Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

by nature for the perception and enjoyment of whatever was beautiful and majestic. He whose mind was filled even to overflowing with all the images of antique grandeur and loveliness, as his numerous writings on the relics of ancient days bear ample testimony, could not do otherwise than write successfully on the more modern history of the art of painting, although he himself had never exercised it. "It was sufficient," says Boni, "to listen to him in familiar conversation, as I have often had the happiness to do, while he discoursed concerning some beautiful picture, to be convinced that the most practised artist could not have a higher relish of its beauties than he. The judicious opinions, the descriptions of the chief works mentioned by him in his history, the analysis of the great masters, such as Raffael, Michael Angelo, Titian, and many others, would do honour to the most accomplished painter, had such attempted to write a history of the art. Hence it comes, that he was so often consulted by professional men, not alone regarding the inventive part, which may be said to be the common property of the painter and the poet, with this difference, that the former is limited to the representation of a single circumstance or state of any fact, whereas the other may represent it under its changes and succession; but his opinion was also much sought for in all the other matters which compose the excellence of painting.' "*

The latest and most complete edition of Lanzi's work was published by Capurro of Pisa, in the years 1816-17, and consists, including the volume of indexes, of six volumes, 8vo. The first and second volumes embrace the schools of that part of Italy which, through the unrivalled talents of Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Raffael, was the first to exhibit the unclouded splendour of the art; these men were the chiefs of the two great schools, the Florentine and Roman, to which, on account of their proximity of place, our author has added those of Sienna and Naples. Shortly afterwards, the fame of Giorgione, Titian, and Coreggio, began to spread itself through Italy; they also obtained the highest

celebrity; but the prime quality of their excellence lay in the splendour and beauty of colouring, as that of the former consisted in the grandeur and accuracy of design. The works of these great luminaries of Upper Italy, and the other founders and followers the Venetian and Lombard schools, are treated of in the third and fourth volumes. To these succeeded the school of Bologna, which desired and attempted to unite in itself the cha racteristic excellencies of all the others; with it Lanzi commences his fifth volume, and adds to it that of Ferrara, and Upper and Lower Romagna. Then follow the school of Genoa, which, at a later period, acquired its celebrity; and that of Piedmont, which, without the succession of ancient masters of which the other states can boast, has, however, certain merits of its own, which render it worthy of a place in the history of painting. The sixth, and last volume, consists of three indexes, which greatly add to the utility of the work. The first contains the names of the painters, with the years in which they were born and died; the second presents a catalogue of the authors quoted in the body of the work, with the names of their writings, critical and historical; and the third is composed of an alphabetical arrangement of the subject matter, classed under different heads in common form.

Having now presented you with a brief view of the nature and contents of a work, which, by all who are in the habit of studying it, is admitted to con tain the most valuable body of historical and critical information which has yet been given to the public on the subject of painting, I may ask how it happens that in a country like our own, where so many either feel, or affect to feel, so deep an interest in the fine arts, no translation of it has yet appeared? This is the more to be wondered at, when we consider the deplorable ignorance, even of our cleverest artists, concerning both the true character and occasional variation of style observable in the works of Italian painters. We find people in abundance who are sufficiently versed in all the details of the Dutch and Flemish schools; but & real and substantial knowledge of the

* Elogio dell' Abate Don Luigi Lanzi tratto dalle sue opere del Cavaliere Onofrio Boni di Cortona. Pisa, 1816.

rise, progress, and decline of the art in Italy, where alone, with few exceptions, it is much worth thinking about, is nearly as rare as if the number of students and travellers who visit that divine country, corresponded with the amount of those Dilletanti who winter in Kamschatka, and summer in Timbuctoo. Perhaps in Italy the very facilities afforded the travel ler may, in some respects, tend to check the progress of his knowledge, more especially when we consider how much more gratifying to vanity and self-conceit is the display of superficial knowledge, quickly acquired, which glances from point to point without entering into any, than that more substantial information, which, carrying along with it its own reward, and conscious of the difficulty with which it is obtained, is usually regardless of the multitude, who speak much, think little, and know less.

