WALKS IN ROME AND ITS ENVIRONS. — NO. VI.
Thorwaltzen the Sculptor.
Cicognara has almost excluded Thorwaltzen, with egregious partiality to his rival, from the Fasti of his Storia, but his works every day becoming more generally known, appeal against the judgment, and his contemporaries are beginning to anticipate the award of posterity. I knew Canova by the engravings of his statues; but the outlines of Thorwaltzen’s have scarcely passed beyond Rome, and are but feeble reflectors, after all, of the originals. I felt therefore doubly interested in approaching his Studio; I soon crossed the Piazza Barberini, and was instantly attracted, by some huge blocks of the finest Carrara marble, to the entrance of a narrow lane. The rich Travertine masses of the Barberini palace (too large for one of the proudest sovereigns in Europe) towered immediately above it, and the whole vicolo, seemed occupied by a series of large magazines: – one of these was open the workmen had just returned from their siesta, and we found it full. My guide led me rapidly through it, though crowded with a host of statues, across a little garden adjoining, a second. The garden was retired and tranquil, the day pensive – a few vines thinned of their fruit, but not of their leaves, and mingling their tendrils with broken relics of busts, columns, and inscriptions, with a few bright varieties of wild shrubs, pushing their way through the walls, and the twinkling of a small fountain near; all this, with the grey sky above, and the perfect stillness of the evening air, preluded most agreeably to the high intellectual treat to which I was about to be introduced, and was the most appropriate preliminary which could be desired to the studio of a classic artist. I thought of London, Winkleman, and the North: – a workman opened the door — and we found ourselves at once in presence of Thorwaltzen. He had just recovered from a rheumatic attack, and it was the first day he had been permitted to return to his occupations.
The day was damp, – the magazine large and naked, unfloored and unpainted; but the spirit within him conquered all, he was in the fervor of a magnificent composition, modelling the colossal horse for the monument of the Prince Poniatowski. He descended from his scaffolding, and I was immediately presented to him. His appearance is striking –peculiar – in the South doubly so. In the midst of these Italian faces, the features of the North are strange and jarring. Imagine a tall and massive sort of person, robust, and almost rough in stature and gesture – boldly hewn from the quarry without polish or pretension – in matter and manner, in word and act, emphatically and vigorously, the North. Thorwaltzen is a native of Copenhagen, and his father of Iceland: he bears it about him – his residence of twenty years in Italy has produced no change – years have glided over him without an impression. In the structure or muscles of his countenance, there are none of those nicely defined delicacies which indicate that happy sensitiveness to beauty, or that sagacity almost instinctive, of taste, which is the apanage and glory of the South. But he has perhaps instead, the externals of a higher order of intellect. His forehead is capacious, and trenched with the traces of bold and grand thought; his eyes, though small, and of the light savage blue of the Goth and Hun, have a steady mental lustre about them which is well set off by their enchasement. The softer parts of his character, that good-nature so characteristically and nationally German, lie in honest and ungracious smiles about his mouth. The entire head is crowned with a waste of neglected hair thinly sprinkled with grey, which gives a venerable air to the whole, and frames well the portrait. It is just such a model as I should choose for a Scandinavian Jupiter. Throughout, there is great power and firm will, much genius and more reflection. His own bust, executed by himself, concentres both. It is a noble work, and bears well a comparison with that of Canova. It is the ideal of the elements which compose him, preserving still the actual and grosser lineaments of the man. I know nothing finer than the profound gaze of thought, the antique solemnity engendered over the whole being by high and noble meditations, which is so pregnantly expressed in every trait. There is, throughout, much
of the “terribil via” of his great predecessor; a muscle of mind, if I may so express it, as well as body; a grasp and strength, singularly opposed to the open mouth, the Virgilian inspiration, the soft devotional enthusiasm of the head of Canova. There is another portrait by a German artist; and a third by Camuccini, executed for him in the meridian of their friendship, and in gratitude for the admirable restoration of his relief of Trajan. Camuccini’s is a cold and gloomy performance. When I afterwards saw it, and knew Thorwaltzen well, I neither recognized the man nor his mind. The German portrait is the favourite of the artist himself: the likeness is there, but it is still clay,—the mere prosaic recollection of his character, laboriously and painfully wrought to the matter of fact of colour and shape. He has shorn him of all the higher rays of intellect, and terrestrialized the divine particle, as much as was in his power. His manners are open and affable; a natural simplicity, with more than the warmth of his countrymen, enhances the value of his courtesies; nor is their sincerity a little heightened, by the strongly aspirated German Italian, which he still speaks. He soon sets you at your ease; – is communicative without being talkative – kind without affectation; and you cannot leave him without the impression that his moral character, instead of suffering, receives and communicates additional lustre to his intellectual, by the contact.
