Nigh river’s mouth or foreland, where the wind
Veers oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her sail,—
So varied he, and of his tortuous train
Curl’d many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve
To lure her eye.”
AND Eve, alas ! yielded to the blandishments of the wily serpent, as we moderns, in our Art, have yielded to the licentious, specious life-curve of Hogarth. When I say Art, I mean that spirit of Art which has made us rather imitative than creative, has made us hold a too faithful mirror up to Nature, and has been content to let the great Ideal remain petrified in the marbles of Greece.
I have endeavored to show how this Ideal may be concentrated in a certain abstract line, not only of sensuous, but of intellectual Beauty, — a line which, while it is as wise and subtle as the serpent, is as harmless and loving as the sacred dove of Venus. I have endeavored to prove how this line, the gesture of Attic eloquence, expresses the civilization of Pericles and Plato, of Euripides and Apelles. It is now proposed briefly to relate how this line was lost, when the politeness and philosophy, the literature and the Art of Greece were chained to the triumphal cars of Roman conquerors, — and how it seems to have been found again in our own day, after slumbering so long in ruined temples, broken statues, and cinerary urns.
The scholar who studies the æsthetieal anatomy of Greek Art has a melancholy pleasure, like a surgeon, in watching its slow, but inevitable atrophy under the incubus of Rome. The wise, but childlike serenity and cheerfulness of soul, so tenderly pictured in the white stones from the quarries of Pentelicus, had, it is true, a certain sickly, exoteric life in Magna Græcia, as Pompeii and Herculaneum have proved to us. But the brutal manhood of Rome overshadowed and tainted the gentle exotic like a Upas-tree. Where, as in these places, the imported Greek could have some freedom, it grew up into a dim resemblance of its ancient purity under other skies. It had, I think, an elegiac plaintiveness in it, like a song of old liberty sung in captivity. Yet there was added to it a certain fungus-growth, never permitted by that far-off Ideal whose seeds were indigenous in the Peloponnesus. but rather springing from the rank ostentation of Rome. In its more monumental developments, under these new influences, the true line of Beauty became gradually vulgarized, and, by degrees, less intellectual and pure, till its spirit of fine and elegant reserve was quite lost in a coarse splendor. It must be admitted, however, that the Greek colonies of Italy expressed riot a little of the old refinement in the lamps and candelabra and vases and bijouterie which we have exhumed from the ashes of Vesuvius.
But, turning to Rome herself, the most casual examination will impress us with the fact that there the lovely Greek lines were seized by rude conquerors, and at once were bent to answer base and brutal uses. To narrow a broad subject down to an illustration, let us look at a single feature, the Cymatium, as it was understood in Greece and Rome. This is a moulding of very frequent occurrence in classic entablatures, a curved surface with a double flexure. Perhaps the type of Greek lines, as represented in the previous paper on this subject, may be safely accepted as a fair example of the Greek interpretation of this feature. The Romans, on the other hand, not being able to understand and appreciate die delicacy and deep propriety of this line, seized their compasses, and, without thought or love, mechanically produced a gross likeness to it by the union of two quartercircles thus:—
Look upon this picture, and on this ! — the one, refined, delicate, sensitive, fastidious, severe, never repeated ; the other, thoughtless, vulgar, mathematical, common-sense, sensuous, reappearing ever with a stolid monotony. And such is the sentiment ‘pervading all Homan Art The conquerors took the letter from the Greeks, but never bad the slightest feeling for its Ideal. But even this letter, when they transcribed it, writhed and was choked beneath hands which knew better the iron cæstus of the gladiator than the subtile and spiritual touch of the artist.
We can have no stronger and more convincing proof that Architecture is the truest record of the various phases of civilization than we find in this. There was Greek Art, living and beautiful, full of inductive power and capacities of new expressions; and there were the boundless wealth and power of Rome. But Rome had her own ideas to enunciate; and so possessed was she with the impulse to give form to these ideas, to her ostentatious brutality, hef barbarous pride, her licentious magnificence, that she could not pause to learn calm and serious lessons from the Greeks who walked her very forums, but, seizing their fair sanctuaries, she stretched them out to fit her standard ; she took the pure Greek orders to decorate her arches, she piled these orders one above the other, she bent them around her gigantic circuses, till at last they had become acclimated and lost all their peculiar refinement, all their intellectual and dignified humanity. Every moulding, every capital, every detail was changed. The Romans had neither time nor inclination to bestow any love or thought on the expressiveness and tender meaning of subordinate parts. But out of the suggestions and reminiscences of Greek lines they made a rigid and inflexible grammar of their own,—a grammar to suit the mailed clang of Homan speech, which, in its crciel martial strength, sought no refinements, no delicate inflections from a distant Acropolis. The result was the coarse splendor of the Empire. How utterly the still Greek Ideal was forgotten in this noisy splendor, how entirely the chaste spirituality of the Greek line was lost in the round and lusty curves which are the inevitable footprints of Sensual Life, scarcely needs further amplification. I have referred to the Ionic capital of the Erechtheum as containing a microcosm of Attic Art, as presenting a fair epitome of the thought and love which Hellenic artists offered in the worship of their gods. Turn now to the Roman Tonic, as developed in any one of the most familiar examples of it, in the Temple of Concord, near the Via Sacra, in the Theatre of Marcellus, or the Colosseum. What a contrast! How formal, mechanical, pattern-like it has become! The grace of its freedom, the intellectual reserve of its strength, the secret humanity that thrilled through all its lines, the divine Art which obtained such sweet repose there, — all these are gone. Quality has yielded to quantity, and nothing is left save those external characteristics which he who runs may read, and he who pauses to study finds cold, vacant, and unsatisfactory. What the Ionic capital of Rome wants, and what all Roman Art wants, is the inward life, the living soul, which gives a peculiar expressiveness to every individual work, and raises it infinitely above the dangerous academic formalism of the schools.
