The Project Gutenberg EBook of Anecdotes of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors
 and Architects, and Curiosities of Art, (Vol. 2 of 3), by Shearjashub Spooner

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Title: Anecdotes of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors  and Architects, and Curiosities of Art, (Vol. 2 of 3)

Author: Shearjashub Spooner

Release Date: April 21, 2007 [EBook #21198]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, Janet Blenkinship
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at




Sculptors and Architects,








R. WORTHINGTON, Publisher,
770 Broadway.

Reëntered, G. B., 1880.


Titian—Sketch of his Life,1
Titian's Manners,5
Titian's Works,6
Titian's Imitators,7
Titian's Venus and Adonis,8
Titian and the Emperor Charles V.,10
Titian and Philip II.,13
Titian's Last Supper and El Mudo,14
Titian's Old Age,15
Monument to Titian,15
Horace Vernet,16
The Colosseum,29
Nineveh and its Remains,34
Description of a Palace Exhumed at Nimroud,37
Origin and Antiquity of the Arch,41
Antiquities of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiæ,43
Ancient Fresco and Mosaic Painting,55
Mosaic of the Battle of Platæa,55
The Aldobrandini Wedding,56
The Portland Vase,56
Ancient Pictures on Glass,58
Henry Fuseli; his Birth,59
Fuseli's early Love of Art,59
Fuseli's Literary and Poetical Taste,60
Fuseli, Lavater, and the Unjust Magistrate,61
Fuseli's Travels and his Literary Distinction,62
Fuseli's Arrival in London,63
Fuseli's change from Literature to Painting,63
Fuseli's Sojourn in Italy,65
Fuseli's Nightmare,66
Fuseli's Œdipus and his Daughters,66
Fuseli and the Shakspeare Gallery,67
Fuseli's "Hamlet's Ghost,"68
Fuseli's Titania,69
Fuseli's Election as a Royal Academician,70
Fuseli and Horace Walpole,71
Fuseli and the Banker Coutts,72
Fuseli and Professor Porson,73
Fuseli's method of giving vent to his Passion,73
Fuseli's Love for Terrific Subjects,73
Fuseli's and Lawrence's Pictures from the "Tempest,"74
Fuseli's estimate of Reynolds' Abilities in Historical Painting,75
Fuseli and Lawrence,75
Fuseli as Keeper of the Royal Academy,76
Fuseli's Jests and Oddities with the Students of the Academy,77
Fuseli's Sarcasms on Northcote,78
Fuseli's Sarcasms on various rival Artists,79
Fuseli's Retorts,80
Fuseli's Suggestion of an Emblem of Eternity,82
Fuseli's Retort in Mr. Coutts' Banking House,82
Fuseli's Sarcasms on Landscape and Portrait Painters,83
Fuseli's Opinion of his own Attainment of Happiness,84
Fuseli's Private Habits,84
Fuseli's Wife's method of Curing his fits of Despondency,85
Fuseli's Personal Appearance, his Sarcastic Disposition, and Quick Temper,86
Fuseli's near Sight,87
Fuseli's Popularity,88
Fuseli's Artistic Merits,88
Fuseli's Milton Gallery, the Character of his Works, and the Permanency of his Fame,89
Salvator Rosa,91
Salvator Rosa and Cav. Lanfranco,91
Salvator Rosa at Rome and Florence,92
Salvator Rosa's Return to Rome,93
Salvator Rosa's Subjects,93
Flagellation of Salvator Rosa,95
Salvator Rosa and the Higgling Prince,96
Salvator Rosa's Opinion of his own Works,98
Salvator Rosa's Banditti,98
Salvator Rosa and Massaniello,100
Salvator Rosa and Cardinal Sforza,100
Salvator Rosa's Manifesto Concerning his Satirical Picture, La Fortuna,101
Salvator Rosa's Banishment from Rome,102
Salvator Rosa's Wit,103
Salvator Rosa's Reception at Florence,103
Histrionic Powers of Salvator Rosa,104
