London, Volume 6
CXXXVI.-The British Museum.
CXXXVI.-The British Museum.
Looking at the commencement only of schemes proposed for the benefit of the public, the sanguineness of projectors has become a bye-word among us; and it must be acknowledged not without reason; though at the same time the want of that quality among their audience would, we suspect, appear equally remarkable, if we took a different point of sight, and looked backwards from the existing prosperity of the many important establishments around us, through their previous history, even to the time when they too were but
We repeat, it must be acknowledged, that projectors are often sanguine; but it is neither without interest or instruction to note in how many instances their visions have been, after all, but as shadows thrown before of the coming event, when compared with the ultimately obtained reality. The , for example, is a striking case of this kind. Little, we may be sure, did the benevolent Sir Hans Sloane dream of mighty establishment, when he, in effect, founded it, by directing in his will that his library of books and manuscripts, his collection of natural history and works of art, should be offered to the Parliament after his decease for , its cost having been not less than That collection as a whole was the marvel of his day; what would be thought of it now were it separate, we may judge from looking at the fate of its chief department, natural history, which, we are told by competent judges, has insensibly but materially diminished in its comparative value, as the science to which it belonged became better known and appreciated. But, of course, it is not kept separate; and Sir
|Hans, if he could revisit his collection in the interminable series of rooms, and the no less interminable series of cases in each room containing it, would be assuredly-whilst bewildered and delighted with the amazing extent and variety of the whole--not a little humiliated to see how small a portion of its essential value was derived immediately from him. Still less would the founder of the Museum have anticipated that the books and manuscripts of which he was so proud should have swelled into that almost unfathomable ocean of literature which we now call the Museum Library; or that his few and not very valuable works of art, then forming a mere appendage to the department of natural history, would be the germ of a grand school for English sculpture, where the richest treasures of ancient Greece should be the daily text-books of a host of students. Above all, although of course he, and his Parliamentary and other supporters, talked and thought about a as the recipients of the benefits to be conferred by the new establishment, it is impossible that, with a knowledge of the tastes and education of the middle and poorer classes of the eighteenth century, they could have anticipated the future crowds among which should with difficulty make way through the Museum Halls; that, in short, the wordpeople-could have meant with them what it now means with us, half a million or more of general visitors to this single institution in the course of year (), and which, if the recent rate of increase be continued, will speedily be doubled; that half million, being too, exclusive of the student visitors to the Sculpture, the visitors to the Print Room, and of a still more important class of visitors, those to the Reading Room, who, from less than in the year , have increased to nearly in the past year! Contrast this fact with the state of things when Robertson, the historian, thought an introduction to the Reading Room so important a favour, as to demand grateful mention of the friend through whose agency it was accomplished. The growth, indeed, of the , and of the ideas of the uses to which it might be directed, and, as a natural consequence, of the multitudes who now come hither for study or enjoyment, are among the most significant and satisfactory signs of the times: they mark a great era of social change and improvement, which, of course, Sir Hans, and those who carried out his plans, could not be expected to see, but which they have, however, unconsciously greatly contributed to promote. For the good aimed at, and the still greater good achieved, let us not forget then to honour the name of Sloane; although the authorities, relying perhaps upon the feeling which made Brutus only the more thought of, because his statue was where it ought to have been, seem to have considered it unnecessary, as yet, to erect the statue of their founder, where naturally looks to find it, in the Court or in the Hall of the Museum.