In view of our own architecture, that which touches our own experience and is of us and out of us, the danger of this academic formalism cannot be too emphatically spoken of When one carefully examines the transition from Greek to Roman Art, he cannot but be impressed with the fact, that the spirit which worked in this transition was the spirit of a vulgar and greedy conqueror. To illustrate his rude magnificence and to give a finer glory to his triumph, by right of conquest he appropriated the Greek orders. But the living soul which was in those orders, and gave them an infinity of meaning, an ever-varying poetry of expression, could not be enslaved; nor Could the worshipful Love which created them find a home under the helmet of the soldier. So they became lifeless; they were at once formally systematized and classified, subjected to strict proportions and rules, and cast, as it were, in moulds. This arrangement enabled the conqueror, without waste of time in that long contemplative stillness out of which alone the beauty of the true Ideal arises, out of which alone man can create like a god, to avail himself at once of the Greek orders, not as a sensitive and delicate means of fine æsthetic expression, but as a mechanical language of contrasts of form to be used according to the exigencies of design. The service of Greek Art was perfect freedom; enslaved at Rome, it became academic. Thus systematized, it is true, it awes us by the superb redundancy and sumptuousness of its use in the temples and forums reared by that omnipresent power from Britannia to Baalbec. But the Art which is systematized is degraded. Emerson somewhere remarks that man descends to meet his fellows,—meaning, I suppose, that he has to sacrifice some of the higher instincts of his individuality when he desires to become social, and to meet his fellows on that low level of society, which, made up as it is of many individualities, has none of those secret aspirations which arise out of his own isolation. Society is a systematic aggregation for the benefit of the multitude, but great men lift themselves above it into a purer atmosphere. As Longfellow says, “ They rise like towers in the city of God.” So with Art,—when we systematize it for the indiscriminate use of thoughtless and unloving men, we degrade it. And a singular proof of this is found in the fact that the Roman academical orders never have anything in them reserved from the common ken. They are superficial. They say all that they have to say and express all that they have to express at once, and disturb the mind with no doubt about any hidden meaning. They are at once understood. All their intention and purpose are patent to the most casual observer. He does not pause to inquire what motives actuated the architect in the composition of any Corinthian capital, because he feels that it is made according to the dictates of a rigid school created for the convenience of an unartistic age, and there is no individual love or aspiration in it.
Virtually, the Roman orders died in the first century of the Christian era. We all know how, when the authority of the Pagan schools was gone and the stern Vitruvian laws had become lost in the mists of antiquity, these orders gradually fell from their strict allegiance, and imbibed a new and healthy life from that rude but earnest Romanesque spirit, as in Byzantium and Lombardy. And we know, too, how, in after Gothic times, the spirit of the forgotten Aphrodite, Ideal Beauty, sometimes lurked furtively in the image of the Virgin Mary, and inspired the cathedral-builders with somewhat of the old creative impulse of Love. But the workings of this impulse are singularly contrasted in the productions of the Greek and Mediæval artists. Nature, we have seen, offered to the former mysterious and oracular Sibylline leaves, profoundly significant of an indwelling humanity diffused through all her woods and fields and mountains, all her fountains, streams, and seas. Those meditative creators sat at her feet, earnest disciples, but gathering rather the spirit and motive of her gifts than the gifts themselves, making an Ideal and worshipping it as a deity. But for the cathedralbuilder, Dryads and Hamadryads, Oreads, Fauns, and Naiads did not exist,— the Oak of Dodona uttered no oracles.
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more.”
