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“My new statue !" said Kenyon, who had positively forgotten it in the thought of Hilda; “ here it is under this veil.”
“ Not a nude figure, I hope,” observed Miriam. “ Every young sculptor seems to think that he must give the world some specimen of indecorous womanhood, and call it Eve, Venus, a Nymph, or any name that may apologize for a lack of decent clothing. I am weary, even more than I am ashamed, of seeing such things. Now-adays people are as good as born in their clothes, and there is practically not a nude human being in existence. An artist, therefore, as you must candidly confess, cannot sculpture nudity with a pure heart, if only because he is compelled to
steal guilty glimpses at hired models. The marble inevitably loses its chastity under such circumstances. An old Greek sculptor, no doubt, found his models in the open sunshine, and among pure and princely maidens, and thus the nude statues of antiquity are as modest as violets, and sufficiently draped in their own beauty. But as for Mr. Gibson's coloured Venuses (stained, I believe, with tobacco-juice), and all other nudities of today, I really do not understand what they have to say to this generation, and would be glad to see as many heaps of quicklime in their stead.”
“ You are severe upon the professors of my art,” said Kenyon, half smiling, half seriously; “not that you are wholly wrong, either. We are bound to accept drapery of some kind, and make the best of it. But what are we to do? Must we adopt the costume of to-day, and carve, for example, a Venus in a hoop-petticoat?”
“ That would be a boulder, indeed!” rejoined Miriam, laughing. “But the difficulty goes to
220 ROMANCE OF MONTE BENI. confirm me in my belief that, except for portraitbusts, sculpture has no longer a right to claim any place among living arts. It has wrought itself out, and come fairly to an end. There is never a new group now-a-days; never even so much as a new attitude. Greenough (I take my examples among men of merit) imagined nothing new; nor Crawford either, except in the tailoring line. There are not, as you will own, more than half a dozen positively original statues or groups in the world, and these few are of immemorial antiquity. A person familiar with the Vatican, the Uffizzi Gallery, the Naples Gallery, and the Louvre, will at once refer any modern production to its antique prototype; which, moreover, had begun to get out of fashion, even in old Roman days.” : “Pray stop, Miriam,” cried Kenyon, “or I shall Aling away the chisel for ever!”.
“Fairly own to me, then, my friend,” rejoined Miriam, whose disturbed mind found a certain relief in this declamation, “ that you sculptors
are, of necessity, the greatest plagiarists in the world.”
“I do not own it,” said Kenyon, “yet cannot utterly contradict you, as regards the actual state of the art. But as long as the Carrara quarries still yield pure blocks, and while my own country has marble mountains, probably as fine in quality, I shall steadfastly believe that future sculptors will revive this noblest of the beautiful arts, and people the world with new shapes of delicate grace and massive grandeur. Perhaps,” he added, smiling, “ mankind will consent to wear a more manageable costume; or, at worst, we sculptors shall get the skill to make broadcloth transparent, and render a majestic human character visible through the coats and trousers of the present day.”
“Be it so !” said Miriam ; “you are past my counsel. Show me the veiled figure, which, I am afraid, I have criticized beforehand. To make amends, I am in the mood to praise it now.”
But, as Kenyon was about to take the cloth off the clay model, she laid her hand on his
“ Tell me first what is the subject,” said she, “ for I have sometimes incurred great displeasure from members of your brotherhood by being too .obtuse to puzzle out the purport of their productions. It is so difficult, you know, to compress and define a character or story, and make it patent at a glance, within the narrow scope attainable by sculpture! Indeed, I fancy it is still the ordinary habit with sculptors, first to finish their group of statuary—in such development as the particular block of marble will allow—and then to choose the subject; as John of Bologna did with his · Rape of the Sabines.' Have you followed that good example ?"
“ No; my statue is intended for Cleopatra," replied Kenyon, a little disturbed by Miriam's raillery. - “ The special epoch of her history you must make out for yourself.”
He drew away the cloth that had served to