Studia IV

ANTIQUITY AND MODERNITY

Antiquity was and is understood as the civilization of the Greek‑Roman world, the fundament of European civilization! Mention has seldom been made of the irradiation of the ancient world's material culture in the „barbarian" world of the Continent, in the Scythian, Thracian, Celtic and then Germanic environments of ancient Europe. Still more infrequent have been the mentions of a cultural diffusion from the Mediterranean basin towards the centre and North of the continent; moreover, the reverse relationship goes almost unnoticed which in the early Middle Ages materialized in that Roman empire of the German nation whose incipient mentality lay in the massive diffusion of Christianity on the Rhine in the 3rd century and then in the West-European dispersion of the Francs in the 4th-5th centuries. With the exception of strictly specialized studies - mostly archaeological, numismatic and other such studies - the relative scarcity of information of a general nature is the main reason for the respective gap in the history of the formation of modern civilization on the Continent. That transition epoch that lasted until the 9th century is equally the time when the ancient Latinity faded away and when the „barbarian" world was penetrated, after the migrations, by the non-Roman ancient culture which was to flourish so interestingly and specifically in the Western pre-Renaissance trends. From the present-day vantage, such a „prehistory" of the Middle Ages appears generally as unimportant, since The Renaissance is proposed as a continuation of antiquity, or modernity as a counterweight to it. About the possibility of an opposition and/or the intermittent posterity of modernity versus the antiquity we shall speak in this essay, not without dwelling briefly on a necessary specification.

In the antiquity-modernity relationship, with preponderant paradigmatic values, that is, of cultural examples and models proposed to contemporaneity, the incidence of the cultures belonging to the non-Greek and non-Roman East is automatically excluded. At its origins the Greek civilization had powerful Oriental implications (Anatolian, Syrian, Cypriot) which were filtered and autochthonized through that screen formed as the main outcome of the traversing of the dark ages (11th-8th centuries B.C.). The Eastern cultures, notably the Persian, Armenian and other ones, massively took over material from the Greek-Roman civilization, in the artistic field, until the 5th-6th centuries A.C.; in this respect, no reciprocity was noticed, although the relations with the Far East had existed since before the epoch of Augustus, who brought back „to the homeland" more of Pompei's soldiers, of whom certain detachments had reached as far as China, where their trace was lost. At the Sassanid court the tragedies of Euripides were still played in Greek until around the time of Justinian. Only with the rediscovery of Antiquity by the modern world did Europe discover and begin to take an interest also in the history of Oriental cultures.

La querelle des anciens et des modernes is, on the eve of the century of light in France, a symptomatic watershed in the relationship between antiquity and modernity. On the other hand, such a separation is a typical form of the eternal binomial which expresses the relationship between „old and new" or „tradition and innovation", a relationship we find in various forms and historical moments from Solon till Marx, whose followers postulated even the tripartite division of our civilization: Antiquity, Christianity, Marxism. Fortunately for the open character of the European civilization, the antiquity knew and cultivated exclusively the free thinking, without having practiced any religious dogma, Mosaicism being peripheral and nonproliferating even in the Greek-Roman Judaic environment.

The antiquity-modernity relationship has been a concern of many people also with regard to its false or genuine problems. Choosing the genuine aspect, the late Vasile Florescu even wrote a book about The Concept of Old Literature, a concept not deprived of Marxist-like connotations which were still the connotations of the years when his work was published (Scientific Publishing House, 1968). Rhetoric and Anti-Rhetoric, his last book (Academy Publishing House, 1973) marks the stage of some similar concerns...

Finally, the relationship we are concerned with appears to us as important for the cultural cosmos in which we are evolving and for that reason we mean to discuss it, without aiming at more than noting a few aspects of some vast field which actually identify with the history of our whole culture, itself polymorphous, claiming and at the same time denying its connection, in its modernity, with its ancient, traditional sources.

