« ZurückWeiter »
general sculpturesque propriety, Mr. Foley deserves hearty recognition; these are valuable qualities, and will, it may be hoped, secure the artist against that superficial style into which men not less able have, ere now, lapsed under the temptations of popularity and too many commissions. Mr. Foley has evidently taken great pains with his first London public statue; and it is hence pleasant to turn to it from those which have been above criticized. The features of the lamented statesman are refined and thoughtful; the dress has been very carefully studied, although with the result of a too great elaborateness in the folds and a conventional arrangement in some parts; in the "story to be told," the sculptor seems to have aimed at expressing the energetic devotion with which Sydney Herbert wore out his life in the attempt to improve the soldier's condition. This gives a graceful and meditative air to the figure; yet it may strike us as expressing rather the devotion of the student or the philosopher, than the practical sympathy with which Lord Herbert, suddenly awakened to great evils for which he found himself partially responsible, would have thrown himself into the labyrinth of army reform.
Had the labour and expense bestowed on the Nelson Memorial been seconded by genius and good sense, this would have been one of the famous things of Europe, and worthy of its excellent situation. But it has been mismanaged from first to last. The figure (by Mr. Bailey) which should have made the leading feature, has been placed at a height where no one without a telescope can study it, even had it deserved study. The Corinthian column looks as if stolen from some huge ruined temple, and set up by barbarians who could not devise any appropriate monumental pillar, although Europe and Asia supply a hundred admirable precedents for such a purpose. It was in favour of this paltry design that the committee threw aside a model by the great sculptor, Watson, whose group of the Lords Eldon and Stowell, at Oxford, is one of the noblest things extant in the art;-although even now the failure might be partially redeemed, if the shaft and statue were removed, and the base crowned by a first-rate group.
This base bears four reliefs which, though much better than those lately placed beneath the Cœur de Lion and the Franklin, are not equal to the situation. Copenhagen is by Mr. Ternouth; Nile by Mr. Woodington; Trafalgar by Mr. Carew; St. Vincent by Mr. Watson. The last, though far from a good sample of the artist's powers, is the best of the four: able and dramatic, though too stiff and angular. The Trafalgar is animated, and skilful in its lines; but
the Nelson here hardly comes into sufficient prominence as the principal figure.
The lions placed at the angles would have imposed an immensely arduous task on the most practised sculptor, from their vast size, from the peculiar difficulty of treating in metal the hairy surface of an animal which is also marked by singularly fine muscular development, and from the ideal nobility of expression required by the symbolical character of the group. As it is, they have a picturesque effect at a distance, partly due to the angles at which their bases are set (the sole good point in the architect's design), in part to their size, and to an outline of repose and dignity. There is little else to be noted in their favour. The paws, forelegs, and jaws, where muscular strength and agility are most finely and nobly marked in the lion, are barely shaped out, looking like masses of clotted hair, and as if the artist had not known where to strike his surface. Hardly anything has been made of the grand lines about the mane and neck. The vitality or animation, more or less indicated by the flanks (especially where the hind legs join them) is contradicted by the heavy, tired expression of the features, which recall the sickly and denaturalized prisoners of the menagerie, yawning to pass the time, and could hardly have been worse chosen as types of the lion of England. Besides the monotony of four almost similar figures, and the tame timidity of their action, no advantage has been taken of the resources of the material; and there is hence a want of light and shade, and of the look of vital mobility, which reduces the effect, as before stated, to the distant outline of the masses.
This work has been dwelt on the longer, because it is one of the most instructive lessons in art given in our time-the lesson which, however, the author should (one would think) have been the last to forget; that neither ability, nor knowledge, nor painstaking—all of which were abundantly brought to the task by Sir E. Landseer-are of the least avail to convert an amateur, off-hand, into an artist. Here was one of the most famous painters of the age, who, when in middle life, took up one of the most difficult tasks in the most difficult of the arts. Probably nothing was wanting to ensure a success as complete as his failure, but that the forty years or more which Sir Edwin had devoted to painting with the fervour and first love of genius, had been devoted to sculpture. Wanting this, the spell of the magician was broken.
