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Dan, unto the signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricornus ; * that is, the four cardinal parts of the zodiack and seasons of the year.3
* Recius de Coelesti Agricultura, lib. iv. ? do make the particular ones, &c.] Browne most probably alludes to the opinion of Kircher on this point. But several other writers have taken pains to establish the same theory. General Vallancy, in his chapter on the astronomy of the ancient Irish ; i. e., Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, vol. vi. ch. ix.) proposes a scheme, which Dr. Hales has adopted, with some alterations, in his Chronology, vol. ii. At still greater length has Sir Wm. Drummond investigated the subject, in a paper on Gen. xlix. in the Classical Journal, vol. iii. p. 387. But here again the authorities are at issue, Sir William thus arranges his Zodiack :—Reuben, Aquarius ; Simeon and Levi, Pisces ; Judah, Leo ; Zebulun, Capricorn ; Issachar, Cancer ; Dan, Scorpius ; Gad, Aries ; Asher, Libra; Napthali, Virgo ; Joseph, Taurus ; Benjamin, Gemini ; Manasseh, Sagittarius. General Vallancy on the other hand assigns to Simeon and Levi the sign Gemini, to Zebulun, Cancer ; to Issacher, Taurus ; to Napthali, Aries ; to Joseph, Virgo; and to Benjamin, Capricorn ; omitting Gad, Asher, and Manasseh. Dr. Hales also omits Manasseh, but places Gad in Pisces, Asher in Virgo, and Joseph in Sagittarius. There are other variations. Some have given Levi an open bough. The-banner of Gad, which in Morgan bears a lion, is also given green, and without any device. Reuben has sometimes a man. drake, instead of the bars or the armed man. Dan's serpent is sometimes nowed, sometimes curled. Manasseh has sometimes an ox, and Ephraim an unicorn or a bough. But enough of this. Further examination of the various fanciful speculations of critics and antiquaries, whether heraldic or astronomical, will only confirm our author's conclusion, “of the incertainty of arms,” and the irreconcilable discrepancy of those who have written on the subjects of the present chapter :quot homines, tot sententiæ ; and how should it be otherwise in a case where nothing can be known, and any thing may therefore be conjectured ? Before I close this note, however, I must be allowed to protest against Sir Wm. Drummond's mode of conducting his enquiry. With a view of enhancing the probability of his favourite theory, he commences by endeavouring to prove that the patriarchs were tinctured with polytheisin, and addicted to divination and astrology ; and arrives, in the space of half a dozen sentences, at the absurd and revolting con. clusion, that Jacob was an astrologer, who believed himself under the influence of the planet Saturn! To what lengths will not some men go in support of a favourite hypothesis, however fanciful! What would be our feelings of indignation against him who should demolish the classical remains of Grecian antiquity, to make way for the vagaries of modern architecture ? Less deep by far, than when we are asked to sacrifice the hallowed and beautiful simplicity of Scripture narrative to the base figments of rabbinical tradition, or the gratuitous assumptions of such critics as Sir Wm. Drummond.
3 But more widely, &c.] First added in 2nd edition.
Of the Pictures of the Sybils. The pictures of the sybils are very common, and for their prophecies of Christ in high esteem with Christians; described commonly with youthful faces, and in a defined number. Common pieces making twelve, and many precisely ten; observing therein the account of Varro, that is, Sibylla Delphica, Erythræa, Samia, Cumana, Cumæa, or Cimmeria, Hellespontiaca, Libyca, Phrygia, Tiburtina, Persica. In which enumeration I perceive learned men are not satisfied, and many conclude an irreconcilable incertainty; some making more, others fewer, and not this certain number. For Suidas, though he affirm that in divers ages there were ten, yet the same denomination he affordeth unto more; Boysardus, in his tract of Divination, hath set forth the icons of these ten, yet addeth two others, Epirotica and Ægyptia ; and some affirm that prophesying women were generally named sybils.
