ezekiel,
with the wings, and the wheels, and the
eyes, and the four lying creatures borne
upon the whirlwindvisibly, one might almost
fancy audiblyrealising the beatific
mystery of that dread prophetic narrative,
the perusal of which we scarcely marvel now
to remember was prohibited in olden times
to every Hebrew man until after he had
attained the ripe age of thirty. And these?
Are they not the three grimly Fates, the
fearful Parcæ of Michel Angelo Buonarotti?
Terrible hags, that might have bubbled out
of the earth before the recoiling Thane in the
solitude of the blasted muirland. Beside
them, the witching Circe of Guerino, selected
from the Museum of Florence. Further
on, the ineffably pathetic Pietà, or Dead
Christ, of Annibali Caracci, radiant in every
tint, as if but yesterday removed from
the easel. And, scattered at intervals along
the opposite wall, those four unrivalled
models for the art-student, whether viewed
in reference to drapery or anatomy, foreshortening
or composition, the symbolical
effigies of the four pseudo elementsEarth,
Air, Fire, Waterimagined by the mastermind,
and delineated by the master-hand, of
Agostino Caracci. At one moment we are
standing awed before the seraphic Christ at
the Tomb, by Caravaggio; at another, filled
with wondering delight, we pause in front of
the majestic apparition of the Saviour of the
World, as revealed by the reverent genius of
that Venerable Bede of Art, gentle-hearted
Fra Bartolomeo. Yonder is the legendary
Martyrdom of Saint Christopheraged and
austereby Spada; yonder the traditional
Martyrdom of Saint Agnesbright with
infantine and virginal beautyby Domenichino.
Here, the extraordinary picture of the Communion
of Saint Jerome from the same
wizard brush of fascination; there, the yet
more remarkable Crowning with Thorns,
from the luminous pencil of Titian, the paragon
of colourists. Wherever your glance
falls, it falls inevitably upon a masterpiece.
Now, perchance, it is some lovely limning like
Carlo Dolce's Sleep of the little Saint John;
now some noble altar-piece of thrilling
solemnity, such, as the Descent from the
Cross by Andrea del Sarto. Scarcely a painter
of mark is there, from Cimabue down to
the latest of the grand maestros, but here is,
not merely some exquisite evidence of his
peculiar merits, but, his admitted chef-d'Å“uvre.