Those among our readers who may yet have in store the pleasure of a visit may form some kind of vague notion of the wealth of the Museum, from the mere statements we have given of the numbers whom it annually attracts; but we think it may be safely affirmed that only personal and often repeated inspection, guided too by no inconsiderable amount of acquired knowledge and tastes, can give an adequate idea of this wondrous storehouse of objects brought hither from all parts of the globe, at an expense that is literally incalculable, owing to the variety of modes by which they have been obtained, purchase, gifts,
| bequests, loans. From the period of the opening of the Museum, , there has been a continual stream of additions to every department, some of which, individually, almost equal, whilst certainly far exceed, the original value of the entire repository. Such was the library of George III., given by his successor, estimated to have cost ; such were the Elgin marbles, purchased in for , but the true value of which can hardly be overestimated. In the present century, the building in which the collection was deposited was found unable to meet any longer the incessant demand for roomroom! and on the arrival of the Egyptian monuments, acquired by the capitulation of Alexandria, in , and given by George III. the year after, it became necessary to consider how additions might be made. The Townley marbles and the King's Library set this question at rest, by showing that a new building was necessary. Hence the works still in progress. , we may pause a moment to state, was built by Ralph Montague, Esq., afterwards Duke of Montague, in the style of a French palace, though from the designs of an Englishman, the celebrated mathematician Hooke. The decorations, chiefly by French artists (Pope's sprawling Verrio among them), were of the most sumptuous character; and the mansion, on its completion, was esteemed the most magnificent private residence in the metropolis. This, however, was not exactly the building purchased for the Museum, a fire having destroyed all but the walls in . Not even a solitary countryman of the Duke was permitted to interfere with the pile which was quickly restored, and, if possible, with enhanced splendour, upon the burnt walls and foundations. Peter Puget was the architect: De la Fosse, Jacques Rousseau, and Baptiste Menoyer, the foremost men in their time and country, in their several walks, were the decorators; the presiding over the ceilings, the over the landscapes and architectural paintings of the walls, whilst the , emulous apparently of the attributes of the floral goddess, scattered about him at every step a profusion of charming and gaily-hued flowers, wooing you by their beauty almost to try if they were not fragrant into the bargain. The Duke was no doubt a rich man, but the expenses of this double erection, the employment of French artists, and the fact that the owner had been twice ambassador to France, taken in connection with the political features of the time, suggested a notion which became widely diffused that Louis XIV. himself undertook the office of treasurer during the rebuilding. It may not be true; but the Duke knew, no doubt, that there was a capital precedent for any such transactions to be found in high places. This was the building subsequently purchased for from Lord Halifax, and which is now
for as soon as the new works shall be completed, every vestige, we believe, of will rapidly disappear. These new works may be briefly described as forming chiefly a vast quadrangle, inclosing an inner court, extending about feet from north to south, and about feet from east to west. As a slight indication of the interior arrangements it may be mentioned that the King's Library, a magnificent apartment a yards long, occupies the principal floor of the east side, with the eastern Zoological Gallery above it; that the Reading Room and General Library are on the north side, over which extend, side by side, the north Zoological Gallery and the North Gallery with its minerals and fossils; and that the
|Egyptian Saloon, and the Grand Central Saloon (from which last branches off a suite of apartments consisting of an ante-room and the Phigaleian and Elgin Saloons) occupy the lower portions of the finished half of the western side, with the Egyptian and the Etruscan Rooms above. In advance, on each side of the main building or square, houses for the residence of the chief officers of the establishment are in course of erection; whilst, lastly, there is to be a grand street-front to the pile, about feet long, inclosing an outer court, through which we shall pass as at present to the entrance-doors of the Museum. Of the architectural character of any portions of the exterior it were unfair, perhaps, to judge from the specimen that is before us, the view of the buildings of the inner court, as with regard to them it may have been thought unnecessary to aim at any very lofty architectural effects; yet . cannot but fancy so grand an opportunity should have been turned to better purpose.
