I looked at many of the pictures, and found myself in a favorable mood for enjoying them. It seems to me that a work of art is entitled to credit for all that it makes us feel in our best moments; and we must judge of its merits by the impression it then makes, and not by the coldness and insensibility of our less genial moods.
After leaving the Uffizi Palace, . . . . I went into the Museum of Natural History, near the Pitti Palace. It is a very good collection of almost everything that Nature has made, - or exquisite copies of what she has made, - stones, shells, vegetables, insects, fishes, animals, man; the greatest wonders of the museum being some models in wax of all parts of the human frame. It is good to have the wholeness and summed-up beauty of woman in the memory, when looking at the details of her system as here displayed; for these last, to the natural eye, are by no means beautiful. But they are what belong only to our mortality. The beauty that makes them invisible is our immortal type, which we shall take away with us. Under glass cases, there were some singular and horribly truthful representations, in small wax figures, of a time of pestilence; the hasty burial, or tossing into one common sepulchre, of discolored corpses, - a very ugly piece of work, indeed. I think Murray says that these things were made for the Grand Duke Cosmo; and if so, they do him no credit, indicating something dark and morbid in his character.
June 13th. - We called at the Powers's yesterday morning to leave R - - - there for an hour or two to play with the children; and it being not yet quite time for the Pitti Palace, we stopped into the studio. Soon Mr. Powers made his appearance, in his dressing-gown and slippers and sculptor's cap, smoking a cigar. . . . . He was very cordial and pleasant, as I have always found him, and began immediately to be communicative about his own works, or any other subject that came up. There were two casts of the Venus de' Medici in the rooms, which he said were valuable in a commercial point of view, being genuine casts from the mould taken from the statue. He then gave us a quite unexpected but most interesting lecture on the Venus, demonstrating it, as he proceeded, by reference to the points which he criticised. The figure, he seemed to allow, was admirable, though I think he hardly classes it so high as his own Greek Slave or Eva; but the face, he began with saying, was that of an idiot. Then, leaning on the pedestal of the cast, he continued, "It is rather a bold thing to say, isn't it, that the sculptor of the Venus de' Medici did not know what he was about?"
Truly, it appeared to me so; but Powers went on remorselessly, and showed, in the first place, that the eye was not like any eye that Nature ever made; and, indeed, being examined closely, and abstracted from the rest of the face, it has a very queer look, - less like a human eye than a half-worn buttonhole! Then he attacked the ear, which, he affirmed and demonstrated, was placed a good deal too low on the head, thereby giving an artificial and monstrous height to the portion of the head above it. The forehead met with no better treatment in his hands, and as to the mouth, it was altogether wrong, as well in its general make as in such niceties as the junction of the skin of the lips to the common skin around them. In a word, the poor face was battered all to pieces and utterly demolished; nor was it possible to doubt or question that it fell by its own demerits. All that could be urged in its defence - and even that I did not urge - being that this very face had affected me, only the day before, with a sense of higher beauty and intelligence than I had ever then received from sculpture, and that its expression seemed to accord with that of the whole figure, as if it were the sweetest note of the same music. There must be something in this; the sculptor disregarded technicalities, and the imitation of actual nature, the better to produce the effect which he really does produce, in somewhat the same way as a painter works his magical illusions by touches that have no relation to the truth if looked at from the wrong point of view. But Powers considers it certain that the antique sculptor had bestowed all his care on the study of the human figure, and really did not know how to make a face. I myself used to think that the face was a much less important thing with the Greeks, among whom the entire beauty of the form was familiarly seen, than with ourselves, who allow no other nudity.