After a few words conversation, he obligingly interrupted his labours, and conducted us himself, without any effort to impress upon us the value of the favour, through the regions, rather than the chambers of his ateliers. They are a most extensive gallery in themselves. His observations turned principally upon his art, and were characterized by the metaphysical predilections of his countrymen. He touched upon the philosophy of sculptural composition, and supported his positions with considerable aptitude of illustration. His manner, perhaps, as much the result of organization and accident as of choice, he defends upon theory, and, without direct censure of the works of his competitors, more than hinted the preference which seemed due to his own. Thorwaltzen expends his whole mind on his first conception; he creates in clay only; the tedious day-by-day operation, the gradual swelling into the ripeness of perfection, tires and appals him; the last is touch is generally wanting; there is a harshness in the execution, in what may perhaps be called the distinctive diction of the art, which at first sight separates him from Canova.* But he fully atones for this deficiency, if such
it should be called, by the much higher powers of composition, which he brings to the work. He is eminently gifted with the creative faculty; and though he can scarcely be called, like Canova, the father of a school, he is not less a poet, and as original as any who may have illustrated, since Michael Angelo, the records of modern sculpture. Groups in this point of view, cæteris paribus, may be allowed to rank before isolated statues, and reliefs before groups. Reliefs are to a single statue as historic paintings to a portrait; and though one be the best preparation to the other, it can scarcely be denied that the greatest achievement is that which requires, and effects with power and judgment, the greatest number of combinations. The passions are never better illustrated than in their action and reaction on others; and it is in the nice developement and conduct of this play of mind, that the author is most distinguished from the mere mechanist. The bas-reliefs of Canova are inferior to his fame: the vices of his manner are more conspicuous in them than in any other of his works. Thorwaltzen’s, on the contrary, are more than usually exempt from his peculiar defects; and, were they to form the only measure of their respective merits, would raise him above his rival many grades in the epic of the art. Almost the first production to which we were conducted, was a glorious illustration of all this.
Sommariva, with a liberality which has left at a great distance behind him the royal Mæcenases of Europe, had just ordered the execution in marble of the magnificent frieze of the Triumph of Alexander. The model had been put together for the workmen, and lay against the wall. With all its defects (and they may be numerous) it is the first of modern reliefs. Without insisting on the difficulty of prolonging without monotony to such a length, so insipid a subject as a triumph, a difficulty, which, if not altogether conquered, is at least forgotten, there are intrinsic merits in the work, capable of exciting and justifying the loftiest admiration. The age is caught not only in the costume, and other accessories – an easy achievement with the facilities and examples derivable from modern knowledge—but what is beyond all erudition, in a sort of antiquity of look and attitude, solemnly sculptural, and breathing altogether of an elder and haughtier world. It is just that sort of venerable beauty in art, which in language we so often find clinging we know not how, with an indescribable charm, to the strangely figured phrases and obsolete chronicles of our forefathers – an idiom fitted for the men and things about which it is engaged, and which confers upon them
that hue of age and mystery, which would altogether evaporate in the more positive phraseology of the present. About his personages, there is an Etruscan repose seldom to be found in Canova. Alexander alone is an exception: with all our knowledge of this Charles XII. Of antiquity, we cannot help wishing that his attitude were a little calmer, or less operatic. He has conquered, but he feels too much his triumph. He ought to have been more proud, and less vain. The groups of shepherds (though their flocks are too numerous, and lengthen out the state something like a collection of expletives) are a judicious set-off against the barbaric pearls and gold of the other portions of the relief, and bring the country pleasingly into the gorgeousness of the great capital. The Seers are an invention in the highest range of poetry. There is nothing more closely moulded in the mind of the times than these prophesiers and promisers of still enlarging empires to the young Sesostris of the age. They have their globes, and their wands, and their traditions, and their mysteries, and seem to unlock worlds and centuries by their words and glances. Nothing borders more nearly on that cast of Scripture grandeur, which was at all times the inheritance of the East: it recals the five hundred prophets prophesying before Isaiah. The offerings are richly Babylonish: the architecture is worthy of the offerings. I have already said it was for the Marchese Sommariva, the Albani of modern times; but many years must pass before the workmen will have completed it.
