The Ancient Library

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of emperors were sometimes multiplied may be inferred from the fact, that the senate sometimes ordained that the bust of an emperor should be in the house of every citizen.

After the time of the Antonines the symptoms of decline in the arts became more and more visible. The most numerous works continued to be busts and statues of the emperors, but the best among them are not free from affectation and mannerism. The hair, especially in the representations of female figures, becomes gradually utterly tasteless, and instead of the natural hair the artists made it a point to show that it was a large peruque, which in some cases might be put on and taken off at pleasure. [galerus.] In the time of Caracalla many statues were made, especially of Alexander the Great. Alexander Severus was a great ad­mirer of statues, not from a genuine love of art, but because he delighted in the representations of great and good men. (Lamprid. Al. Sev. 25.) The reliefs on the triumphal arch of Septimius Seve­rus, representing his victories over the Parthians, Arabs, and Adiabenians, have scarcely any artistic merits. During this time of decay the custom arose of adorning sarcophagi with figures in high relief, representing scenes from the legends of De-meter and Dionysus, and from the heroic ages of Greece, sometimes also the fable of Eros and Psyche : all these contained allusions to the im­mortality of the soul. Art, however, now declined with great rapidity: busts and statues were more seldom made than before, and are awkward and poor; the hair is frequently indicated by nothing else but holes bored in the stone. The reliefs on the sarcophagi gradually become monotonous, life­less, and evidently executed without spirit. The reliefs on the arch of Constantine, which are not taken from that of Trajan, are perfectly rude and worthless, and those on the column of Theodosius were not better. Art in the proper sense of the word ceased to exist; statues of victors in the public games continued to be erected down to the fourth, and statues of the emperors (at Constanti­nople) down to the eighth century ; but at Rome, as at Constantinople, those who were honoured in this way were more concerned about their rank and dress being properly represented in their sta­tues, than about the real artistic merit of the work. Statuary became mere manual labour, and required nothing but mechanical skill. At Constantinople, however, where statues had been collected from Rome, Greece, and Asia Minor, the events of history allowed the plastic arts to die away more gradually than in Italy.

Before concluding, it remains to say a few words on the destruction of ancient works of art. During the latter part of the reign of Constantine many statues of the gods were destroyed and melted down, and not long after his time a systematic de­struction began, which under Theodosius spread to all parts of the empire. The spirit of destruc­tion, however, was not directed against works of art in general and as such, but only against the pagan idols. The opinion, therefore, which is en­tertained by some, that the losses we have sustain­ed in works of ancient art, are mainlv attributable

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to the introduction of Christianity, is too sweeping and general. Of the same character is another opinion, according to which the final decay of an­cient art was a consequence of the spiritual nature of the new religion. The coincidence of the general


introduction of Christianity with the decay of the arts is merely accidental. That the early Christians did not despise the arts as such, is clear from se­veral facts. We know that they erected statues to their martyrs, of which we have a specimen in that of St. Hippolitus in the Vatican library ; and it is expressly stated that Christians devoted themselves to the exercise of the arts. (Baronius, AnnaL ad A. 303.) The numerous works, lastly, which have been found in the Christian catacombs at Rome, might alone be a sufficient proof that the early Christians were not hostile towards the representa­tion of the heroes of their religion in works of art. The hostility, such as it appears in the writings of Tatian and Augustine, cannot therefore have been general; and, in fact, Christianity during the mid­dle ages became as much the mother of the arts of modern times, as the religion of Greece was the mother of ancient art. Another very general and yet incorrect notion is, that the northern barbarians after the conquest of Rome intentionally destroyed works of art. This opinion is not supported by any of the contemporary historians, nor is it at all probable. The barbarians were only anxious to carry with them the most precious treasures in order to enrich themselves; a statue must have been an object of indifference to them. What perished, perished naturally by the circumstances and calamities of the times: in times of need bronze statues were melted down and the material used for other purposes; marble statues were fre­quently broken to pieces and used for building materials. If we consider the history of Rome during the first centuries after the conquest of Italy by the Germans, we have every reason to wonder that so many specimens of ancient art have come down to our times.

The greatest destruction, at one time, of ancient works of art is supposed to have occurred at the taking of Constantinople, in the beginning of the thirteenth centtirv. The collection of statues had


been made with great care, and their number had accumulated to an amount which seems quite sur­prising when it is considered how long a time had elapsed since art had been encouraged or protected. At the period alluded to we are told that some of the finest works of the ancient masters were pur­posely destroyed ; either in mere wantonness, or with the view of turning the material into money, or for sale to the metal founders for the value of the bronze. Among the few works saved from this devastation are the celebrated bronze horses which now decorate the exterior of St. Mark's church at Venice. They have been ascribed, but without sufficient authority, to Lysippus.

The finest collection of ancient bronzes is in the Museo Borbonico at Naples. They have been found chiefly in the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and among them are some examples of great skill and beauty. A few of the heads offer peculiarities in the treatment of the hair, the small corkscrew curls, and the ends of the beards being formed of separate pieces of metal fastened on. Several of the statues have the eyes of paste, and of stones, or sometimes of a different metal from the material of the rest of the work. Silver was often united with bronze. Cicero ( Verr. iv. 43) mentions a statue of Apollo aeneus, cujus in femore litterulis minutis aryenteis nomen Myronis erat in-seriptum. In a bronze statue, of a youth, in the collection at Paris, are the remains of a Greek

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