fTTHE Pompeian was the original of most of the features of the Louis J- Seize, and in choosing the elder style there is attained a more pronounced character of Greek beauty, free from the trivial details added by French fancy, if not the best and purest classicality in itself.
The Pompeian is a style of great magnificence, and it can be carried out with strict propriety only by the use of a vast amount of money. Limited incomes can indulge in the Gothic, in the Neo-Jacobean, even in the Louis Seize to some extent ; but it takes a princely fortune to venture on the Pompeian, and to do it in character. A style of extravagance as it is, ignorance aud vulgarity cannot administer it ; costly artistic intelligence must have it in hand ; nor can anything cheap be tolerated in its production, for it is the last expression of luxurious wealth, and whatever is done in it must be done finely.
The art of the Pompeian was, as we all know, the Greek art after the Asiatic had debased it ; not that of the ancient dweller by the ^Egean Sea, but the Greek of Magna Graecia, who brought his arts and pleasures into Italy, and sapped the Roman power by means of them. Pliny complained of its period, saying that " a man now cares nothing for art, provided he has his walls well covered with purple or dragon's-blood from India." Yet, enfeebled by its rank blossoming as it may have been, it is doubtful if many of us can improve it ; and if a millionnaire is going to live a sybaritic, self-indulgent life of pleasure, he could not express his determination better than by furnishing his villa in the Pompeian. But such as the art was in its day, " it made its way everywhere," says a brilliant writer ; " it illuminated, it gladdened, it perfumed everything. It did not stand either outside of or above ordinary life; it was the soul and the delight of life; in a word, it penetrated it, and was penetrated by it—it lived!"
It was a wonderfully rich and attractive scheme of household decoration—the scheme of one who with his art indulged his senses, and not his soul—if he had one. Walls, ceiling, floor, and'furniture, all had part in it. Panels were ornamented with varied frames, then with cornices, afterward with plinths, till at last the façade of a temple or palace was presented on the walls by means of them and their pilasters, the whole painted in strong colors, so that the luxurious citizen not only lived in a palace, but saw extensions of palaces on his every side. " These mural decorations were," says the writer quoted above, "a feast for the eyes, and are so still. They divided the walls into five or six panels, developing themselves between a socle" (a socle answers for a pedestal, but is without base or cornice) " and a frieze; the socle being deeper, the frieze clearer in tint, the interspace of a more vivid red and yellow, for instance, while the frieze was white and the socle black. In plain houses these single panels were divided by simple lines. Then, gradually, as the house selected became more opulent, these lines were replaced by ornamental frames, garlands, pilasters, and ere long fantastic pavilions, in which the fancy of the decorative artist disported at will. Moreover, the socles became covered with foliage, the friezes with arabesques, and the panels with paintings, the latter quite simple at first, such as a flower, a fruit, a landscape; pretty soon a figure; then a group; then at last great historical or religious subjects that sometimes covered a whole piece of wall, and to which the socle and the frieze served as a sort of showy and majestic frame-work. Thus the fancy of the decorator could rise even to the height of epic art."
The usual Pompeian panel, though, and the only one that, as a rule, we now attempt to reproduce, presented a dark field, dull red, deep blue, black, olivine; and on this field danced along the airy figures that are its chief adornment, full of original fancy, painted in bright and delicate beauty, and thrown up by means of this dark ground. " Everybody has seen those swarms of little genii," continues M. Monnier, " that, fluttering down upon the walls of their houses, wove crowns or garlands, angled with the rod and line, chased birds, sawed planks, planed tables, raced in chariots, or danced on the tight-rope, holding up thyrsi for balancing-poles ; one bent over, another kneeling, a third making a jet of wine spurt forth from a horn into a vase, a fourth playing on the lyre, and a fifth on the double flute, without leaving the tight-rope that bends beneath their nimble feet. But more beautiful than these divine rope-dancers were the female dancers who floated about, perfect prodigies of self-possession and buoyancy, rising of themselves from the ground, and sustained without an effort in the voluptuous air that cradled them. You may see these all at the museum in Naples—the nymph who clashes the cymbals, and one who drums the tambourine; another who holds aloft a branch of cedar and a golden sceptre; otie who is handing a plate of figs; and her, too, who has a basket on her head and a thyrsus in her hand. Another, in dancing, uncovers her neck and her shoulders; and a third, with her head thrown back and her eyes uplifted to heaven, inflates her veil as though to fly
away. Here is one dropping bunches of flowers in a fold of her robe, and there another who holds a golden plate in this hand, while with that 6he covers her brows with an undulating pallium, like a bird putting its head under its wing. There are some almost nude, and some that drape themselves in tissues quite transparent and woven of the air. Some, again, wrap themselves in thick mantles which cover them completely, but which are about to fall; two of them, holding each other by the hand, are going to float upward together. As many dancing nymphs as there are, so many are the different dances, attitudes, movements, undulations, characteristics, and dissimilar ways of removing and putting on veils; infinite variations, in fine, upon two notes that vibrate with voluptuous luxuriance, and in a thousand ways."
The arabesques of the ornamental frames enclosing these figures were equally rich with them in imaginative form and in tint; in the choicest instances the curves were all that Greek curves should be. Of the mosaics of the pavements — where, at the door, if an actual dog was not seen, he was apt to be represented, although sometimes in his place was to be read only the familiar legend, Cave canem— Wornum says, that, "however inappropriate in their application to floors, they are examples of an exuberance of ornament to which few, if any, modern palaces can offer a parallel."
