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In these points of adaptation and management, the artist of the glass vase proves himself a true successor of the ancient Greek manufacturers and painters of fictile vases, and not less so in the skill with which he has varied the composition on either front by strikingly contrasted groups, which yet in either case are equally in harmony with the form of occupied space and character of outline, that are common to both. As if to complete the parallel to the followers of Eucheir and Eugrammon, some negligencies are observable in the finish of here and there an extremity or detail, that are not in accordance with the general perfection of finish, though with little damage to the effect of the whole. With these trifling allowances, the drawing of the figure and draperies belongs to the very best style of Greek art; natural gracefulness and flowing ease and expression pervade every gesture and form, and the treatment and execution of the nude are characterized by a delicacy yet decision of modelling, that excites the highest admiration. This exquisite production of ancient ingenuity and genius was discovered in the 16th century, contained in a sarcophagus within a tomb accidentally opened on the road from Frascati to Rome. From the family in whose museum it first found place, it was long known as the Barberini Vase. Some fifty years since it passed into the possession of Sir William Hamilton, who sold it to the Duchess of Portland, and in 1810 it was deposited by the Duke of Portland in the British Museum as the Portland Vase, and here, although no longer in its original state of preservation, it still remains. The sarcophagus is at Rome, but a cast of it has recently been added to the British Museum. On its lid, which represents an ornamented couch, recline a pair of figures evidently intended for man and wife. The coiffure of the lady is in the same style that is familiar to us from coins and statues as in favour with the imperial ladies of the family of Septimius Severus and his immediate successors, and to this resemblance we may add a strongly marked profile, which seems to have been equally fashionable at the same time. These peculiarities tempted the earliest commentators on the monument, to claim the tomb as that of the emperor Alexander Severus and his mother Julia Mammea, who were sumptuously entombed by the senate at Rome; * and many of the attempts to explain the subject on the vase, were prompted by this assumption. The asserted likeness is, I think, better established by at least the comparison of the medals of Mammea, than is now usually assumed to be the case, but the conjecture is generally given up from the disagreement of the age of Alexander, who was murdered in his thirtieth year,” while his supposed representative, who, moreover, is in the relative position not of a son but a husband, is unquestionably fifty. To this period of Roman history, however, the sarcophagus and its occupants, whoever they may have been, certainly belong; the sarcophagus itself is one of the finest of these works in the style which became prevalent about this time;" it is sculptured on all four sides with numerous figures in very high relief, and in many respects of considerable artistic merit. So much invention, skilful management of crowded composition, and even power of execution, is displayed in these unequal works, together with true poetic feeling for the treatment of a mythus in a funereal connection, that notwithstanding their inferiority, especially in chasteness of effect, it is difficult to pronounce that the age that produced them, was not also equal to the production of the vase. The admirable busts that belong to the same period compared with the vulgar bas-reliefs of the triumphal arches, may warn us of our danger in generalising too boldly the epochs of art. Corruption of taste in one branch of plastic art, is by no means inconsistent with its contemporary purity in another, and it will never do to disallow the existence of a genius at a given time, simply from the non-appearance of a school adequate to produce or worthy to succeed him. The question of the possible contemporaneous production of vase and sarcophagus, has an interest dependent on the connection traceable in their mythical enrichments, to which the course of our enquiry will in due time bring us back.
* Senatus eum in Deos retulit (Scil. que Romae religiosissimè celebratur Alex. Sev.) Cenotaphium in Galliá, natali ejus die-Lamprid. Aler. Sec. Romie sepulchrum amplissimum me- * Herodian, vi. 9, 7; Lamprid. c. ruit. Dati sunt et sodales qui Alexan- 60. drini appellati sunt: addita et festivitas * Müller, Handbuch der Archäologie matris nomine, atque ipsius, quae hodie- der Kunst, $ 206.