 

 

A Rather Timorous Debate

European scholars considered it imperiously opportune to discuss and update the problems connected to the relationship between antiquity and modernity.

In Eastern Europe, at Brno took place in April 1966 a congress of the International Society of Classical Studies, Eirene, whose theme was the Greek-Roman antiquity and the presentinfo. Most reports delivered at this congress were collected in a 600-page volume of which only a few pages refer to its fundamental and programmatic idea; the rest are dull studies of classical philology or of Greek-Roman archaeology, which have nothing in common with the announced theme and with the title of the volume of documents published later on. On the one hand the participants' lack of intellectual breadth and, on the other, the inhibiting self-censorship of those who might have raised certain questions led, in the final analysis, to the abandonment of the synthesis outlooks and to refuge in the inconclusive particular. So that the theme be recorded at least at the beginning and at the end of the volume, the lights of the French Marxist Roger Garaudyinfo and of the Czech classicist Ludvik Svobodainfo were resorted to.

Garaudy writes in a Marxist-like Nietzsche way on the theme Apollonian and Dionysian, claiming that „we cannot find the new humanism of our time except by finding the differences between it and the old ancient humanism, the older humanisms." To the ancient Greeks the world was a given existence, Garaudy says, and man can know it in its ultimate reality, reaching by such a knowledge the peak of his dignity, the consciousness of his destiny and... personal happiness. In other words, knowledge is the key of the ancient humanism, and rationality is the law of human spirit, of the order of the cosmos. The ancient man is helped to avoid alienation in individualism and loneliness by the awareness that he belongs to the citadel and that the citadel defends him. Constituting a break if related to the Hellenic world outlook, Christianity, extending Judaism, substitutes the philosophy of the being and of the rational order with the philosophy of the fact and of the divine creation. The Greek-Roman antiquity and the Judaic-Christian one each produced the two requirements of any humanism: the one of the rational ruling over the world and the one of the properly human historical initiative. The problems and the programme of humanism, says Garaudy, will henceforward be the one of holding the two ends of the chain, „at the risk of being torn to pieces." The Renaissance failed in its attempt to solve the antagonism between reason and affectivity, opting for the Greek rationalism. The reform brought back into a front position all the Judaic-Christian anguishes emerged from the theology of the original sin and of grace, with Luther, or of predestination, with Calvin.

With Marx, the attempt at reconciling the two aspects of the human being starts, according to Garaudy, from concrete bases: „People create their own history, but in determinated conditions and not arbitrarily. Marx's humanism differs from all the previous forms of humanism by its historical and militant conception, of the always increasing historical achievement of man's essence. To turn each man into a man, i.e. a creator in all respects - economic, political, cultural, this is the main objective of such a militant humanism." Garaudy probably equated the contest-festivals of dramatic poetry in Athens with some kind of communist-era contest or other „trade union manifestations", forgetting in the name of the cause that neither the poets nor the performers were amateurs and that the jury was not made up of the „rank-and-file audience." The Marxist sophistry is a militant way of falsifying the truth and, as its knowledge of ancient history is of the same kind, you can imagine why the Soviet science about the antiquity, represented illo tempore by the works of Mashkin and Serghevski (if I recall correctly), constituted a sad pleasure and a negative model at the time of my university studies, when the two voluminous books, the former with yellow covers and the latter with blue covers, were mostly learned by heart as the sacred texts of the new religion of disaster and antihumanism.

Somewhat more realistic, less speculative and less Marx-like, the Czech Ludvik Svoboda shows in the mentioned text that the classical studies left positive marks in the education system even for those who did not willingly accept them. Today, when these studies are neglected almost everywhere in the world, young people evince a growing interest in them. The study of the antiquity is not a science for the sake of science, Svoboda said; its interest resides in those subjects that are still relevant for our problems today. Therefore it is not a matter of taking the whole of the antiquity as an exemplary testimony, but of considering its less paradigmatic and known aspects as an initiation into the perennial feelings of man faced with some crucial questions that recur in the history of mankind, feelings in which we may find the answers to our own attitudes to life, on the social plane. „Alone the antiquity knew how to be a ferment helping other cultures develop.

