« AnteriorContinuar »
sense; that the entire liberty which an astonishing circumstance, that with the Greeks enjoyed (that constant in a territory by no means extensive, source of all their revolutions and all and under the influence of a climate their jealousies,) had spread abroad almost every where the same, the difamong them the seeds of noble and ferent states of Greece by no means sublime sentiments; that the habit of cultivated the arts with the same zeal seeing the naked figure, a habit derived or the same
Despised in not only from the nature of their public Crete, and proscribed at Sparta, they games, but even from the character of were never thought of in Arcadia, their ordinary costume, was of itself Achaia, Ætolia, Phocis, or Thessaly. sufficient to lead many to the imitation In Beotia (in the native country of of the human body; and that, in fine, Hesiod, Pindar, and Corinna) they the honours with which the artists were proverbially disregarded and conwere signalised, and, above all the rest, temned. In Corinth, they remained the noble use which was made of their stationary in the second rank ;--but atworks, by consecrating them as the tained, alike, the full consummation of recompense of illustrious actions, must their glory in Sicyon and in Athens. have furnished to the enthusiasm of It must moreover be evident, that the their youth, at once opportunity and brilliant qualities which the Greeks impatience for distinction.
derived from the influence of their It is impossible to doubt that all climate, might have been as likely to these different causes have contributed lead them astray as to conduct them to the perfection of the artists. These aright. The poetical genius which was theories are, in many respects, full of habitual to them, was very far from justice and truth, but they involve, resembling in every thing that which at the same time, many errors, and it is the inspiration of painting and of is no difficult matter to detect the in- sculpture. These Athenians, in every sufficiency of the systems which they thing else so light, so imprudent, so
irascible, who alternately crowned and The history of the arts, in truth, exiled their great men, who slumwhether we compare Greeks with bered during peace, and formed vast Greeks, or Greeks with other nations, projects of empire in the midst of irpresents many phenomena which can reparable defeats, shewed, in their only be explained by a great multipli- taste relative to the fine arts, a wisdom city of researches. In this study, as and a coolness which may be said to in that of the natural sciences, we form the exact reverse of their natural must be not unfrequently content to disposition. Faithfully attached to make almost as many definitions as the same principles, they avoided, durthere are individuals.
ing a long course of ages, all error and 1. The Greeks had received from all novelty. Somewhere else, then, than the hand of nature a climate full of in the mere heat and effervescence of the contrasts-a sky sometimes of the pur- Athenian blood, must we seek for the est azure, sometimes surcharged with causes of this firmness, and of the pera the most dark and the most tempestu- fection to which it conducted. ous clouds-destructive winds the 2. Although there may be some extremitiesof heat and cold delightful ground for believing that the forms vallies, full of fertility and cultivation of the human body were in general -and naked mountains, trod only by more beautiful among the ancient a few wandering goat-herdscaverns Greeks than they were among the full of deep mephitio vapours-freez- greater part of modern nations, the ing springs and boiling fountains, all difference between them and us, in this peopled with supernatural inhabite respect, could never have been so conants, by the superstitious fancy of the siderable, as to have had any great inheroic times. The natural effects of fluence on the arts. The countries in these circumstances were an extreme which these arts had made the greatly delicate and irritable organization est progress were by no means those a spirit active and curious, but cap- which abounded in the most beautiful able of every excess character models. “ Quotus enim quisque forchangeable, turbulent, and passionate, mosus est?” says Cicero: “Athenis cum alike disposed to love, to vanity, and essem, e grege epheborum vix singuli to superstition.