In fact, any young gentleman of this country who has been for some months in possession of a copy of Pilkington's Dictionary, and has once or twice read over the works of Richardson, Barry, Reynolds, Opie, Fuseli, and a few more English writers, with perhaps a translation of Fresnoy, or Du Bos, and some extracts from Winkelmann, Mengs, and D'Argenville, and who having a most extraordinary memory, may possibly remember to have heard the names of Vasari, Borghini, Baldinucci, looks upon himself as all accomplished in the history of ancient and modern art, and sets out like another Don Quixote, " conquering and to conquer." The first great collection he arrives at is entered with all the confidence of a perfect adept. Galileo himself never gazed with more tranquil assurance on the brightness of a starry sky, than does our accomplished practitioner on the surrounding luminaries of his favourite art. But, alas! for the weakness even of one so well appointed; for the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong! He blunders out one unfortunate name after another; makes an artist die before his father was born; calls another into existence about a hundred and fifty years after his paents had been consigned to the tomb of the Capulets; distinguishes the tyle of Cigoli from that of Ludovico Cardi, who were one and the same erson, and all this, and a thousand

things more, in the presence of some grey-eyed pensioner of the palace, whose sole occupation, for three quarters of a century, had been the silent and heart-felt study of those masterpieces of the art, and who would as lief mistake a grashopper for a crocodile, or Lady Morgan for a connoisseur, as the production of one age for that of another.

[ocr errors]

Our young man of genius having tried in vain to distinguish himself by an original observation," endeavours to express, by signs, to his Valet de Place, how pleasant it would be to have a copy of a printed catalogue of the collection; but he is informed that none such exist. By this time he feels himself completely dumfoonder'd, and is sensible of a dizziness in his head, such as Jupiter may have experienced when Minerva, “ a goddess armed," was working her way out of his ear at the point of the bayonet, or Satan himself, when a somewhat similar accident befel that great author of evil. He is now obliged to have recourse to other resources than his own; he finds familiar names assigned to pictures executed in a style quite opposite to that in which he had supposed such artists ever painted; and, what is still more perplexing, many of the noblest pictures are alleged to be the productions of men of whose very names he had till that moment remained in ignorance. What is to be done when Mr Tims and his party shall have arrived? He had anticipated the pleasure of enlightening their benighted intellects, as an electric flash brightens the darkness of a thunder-cloud, and he has just discovered that he is himself too deeply enveloped in the mists of error to be able to exhibit even his ignorance. But as it is the semblance rather than the substance of wisdom for which he searches, and as his character might suffer an irreparable blow were he found incompetent to answer all the questions which the said Mister and the Misses Tims should please to put to him, he rouses himself, like a lion awakening from a trance, shaking the dew-drops from its mane," and addresses himself manfully to the work. The famed prescription of Medea accomplished no greater change on the enfeebled body of Eson. In ten days he becomes a perfect Cicerone, a walking Index of dates and names, and in ten years he is nothing more.

8

66

[ocr errors]

English lovers of painting, might be likened unto the sowing of grain in barren places. In as far, therefore, as my hitherto untried judgment will yield me safe conduct, I shall for the most part confine myself to subjects of general interest, to the lives and productions of the great masters of colouring and design, to the criticisms on the comparative merits, or characteristic excellences or defects, of the dif férent schools, and to the observations on the origin, progress, and decline of the art. In so doing, I trust I shall render no unacceptable service to the young students of my own country, whose attention to the more practical part of their profession, may have hitherto excluded the attainment of the Tuscan language. I shall occasionally too, for the sake of contrast, bring together the opinions of the German, the French, and the English critics, in comparison with those of the Italian authors.

But, to come at last to the point.propose, for my own amusement, and the edification of your readers, to devote two or three evenings every month, during the course of the ensuing winter, to the translation of such passages in Lanzi, and other Italian writers on the art, as hit my fancy, and which have not, as far as I can ascertain, been as yet presented in an English dress to the reading public of Great Britain and Ireland. It might perhaps be better if the Storia Pittorica were translated in toto, as a separate work; but in so far as regards myself, I have not sufficient confidence either in my own perseverance, or ability for such a task. Neither can it be denied that many hundreds of its pages are occupied in tracing the history, and in discussing the merits, of artists, who, though deservedly esteemed in their own country, where their works are known, are by no means objects of equal interest in this, where they are unknown; and therefore, however May you live for ever, useful such criticism may be deemed THO MAS GEDDES. in a general history of the art abroad, To the Editor of Blackwood's Magazine. its introduction, for the benefit of the

Here follow sundry observations on the doings of Andrea del Sarto. He is not, indeed, the first of the Florentine series, whether we regard time or quality'; but we are anxious to bring him forward at an early period, because we think justice has not been done to him, either in this country or his own. Whoever has seen the Madonna del Sacco of Florence, will not deny him the praises of a beautiful imagination, and most chaste design, and his merit as a colourist has never been denied. It was a hasty and unjust criticism by Forsyth, that he had "neither poetry in his head, nor pathos in his heart." It has been quoted and referred to, rather, I should hope, through its pithiness and alliteration, than its truth. The picture above mentioned proves that he

possessed both.

