Returning to the gallery, we come quickly on the right to the first of the neglected statuary rooms, the beautiful Sala di Niobe, which contains some interesting Medicean and other tapestries, and the sixteen statues of Niobe and her children from the Temple of Apollo, which the Cardinal Ferdinand de’ Medici acquired, and which were for many years at the Villa Medici at Rome. A suggested reconstruction of the group will be found by the door. I cannot pretend to a deep interest in the figures, but I like to be in the room. The famous Medicean vase is in the middle of it. Sculpture more ingratiating is close by, in the two rooms given to Iscrizioni: a collection of priceless antiques which are not only beautiful but peculiarly interesting in that they can be compared with the work of Donatello, Verrocchio, and other of the Renaissance sculptors. For in such a case comparisons are anything but odious and become fascinating. In the first room there is, for example, a Mercury, isolated on the left, in marble, who is a blood relation of Donatello’s bronze David in the Bargello; and certain reliefs of merry children, on the right, low down, as one approaches the second room, are cousins of the same sculptor’s cantoria romps. Not that Donatello ever reproduced the antique spirit as Michelangelo nearly did in his Bacchus, and Sansovino absolutely did in his Bacchus, both at the Bargello: Donatello was of his time, and the spirit of his time animates his creations, but he had studied the Greek art in Rome and profited by his lessons, and his evenly-balanced humane mind had a warm corner for pagan joyfulness. Among other statues in this first room is a Sacerdotessa, wearing a marble robe with long folds, whose hands can be seen through the drapery. Opposite the door are Bacchus and Ampelos, superbly pagan, while a sleeping Cupid is most lovely. Among the various fine heads is one of Cicero, of an Unknown—No. 377—and of Homer in bronze (called by the photographers Aristophanes). But each thing in turn is almost the best. The trouble is that the Uffizi is so vast, and the Renaissance seems to be so eminently the only proper study of mankind when one is here, that to attune oneself to the enjoyment of antique sculpture needs a special effort which not all are ready to make.
In the centre of the next room is the punctual Hermaphrodite without which no large Continental gallery is complete. But more worthy of attention is the torso of a faun on the left, on a revolving pedestal which (unlike those in the Bargello, as we shall discover) really does revolve and enables you to admire the perfect back. There is also a torso in basalt or porphyry which one should study from all points, and on the walls some wonderful portions of a frieze from the Ara Pacis, erected in Rome, B.C. 139, with wonderful figures of men, women, and children on it. Among the heads is a colossal Alexander, very fine indeed, a beautiful Antoninus, a benign and silly Roman lady in whose existence one can quite believe, and a melancholy Seneca. Look also at Nos. 330 and 332, on the wall: 330, a charming genius, carrying one of Jove’s thunderbolts; and 332, a boy who is sheer Luca della Robbia centuries before his birth.