In the first atelier, to which we now returned, is the Jason. He has just won the fleece – a fine type of the Greek in all the nakedness of its heroism, and a contemporary rather than a copy or descendant of the Achilles, and Meleager. It is as near antiquity, without being an ad verbum translation, as can be borne or attained. Near is Poniatowsky – a hero, without the absurdity of armour – a modern, without the degradation of modern costume. The Graces, who follow, attract, from their contrast to the rival work of Canova: they are more virginal, but less seductive than the Euterpe, &c. of the Italian, though the persuasiveness of the latter is rather too much of a lesson, and, in the hands and faces particularly, broadens into a sort of open coquetry. Thorwaltzen values them highly, perhaps too highly; and feels beyond its value every compliment which is paid them by a stranger. I was not a little amused by the emphasis and naïveté with which he pointed out their excellencies. The superiority which they are supposed to possess over the production of his competitor, was a fertile though dangerous theme. They are finished with the same care all round – Canova’s are better calculated for a niche.
In the same chamber I observed the four oval bas-reliefs, of Strength, Wisdom, Health, and Justice: they are highly original personifications, of very common-place abstractions. That of Justice has a tinge of Æschylus: Nemesis reading the scroll of guilt before Jupiter, and Jupiter, as she reads, gradually grasping the thunderbolts, is worthy of the old theogony: there cannot be a nobler realization of the fears of the wicked. They are designed for the chief tribunal at Copenhagen; but have been also ordered by a private individual.
The Venus, a copy, or a rival which reminds you of a copy, of the great Medicean original, is in the adjoining chamber; but the copyism is judiciously departed from in the superior part of the figure. The head is more occupied; the apple*, which she holds in her hand explains and concentrates her attention and that of the spectators; the body is beautifully fuller, and rounded into amore luxurious undulation than the ancient. All the traits are delicately amplified. The moderns have a propensity to the contrary practice, and seem more habituated to the corsette than the zone. Nothing can be more gently smoothed of all harshness, or mellowed with a nicer touch into the softness of flesh, than this admirable statue. The execution and form are equally
perfect. It was a trial of strength; and Thorwaltzen, in speaking of it, triumphs. There is a pendant to this in the Adonis: the subject is stale, nor will the promise of an Achilles budding through its feminine beauty reconcile the spectator to mere repetition of originals, which are little better than repetitions themselves.
The next atelier, which contains the equestrian statue of Poniatowski, or rather its model, is crowded like this with busts, through which the artist’s own colossal head towers pre-eminently: the οιοι νυν βροτοι δισιν, is not forgotten even by the side of Lord Byron. There is all the pride of the chief of princedoms and dominations in his chin and mouth (and they seem to have been got to their most stubborn bearing for the occasion*), but the nose, eyes, and especially the neck and shoulders, which should form a noble pedestal for the head, are a fatal failure. Viewed in profile, both structure and expression are unaccountably common: the Bard is a mere English lord, who can bear nothing above or below him. The equestrian statue of Poniatowski borders on a conceit, – the only in stance, perhaps, of such a fault amongst the productions of Thorwaltzen: it would have honoured Bernini; and an enemy would say it was borrowed from the Curtius of the Villa Borghese. Thorwaltzen says, he borrowed it from the Fountain on which it is to stand, or rather the Fountain forced it upon him.† The model, where you see the first ferment of an author’s conception, is burning with spirit without grimace. The man and mind triumph over the animal: – the horse shudders from the stream; its rider has already plunged in before him.