T. G.

Andrea Vannuchi,* from his fa- Baldinucci criticises him as "niggardther's trade, (which was that of a tai- ly in invention;" and without doubt lor,) called Andrea del Sarto, is prai- there is not in him that elevation of sed by Vasari, as one of the heads of sentiment which forms the heroic in

the school, for having worked "with

painters as in poets.

Andrew had no

fewer errors than any other Florentine such gift-by nature modest, gentle, painter, for having excellently well sensible, he seems to have expressed a similar character wherever he exerted

understood light and shade, and for

besides shewing the method of paint- ziata at Florence, by him converted inhaving painted with a lively sweetness; his pencil. The portico of the Annuring in Fresco, with the most perfect to a gallery beyond price, is the fittest union, and without the necessity of place in which to form a judgment of re-touching, so that each of his works his merits. Those pure contours of the appear as if painted in one single day." figure render him worthy of his surname

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

of Andrea senza errori-those elegant countenances, in the smile of which one is so often reminded of the simpli❤ city and grace of Coreggio; the well arranged buildings; the garments adapted to every condition; the graceful draperies; the popular effects of curiosity, of wonder, of faith, of compassion, and of joy, are united with such perfect decorum, that all is intelligible at first glance, and penetrate the heart without disturbing it. He who feels, says Lanzi, what Tibullus is in poetry, may feel what Andrea is in painting.

In this artist we may see how much stronger is the force of genius than of precepts. Whilst a boy, he was directed by Giovanni Barile, a good carver in wood, who, with the designs of Raphael, worked among the pews and at the gates of the Vatican, but he was nameless as a painter. When a young man, he was assigned to the care of Pier di Cosimo, a practised colourist, though not distinguished in design or composition; in these latter qualities he formed his taste on the cartoons of Buonarotti and Da Vinci ; and, as appears by many tokens, on the frescoes of Masaccio and of Ghirlandajo, among which were subjects more allied to his mild genius. I know not in what year he visited Rome, but it is certain that he did so-nor do I see how it can be disputed, as has been done in regard to Coreggio. I do not argue on this point from his style, which, though certainly less ideal, has been regarded by Lomazzo and other writers, as so Raffaelesque, for he and Raffael had studied together in Florence from the same models, and independently of such circumstance, nature may have provided them with a similarity of sentiment in their selection of the beautiful, I go on the statement of Vasari. He asserts that he was in Rome, and saw the works of the scholars of Raffael, and being, through his timid nature, inspired with no hope of imitating them, he quickly returned to Florence. If we credit so many other proofs of the pusillanimity of Andrea, why should we discredit this? or how shall we rely on the faith of Vasari, if he errs in a fact regarding his own master, written in Florence shortly after the death of Andrea, while his scholars, his friends, and even his wife, were still alive; and maintained in the second edition, from which the author VOL. X.

had withdrawn such things as had been erroneously affirmed in the first?

The professional success of Andrea, and his passage from one excellency to another, were less sudden than in certain others, but rather seem to have been attained gradually at Florence in a course of many years. "There," says Vasari, "reflecting by little and little on that which he had seen, he made such progress that his works have been held in high estimation, and admired, and imitated more since his death, than when he was alive." He may have been indebted to Rome for his advancement to a certain extent, but more however to his own nature, which seems to have led him by the hand from one step to another, as may be seen at Florence, in the Fraternity of the Scalzo, and in the convent of the Servi, where there are works painted by him at different times. At the Scalzo he painted in chiar oscuro some passages of the life of St Giovanni, the cartoons for which are in the Palazzo Rinuccini, and in these works there are several noted imitations, even some figures of Albert Durer. In the story of the Baptism of Christ, we see his first manner; his advancement in others, as the Visitation, painted some years after; and finally, as in the birth of the Baptist, his most excellent and grandest style. Thus too, in the lesser cloisters at the Servi, the histories of the life of St Filippo Benezii, are very graceful, though among the first movements of his genius; a greater work in the same place is the Epiphany of our Saviour, and the birth of the Virgin; but above all, and the greatest of his productions, is the Holy Family in repose, painted over the door of the greater cloister, which, from a sack of grain on which Joseph supports himself, is commonly called the Madonna of the Sack-a noble picture in the history of the art, and equalled by few others. Several prints have been taken of it, and after the lapse of two centuries and a half, it has found an artist worthy of itself, having been recently engraved by Morghen, along with another analogous composition taken from the Camere of Raphael. These two prints form part of every rich cabinet, and to him who has not visited Florence and Rome, they would induce the belief that Andrea was rather the rival than the follower of the first mas3 X