To him Nature was an open hook, from which he continually quoted with a loving freedom, not to illustrate his own deep relationships with her, but to give greater glory to that vast Power which stood behind her beautiful text and was revealed to him in the new religion from Palestine. He loved fruits and flowers and leaves because they were manifestations of the Love of God; and he used them in his Art, not as motives out of which to create abstract forms, out of which to eliminate an ideal humanity, but to show his intense appreciation of the Divine Love which gave them. Had he been a Pantheist, as Orpheus was, it is probable he would have idealized these things and created Greek lines. But believing in a distinct God, the supreme Originator of all things, he was led to a worship of sacrifice and offerings, and needed no Ideal. So, with a lavish hand, he appropriated the abundant Beauty of Nature, imitating its external expressions with his careful chisel, and suffering his sculptured lines to throw their wayward tendrils and vagrant leaflets outside the strict limits of his spandrels. The life of Gothic lines was in their sensuous liberty; the life of Greek lines was in their intellectual reserve. Those arose out of a religion of emotional ardor; these, out of a religion of philosophical reflection. Hence, while the former were wild and picturesque, the latter were serious, chaste, and very human.
Doubtless the nearest approach to ideal abstractions to be found in Mediaeval Art is contained in that remarkable and very characteristic system of foliations and euspidations in traccry, which were suggested by the leaf-forms in Nature. In this adaptation, when first it was initiated in the earliest phases of Gothic, there is something like Greek Love. The simple trefoil aperture seems a fair architectural version of the clover-leaves. But the propriety of the use of these clover-lines was hinted by a constructive exigency, the pointed arch. The inevitable assimilation of the natural forms of leaves with this feature was too evident not to be improved by such active and ardent worshippers as the Freemasons. Thus originated Gothic tracery, which afterwards branched out into such sumptuous and unrestrained luxury as we find in the Decorated styles of England, the Flamboyant of France, the late Geometric of Germany. Thus were the masons true to the zealous and passionate enthusiasm of their religion. They used foliations, not on account of their subjective significance, as the Greek artists did, but on account of their objective and material applicability to the decoration of their architecture. But no natural form was ever made use of by a Greek artist merely because suggested by a constructive exigency. It was the inward life of the thing itself which he saw, and it was his love for it which made him adopt it. This love refined and purified its object, and never would have permitted it to grow into any wild and licentious Flamboyant under the serene and quiet skies of the Ægean.
And so the Greek lines slept in patient marble through the long Dark Ages, and no one came to awaken them into beautiful life again. No one, consecrated Prince by the chrism of Nature, wandered into the old land to kiss the Sleeping Beauty into life, and break the deep spell which was around her kingdom.
Then came the Renaissance in the fifteenth century. But—alas that we must say it!—it was fundamentally a Renaissance of error rather than of truth. It was a revival of Roman Art, and not of Greek. The line which we call Hogarth's, but which in reality is as ohl as human life and its passions, was the key-note of it all. So wanton were the wreaths it curled in the sight of the great masters of that period, that they all yielded to its subtle fascinations and sinned, — sinned, inasmuch as they devoted their vast powers to the revival and refinement of a sensuous academic formalism, instead of breathing into all the architectural forms and systems then known (a glorious material to work with) the pure life of the Ideal. Had such men as Michel Angelo, San Gallo, Palladio, Scamozzi, Vignola, San Michele, Bernini, been inspired by the highest principles of Art, and known the thoughtful lines of Greece, so catholic to all human moods, and so wisely adapted to the true spirit of reform,— had they known these, all subsequent Art would have felt the noble impulse, and been developed into that sphere of perfection which we see rendering illustrious the primitive posts and lintels of antiquity, and which we picture to ourselves in the imaginary future of Hope as glorifying a far wider scope of human knowledge and ingenuity.
The Gothic architecture of the early part of the fifteenth century was ripe for the spirit of healthy reform. It had been actively accumulating, during the progress of the age of Christianity, a boundless wealth of forms, a vast amount of constructive resources, and material fit for innumerable architectural expressions of human power. But in the last two centuries of this era the Love which gave life to this architecture in its earlier developments gradually became swallowed up in the Pride of the workman; and the luscious and abandoned luxury of line led it farther and farther astray from the true path, till at last it became like an unweeded garden run to seed, and there was no health in it. In the year 1555, at Beauvais, the masonic workmen uttered their last cry of defiance against the old things made new in Italy. Jean Wast and Franςois Mavéehal of that town, two cathedralbuilders, said, — “that they had heard of the Church of St. Peter at Rome, and would maintain that their Gothic could be built as high and on as grand a scale as the antique orders of this Michel Angelo.” And with this spirit they built a wonderful pyramid over the cross of their cathedral. But, alas! it fell in the fifth year of its arrogant pride, and this is the last we hear of Gothic architecture in those times. Over the wild and picturesque ruins the spirits of the old conquerors of Gaul once more strode with measured tread, and began to set up their prevailing standards in the very strongholds of Gothic supremacy. These conquerors trampled down the true as well as the false in the Mediaeval regime, and utterly extinguished that sole lamp of knowledge which had given light to the Ages of Darkness and had kindled into life and beauty the cathedrals of Europe.