My favourite, however, is the Hope. The seed of this beautiful imagination is in that sort of demi-Ægyptian non-descript statue, which surmounted the apex of the tympanum in the Temple of the Panhellenic Jupiter at Ægina, and was brought with the remainder of that unique collection from thence to Malta, and subsequently to Rome. But how the stone has been polished into the gem, and the seed expanded into the full-blown flower! There is here truth-poetry-creation; the analogies are perfect and intelligible. I know of no embodying of moral or metaphysical existences less liable to objection. I like it better than Raphael’s, though excellent, and West’s. West’s Hope on the window of Christ Church is more Christian, but too mystic; the explanation makes it very beautiful, but it is nothing without the explanation. Mystery will not do, with all due deference to Mons. D’Hancarville, either in sculpture or painting: the allegory must not be a story, nor an epigram, nor a riddle. The Hope of Thorwaltzen holds a pomegranate about to burst into maturity in one hand; the other gently raises her robe, which half impedes her step; a cheerful solemnity breathes about her features – it is the link between fear and assurance: she is advancing with the gravity and the confidence of the Prayers in Homer. The pomegranate Thorwaltzen intended to exchange for the lotus: it would have been an improvement, and completed, with more consistency, the original thought. The lotus was the type of the Nile, and the Nile the expression of all that the imagination could frame to men
of the certainty and profusion of promised blessings. The gradual spreading of the bud into the flower would in itself collect the essence of a small poem. The style varies a little from the usual manner of the artist. He has judiciously adopted a character immediately between the schools of Phidias and Hegesias, but leaning in grace, at least, to the former. This throws an air of traditional sanctity over the work, and gives you a Divinity for a mere allegory in stone. The hint, however, was in the ancient; but he has had the judgment to seize it, and the taste to seize it well. The folds of the drapery, the attitude, the look, are all in this keeping: but the dress is an illustration in another way of extremely felicitous adaptation. The costume, in some degree resembling that of the original statue, is modified from the Turkish Giubéh of Constantinople.
The Hebe stands near. She is the Hebe of the ancients, – a sort of luxurious indolence, not carried too far, which by reflection expresses all the quietude of Olympus, weighs gently and gracefully upon her. The moment has been well chosen. Canova’s Hebe is younger, and more lightsome, and more giddy; her forward and fleet step already preludes to her disaster. Thorwaltzen’s is her eldest sister, perhaps a little too serious; but this is one of the moments in which she has just ceased to be gay. She has already poured out the nectar, and seems to hang with a sort of amorous pleasure on the termination of the feast. The drapery is distinguished for its extreme purity, and excels as much in the arrangement of the folds, as Canova’s may be said to sin. Allowances must be made, however, for the relative difficulty of the tasks. Thorwaltzen contented himself with the suggestions of his predecessors: Canova attempted a feat.
Here also are the exquisite reliefs of the Day and Night. The Day is trite, and tritely expressed – the Night belongs to Thorwaltzen, and is almost a gem of the Anthology.
I observed also a Baptismal Font: – the illustration of that verse so full of tenderness and beauty, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” &c. &c. had been felicitously chosen – justice has been done to the choice. Thorwaltzen could have gained nothing from Beato Angelo or Chantrey.
The relief of Priam demanding the body of his Son, requires only to have been dug up in the Villa Adriana to entitle it to a high rank amongst the purest relics of ancient art.
I cannot say so much for the Separation of Briseis. Flaxman’s design, though coarse and careless enough, is superior to it.
In the adjoining atelier, is the Shepherd, an inimitable pastoral, with all the elegance and Doricism of antiquity. There are few statues of the pastoral age, and none which unites with so much nature, so much of its delicacy and grace.
I saw copying beside it the celebrated Mercury: – the god has almost subdued and “incumbered “into a brief trance the hundred eyes of the monster. The music is gradually waning away, his hand seeks in secret his sword, whilst his head is still intently fixed upon Argus and his movements, – the next moment is to decide the value and fate of his experiment. The artist has handled the forms of antiquity with the command of a master, and cast the character, with a singular truth and facility, into a new mould. The head, in particular, is deserving of attention. It recalls that complication of contrasted feelings attributed to the Demos of the ancient master, the vigilance and artfulness of the god of Thieves with the persuasiveness of the god of Eloquence.
Near is a Ganymede, transferred from a basrelief – to a group; and next the Copernicus. Thorwaltzen was selected with peculiar propriety for the execution of this colossal statue. He has transferred into the astronomer all the naïveté and simplicity of his own character and country. It is placed on a large square unornamented pedestal, sedent, and in profound contemplation of the sphere, which he holds in his right hand. The peculiarities of German costume are drowned, and not discarded; and the attention of the spectator is judiciously thrown and kept upon the face. It is destined for Germany and is to be cast in bronze. The accuracy of the portrait may be disputed; the artist had no other assistance than a miserable engraving which he showed me, pasted upon the wall.
