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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

The laurel crown was of green jasper


[Sidenote: The statue in the gallery at Sardis.]

But, among all these figures of gold, there was to be seen one of marble, so wonderful, that it obliged Cyrus to stay longer in admiring it than in contemplating any of the others, though it was not of such precious material. It is true that it was executed with such art, and represented such a beautiful person, as to prevent any strangeness in its charming a Prince whose eyes were so delicate and so capable of judging all beautiful objects. This statue was of life-size, placed upon a pedestal of gold, on the four sides of which were bas-reliefs of an admirable beauty. On each were seen captives, chained in all sorts of fashions, but chained only by little Loves, unsurpassably executed. As for the figure itself, it represented a girl about eighteen years old, but one of surprising and perfect beauty. Every feature of the face was marvellously fine;[176] her figure was at once so noble and so graceful that nothing more elegant[177] could be seen; and her dress was at once so handsome and so unusual, that it had something of each of the usual garbs of Tyrian ladies, of nymphs, and of goddesses; but more particularly that of the Wingless Victory, as represented by the Athenians, with a simple laurel crown on her head. This statue was so well set on its base, and had such lively action,

that it seemed actually animated; the face, the throat, the arms, and the hands were of white marble, as were the legs and feet, which were partly visible between the laces of the buskins she wore, and which were to be seen because, with her left hand, she lifted her gown a little, as if to walk more easily. With her right she held back a veil, fastened behind her head under the crown of laurel, as though to prevent its being carried away by the breeze, which seemed to agitate it. The whole of the drapery of the figure was made of divers-coloured marbles and jaspers; and, in particular, the gown of this fair Phoenician, falling in a thousand graceful folds, which still did not hide the exact proportion of her body, was of jasper, of a colour so deep that it almost rivalled Tyrian purple itself. A scarf, which passed negligently round her neck, and was fastened on the shoulder, was of a kind of marble, streaked with blue and white, which was very agreeable to the eye. The veil was of the same substance; but sculptured so artfully that it seemed as soft as mere gauze. The laurel crown was of green jasper, and the buskins, as well as the sash she wore, were, again of different hues. This sash brought together all the folds of the gown over the hips; below, they fell again more carelessly, and still showed the beauty of her figure. But what was most worthy of admiration in the whole piece was the spirit which animated it, and almost persuaded the spectators that she was just about to walk and talk. There was even a touch of art in her face, and a certain haughtiness in her attitude which made her seem to scorn the captives chained beneath her feet: while the sculptor had so perfectly realised the indefinable freshness, tenderness, and _embonpoint_ of beautiful girls, that one almost knew her age.


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