27 MAY 1882, Page 16


MR. PERRY'S GREEK AND ROMAN SCULPTURE.* Tax author of this lively and interesting book has stated with, so much precision, in his preface, the objects which he has had in view in writing it, that we find it not more convenient than. necessary to quote them. They are four in number :— " 1. To supply the first step to the student of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. 2. To set before the artist the principles by which the greatest masters in the greatest period of Art were guided, and the influences to which they were subjected. 3. To furnish the in- experienced amateur with the knowledge requisite to enable him to• understand and appreciate the remains of ancient plastic art, in the- museums of his own and foreign countries. 4. To direct the attention of the student of ancient history to one of the most interesting and characteristic sides of Greek life, and to show bim the intimate- relation between Greek art and the religious, political, and social life of the Greek people."

" The prosecution of these objects," he adds, "necessarily implies. a popular treatment of the subject." Now, we are not con- cerned, here and now, to dispute the truth of this assertion. It absolves us, in any case, from reviewing Mr. Perry's book other- wise than from a popular stand-point ; and all that we shall attempt, therefore, will be a rapid estimate of the success with which his " objects " have been "prosecuted." We must, how- ever, confess at the outset that we are unable to separate the " influences " referred to in the second paragraph from the in- fluences implied in the fourth ; and we may notice, once for all,

that among those influences no account is taken, so far as we have observed, of the great advantages enjoyed by Greek sculptors, as men cid hci AcciaarporciTou Accicorrg; cciaipog. So far,.

then, as Mr. Perry's first object is concerned, he has attained it perfectly. He has done much more. His work is not merely a " first step " for the student, but a useful vade-mecum for the scholar. It is mainly based, "as all such works must be," on the researches and criticisms of German archaeologists. But Mr. Perry is no blind worshipper of "great names." He is anything but Germanic •psis Germanio•. He quotes, in- deed, with approval some of their definitions, which. to- ns seem flowery rather than fruitful,—Schelling's, for in.

stance, that "art only represents the non-existent as non- existent;" and Welcker's, that " the dress is the echo of the form." Leasing and Goethe, too, a dangerous pair to op- pose when in conjunction, he contradicts point-blank, and that on a point, as we shall see, which the former is generally sup- posed to have put beyond the reach of doubt. He slily speaks of the archaeologist's " microscopic eye and fertile imagination."

And he does not scruple to say that on such a matter, e.g., as "the character and circumstance in which the artist intended to

represent" the Venus de Medici, the opinion of Byron is quite as valuable as that of the most learned German philologian.

Writing, therefore, with great independence of judgment, and qualified for his task not merely by a diligent study of what the best authorities, whether foreign or English, have said upon his subject, but also by a familiar and loving acquaintance, as he says, but obviously with some inaccuracy, with all the works of art referred to in his pages, Mr. Perry has traced

• A Popular Introduction to the History of Greek and Boman Sculpture. By Walter Copland Perry. London : Longman, Green, and Co- 1582.

with great vivacity and clearness the course of Greek Art from its first infancy in the swaddling-bands and leading- strings of Oriental nurses, through the periods of its vigor- ous youth, and of its glorious manhood, down to its cor- ruption in the bonds of Roman masters. If the reader, moved thereto by the great discrepancy of opinion which exists about the age, and authorship, and meaning even of so many of the works of art which Mr. Perry describes, should be brought to think that Mr. Perry's enthusiasm may, perhaps, not unfre- cluently be expending itself on the baseless fabric of views that are merely visions, there is no harm done. The probable reason- ing, which Aristotle claimed as valid for Ethics, may well be allowed even freer scope in matters where conjecture plays so great a part. If an intelligent critic finds a work of art admir- able, and can give us intelligible reasons for his admiration, it does not greatly matter, we think, though he should be proved to have mistaken the name, or even misconceived the intention of the artist who produced it. Who, for instance, we may ask, but an archaeologist or art-critic, deeply committed to one side or the other, can practically care whether Winckelmann, Ottfried Muller, Welcker, Brunn, Conze, and Overbeck are right in assigning The Laocoon to the Rhodian School, or Lessing, Visconti, Thiersch, Lachman, Emil Braun, Stephani, and Friederichs, in maintaining that it was executed at Rome in the reign of the Emperor Titus. Still less, we imagine, can it matter how we interpret, to take one instance out of many, the motif of the Apollo Belvidere, what the action is in which the god is engaged. Has he just discharged an arrow at the Python, or Tityus, or the Niobids ? Is he holding up the Aegis (see page 615), and marking with a mingled expression of scorn and satisfaction its terrible effect on the ranks of the Gauls, when they fled in dismay from Delphi, in 279 B.C. ? Or is he in the act of drawing Orestes from the guilt of matricide, and driving the avenging Furies from his temple P From our point of view, it is of no significance at all how these questions are answered. But criticism like the fol- lowing is well worth pondering, and it will be readily understood that a book which contains many criticisms of equal insight and eloquence is well worth studying :-