Winckelmann, the father of scientific archaeology,” rejected the notion of the tomb being that of Alexander Severus, and was the first to propound the explanation of the subject of the vase as the marriage of Peleus and Thetis, the opinion that I have undertaken in the present paper to illustrate and develop. His view was adopted in the main by Visconti, Zoega, and Millingen, and in the words of the latter, by all those writers whose opinions deserve most attention.” And yet to this day it cannot be said to be established in the sense of commanding universal or even extensive and hearty assent. In 1832, De Witte regarded the interpretation of the monument as exceedingly difficult, and Winckelmann’s, no less than all other views put forth respecting it, as in the highest degree uncertain;" and latterly the subordinate scene has been referred by an authority of influence to the story of Jason and Medea, not to advert to other recent speculations both revived and original, the dreams of Darwin, and dreams still more fantastical, contributions to the sorry curiosities of English archaeological literature. Dr. Waagen,” visiting the Museum in 1835, notices the enigma as yet unsolved; and lastly, the learned and laborious editor of Müller's Handbook” of Archaeology, Professor Welcker, notes a serious objection to the interpretation of Millingen, though he appears no more than other objectors prepared with a theory in substitution. The objection, however, as against the interpreters, certainly stands good, and thus the subject has remained from the date of the discovery of the vase, a disordered, fragmentary, inconclusive discussion, quite out of keeping with the perfection of the object that furnished its subject matter, descended to us through a series of ages, the most fragile yet best preserved of all the works inherited from antiquity. This glory no longer remains; it is now a disfigured ruin, by no fault of the nation into whose keeping it came, unless so far as the calamity might have been averted by a more sincere and generous encouragement of reverence for genius and its works. It would be some reparation of the damage if we could succeed in restoring at least the general outlines of the ideal, in recovering some more true reflection of the sentiment that inspired and animated the artist of the broken urn ; the least we can do is to hold ourselves bound to make the attempt. Why, I may here enquire, is the vase since its restoration withdrawn from exhibition at the Museum, secluded in penetralia, which to those who cannot command time for special appointments, supposing such obtainable, or for repeated application, a lottery of many and vexatious blanks, are practically impenetrable 2 A more important consideration than respect for the convenience, or perhaps fastidiousness of an individual student, might dictate that the interest awakened in this production through the accident that befel it, and attested still by the numerous imitations of it in windows all over London, should be allowed some chance of promoting those good effects that we are told often enough, result from the direction of popular attention to works of refinement and beauty. The engravings of the subject by Cipriani, executed for Sir William Hamilton, remain the most trustworthy authorities for the design; of the recent copies I would particularly refer to that in porcelain, published by Mr. Herbert Minton, of the Staffordshire Potteries; and this I do with the more pleasure, for “I too am an Etrurian.” Our task is broadly, to find out what personages, divine or heroic, are represented in these compositions; and what is the exact character of the action they are engaged in, the precise motive and concern of the individual figures. Here are two lines of investigation that obviously are separable, though at the same time mutually illustrative. In some archaeological problems, it will occur that the true character of the action is only, or most readily, divined from the personages who take part in it, as betrayed by attributes, or even inscribed names. Greek art, however, in its finest development, is apt to be somewhat frugal of these indications, supplies no more than were sufficient, taken in conjunction with occupation and expression, to establish identity to the original spectator, with all local and occasional traditions present in his mind, and fully alive to the specific appropriateness of the most refined symbolism. We of later days must study and struggle to recover these as best we may, but when all is done it will frequently happen that the safest course is to rely in the first instance on the interpretation of that natural language of expression which makes the whole world and all ages kin, for a conception of the occupation of the figures, and thus find guidance in the absence of proper, and even in the presence of conflicting attributes, to decide with positiveness on names and titles. With this natural interpretation, if correctly acquired, by careful avoidance of over-refinement, together with true feeling for the significance of every detail, the mythological subject obtainable from literature is bound to agree, and any remainder of discrepance to be accounted for, or the analysis must be recorded as essentially inconclusive or incomplete. The establishment of such coincidence and harmony was the aim of the paper in a previous number of the Classical Museum, on the Sculptured Groups in the Western Pediment of the Parthenon; and our experience there may warn us in the present instance to pay proper reverence on the one hand to characteristic action and expression, on the other to scrutinize the mythus of the best general pretensions, for the precise phase agreeing with this verified ideal.
* Winckelmann, Werke, ed. Meyer u. Schilltze, Band 6, p. 1. p. 333. See also Venuti, Spiegazione de Bassirilieri che si osserrano nell’ urna Sepolcrale detta colgarmente d’Alessandro Serero. Rome, 1756.
* Winckelm. Stor. dell’Arti. 11.404; Wisconti, Mus. Pio-Clem. v1.71 ; Zoega, Bassi rilieri Ant. I. 269 ; Millingen, Anct. Uned. Mon. I. p. 27.
* Quant au célèbre vase Barberini aujourd’hui au Musée Britannique, ou Winckelmann le premier, (Histoire de l'Art, v1. c. 8, § 7, p. 487,) a cru re
connaitre Pélé et Thétis, ce monument nous parait d'une interpretation si difficile, et toutes les opinions émises a son égard nous semblent encore si douteuses, que nous n'osons pas le ranger parmi les representations de l'enlèvement de Thétis. Annali dell' Instit. 1832, vol. 4, p. 126; Cf. Gerhard's Arch. Zeitung, III. p. 47.
7 Was diese Figuren eigentlich worstellen, hat noch nicht ermittelt werden können.—Kunstwerke u. Künstler in England, p. 110.
* 316, 2; Cf. 413, 1.
To approach the analysis then, in the first instance, by the light of general nature and expression alone, or only availing ourselves in addition of those points of conventional symbolism that by universality of adoption have become to poetry and art a second nature, simple inspection is or ought to be sufficient to determine that the principal composition represents a marriage; Eros, with bow and quiver, flying before and encouraging, by look and gesture, the hero who enters the scene on one side, and is received by the female figure occupying the centre, can have but one meaning. To the encouragement of Eros is added even that of the lady herself, accorded indeed with an air of dignity, or even graciousness; and wherefore should such encouragement, which the happiest in this world know blends gracefully with modest tenderness, be incompatible with majesty! Seated averse from the approaching lover, she yet turns her head to regard him at the least complacently, and with extended