Paris - Louvre - Classical Sculpture
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE sculpture at the Louvre falls into three main divisions, each of which is housed in a separate part of the building. The classical sculpture is approached by the same door as the paintings, and occupies the basement floor of Jean Goujon's part of the Old Louvre, with the wing beneath the Galerie d'Apollon. The Renaissance sculpture is approached by a separate door in the eastern half of the same side, and occupies the corresponding suite opposite the classical series. The modern sculpture is also approached by a special door in the north wing of the west side in the old Cour du Louvre, and occupies the' suite beyond the Pavillon de l'Horloge.
The importance of these three divisions is very different. Without doubt, the most valuable collection, intrinsically and artistically speaking, is that of the classical or antique sculpture : and this should be visited in close detail by all those who do not contemplate a trip to Rome, Naples, and Florence. Nobody can afford to miss the "Venus of Milo," the " Diana of Gabii," or the " Samothracian Nikè." On the other hand, these exquisite Greek and Roman works, models of plastic art for all time, including two or three of the greatest master-pieces which have come down to us from antiquity, have yet no organic connection with French history, or even, save quite indirectly, with the development of French art. At the same time, thoroughly to understand them is a work for the specialist : those who have little or no classical knowledge, and who desire to comprehend them, must be content to buy the new official catalogue (not yet issued), to follow closely the excellent labels, and also to study the subject in detail in the various excellent handbooks of antique sculpture, such as Lubke's or Gardner's.
The discrimination of the different schools, and the evidence (usually very inferential) as to the affiliation of the various works on the great masters or their followers, are so much matters of expert opinion that I do not propose to enter into them here. I shall merely give, for the general reader, a brief account of the succession and evolution of antique plastic art, as exemplified in the various halls of this gallery, referring him for further and fuller details to specialist works on the subject.
The Renaissance sculpture, on the other hand, is largely French ; and, whether French or Italian, it bears directly on the evolution of Parisian art, and has the closest relations with the life of the people. Every visitor to Paris should therefore pay great attention to this important collection, which forms the best transitional link in Western Europe between Gothic medievalism and the modern spirit.
The collection of modern sculpture, again, is both artistically and historically far less important. It may be visited in an hour or two, and it is chiefly interesting as bridging the lamentable gap between the fine Renaissance work of the age of the later Valois, and the productions of contemporary French sculptors.
Few or none of the most famous masterpieces of the great classical artists have come down to us with absolute certainty. The plastic works which we actually possess are for the most part those which have been casually pre-served by accidental circumstances. Almost all the greatest productions of the greatest sculptors have either been destroyed or else defaced beyond recognition. We therefore depend for our knowledge of ancient sculpture either upon those works which were situated on comparatively inaccessible portions of huge buildings like the Parthenon and other temples, and which have consequently survived more or less completely the ravages of time, the mischief of the barbarian, and the blind fury of early Christian and Mahommedan fanatics ; or else upon those which have been preserved for us in the earth, under the débris of burnt and ruined villas and gardens, or in the ashes of buried cities like Pompeii. Under these circumstances, the wonder is that so much of beautiful and noble should still remain to us. This is mainly owing to the fact that in antiquity a fine model, once produced, was repeated and varied ad infinitum, — much as we have seen at Cluny, and in the paintings up-stairs, each principal scene from the Gospels or the legends of the saints, once crystallised by custom, was reproduced over and over again, with slight alterations, by many subsequent artists. The consequence is that most of the statues in this department fall into well-marked groups with other examples here or elsewhere. We have not the originals, in most cases, but we have many copies ; and few of these copies are servile reproductions : more often, they show some touch of the individual sculptor. The best antiques are therefore generally those which happen most nearly to approach in spirit and execution a great and famous original. (See later, for example, the Apollo Sauroctonos.) You must compare these works one with an-other, in this collection and elsewhere, in this spirit, recollecting that often even an inferior variant represents in certain parts the feeling of the original far better than another and generally finer example may happen to do. Nay, such splendid works as the so-called Venus of Milo itself must thus be regarded rather as fortunate copies or modifications of an accepted type by some gifted originator than as necessarily originals by the best masters. With the exception of the few fragments from the Parthenon by Pheidias and his pupils, hardly anything in this gallery can be set down with certainty to any first-class name of the very best periods. But many statues can be as-signed to groups which took their origin from certain particular famous sculptors : we know the school, though not the artist. And several are judged by the descriptions of ancient writers to be copies or variants of works assigned to sculptors of the first eminence.