In the same magazine is a model, in small, of the celebrated Swiss Lion, – celebrated beyond its merits in its day, but not unworthy of a place beside the Poniatowski and the Triumph of Alex-
ander.* It is an early work, meagre in manner, feeble, and deficient in truth and style, in comparison to his after-productions, and saved from the glaring incongruity with which the design is embarrassed, by no other circumstance than the originality of the execution and its gigantic size. But the master-exploit of this extraordinary man is perhaps the collection which he is still employed in executing for the new Cathedral of Copenhagen. The old Teutonic building being destroyed in the fire occasioned by a bomb during our attack on the Copenhagen fleet, an edifice on the Greek and Roman model has been raised by order of government, and from the public fund, assisted by private subscriptions, to replace it. The first sculptor of the North was judiciously chosen to embellish it with statuary; for, less rigid than their Anglican co-religionists, they have not thought true piety endangered by the assistance, or sisterhood, of the arts. He chose for the tympanum or frontispiece of the portico, which is on the plan of the Pantheon, St. John preaching in the Desert: for the niches of the Vestibule, the four greater Prophets, for the frieze, Christ bearing his cross, followed by his Disciples: for the interior of the Temple, the Twelve Apostles, and for the High Altar, the Redeemer himself. A large portion of this magnificent series has been already executed, at least in model.† The relief first mentioned, which partakes more of bas than alt relief, is admirably imagined, and adapted to its place without even a suspicion of effort. St. John occupies an eminence in the centre: his auditors are grouped with great judgment and facility around him in various attitudes: the figures nearest to the Precursor are naturally standing; at the extremities recumbent. The management of the tympanum of the Parthenon, conducted on the same principles, is more laboured and artificial. The artist here, instead of appearing to contend against a difficulty, seems to have filled up the plan of his choice. The Apostles cannot be more highly praised than by saying that in every particular they are opposed to those of Bernini in St. John Lateran. Here is no contortion, no flutter: no Fuseli exaggeration of muscle or proportion substituted for the ease and dignity of natural gran-
deur; no slaty draperies, no cumbersome allegories, or extravagant strides or rushes from one expression to another. There is a full development in all, of their age and calling; a gravity, essential to the high duties of the highest of all human missions; a lofty sedateness which becomes the monumental records of the great dead; a scriptural elevation distinct from the grandeur either of the Temple of Jupiter or the Iliad. But with this also is combined with unparalleled skill a sort of individuality, the fashion of the peculiar man, the essential distinctive of the moral and physical being, distinctions and peculiarities personal without the aid of emblems, and sustained unbroken to the very folds of their drapery. I know not in what author or artist we can find amore complete and precise personification of the ardour of youth in the traits of old age, the austere and stern devotedness of St. Peter, or the staid and graceful virginity of St. John, or the unction of the converted St. Matthew, or the solemnity of the teachers St. Jude and St. James, or the firm and deep, though late conviction, of St. Thomas, or the aspiring after all sort of suffering for justice sake, in the remainder of the other apostles. The traditional emblems are happily arranged, but the building stands without them; they are compelled to add, and not detract from its beauty. But the climax of all this is, as it ought to be, the truly sublime statue of the Saviour himself. Nothing can be more admirable. It is to Christianity what the Phidian Jupiter was to Paganism, the embodying the whole system by its visible characteristics. The attitude is simplicity itself. Both arms are extended graciously, the head is gently bowed, the eyes are cast compassionately upon the sufferings of mankind at his feet; and the words inscribed on the base, “Come to me, all ye who labour and are burthened, and I will refresh you,” is the beautiful epitome of the whole. It breathes from all its parts: it is the expression of the head, attitude, and costume. The very uniformity, which some censure as a negligence, is an artful heightening of the general effect. The parallel lines of the drapery, the parallel extension of the arms, the parallelism, and perfect assimilation of one side of the statue to the other, are only modifications of the great inspiring idea. Like a return to the same note in music, or a reduplication of the same words in poetry, there is something inexpressibly persuasive and overpowering in this insisting exclusively and passionately on the single thought. There is nothing Etruscan or Greek about it – it is not even traditionally scriptural;* it resembles no Christ I have ever seen – it is not Raphael, nor Michael Angelo, nor any of their schools, nor scarcely resembles the most scriptural of them all, Poussin. The very