In ornament the Pom-peian offers many features that remind one directly of the old Egyptian — evidence of the Asiatic influence on the Greek art which the Romans used throughout Magna Grse-
cia, the art of the Persian, Pompelan Bath-room.
it is supposed, having been derived in great part from the Egyptiau, its principal difference being that occasioned by the exigencies of religion and the direction of the Persian priests. One can imagine in it traits of the luxury of Antioch and of the refinement of Alexandria, and it is likely that some barbaric Carthaginian splendor may have helped in the Pom-peian deterioration of the old standard. The anthemion was its constant attendant, always in a rather formal hieroglyphic-like arrangement, a spherical triaugle, or a line of them, somewhat fan-shaped, somewhat shell-shaped; the fret also, the sphinxes; and besides these ancient and conventional forms were a multitude of natural imitations—flowers everywhere. There were an immense number of other paintings besides these merely beautiful ones; many that "appear destined for banqueting-halls; dead nature predominates in them; you see nothing but pullets, geese, ducks, partridges, fowls, and game of all kinds; fruit and eggs, amphorae, loaves of bread, and cakes."
The doors of the rooms that were thus so universally decorated were made of narrow panels surrounded by gilt nails or bosses, and opening by means of a ring inserted as a handle; the windows were glazed, and the curtains were hung on rings. The material of the coverings of the couches, with their finely turned legs, was striped in bands; and here again, although the stripes are directly of Asiatic birth, yet taking into consideration the undoubted influence of Egypt upon the East and all Asiatic production, it is probable that we have another Egyptian effect on the style; for as Mr. Wornum, whom we have already quoted, says, " The Egyptian decorator, by a mere symmetrical arrangement, has converted even the incomprehensible hieroglyphics into pleasing and tasteful ornaments,----generally in the shape of a simple progression, whether in a horizontal line, or repeated on the principle of the diaper, that is, row upon row, horizontally or diagonally, so that we have here one great class of ornament, and the earliest systematic efforts in design in the world's history,"—which would seem sufficiently to indicate the origin of these stripes and bands.
Something of the brilliancy of the wall decoration of the Pornpeian may be gathered from its use of whole panels and of their surroundings, moulded of glass, richly stained in the most royal colors, and sometimes with all their ornament stamped into them. They were also frequently gilt, as well as all the wood-work about them; and sometimes a layer of another color above the main tint was cut away into the design, as a cameo is cut, although of course on a less delicate scale; and when the walls themselves were not ornamented with the architectural outlines, with the dark panels and the graceful figures, then great sheets of glass
Modem Pompeiau Parlor.
with their backs darkened, or else of the volcanic obsidian or of highly polished silver, took their place and reflected the forms of the dwellers and their guests.
Among the movable articles of furniture in these luxurious homes there were pretty tripods of bronze to sustain the braziers that sufliciently heated the rooms in such chilly weather as comes to the Vesuvian slope, to hold the flowers that the Pompeians used freely as the old Egyptians did, to uplift the lovely sculpture; there were tall candelabrum stands carrying wax-tapers, or else from their branches suspending the beautiful Pompeiau lamps. A table taken from the buried city, and now at Naples, its height nearly twice its breadth, held three leopards' haunches upon a flat stand, and bound them together with an elaborate metal open-work, and, on these, three androsphinxes, their wings stretched high as a winged Victory's, held a circular tablet ornamented on all its broad rim with mouldings underneath festoons wreathing the famous ox-head. Such tables as these were sometimes made of cedar, on ivory feet, sometimes of silver, and even of gold; more frequently they were of wood whose grain had been changed during growth by artificial means, so as to present a mottled appearance — some called tigrinae, some pantherinae, and some, again, eyed like the peacock's tail; and there were tables made of citron-wood, worth more than fifty thousand dollars. It cannot but be felt, therefore, that the Pompeian in the original is a style whose name be longed to a period of ntter luxury; not that luxury where art was lost in madness, as in the Rococo, but where, although it reminded you of
" Fruits of the fig-tree, rathe ripe, rotten rich,"
it was yet controlled by some purpose and some tradition, and if it did exert itself for the complete gratification of the senses, never forgot to gratify them by the means of beauty. Venus Pliysica, or the beauty in material nature, was the tutelary goddess of the city. "May he who injures this picture have the wrath of the Pompeian Venus upon him!" was the imprecation an artist there was found to have attached to his work.
The Pompeian is not exactly the style for parade, for public use, or for great state occasion; but for festal life, for luxury, for the enjoyment of wealth and ease and beauty, it may take the lead. The best of the early Renaissance is but a less daring effort after what the Pompeian had developed; the best of the Louis Seize is but a feeble echo of it. If ite art was mingled with a thousand Persian and Egyptian impurities, it took no impurity that was not already a beauty, and with its courageous color and contrast it evolved a wonderful and magnificent charm from the conglomerate.
In its modern use, only the merest fraction of this magnificence could be countenanced. It is as entirely inconsistent with the arrangement and the spirit of our homes as if it were a work of enchantment, and of course no one can be literally advised to furnish in such a prodigal and voluptuous style; and it will, indeed, be a vast fortune that will not be quite willing to pause after so much expenditure as a single room will require, and content itself for the rest with the things of less extraordinary life. Yet the things of merely common life would hardly be companionable with such grace and luxury of loveliness; and if one begins with the Pompeian, the remainder of the house must, at any rate, be sufficiently rich and fine to present no violent contrast. A purer Classic may give it tone; it may slip for relief into the Louis Seize or the early Renaissance; it being usually understood, meanwhile, that a house furnished in more than one style is full of anachronisms, and greets one at the threshold with an exhibition of questionable taste.
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