This was the error of the Renaissance. Its apostles would not recognize the capacities existing in the great architecture they displaced, for opening into a new life under the careful culture of a revived knowledge. But they rooted it out bodily, and planted instead an exotic of the schools. It was the re-birth of an Art system, which in its former existence had developed in an atmosphere of conquest. It taught them to kill, burn, and destroy all that opposed the progress of its triumph. It was eminently revolutionary in its character, and its reign, to all those multitudinous expressions of life and thought which had arisen under the intermediate and more liberal dynasty, was one of terror. Truly, it was a ficrce and desolating instrument of reform.
It would be a tempting theme of speculation to follow in the imagination the probable progress of a Greek, instead of a Roman Renaissance, into such active, but misguided schools as those of Rouen and Tours in the latter part of the fifteenth century, — of Rouen, with its Roger Argc, its brothers Leroux, who built the old and famous Hôtel Bourgtheroulde there, its Pierre de Saulbeaux, and all that legion of architects and builders who were employed by the Cardinal Amboise in his castle of Gaillon, — of Tours, with its Pierre Valence, its Franςois Marchant, its Viart and Colin Byart, out of whose rich and picturesque craft-spirit arose the quaint fancies of the palaces of Blois and Chambord, and the playfulness of many an old Flemish house-front. Such a Renaissance would not have come among these venial sins of naïveté, this sportive affluence of invention, to overturn ruthlessly and annihilate. Its mission would inevitably have been, not to destrov, but to fulfil. — to invest these strange results of human frailty and human power with that grave ideal beauty which nineteen centuries before had done a good work with the simple columns and architraves on the banks of the Tlissus, and which, under the guidance of Love, would have made the arches and vaults and buttresses and pinnacles of a later civilization illustrious with even more eloquent expressions of refinement. For Greek lines do not stand apart from the sympathies of men by any spirit of ceremonious and exclusive rigor, as is undeniably the case with those which were adopted from Rome, They are not a system, but a sentiment, which, wisely directed, might creep into the heart of any condition of society, and leaven all its architecture with a purifying and pervading power without destroying its independence, where an inflexible system could assume a position only by tyrannous oppression.
Yet when we examine the works of the Renaissance, after the system had become more manageable and acclimated under later Italian and French hands, we cannot but admire the skill with which the lightest fancies and the most various expressions of human contrivance were reconciled to the formal rules and proportions of the Roman orders. The Renaissance palaces and civil buildings of the South and West of Europe are so full of ingenuity, and the irrepressible inventive power of the artist moves with so much freedom and grace among the stubborn lines of that revived architecture, that we cannot but regard the results with a sort of scholastic pride and pleasure. We cannot but ask ourselves, If the spirit of those architects could obtain so much liberty under the restrictions of such an unnatural and unnecessary despotism, what would have been the result, if they had been put in possession of the very principles of Hellenic Art, instead of these dangerous and complex models of Rome, which were so far removed from the purity and simplicity of their origin ? Up to a late day, the great aim of the Renaissance has been to interpret an advanced civilization with the sensuous line ; and so far as this line is capable of such expression, the result has been satisfactory.
Thus four more weary centuries were added to the fruitless slumbers of Ideal Beauty among the temples of Greece. Meanwhile, in turn, the Byzantine, the Northman, the Frank, the Turk, and finally the bombarding Venetian, left their rude invading footprints among her most cherished haunts, and defiled her very sanctuary with the brutal touch of barbarous conquest. But the kiss which was to dissolve this enchantment was one of Love ; and not Love, but cold indifference, or even scorn, was in the hearts of the rude warriors. So she slept on undisturbed in spirit, though broken and shattered in the external type, and it was reserved for a distant future to be made beautilul by her disenchantment and awakening.