Such a thing was possible thanks to the clear and shrewd Greek and Roman spirit with its sharp sense of reality. There existed at that time a sound empiricism, endowed with a sense of the boon of earthly life, there existed the rationalism, operating without prejudices. These salient features of the antiquity, buttressed by the sense of order which was specific of the Romans, led to the universalism on which the Roman empire grew, an empire that, in various forms, lasted for many centuries. In those times there took shape the elements of the ancient culture, such as the slow penetration of the ancient culture into Christianity and what it meant for the formation of dogmatics." Svoboda also saw in the antiquity, i.e. in the Roman empire, a model for the empires of Charles the Great or Otto the Great, a source of inspiration for the feudal states. In the West the reconciliation with the antiquity began in the 12th century. Aristotle becomes an authority both for Christianity and for Judaism and Islam. Unlike Garaudy, Svoboda thought that the Renaissance was a genuine revival of the antiquity. Svoboda considers the Reform as a temporary damming of the ancient spirit's victorious evolution, which was subjected to the same treatment as in the times of primitive Christianity. From the Renaissance until the Century of Lights the evolution of this critical spirit, of an ancient nature, could not be stopped. The modern democracies rely largely on the exemplary character of Athens and Rome.

 

A More Pragmatic Stand

One of the prestigious colloquiums of the Geneva-based Hardt Foundationinfo was devoted to the classical studies of the 19th and 20th centuries and their place in the history of ideas. The documents of this colloquium held in 1979 were published the following year, in volume XXVI of the Hardt Foundation.

The researches and viewpoints concerning the ancient history in general or its watershed moments were very different and essentially subjective, being in a direct relationship with the formation and ideology of modern historiographers. The two major types of historiography, the event-based one and the moralizing one, adding to which are the ethnographic history and the chronologies, were practiced also in the antiquity, and these ancient sources only maintained the false image of the exemplary antiquity. In the 19th century the antiquity ceases to be a model of life and is inserted by the German science in the very development of man, without being considered any longer as an exceptional period. It is now that emerge, mostly in Germany, the comparative sciences: linguistics, literary history, the history of religions. Following German, English and French initiatives, in the first decades of the past century archaeological diggings were started in Greece, Italy and the Orient. All these change and substantially improve, complete and nuance the image of the antiquity structured exclusively on historical and literary texts. In the mid-19th century, Jacob Burckhardt debunks, with his Griechische Geschichte, the myth of the Hellenic exemplarity, of the Greek serenity and ideal. But another myth had already emerged, the one owed to the Schlegel brothers, namely the myth of the special relations between Germany and Greece (the first king of Greece, Otto, and his wife Amalia belonged to the Bavarian ruling family), the Greek language holding the supremacy not only in the German universities but also in high cultural milieux. From Schliemann to Heisenberg Greek is learned thoroughly, and the famous physicist stated that the daily reading of Plato or Aristotle in the original prepared him better for physics than five hours a day of high-school mathematics exercises. Von Klenze's Bavarian architecture, the diggings of Ernst Curtius at Olympia, and then those of Schliemann himself at Troy and Mycenae, arouse a new German idealism versus ancient Greece, which was so well delineated by Nikolaus Himmelmaninfo in his particularly attractive book. If the construction of an ancient palace on the Acropolis, according to Schinkel's view, does not materialize, in exchange in Athens is erected a library and an academy in the classical Greek style (neoclassical, for the Greeks of today) that Iorga liked so much, a new parliament in the „Mycenian" style, with trapezium-shaped windows and doors, now appearing to us rather as a barracks. Turned down with the typical autochthonous „national pride" by the Romanian governments of those times, the wealthy Arsakis and Zappa from Wallachia adorn Athens, at an interval of several decades, with an Arsakion on Panepistemiou and with a marble Zappion in the town's public garden. Stylistically, the latter is much more credible than, for instance, the building of the Parliament in Vienna, which resembled the Library and the Academy which Nicolae Iorga liked.

