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We arrived at Washington one beautiful midsummer morning, just after a most refreshing shower. There had been no rainfall for several days; the sky had begun to assume the aspect it usually wears when the dog-star is in bad humor, and consequently the atmosphere had been sultry, close, and enervating, while the streets were filled with little whirlwinds of fine dust. Now all was changed! Hailed as a gracious messenger of mercy and gladness, the soft-footed, balm-breathing angel from cloudland had trailed her mantle of dew and mist over the landscape ; there had her tender veil floated till, rainbow curved, it melted away on the bosom of a fleecy cloud, as a picture fresh from the Sovereign Hand, Nature's smiling charms unrolled, rebaptized with the miracle of transcendent loveliness; for over all, Vol. XIV.—1
woods and city and river, there lingered for a long time a wonderful golden light.
The sky took on the bright tints of an Italian sunrise, the air grew redolent with fragrance, and became clear and inspiriting. While the welcome crystal drops had*plashed on the roof of our "Pullman Palace," these lines, the favorite of boyhood's halcyon days, recurred to us again and again:
When the humid shadows gather
Over all the starry spheres.
Gently weeps in rainy tears;
Of a cottage chamber bed,
Of the soft rain overhead.
Weave their bright hues into woof
As I listen to the patter
Of the rain upon the roof!
That can work with such a spell,
Whence the holy passions swell,
That subdued, subduing strain,
By the patter of the rain!
And gazing through the broad plate-glass windows on the drenched streets, now showing their perfect squares all teeming with a busy populace, averse from one of Longfellow's exquisite poems
flitted into our. mind:
How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
As the train slackened speed on its near approach to the city, through openings in the luxuriant trees that shaded pleasant parks, we caught lovely glimpses of the plashing fountains and the great beds of scarlet geraniums then in full blossom in the White House grounds. Lafayette Square particularly drew our attention; it is located opposite the President's mansion, and is filled with fine trees, to which the soft, grayish-green foliage of the crape myrtle and the dark shining leaves
of the magnolia give a vivid suggestion of tropical beauty.
It was a refreshing sight, a brilliant display, to catch the gleam of those great beds of geraniums all aflame, and the sparkle of the fountains tossing their silvery spray so lavishly upon them, in contrast with the weeping greenery, the rain-pearled leaves that fluttered above, tremulous and glittering, while towered high over all the great white dome of the Capitol.
After a few hours of rest from our long journeying, we partook of refreshment, and sallied forth to fulfill our promise to the ladies, of which our party was principally made up, and were set down at the entrance to the Corcoran Art Gallery, to which popular resort, not only for lovers of fine art and culture but for those whom fate binds to the wheel of work through all the summer months, we proposed to devote the largest share of our first day in Washington.
This gallery is a splendid gift from a noble donor, and most keenly appreciated by those whose time nor means grants no joyous flitting to mountains, or sea, or foreign shores during the warm season. It is quite an imposing brick building, standing on Pennsylvania Avenue, a little beyond the President's grounds going up. We are admitted to a wide, cool vestibule, from which a broad staircase leads to the picture gallery. But before describing the interior, we will
quote from the really fine catalogue, for the benefit of those who have never seen the building, a good description of its exterior:
"The building stands on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventeenth street, and opposite the War Department. It is two stories in height, built of brick, in the renaissance style, with brownstone facings and ornaments, and a mansard roof rising ten feet above the ordinary one, having a large central pavilion and two smaller ones at the corners. The front is of imposing style, divided by pilasters, having capitals of the Columbian style representing Indian corn, into recesses, stone niches for statues, with trophies and wreaths of foliage finely carved, the monogram of the founder, and the inscription, 'Dedicated to Art.'"