In 1672, a pupil of the artist Lebrun, Jacques Carrey, accompanied the Marquis Ollier de Nointee, ambassador of Louis XIV., to Constantinople. On his way he spent two months at Athens, making drawings of the Parthenon, then in an excellent state of preservation. These drawings, more useful in an archaeological than an artistic point of view, are now preserved in the Bibliothèque Impèriale of Paris. In 1676, two distinguished travellers, one a Frenchman, Dr. Spon, the other an Englishman, Sir George Wheler, tarried at Athens, and gave valuable testimony, in terms of boundless admiration, to the beauty and splendor of the temples of the Acropolis and its neighborhood, then quite unknown to the world. Other travellers followed these pioneers in the traces of that old civilization. But in 1687 Konigsmark and his Venetian forces threw their hideous bombshells among the exquisite temples of the Acropolis, and, igniting thereby the powder-magazine with which the Turks had deseciated the Parthenon, tore into ruins that loveliest of the lovely creations of Hellas. It was not until the publishing of the famous work of Stuart and Revett on “ The Antiquities of Athens,” in 1762, that the world was made familiar with the external expressions of Greek Architecture. This publication at once created a curious revolution in the practice of architecture,— a revolution extending in its effects throughout Europe. A fever arose to reproduce Greek temples; and to such an extent was this vacant and thoughtless reproduction carried out, that at one time it bid fair to supplant the older Renaissance. The spirit ot the new Renaissance, however, was one of mere imitation, and had not the elements of life and power to insure its ultimate success. No attempt was made to acclimate the exotic to suit the new conditions it was thus suddenly called upon to fulfil; for the sentiment which actuated it, and the Love with which it was created, were not understood. It was tlie mere setting up of old forms in new places; and the Grecian porticos and pediments and columns, which were multiplied everywhere from the models supplied by Stuart and Revett, and found their way profusely into this New World, still stare upon us gravely with strange alien looks. The impetuous current of modern life beats impatiently against that cumbrous solidity of peristyle which sheltered well in its day the serene philosophers of the Agora, but which is now the merest impediment in the way of modern traffic and modern necessities. But presently the spirit of formalism, engendered by the old Renaissance, took hold of the revived Greek lines, and stiffened them into acquiescence with a base mathematical system, which effectually deprived them of that life and reproductive power which belong only to a state of artistic freedom. Theywere reduced to rule and deadened in the very process ot their revival.
So the Greek Ideal, though strangely transplanted thus into the noise of modern streets, was not awakened from its long repose by the clatter and roaring of our new civilization. As regarded the uses of life, it still slept in petrifactions of Pentelic marble. And when those petrifactions were repeated in modern quarries, it was merely the shell they gave ; the spirit within had not yet broken through.
Greek lines, therefore, owed their earliest revival to the vagaries of a capricious taste, and the desire to give zest to the architecture of the day by their novelty. It was not for the sake of the new life there was in them, and of that pliable spirit of refinement so suited to the wise re-birth of ancient Love in Art. It is not surprising that some of the more modern masters of the old Renaissance, with whom that system had become venerable, from its universal use as the vehicle by which the greatest artists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had expressed their thoughts and inspirations, regarded with peculiar distrust these outlandish innovations on the exclusive walks of their own architecture. For they saw only a few external forms which the beautiful principles of Hellenic Art had developed to fit an old civilization , the applicability of these primary principles to the refinement of the architectural expressions of a modern state of society they could not of course comprehend. About the year 1786, we find Sir William Chambers, the leading architect of his day in England, in his famous treatise on “ The Decorative Part of Civil Architecture,” giving elaborate and emphatic expression to his contempt of that Greek Art, which had presented itself to him in a guise well suited to cause misapprehension and error. “It must candidly be confessed,” he says, “ that the Grecians have been far excelled by other nations, not only in the magnitude and grandeur of their structures, but likewise in point of fancy, ingenuity, variety, and elegant selection.” A heresy, indeed!
Two distinguished German artists — the one, Schinkel of Berlin, born in 1781, — the other, Klenze of Munich, born in 1784 — were children when Chambers uttered these treasonable sentiments concerning Greek Art. Later, at separate times, these artists visited Greece, and so filled themselves with the feeling and sentiment of the Art there, so consecrated their souls with the appreciative study of its divine Love, that the patient Ideal at last awoke from its long slumbers, entered into the breathing human temples thus prepared for it by the pure rites of Aphrodite, and once more lived. Thus in the opening years of the nineteenth century was a new and reasonable Renaissanee, not of an antique type, but of a spirit which had the gift of immortal youth, and uttered oracles of prophecy to these chosen Pythians of Art.
Through Schinkel, the pure Hellenic style, only hinted at previously in the attempts of less inspired Germans, such as Langhaus, who embodied his crude conceptions in the once celebrated Brandenburg Gate, was fairly and grandly revived in the Hauptwache Theatre and the beautiful Museum and the Bauschule and Observatory of Berlin. He competed with klenze in a series of designs for the new palace at Athens, rich with a truly royal array of courts, corridors, saloons, and colonnades. But the evil fate which ever hangs over the competitions of genius was baleful even here, and the barrack-like edifice of Gütner was preferred. His latest conception was a design of a summer palace at Orianda, in the Crimea, for the Empress of Russia, where the purity of the old Greek lines was developed into the poetry of terraces and hanging-gardens and towers, far-looking over the Black Sea. Scliinkel was called the Luther of Architecture ; and the spiritual serenity which he breathed into the pomp and ceremonious luxury of the Art of his day seems to give him some title to this distinction. Yet, with all the freedom and originality with which he wrought out the new advent, he was perhaps rather too timid than too bold in his reforms, — adhering too strictly to the original letter of Greek examples, especially with regard to the orders. He could not entirely shake off the old incubus of Rome.