mass and colossal cumbrousness by which the proportions are said to be injured, is for me a charm. It is a style per se – and which seems to be inspired by the first German schools, aided by a sense of the sublime in the artist himself, which might be envied by Michael Angelo. The Pietà of that great master, (the finest he ever executed,) now for the first time rescued from the obscurity where it lay in St. Peter’s, and exposed to the wonder of artists by means of a cast executed for Camuccini, is no doubt a production which seems to distance all modern rivality: its perfect science, its inimitable anatomy, the commanding manner in which the marble has been taught to follow all the endless peculiarities of dead Nature, this without the slightest violation of the sacred proprieties and decencies of the subject, are beyond all praise. The Christ of the Minerva, though of a clumsier and more terrestrial nature, is deserving of the suffrages which hitherto have ranked it in the first scale of mere art. But the Christ of Thorwaltzen, with less erudition, or at least less of its display, exceeds, both in the qualities which ought to stand the first in our estimate of intellectual excellence. He is indebted for his merits to mind, and to the perfect attainment of the objects for which the art ought at all to exist. His Redeemer is not a great mechanical difficulty wonderfully overcome, but a great moral phenomenon illustrated with a beauty, which, whilst it is the perfection of physical excellence, never distracts us from the end to the means. The head is radiant with the tender philosophy, the lofty morality of the Gospel. There is a meekness about its power, which intentionally clouds the lustre of the Divinity, and bows down “the Son of Man” to the infirmities of the nature which he was pleased to share, as a Father to his child, that he may more easily raise the sufferer up to his embraces. When we join to this the size, the place, the crowd which religion must call about it – when we contemplate its beauty, through the eyes and hearts of assembled thousands; and in the elevation produced by prayer and music, and public solemnities and private devotion, begin to reason on the work, as such a work must some future day be reasoned upon, with all its accessories and aids around then indeed we must say, that there can scarcely be imagined a higher triumph for the art or the man, or a more noble exemplification of the Divine nature, which the elder philosophers, in the consciousness and exultation of great powers, have proudly placed within us. Every spectator on first seeing it cries out, “The problem is solved, my imaginings are made actual – the Son of Man is indeed the God of the Centurion;” and Thorwaltzen himself, still fresh from the inspiration, could not help turning round as we left the room, and in a moment which repays man for many hours and many labours, exclaimed, “It is there; I believe I have at last found it.”
The latest works of Thorwaltzen are, his Monument of Pius VII, a bust of Gonsalvi, and some bas reliefs, which in their way are only to be equalled by the Asiatic delicacy of Moschus. His monument of his late protector, (if indeed he deserve the name), to be valued as it should be, must be seen after Bernini. The Charities and Wisdoms and Strengths of St. Peter’s – that army of allegories which usually attend popes and cardinals, as the caudatarii of their grave – Canova found great difficulty suppressing, or reducing even to more legitimate dimensions. He was compelled to take a middle course, and put them on a sort of peace-establishment. His Ganganelli first, and Rezzonico afterwards, are innovations and improvements. Thorwaltzen has gone farther, and altogether dismissed the incumbrance. His pope sits on his tomb (an ancient Soros on the model of that of the Scipios) with his tiara placed beside him -not only a fine composition, but a fine moral. The “sibi viventi posuit” is frequent on the mausolea both
of Modern and Ancient Rome; and the practice of the monk of La Trappe, who daily digs his own grave, a sufficient justification of the attitude. The character of the Pope himself also authorizes the application. He was the meekest and was said to be the humblest of men. Had he left it so, for once a pope might have reposed like an apostle. The purity and severity which is Christian and Northern, is worth all the magnificence of giall antico draperies and alabaster furniture which have been profanely lavished on his predecessors. A man, who all his life preaches “Memento homo quia pulvis” &c. ought to appear to be convinced of it (or his relations for him) at least on his tomb. But the million, amongst whom I include cardinals and princes, as often as plebeians, willed it otherwise; and he talked of introducing a sort of Christian Hercules, and some other converted demigod, besides, according to etiquette (which is inviolable even amongst the dead), replacing upon the head of the Pope the discarded tiara. A beautiful monument will thus become a mere mutilated plagiarism, made up of garbled extracts, and belonging to every one rather than to its author. The likeness is good, but so are all I have ever seen of Pius: it would be difficult to make a bad one, the peculiarity of his structure forbade it.
