The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

 
No. 592 of 10181
Sender Date Recipient
Thomas Hope [+]

Sender’s Location

London

1807 [+]

Dating based on

Dateringen fremgår af publikationen.

Omnes
Abstract

The commentary for this letter is not available at the moment.

See Original

[...]

PLATE L.

No. 1. Mantle-piece, belonging to the eating-room, to which belongs the sideboard represented Plate 9.

The slab or shelf of this mantle-piece is very wide and projecting; and the stiles or jambs are made to slope downwards, in the manner of brackets; as may be seen in the profile of the mantle-piece, given in the next plate. Over the mantle-piece project two antique horses heads, in allusion to the name of ΦιλιπποϚ, inscribed on the bust placed between them. Bacchanalian masks adorn the jambs.

No. 2 and 3. Candelabra, or stands: the one surmounted by an ewer, the other by a flower basket, in gilt bronze.

I avail myself of the occasion of the bust represented in this plate, to notice an error of taste, into which have fallen some English sculptors: no doubt in imitation of the French sculptors of the last century ; since the practice which I allude to seems sanctioned by no ancient example whatever, of a pure style of art. I mean the fashion of representing, in a bust, the head, not looking strait forward, and in the same direction with the chest, but turned over the shoulder, and looking sideways: a position which, except in the busts of Caracalla, no longer belonging to the pure style of ancient art, is, I believe, found in no ancient busts, that did not originally form part of entire statues, and are only preserved as fragments of such.

In a production of the pencil, which can only exhibit a face in a single aspect, if the most striking or most favourable view of that face be not a direct front view, there may, in the eligibility of bringing the features more in profile, be a very good reason for turning the head somewhat over the shoulder. Nay, even in a work of the chissel, if it be an entire statue, the peculiar attitude or action of the body may present a sufficient motive for giving such a turn to the head.

But if a mere bust, which we may easily view in every possible aspect, by ourselves moving round it, in place of being allowed to leave this task entirely to the beholder, be made itself to turn its face away from our sight, though it have not a body, to account for this less easy and less usual position of the head, the portrait loses all claim to naturalness and truth; it forfeits the appearance of dignified simplicity, which is so essential and so fascinating, for an air of inane and pompous affectation; and it moreover, from the different direction given to the face and to the chest, can seldom be so situated as not to look ill placed and awkward.

I shall beg to add that the Grecian method of cutting the chest square, and placing its whole mass immediately on a term or other solid support, seems much preferable to the more prevailing Roman fashion of rounding off that chest, and balancing its center only on a slender and tottering pivot.


[...]

General Comment

This text is an excerpt from Thomas Hope’s Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, op. cit, a collection of illustrations of different interior decorations. Besides being a banker, writer and art collector, Thomas Hope was also a furniture and interior designer, see Margrethe Floryans article The Fate of Jason – On Thomas Hope, His Houses and Hobbies.

Other references

  • Thomas Hope: Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, London 1807, p. 45-47, plate 50.

Subjects
Portrait Busts, Contemporary Persons
Persons
John Flaxman
Works
Last updated 29.12.2017 Print