In the morning I was at Thorwaldson’s in hopes of obtaining his sitting shepherd, which is fractured by a fall, but it is sold. He told me that he was paid 3000 zequins, nearly £1500, for the fine statue of Poniatowsky which he is to finish in marble in three years. It is a splendid work, one of the finest modern statues in existence. He told me that a sitting consular figure, but only of the natural size, with basse reliefs on the pedestal would cost about the same sum. I afterwards went to Canova’s studio and am more than ever confirmed in my opinion of his great inferiority to Torwaldson in every thing except the surface he gives his marble. Scarcely any one figure of Canova’s is free from affectation, and few of them have either in attitude or countenance any natural expression. I looked round in vain for a bust I might be tempted to purchase till I came to one of Marcus Aurelius (a young man) which I found was an ancient work.
Torwalson’s compositions, on the contrary, are full of genious. The expression is natural & easy, and some of his best works if they received a last finish from Canova might approach the excellence of ancient sculpture. But Thorwaldson himself does little to the marble, and his statues are less than those of almost any other artist the actual work of the master; indeed they betray this too strongly. In conversing with Thorwaldson of the minute and imperceptible touches which I think must contribute much to the inimitable beauty of the old statues, he did not appear to think that any inequality of surface could be so slight as to escape our sight in proper lights. Yet my own impression remains, that in passing the hand over the dying gladiator I can perceive an undulation of surface expressing to the touch the presence of muscles &c. which, being in a state of response or deeply seated, could not without exaggeration be distinctly expressed to the eye. In many modern statues the contours of the parts are most delicately expressed with anatomical truth; but in passing my hand over them I feel nothing but what I can see. In an ancient statue every muscle which, in a state of exertion could be seen, is, when in rest, still expressed by, to the eye, an imperceptible undulation of surface; which, tho only to be detected by passing the hand over it, must add to the truth and effect of the figure.