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COMPLETION OF THE SECOND VOLUME.
OUR "Patrons," as the phrase used to be, and our contributors, will both please to accept our thanks for their increasing appreciation of each other.
Nearly all that we said in the customary formalities at the close of the first volume might be here repeated, with additional self-congratulations about our abundant success hitherto, and our "brilliant prospects" for the future. But these glittering generalities are pretty well understood and taken for granted. We may say in all modesty and with suitable deference to the daily and weekly critics who sit in judgment upon our "articles," that if these have not all been perfect models of excellence, we shall be delighted if our critics will send us better ones; and whenever we are guilty of rejecting better articles than we print, we shall be thankful for such information as will lead to the correction of the abuse.
It is needless for us to make new and glowing proclamations of the brilliant things we are going to do. The advertisement of our next volume mentions some of the contents and some of the writers for that volume; and our readers in future, as heretofore, will judge us by our fruits.
A few suggestions to contributors are given on the next page.
The growing activity and cosmopolitanism of the American mind is daily indicated by the excellent papers, on a wide range of subjects, which we receive. The very excellence of many of these essays, especially those giving sketches of travel and adventure, is a constant source of concern to the editor-an embarrassment of riches-for three magazines like ours could not contain all that we receive that is well worthy of publication.
But let no one be deterred from sending us their best things. We aim at a prompt and liberal appreciation of all good magazine literature, without partiality, or any question as to the personality or the fame of the writer. Both our readers and our "best writers" may be assured that
" and that BRIGHT,
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Articles on all subjects of LIVE INTEREST, from writers known or unknown, short rather than long, terse and clear and crisp in style, will always receive prompt consideration.
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Good short stories and poems are warmly welcomed.
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ONE who is familiar with the remains of ancient art and the traces of ancient life, in Italy and Greece, and the islands of the Mediterranean-who knows the Baths of Titus and Caracalla, the Parthenon, the temple of Phigagia, and even the almost forgotten cities of Lycia and Caria-will find that a new experience awaits him at Pompeii. However close may have been his observations, however thorough his studies, all that he has learned becomes poor and scanty by contrast with the wealth of knowledge which the unburied Vesuvian city now gives to the day. Sitting on the steps of the Parthenon, and looking over the ruins of the structures of Phidias and Ictinus to the ever-young and unchanging features of the immortal Attic landscape, one may bring the Grecian era nearer; but when one stands where the chief thoroughfares of Pompeii cross, and sees Vesuvius over walls still gay with frescoes, doors still surmounted by the symbols of trade and traffic, and taverns, where the empty amphoræ keep their place under the marble counters, the life of the city, in its simplest and commonest details, becomes a thing of yesterday. It impresses one like a miracle-or rather, let us say, a Providential deposit of the most honest and intelligible, because undesigned,
records of a period which could have reached us in no other way.
Pompeii is, indeed, a priceless treasury of the annals of an ancient city, and if from this one we cannot learn all, we at least come away with an instinct sharpened by positive knowledge, and we begin to guess, not blindly as heretofore, but by repeating, modifying, and expanding the facts we have gathered. It is a veritable Rosetta stone, a key which expounds the domestic and public life of the ancients, making their hieroglyphics in art and literature an intelligible language to us. Such a mine of intelligence belongs not to Italy, but to that world of newer civilization which is built upon the ashes of the Past. There is not a house or shop, even of the most insignificant tradesman or artificer, which does not keep for us some revelation of the habits of its occupant. Since the Cavalier Fiorelli has directed the excavations, a thousand minute relics, or signs, hitherto lost, are preserved. The hollow ashes give back the forms and garments of the flying citizens who were smothered in the streets and passages; the charred wood, replaced by exactly similar posts and beams, restores for us the hanging balconies, and the roofs shading the atria and peristyles; even the kitchens and
Entered, in the year 1868, by G. P PUTNAM & SON, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the U. S. for the Southern District of N. Y.
ovens yield up their deserted loaves and viands, and the bronze water-jars keep their unevaporated contents.
A single illustration will serve to show the difference between the former and the present mode of conducting the excavations. Here let me say that the Bourbons have already been engaged for more than a hundred years, with long intervals of neglect, in the disinterment of Pompeii, and that not more than two fifths of the city have yet been laid bare. The first excavations were not only so rudely made that many slight and delicate articles were lost, but much else was either disfigured or stolen, from the carelessness with which the ruins were guarded. The reign of Murat, whatever it might have been politically, was auspicious for Pompeii, and the work of excavation began to assume an ordered and intelligent system. Nevertheless the excavation was still carried on, and until very recently, by vertical sections, and thus, in removing the mass of ashes and lapillæ, the walls, covered with the debris of the wooden upper stories, often tumbled down in fragments before they could be strengthened. Neither was any attention given to the hollow moulds left by fragile objects, which the heat of the ashes had destroyed while retaining their shape. The recklessness and neglect of the former century was avoided, but the hand which led the work was not yet directed by feeling and conscience.
