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lieved the statue had been previously finished with the rasp and file; and that the marks of the chisel were made afterwards, to give the appearance of facility to the execution; and at the same time a roughness to the surface, which was more favourable to the general effect of the figure, than if it had been left quite smooth."
Many modern sculptors have endeavoured to restore the arm of the principal figure, but without success. Michael Angelo attempted it, but not feeling himself competent to the undertaking, left it unfinished. Bernini also undertook the task, but did not dare to work in marble. The restoration in plaster, as now visible in the Museum, at Paris, was done after a model by Girardon.
Of this celebrated group Baccio Bandinelli, made a copy, in marble, of the same size, and flattered himself he had surpassed the original; but he was alone in that opinion. Titian caricatured it, by drawing three monkies in the same action; and when Michael Angelo was asked what he thought of it, he replied," he who follows must be behind; and he who himself does not know how to do well, cannot avail himself with any effect of the ability of others."
"The Laocoon," say Winckelman, "offers to us the spectacle of nature, plunged into the deepest affliction, under the image of a man, who exerts, against its attack, all the powers of his soul. While his sufferings enlarge his muscles, and contract his nerves, you behold his mind strongly pictured on his wrinkled forehead; his bosom oppressed by an impeded respiration, and the most distressing restraint, rise with vehemence to enclose and concentrate the agony by which it is agitated. The groans that he stifles, and the breath he confines, dis
tend his very frame. Notwithstanding which, he appears to be less affected by his own affliction than that of his children; who raise their eyes towards him, and implore his assistance in vain. The paternal tenderness of the Laocoon is manifest in his piteous looks; his countenance expresses moans, not cries; his eyes, directed towards Heaven, supplicate celestial aid. His mouth expresses the pangs and indignation occasioned by an unjust chastisement. This double sensation swells the nose, and discloses itself in his enlarged nostrils. Beneath his forehead is rendered, with the utmost fidelity, the struggle between grief and resistance; the one makes him elevate his eyebrows; the other, the lids of his eyes. The artist being incapable of embellishing nature, has contented himself by giving her more extension, variety, and force. Where the greatest suffering exists, the greatest beauties are observable. The left side, into which the serpent darts its venom by its bite, is the part that apparently suffers most, from its approximation to the heart; and this part of the statue, may be reckoned a prodigy of art.”
The profound study of this chef-d'œuvre, one of the most precious remains of antiquity; and which Dr. Gillies observes, may be regarded as the triumph of Grecian sculpture, is sufficient to form a great artist. Michael Angelo always contemplated it with renewed admiration. Raphael was never weary of studying it; and Annibal Caracci was so struck with the perfection he remarked in the group, that he one day made a drawing of it, from memory, with the greatest exactness.
Our observations on this matchless performance might be extended to a considerable length, would the limits of this publication permit it. We shall, therefore, con
clude our remarks with the following extract from Virgil, descriptive of the subject:
"A greater omen, and of worse portent
Their speckled tails advance to steer their course,
And first around the tender boys they wind,
Then with their sharpen'd fangs their limbs and bodies grind.
The wretched father, running to their aid
With pious haste, but vain, they next invade:
Twice round his waist their winding volumes roll'd;
And twice about his gasping throat they fold.
Thus, when an ox receives a glancing wound,
And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies.
ENEID, B. II.