Many of the statues found in the Renaissance period, and up to the close of the eighteenth century, have been freely and often injudiciously restored : others have really antique heads, which do not, however, in every case belong to them. Not a few have been considerably altered and hacked about in the course of restoration, or of arbitrarily supplying them with independent faces. This reprehensible practice has not been followed in more recent additions, such as the "Venus of Milo," and the " Samothracian Nikè."
Enter by the same door as for the paintings. Proceed along the corridor (Galerie Denon) and dive, right or left, under the great staircase. (Good new room to the right containing excellent Roman mosaics from French North Africa.) Pass some good sarcophagi and other objects, and enter the Rotonde, which contains for the most part works of a relatively late period. In the centre, the * Borghese Mars (or, in Greek, Ares), a celebrated statue, less virile than is usual in figures of this god. Round the room are grouped many fairly good statues, not a few of them almost duplicates. Among them should be noticed (beginning from the door), on the right, a fine Melpomene ; then the Lycian Apollo, with harmless serpent gliding from a tree-trunk ; and especially the famous * Silenus Nursing the Infant Bacchus, of the school of the great sculptor Praxiteles, — perhaps the most pleasing of the many representations of Faun and Satyr life which antiquity has bequeathed to us. This work should be studied as showing that later stage of easy Greek culture when sculpture was not wholly religious and monumental, but when the desire to please by direct arts and graces was distinctly present. Close by are two or three good draped female figures ; and another Lycian Apollo, which should be closely compared with the one opposite it, as indicating the nature of the numerous copies or replicas commonly made of famous works of antiquity. Beside this, a couple of Herma, or heads on rough bases, in later imitation of the archaic Greek style, with its curious stiff simper : the type was doubtless too sacred to be varied from ; a portrait statue of a lady with the attributes of Ceres ; a charming Nymph, carrying an amphora excellent figures of athletes, etc. Many of the statues in this and succeeding rooms are much restored, and in some cases with heads that do not be-long to them. They are interesting as showing the general high level of plastic art among nameless artists of the classical period.
The next room, lé the Salle Grecque, or Salle de .Phidias, is interesting as containing a few works of the great artist after whom it is called, as well as many specimens of archaic Greek art, before it had yet attained to the freedom and grace of the age of Pheidias. In the centre are fragments of the early half-prehistoric figures (sixth century B. C.) commonly known as Apollos, but more probably serving in many cases merely as funereal monuments, —a man in the abstract, to represent the deceased, like a headstone. They exhibit well the constrained attitudes and want of freedom in the position of the arms and legs, which are characteristic of the earliest epoch. These very old features are still more markedly seen in the mutilated draped Herè in the centre ; it well illustrates the starting-point of Hellenic art. The admirable * bas-reliefs from Thasos on the entrance wall, on the other hand, — removed from a votive monument to Apollo, the Nymphs, and the Graces, and still retaining the dedicatory inscription graven over their portal, — exemplify the gradual increase in freedom and power of modelling during the early part of the fifth century B. C. This improvement is very notice-able in the Hermes with one of the Graces on the first of these reliefs. Still somewhat angular in movement, they herald the approach of the Pheidian period. From this time for-ward the advance becomes incredibly rapid.
