Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

ous to explore those interesting regions for any purpose; while the few travelers, who occasionally visited them, were more interested in other objects of inquiry than the arts. At last, Stewart and Revely, who had passed several years at Rome in prosecuting their studies in painting, determined to visit Greece for the express purpose of measuring and delineating the remains of the ancient temples in Athens and other portions of that interesting country. After deroting five years to laborious researches, and an unremitted application of their intelligence and skill in the faithful accomplishment of these objects, they returned to London in 1755, with the valuable information which they had collected, and which was ultimately published in four large folio volumes; but the first did not appear until 1762, and Stewart having suddenly died soon after, the second was prepared for the press under the direction of Newton, and was not printed till 1788. The third was published by Revely in 1794, but the fourth, which was compiled from Stewart's manuscripts and port-folio of drawings by Woods, was not completed before 1816.

The deep interest which was excited by those important addi. tions to the library of the architect, was emphatically evinced by the enthusiastic encomiums which were bestowed upon the admirable examples of Grecian art which had thus been revealed, and the anxious solicitude which was universally expressed for more extensive researches, as well as the enlightened zeal with which they were undertaken by the Dilettanti Society of London, in Ionia and Attica, and by Wilkins, in Magna Grecia. The results of their sereral explorations were successively published, with an accuracy of detail and magnificence of style, as honorable to the talents and enterprise of the authors, as the acquisitions were important to the science and art which they so materially subserved.

Simultaneously with the publication of the early volumes of Stewart's Antiquities, Winckelmann's History of Arts among the ancients appeared, and subsequently his Letters on the Discoveries made in Herculaneum, Remarks on the Architecture of the Ancients, and the Monuments of Antiquity. This eminently learned German author early discovered an ardent passion for the arts, and having acquired a high reputation by his “ Reflections on the Imitation of the Greeks in Painting and Sculpture," he was induced to leave the Court of Augustus, King of Poland, and visit Rome for the purpose of prosecuting his favorite studies with greater advantage in that city of ancient ruins and modern creations, which is both a venerable sarcophagus to commemorate the hallowed site where letters, science and the arts were buried with imperial obsequies, and the triumphal monument of their glorious resurrection. Having been favorably received and liberally patronized by the

VOL 1.—MAY, 1848.

13

ecclesiastical and temporal sovereign, Winckelmann was appointed keeper of the pontifical cabinet of antiquities, and an assistant in the library of the Vatican, and devoted the remainder of his life in the composition of the celebrated works which have been named.

These various invaluable publications, with “ La Ruins de Pæstum par de la Gardt,” and the precious collection of the Elgin Marbles, caused more exact investigations, aroused more enlarged conceptions, and diffused a more refined and exalted taste in relation to all the arts, and inculcated a far more thorough knowledge of those scientific principles on which the architecture of Greece was founded, and the manner in which they were so successfully applied to produce those transcendent realizations of the beautiful and grand, in the public edifices of that nation, when at the culminating point of its glory.

The primitive Grecian order was the Doric, and among the earliest examples of sacred architecture was the superb temple of Jupiter at Olympia, which was erected six hundred and thirty years before the Christian era. At Corinth are the ruins of a Doric temple of very remote antiquity, and the celebrated temples of Apollo at Delphos and in Arcadia were of that order; but examples of which, (plans, elevations, admeasurements and descriptions of them have been made,) are those of Attica, Ægina, Agrigentum, Pæstum, and Delos. The most perfect of the whole, and the most magnificent edifice ever reared by man, is the Parthenon in the Acropolis of Athens.

Grecian colonies having been established upon the coast of Corea, in Asia Minor, the new states there formed assumed the name of Ionia; and in the construction of the temple of Diana at Ephesus, a new order, which they claimed to have invented, received the appellation of Ionic; but it is more probable that its origin was coeval with that which prevailed in European Greece; and though chiefly confined to the Asiatic states, it ultimately became more generally attractive than the serene beauties of the Doric.

