Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

two spaces of ground, where part of Nero's golden house stood, for which the owner has been offered an extraordinary sum of money. What encouraged the undertakers, are several very ancient trees, which grow upon the spot, from whence they conclude that these particular tracts of ground must have lain untouched for some ages. 'Tis pity there is not something like a public register, to preserve the memory of such statues as have been found from time to time, and to mark the particular places where they have been taken up, which would not only prevent many fruitless searches for the future, but might often give a considerable light into the quality of the place, or the design of the statue.

But the great magazine for all kinds of treasure, is supposed to be the bed of the Tiber. We may be sure, when the Romans lay under the apprehensions of seeing their city sacked by a barbarous enemy, as they have done more than once, that they would take care to bestow such of their riches this way as could best bear the water: besides what the insolence of a brutish conqueror may be supposed to have contributed, who had an ambition to waste and destroy all the beauties of so celebrated a city. I need not mention the old common-shore of Rome, which ran from all parts of the town with the current and violence of an ordinary river, nor the frequent inundations of the Tiber, which may have swept away many of the ornaments of its banks, nor the several statues that the Romans themselves flung into it, when they would revenge themselves on the memory of an ill citizen, a dead tyrant, or a discarded favourite. At Rome they have so general an opinion of the riches of this river, that the Jews have formerly proffered the pope to cleanse it, so they might have for their pains, what they found in the bosom of it. I have seen the valley near Ponte Molle, which they proposed to fashion into a new channel for it, till they had cleared the old for its reception. The pope, however, would not comply with the proposal, as fearing the heats might advance too far before they had finished their work, and produce a pestilence among his people; though I do not see why such a design might not be executed now with as little danger as in Augustus's time, were there as many hands employed upon it. The city of Rome would receive a great advantage from the undertaking, as it would raise the banks and deepen the bed of the Tiber, and by consequence

[graphic]

ree them from those frequent inundations to which they re so subject at present; for the channel of the river is oberved to be narrower within the walls than either below r above them.

Before I quit this subject of the statues, I think it very bservable, that among those which are already found there hould be so many not only of the same persons, but made fter the same design. One would not indeed wonder to see everal figures of particular deities and emperors, who had a ultitude of temples erected to them, and had their several ets of worshippers and admirers. Thus Ceres, the most benecent and useful of the heathen divinities, has more statues an any other of the gods or goddesses, as several of the Coman empresses took a pleasure to be represented in her ress. And I believe one finds as many figures of that exellent emperor Marcus Aurelius, as of all the rest together; ecause the Romans had so great a veneration for his emory, that it grew into a part of their religion to preerve a statue of him in almost every private family. But ow comes it to pass, that so many of these statues are cut Eter the very same model, and not only of these, but of such s had no relation, either to the interest or devotion of the wner, as the dying Cleopatra, the Narcissus, the Fawn aning against the trunk of a tree, the boy with the bird in is hand, the Leda and the swan, with many others of the me nature? I must confess I always look upon figures of is kind, as the copies of some celebrated master-piece, and uestion not but they were famous originals, that gave rise o the several statues which we see with the same air, posre, and attitudes. What confirms me in this conjecture, here are many ancient statues of the Venus de Medicis, the lenus with the young Bacchus in his arms, the Hercules arnese, the Antinous, and other beautiful originals of the cients, that are already drawn out of the rubbish, where hey lay concealed for so many ages. Among the rest I have served more that are formed after the design of the Venus ? Medicis than of any other, from whence I believe one ay conclude, that it was the most celebrated statue among e ancients, as well as among the moderns. It has always een usual for sculptors to work upon the best models, as it for those that are curious to have copies of them. I am apt to think something of the same account may be

[blocks in formation]

given of the resemblance that we meet with in many of the antique basso relievos. I remember I was very well pleased with the device of one that I met with on the tomb of a young Roman lady, which had been made for her by her mother. The sculptor had chosen the rape of Proserpine for his device, where in one end you might see the god of the dead (Pluto) hurrying away a beautiful young virgin, (Proserpine,) and at the other the grief and distraction of the mother (Ceres) on that occasion. I have since observed the same device upon several sarcophagi, that have enclosed the ashes of men or boys, maids or matrons; for when the thought took, though at first it received its rise from such a particular occasion as I have mentioned, the ignorance of the sculptors applied it promiscuously. I know there are authors who discover a mystery in this device.

A man is sometimes surprised to find so many extravagant fancies as are cut on the old Pagan tombs. Masks, hunting matches, and bacchanals are very common; sometimes one meets with a lewd figure of a Priapus, and in the villa Pamphilia is seen a satyr coupling with a goat. There are, however, many of a more serious nature, that shadow out the existence of the soul after death, and the hopes of a happy immortality. I cannot leave the basso relievos, without mentioning one of them, where the thought is extremely noble. It is called Homer's apotheosis, and consists of a group of figures cut in the same block of marble, and rising one above another by four or five different ascents. Jupiter sits at the top of it with a thunderbolt in his hand, and, in such a majesty as Homer himself represents him, presides over the ceremony.