Others make them fewer : Martianus Capella two; Pliny and Solinus three; Ælian four; and Salmasius in effect but seven. For discoursing thereof in his Plinian Exercitations, he thus determineth; Ridere licet hodiernos pictores, qui tabulas proponunt Cumane, Cumae et Erythree, quasi trium diversarum sibyllarum ;" cùm una eademque fuerit Cumana, Cumæa, et Erythrea, ex plurium et doctissimorum authorum sententia. Boysardus gives us leave to opinion there was no more than one; for so doth he conclude, In tanta scriptorum varietate liberum relinquimus lectori credere, an una et eadem in diversis regionibus peregrinata, cognomen sortita sit ab iis locis ubi oracula reddidisse comperitur, an plures extiterint: and therefore not discovering a resolution of their number from
pens of the best writers, we have no reason to determine the same from the hand and pencil of painters.
As touching their age, that they are generally described as young women, history will not allow; for the sybil whereof Virgil speaketh, is termed by him longæva sacerdos, and Servius, in his comment, amplifieth the same. The other, that sold the books unto Tarquin, and whose history is plainer than any, by Livy and Gellius is termed anus ; that is, properly no woman of ordinary age, but full of years, and in the days of dotage, according to the etymology of Festus,* and consonant unto the history, wherein it is said, that Tarquin thought she doted with old age. Which duly perpended, the licentia pictoria is very large ; with the same reason they may delineate old Nestor like Adonis, Hecuba with Helen's face, and time with Absolom's head. But this absurdity that eminent artist, Michael Angelo, hath avoided, in the pictures of the Cumean and Persian Sybils, as they stand described from the printed sculptures of Adam Mantuanus.4
Of the Picture describing the death of Cleopatra. The picture concerning the death of Cleopatra, with two asps or venomous serpents unto her arms or breasts, or both, requires consideration :5 for therein (beside that this variety is not excusable) the thing itself is questionable; nor is it insignificant lumber, so called, in which this painting was found. It was generally incrusted with a sort of tartar and decomposed varnish, which was cleared off by certain eminent chemists of Florence. Parts of the colouring were scraped off and analysed by three or four persons. Formal attestations were made by them before the constituted authorities, and the documents had the stamps of authorized bodies and signatures. The colours were found to be all mineral, and few in number. The red was the synopia of Greece; another laky red, put over the red mantle Cleopatra wore, was of a nature not discovered ;it had the look of Venetian glazed red lake, of the crimson colour ;the white was a calx, but I forget of what nature ;—the yellow was oi the nature of Naples yellow-it seemed a vitrification ; there was also yellow ochre ;—the black was charcoal. The green curtain was esteemed terra verd of Greece, passed over with some unknown enriching yellow colour. The hair was deep auburn colour, and might be mangenese; the curls, elaborately made out, were finished hair by hair, with vivid curved lines on the lighted parts, of the bright yellow golden colour. The necklace consisted of various stones set in gold : the amulet was of gold, and a chain twice or thrice round her right wrist.
* Anus, quasi Avoữs, sine mente. * Mantuanus.] On the subject of this chapter, the origin of the Sybils, see the Abbé Pluche, Hist. du Ciel, vol. i. p. 263.—Jeff
. 5 The picture, &c.] “An ancient encaustic picture of Cleopatra has lately been discovered, and detached from a wall, in which it had been hidden for centuries, and supposed to be a real portrait, painted by a Greek artist. It is done on blue slate. The colouring is fresh, very like life. She is represented applying the aspic to her bosom.” EXtract from a Letter from Paris; Phil. Gaz. Nov. 27, 1822.-Jeff.
