27th August 1824 Carrara
We have been dead to each other God knows how long, let the ashes of our early friendship be collected together and warmed into existence again – although I have not written to you I often think of you. I think of you with all the dear remembrance which your virtue always inspired in me. I have often mentioned your character and talents to Italian artists as well as the English. I hope you still amuse yourself with the arts as you used to do when I was with you. It is now seven years since we have seen each other. Are you still unmarried? I am sorry to say that I am. I think dear Crouchley, it is time we should get married perhaps I may bring home a Roman wife – they are the most beautiful and the most enchanting girls in the world, but the moral character of the people is not what one would wish although the girls are perfectly innocent they have not the best examples before them. If my soul was not riveted to the arts the inexpressible charms of these girls with their beautiful language would get the better of me.
Now I must endeavour to make my letter of interest to you by giving you some account of Rome. You cannot imagine how much regret the loss of poor Canova caused. On the day that the news of his death came to Rome you saw artists in companies in the streets here and there talking of it, his character and his influence was so great that from the highest down to the lowest persons regretted his death. Canova was a model of imitation. He had every quality to inspire your admiration. He was rather a short man but had a very remarkable fine head, a fine deep sonorous voice when you spoke to him. Nothing could equal his modest, kind, gentle manner – at the same time was a dignified manner belonging to him that always commanded your utmost respect. The manner he disposed of his money to bring forward young men was unexampled and his diligence in giving instructions great. He directed painters as well as sculptors. I have seen many pictures by him in oils and portraits of friends. Canova had a few enemies who always tried to inspire in people bad impressions but Canova’s sentiments towards them was beautiful – he never criticised them to anyone for speaking ill of him but praised their works (for they are great artists), he praised their excellence and was silent on their defects.
I am indebted to Canova for all the encouragement which I have met with and I have met with more encouragement than I ever calculated – observe what I call encouragement in the arts is that for subjects of poetry or history.
The Cavalier Thorvaldsen is now the prince of sculptors. How it would surprise you to see his great studio and his colossal works. He has lately made a statue of Christ. I have no doubt that this is by far the finest figure of Christ that has ever been executed by man – the simplicity, the majesty and the beauty of the head is beyond description. It is about twelve or thirteen feet high. He is now making the twelve apostles. These statues are to be arranged on each side of the Christ in a new church at Denmark. He is also modelling the figures for the pediment, the figures large as life. The subject is St John preaching – the angel which he has just modelled holding in his hands the holy water is of the highest perfection. This mans works will hand his name down to the end of time. Very soon after Canova’s death Thorvaldsen was nearly following him – he was shot accidentally by a boy – the ball scraped the flesh of his side – it also scraped his finger for he stood with his hand before his breast. He showed me the hole which the ball made in his top coat.
His first pupil is Tenerani. His works are exquisitely beautiful he has never made more than three or four statues but they are of the first class. Finelli is also of the first class but has made few works, his group of Cupid and Psyche is the most celebrated. We have also a Dutchman, Kessells – his first work is a Discobolus. Amongst the English, a Mr Thomas Campbell of Edinburgh has the most to do but it is in busts. We have a Mr Joseph Gott who has great fancy but does not bind himself to rules of art also a Mr Richard James Wyatt who has great taste.
I was ill at Rome and was persuaded by a lady who came to see me with her lovely daughters to leave Rome for two or three months. I came along with them and soon recovered. I left them on the borders of Tuscany and am now preparing to leave this place to join my fair friends back again at Rome. I came onto this place to purchase some marble. My group of Mars and Cupid is quite finished and will send it of next spring to England, My group of Psyche carried by Zephyrs is very forward in marble. The last two works which I modelled are two Nymphs. One is for Count Schonborn to go to Germany and the other is for Lord Yarborough. Two days ago I purchased a block for a figure of Cupid which I am doing for Sir Watkin William Wynn. The other block is for Count Schonborn. The Duke of Devonshire has promised that I shall make another group for him this winter. I shall model something new.
When you feel disposed to write to me I shall be delighted to hear from you and what you are doing and what is your brother is doing. Remember me kindly to him as well as your father, as it is but seldom I hear from my own brothers. I should wish you to tell me all you can respecting them. I suppose you are on good terms with Sol now, if you are not, we are always the same. You must not measure my friendship by the number of letters you receive from me. I remain dear Crouchley always affectionately your friend John Gibson.
Direct thus –
Sigr Giovanni Gibson