|Let us now enter, premising by the way that whilst there are few places of exhibition which should not be visited more than once, if worth visiting at all, it is, as respects the , absolutely necessary not only to come again and again, but to pass through it on something like system, if we would avoid being confounded by the multiplicity of objects that surround us, or by the essential differences that exist between the different departments. The best mode, perhaps, is to go through the whole Museum at once on the visit, in order to understand its general arrangement, and to learn which portions of it will be most interesting or valuable to us on our subsequent visits, when we can throw
|ourselves familiarly at once into whatever corner best pleases us, and there examine and reflect, and compare and inquire, without troubling ourselves as to what objects may be behind or before, satisfied that when we want them there in their proper locality they will be. Most regular and easiest managed of households is this, with all its ranks of conquerors and warriors, civilized and barbarian; its herds of animals, from the giraffe down to the tiniest of -footed animals; its shoals of fish, and swarms of insects. Sesostris, or, as they call him here, Rameses the Great, mightiest of statues of mightiest of monarchs, seems to look even more benignly placid than ever in such an atmosphere; the terrible-looking gods of the New Zealanders seem to whisper that, grim and blood-stained as they look for consistency's sake, they would not in reality hurt a hair of our heads; the very wild animals, looking so meek and domestic, would evidently roar gently, like Bottom, if it were permitted to them in such an establishment to roar at all. But, in truth, there is something strangely interesting in the general appearance of such diversified assemblages and objects, and a fruitful fancy might find neverending occupation in twisting and untwisting the fantastic links of connection that are continually presented to it. A somewhat less busy day than the present, however, it must be acknowledged, is needful for such employment; scarcely can we pause a moment to look on the statues in the hall of the lady-sculptor, Mrs. Damer, of Sir Joseph Banks, or of Roubiliac's fine Shakspere, or on the paintings of the staircase, doomed, we fear, to quick destruction. Nay, if we do not press on too, we shall be overwhelmed: seeing already, in imagination, the wonders of the unexplored regions beyond, this party of young visitors from the country directly behind us can see nothing else apparently. Their enthusiasm will wear out but too speedily as they grow older; let them then revel in its impulses now. And mark as they sweep into the rooms where the curiosities from the lands which have long been to them as full of romance as was ever Bagdad itself, the lands which Cook, or Bruce, or Park, or Parry, or Franklin, or Ross have made as familiar and as marvellous to them as are the scenes of that other favourite voyager Sindbad's discoveries and exploits; mark how, amid all their delight, now suppressed from the impossibility of giving adequate expression to their feelings, now bursting almost into a scream of pleasurable surprise at some unanticipated marvel, mark how religiously careful they are to avoid injury to the meanest article within their reach. But why should they what they have learnt to and even to look upon as, in a measure, their own? Youthful admiration is of a somewhat wandering, insatiable character; and presently the strange dresses, and arms, and furniture, and ornaments, the hideous wooden idols, and thousands of other articles, describable and indescribable, from the Polar regions, New Zealand, or Mexico, are passed with a rapid step; even the poisoned arrows, and the carved bows, cannot detain them many seconds, and the original Magna Charta there in the window they don't understand; so the Mammalia Saloon next receives them ripe for fresh wonders. And now how they run along from case to case, exchanging exclamations with each other, There's the lion! and Here's the hyena! what a running fire of names is kept up, of dogs, foxes, gluttons, bears, hedgehogs, flying squirrels, opossums, antelopes, ant-eaters, and sloths; and above all, when the central spot is reached, where a whole herd of cattle and deer, some of the
|last bigger than the , are seen penned in on side of the walk, and a mighty giraffe peeping, as it were, out of the lofty skylight on the other, with an enormous walrus, spreading its shapeless bulk along by its feet, there are no bounds to the expressions of youthful amazement. That giraffe has determined in their eyes the satisfactory character of the establishment; the reputation of the Museum is henceforth safe. In vain all this while they are told of the systems of arrangement so admirable here; in vain of distinctions of rapacious beasts and hoofed beasts; in vain of genera and kinds. But they have not yet arrived at the portion which forms the greatest treat of the whole, the birds; the ostriches, the eagles, the vultures; and by the time they do get to the long gallery, which is full of them, from the gigantic emu down to the diminutive humming-bird, they have, as it were, blunted the too eager appetite, and may be observed listening, with something like interest, to the remarks that drop from the speakers around, describing some trait, or relating some anecdote illustrative of the habits or history of the birds before them. This boy here has been listening these last minutes to the interesting account of the dodo, that bird once supposed to be fabulous and still believed to be extinct, yet whose existence at no remote period appears to be as unquestionable from the facts recorded, as from the existence of a veritable foot, and head, still preserved, the here, the at Oxford: of which head however there is a cast placed beside the foot. And the dodo may well excite the surprise of even older and wiser heads than our young friends here, if the curious painting at the back of the case represents it truly, as there is good reason for presuming it does: the head and foot there, for instance, agree with the head and foot we have referred to. The corroborative historical evidence is also strong. Well, we see in that bird the colour and shortness of wing of the ostrich, with the foot of the common fowl, and the head of the vulture; a combination of characteristics sufficient even to puzzle a Linnaeus or an Owen, and make it as difficult for them to place the bird to which they belong in any theoretical system, as the authorities of the Museum have found it to determine the proper position in their practical . But we must pass on, and we see our country juveniles have not waited for us, but are by this time busy among the shells, far ahead.