Next, examine the work of the perfect period. Above is a mutilated fragment of Athenian girls ascending the Acropolis to present the holy robe to Athené, from the frieze of the Parthenon, of the great age of Pheidias (not a century .later than these archaic attempts) : with portions of a metope of the same temple. The first may be possibly by Pheidias himself ; the second by his pupil Alcamenes. Close by, metope of the temple of Zeus at Olympia (about 450 B. C.), whose subjects are sufficiently indicated on the labels : almost equal in power to the Athenian examples. The fine bas-relief of Orpheus and Eurydice, of the best period (falsely named above, later), should also be observed ; but the works of the archaic and transitional periods are far better exemplified at Munich and in London ; while the fragments of Pheidias cannot of course compare with the magnificent series in the British Museum. See the copies of both in the École des Beaux Arts. By the next window, lion and bull, somewhat recalling remote Assyrian influence ; with numerous small reliefs of the best age, which should be carefully studied. These, for the most part of the finest early workmanship, admirably illustrate the extraordinary outburst of artistic spirit during the age which succeeded the wars with Persia. The reliefs on the end wall, chiefly from Athens and the Pirmus, as well as those by the last window, belong in most instances to this splendid age of awakening and culminating art-faculty. I do not enumerate, as the labels suffice ; but every one of the works in this room should be closely followed. Do not miss the charming, half-archaic, funereal relief of Philis, daughter of Cleomedes, from Thasos.
Continue on through the Long Gallery, flanked by inferior works, — but what splendid inferiority !— to the room of the Medea sarcophagus, a fine stone tomb, containing scenes from the legend of Medea and the children of Jason. Round the room are grouped several small statues, much restored, indeed, and not of the best period, but extremely charming. The most noticeable is the dainty little group of the Three Graces, characteristic and pleasing, though with modern heads. The next compartment—that of the Hermaphrodite—includes one of the best and purest of the many versions of this favourite subject, from Velletri, couched, by the window. (Another in the Salle des Caryatides, for comparison.) The Farnese Eros is a pretty work of a late period.. The room also possesses several works of the Satyr class, two of which, close by, are useful as instances of repetition. The four statues of Venus (Aphrodite), at the four corners (in two closely similar pairs), are also very interesting in the same manner, being variants based upon one original model, closely resembling one another in their general features, but much altered in the accessories and details. The same may be said of the good figures of Athenè by the far wall.
The Hall of the Sarcophagus of Adonis contains several excellent sarcophagi, the reliefs on which well illustrate the character of the class among them, one to the left has interesting reclining figures of its occupant and his wife, an early motive, late repeated. The relief from which the room takes its name, on the wall to the right, represents, in three scenes, the departure of Adonis for the chase ; his wounding by a wild boar ; and Aphroditè mourning over the body of her lover. Such reliefs afforded important hints in medimval times to the sculptors who first started the Renaissance movement. As we pass into the next compartment, notice another variant of the Aphroditè.
The Salle de Psyché contains, opposite the window, the famous figure from which it takes its name (too much restored to be freely judged), together with two characteristic dancing Satyrs, after models of the school of Praxiteles. The fine sculptured chairs of office by the window should also be noticed.
We now come to the hall of the so-called Venus of Milo, — an absurd mistranslation of the French name : the idiomatic English would be either "the Melos Venus," "the Melian Venus," or, better still, "the Melian Aphroditè." This is undoubtedly the finest plastic work in the whole of the Louvre. Its beauty is self-evident. It was found in 182o in the island of Melos in the Greek Archipelago. The statue is usually held to represent the Greek goddess of love, and is a very noble work, yet not one by a recognised master, nor even mentioned by ancient writers among the well-known statues of antiquity. Nothing could better show the incredible wealth of Greek plastic art, indeed, than the fact that this exquisite Aphroditè was produced by a name-less sculptor, and seems to have been far surpassed by many other works of its own period. In type, it belongs to a school which forms a transition between the perfect early grace and purity of Pheidias, with his pupils, and the later, more self-conscious and deliberate style of Praxiteles and his contemporaries. Not quite so pure as the former, it is free from the obvious striving after effect in the latter, and from the slightly affected prettinesses well illustrated here in the group of Silenus with the infant Bacchus. The famous series of Niobe and her Children, in the Uffizi at Florence (duplicates of some elsewhere), exhibits much the same set of characteristics. Those works have been attributed on reasonable grounds to Scopas, a contemporary of Demosthenes ; and this statue has therefore been ascribed with little hesitation to one of his pupils. It is, however, purer in form than the Niobe series, and exhibits the perfect ideal, artistic and anatomical, of the beautiful, healthy nude female form for the white race. Its pro-portions are famous. As regards the missing portions, which have happily not been conjecturally restored, it was originally believed that the left hand held an apple (the symbol of Melos), while the right supported the drapery. It is more probable, however, that the figure was really a Nikè (or Victory), and that she grasped a shield and possibly also a winged figure on an orb. Comparison with the other similar half-draped nude statues described as Venuses in the adjoining rooms is very instructive ; their resemblances and differences show the nature of the modifications from previous types, while the immense superiority of this to all the rest is immediately apparent. Notice in particular the exquisite texture of the skin ; the perfect moderation of the form, which is well developed and amply covered, without the faintest tinge of voluptuous excess, such as one gets in late work ; and the intellectual and moral nobility of the features. No object in the Louvre deserves longer study. It is one of the finest classical works that survive in Europe.