reperiebantur.” Phryne was of TheBut, first of all, it must strike us as bes, Glycera of Thespis, Aspasia of Miletus; and as we, to praise our fine thing more than rude masses of stone, women, call them Grecian beauties, the or ill-fashioned pieces of timber. He European Greeks were accustomed to adored at Mount Elaius a horsecall their mistresses Ionian beauties, headed Ceres ; at Phygalia, an Eurysalas To Tarian. Besides, the diffi- nome, who was half woman and half culty would be by no means resolved fish, like the idol of the barbarians of by this difference of form, even were Gath; and at the temple of Ephesus it granted in its fullest extent; for I itself, which was one of the seven imagine there are few who will deny, wonders of the world, a gigantic or that the difference between our most hieroglyphical monster, with nine or handsome men and the most hand- ten tiers of breasts. Civil usages and some Athenian, is much less consider manners, and the general taste, had able than the difference between our happily more effect on the religion of most beautiful statues and the master- Greece than that religion had upon pieces of the Greeks. Moreover, the them. But for the revolution, which Greeks had no models in nature for national genius, taste, and the arts their architectural monuments : never themselves, operated in the creed of the theless, the same character,--the evi- Greeks, that people so celebrated for dent product of the very same prin- the beauty of their gods would have ciples,- is displayed in their temples remained
prostrate before the monsters as in their statues; and, equally as in of the Nile, under the despotism of them, it is to be seen in their vases, their priests. The religion of the in their furniture, and in the most Greeks, moreover, is far from being common of their utensils.
the only one which has attributed to 3. The same remarks may, with a deities the forms of men. If this revery little variation, be applied to their ligion, by the poetical mystery which religion, and to the facility of seeing it involved, favoured the perfection of the naked figure. It was the virgins the arts, and lifted the imagination of of Sparta who were so much celebrated the artists above the sphere of the senfor displaying their charms in the ses, why is it that the Christian relia publie festivals, and yet the Spartans gion produces no similar effects? Did were no lovers of the arts. Shut up the poetry or the religion of the Greeks within the impenetrable walls of their contain any thing more lofty and more apartments, the women of the other imposing than the imagery of the Grecian States did not appear even at scriptures ? The beauty of Angels is the Olympic games, and courtezans all that imagination can represent as were the only models of the artists. most admirable and most divine. Our artists, on the other hand, who Martyrs, Prophets, and Apostles, see every day, without restraint, heads are at least equal in dignity with and hands of the most exquisite ele. Philosophers, Fauns, and Pentathletæ. gance, well worthy of the finest days The dying resignation of the holy of Miletus or of Sparta, produce nei. Stephen is surely as good a subject ther heads nor hands which can bear as the expiring shudder of a hireling the most remote comparison with the gladiator. Moses found lying among the antique. As for the spirit of religion, bulrushes by the daughter of Pharoah, I confess I am greatly inclined to is as picturesque an incident as the banish it altogether from the numbet discovery of @dipus by the shepherds of those influences which were favour- of Cithæron. Sampson was as strong able to the arts of Greece. Easily ex- as Milo; and many beauties are record cited, and disposed for unquestioning ed in the bible, who were at least as admiration, it is littlefitted for theexer- worthy of the chissel of a Phidias, as cise of a severe judgment; it becomes the Laises and the Elpinices of an every day more and more attached to Athenian brothel. its ancient idols, and adores in them 4. With regard to political liberty, less that which it sees in reality than we see in Greece, as every where else, what it believes is to be seen. The free people, who have rejected the devout Greek who bowed himself at arts; and others, ruled by despots, who Olympus before the Jupiter of Phi- have cultivated them with the greatest dias, revered at Argos, at Thespis, success. Did the arts languish at and even in the bosom of Athens, Sicyon, under Aristatus and the Cypfigures of Juno, of Venus, of the selides ; at Athens, under Hippias ; Graces, and of Love, which were no- at Samos, under Polycrates; at Syra
cuse, under Dionysius or Gelon? or its energy in the midst of those mumewere the Spartans enslaved at the time rous states which had succeeded them. when they banished Timotheus ? and Their legislators had wished to make was it not from a free republic that use of this dangerous principle of Plato proposed to exclude both Homer emulation-none of them seems even and Phidias ? But there are other to have endeavoured to destroy it. causes, concerning the power of which The laws of the different states were there can be less matter of dispute. different. Their characters, determinThe abundance and the beauty of the ed by those laws, were, in many infruits of the earth are the reward of stances, little similar, except in the the labours and the wisdom of the cul- jealousy and hatred with which they tivator, and the very same rule holds were mutually agitated against each concerning the productions of genius. other. But this very spirit of rival