We have already incidentally spoken of the excellence of the arrangements that prevail throughout the Museum; and cannot but pause a moment here to give an illustration from the ornithological department. The system observed is that of Temminck, whose generic names are in most cases adopted, with the specific names of Linnaeus, and the English synonymes of Latham. Thus we have in cases to the Raptorial birds: vultures, eagles, falcons, buzzards, kites; the last being confined to the nocturnal birds of the division, such as the owls of different kinds; in cases to we have the Perching birds, subdivided into the wide gaped, as the goat-suckers and swallows; the tenuirostral, as the honeyeaters and wheat-ears; the conirostral, including the crows and finches; and the scansorial, as the parrots and woodpeckers: to these, in cases to , succeed the Gallinaceous birds: pigeons, turtles, pheasants, partridges; in cases to the Wading, comprising the ostriches, trumpeters, storks; and lastly, in cases to the Web-footed, as the flamingos, swans, and ducks. An extensive series of cases of eggs of birds, ranged to correspond with the cases of the birds themselves, and placed opposite them, gives completeness to the whole. All
| the other departments of natural history are illustrated in the same simple but scientific manner. And with this remark we must pass rapidly by the shells, with their elegant and diversified forms, their transparent surfaces and fairy-like hues, though not without a glance at the
and the no less glory of the collectors who are fortunate enough to get hold of the precious thing, and at the Iris wave shell, which gives out when wetted brilliant prismatic reflections, and above all at the little nautilus shell, of which Pope sings, and-fiction though the idea contained in the lines is alleged to be-shall continue to sing to us-
Neither must we dwell upon the Portraits, in number, which line the walls of this gallery, longer than will suffice to mention the mere names of a few of the most interesting, as the portraits of Cromwell in armour, of them painted by Walker, and given by the great Protector himself to Nathaniel Rich, then a colonel of horse in the Parliamentary army; a Queen of Scots, by Jansen; her obdurate sister-Queen of England, Elizabeth, by Zucchero; Charles II., by Lely; Peter the Great, and Charles XII.; Vesalius, by Sir Antonio More; and Britton, the small-coal man. There is also here a landscape, by Wilson. The Northern Zoological Gallery is devoted chiefly to Reptiles, preserved dry or in spirits, as the lizards, serpents, tortoises, crocodiles; to the Handed beasts, comprising the apes and monkeys; to the Glirine mammalia, under which scientific denomination we are to look for rats and mice, porcupines, hares, and squirrels; and to the Spiny-rayed and anomalous fish. Insects; crustacea, including such animals as the crab and the lobster; corals, star-fish, and sponges are the chief contents of the tables that extend along the floor of the same gallery; whilst over the cases against the walls, containing the animals and fishes, are ranged the larger fish which could not be accommodated within, such as the famous flying sword-fish, sturgeon, and conger. In no department probably is the Museum richer than in its Minerals; the Collection is already superior to any in Europe, and is daily increasing. We can only notice or features of it, such as the beautiful specimen of branched native silver, the sculptured tortoise in the centre of the room, brought from the banks of the Jumna, near Allahabad, in Hindostan, and the famous stone used by Dr. Dee and his assistant Kelly, during their communications with spirits, and in which stone the angels Gabriel and Raphael appeared at the call of the enchanters. Hence Butler's lines-
A rich collection of Fossils lines the walls of this gallery, which of itself would form materials for a pleasant volume; but a something infinitely more attractive, the sculptures of Egypt, and Greece, and of Rome are before us, and demand every line of our yet available space. Before, however, descending to the saloons below, containing the sculptures, there are rooms that should be visited, not merely for their great intrinsic interest, but as furnishing a valuable preparative for the due appreciation of the series of sculptures, the Egyptian; we allude to the Egyptian room and the Etruscan room, the latter containing a rich collection of vases, the former, every conceivable variety of article relating to the