The preceding notice refers in all probability to the painting which was afterwards brought over to England by its possessor, Signor Micheli, who valued it at £10,000. He caused an engraving of it to be executed, which I have had an opportunity of seeing, in the hands of R. R. Reinagle, Esq., R.A. by whose kindness I have also been favoured with the following very full and interesting history and description of this curious work of art, in compliance with my request :
“17, Fitzroy Square, Dec. 2, 1834. “Sir,—The painting was done on a species of black slaty marble-was broken in two or three places. It was said by the Chev. Micheli, the proprietor, who brought it from Florence to this country, that it had been found in the recesses of a great wine cellar, where other fragments of antiquity had been deposited. That it was in a very thick case of wood nearly mouldered away. That it got into a broker's hands, by the major domo of the house or palace where it was discovered, having sold a parcel of
She wore a crown with radiating points, and jewels between each ;-also a forehead jewel, with a large pearl at the four comers, worn lozengeways on her forehead; part of her front hair was plaited, and two plaits where brought round the neck, and tied in a knot of the hair ;—the red mantle was fastened on both shoulders—no linen was seen. She held the asp in her left hand : it was of a green colour, and rather large. Its head was fanciful, and partook of the whims of sculptors, both ancient and modern, resembling the knobhead and pouting mouth of the dolphin. While writhing, it seems as if preparing to give a second bite; two minute indents of the fangs were imprinted on the inside of the left breast, and a drop or two of blood flowed. Cleopatra was looking upwards; a shuddering expression from quivering lips, and heavy tears falling down her cheeks, gave the countenance a singular effect; her right hand was falling from the wrist as if life were departing and convulsion commencing. The composition of the figure was erect and judiciously disposed for the confined space it was placed in. portion of the picture was about two feet nine inches, and narrow, like that sized canvass which artists in England call a kitcat. On decomposing the colours, the learned men of Florence and of Paris were fully persuaded that it was an encaustic painting; wax and resinous gum were distinctly separated. The whole picture presented the strongest signs of antiquity ; but whether it is a real antique, remains still a doubt on many minds. It was attributed to Timomachus, an artist of great eminence and a traveller, who lived at the court of Augustus Cæsar. He followed the encaustic style of A pelles, and with him died or faded away that difficult art. The picture was painted (as is surmised) by the above-named Greek artist, from memory (for he had seen Cleopatra often), to supply her place in the triumph of Augustus, when he cele brated his Egyptian victories over Anthony and Cleopatra. She, by
indisputably certain what manner of death she died.6 Plutarch, in the life of Anthony, plainly delivereth, that no man knew the manner of her death; for some affirmed she perished by poison, which she always carried in a little hollow comb, and wore it in her hair. Beside, there were never any asps discovered in the place of her death; although two of her maids perished also with her; only it was said, two small and almost insensible pricks were found upon
her arm; which was all the ground that Cæsar had to presume the manner of her death. Galen, who was contemporary unto Plutarch, delivereth two ways of her death ; that she killed herself by the bite of an asp, or bit an hole in her arm and poured poison therein. Strabo, that lived before them both, hath also two opinions; that she died by the bite of an asp, or else a poisonous ointment.
We might question the length of the asps, which are some
her desperate resolution, deprived him of the honour of exposing her person to the gaze of the Roman people. The picture was said to have been taken, as a precious relic of art, by Constantine to Byzantium, afterwards named Constantinople, and restored to Rome on the return of his successors to the ancient seat of government. Among the very many things in and relating to art, this picture was overlooked, and remained in the deep dark recesses of the wine cellar. The Chevalier Micheli carried it back to Italy, when he left England, about two years ago. What has become of it since I know not.
“The title of the print is as follows :- Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. The original, of which the present plate is a faithful representation, is the only known and hitherto discovered specimen of ancient Greek painting. It has given rise to the most learned enquiries both in Italy and France, and been universally admitted by cognoscenti, assisted by actual analysis of the colours, to be an encaustic painting. The picture is attributed to Timomachus, and supposed to have been painted by him for his friend and patron, Augustus Cæsar, 33 years before Christ, to adorn the triumph that celebrated his Egyptian victories over Anthony and Cleopatra, as a substitute for the beautiful original, of whom he was disappointed by the heroic death she inflicted on herself. This plate is dedicated to the virtuosi and lovers of refined art in the British empire by the author, who is also the possessor of this inestimable relic of Grecian art.'
“I remain your very obedient servant. “To Mr. S. Wilkin.
“R. R. REINAGLE." 6 the thing itself, &c.] The painters have however this justification, that they follow authorities. “Cæsar, from the two small pricks presumed the manner of her death.” Suetonius and Eutropius mention one asp ; Horace, Virgil, Florus, and Propertius, two.-Ross and Jetf.