5. It is an ancient maxim, written in ship, which entailed upon them so every page of the history of the world, many calamities, gave birth at the that honours are the food of the arts. same time to those prodigies of genius But honours, properly so called, that and art with which the world has so is, recompenses accorded to artists, long been astonished. Every thing are far from being of themselves suffis had a definite character every thing cient to conduct the arts to perfec- was great in a little space, - because tion. The arts require subjects of every human faculty was developed exertion capable of inspiring noble by the contending passions of the ideas, and a sane inflexible theory, Greeks. We see wars by land and which the general taste has sanctioned wars by sea---armies and feets rapidand protects, and which is above being ly destroyed and incessantly renewed altered or impaired by the fluctuation victories at which we cannot too much of individual opinion. In order to wonder and historians still more wonappreciate the causes of their progress derful. It seems to us, in reading and of their decline, and most of all, the history of Attica, Boeotia, and the those of their absence, in climates the Peloponnesus, that we are occupied most favourable in themidst of riches, with that of some immense territory, of intelligence, and even of liberty it- or rather of the whole world. self,—we must principally examine One great line of distinction among whether, in the countries under our the Greeks was that, never altogether present observation, they were so ho- forgotten, of their various origination. noured and protected, or altogether The Dorians and the Ionians never abandoned to their own exertions; ceased to regard each other as different whether they were enslaved or left at people. The one were proud of their liberty; whether they were reduced ancient conquest-the other of their to fatter the tastes of private frivolity, yet more ancient liberty and civilizaor directed by the government itself to tion. Sparta was the patroness of the the public utility, and the glory of Doric states, and of oligarchy; Athens the state. These causes are more of the Ionians, and democracy. These powerful than climate, or riches, or unhappy divisions, fomented by interpeace, or liberty ; but these causes nal ambition and external violence,are dependent on the will of legisla- by Persia in the first instance, next tures. It becomes then matter of the by Macedon, and last of all by the highest interest, to examine by what treacherous policy and the overwhelmmotives certain legislatures of Greece ing force of Rome,-seemed to increase were induced to make the arts the in strength as Greece advanced in her subject of their most anxious solici- decline, and never terminated but in tude, while among so many of their her ruin. It is evident, that in this neighbours they were altogether ne- constant opposition of spirits and of glected or proscribed.
interests, the arts could by no means In the first place, the Greeks are not be every where appreciated in the more celebrated for the masterpieces same manner. Aristotle reckons up no of art, than for the unequalled se- less than one hundred and fifty-eight ries of their political dissensions. That various forms of government, which spirit of rivalship, which had so long had existed, or which still existed, in agitated their petty hordes in the first Greece in his own days. It is evident, ages of their history, lost nothing of that the arts, not being equally neces
sary in all these governments, could not general spirit of the people. Compossibly receive in them all the same merce is the parent of many evils, to degree of favour.
which antidotes must be discovered. Again-the difference of local posi- It instigates to luxury; it polishes tion divided the Greeks into two clas- the manners, and it corrupts them. ses; those who applied themselves to Rich in moveable property, its tencommerce, and those who did not. dency is to make all men cosmopoThe one honoured it because it was lites. Such, at least, was the opinion necessary to their existence; the other of the Greek philosophers, and the despised it as useless to themselves, severity of their doctrines on this head and exaggerated the inconveniencies is well known. The arts, said they, which sometimes attend its extension. are necessary in commercial countries, Commerce would never have been not only in respect to their manufacadapted for the haughty Thessalians, tures, for the enlightening and direcBæotians, and Spartans. It was not tion of the taste,-but, in a moral the detail of commerce alone which point of view, for the animation of these men condemned, but commerce virtue and of patriotism. To decorate in its most general and liberal form our native country with superb monas the parent of factitious and dan- uments of art—to embellish the pubgerous wealth.