The true hand has at last been found. Within the last ten or fifteen years, since the Cavalier Fiorelli has been entrusted with the direction of the labors, they have been so conducted as to destroy the least possible, and preserve the most possible. The Italian Government can afford but sixty thousand francs a-year (which, however, is very much more than the Bourbons expended) for the work, so that only from thirty to forty laborers can be steadily employed; but if the excavations advance slowly, they advance regularly and save what they reveal. The ashes are now removed in horizontal sections, beginning at the
top, and the walls can thus be strengthened as they are laid bare, preserving not only, in many cases, the arrangement of the upper chambers, but—what is of much more importance the frescoes which adorned the rooms below. How many of these latter treasures have been stolen, wantonly destroyed, or lost by exposure to the weather, we can only conjecture. Those which remain form a collection unique of its kind in the world, and of inestimable value for the insight which it gives us into ancient pictorial art.
Herculaneum and Pompeii, although they have furnished many exquisite statues, cannot be said to have enlarged our knowledge of the character and excellence of ancient sculpture. This being the art which endures through the material in which it works, War, nor Time, nor natural convulsions, cannot so thoroughly destroy its achievements, that the Future does not receive a tolerable legacy. These cities rather illustrate for us the richness of their age in noble works. They have given us the exquisite Narcissus, the dancing Faun, the Apollo, the portrait-statues of the Balbi, the Alexander, the Tiberius, and a host of minor works, all of which belong to schools and are treated in styles with which we are already familiar. They are enrichments, but not revelations. Michel Angelo understood the excellences of antique sculpture as well as any artist of our day.
The walls of Pompeii, however, give us, by almost a miracle, certain knowledge of an art which may be said to have been known to us only by tradition. From the perishable nature of painting, even in fresco, its most durable form, the world could never have hoped to possess a single specimen of the pictorial art of the Greeks and Romans, but for the singular chance (or design) by which they have been preserved.
Let the reader imagine that not a single antique statue or bas-relief were known to us, and that-we will not say the Laocoon, and the Aristides, and the Venus of Milo, but-a hundred works of sculpture were suddenly ex
humed! what wonder, what joy, what knowledge would thereby be given to the world! Pompeii has wrought this miracle for painting. What we previously knew was confined chiefly to those arabesque decorations of the Baths of Titus, which were the delight of Raphael (his only models, after Perugino and Masaccio), and to a few fragments of mutilated fresco, all rather illustrative of decorative art than painting. It had become a conventional idea with scholars, that, in spite of Apelles and Zeuxis and Protogenes, the Greeks were very indifferent painters. Their coloring, it was surmised, was crude and flashy they had no comprehension of perspective or foreshortening, and their drawing might be estimated by that upon the sepulchral vases and urns. To one who has been fed with these conjectures, which have been asserted so frequently and so positively that they are still generally believed, the walls of Pompeii will indeed be a revelation.
The value of the specimens already rescued is more than their artistic character. Not being portable, they were executed on the spot, and for the most part by local artists. Pompeii was but a third-rate city; it had nearly been destroyed by an earthquake, ten years previous to its entombment, and the most of its frescoes must have been painted during that period of restoration. It cannot be supposed that, when Rome was most luxurious, and the shores of the Mediterranean were covered with magnificent towns, artists of established fame could be spared for a place so unimportant as Pompeii. What we now possess cannot, therefore, be considered as more than the ordinary art of the age; but it is none the less a basis of clear knowledge in regard to modes of painting, treatment of subjects, and skill in the various technicalities of the art. In this respect, the mural paintings of Pompeii are as satisfactory, as would be a collection of antique statues, which did not include the master-pieces, in regard to the character of the ancient sculpture. Having
an average of manner and skill, we can easily project upwards as well as downwards.
I believe there is no evidence whatever that the Greek and Roman painters were acquainted with oil as a vehicle for color. Oil, as Ruskin truly says, alone comes near to Nature in its opaque lights and its transparent shadows, while in practical use it is more facile and free than any other material. We can, therefore, in fairness to the Pompeiian painters, only contrast them with such artists as work in fresco or tempera, or, perhaps, that form of encaustic painting which has been recently revived in Germany. The depth, strength, and brilliancy of a picture in oils on canvas cannot possibly be obtained by these earlier methods. The ancients, undoubtedly, had their detached pictures upon wood or canvas, and the most famous works of the great artists could thus be bought, sold, and transferred from place to place. It is probable that such pictures exhibited the triumphs of their genius, and that the mural painters were an inferior class of artists. So much the higher, then, must the ancient painters rise in our estimation, when we find that the latter class, whose works we can now judge, understood drawing, color, perspective, and (to a certain extent) chiar' oscuro.
Many fine pictures must have been lost by the action of the weather, since the first private dwellings of Pompeii were opened. Others have been greatly damaged by neglect, while, incredible as it may seem, some were wantonly destroyed, in former years, because it was difficult or expensive to detach them from the walls! At present, every picture of value which is unearthed is carefully sawed from the walls, secured in a solid frame, and transported to the National Museum (formerly the Museo Borbonico) at Naples. It is singular that Pompeii itself should not only have given the hint, but also the method, of transferring and preserving frescoes. In the Temple of Venus, adjoining the chief Forum of the city, there is still a picture to be seen, in one