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expression of that sentiment, is an injustice to our Northern style which is almost too manifest to require exposure; and if any one has been dazzled into the belief of it by Mr. Ruskin's persuasive eloquence, let him compare any series of engravings of Gothic cathedral spires with Ferguson's or Daniel's illustrations of Hindoo pagodas. The thorough applicability of Mr. Ruskin's charges to these last will be a sufficient demonstration of their untruth when applied to the first. In attempting to compare the mediæval secular architecture of Venice with the Northern temple architecture of the same date, Mr. Ruskin has perhaps allowed himself, in consequence of the accident of the two styles having a common name, to overlook the fact that they have no common fundamental principle. The decorative use of the pointed arch for apertures is almost all that the two styles have in common; and, consequently, they are not properly the subjects of comparison. This use of the pointed arch does not constitute the essential character of any style. The Arabian, the Lombard, the modern Indian, all made use of the pointed arch, without at all approximating to the principles of pointed • architecture.'
Broad surfaces and grand lines are not beauties to be looked for in a style of which the peculiar constructive merit is, that it does away with the wall; and the sunny cheerfulness which Mr. Ruskin so much admires in Venetian house-architecture, ought not to be lamented as wanting in the Christian temple by one who has before, and most justly, said, “There must be, in this magnificently human art of architecture, some equivalent ex
pression for the trouble and wrath of life; for its sorrow and • its mystery; - and this it can only give by depth or diffusion
of gloom — by the frown upon its front and the shadow of its recess. As to the assertion of the incapacity of the northern workmen for the appreciation of the calm beauty and power of which Mr. Ruskin takes the Elgin marbles for types, there is many a Gothic figure wearing away almost unnoticed in the Northern frosts and rains, which, for simple grace and truth, though not perhaps for laborious finish, might dispute the palm with the friezes of the Parthenon.
Let us now notice two or three curious results, bearing upon Mr. Ruskin's Northern-Gothic criticisms, from his failure in perceiving any intention on the part of Northern architects to give effect, by decoration,' to that peculiar expression of ascendant vigour, which, as we have maintained, was probably the natural consequence of the constructive principle adopted by them; — whether or not, in the first instance, from the barbarous desire 'to build high,' we shall not stop to inquire. VOL. XCIV. NO. CXCII.
mbard consto substitute perceived the
The Gothic architect, after he had once perceived the kind of effect which it was desirable to substitute for the Lombard expression (the Lombard construction having been discarded) found, almost ready made to his hand, one of the most important of the numerous means of producing it; namely, the Lombard ornamental column, with its base and capital, which, in various ways, expressed a total independence of constructive origin.
There was, however, this difference between the class of Lombard shafts which we have noticed above, and the Gothic shaft, that the first was constructively superfluous, and expressed as much; whereas the last had really to take a primary part, —- to bear burdens, and yet appear to do nothing of the sort, the burden and bearing members being alike transformed into portions of the great vertical stream of piers, pointed arches, groined vaults and vaulting shafts. The simplest way of obtaining this effect was to leave out base and capital altogether. It took some time, however, for architects who had always regarded a capital and a base as the natural extremities of a shaft, to get rid of the tradition; and when, at last, they seem to have done so, it was found that a base of some sort was essential to safe construction, and that there were serious artistical objections to dispensing altogether with the capital. When capitals were totally omitted, as sometimes was the case in splendid examples,
– Cologne among others, – the eye became sensible of an unpleasant dubiousness as to the point from which the arch sprang; and when the moulded or many-shafted pier was the stem from which arose a system of still more numerous divergent ribs and mouldings, the capital was needed to cover the junction of the two systems, its omission necessitating the very disagreeable alternative of the discontinuous impost.' Elaborate devices were, therefore, invented for denying, and, as far as possible, reversing in their visual effects, the nature of bases and capitals as constructive members. Mr. Ruskin condemns a large class of Gothic capitals as “ unnecessary and ridiculous,' because they have no bearing power. Now we hold that this expressed absence of any increase of power at the point of the capital is the only condition under which capitals could have been admitted into Gothic architecture; and that they are neither unneces
sary' nor ridiculous,' because they perform what we have seen to be the important function of marking the termination of the shaft or pier, and the commencement of the arch. Another, and a very good reason for the existence of capitals in Gothic architecture, is one and the same with that which constitutes the merit of the horizontal channels under the Doric ovolo; namely, that they really add to the ascendant vigour of the members on
• Aspiration' in Northern-Gothic Architecture.
wbich they occur, by opposing to that vigour an obstacle to be conquered. Mr. Freeman, whose remarks on some of the means of producing the effect of aspiration in Gothic architecture are particularly valuable, rightly says, “When there is no strife, * there is no victory: the vertical line cannot be called predominant unless the horizontal exist in a visible condition of subjection and inferiority.' Again, Mr. Ruskin declares that the shaft-system and moulding-system are entirely separate;' and he loudly complains that, the Gothic architects confounded the *two — they clustered the shafts till they looked like a group of
mouldings — they shod and capitaled the mouldings till they * looked like a group of shafts. Now this, which Mr. Ruskin admits to be the eminently characteristic state of Gothic, seems to us to be a necessary completion of the Gothic idea. It is only in styles of the Greek type that the shaft and moulding systems are rightly separate; and there is better reason to complain of the frequent distinction of shaft from moulding than of their amalgamation, in an architecture from which the shaft, as an expressed supporting member, is banished. Mr. Ruskin tells us that he knows how much Gothic, otherwise beautiful, this
sweeping principle condemns.' In our opinion, it condemns all Gothic or none.