|domestic life, religion, manners and customs, and funereal ceremonies of the people of Egypt. The amazing extent of this collection may be judged from the mere fact that the enumeration of the different objects, with the briefest possible description attached, occupies closely-printed pages of the Museum catalogue. Ancient Egypt here revives before us-Osiris and Isis are no longer mere names, we behold them face to face, as their worshippers beheld them; who are here also represented, and that so numerously in their mummies and mummy cases, and who look so life-like from out their portraits upon us, that is half tempted to question them; and many a knotty riddle could no doubt be solved if the humblest of them would but speak. Yes, here are the very people of Egypt themselves; we see the expression of their faces, the colour of their hair, the outlines of their form; we know their very names, and their professions; this, for instance, is Otaineb, no Egyptian born, but , no doubt, by naturalization, as the gods of the country are exhibited on the case taking especial care of him; Thoth, the Egyptian Mercury, is there seen introducing him to the many deities
| to whom the different parts of his body are respectively dedicated. This again is Hor, or Horus, incense-bearer to the abode of Noum-ra; this, Onkhhape, a sacred musician; this, Khonsaouonkh, a sacerdotal functionary and scribe; this, Kotbi, a priestess of the Theban temple of Amoun; that, Har-sont-ioft, a priest of the same building. From hence we descend a staircase to the Egyptian Saloon, passing midway the unrolled papyri, on the walls of a small vestibule leading to the Print room, which is famous through the European circles of artists and collectors, for its Drawings and Prints of the Flemish and Dutch schools, and which may be considered wealthy in most departments. The arrangements of this part of the building are, it appears to us, remarkably happy. The mind brought into a fit state by the contemplation of the miscellaneous antiquities of Egypt,we step into the saloon, and find ourselves suddenly introduced into a strange and primeval looking world of art, peopled by gigantic statues, and still more gigantic parts of statues; a studio such as the Titans might have revelled in, had any of them ever turned artists. And finely, most finely, does the aspect of the place harmonise with its essential history. It is what it appears; the broken and scattered portions of the mighty foundation upon which the subsequent schools of Greece and Rome were built up, and by means of which the sculptors of those countries raised the Greek and Roman names to their highest points of permanent glory: for what are the other glories of those nations now? who would willingly exchange the possession of a Theseus in our museums, for the record of the mightiest of Grecian conquests in our books? who would not willingly, if it were possible, give back to oblivion the whole of the Roman victories, if oblivion would teach us in return where to find some of the many great works of art belonging to that country, and mentioned in ancient writers, which have been lost? But, to return, the sculptures in the Egyptian Saloon are scarcely less valuable in themselves than in their connection with artistical history. Is there not something inexpressibly beautiful in this head of Sesostris (the young Memnon, as it was formerly but incorrectly called) in spite of the disadvantages attending the conventionalisms of art at the period of its execution? Here are thick lips, projecting eyes, rounded nose, besides other less striking deviations from the loftiest standard of human beauty; yet such was the power of the artist that he has made them as naught; he has, in spite of them, left to remotest posterity on that enormous block of hard stone, so hard that our finest tempered tools can hardly make any impression upon it, an evidence of genius, that may rival, all things considered, the loftiest of succeeding ages. This work, the most precious of Egyptian remains, was found among the ruins of the Memnonium at Thebes, and brought from thence to the Nile by Belzoni, who gives a very interesting account of the difficulties of his task, having no other implements than
no other assistants than a few ignorant Arabs; and having, in addition, to contend with the intrigues of the local governor, and of the French consul, and the fright of the boat-owner, lest his vessel should be sunk. The bust, which is above feet high, formed part of a sitting statue, about feet high.
Among the multiplicity of other important works in the Egyptian Saloon, we
|may particularly direct attention to the colossal seated statue of Amenoph III., from the Temple of Memnon; the sarcophagi of different forms, some sculptured and painted; the numerous statues of Bubastis, the Egyptian Diana, having the head of an animal upon a human body; the colossal lions; and the Rosetta stone, containing inscriptions of the same import, in hieroglyphics, another in the ancient vernacular language of Egypt, and another in the Greek, recording the services of Ptolemy V., and which were engraved by order of the high priests, assembled at Memphis to invest him with the royal prerogative.