As if to crown the ill-success of a work which raised so many anticipations, and has been followed by so much disappointment, the
casting was entrusted by the artist to a friend. The enormous sum which Baron Marochetti required for this purely mechanical job, popularly stated to be more than twice the trade charge of our best bronze founders, has been a subject of much comment in the papers and in society. Perhaps one can hardly pay too high for good work. But work such as was exposed here, when the castings were fresh, would hardly have been accepted, if done for any employer but the nation. The metal has been stinted to a thinness very unpromising for stability; the surfaces are full of bubbles, patches, and seams; and the mould was so unskilfully arranged that already the flanks, limbs, and heads are scarred with long horizontal lines of rust, giving them a richly stratified appearance which threatens, as the bronze decays, to make a serious interference with the effect intended by Landseer.
To conclude our review. In spite of the works which we are compelled to confess failures, it is hoped that the impression left on the reader will be that London contains more satisfactory public statues than a spectator who only takes a careless and partial glance might imagine. Such at least is the feeling which a careful re-examination has given to the writer, whose sole wish, in executing a task not altogether pleasant, has been to promote, in England and in America, the interests of the noble art to which he has been devoted as a student from childhood. Like much else in the way of art, our memorials suffer by dispersion over the "great city;" and they suffer also through the neglect which leaves most of them uncleaned, although executed in a material which admits of periodical cleansing with little risk of damage. Looking back for a moment on the long array which, often too briefly for their merits, has passed before us, it will be recognized that we suffer so greatly, in point of national taste, partly through one or two ill-placed groups, partly through a few very bad recent figures in prominent situations: the Napier, the Nelson, and the Albert; the Coeur de Lion, the Clyde, and the Franklin. Might not some merciful Commissioner of Public Works, after a decent interval, provide, if not a penal settlement, at least an island of exile for these incorrigibles? If so, and were their places supplied by groups of real life and skill, those who best know the capitals of Europe, will admit that London might at last take the place in public sculpture due to a nation which has produced a series of great artists, but has lacked the taste and the sense to use them.
FROM the porch of Trinity Church you look right down Wall Street. On one corner there is a bank, and on the other a bullion-office, which directly face the sacred edifice, mocking its holy suggestions of devotion to God with their invitations to the worship of Mammon. The temple and the money-changers are but the width of a street apart, and the daily chimes of the one calling to prayer are mingled with the busy hum of the other inciting to gain.
Four-fifths of the crowd thronging up and down Broadway turn into Wall Street, and we follow them with quickened pace as they hurry to their bank counters, their exchanges, or to the seats of custom.
Wall Street is the great financial centre, not only of New York, but of the United States, and, indeed, of a large portion of the whole
world. Here the Federal Government has a Treasury, an Assay Office, and a Custom-house, into which millions of tribute-money are daily emptied. Here are most of the banks and great banking-houses, both domestic and foreign. London, Paris. Amsterdam, Hamburgh, Frankfort, Madrid, and, in fact, every European capital, has its financial representative. The Rothschilds, the Hopes, the Barings, the Browns, and all other great bankers, have in Wall Street, or near by, their counters, presided over by partners or agents. Here, too, are the swarms of buzzing brokers, who not only fill the exchanges, but overflow into the streets, obstructing the ways of the passers, and deafening their ears.
Wall is but a short street, extending a few hundred yards only, from Broadway to the river on the east of the city; but an immense multitude of people contrives to squeeze into it each business day of the year. At certain hours its population, already large, is greatly augmented. Every merchant, tradesman, manufacturer, master mechanic, Government officer, capitalist, annuitant, and speculator, is a frequent visitor there. Go where you may, to any place of business in New York, say from twelve to three o'clock, and ask for the proprietor, and the probability is that you will receive for answer, “He's gone to Wall Street!" The animation of that busy and excited thorough fare during the busiest hours, is indescribable. The spectator is bewildered, and his breath fairly taken away by the rush and noise of the torrent of people dashing past him. It is impossible to analyze that headlong crowd, but its abounding suggestions provoke the imagina tion. The impelling motive of each one of the excited throng is money-money gained, or money lost; money owed, or money claimed ; money spent, or money saved; money risked, or money earned; money stolen, or money begged. Here must be success and failure, waste and thrift, wealth and poverty, honour and dishonour, hope and despair. What more could the imagination need for the construction of scenes and character of the deepest human interest, involving passion and emotion of every shade and degree?
The daily life of Wall Street is brisk and brief. Beginning late, and ending soon, its precipitate course has a flow of but a few hours; but in those few hours, what a shifting of the sands of fortune-here strewing wrecks, and there disclosing treasures!
At an early hour in the afternoon the street becomes a desert, for it has not a single dwelling-house throughout its whole length. The bankers, the Government officials of the Treasury and the Customs, the brokers, and the thousands of others who have relations of busi