Εὗρον δ ̓ ἐυρυσπα Κρονίδην ἄτερ ἥμενον ἄλλων
̓Ακροτάτη κορυφῇ πολυδείραδος Οὐλύμποιο.

Immediately beneath him are the figures of the nine muses, supposed to be celebrating the praises of the poet. Homer himself is placed at one end of the lowest row, sitting in a chair of state, which is supported on each side by the figure of a kneeling woman. The one holds a sword in her hand to represent the Iliad, or actions of Achilles, as the other has an Aplustre to represent the Odyssey, or voyage of Ulysses. About the poet's feet are creeping a couple of mice, as an emblem of the Batrachomyomachia. Behind the chair

[graphic]

nds Time, and the Genius of the Earth, distinguished by
eir proper attributes, and putting a garland on the poet's
ad, to intimate the mighty reputation he has gained in all
es and in all nations of the world. Before him stands an
ar with a bull ready to be sacrificed to the new god, and
hind the victim a train of the several virtues that are
presented in Homer's works, or to be learnt out of them,
ing up their hands in admiration of the poet, and in ap-
use of the solemnity. This antique piece of sculpture is
the possession of the Constable Colonna, but never shown
those who see the palace, unless they particularly desire it.
Among the great variety of ancient coins which I saw at
ome, I could not but take particular notice of such as re-
e to any of the buildings or statues that are still extant.
ose of the first kind have been already published by the
iters of the Roman antiquities, and may be most of them
t with in the last edition of Donatus, as the pillars of
ajan and Antonine, the arches of Drusus Germanicus and
ptimius Severus, the temples of Janus, Concord, Vesta,
piter Tonans, Apollo, and Faustina, the Circus Maximus,
onalis, and that of Caracalla, or, according to Fabretti, of
lienus, of Vespasian's amphitheatre, and Alexander Se-
us's baths; though, I must confess, the subject of the
t may be very
well doubted of. As for the Meta sudans
Pons Elius, which have gained a place among the build-
s that are now standing, and to be met with on old re-
ses of medals, the coin that shows the first is generally
ected as spurious; nor is the other, though cited in the
t edition of Monsieur Vaillant, esteemed more authentic
the present Roman medallists, who are certainly the most
lful in the world, as to the mechanical part of this sci-
ee. I shall close up this set of medals with a very curious
e, as large as a medallion, that is singular in its kind. On
side is the head of the Emperor Trajan, the reverse has
it the Circus Maximus, and a view of the side of the Pa
ne mountain that faces it, on which are seen several
fices, and among the rest the famous Temple of Apollo,
t has still a considerable ruin standing. This medal I
in the hands of Monseigneur Strozzi, brother to the
ke of that name, who has many curiosities in his pos-
sion, and is very obliging to a stranger who desires the
ht of them. It is a surprising thing, that among the

[blocks in formation]

great pieces of architecture represented on the old coins, one can never meet with the Pantheon, the Mausoleum of Augustus, Nero's golden house, the Moles Adriani, the Septizonium of Severus, the baths of Dioclesian, &c. But since it was the custom of the Roman emperors thus to register their most remarkable buildings, as well as actions, and since there are several in either of these kinds not to be found on medals, more extraordinary than those that are; we may, I think, with great reason suspect our collections of old coins to be extremely deficient, and that those which are already found out scarce bear a proportion to what are yet undiscovered. A man takes a great deal more pleasure in surveying the ancient statues, who compares them with medals, than it is possible for him to do without some little knowledge this way; for these two arts illustrate each other; and as there are several particulars in history and antiquities which receive a great light from ancient coins, so would it be impossible to decipher the faces of the many statues that are to be seen at Rome, without so universal a key to them. It is this that teaches to distinguish the kings and consuls, emperors and empresses, the deities and virtues, with a thousand other particulars relating to statuary, and not to be learnt by any other means. In the villa Pamphilia stands the statue of a man in woman's clothes, which the antiquaries do not know what to make of, and therefore pass it off for an hermaphrodite; but a learned medallist in Rome has lately fixed it to Clodius, who is so famous for having intruded into the solemnities of the Bona Dea in a woman's habit, for one sees the same features and make of face in a medal of the Clodian family..

I have seen on coins the four finest figures perhaps that are now extant: the Hercules Farnese, the Venus of Medicis, the Apollo in the Belvidere, and the famous Marcus Aurelius on horseback. The oldest medal that the first appears upon is one of Commodus, the second on one of Faustina, the third on one of Antoninus Pius, and the last on one of Lucius Verus. We may conclude, I think, from hence, that these statues were extremely celebrated among the old Romans, or they would never have been honoured with a place among the emperor's coins. We may further observe, that all four of them make their first appearance in the Antonine family, for which reason I am apt to think

« ForrigeFortsæt »