« PreviousContinue »
thou wert born, implore for thee forgiveness, and whilst, with Chap. rapture she points to the immortal images of thy divine genius, * may she cover with an impenetrable pall, the pale, and shuddering, and bleeding victims of thy sanguinary soul!'' i
The great abilities of this man, have alone enabled him to survive the revolution, which, strange to relate, has, throughout its lavages, preserved a veneration for science, and, in general, protected her distinguished followers. Bonaparte, who possesses great taste " that instinct superior to study, surer than reasoning,. "and more rapid than reflection," entertains the greatest admiration for the genius of David, and always consults him in the arrangement of his paintings and statues* All the costumes of government have been designed by this artist.
David is not without his adherents. He ha3 many pupils, the sons of respectable, and some of them, of noble families residing in different parts of Europe. They are said to be much attached to him, and have formed themselves into a military corps, for the purpose of occasionally doing honour to him, and were lately on the point of revenging an insult which had been offered to his person, in a manner,. which, if perpetrated, would have required the interest of their master to have saved them from the scaffold.
But neither the gracious protection ©f consular. favour,, nor the splendour of unrivalled abilities,- ean restore their polluted possessor, to die affections and endearments of social intercourse. Humanity has drawn a sabte circle round him.. He leads the life of a proscribed exile, in the very centre of the gayest city in Europe. In (he gloomy shade of unehosen '» seclusion, 104 PLACE DE LA CONCORDE.
Chap. seclusion, he passes his ungladdened hours, in the hope of XI* covering his guilt with his glory, and of presenting to posterity, by the energies of his unequalled genius, some atonement for the havoc, and ruin of that political hurricane, of which he directed the fury, and befriended the desolations, against every contemporary object that nature had endeared, and virtue consecrated.
After leaving the gallery of David, I visited la Place de la Concorde. This ill fated spot, from its spaciousness, and beauty of situation, has always been the theatre of the great fetes of the nation, as well as the scene of its greatest calamities. When the nuptials of the late king and queen were celebrated, the magnificent fireworks, shows, and illuminations which followed, were here displayed. During the exhibition, a numerous banditti, from Normandy, broke in upon the vast assemblage of spectators: owing to the confusion which followed, and the fall of some of the scaffolding, the supporters of which were sawed through by these wretches, the disorder became dreadful, and universal ;>j many were crushed to death, and some hundreds of the people, whilst endeavouring to make their escape, were stabbed, and robbed. The king and queen, as a mark of their deep regret, ordered the dead to be en* tombed in the new burial ground of 1'Eglise de Madeleine, then erecting at the entrance of the Boulevard des Italiens, in the neighbourhood of the palace, under the immediate inspection and patronage of the sovereign. Tl is building was never finished, and still presents to the eye, a naked pile of lofty walls and columns. Alas! the gloomy auguries which
followed L'EGLISE DE MADELEINE. PRINT SHOPS.
followed this fatal spectacle, were too truly realized. On that spot perished the monarch and his queen, and the flower of the french nobility, and. many of the virtuous and enlightened men of France, and in this cemetery, their unhonoured remains were thrown, amidst heaps of headless victims, into promiscuous graves of unslacked lime!
How inscrutable are the ways of destiny!
This spot, which, from its enchanting scenery, is calculated only to recal, or to inspire the most tender, and generous, and elegant sentiments, which has been the favoured resort of so many kings, and the scene of every gorgeous spectacle, was doomed to become the human shambles of the brave and good, and the Golgotha of the guillotine! In the centre, is an oblong square railing, which encloses the exact spot where formerly stood that instrument of death, which was voted permanent by its remorseless employers.
A temporary model in wood, of a lofty superb monument, two hundred feet high, intended to be erected in honour of Bonaparte and the battle of Marengo, was raised in this place, for his approval, but from policy or modesty, he declined this distinguished mark of public approbation. I was a little surprised to observe, in the windows of the principal print shops, prints exposed to sale, representing the late king, in his full robes of state, under which was written, Le Restaurateur de la liberte, (an equivoque, no doubt) and the parting interview between that unhappy sovereign and his queen and family in the temple, upon the morning of his execution.
This little circumstance will show the confidence which the
p present 106 NOTRE DAME. — MUSEUM, OR PALACE OF ARTS.
Chap. present rulers feel in the strength and security of the present 'government; for such representations are certainly calculated to excite feelings, and to restore impressions which might prove a little hazardous to both, were they less powerfully supported.
I was also one morning a little surprised, by hearing from my window, the exhilarating song of " Rule Britannia" played upon a hand organ j upon looking down into die street, I beheld a Savoyard very composedly turning the handle of his musical machine, as he moved along, and a french officer humming the tune after him. Both were, no doubt, ignorant of the nationality of the song, though not of the truth of its sentiment.
In the course of one of my morning walks, I went to the metropolitan abbey of Notre Dame,, which is- situated at the end of a large island in the Seine, which forms a part of Paris, and is filled with long narrow, streets.. It is a fine gothic pile, but in my humble opinion, much inferior, to our Westminster abbey, and to the great churches of. Rouen.
From this building I visited, with a large party, the celebrated museum, or palace of the arts, which I afterwards generally frequented every other day.
This inestimable collection contains one thousand and thirty, paintings, which are considered to be the chefs d'eeuvre of the great ancient masters, and is a treasury of human art and genius, unknown to the most renowned of former agcs> and far surpassing every other institution of the same nature, in the present times.
The first apartment is about the size of the exhibition room
of MUSEUM, OR PALACE OF ARTS. 107
of Somerset house, and lighted as that is, from above. It Chap. contains several exquisite paintings, which have been presented' to Bonaparte by the princes, and rulers of those states which have been either subdued by his arms, or have cultivated his alliance. The parisians call this apartment Bonaparte's nosegay. The most costly pictures in the room, are from the gallery of the grand duke of Tuscany. Amongst so many works, all exquisite and beautiful, it is almost temerity to attempt to select, but if I might be permitted to name those which pleased me most, I should particularize the Ecce Homo, by Cigoli Ludovico Cardi.
The breast of the mild and benevolent Saviour, striped with the bruises of recent punishment, and his heavenly countenance, benignly looking forgiveness upon his executioners, are beautifully delineated. L'Annonciation, by Gentilcschi, in which the divine look of the angel, the graceful plumage of his wings, and the drapery of the virgin, are incomparable. La Sagesse chassant les Vices, which is a very ancient and curious painting, by Andrea' Mantegna, in which the figure of Idleness, without arms, is wonderfully conceived. Les Noces de Cana, by Paul Veronese, which is considered to be the best of his works. It is the largest painting I ever beheld. The figures which are seated at the banquet, are chiefly the portraits of contemporary royal personages of different nations. From this room we passed into the gallery of the Louvre.
I cannot adequately describe the first impressions which were awakened, upon my first entering it, and contemplating such a galaxy of art and genius. This room is one thousand
p 2 two