Facing us. in the centre of the Grand Saloon, are some of the newly-obtained Xanthian marbles, also most appropriately placed midway between the Egyptian Saloon and the saloons and apartments containing the Phigalian, Elgin, and Townley marbles; for whilst these last exhibit Grecian art in its perfection, the show that same art in its earlier stages, struggling, as it were, for emancipation from Egyptian bondage; we see in them a certain stiffness and precision that serves to remind us of the country of the Nile, from which most probably those
| qualities were derived; but we also see in them the true Greek feeling and touch which in later times were to give us such sculptures as those of the Parthenon, such statues as the Apollo, or the Venus
or, we may add, such exquisite works as those by which we are here surrounded; these heads and busts, and full length figures of gods, and
not wanting, too, in the honours of deification itself; here, for instance, in this bas-relief, purchased at the expense of , we have the apotheosis of Homer where figures are actually offering sacrifices to the father of poetry, whilst Jupiter looks on from the summit of Parnassus in approval. Among the many other gems of the saloon how shall we select for notice? If we look in direction there is the grand head of Minerva, in another Hadrian's sumptuous statue, in a the vase with the Bacchanalian groups; in a -but it is useless to go on, for such gems are here thick as the leaves in Vallombrosa; so we pause for a moment only by this lovely statue of Venus or Dione, naked to the waist, but draped below, and then hurry on, no matter how reluctantly, into the Phigalian Saloon.
Pausanias, speaking of a certain temple at the ancient Bassae on Mount Cotylion, says of it, that after the temple
it is of this building that we possess the frieze from the interior of the cella, in slabs, each about feet high; and the whole now known as the Phigalian marbles, so named from the town of Phigalia near which the temple stood. The subject represented on them is the battle of the Centaurs and Lapithae. The story may be thus told. The Centaurs having been invited to the marriage feast of Pirithus, king of the Lapithae, of their number, called Eurytion, offered violence to the person of Hippodamia, the bride. Theseus, the friend of Pirithous, in his indignation at the insult, hurled a vessel of wine at the offender, who fell lifeless. The Centaurs rushed forward to avenge their companion, at the same time endeavouiing to carry off the females present, when a general combat ensued, which ended in the overthrow of the Centaurs and their being driven from Thessaly. Of the manner in which these incidents are represented in the sculptures, our engraving of of the slabs will give the best notion. We need only observe that the lofty beauty of the figures, the harmony of the composition, and the wonderful vigour and life that informs the whole, make
|it not improbable that they are from the designs of Phidias himself. Ictinus was the architect of the Temple of Apollo, to which the Phigalian marbles belonged, the same who was associated with Callistratus in the erection of the Parthenon, during the administration of Pericles, and at a time when Phidias had the general direction of the public works. Now we know that this great sculptor superintended the decorations of the temple, and that many of them were from his own hands; it is probable, therefore, the same arrangement prevailed as to the other. The similarity between the styles is most striking, as the visitor will at once acknowledge, if stepping from the frieze of the Phigalian Saloon he goes direct to the Metopes of the Parthenon in the Elgin Saloon, where the same subject is represented. It is strange the Greeks should have prevented their sculptors from doing their best to prevent such doubts, in forbidding them to inscribe their names upon their productions, as it is evident they did. Phidias is a memorable instance. The interior of the Parthenon was enriched with a statue of Minerva, of Phidias's master-pieces. On the shield of the goddess a figure was seen, old and bald, uplifting a stone, which Cicero says was done by the artist to perpetuate his memory, since he was not permitted to inscribe his name upon the statue. Aristotle further informs us that the shield was constructed with such extraordinary ingenuity that removal was impossible, without causing the fall of the whole group among which the artist had placed himself. But his was a name the world would not--will not-let willingly die, inscribed or not inscribed. The loftiest desire that a truly great mind can cherish is that of influencing the minds of others kindred to its own, and through them the world generally: Phidias died more than years ago; but behold the power of genius-daily and hourly is the spirit of the Greek sculptor teaching and inspiring our students, and extending its subtle and penetrating influence through every department of our arts. The means by which such potent effects are achieved are the Elgin marbles, so named from the Earl of Elgin, who obtained them between the years and , chiefly from the remains of the Parthenon. This grand temple