Page images
PDF
EPUB

in Inferis. Thus the group expresses the Bacchus in his several natures, as male and female, vivifier and destroyer :

Τάδε γαρ μέλη εστί τα IΙανός. "

For these are the members of Pan, or the integral deity.

Thus also upon a very interesting vase, which is engraved in the collection of Passerit, we notice the cherishing and destroying powers of Bacchus emblematically personified. A man, bound hand and foot, is laid obliquely upon a couch or chair, and his feet are opposed to a blazing fire. A draped figure opposite, looking upward, as if with gratitude, stretches out his hands in the act of warming them. Behind, is a temple, within which a figure of the deity, supported. upon a pedestal or altar, points toward these figures, as if superintending or directing what passes in the foreground of the painting. The learned antiquary was perplexed with the appearance of torture, thus publickly inflicted, which ill accorded with the celebration of the Bacchanalia, to which he referred the subject of the vase : but the meaning is evident; that the same element which can cherish by its genial warmth, may also be an instrument of torture; that the same deity who preserves, can also destroy; and that these powers are united in the integral Bacchus.

The attributes of Bacchus are sometimes expressed in a different way. Plate Lxxxvi. vol. ii. of the Etruscan Antiquities of D'Hancarville represents in succession, a tigress and a boar, a lioness and a goat, a harpy and a stag ; which are thus alternately classed, as destroying and generating animals : and further to evince this contrast of disposition, allusive to the opposite powers of the deity, and the continual warfare in nature, of which creation and harmony were the result*, we lastly observe in this painting a pair of fighting bulls, which confirm the explanation given.

* Onomacritus, hymn x. v. 3. + De Pict. Hetruscor. in Vasculis, vol. iii. last plate.

The attributes of the deity are not always so evidently depicted: they are frequently conveyed by detached symbols, and devices upon shields are significantly used for this purpose ; such as a human arm to denote the upper, or an anchor the lower hemisphere; the kid, the Hesperian fruit, and wings, expressive of life, and the serpent of renovation ; the Pegasus and Salian figures allusive to the pervading power; and others which do not so readily admit of explanation.

[ocr errors]

(Των πάντων)- εκ μάχης και αντιπαθείας την γένεσιν εχόντων.-Plutarch. de Iside et Osiride, sect. xlviii. p. 121.

CHAP. X.

Temporary Repose of Nature. Of the Egyptian Horus in the torpid State. - Mutes on the Reverse of Vases. Figures draped and naked.

As

yet, however, we have made but little advancement towards a general understanding of the paintings upon vases; it is time that we examine the operation of the attributes lately mentioned, and how by their influence nature was subjected to the vicissitude of decay, inertion, and resuscitation. The subject most frequently alluded to in these scenes is the temporary suspension of the powers of nature, and the restoration of the same by the interference of some vivifying agent. By far the most numerous class of paintings upon vases have been so designed as to elucidate this subject in one composition; and although a satisfactory explanation of every vase is more than we can promise, yet the reader may be assured that with moderate attention to the meaning of symbols, and the manner in which they are interchanged in order to produce varieties, many of these subjects may be understood by referring them to this general allegory.

The temporary state of rest may be exemplified in a pleasing instance furnished by Passeri, the genuine meaning of which, however, escaped that learned antiquary. He has cited a vase whereon was depicted a soldier sleeping on his post, but with his limbs so disposed, as that upon the least alarm he might start up

their arms,

and resume his station in the ranks. I will give it in his own words:— “ In eâ miles clypeo protectus, sinistro genu et crure “ humi dejecto, super illud decumbit; at ne proruat, hinc genu “ dextero sublato, et clypeo subnixus ita dormit, ut, signo dato, “promptissimè exsiliat.” * The solution of this allegory is ready at our hand; it represents the temporary repose of nature after lassitude or decay, and its promptitude to resume its functions. The same explanation may also be applied to a vignette which embellishes an early part of Mr. Tischbein's illustrations of Homer; where a file of warriors kneel, their helmets, pikes, and greaves only appearing beyond the orbs of their shields. The fact is, they rest upon

but are nevertheless ready to spring up from their temporary state of

repose. The explanation of these later devices will, perhaps, be readily admitted; but it may be satisfactory to many to be informed whence the Greeks derived them, and what was their original meaning. The doctrine of the inert state may be supposed to have been more recently borrowed from a very simple agricultural painting of the Egyptians, whereby they emblematically warned their countrymen of those times of annual rest, when the overflowing of the Nile caused a cessation of agricultural labours, until, upon the entrance of the sun into a certain sign, the waters subsided, and vegetation sprang forth with renewed vigour. † An etching in the work of the Abbé Pluches (tom. i. p. 88. plate XI.), to which I refer the reader, will make this more evident. Horus, an emblem of vegetable nature, there appears in a state of repose, stretched on a couch or bier, and embarrassed with swaddling clothes, to denote his inaction under the influence of the sun in Leo, whilst a female before bim (probably Virgo), with the band uplifted, calls him into action. . A plate in

Passeri, vol. i. p. LXXI. + This may suffice for the present, but the allegory was of more ancient origin.

Kæmpfer's History of Japan (tom. i. plate v. p. 33.) may be here cited, which represents Amida seated on a cippus, with five small figures above, and the same number of figures beneath him. In these several plates, the Egyptian Horus and the Oriental Buddha appear in a similar state of rest, and, which may be deemed still more curious, the Canopi below the Horus, and the five attendants above and below the Japanese deity correspondently denote the elements * or attributes of each personage, and these monuments illustrate well the character of Buddha, “ In otio plurimo” (to use the words of Tertullian) “ placidæ stupentis divinitatis.” But we will transfer the scene from Egypt to Eleusis. If the reader will open the work of Passeri (vol. iii. plate ccxcvin.), he

• This observation requires further comment. The element, water, was characteristic of the preserver Bacchus, who was accordingly symbolised, and his mysteries were commemorated, by the vase. In the Egyptian painting, indeed, the symbols are somewhat perverted. Three vessels denoted separately the elements, earth, water, air, and collectively the overflowing of the Nile, as I am instructed by Horapollo (Ed. Pauw. p. 38.), who assigns a physical reason for this signification. But the Egyptian painting having also to notice time and other circumstances, heads of certain creatures are superadded to the vessels, the complex meaning of which may be learned from the Abbé Pluches; and a fourth vessel is introduced, surmounted by the head of a virgin, with allusion to that particular sign. That the twice five figures attendant upon Amida represent the elements I conclude, 1. from the number of them as computed by the Japanese, viz. 1. wood, 2. fire, 3. earth, 4. ore, 5. water; which elements, with a different monosyllable postfixed, are increased to ten (Kæmpfer, p. 157.): 2. from Kæmpfer having noticed (p. 604.) an idol in the temple of Sotoktais, surrounded with the idols of four elements. In proof that these relate to the attributes of their deity, may be adduced the opinions of the Japanese philosophers, who, somewhat after the manner of the Brahmins, (Asiatic Researches, vol. i. p. 244. octavo.) maintain that the animal creation was produced by In-Jo, i. e. Heaven, and five terrestrial elements. (Kæmpfer, p. 250.) Respecting the connection between Buddha and the great events of the creation and the deluge, much might be here adduced, did not that subject present too extensive a field for present enquiry. I will content myself with suggesting, that the representatives of the deity, Cenresi in Tibet, and Ravana in Ceylon, are exhibited, the one with a human head and ten others (Alph. Tibet. p. 166.), the other with the head of the ass and ten human heads (Systema Brachmanicum, p. 299.), probably with allusion to the creating deity operating upon the twice five elements.

« PreviousContinue »