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Modern relief.-Mixed style.-Simplicity.
the artist was not likely to correct the defects alluded to, which had been already practised in Italy and elsewhere. Various degrees of relief, background figures and objects, and occasional attempts at perspective, are found in the works of the Pisani and their scholars; yet, their works, which are to be regarded as the infancy of Italian art, and, which undoubtedly, are rude enough in workmanship and imitation, are purer in style than those of the succeeding Florentine masters, who attained so much general perfection in sculpture. The relievi of Donatello are mostly in the style called by the Italians stiacciato, (the flattest kind of mezzo-relievo, according to the definition before given,) which he probably adopted, as he worked in bronze, from the facility of casting; yet, in such a style, commanding little distinctness from its inconsiderable projection, he introduced buildings, landscape, and the usual accessories of a picture. But this misapplication of ingenuity was carried still further by Lorenzo Ghiberti, in the celebrated bronze doors of the Baptistry, or church of San Giovanni, at Florence, which exhibited such skilful compositions, in which the stories are so well told, and in the single figures are so full of appropriate action. In these works the figures gradually emerge from the stiacciato style to alto-relievo. They are among the best specimens of that mixed style, or union of basso-relievo, with the principles of painting, which the sculptors of the fifteenth century and their imitators imagined to be an improvement on the well-considered simplicity of the ancients. In these and similar specimens, the unreal forms of perspective buildings, and the diminished or foreshortened figures, which in pictures create illusion when aided by appropriate light and shade, and variety of hue, are unintelligible or distorted in a real material, where it is immediately evident that the objects are all on the same solid plane. Even Vasari,
Style applicable to the precious metals.
who wrote when this mixed style of relievo was generally practised, remarks the absurdity of representing the plane on which the figures stand ascending towards the horizon, according to the laws of perspective; in consequence of which “ we often see," says he, “the point of the foot of a figure, standing with its back to the spectator, touching the middle of the leg, owing to the right ascent or foreshortening of the ground. Such errors," he adds, are to be seen even in the doors of San Giovanni." Lorenzo Ghiberti, like other Florentine sculptors, first learned the practice of his art from a goldsmith, and the designs of the artist who competed with him for the honour of executing the doors of the San Giovanni, were submitted to the judgment of goldsmiths and painters as well as sculptors.
The taste of the Florentines in basso-relievo was thus greatly influenced by the prevalence of a style most applicable to the precious metals, in which a general sparkling effect is best insured by avoiding uniformly violent relief, which projects considerable shadows, and especially by avoiding unbroken flatness. The background is thus filled with slightly relieved distant objects, so as to produce everywhere a more or less roughened or undulating surface. The same end seems to have been attained in the antique silver vases, by the introduction of foliage. The style continued to be practised with occasionally greater absurdities than those before alluded to, and perhaps, less redeeming excellencies, till the close of the last century. The sculptor Falconet, says of the antique bassi-relievi, "that, however noble their composition may be, it does not in any way tend to the illusion of a picture, and a basso-relievo ought always to aim at the illusion." He leaves no doubt as to the literal meaning he intends, by citing the Italian writers who applied the term quadro indiscriminately to picture and basso-relievo. Sculpture in
England, was indebted principally to Flaxman for the revival of a purer taste in the application of basso-relievo to architecture. In works of decoration, intended to be executed in the precious metals, in which, as before observed, moderately embossed and general richness of surface is so desirable, in order to display the material as well as the work; he, however, united his own purity of taste and composition with an approach to the mixed style of relief practised by the Florentine masters, who, in this branch of sculpture, perhaps, never equalled his shield of Achilles.
THE Chaldeans, whose persons are deficient in grace and beauty, are supposed to have been the first sculptors. Specimens of this art, found in Egypt, are perhaps the most ancient extant. The dryness of the climate has preserved them wholly from the ravages of time.
Owing to the prevalence of animal worship in Egypt, the most frequent and most successful performances of their artists were figures of animals.
In the history of Egyptian art, a distinction must be made between the old and the later styles. The former appears in the earliest monuments, down to the conquest of Egypt (525 B. C.) by Cambyses, who is supposed to have established the Mithratic worship in Egypt. What seems to have chiefly suggested this idea, is the discovery of a curious representation of a sacrifice to the sun, in an artificial cavern, near the ruins of Babien, in
Temple of the sun.-Characteristics of Egyptian sculpture. Upper Egypt. It is hewn out of rock, in the middle of the mountain; it is above fifty feet wide, and as many in height, and between five and six feet in depth. The sun appears encompassed with rays, forming a circle fifteen or twenty feet in diameter. Two priests of the natural stature, their heads covered with long caps, terminating in points, stretch their hands towards the sun; the ends of their fingers touch the rays. Two little boys, clothed like the priests, stand by their sides, and reach to them two great goblets. Below the sun there are several lambs killed, and extended on piles, consisting each of ten pieces of wood; and below the piles are seven jars. On the other side of the sun, there are two women and two girls, in full relief, joined to the rock by parts of their backs and feet only. Behind and above these and the boys are several hieroglyphics. The tiara on the heads of the priests, very much resembles those of the Persians in a procession, in the bass-reliefs found at Chilminac, near Persepolis. The hawk and ibis are purely Egyptian. This is a very curious monument, and it is certainly very different from the other excavations of Upper Egypt.
The works of art in Egypt may be designated respectively, as the Old Egyptian, the Persian-Egyptian, the Grecian-Egyptian, and the Roman-Egyptian, or Roman imitations of the Egyptian
The attitudes of their figures, whether sitting or standing, are awkward and unnatural-the bones and muscles feebly indicated ; the eyes flat and oblique-not sunk as in the Grecian statues, but almost even with the head; the eyebrows, eyelashes, and the border of the lips marked by sunk lines; the nose thick and flat; the cheek-bones high; the chin small, receding, and pointed; the line of the mouth, at the angles, drawn upwards; the mouth always shut, and the lips full, and separated by a simple incision;
Three kinds of remains.-Palace of Medinet Abon.
the ears placed very high; the heads of both sexes large and coarse; the feet broad, clumsy, and without articulation of the toes. The eyes are occasionally composed of different materials from the statues, such as metals and precious stones.
Their architectural relievi were cut or sunk in the stone, and then slightly relieved from the ground. Relievi, properly so called, were only executed by the Egyptians in bronze, cast in moulds. The period preceding the time of Cambyses, is considered by Memes, as the only period of real Egyptian sculpture. These remains may be classed under three divisions: colossal figures; figures about the natural size, single or in groups; and hieroglyphical and historical relievi. The colossal remains are very numerous. The sphinx is of most frequent occurrence, the dimensions varying from seventy to one hundred and twentyfive feet in length.
Of this era is the immense statue of red granite found on the site of the Memnonium, which was thrown down by Cambyses. Its stature is forty-six feet.
The space between the Memnonium and Medinet Abon, which is about a mile and a quarter, is covered with colossal fragments. Here appears to have been what Diodorus Siculus called the tomb of Osymandes. The palace of Medinet Abon has, still in a tolerable state of preservation, a peristyle, fifty-five paces long and sixty-five in breadth, formed of two rows of columns, placed on the four sides of the court. The columns are forty-five feet high, and seven in diameter; the materials good, and the execution fine. In the hieroglyphics, the large figures have two inches relief ; the smaller ones, one inch. On the exterior of the palace-wall, a bass-relief represents a chase of lions, and an invasion of foreigners, whose dress very much resembles that of the Hindoos. The Egyptians oppose the descent by sea and land, and the barbarians