Pass to the right into the next suite of rooms, the first of which contains the colossal figure of Melpomene, the tragic muse, —a splendid example of this imposing type of antique sculpture, so well represented in the Vatican. Round the room are ranged several minor works, including a charming Flute-player, doubtfully restored, and some excellent busts.
The long series of rooms which follows this one contains in many cases Græco-Roman works, imitated from the great Greek models, and often showing more or less decadent spirit.
Among them, however, are some of the finest specimens of ancient sculpture, Greek included ; and, indeed, it must be admitted that the grounds upon which such Greek works are distinguished by experts from later copies are often sufficiently delicate and inferential. In the centre, a beautiful Genius of Sleep. Behind it, good figures of Eros (Love) drawing his bow, again indicating the nature of the replicas and variations of established models, which were so familiar to antique sculptors. The little mutilated fragment by their side, well placed here for comparison, excellently illustrates the nature of the evidence on which such works are frequently restored. Further on, a Venus, which is a variant (probably Roman) of the type of the Venus of Arles, just beyond it. Behind this, a little in front in the room, the noble * Pallas from Velletri, -the finest and most typical representation of the goddess : a good Roman copy of a Greek work of the best period. Then the famous * Venus of Arles itself, a Greek original, which may be instructively compared with the replica or variant close to it. (The labels well indicate to the student who cares to proceed further in this study the extent of the restorations in every case.) This figure, after the Melian Aphrodité, is probably the most beautiful female form in the entire collection. Be-hind it, the graceful and exquisitely draped Polyhymnia (replica of a well-known type), a model of perfect repose and culture, but largely modern. Then, good bust of Homer. Next, the * Apollo Sauroctonus or Lizard-slayer, a copy in marble of a famous work in bronze by Praxiteles. This is once more one of the many reproductions (not necessarily always actual copies) of types which are mentioned by classical authors. By the archway, Euterpe, and a Votary. Among the sarcophagi, one of Acton torn by his dogs; another representing the Nine Muses.
Most of the figures in this room are marked by a calm and classical repose, while those in the next compartment, the Salle du Héros Combatant, indicate in many cases a later tendency to rapidity of motion and violent action, which is alien to the highest plastic ideal. Among the most successful works of this group is the light and airy Atalanta, under the archway, — a beautiful figure of a young girl, running, caught at the most exquisite statuesque moment.
