The statue of Handel, the first original work that can, with any certainty, be ascribed to Roubiliac, may be regarded as a fair specimen of the artist's manner. He was of the school of Bernini. He followed the sculptors who infinitely prefer unrest to repose in art. He dearly enjoyed a tour de force in stone.
In one of these upper rooms are some works of Bernini; two of them, Aeneas and Anchises, and David on the point of slinging a stone at Goliath, have great merit, and do not tear and rend themselves quite out of the laws and limits of marble, like his later sculpture.
Only the seventeenth century could have represented such a disquieting fusion of the sensuous and the spiritual, and it was reserved for the decadence of our own days to find words that could describe it. Bernini has been praised as the Michelangelo of his day, but no one has yet been bold enough, or foolish enough, to call Michelangelo the Bernini of the sixteenth century.
But Bernini, that exquisite Bernini, why, there is more delicacy and refinement in his pretended bad taste than in all the hugeness and perfection of the others! Our own age ought to recognise itself in his art, at once so varied and so deep, so triumphant in its mannerisms, so full of a perturbing solicitude for the artificial and so free from the baseness of reality.
His David is scarcely young enough for a ruddy shepherd swain; he seems too muscular, and confident of his own strength; this fellow could have worn Saul's armour well enough. Æneas carrying his father, I understand, is by the other Bernini; but the famous groupe of Apollo and Daphne is the work of our Chevalier himself.
As to the piazza itself, it had not yet, as the reader will understand from the foregoing explanation, either the fine colonnade of Bernini, or the dancing fountains, or that Egyptian obelisk which, according to Pliny, was set up by the Pharaoh at Heliopolis, and transferred to Rome by Caligula, who set it up in Nero's Circus, where it remained till 1586.
It is a relief to look upon the smiling Zingara; her lively character is exquisitely touched, her face the only one perhaps where Bernini could not go beyond the proper idea of arch waggery and roguish cunning, adorned with beauty that must have rendered its possessor, while living, irresistible.
Chantrey, who was present, after looking at it in silent admiration, exclaimed, "What a fool Bernini was to attempt transparent draperies in stone!" Have you heard of the live camelopard, "twelve foot high, if he is an inch, ma'am?"
Her own folly had opened the way. Of course she would never see him again. Why should she? Their lives were as far apart as the Volga and the Hudson. Bernini met her in the lobby. "I've got a cab for you, Miss Conover," he said as if nothing at all had happened. "Have you Cutty's address?" "Yes." "Then take me at once to a telegraph office. I have a very important message to send him."
Right after lunch you go to the boss's garage and wait for me. I'll take care of your grips and camera. I'll follow on your heels." "Anybody would consider that Karlov was after me instead of Hawksley." Bernini smiled. "Miss Conover, the moment Karlov puts his hands on you the whole game goes blooey. That's the plain fact. There is death in this game.