Let us return to the modern historiography and its ways of seeing the antiquity. A lot has been written on this matter and it is not our intention here to outline a pertinent and overall view. We shall only point out a few moments and a few aspects.

The importance of Hegelianism in the historical reaserch is, before anything else, illustrated by the contribution of Droysen, a student of the German philosopher, through the separation operated by this one in the history of Greece: the Hellenistic period. Such a new direction is very important especially due to the fact that it led to the political equivalent of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the barbarian kingdoms, in their various organization formulas. The Hellenic irradiation and ecumenism can be better understood and presented in the Droysenian formula of the Hellenistic civilization. As far as neo-Hegelianism is concerned, Benedetto Bravoinfo shows that only in the 1920s did the true antipositvist concepts of the „third humanism" emerge in the classical studies, which resume the link with the German culture of humanism between Winckelmann and Hegel. Arnaldo Momigliano stated in the '30s that the current problems of the historians of antiquity are still those posed by the German scholars of the „Romanticist period". The neo-Hegelianist J. Hasebroek worked out, toward the end of the third decade, a new ideal model of Greek citadel - from the economic and social viewpoints - for the archaic and classical periods, a model which, only one generation after having been proposed, was to be drastically denied as regard its absolute novelty and its historical validity. (M.J. Finley, 1962). At the same time there began in France Louis Genet's research into religion, law and moral with the Greeks. Genet is the only one who welcomes across the Rhine the ideal of Hasebroek. His work is continued by J.P. Vernant who introduces in his works problems that are familiar to the thinking of Hegel.

As far as the history of religions is concernedinfo, historiographers took the subjective positions of personal viewpoints, oscillating between Hegelianism and Marxism. They studied the ancient religions without grasping their religious content proper. Some were aware of this failure, like Dodds for instance (whose book The Greeks and the Irrational was translated into Romanian, with its title altered on the order of the censorship, into The Dialectics of the Greek Spirit). Others, without breaking through the screen of Christianity or the reverse one of the anti-Christian positions, reached spectacular results, such as M.P. Nilsson, owing to the resort to information about the cults in which the feelings of the believers were expressed, to literary information and especially to archaeological findings. Nilsson was concerned with the process of acculturation but also with the one of transculturation, that is, the two-way influences of the factors having come into touch.

However, the screen of Christianity is very powerful in the subconscious. That is not all. Even today the censorship of the Christian moral (due to which the nudes at the Vatican were given a fig leaf) is still applied to the ancient sources, in countries most open in point of mentality, such as France, Britain, Italy and not only theseinfo. Arnaldo Momigliano remarked info, The Place of Ancient Historiography in Modern Historiography, in op.cit, note 1, pp. 127-157. the four ways in which the interest in the heathen historiography may come against the Christian optic: 1) the modern historian can be involved in historical interpretations that are conflicting with the Christian ethic and even with the Christian dogmas; 2) the modern historian may be encouraged to give preference to the study of the epochs and countries in which Christianity was unknown; 3) such an interest in the heathen historiography may lead to a special stress on the writing of certain types of history which the medieval writers Christianized very successfully, such as the autobiography and the world history (unfortunately from antiquity we have only one autobiographical work which has the character of an intellectual diary - To Oneself by Marcus Aurelius);

4) such an interest in heathendom may create problems to the exclusively Christian form of historiography, i.e. the ecclesiastical history. People like Machiavelli, Hobbes or Spinoza, Momigliano adds, who were forced to build their political theories and to get closer to history on the basis of non-Christian assumptions were very rare and they - with the exception of Spinoza - were not prepared to break away from the Christian community they belonged to. The historians' preference for non-Christian subjects was striking. Momigliano reminds in this sense of the preface by A. Sabinus to the 1474 editio princeps of the history of Ammianus Marcellinus. A Christian, or at least a Christian sympathizer, Marcellinus viewed these ones from outside and with a much greater interest than the modern Christian historians.