And so, though in a less degree, with Klenze. When, in 1825, Louis of Bavaria came to the throne, he was appointed Government Architect, and in this capacity gave shape to the noble dreams of that monarch, in the famous Glyptothèque, the Pinacothèque, the palace, and those civil and ecclesiastical buildings which render Munich one of the most monumental cities of Europe. It was his confessed aim to take up the work of the Renaissance artists, having regard to our increased knowledge of that antique civilization of which the masters of the sixteenth century could study only the most complex developments, and those models of Rome which were farthest removed from the pure fountain-head of Greece. “ To-day,” he said, “ put in possession of the very principles of Hellenic Art, we can apply them to all our actual needs, —learning from the Greeks themselves to preserve our independence, and at the same time to be duly novel and unrestrained according to circumstances.” These are certainly noble sentiments; and one cannot but wish, that, when, in 1830, Klenze was called upon to prepare plans for the grand Walhalla of Bavaria, he had remembered his sublime theorv and worked up to its spirit, instead of recalling the Parthenon in his exterior and the Olympian temple of Agrigentum in his interior. The last effort of this distinguished artist was the building of three superb palaces for the museum of the Emperor at St. Petersburg, finished in 1851.
The seed thus planted fell upon good ground and brought forth a hundred-fold. Then, throughout Germany, the scholastic formalism of the old Renaissance began to fall into disrepute, and a finer feeling for the eloquence of pure lines began to show itself. The strict limitations of the classic orders were no longer recognized as impassable ; a sentiment of artistic freedom, a consciousness of enlarged resources, a far wider range of form and expression, were evident in town and country, in civil and ecclesiastical structures : and with all this delightful and refreshing liberty was mingled that peculiar refinement of line which was revived from Greece and was the secret of this change. It was not over monumental edifices alone that this calm and thoughtful spirit was breathed, but the most playful fancies of domestic architecture derived from it an increased grace and purity, and the study of Love moved over them, elegant and light-footed as Camilla.
And turned to look at her.”
This revival of Hellenic principles is now infusing life into modern German designs ; and so well are these principles beginning to be understood, that architects do not content themselves with the mere reproduction of that narrow range of motives which was uttered in the temples of heroic Greece, but, under these new impulses, they gather in for their use all that has been done in ancient or modern Italy, in the Romanesque of Europe, in the Gothic period, in Saracenic or Arabic Art, in all the expressions of the old Renaissance. By the very necessity of the Greek line, they are rendered catholic and unexcluding in their choice of forms, but fastidious and hesitating in their interpretation of them into this new language of Art. Thus the good work is going on in Germany, and architecture lives there, thanks to those two illustrious pilgrims who brought back from the land of epics, not only the scallop-shells upon their shoulders, but in their hearts the consecration of Ideal Beauty.
According to the usual custom, in the year 1827, a scholar of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, having achieved the distinguished honor of being named Grand Pensionnaire of Architecture for that year, was sent to the Académie Franςaise in the Villa Medici at Rome, to pursue his studies there for five years at the expense of the Government. This scholar was Henri Labrouste. While in Italy, his attention was directed to the Greek temples of Pæstum. Trained, as he had been, in the strictest academic architecture of the Renaissance, he was struck by many points of difference between these temples and the Palladian formulæ which had hitherto held despotic sway over his studies. In grand and minor proportions, in the disposition of triglyphs in the frieze, in mouldings and general sentiment, he perceived a remarkable freedom from the restraints of his school, — a freedom which, so far from detracting from the grandeur of the architecture, gave to it a degree of life and refinement which his appreciative ewe now sought for in vain among the approved models of the Academy. Studying these new revelations with love and veneration, it was not long before the pure Hellenic spirit, confined in the severe peristyles and cellas of the Pæstum temples, entered into his heart, with all its elastic capacities, all its secret and mysterious sympathies for the new life which had sprung up during its long imprisonment in (hose stained and shattered marbles. Labrouste, on his return to Paris, in 1830, surprised the grave professors of the Academy, Le Bas, Balfard, and the rest, by presenting to them, as the result of his studies, carefully elaborated drawings of the temples at Pæstum. Witnessing, with pious horror, the grave departures from their rules contained in the drawings of their former favorite, they charged him with error, even as a copyist. True to their prejudices, their eyes did not penetrate beyond the outward type, and they at once began to find technical objections. They told him, never did such an absurdity occur in classic architecture as a triglyph on a corner ! Palladio and the Italian masters never committed such an obvious crime against propriety, nor could an instance of it be found in all Roman antiquities. It was in vain that poor Labrouste upheld the accuracy of his work, and reminded the Academy that among the Roman models no instance had been found of a Doric corner, — that this order occurred only so ruined that no corner as left for examination, or in the grand circumferences of the Colosseum and the Theatre of Marcellus, where, from the nature of the case, no corner could be. The professors still maintained the integrity of their long-established ordinances, and, to disprove the assertions of the young pretender, even sent a commission to examine the temples in question. The result was a confirmation of the fact, the ridicule of Paris, the consequent branding of the young artist as an architectural heretic, and a continued persecution of him by the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Uudaunted, however, Labrouste established an atelier in Paris, to which flocked many intelligent students, sympathizing with the courage which could be so strong in the conviction of truth as to brave in its defence the displeasure of the powerful hierarchy of the School.
