Page images

will observe the same subject expressed upon a very curious vase of the earlier class, which may possibly be yet preserved in the Vatican. The inert Bacchus is there exposed upon a funeral couch, and the vivifying agent, like the Egyptian Virgo, awakens him into energy from the torpid state. On the reverse of the same vase (ibid. plate ccxcix.) nature seems to be represented under the form of a dragon, which an owl draws up by a string from the shades.

The appropriate symbols, therefore, of the inert state appear to be sleep, rest, the attitude of reclining*, and particularly the embarrassment of clothing. Under this last head may be classed reverses exhibiting draped figures, which Passeri has termed youths newly invested with the toga virilis. I had long doubted the propriety of this assertion of Passeri, applied to vases of Greek workmanship; but I yield to the judicious observations of Mr. Böttiger, who has properly savoured that opinion.f I must,

* To these may be added bondage, whether expressed by the hands tied behind the back of the figure, as in those instances, on gems, of Cupid and Psyche bound (Mus. Florent. vol. i. plate Lxxix. fig. 4, 5, 6.), or by Time in Fetters (ibid. vol. i. plate xcvii. fig. 4.), or Cupid in the Stocks (ibid. vol. i. plate Lxxxi. fig. 2, 3, 4.), besides many others.

+ Mr. Böttiger cites an interesting passage in Artemidorus, where allusion is made to the one year's inaction and silence of youths, with the right hand enveloped in their robes (Oneirocrit. lib. i. cap. 56. p. 48. Ed. Rigaltü), whence he remarks: - 1. that the investing of youths with the chlamys, at the age of 17, was an ancient Athenian custom, and transferred to the Grecian colonies. He supposes that the Etruscans, and their Roman descendants, imitated this ancient ceremony in their custom of presenting the toga. 2. That the upper garments of the figures so represented on reverses neither resemble the Grecian chlamys, nor the Roman toga. They appear to him to be of a mixed fashion, and he would determine them to be the toga Græcanica of Suetonius in Domitian, c. 4. “and wherefore," he adds, "might not the scanty upper “cloak, as worn in the mother country, have taken a broader cast when used by the “ same Greeks in Lower Italy, and have been thus accommodated to the effeminate “manners of this voluptuous people ?” — Uber den Raub der Cassandra auf einem alten Gefässe von gebrannter erde. — Zwey abhandlungen von H. Meyer, and C. A. Böttiger. — Weimar, 1794, 4to p. 83, 84.

that the repre

however, be permitted to add this corollary : sentation of youths so invested with their hands beneath the chlamys, and hence unentitled to a voice in public assemblies, must be symbolically accepted as merely denoting silence with respect to the mysteries. In the same manner, on the bottom of the Barberini vase, a figure draped and hooded, with the finger to the mouth, implies that the mysterious allegories represented on the side of that vessel are not to be incautiously revealed.

A very curious Campana vase, in the possession of the Earl of Aberdeen, confirms what I have here suggested. Upon the reverse of this, supported by two such draped and muffled figures, is to be seen Harpocrates on the lotus, and a water-fowl beneath him. This painting is decisive. The youths are mute as to the meaning of the allegories depicted on the front of the


It may, therefore, be observed with regard to figures draped and naked, that the former are generally to be considered in the inert, the latter in the resuscitated state; and many instances may be produced where figures have been thus purposely contrasted. Such a one occurs in the work of Passeri (vol. iii. plate ccxlvi.), where two naked dancing figures in front are contrasted with two draped figures on the reverse of the same vase (plate ccxlvii.) ; but a more striking instance may be noticed on a vase, plate xciv. in the 3d vol. of D’Hancarville's collection. The painting of this, as far as it concerns Pan and Celmis, I have already explained: the remaining part also deserves notice. A naked male there approaches a tree, the trunk of which is embraced by two serpents, in the same way as the mundane egg is embraced by the Agathodæmon. The three Hesperian apples hang above, and the naked male figure appears to be kept at bay by one of the serpents which guard them. A draped female advances upon the other side, but upon that no fruit is to be seen. Thus fruitfulness and sterility, and the draped and unembarrassed states appear to be purposely contrasted. To the right are Pan, with the globe, and Celmis. I confess that I formerly found a difficulty in believing, with Passeri, that many Chaldean traditions had found their way among

his Tuscan ancestors; but the more I consider this plate, the more I am led to think that an obscure notion of the objects of these traditions had been preserved in the mysteries : nor can I refrain from adducing those memorable words in Gen. chap. iii. v. 11. “ Who told thee that thou wast s naked ? hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded 66 thee that thou shouldest not eat ?"

The mode of solution which I propose on all occasions, in place of the unsatisfactory reference usually made to poetic mythology and history, will at least, rescue the credit of the artists who executed these paintings, from the charge of anachronism, and of disregarding unity of place in the scenes they depicted; and it is with every respect for the learned antiquary Passeri, that I offer a remedy for the apparent incongruity in his explanation of such a vase as the following, plate XIII. vol. i., where he has felt a difficulty to reconcile the appearance of Clytemnestra with Iphigenia and a female attendant at Sparta, whilst, divided from them only by a pillar, were seen Achilles demanding the daughter of the king in marriage, and Ulysses interfering ; which last events must have taken place at Aulis. The difficulty seems to have · arisen from a wrong interpretation of the umbrella borne by the Iphigenia, which I have elsewhere given reason to believe (upon vases at least) does not denote marriage. * The truth is, that in this painting the three females form a group in inferis, which is implied by the umbrella spread over them; they are draped, as being inert, and their inactivity is further implied by two of them being seated, and the third in a quiescent (though upright) posture: the fancied Clytemnestra is indeed in the act of listening with appearance of expectation ; equally with her companions she is motionless; but they are in inferis, where like the dæmon in his glass prison, they sit enchanted, waiting until some more powerful magician shall come to their assistance, and break the charm. The pillar, beneath which they are seated, is the boundary between motion and rest, between life and death. The small figure upon the summit is not the Tauric Diana, but the emblematical Bacchus, whose powers are for awhile suspended. The hooded elder, resting on his staff, and the supposed Achilles, leaning on his spear, are engaged in conversation. The

* When the bride walked beneath the umbrella, it was to denote a transition from the shades to light, from barrenness to fecundity; and for the same reason the bride was covered with the hood or veil, as in the celebrated gem which represents the marriage of Cupid and Psyche.

gross appearance of the latter is ill suited to the youthful and fiery character of the Grecian hero: and I conceive, they are both designed to complete the view of that intermediate state, to which all ranks, the virgin and the matron, the warrior and the sage, were supposed to be equally obnoxious. Their expectation of being recalled is however indicated by the fingers of the warrior bent backward, and on the reverse of the vase, the animating powers advance to release them, with the torch, the tibiæ, and the tambourine, to the sound of which instruments, perhaps, the Clytemnestra listens, being thereby apprised of their coming.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »