« PreviousContinue »
highest thoughts and the finest images that ever peopled the human mind.)—The head, arms, and shoulders of the Psyche, as they lie pressed into the pillow of her couch, are exquisite. They seem to communicate a softness to each other, and to breathe forth on all about them an atmosphere of love. The head and face of the Cupid are as intense and poetical as any thing in art. He seems to be kindling with desire as he stands gazing upon her, and appears to pour forth his spirit into her's, from his immortal eyes, with a force and depth of passion that is prodigious. There is a bit of sky-blue drapery about the neck (I think) of the Cupid, which produces a singular effect. It looks like a little fragment of the heaven from which he may be supposed to have just descended: as if the very element itself had clung to him in fondness, and would not be shaken off. The old man who shows the pictures told me that this bit of drapery was added by the artist who was employed many years ago to clean and put them in order. I can scarcely believe this. He might have found it nearly defaced, and restored it. But if he added it, its happy success excuses its boldness: unless, indeed, I am attaching an interpretation to it that it will not bear. And yet I cannot think that I am; for there is no denying that it has suggested this idea to me; and a hint of this kind cannot be said to be not calculated to suggest, what, in point of fact, it does suggest.
The next picture, proceeding round the room to the left hand, is on the subject of 4potto and Daphne. The moment chosen is that when the god has just overtaken the flying nymph, and is stretching out his arms to seize her; while she, no longer able to fly from his dreaded embraces, is in the act of changing into the laurel. The leaves are sprouting from the tips of her fingers, as she makes a last effort to slip from his touch. There is an effect of motion in both these figures, which is equal to what Rubens would have given in a similar case. The Apollo, in particular, is rushing right onward like a wind or a sunbeam; and you shrink for the modest nymph, lest he should reach her before the change is completed. The form of the Daphne in this picture is not by any means fine, and the head and face are totally bad. I cannot account for this; unless it was purposely done in order to aggrandize the effect of the Apollo—which, in point of expression, is prodigiously fine. Nothing can be more passionately conceived, or executed with a greater force of gusto, than the head, face, and attitude of the Apollo. The colouring, too, of the body is exceedingly fine; for, mixed with all the truth and life of real flesh and blood, I seem to see a kind of marbly hardness and brightness about it—as if the painter had chosen (as a tribute of admiration to the kindred spirits of ancient times) to mix up in this figure a something that should call up those divine associations which they have clustered round this favourite object of their art. The form of this figure is, however, altogether different from any thing that they have left us representing the ideal of human beauty. It is the profile of the figure that we see; and a most ungainly, and, indeed, unnatural effect is produced, by the manner in which the back is made to bend in, and the lower part of the body to protrude forward. Neither is there any elevation or refinement of character in the face and head. They are highly poetical, from the intensity of passion displayed in them; but they are in some degree coarse, and vulgar, in one sense of the word, from the same cause. They in some respects resemble those of the Cupid, in the preceding picture; and the tone of colouring given to the flesh is nearly the same; while that of all the other male figures in the collection is of a dark, deep brown. In these two pictures the male and female forms blend and harmonise with each other; in all the others they contrast; and it is remarkable accordingly, or rather, perhaps, I should say it is not remarkable, that in all the other pictures a little rosy Cupid is introduced, to unite the two tones together; while in these two there is none.
It may here be observed that there is nothing in the slightest degree ideal about Titian's style, either in his colouring, his drawing, or his expression. His bodily faculties enabled him to pierce deeper into the actual truth of things than any other painter that ever lived; and he was satisfied with what he found, perhaps on that very account, and sought no farther. Probably it was the want of this power, in an equal degree of perfection, which led other painters to seek for that out of Nature which he was enabled to find m it; and this may in some degree account for the prevalence of the ideal style in minds of an inferior order, and of the preference of that style in others. They prefer to represent, and to see represented, that which is not, because they cannot see, and therefore cannot feel, the whole value and beauty of that which is. The truth fails to satisfy them, simply because they do not see it all; and not being satisfied with what their senses present to them, they resort to their imaginations. But they are destined still to remain unsatisfied; because nothing but the truth, as it is in Nature, is adapted to satisfy the natural wants of the human mind, and therefore nothing else can satisfy them. It would probably be admitted on all hands that it betrays an effeminacy of taste to prefer Guido to Titian. If it would not be so readily admitted that it betrays the same deficiency to rank the Apollo Belvedere above the Elgin marbles in point of style, this arises from the second examples being in a higher class of art respectively than the first. The same principle applies equally to these as to the former. The Apollo is a magnificent work; but the power required to conceive and to produce it, was not so high or so rare as that displayed in some of