Near it, a fine Venus Genetrix. By the window, admirable figure of a wounded Amazon. Next window, the celebrated Borghese Centaur and Bacchus, a charming realisation of this mythological conception. Note the playfulness of developed Greek fancy. The centre of the room is occupied by a powerful and anatomically admirable figure of a Fighting Hero (formerly called a Gladiator), by Agasias of Ephesus, -- one of the few statues here on which the sculptor has inscribed his name. It is a triumph of its own "active" type of art, where movement and life are aimed at, but wholly lacking in beauty or ideality. It belongs to the age of Augustus or a little earlier. Be-hind it, Marsyas flayed alive, a repetition of a frequent but unpleasant subject. Centre again, the Faun of Vienne, a young satyr, retaining traces of colour, vigorous and clever. Then, ** exquisite ideal statue of a young girl fastening her cloak, commonly but incorrectly known as the Diana of Gabii ; for simple domestic grace this dainty work is unrivalled. It is probably of the age of Alexander the Great, and is well worth study. It almost suggests the Italian Renaissance. By the archways, a Hermes known as the Richelieu Mercury, with a closely similar replica. Under the archway leading to the next room, fine portrait statue of the age of Hadrian, representing Antinous, the emperor's favourite, in the guise of Aristæus, the mythical hero of agriculture : the features are much less beautiful than in most other instances of this well-known face, several examples of which occur later. Such representations of historical characters in the form of gods or mythical heroes were common at Rome : probably in most cases the sitter's head and figure were accommodated or adapted to a well-known model.
The Salle du Tibre, which we next enter, contains in its centre the celebrated figure of Artemis (Diana) known as " Diane à la Biche " or the " Diane de Versailles," one of the antique statues acquired by François Ier, the influence of which on later art will be very distinctly felt when we come to examine the French sculpture of the Renaissance. It is a charming, graceful, and delicate figure of the age of declining art, exactly adapted to take the French fancy of that awakening period. It was probably executed at Rome by a Greek sculptor about the time of Julius Cæsar. At the end of the room, colossal recumbent figure of the Tiber, represented as the benignant Father Tiber of Rome, bearing the oar which symbolises the navigable river, and the cornucopia denoting the agricultural and commercial wealth of the Tiber valley : by its side nestles the wolf, with Romulus and Remus ; a pretty allegorical conception of Rome and the stream which made it : itself doubtless a pendant to the similar recumbent figure of the Nile in the Vatican. Close by, two Satyrs, imitated from Praxiteles. Behind, four Satyrs as caryatides, from the theatre of Dionysus, Athens, third century B. C. Round the wall, good draped figures of goddesses. Walk through these rooms often, in order to gain an idea of the astonishing wealth and purity of Hellenic sculpture.
Now, return through the Salle Grecque and the Rotonde, and turn to the left into the Roman Galleries, which contain for the most part statues and busts of the imperial epoch.
In the first room are reliefs of sacrifices, and fronts of sarcophagi, together with a fine portrait-statue of Sulla. By the second window, the famous and noble head of Mæcenas, the great Etruscan statesman and minister of Augustus, who practically organised the Roman Empire. The astute features, very Tuscan in type, which in some degree recall those both of Bismarck and Moltke, are full of practical vigour and the wisdom of statecraft. A more characteristic or finer head has not been bequeathed to us by antiquity. Contrast this magnificent and thoughtful bust of the best Roman age, instinct with meaning, with the coarse and coarsely executed colossal head of Caracalla, the cruel and sensuous emperor of the decadence, in the next window, —as crude as a coarse lithograph. In the corner, a Mithra stabbing a bull, of a class to be noted again in greater detail later. By the passage into the next room, masks of Medusa with the snaky hair.
Walk straight through the following rooms, without stopping, till you arrive at the Salle d'Auguste on the right, at the end, so as to take the works in historical sequence. This hall is the first in chronological order of the Roman period. It contains portrait-statues and busts of the Julian emperors and their families, and of the Flavian dynasty. Begin down the centre.