Now we will enter. On each side of the stairway is a corridor leading to the hall of sculpture, which is on the lower floor. In the vestibule the most striking objects are the splendid colossal head of the first Napoleon, in marble, by Canova; a magnificent bust of Marcus Aurelius, from the original in the Villa Borghese; and a beautiful cast of the famous bust of Clytie. In one corner are busts of some of the Roman emperors—Anto
ninus Pius, the good; Caracalla, the wicked, a face most aptly depicted to illustrate a demoniac expression; Vitellius, and others, and a fine head of Antonia, the regally beautiful. In the other corridor are busts of Seneca, Euripides, Scipio Africanus, Caesar, and Homer. Most attractive and pathetic is the worn, haggard, unutterably charming face of the latter. Whether it be authentic or not, it is really one's idea of the "blind old bard sublime," him of whom it seems so sad that it should have been written:
Seven Grecian cities strove for Homer dead,
The sculpture gallery is an elegant hall, nearly a hundred feet long, and lighted on one side by seven windows. There are smaller sculpture galleries, and a gallery of bronzes leading from it; and there are arched recesses in which the very creme de la creme of the gods and goddesses hold their court. Nothing can be better than the arrangement of the statues in this fine, roomy hall. It shows the truest appreciation of those glorious forms, relatively and absolutely.
In one of the recesses referred to stands the "perfect rose" of all—the queen of those immortal ones—the peerless Venus of Milo. Says a severe art critic: "At first the Venus de Medici stood near her; but, fortunately for her, she has been removed. With all due deference to the adored 'Goddess of Love and Beauty,' I must
A very faithful group is that of Sophocles, Demosthenes, and Aristides. All are wonderfully lifelike. In the faces of the first and last there is a grand repose, a most benignant expression, and in their majestic forms, enveloped in drapery, a blending of strength and ease which is very impressive. But in Demosthenes there is life, fire, in every line of the careworn, furrowed face, in the spare, sinewy form, the slender, nervous hand which grasps so tightly the roll within it. It seems as if those lips were parting, and the "torrents of eloquent words" were about to pour, as of old, upon the ears of entranced listeners.
Reaching another arched entrance, our eyes are gladdened with a fine cast of the Apollo Belvidere, the most glorious—save the Venus of Milo— of all this delightful company. Byron's beautiful description came into the mind of one of our party as we gazed upon this image of grace—this personification of manly beauty: The lord of the unerring bow,
The god of life, and poesy, and light,—
With an immortal's vengeance; in his eye
And majesty flash their full lightnings by,
Above the Apollo is a truly superb colossal head of Juno. In the radiant face is a rare blending of majesty and sweetness. When Goethe first saw this, he exclaimed: "It is like a verse of Homer!" In remarkable contrast to the Apollo, "All radiant from his triumph in the fight," is that most pathetic form of the dying Gladiator: He leans upon his hand; his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony, And his drooped head sinks gradually low,
And through his side the last drops ebbing slow From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one
Like the first of a thunder shower; and now The arena swims around him. He is gone
Ere ceased the inhuman shout that hailed the wretch who won!
It does not detract a whit from our interest in this touching and wonderful statue to know that the critics say it does not represent a Gladiator, but a Saul, who has stabbed himself to avoid captivity, and fallen upon his shield.
One of our companions who wishes to share this pleasant task of description, here hands us her note-book, from which we quote:
A very charming statue is a Mercury in Repose. The original in bronze is said to have been found in Herculaneum. Yonder is a splendid Polyhymnia, represented as leaning upon a rock listening to the melody around her. The perfect repose of the attitude and the arrangement of the drapery are very fine. The cast of the colossal bust of Jupiter, from the original in the Vatican, is most imposing—worthy, indeed, in its grandeur to represent the king of the gods. In the admirably arranged catalogue we read that "when Phidias had finished it, he prayed for a token from Jupiter whether his work was acceptable, and a flash of lightning through the roof attested the thunderer's approval." In the great hall stands also the wonderful but most painful group of the Laocoon; a beautiful cast of the Silenus and Infant Bacchus; of the exquisite Faun of the Capitol, which was the inspiration of Hawthorne's
striking of these, however, is in ah inner gallery— the daughter of Niobe. It represents one of the daughters of Niobe fleeing from the arrows of Diana. It is headless and armless, but is most wonderful in its representation of rapid flight, and in the effect of the drapery, which, blown by the breeze, clings closely to the limbs. The effect of motion is perfect, and the whole figure is grand and impressive beyond expression. • At one end of the large hall is a cast from the west gate of the baptistery at Florence, one of those gates which Michael Angelo pronounced "worthy of being the gates of Paradise." This cast was brought from the South Kensington Museum. It consists of ten square panels, containing