There is near the Pope a bust of his minister Consalvi; it is also designed for his sepulchre, and incomparably the finest which exists. Thorwaltzen put out his soul and hand here. Every thing is real, and rendered, and the spirit kept gloriously overall. The thick-set eyebrow, heavy with years and thought, the steady and retiring eye, the indented mouth, the sunk cheek of the statesman, are well retained, and all that was little, common-place, and courtier, boldly and powerfully brushed away. It is a noble work, and shows the felicity of his touch in little as well as great.
These things still lay in his own house in model, and we left for it the ateliers near the Barberini. It is perhaps as great a curiosity as any other. Whilst Gerard is known for the ton and aristocracy of his salon, and Girodet carried his fastidiousness and value for Parisian luxuries into the very confusion of his atelier, an example improved on in the largest scale by Camuccini, it is singular that Thorwaltzen, with an unfeigned contempt for all these indulgences, continues to inhabit in the Via Sistina the residence which he first occupied at Rome. He showed the greatest courtesy in conducting us from room to room. The admirer of his genius will not leave it without great gratification. The first chambers are occupied with a few bas-reliefs. Etruscan vases, for which he has an enthusiasm only equaled by David, and a few paintings decorate his sitting-room or salon, from which every other decoration or luxury is excluded. The majority of these paintings are purchases from young German artists, whom Thorwaltzen with a laudable spirit of nationality has encouraged. No artist applies to him in vain: and kind words and substantial aid are liberally offered to the stranger. The choicest are in his bed-room – two subjects from Dante (I think by Kock) seem to have deserved his partiality. They have the sombre and naïf of German fancy grafted on the melancholy voluptuousness of the Italian. His house was almost destitute of furniture – carpets were discarded, and the brick-floor, every where apparent, gave it the appearance of an atelier – to the purposes of which it was not unfrequently applied. His bed was such as an elève would have despised; his wardrobe, that of a philosopher; his whole treasury, a choice collection of “pierres gravées,” which he willingly exhibited for our inspection, first tumbling out a variety of decorations and orders conferred upon him by various sovereigns, but which, contented with deserving, he never wears. The simplicity with which, all this was done, as much as the thing itself, pleased me. The affectation of rags is still worse than purple and pride. But Thorwaltzen stands equally removed from either extreme – his love of his art, like the religion of the ascetic, absorbs and controls all minor wants, and, I need not add, all vulgar vanities.*
Thorwaltzen is rich, and owes his riches to his art. He is less generous, or his generosity is less known than Canova’s; but I cannot credit the imputation of avarice with which the Romans would sometimes attempt to stain him. Like Canova, (notwithstanding the advances which have been made him,) he prefers the blessedness of a single life. As such, he is scarcely less distinguished for his morality than his rival Camuccini is the model of a married man – the race of the Razzis and Cellinis is extinct, or to be found only in the lower walks of the art. Thorwaltzen belongs to an earlier epoch – kind, simple, and decided, feeling beauty, but preferring strength, his character, like his genius, is grave, vigorous, and sometimes rough. Canova has left him without a competitor; but his death was a loss even to Thorwaltzen. Little jealousies had crept in between them; but where they began, or how they continued, even for one who knew them both well, it would be very difficult to decide. Thorwaltzen’s character is said to have indicated seeds of vanity, which no one ever discovered in Canova; and rivalry acting upon vanity, soon produced distinctions, and at last feud. With Camuccini also a very warm intimacy gradually relaxed, and at last expired; but, in either instance, no positive error has been quoted to justify or condemn any of the parties. Let us rather presume that it is one of those cases common in every life, and attribute to the imperfection of our nature casualties which can scarcely be attributed to the men.
I left Thorwaltzen after a visit of three hours, and I need not add with regret. After many apologies for so much personal inconvenience and forgetfulness of the value of his time, I thanked him, and took my leave. I returned in a few weeks after, to receive new pleasure from his works and conversation; and on my departure from Rome, left few friends behind me whom I so highly valued, and so justly, as Thorwaltzen.