ter of the art. In beholding close by us the picture itself, we know not how to cease gazing upon it; it is finished as if it had been worked for a study; every hair is distinct, every tint graduated with the highest art, each contour marked out with a wonderful variety and grace. But amid all this diligence, there is expressed, at the same time, an ease and facility, which makes all appear as if it were natural and spontaneous.

At the Poggio of Cajano there is a representation of Cæsar, seated conspicuously in a place ornamented with statues, and presented as in tribute of his victories, with eastern birds and beasts of chase-a picture quite in the antique taste, and sufficient of itself to render Andrea highly eminent as a perspective painter. The order to embellish this villa was from Leo the Tenth, and Andrea, whose competitors there were Franciabigio and Pontormo, made every effort to please the great supporter of the art, and to excel his rivals. But it appears that neither he nor they were encouraged to continue their labours in that place, for it is known that the great hall was some years afterwards finished by Alessandro Allori. Of Andrea's pictures in oil, the Sovereign Palace (Palazzo Pitti) is adorned with many. Besides the paintings of St Francis, the Assumption, the History of Joseph, and the other works collected by the family of the Medici, the Grand Duke Leopold purchased from the monks of Lugo a most beautiful Piety, and placed it in the Tribune, to sustain the character of the School. The Saints Peter and Paul being there represent ed together, contrary to the history, was not the fault of the painter who imagined them with such beauty, but of him who commissioned the picture. In the Dead Christ, the skilful have noted some defects, such as his appearing too much as if self-supported, and having the veins more highly relieved than is found in death. But what is that to the rest of the picture, designed, coloured, disposed in so as

tonishing a manner? The Supper of our Lord, in the Monastery of St Salvi, would be no less admired, were it not so shut up and concealed. Assuredly it was admired by the soldiers who besieged Florence in 1529, and destroyed the suburbs of the city. Having demolished the belfry, the church, and a part of the monastery itself, on seeing the picture, they remained, as it were, immoveable, and had no heart to proceed further in their work of destruction-thus imitating that Demetrius, who, having conquered Rhodes, shewed respect, it is said, only to a picture of Protogenes.

*

As Andrea painted a great number of pictures, he is well known also be yond his own country. His best work in the hand of strangers is, perhaps, that which passed into a palace of Genoa, from the church of the Dominicans of Sarzana, who still have a fine copy of it. It is composed much in the taste of Fra Bartolommeo; and, be sides the saints placed around the Virgin, and upon the steps, there are in front of the picture, and rising from its lower plane, two pretty large figures, seen only as far as the knees. I know that this division is not satisfactory to the critics, but it certainly there assists in placing variously so many figures, and renders more apparent the distance between the nearest and the furthest removed, by which the theatre appears to increase, and there is consequently a triumph of art. There is no scarcity of his Holy Fa milies in the best collections. There are two in the possession of the Marchese Rinuccini at Florence, and others in the possession of Roman princes, all differing from each other, with this exception, perhaps, that the likeness of the Virgin, which Andrea was in the habit of drawing from his own wife, are almost always the same. have also seen many in the cities subject to Rome and Florence, and not a few in Lombardy, besides those which one reads of in the Catalogues of the Ultramontane Cabinets. † With so much genius, he certainly

* In Italy, the words Straneiri, Forestieri, &c. are frequently applied by the inho

bitants of one district or dukedom to those of another.

+ About eighteen months ago, an English gentleman, Mr B., equally versed in the theory and practice of the art, in journeying by an unusual route from Florence to Rome, discovered in an old convent a painting by Andrea del Sarto. He perceived, through the cobwebs and discoloured varnish by which it was obscured, that it was picture in the highest style of the master. It was a Holy Family of great size-the

I

« AnteriorContinuar »