The Corinthian order is of a more recent invention, and has been attributed to the sculptor Callimachus, who lived towards the close of the Peloponnesian war; but its Egyptian origin, like that of the other two orders, is more probable, as the flowers of the lotus, which generally formed the decoration of the massive columns in the immense edifices of that country in some of its multifarious varieties, bears a near resemblance to the ornaments of the Corinthian capital.

The beauty of the Grecian style of architecture arises from the symmetrical proportions of the whole edifice, and the chaste selection and tasteful disposition of the ornaments. The horizontal line, extent of unbroken surface, uniform contour, right angles, and elliptical and parabolical curves in the mouldings, are its characteristics. A quadrilateral form, adorned with exterior columns, surmounted with capitals of various degrees of elegance, and basso-relievos on the frieze, metopes and the tympanums of the pediments, constitute the elements of the most splendid structures; and although generally similar in plan, distinct varieties are perceivable; but each peculiar and consistent in all its respective proportions. The temples of all the Grecian orders were elevated

upon a stylobate of three gradations, which formed an appropriate base to the whole structure. The height and width of the three portions of this peculiar element were in harmonious proportion with the magnitude of the temple, and their aggregate elevation was usually equal to one diameter of the columns. This important feature has inexplicably been disregarded in all the modern imitations of those orders, and steps for ascent, improperly substituted, when they should have been confined to the mere purpose of approaching the doorways, and limited in their length to that of the space between the two central columns of the portico. By this unwarrantable deviation, the huge columns and ponderous entablature seem to rest on a fragile foundation as compared with that formed by the massive blocks of the stylobate.

There were no windows, or other openings for the admission of light, in the ancient temples, except the door-ways,* and hence it has been concluded that the introduction of artificial light was considered as more consonant to the spirit of their theology, where 'so much depended upon mystery, pageantry and astonishment. In the celebration of the long-hallowed ceremonials at the temple of Diana in Eleusis, the sudden transition from outer darkness to the dazzling effulgence of the illuminated interior of the temple, has been described by Pausanias, as having produced the strongest sensation of awe and amazement upon the initiated.

· In most of the temples, fires on the altars, or suspended lamps, were kept constantly burning. The wonderful golden lamp which was invented by Callimachus, burned perpetually before the statue of the goddess, in the temple of Minerva Polias at Athens, and fine candlesticks of pure gold were placed on each side of the sanctuary in Solomon's temple.

“The character of massive and imposing grandeur in the Doric; of adorned, but simple majesty, in the Ionic; and of festive sumptuousness in the Corinthian, is preserved throughout the minutest details, in all the examples of antiquity.”

The natural tendency of the Romans was for the wonderful, the splendid, the extravagant, in the configuration and embellishment of their public edifices; hence, they are remarkable for magnitude,

It is believed, however, by some authors, that in the peripteral hypæthral temples, the roof did not extend over the naos, and thus light was admitted into the cella.

novelty, complication of figure and redundancy of ornaments. But they are entitled to the credit of being the first to construct amphitheatres, aqueducts, arched bridges, baths, triumphal arches, and lofty monumental columns, several of which are pre-eminently useful, and all are indispensable in every modern nation, that is emulous of participating in the benefits which they afford, or of erincing their advancement in civilization and refinement, as well as a patriotic gratitude for the victorious achievements of their military commanders, and a magnanimous recognition of the meritorious services of other distinguished benefactors of their country.

The imperial city, however, is not the proper place to study architecture, as no perfect specimens of the Grecian orders are there to be found: yet it was from thence and from Vitruvius,—the great architect of the Augustine age, that the corrupt system of modern times was derived.