The states whose lic festivals—to immortalize illustrious territory was poor, looked on com- actions and to place before the eyes merce as a mean of increasing their of the people the true and undegraded power; those, again, which were fa- images of purity and beauty,—is at voured by nature, could see in it only once to ennoble the ideas of men,--to a principle of danger and destruction excite and nourish national pride and
It seems to be a very general opin- enthusiasm,--and to plant the most ion, that commerce and the fine arts generous of passions in the room of are inseparably connected : neverthe- meanness and cupidity. less, in reviewing the history of the Plato rejected from his republic both most celebrated commercial cities, it commerce and the arts; but it was is impossible not to observe, that these with a very important restriction. “If two sources of wealth have by no commerce must be introduced into our means been in every instance united. republic,” says he, “it is necessary that Commerce, in fact, when left to follow the arts come with it; that so, by beits own proper inclinations, is little holding every day the masterpieces of attentive to the fine arts,-or rather painting, sculpture, and architecture, appears to be wholly ignorant of the full of grace and purity in all their important - benefits which may be de- proportions, dispositions least inclined rived from their cultivation. The in- for the perception of elegance may terests which occupy the mind of the be, as it were, removed into a purer trader, are too important to admit of and more healthy atmosphere,--and any such participation. Surrounded learn, by degrees, a taste for the by his merchandise and his ledgers, it beautiful—the becoming and the deis not always an easy matter for him licate. They will learn to observe, to lift his view towards the higher with accuracy, what is lovely or deregions of taste and intellect. Who, fective in the
works of art and of nabesides, would be willing to devote ture ; and this happy rectitude of himself to long and painful studies, judgment will become a second nature -to labours which are little lucrative, to their souls.”* But in what reand as little esteemed, when he has gards governments, the same favour so many means of. fortune in his will be granted to the fine arts—there power, and sees every day the com- only where the same benefits are exparative promptitude and facility, pected to accrue from their cultivawith which commercial wealth is re- tion. Their object is to make men alized ? If the arts then prosper in love their country by the attraction commercial cities, they are far from of honourable recompenses; how then doing so by the mere effect of the re- can they be useful in an oligarchy? finement of commercial men. The If they are there employed, it is alparticular vigilance, on the contrary, ways with regret. Immense edifices and unremitting care of the legislature, are sometimes built ; but there are are necessary; and these, not unfrequently, in total opposition to the
* De Rep. L. viji.
few statues or pictures. The patriot- that he is deprived of them-nor hon-
his country—to create magnificent On the other hand, all the fine arts public possessions for those who are harmonize well with the monarchical poor in personal goods—to inspire and form of government. The throne to nourish that national pride, which cannot be too much adorned. The is one of the most unfailing signs of power of the prince is increased by the good laws, and one of the best omens splendour of the arts with which he of political endurance. The importis surrounded. What have they not ance of their destination under such a done for the majesty of Francis, Leo, government as this, calls down on the and Lewis? If the influence of par- arts the anxious benevolence of the ticular tastes does not always permit legislature. They find, moreover, yet them to enjoy durable success, it is another cause of perfection in the nenevertheless true, that the well-directed cessity of placing works intended for favours of a few princes have, at some such purposes under the eyes of the remarkable periods, ensured to them public; and consequently, in order to the admiration of every succeeding save the glory of the whole nation, age.
they are obliged to follow no guide With regard to democracy-I mean but the general taste. The union of those governments in which the de- these two causes in Athens, gave rise mocratical principle is predominant to the most brilliant and durable sucthe political liberty enjoyed by the cesses; and the motto at the head of artists under such a form of polity, this paper is a fair transcript of those has been too often confounded with feelings of romantic admiration with the importance it sometimes attaches which every Athenian regarded the to the fine arts, with the occasion and beauties and the magnificence of his the means which it affords for deliber- native land. ate improvement, and maturity of ex- But is it really true, that liberty cellence. A state governed in this man- would not be sufficient of herself alone ner, may be rich or poor, commercial, or to ensure the prosperity of the arts ? without commerce. If it be poor,-of The best way to answer this question small extent,-far from the sea, -and is, to review the facts by which I conhappy in its simplicity, the inhabit- ceive the theory I have laid down is ants of this fortunate land will have to be supported. We have seen that no need of adventitious and empassion- the Greek people were divided into ating aids. But if, on the other hand, two classes, those who cultivated comit is desired to unite commerce with merce, and those who did not. The liberty, and riches with morality,-the arts followed the same division ; in attempt is assuredly a bold one-its general, the commercial states were success the masterpiece of legislative more favourable to the arts, and the genius. It is necessary to inspire with uncommercial less. Among those love to his country, not the rich man which had no sort of application to alone, the noble, or the merchant, but commerce, whatever the form of gohim who knows not riches, but to feel vernment might be, the arts were ne