" The technical execution of the Belvedere Apollo shows a master's hand. The artist was evidently in possession of all the knowledge and skill which had been accumulated in past ages. We see Lysippus in the form and Praxitelea in the face. The noble limbs are moulded with the ease and freedom which are the result of perfect mastery, and the proud and beautiful face, from which the Muses drew their inspiration, gleams with expression, as the god moves along in graceful majesty, bathed in the purple light of eternal youth. And yet the dainty beauty of the Apollo Belvedere does not stir the deepest springs of emotion, in those who have the finest feeling for the highest forms of Greek art. Like that of some startling theatrical represen- tation, the first effect of the Vatican Apollo is the strongest ; whereas it is characteristic of the greatest works—the Theseus of the Par- thenon, the Niobe, the Demeter of Cnidos—that the oftener and longer we gaze, the greater the attraction which they exercise upon us, the purer and more exalted the feelings which they rouse within our breasts. We find a difficulty in regarding the Vatican Apollo as the object of worship ; for that, it is too ornate. It is rather like the embodiment of the day-dreams of a powerful, bright, but somewhat luxurious imagination, which is not satisfied with the majesty of nature, the awful dignity of the God-head, but must invest its idol with the external trappings of some prince of a fairy-tale."

We will not answer for the exact correctness of these remarks, but the reader can judge for himself of their suggestiveness,

especially if he compares them with Winckelmann's overwrought panegyric.

With regard to Mr. Perry's second " object," we can speak with less decision. It is not quite clear who the artists are before whom he wishes to set " the principles by which tha greatest masters in the greatest period of Art were guided." For he accepts apparently the view which "the more eminent sculptors themselves hold," that Sculpture is a lost art; and he distinctly asserts that "the artist knows not, and does not need to know, the natural laws and principles on which he acts." Or, if emphasis is to be laid on the word " natural " in this passage, then, as regards traditional or artistic principles, Mr. Perry's ex- position is not always easy to follow. We cannot, for instance, though we must use here the brevity which is akin to obscurity, understand the distinction which he draws between "the human form freed from all the inherited or acquired defects which are

found in every living man," as exemplified in the "Doryphorus " of Polyclitus, and "the noblest animal in creation in the highest perfection," as exemplified in the "Apoxyomenos " of Lysippns. Quintilian clearly .thought the younger artist had improved upon his predeeessors, and Mr. Perry's reference to the "some-

what heavy type of Polyclitus' figures " makes his preference for the older artist less intelligible. It is true that these artists must have worked on very different principles, if Polyclitns really committed his system to writing in a treatise in which he laid down the proportion of the different parts of the body to one another,. finger to finger, palm to fingers, and so on ; while Lysippus, if Mr. Perry's interpretation of Quintilian's obscure words be correct, did not mould his statues according to any fired mathe- matical norm, but determined the relative proportion of the- different parts by the eye alone, caring less for their being right according to measurement, than for their looking right. We more than doubt, however, the correctness of this interpretation, and it is difficult to reconcile it with Cicero's statement, rather incorrectly quoted by Mr. Perry, that Lysippus was in the habit of saying that the " Doryphorus " of Polyclitns was his tutor (nwgist•a).