The architecture of Rome was extended, with the march of her victorious armies throughout western Europe, to the isles of Great Britain; but, after the decadence of the empire, it was generally superseded by several new styles, and, among them, the Gothic is decidedly the most commendable, for sacred structures. Its origin is involved in obscurity, and although great learning, ingenuity, and industry, have been bestowed upon that subject, by numerous celebrated authors, it has not yet been conclusively established, whether it was derived from the Saracens, Goths, Saxons, or Normans, or is the result of a combination of the elements which were presented in the peculiar architecture of each of those nations. The characteristics of this style are a cruciform plan, abruptly broken outlines, lofty spires, tall, slim clustered columns, groined arches, large pointed windows, and an exuberance of infinitely diversified ornaments, whose united effect in vast cathedrals is eminently grand; but the system is inapplicable to any other purpose.

Egyptian architecture is remarkable for massiveness of materials, solidity of construction, boldness of form, and colossal size. The grandest relics are the pyramids, near the site of ancient Memphis, the obelisks of Alexandria, Heliopolis, Thebes, and those transported to Rome, Constantinople, and Paris, the immense Sphynx, the gigantic statues of Memnon, and two of the group of Osymandyas,* and the temple of Tentyra, on entering which, Denon observes: “I felt that I was in the sanctuary of the arts and sciences. Never did the labor of man show me the human race, in such a splendid point of view. In the ruins of Tentyra, the Egyptians appeared to me to be giants."

The temples were numerous, as remains of them exist, on both * Herodotus states that there was a recumbent colossal figure before the temple of Vu.can, at Memphis, which was 73 feet in length.

banks of the Nile, from the island of Elephantina, near the first cataract, to the Delta. The gateway of the peribolus, or court, of many of the temples, was stupendous in its dimensions, and on the borders of the avenues, by which it was approached, were lofty obelisks, ranges of enormous sphynxes, and statues. The roofs being flat, the vast blocks of stone of which they were composed, were supported by numerous large and elaborately decorated columns. The apartments were ornamented with sculptures and paintings.

Paelo, in a letter to Carlo Fea, the author of a work on the ruins of Paestum, states that the columns of the temple in Jerusalem, as described in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, were evidently of the Doric order; and Wilkins, in the introduction to his Magna Græcia, compares the plans and dimensions of the temples of Paestum, with those of Solomon's, and thus discovers a very remarkable resemblance in many of their details, and especially in the form of the edifices, and the proportions of the columns;* he therefore infers that the Doric order and the first temples of Greece, were of Jewish origin, and that the colonies which were sent from Crete by Minos, who was cotemporary with Solomon, first introduced architecture into Greece. But do not all these facts more probably revert back to Egypt, as the birth-place of the arts, from whence the Israelites transported them to Palestine? Many learned archæologists, however, contend for a still earlier origin, and in conformity to the Ethiopian traditions reported by Diodorus Siculus, insist that the ancient capital of that nation, which was situated on the island of Meroe, where the Nile divides into two branches, in latitude seventeen, was the cradle of the infant Hercules of civilization, from whence letters, science and the arts descended to Thebes, and from thence to Memphis, the last and most magnificent seat of the Pharaohs, which became the grand emporium of commerce and learning for the nations of Asia and Europe, through the intermediation of the Jews, Phænicians, Greeks, and Romans.

Although there is more of fable than of fact blended in the early history of Greece, it is generally conceded that the religion and laws which prevailed in the various states were derived from Egypt, and it is notorious that Lycurgus, Solon, Plato, Pythagoras, and Eudo

The mere temple of Solomon was only about 110 feet long, thirty-six wide, and thirty-six high, exclusive of the roof; and was in form like a Grecian temple in Ante. It, however, stood in an area over a thousand feet square, which was surrounded by a wall, and within it two others, on the insides of which were ranges of columns and cloisters. The space between the outer and second wall constituted the “ Court of the Gentiles;" that between the second and the third, the Court of the Israelites," in which was placed the throne of the king; and between the third and the temple, was the “ Court of the Priests," in which was the altar of Burnt Offerings, and the Brazen Sea.

« ForrigeFortsæt »