In the history of ancient culture a crossroads was the collapse of the Western Roman empire which was taken over as part and parcel of the theme of the decline and death of civilizations, a theme that was a favourite of the historians at the end of the last century and the beginning of the 20th century. In Pierre Lot's opinion, it was an internal disease that led to such a catastrophe; according to others it was the spreading of Christianity that eventually caused the collapse. There emerges the concept of late antiquity, especially in art. Gaston Boissier was the first to invite attention to the aristocratic paganism (whose numismatic evidence in the direction of the propaganda for the heathen culture among the broad masses are those medallions called contorniati which were collected, dated and interpreted by A. Alföldi in the early '40s) and Momigliano studies the problem of the men of culture up to Cassiodor, belonging to an ancient intelligentsia that was intact in Italy. The vein was followed also later, by J.J. Marrou, Jacques Fontaine, Pierre Riché and Erich Auerbachinfo.

 

 

The Renaissance: A First Outlook on the Antiquity

In order to highlight the presence and continuity of the ancient heritage in the modern world we should point out the first reception of the antiquity almost one millennium after its end, that is, during the Renaissance. By reception I mean simply the printing in the original and/or in the Latin translation of the works by Greek and Latin classics, leaving aside the influence these works exerted on the specific literary creation of the Renaissance. For the latter case (in the direction of the analogous mentalities in the small ancient Italic citadels and in the corresponding one of the Renaissance) symptomatic is the echo of Seneca's tragedies in the time's European theatreinfo.

But let us refer, as an example, to the first tragical author, Aeschylus, and see how his work was printed during the Renaissanceinfo. According to Souda (the lexicon), Aeschylus left when he died (456 B.C.) 90 tragedies and elegies. The oldest manuscript of the work of Aeschylus, Codex Mediceus (Laurentiana 32.9, on parchment which was infinitely more resistant than the papyrus rolled into rotuli), is dated at the end of the 10th century and contains a catalogue mentioning 75 dramas and a story of the tragical poet's life where 70 plays and 5 satirical dramas are mentioned. The selection of the seven tragedies probably occurred under the reign of Hadrian, these being: Oresteia (trilogy), The Supplicants, Prometheus Bound, Seven against Thebes and The Persians. In 1518, three years after the death of the famous printer Aldo Manutius, his printing house put out an editio princeps of the collection Aeschyli tragoediae sex. In 1548 Prometheus Bound was printed, the editor being Jean Dorat.

Francesco Robortello from Udine printed in Venice in 1552 the first edition of the Aeschylean scholia and corpus. The same year the French are offered by Adrien Turèbe an edition of the great Greek tragic author. The first integral translation into Latin is the one done by Jean Sauravins of Montpellier (1555). The seven-tragedy edition, achieved by the Florentine Pier Vettori and by Henricus Stephanus, was printed in 1557. So this was the destiny of the work of Aeschylus only half a century after the first edition. Under the influence of the great scholars who took refuge in Italy after the fall of Constantinople, Hellenism witnessed a spectacular upsurge in the West which led to the emergence of a numerous Greek-speaking and scholarly public attested by the frequent editions of the original text and of a still more comprehensive one, a public interested in the literary value of the tragedies to which they had access via the Latin version. By the end of the century both categories of men of culture were equally interested in the literary content of the Aeschylean tragedies and in the problems and philological commentaries related to the text. The author of the best Latin translation of Prometheus Bound is the Illyrian Matthias Garbitius (Grbič), a professor at Tübingen who in 1559 accompanies his translation by an edition and commentaries on the Greek text. Around 1560 were printed Jean Dorat's commentaries on Oresteia and The Supplicants. Between 1573 and 1581 are printed the commentaries by François Portus. In the Netherlands Aeschylus's tragedies are known also through the agency of the corpus published by Guillaume Canter in 1580. In the 16th century, especially toward its end, it was not only Prometheus Bound but also Seven against Thebes that enjoyed great appreciation notably in France, as attested by the Greek edition and the Latin translation of Jean Chessel, dated 1579 and 1581, as well as by the Latin translation signed by Florent Chrestien in 1585. Finally the Aeschylean edifice is crowned at the end of the Renaissance by Isaac Casaubonus's unfinished Summa, printed between 1595 and 1610.