Thus was founded the new Renaissance in France ; and, in this genial atmosphere, Greek lines began to exercise an influence far more thorough and healthy than had hitherto been experienced in the whole history of Art. To the lithe and elegant fancy of the French this Revelation was especially grateful. For the youth of this nation soon learned that in these newly opened paths, their invention and sentiment, so long straitened and confined within the severe limits of the old system, could move with the utmost freedom, and at the same time be preserved from licentious excess by the delicate spirit of the new lines. Thus natural fervor, grace, and fecundity of thought found here a most welcome outlet.
For some time the designs of the new school were not recognized in the competitions of the Ecole des Beaux Arts ; but when, in the course of Nature, some two or three of the more strenuous and bigoted professors of Palladio’s golden rules were removed from the scene of contest, the Romantique (for so the new system had been named) was received at length into the bosom of the architectural church, and now it may be justly deemed the distinctive architectural expression of French Art.
Labrouste was not alone in his efforts; but Duban and Constant Dufeux seconded him with genius and energy. Most of the important buildings which have been erected in France within the last six or eight years have either been unreservedly and frankly in the new style, or been refined by more limited applications of Hellenic principles. Even the revived Mediaeval school, which, under the distinguished leadership of M. Viollct le Due and the lamented M. J. B. A. Lassus, has lately been strengthened to a remarkable degree in France, and which shared with the Romantique the displeasure of the Academy,— even this has tacitly acknowledged the power of Greek lines, and instinctively suffered them to purify, to a certain degree, the old grotesque Gothic license. Most of the modern buildings of Paris along the new Boulevards, around the tower of St. Jacques, and wherever else the activity of the Emperor has made itself felt in the improvements of the French capital, are by masters or pupils of the Romantique persuasion, and, in their design, are distinguished by that tenderness of Love and earnestness of Thought which are the fountains of living Art. One of the most remarkable peculiarities of this school is, that it brings out of every mind which studies and builds in it strong traits of individuality; so that every work appears as if its author had something particular to express in it, — something to say with especial grace and emphasis. The ordinary decorations of windows and doors are not made in conventional shapes, as of yore, but are highly idiosyncratic. The designer had a distinct thought about this window or that door,—and when he would use his thought to ornament these features, he idealized it with his Greek lines to make it architectural, just as a poet attunes his thought to the harmony and rhythm of verse. Antique prejudices, bent into rigid conformity with antique rubrics, are often shocked at the strange innovations of these new Dissenters from the faith of Palladio and Philibert Delorme,— shocked at the naked humanity in the new works, and would cover it with the conventional fig-leaves prescribed in the homilies of Vignola. Laymen, accustomed to the cold architectural proprieties of the old Renaissance, and habituated to the formalities of the five orders, the prudish decorum of Italian window-dressings and pediments and pilasters and scrolls, are apt to be surprised at such strange dispositions of unprecedented and heretical features, that the intention of the building in which they occur is at once patent to the most casual observer, and the story of its destination told with the eloquence of a poetical and monumental language. All great revolutions have proved how hard it is to break through the crust of custom, and this has been no exception to the rule ; yet in justice it must be said that every intelligent mind, every eye possessing the “gifted simplicity of vision,” to use a happy phrase of Hawthorne's, recognizes the truth and wisdom there are in the blessed renovations of the Romantique, and looks upon them as the sweeps of a besom clearing away the dust and cobwebs which ages of prejudice have spread thickly around the magnificent art of architecture.