The flying buttress,' according to Mr. Ruskin, is to be considered as a mere prop or shore;' and the merit of the form depends on its faithfully and visibly performing this somewhat humble office;' and concerning 'crockets,' he remarks that they are subjected to no shadow of any other laws than those of grace and chastity.' We believe that we shall have the suffrages of most lovers of Northern Gothic on our side, when we affirm that the artistical merit of the form of the flying buttress consists in an expression precisely the reverse of the passive “prop or
shore;' and that its name gives the common and the true perception of its artistical merit, — which ought always to be carefully distinguished in Gothic more than in any other style of architecture, from constructive excellence. And again we look for an equal concurrence of opinion, when we assert that all good crockets are rigidly subject to the rule that they shall aid and heighten the general effect of aspiration, by representing the energy of vegetable or other life striving upwards, or overcoming an obstacle in its upward path. The eye instantly recognises a good crocket from a bad one by its performance or non-performance of this office. Compare the leaves growing in vigorous curves over the blocks which project, at regular intervals, from the pinnacles of Cologne, with the little monsters that try with all their might to save themselves from
slipping down the arched buttresses of Henry the Seventh's Chapel !
There seem to have been two principal causes of the imperfection of Mr. Ruskin's judgment on Northern Gothic. In the first place, he himself confesses that in certain respects his · late studies in Italy have somewhat destroyed his sympathy with it.' And, secondly, he holds that 'the direct symbolisation of a sentiment is a weak motive with all men;' whence he deduces that the asserted effect of aspiration in Gothic architecture could not have been intended; and by a further consequence, that it can have no existence in it. We believe the argument to be vulnerable at every point. The direct symbolisation of sentiment is, if we mistake not, among the most powerful and universal of human instincts, producing a series of phenomena extending from the unconscious gesticulations of a child to the works of a Michel Angelo. But, granting as we do, that the symbolisation of religious activity, by aspiring forms, may pose sibly not have been intended, or even perceived by the Gothic architects, in the works which they designed, we have shown that a consistent and co-operating series of those forms might, and probably did, arise from the natural desire to intensify an expression which was, in the first instance, the simple result of a peculiar constructive system. At the same time nevertheless, the existence of a conscious intention, though we hold it to have been highly probable, was by no means necessary to the production of the effect in question, as Mr. Ruskin, and any one of far less spontaneous genius than he possesses, must very well understand, upon a minute's reflection on the operation of his own mind. For us, we confess, in these matters, seeing is believing;' and if Mr. Ruskin had established, by an apparently infrangible chain of logic, that the effect, which almost all besides himself have acknowledged, had no existence capable of being accounted for, we should not feel ourselves at all fettered by his conclusion, on calling to mind the upward cataract of shafts, and mouldings, and canopied figures which left us breathless when we first found ourselves before the piers of Cologne Cathedral. Mr. Ruskin has probably been sickened, as we have been, by the sentimental ravings on the subject of Gothic symbols, put forth by Puseyite clergymen, and some others whose studies should have taught them better: but however much and justly we may despise and ridicule any attempt to revive the whole system of mediæval symbolism for modern use, we ought not to forget that the former existence of that system is no mere theory, but an indisputable fact of history. The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum,
Details of Northern-Gothic Architecture.
of Durandus, - a big folio, which, during half a century of the very prime of Gothic architecture, continued to be bought and read, as only such works as · Copperfield' and · Vanity Fair' are now, -affords unanswerable evidence of the extravagant tendency which then prevailed to symbolise on every possible occasion. It was so characteristic of the times, that we should err strangely were we to measure the impression which symbolical representations are likely to have produced upon the credulous and imaginative church-goers of the middle ages, by that which similar representations are calculated to exercise upon the fashionable, well-informed, and impatient congregations of St. George's or St. James's. While, however, we would discard from modern use the whole medieval system of arbitrary symbolisation, we believe that we should be doing an injustice to Gothic architecture were we to refuse, with Mr. Ruskin, to perceive in its ancient examples an artistic and essential symbolism, which must retain its efficiency as long as the human mind retains its present constitution. That the effect of ascendant vigour was valued by the Gothic architects at a rate which can only be accounted for by assuming that they fully appreciated its admirable fitness in the Christian Temple, is proved, we think, by their constant subordination of all elements, even that of arbitrary symbolism, to this effect. For example, the orthodoxy of the well-known symbol of the triple lancet window was constantly destroyed, for the advantage of the all-important aspiration, by the superior height of the middle lancet. Another and equally conclusive proof that the Gothic architects were conscious of and valued themselves highly upon the characteristic Gothic forms, entirely apart from their constructive capacities, is provided by a practice which Mr. Ruskin reprobates as contrary to his law of excluding 'imitations of
architecture from the material of architectural decoration. • This law,' he says, “is greatly violated by those curious exam
ples of Gothic, both early and late, in the North, in which the 'minor features of the architecture were composed of small models of the larger.... abuses which strike me with renewed surprise whenever I pass beneath a portal of the thirteenth century • Northern Gothic, associated as they are with manifestations of
exquisite feeling and power in other directions. Probably the distinction which we have drawn between decoration, as Mr. Ruskin understands the word, and means of architectural expression, will induce the reader to judge more favourably than Mr. Ruskin has done concerning these and many other details of the Northern-Gothic style. We would gladly discuss the highly interesting question of the sources of appropriate beauty in