was constructed entirely of white marble, and decorated as never building was before or since. The sculptures in the Museum which belonged to it are of kinds; Metopes, the square-shaped intervals between the raised tablets or tryglyphs of a Doric frieze, the Frieze itself, imperfect, and Statues, broken or entire, from the pediments. The Metopes, we have already incidentally stated, represent the battle of the Centaurs and the Lapithae. The frieze is devoted to the solemn procession called the Panathenaea, which took place at Athens every years in honour of Minerva, the guardian divinity of the city, when something like a whole people conveyed the sacred veil to the temple, which was to be hung up before the statue of the goddess within: of the mightiest subjects sculpture ever attempted, and the most mightily executed In the original state of the frieze, which occupied the upper part of the walls within the colonnade, the figures advanced in parallel columns, along the northern and the other along the southern sides of the temple, then turning the angles of the west front met towards the centre as ready to enter. What remains of the frieze is now arranged around the walls of the saloon, so as to appear in the same order to a visitor here as they would formerly have appeared to a spectator who, approaching the temple by the east, should walk in succession round the north, west, and south sides. These remains are very considerable, amounting
| to about feet, to which may be added plaster casts of feet more. The chief deficiency is in the western frieze, of which but a single original slab remains, and that is of such exquisite beauty as to enhance the sense of the loss we have incurred by the absence of the remainder. But, probably, the finest portions of the whole are found on the northern frieze, where the chariots and charioteers are seen sweeping on in the procession, followed by a train of horsemen. Movement is here so vividly represented that you can hardly fancy but that the whole are actually passing away before your eyes; whilst if you examine into the details, the perfect form and spirited action of the horses, the graceful and airy costume, and elegant , as it were, of the of the riders, every of whom the artist must have intended to
you can only feel how inadequate will be any praise or admiration that can be expressed in words of the marvellous productions before you. Then the variety--it is endless. Of a horses introduced, no are in
|the same attitude; each is characterised by a marked difference of expression. The bridles of the horses were originally of gilded bronze. The principal Statues in the Elgin collection belonged to or other of the pediments of the Parthenon; of which represented the birth of Minerva, the other the contest of Minerva and Neptune for the guardianship of Attica. The recumbent statue called Theseus belonged to the ; and the statue of Ilissus, or the river god, to the : both are seriously mutilated, and both are, notwithstanding that drawback, esteemed by our greatest artists as the grandest individual specimens of sculpture the world can furnish.
The Townley Collection was begun at Rome, by Charles Townley, Esq., of Townley, in Lancashire, about , and was so unremittingly and liberally increased that, when the whole was offered to the nation (at different periods), the sums voted by Parliament for their purchase amounted to These are arranged partly in the Grand Saloon, and its ante-room, but chiefly in the series of rooms that extend southward from the Grand Saloon, and which will shortly be rebuilt in continuation of the line formed by the latter and the Egyptian Saloon. As this gallery forms the general or miscellaneous collection of the
| Museum in antiquities, many important additions have been made to it, since the period of the purchase. Returning through the Phigalian Saloon, towards the ante-room, our eyes are attracted by the great pediments which decorate the upper portions of the walls of the saloon, which it appears are exact copies in size and in decoration of the eastern and western extremities of the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, in the island of Aegina. The statues also, which give to the pediments such a striking effect, standing out like so many real figures, are mostly originals, and occupying their original position. The restorations that have been made were confided to admirable hands-Thorwaldsen's. For the information necessary for restoration of the pediments, and the general arrangement of the statues in them, we are indebted to Mr. Cockerell, who, with other gentlemen, carried on careful and extensive excavation among the ruins of the Temple. As the ante-room is chiefly devoted to Roman sepulchral antiquities, we need not delay there, but pass on to the of the series of rooms above mentioned, the Room XII. of the Catalogue. Here, among a variety of beautiful works, such as the Cupid sleeping, the head of Adonis covered with a hood, is the bust of a female, issuing from amidst the petals of a flower, which Mr. Townley esteemed the gem of his gallery, as we know from a curious anecdote connected with it. During the Gordon riots, Mr. Townley, as a catholic, was marked out by the mob, who intended to attack the house in where all his darling treasures were collected. He secured his cabinet of gems, and casting a long and lingering look behind at his marbles, was about to leave them to their fate, when, moved by some irrepressible impulse of affection, he took the bust in question into his arms and hurried off with it to his carriage. Fortunately the attack did not take place, and his