Bust of Julius Cæsar, indicating well the intellectual character and relentless will of the man : a speaking likeness. Next to it, the famous ** Antinous (eyes removed ; once jewels), a much idealised colossal portrait-bust of the beautiful young favourite of the Emperor Hadrian, who drowned himself in the Nile in order to become a protecting genius for his patron ; he is here represented in a grave and rigid style somewhat faintly reminiscent of Egyptian art, and with the attributes of Bacchus or (more correctly) Osiris ; Hadrian deified him and erected a temple in his honour in a town in Egypt which he named after him. Observe the lotus entwined in the hair. Fine portrait-statue of a Roman orator, probably Julius Cæsar, one of the best works of its class of the best period of revived Greek art under the early Roman Empire : signed by Cleomenes. The figure is that conventionally attributed to Hermes or Mercury. Near it, Agrippa, the son-in-law of Augustus and builder of the Pantheon ; full of the statesmanlike characteristics of the early empire. Ideal bust of Rome, cold but beautiful: Romulus and Remus on the helmet. Under the tribune, famous portrait-statue of Augustus, a very noble representation. It is flanked by two good portrait-statues of the emperor himself, and of his successor, Tiberius. In front of it are Roman boys of the imperial family, the one to the left admirable in execution. They wear the golden bulla round their necks, which marked lads of noble family ; the faces and figures are thoroughly patrician. Windowless wall, members of the imperial (Julian and Claudian) family, —Agrippina, Tiberius, Drusus, and Germanicus, etc. ; Caligula, showing incipient traces of Cæsarian madness ; Octavia, Antonia, and others. Study these carefully. Then, a most malignant Nero, with less unpleasant ones further : a Messalina, whose gentleness of face belies her reputation ; a grandiose Claudius ; and a selfish Galba, in whom we begin to see traces of the traits produced by ruthless struggle for empire. Near him, a vain-glorious Otho, still fine and classical. Notice the dainty profiles of the women. All the statues and busts in this room, indeed, are conceived in the fine classical spirit, with no trace of the coming decadence. Most of them have the old close-shaven, clear-cut Roman features, contrasting strongly with the weaker, bearded types we shall see later. By the window wall, statues, not so good, of the coarse bull-necked Vitellius; hard, practical, businesslike Vespasian ; capable Titus, and one or two less satisfactory busts or statues of Julius Caesar. Observe even already how both types and art begin to show less perfect finish. The men are more vulgar ; the artists less able.
The Salle des Antonins, next, contains a fine series of busts and statues of this second prosperous epoch of the empire. Facing the river, a very noble seated portrait-statue of Trajan, contrasting well with the other more decadent emperors at the further end. We have here still the old Roman severity, and the close-shaven type, admirably opposed to the more sensuous degenerate faces further on, which herald the decadence. These are the builders-up, the others the destroyers, of a great empire. In the corner close by, two erect Trajans. Notice how clear an idea of the personalities of the emperors comparison of these statues and busts affords one. Close to the archway, a beautiful Faustina Junior, one of the loveliest portrait-busts of the second Roman period. Further on, bearded and weaker emperors of the Antonine age ; among then, a capital Lucius Verus, holding the orb of empire. Near it, a fine statue of the philosophic emperor, Marcus Aurelius, seen here rather as the soldier than as the sage. In the centre, the same emperor nude, — or rather, a nude figure, on which his head has been placed by a modem restorer. By the middle window, colossal busts of Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius, and a very big head of Lucilla, wife of the former. These all deserve study, by comparison with the simpler and nobler types of the Julian period.
The Salle de Sever — age of the early decadence — contains in the centre a fine statue of the emperor's mother, Julia Mammæa, figured after the common fashion as Ceres, — a half deification. Near it, another (less pleasing) bust of Antinous. Excellent statue of Pertinax. Round the walls, portrait-busts of the Antonine family and their successors, in sufficient numbers to enable one to form clear conceptions of their personality. This is especially the case with Caracalla and Plautilla, by the last window ; Septimius Severus himself, — a weak face, gaining somewhat with age ; and Lucius Verus, selfishly vicious, with a distinct tinge of conscious cruelty. Near the last, a fine portrait-statue of Faustina Senior. Beside it, pleasing bust of the boy Commodus ; his subsequent development may be traced round the rest of the window. All these busts, again, should be viewed by the light of their dates ; they are identified by means of coins, where the same faces occur with their names, -- most interesting for comparison.
The Salle de la Paix contains mixed works, some of them of the extreme decadence. Among them, a good figure of Minerva in red porphyry, the flesh portions of which have been restored in gilt bronze. By the window, the Emperor Titus, as Mars. A half-length of Gordianus Pius near the archway is an unusually fine and classical example for its age. Fine figure of Tranquillina, his wife, and nude of Pupianus, less successful. In many of these works the decadence triumphs.