A common but erroneous idea is that the Renaissance and Baroque artists were familiar with almost all the types of antiquities art historians have at hand today. Engraved stones and coins were the miniature pieces most frequently found in the treasuries of princes and the Church; later there emerged the „curiosity" cabinets where the heteroclite material, often deprived of historical significance or artistic value, held the most important place. Let us not forget the „relics" of the Christian antiquity of which only in our times did the „sacred" treasuries of the Roman Church get rid. At San Pietro in Vincoli one can still see, displayed in a crystal case, St. Peter's chain, which however is of a mediaeval nature. At San Sebastiano fuori le mura one can see, in a case, the footprints of the first of the apostles, on a terra cotta plate, the same as at Istanbul one can see the footprints of the Prophet and a tuft of hairs from his beard (Topkapi Museum). Lorenzo the Magnificent went as far as putting his engraved signature on the ancient intaglios he owned.

Between 1400 and 1800 a huge number of antiquities were unknown to Western artists. Until the end of this period, the collection of the Vatican and of the Kingdom of Naples became sensibly richer due to the diggings in Rome and Ostia and in Herculanum and Pompeii. Having considerable funds, the Vatican played, in the centuries of the Papal State, the role of a UNESCO avant la lettre, affording such wide-scope restorations as those owed to Valadier, in Rome, while the poorer Kingdom of Naples could not bear the expenses needed to conserve the Roman mural paintings, especially from Pompeii.

An artistic category which by its very nature was prone to destruction, the paintings found accidentally, together with the mosaics, in the mediaeval constructions in Rome disappeared almost immediately, leaving however a certain echo in the Renaissance, like those of the mural „calendar" in the Schifanoia Palace in Ferrara, studied so dedicatedly by Aby Warburg.

 

 

The Enlightenment - Less Concerned about the Antiquity

The archaeological knowledge in relation to the artistic activity, in the times of humanisminfo, is surprisingly scarce. Vasari's grandfather was one of the rare owners of one of the Grecian painted vessels which were little known before 1600. Between 1600 and 1750 the number of Greek or South-Italic vessels did not exceed 50, and the drawings showing them circulated exclusively inside the milieu of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Only in 1766 did Sir William Hamilton publish, in four big volumes, the engravings of his collection of „Etruscan vessels" as they were called at that time. More frequent were the Italic or Roman terracotta statuettes or the decorative plates of terracotta known as „Campana reliefs". The graves, an abundant source of „tanagras" or the famous winged figures from Myrina, began being researched, first illegally and then, in the latter half of the 19th century, legally and scientifically. Until the spectacular discoveries made by Schliemann and Evans, Minoan and Mycenian art remained unknown to the European world. The first groups of Minoan and Mycenian objects originated in Egypt and Cyprus, being part and parcel of the collections gathered by travellers and explorers between 1820 and 1860. Two Cycladic idols were collected by British visitors of Athens in the first two decades of the last century. Let us not forget that Greece as a whole had been a province of the Ottoman empire until 1829!