Unlike the unwieldy and ponderous classic or Italian systems, whose pride cannot stoop to anything beneath the haughtiest uses of life without being broken into the whims of the grotesque and Rococo, the Romantique has already exhibited the graceful ease with which it may be applied to the most playful as well as the most serious employments of Art. It has decorated the perfumer's shop on the Boulevards with the most delicate fancies woven out of the odor of flowers and the finest fabrics of Nature, and, in the bands of Labrouste, has built the great Bibliothèque Ste. Geneviève, the most important work with pure Greek lines, and perhaps the most exquisite, while it is one of the most serious, of modern buildings. The lore of the classics and the knowledge of the natural world, idealized and harmonized by affectionate study, are built up in its walls, and, internally and externally, it is a work of the highest Art. The Romantique has also been used with especial success in funereal monuments. Structures of this character, demanding earnestly in their composition the expression of human sentiment, have hitherto been in most cases unsatisfactory, as they have been built out of a narrow range of Renaissance, Egyptian and Gothic motives, originally invented for far different purposes, and, since then, classified, as it were, for use, and reduced to that inflexible system out of which have come the formal restrictions of modern architecture. Hence these motives have never come near enough to human life, in its individual characteristics, to be plastic for the expression of those emotions to which we desire to give the immortality of stone in memory of departed friends. The Romantique, however, confined to no rigid types ot external form, out of its noble freedom is capable of giving “ a local habitation and a name ” to a thousand affections which hitherto have wandered unseen from heart to heart, or been palpable only in words and gestures which disturb our sympathies for a while and then die. Probably the most remarkable indication of this capacity, as yet shown, is contained in a tomb erected by Constant Dufeux in the Cimetière du Sud, near Paris, for the late Admiral Dumont d’Urville. This structure contains in its outlines a symbolic expression of human life, death, and immortality, and in its details an architectural version of tlie character and public services of the distinguished deceased. The finest and most eloquent resources of color and the chisel are brought to bear on the work; and the whole, combined by a very sensitive and delicate feeling for proportion, thus embodies one of the most expressivc elegies ever written. The tomb of Madame Delaroehe, née Vernet, in the CImetiere Montmartre, by Duban, is another remarkable instance of this elastic capacity of Greek lines; and though taken frankly, in its general form, from a common Gothic type, its chaste and graceful freedom from Gothic restrictions in detail gives it a life and poetic expressiveness which must be exceedingly grateful to the Love which commanded its erection.
Paris thus affords us, in its modern architecture, a happy proof of the inevitable reforming and refining tendencies of the abstract lines of Greece, when properly understood and fairly applied. Under their influence old things have been made new, and the coldness and hardness of Academic Art have been warmed and softened into life. Through the agency of the Romantique school, perhaps more new and directly symbolic architectural expressions have been uttered within the last four years than within the last four centuries combined. Like the gestures of pantomime, which constitute an instinctive and universal language, these abstract lines, coming out of our humanity and rendered elegant by the idealization of study, are restoring to architecture its highest capacity of conveying thought in a monumental manner. One of the most dangerous results of that eclecticism which the advanced state of our archæological knowledge has made the principal characteristic of modern design consists in the fatal facility thus afforded us of availing ourselves of vast resources of forms and combinations ready-made to suit almost all the exigencies of composition, as we have understood it. The public has thus been made so familiar with the set variations of classic orders and Palladian Windows and cornices, with all manner of Gothic chamfers and cuspidations and foliations, and the other conventional symbols of architecture, which undeniably have more of knowledge than love in them, — so accustomed have the people become to these things, that the great art of which these have been the only language now almost invariably fails to strike any responsive chord in the human heart or to do any of that work which it is the peculiar province of the fine arts to accomplish. Instead of leading the age, it seems to lag behind it, and to content itself with reflecting into our eyes the splendor of the sun which has set, instead of facing the east and foretelling the glory which is coming. Architecture, properly conceived, should always contain within itself a direct appeal to the sense of fitness and propriety, the common-sense of mankind, which is ever ready to recognize reason, whether conveyed by the natural motions of the mute or the no less natural motions of lines. Now history has proved to us, as has been shown, how, when the eloquence of these simple, instinctive lines has been used as the primary element of design, great eras of Art have arisen, full of the sympathies of humanity, immortal records of their age. It cannot be denied, on the other hand, that our eclectic architecture, popularly speaking, is not comprehended, even by the most intelligent of cultivated people; and this is plainly because it is based on learning and archæology, instead of that natural love which scorns the limitations of any other authorities and precedents than those which can be found in the human heart, where the true architecture of our time is lying unsuspected, save in those half-conscious Ideals which yearn for free expression in Art.
Let our artists turn to Greece, and learn how in the meditative repose of that antiquity, these Ideals arose to life beneficent with the baptism of grace, and became visible in the loveliness of a hundred temples. Let them there learn how in our own humanity is the essence of form as a language, and that to create, as true artists, we must know ourselves and our own distinctive capacities for the utterance of monumental history. After this sublime knowledge comes the necessity of the knowledge of precedent. The great Past supplies us with the raw material, with orders, colonnades and arcades, pediments, consoles, cornices, friezes and architraves, buttresses, battlements, vaults, pinnacles, arches, lintels, rustications, balustrades, piers, pilasters, trefoils, and all the innumerable conventionalities of architecture. It is plainly our duty not to revive and combine these in those cold and weary changes which constitute modern design, but to make them live and speak intelligibly to the people through the eloquent modifications of our own instinctive lines of Life and Beauty.
The riddle of the modern Sphinx is, How to create a new architecture ? and we find the Œdius who shall solve it concealed in our own hearts.