Of Mr. Perry's treatment of "the intimate relations between Greek art and the religious politicians and social life of the Greek people," we must also speak with hesitation. For al- though the influence of Greek social life on Greek sculpture is easily comprehensible, the connection between Greek religion and politics and Greek sculpture is one which hardly, perhaps,. admits of popular treatment at all. The most sure-footed investigator can with difficulty avoid mistaking the post hoc for the propter hoc in examining this connection ; and while, for instance, Mr. Perry justly says that in the Younger Attic School, "a new and alluring field was opened to the artist, the field of beauty, mirth, and love," we fail to connect the opening of that field, as be does, with the fact that, " in the storm of war and revolution, amid the wreck of states and institutions, the breaking-up of old forms and the severance of old ties, the indi- vidual learned to look to his own safety alone, and to shape his own destiny, irrespective of the general interest of his country." And similar difficulties present themselves on the religions side. It is by no means clear that " the leaven of religious scepticism " had much to do with the substitution of " the vivid emotions, the tender grace, and the variety and brilliant colouring " of the new Attic School, for "the religious sanctity and severity, and the divine sublimity of the old." Praxiteles may have been., for all we know, as piously orthodox as his contemporary Xeno- phon; while it is tolerably certain that Pericles and extremely- probable that Pheidias were imbued more than slightly with the deep-seated scepticism of Thucydides. But the whole subject is much too deep and intricate for us to do more than glance at it in a notice like the present.

The third "object" of Mr. Perry's book is one which lends itself far more readily to "popular" treatment. He has, indeed,. furnished the inexperienced amateur with the knowledge requisite to enable him to understand the chief remains of ancient plastic art. And in doing so, he has raised a host of interesting questions, which are profitable to discuss, though many of them must remain for ever insoluble. We can only touch very briefly upon one or two of them. Mr. Perry's de- scription of the so-called " Central Group of Deities " on the eastern frieze of the Parthenon, is eloquent enough, but far• from convincing. It seems odd, indeed, to argue from the expression of certain heads, which are in the condition of that of the first cuirassier whom Shaw, the Lifegnardsman, cut down at Waterloo, and whose "face fell from him like the slice of an apple." On the whole, we are inclined to prefer the view of Botticher, who strenuously denied the divinity of these figures,. and regards them as magistrates or empatrids, with their wives and children. We fancy, too, that the head of Selene's horse on the east pediment, the " matchless head," which Goethe said was formed in the spirit of the sublimest poetry, would entirely satisfy the requirements of what Mr. King- lake calls " a Yorkshireman hippodamoio." He—the York- shireman—would settle quickly enough the great German's doubt as to whether this—the original horse (Urpferd)—had been seen by the artist " with his own eyes, or conceived in his mind." Again, if Mr. Perry is wrong in assigning too late a date to the peerless " Venus of Melos," be deserves the gratitude of all her worshippers, for saying that "we must regard this grandest and noblest representation of the mighty goddess with the same feelings as are inspired by the rare golden days of autumn, which rival in beauty, and surpass in charm and interest, the uniform brightness of the height of summer ;" and it is a pity that in the cast of this statue in the British Museum, the (restored) nose is too large, as any spectator can satisfy himself, by looking at the right profile of that lovely face. From Mr. Perry's remarks on "The Laocoon," we must quote the view which we have already referred to. Lessing, as is well known, gave the face of Laocoon as an instance of the moderation of Greek art. The artist, he says, softens the cry into a sigh ;" and he gives elaborate reasons why "Laocoon does not cry aloud." In this view he was supported by Goethe, who (Werke, xxii., p. 65) says, "I decided in my own mind why Laocoon does not cry." " We," says Mr. Perry, " are inclined to move the previous question, whether he cries aloud or not ; which, after careful consideration, we should answer that he does." The figures of Laocoon's sons have often been exposed to adverse criticism. They appear to be out of perspective, and to represent little men, rather than youths. Mr. Perry says that, " it is consonant with the principle of Greek art, that these figures are made out of all proportion too small ?" But a remark like this throws us back on one of the difficulties which, as we have intimated, we cannot attempt to discuss.

We have reviewed Mr. Perry's book entirely from a popular point of view, and it is as " a popular introduction to Greek and Roman Sculpture," that we recommend it most warmly to the general reader. Archaeologists may easily point out errors of detail, and Mr. Perry's list of errata, a rather lengthy one, might be easily increased, but if we consider the aim which he has had in view, he must be judged to have attained it with complete success.