The Salle des Saisons contains busts, mostly of the extreme decadence, and works with a semi-barbaric tinge. The bust of Honorius, by the far door, shows the last traces of classical work rapidly passing into Byzantine stiffness and lifelessness. Note the feebleness of the eyes and general ineffectiveness of plastic treatment. Eugenius, opposite him, equally displays decadence in a somewhat different direction, provincial and Gaulish, foreshadowing barbaric Romanesque workmanship. A fine Muse, how-ever, stands next to Honorius. There are also several very decent reliefs from sarcophagi. The figure of Tiridates, wearing the barbaric trousers, is a fine example of Greco-Roman art applied to a member of an alien civilisation. Close to it, the famous Mithra of the Capitol, stabbing a bull, with other representations of the same subject beneath and beside it. These reliefs are extremely illustrative of a most interesting phase of the later empire. Rome was then a cosmopolitan city, crowded with Syrians, Jews, Egyptians, Asiatic Greeks, and other Orientals. Many of these people introduced into Italy and the Provinces the worship of their own local deities : the cult of Isis, of Serapis, and of other Eastern gods competed with Christianity for the mastery of the empire. Among these intrusive religions, one of the most successful was the worship of Mithra, which came to Rome indirectly from Persia, and directly from the southern shores of the Black Sea. The mystic deity himself is always represented in an underground cave, stabbing a bull ; he was regarded as a personification or avatar of the Sun God. His worship spread rapidly to every part of the Roman world, and was immensely popular ; similar reliefs have been found in all Romanised regions from Britain to North Africa. The best of those in this room comes from the cave of Mithra in the Capitol at Rome itself, where the. Eastern god was permitted even to invade the precincts of the Capitoline Jupiter. Notice the barbaric Oriental dress, and the voluptuous, soft Oriental treatment ; also, the action in the cave, and the personages on the upper earth above it. Compare all these reliefs with one another, and notice their origin as given on the labels. Observe also the close similarity and religious fixity of the representations. They should be studied with care, as illustrative of the conflict of new religions with old in the Roman Empire, out of which Christianity at last emerged triumphant. Their number and costliness shows the strength of this strange faith ; their inferior art betokens both Eastern influence, and the approach of the decadence. Compare the Oriental tinge in the Mithra reliefs with that of some early Christian works in the small Christian room of Renaissance sculpture.
In the centre, Roman husband and wife, in the characters of Mars and Venus, an excellent and characteristic group of the age of Hadrian ; contrast the somewhat debased proportions with those we have seen in the best Greek period. Round the wall and by the windows, many inferior portrait-busts of emperors of the decadence ; observe their dates, and note the gradual decrease in art and truth, and the slow return to something resembling archaic stiffness. We have thus followed out the rise and culmination of antique art, and watched its return to primitive barbarity. Conspicuous among the works of the better age here are the charming features of Julia Mamma, wife of Alexander Severus, especially as shown in the bust nearest to the first window. The fine Germanicus, holding the orb of empire, is also an excellent example of the portrait nude of the best period.
Leave this portion of the Museum by the Salle des Caryatides beyond, so called from the famous caryatides by Jean Goujon (French Renaissance ; see later), which support the balcony at its further end, — very noble examples of the revived antique of the age of François Ier — majestic in their serenity. Above them is a cast from Cellini's Nymph of Fontainebleau, to be noticed later. The room contains good Greek and Roman work of the culminating periods. In the vestibule to the left, by the window, the * Borghese Hermaphrodite, a variant on the Velletri type, voluptuous and rounded, belonging to the latest Greek period ; the mattress was added (with disastrous effect) by Bernini. In the body of the hall is a colossal Jupiter of Versailles, an impressive Hermes-figure. To the left, a noble and characteristic * Demosthenes. In the centre, Hermes and Apollo of the school of Praxiteles : boy fastening his sandals. Dionysus, known as the Richelieu Bacchus. By the right wall, Aphroditè at the bath, in a crouching attitude ; a nymph is supposed to be pouring water over her. All the works in this room deserve examination ; they are sufficiently described, however, by the labels.