What else should we say, from this viewpoint, about the Greek geometric and archaic art? The frail source must have been the pieces collected in Rome by ancient collectors. Anyway, the funerary stela of Naples, which represents a man with his dog and may be dated to 510 B.C., struck no echo in the artistic world of the Seicento, the same as the tetrarchic porphyry group in the right corner of the San Marco cathedral in Venice: they were too far from the common Greek „prototype". It is difficult to imagine that the Cinquecento and Seicento artists were interested in the archaic and late Roman art, since the Hellenistic artworks, such as Apollo Belvedere, Laocoon, the Belvedere torso or the groups of dying Gauls had earned recognition as exemplary. One of the most beautiful Attic funerary reliefs of the 5th century B.C. - the stela showing a young man reading from a rotulus - was, at least in the middle of the Quattrocento, in the bishopric of Grottaferrata, but nothing of what we know today as having been worked in the 15th century reflects its composition. A few well-known monuments from Rome and Italy: the Colosseum, the theatre of Marcellus, the arches of Titus and Constantine, the one of Trajan in Benevento, the arch of the silversmiths, Pompeii's portico, a few temples as partly or integrally rendered in the fragmentary drawings (reconstituted today) of Simone del Pollaiuolo, Giuliano da Sangallo, Gian Cristoforo Romano, Bernardo della Sangallo and Baldasare Peruzziinfo.

The Italian Renaissance knew best the Etruscan art, of course its late stage, actually the last stage, which interested the artists between 1450 and 1750.

The urns of Voltera, architectural fragments, bronze mirrors, utensils and ornaments were among the antiquities most frequently researched and collected. It goes without saying that at the time of the second humanism such vestiges were erroneously considered evidence of the early Greek art, of the royal or republican Roman art, being connected to the realities noted down by Livy. If the Parthenon and other glorious edifices had remained hidden behind the Ottoman iron curtain, pierced by rare travellers like Ciriaco di Ancona, the Renaissance artists in Italy could come into touch with the Greek art that existed there in the Roman copies which reached a quantitative but especially qualitative peak during the reign of Hadrian. Of course, the Roman copies did not offer a complete history of the Greek art's development, but together with coins and gems, they recorded the works of Phidias, Polyclitus, Praxiteles, Scopas, Lysippus, and the host of smaller sculptures could be assigned to the artists listed in the respective books of Pliny's Natural History, therefore there existed an iconographic repertory, even if sometimes it was slightly altered by the interpretative Roman copies, of almost the whole thesaurus of Greek plastic art (with the important exception of the architectural sculptured decoration, which affected the natural development of the Renaissance narrative relief). Even if the technical errors and the lack of life of the Roman copies are too often and excessively deplored, the fact is not unimportant, because, in my opinion, an original Greek bronze period would have appealed to Michelangelo or Bernini much more and in a more nuanced way than a Roman copy that served as their model. Had Michelangelo known the Greek technique of carving marble in the 5th century B.C., he would not have made those mistakes that are embarassing even for the early work of a titan: the Pietà at San Pietro. Except the British Museum and the Louvre, as well as the Museums of the Vatican, what could be available to collectors (sometimes even artists like Thorwaldsen) we may find out by looking at the recently exhibited - by Prince Charles - collection of Charles Townley, Britain's ambassador to Rome. The collection has been displayed for a few years in the basement of the British Museum (left wing), its author having begun in 1778 to buy sculptures for the decoration of the garden of both the Roman houses and the suburban villas. Everything evinces an exaggerated rococo verging on kitsch. His last major acquisition was the Discus Thrower at Vila Albani, bought in Rome in 1791.

The relationship antiquity-modernity to which the Renaissance first gave its full share, and which was explicably silenced by the Enlightenment, a movement that naturally stressed the second term of the binomial, experiences precisely in this period its mature specific fruit. What else than an awakening of the European rationalism, with so much valences and ideals, akin in spirit to the magistra antiquitas, is the Epoch of Light which paves the way, precisely by the authenticity of its feelings, for the institutionalization of the antiquity as a cultural-artistic entity deeply involved in the European civilization's new forms of expression? Yet this aspect will be approached in a complementary essay.

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