as he called the lady represented, returned to her companions. In Room XI. the most valuable piece of sculpture probably is the Discobolus, which is supposed to be an ancient copy in marble of the celebrated bronze statue by Myro; who, by the way, like Phidias, secretly rebelled against the rule we have referred to; for he put his name on a statue of Apollo, but in letters almost imperceptible, and upon a part of of the thighs where it would be likely to remain undiscovered, except upon close search. The intoxicated Faun, the sleeping Mercury, the bronze Hercules, and the bronze Apollo, of this room, are scarcely less distinguished for their excellence. Sir William Hamilton's miscellaneous collection of antiquities occupies the room, and in the , on the upper floor, ascended by a staircase on the left, is the unique Portland or Barberini vase, so often described. The room of the series is unoccupied, and the devoted to British antiquities, upon which our space will not permit us to dwell: so we pass on at once to. the last of the rooms that we shall notice, the , rich beyond measure in the finest treasures of the past. Did ever poet or sculptor, for instance, conceive any thing more exquisitely lovely in form than this broken, headless, leg-less, and all but arm-less torso of Venus still appears, in spite of all injuries and mutilations? Or any thing more expressive, more Cupid-like, than the statue of the mischievous divinity bending his bow, ready for action, as shown in our last page? There is a speculation connected with this work of a noticeable character Pausanias observes, speaking of Praxiteles and the courtesan Phryne, that the latter,
Now, is not the statue in the Museum a copy of the here referred to? If the statue of Cupid, described by Callistratus as a most admired work of Praxiteles, be Phryne's, which is most probable, then, as the Museum statue agrees exactly with that description, there is little doubt but we are in possession of a copy of the favourite work of this illustrious Grecian artist. It is not quite feet high, and was found in enclosed within a large vase, about miles from Rome: the vacancies in the vase round the statue were carefully filled with earth.
We have thus noted the more prominent objects that arrest the attention in passing through the Museum; but what a host remain behind, scarcely if at all less worthy of note, in every apartment we have passed through! Nor is that all. There are entire departments of which we have said nothing, or referred to but incidentally, and of which we can now but give little more than the names. Such are the Medal Room, an aggregate of several collections, each of an extensive character; the Manuscript department, the very catalogues of which form a small library; the General Library of printed books, now, in connection with the King's, on a par with the greatest continental libraries, and which is constantly increasing through the new books brought into it by the operation of the Copyright law, and in consequence of the sum of money set apart, nearly yearly, for the purchase of old or foreign works; and the Banksian, or Botanical, department, which is on the very scale of magnitude and completeness. Truly the Museum is worthy of its name.
It will be evident that the expenses of such an establishment must be considerable; and that many persons must be occupied in fulfilling the duties attached
|to it; but the number of the last will surprise, we fancy, those who are but slightly acquainted with the economy of the place. There is a Principal Librarian, next a Secretary, then there are keepers of departments, next assistant keepers. In addition to these, above persons of literary eminence are constantly employed as assistants. A clerk of the works and an accountant are also permanently attached. Lastly, there is a little army of attendants dispersed through the libraries, saloons, and apartments, nearly strong; with a corps of subterranean bookbinders, averaging probably strong, with a few fumatori [n.175.1] or cast makers, exclusive of other regular and irregular appendages, such as household servants and labourers. The reader will now be prepared to see a somewhat considerable sum mentioned as the annual expenditure in this way alone; and it is considerable, namely, for the year , ; the entire expenses of the establishment in the same period being , which, we need hardly say, was chiefly defrayed by the annual parliamentary vote.
[n.175.1] It will interest those who may not be already aware of the circumstance, that casts of the finest things in the Museum can be obtained at an expense that is little more than sufficient to cover the actual costs. Thus a cast from Mr. Townley's favourite bust is charged only half-a-guinea.