Salvator Rosa's Reception at the Palazzo Pitti,105
Satires of Salvator Rosa,105
Salvator Rosa's Harpsichord,106
Rare Portrait by Salvator Rosa,106
Salvator Rosa's Return to Rome,109
Salvator Rosa's Love of Magnificence,109
Salvator Rosa's Last Works,111
Salvator Rosa's Desire to be Considered an Historical Painter,112
Don Mario Ghigi, his Physician, and Salvator Rosa,113
Death of Salvator Rosa,115
The Dulness of Domenichino in Youth,121
Domenichino's Scourging of St. Andrew,123
The Communion of St. Jerome,124
Domenichino's Enemies at Rome,125
Decision of Posterity on the Merits of Domenichino,126
Proof of the Merits of Domenichino,127
Domenichino's Caricatures,127
Intrigues of the Neapolitan Triumvirate of Painters,128
Giuseppe Ribera, called Il Spagnoletto—his early Poverty and Industry,133
Ribera's Marriage,134
Ribera's Rise to Eminence,135
Ribera's Discovery of the Philosopher's Stone,135
Ribera's Subjects,136
Ribera's Disposition,137
Singular Pictorial Illusions,137
Raffaelle's Skill in Portraits,138
Jacopo da Ponte,139
Giovanni Rosa,139
Cav. Giovanni Centarini,139
Guercino's Power of Relief,140
Invention of Oil Painting,141
Method of Transferring Paintings from Walls and Panels to Canvass,146
Works in Scagliola,147
The Golden Age of Painting,149
Golden Age of the Fine Arts in Ancient Rome,152
Nero's Golden Palace,155
Names of Ancient Architects Designated by Reptiles,156
Triumphal Arches,157
Statue of Pompey the Great,159
Antique Sculptures in Rome,159
Ancient Map of Rome,160
Julian the Apostate,160
The Tomb of Mausolus,161
Mandrocles' Bridge Across the Bosphorus,162
The Colossus of the Sun at Rhodes,162
Statues and Paintings at Rhodes,164
Sostratus' Light-House on the Isle of Pharos,164
Dinocrates' Plan for Cutting Mount Athos into a
Statue of Alexander the Great,165
Pope's idea of Forming Mount Athos into a Statue of Alexander the Great,166
Temple with an Iron Statue Suspended in the Air by Loadstone,168
The Temple of Jupiter Olympius at Athens,168
The Parthenon at Athens,170
The Elgin Marbles,171
The first Odeon at Athens,182
Perpetual Lamps,182
The Skull of Raffaelle,183
The Four Finest Pictures in Rome,183
The Four Carlos of the 17th Century,184
Pietro Galletti and the Bolognese Students,184
Ætion's Picture of the Nuptials of Alexander and Roxana,184
The Porticos of Agaptos,185
The Group of Niobe and her Children,185
Statue of the Fighting Gladiator,187
The Group of Laocoön in the Vatican,187
Michael Angelo's Opinion of the Laocoön,190
Discovery of the Laocoön,190
Sir John Soane,191
Soane's Liberality and Public Munificence,192
The Belzoni Sarcophagus,194
Tasso's "Gerusalemme Liberata,"195
George Morland,197
Morland's Early Talent198
Morland's Early Fame,199
Morland's Mental and Moral Education under an Unnatural Parent,200
Morland's Escape from the Thraldom of his Father,201
Morland's Marriage and Temporary Reform,202
Morland's Social Position,203
An Unpleasant Dilemma,204
Morland at the Isle of Wight,205
A Novel Mode of Fulfilling Commissions,206
Hassel's First Interview with Morland,206
Morland's Drawings in the Isle of Wight,207
Morland's Freaks,208
A Joke on Morland,208
Morland's Apprehension as a Spy,209
Morland's "Sign of the Black Bull,"210
Morland and the Pawnbroker,211
Morland's idea of a Baronetcy,212
Morland's Artistic Merits,.212
Charles Jervas,213
Jervas the Instructor of Pope,214
Jervas and Dr. Arbuthnot,215
Jervas' Vanity,215
Holbein and the Fly,216
Holbein's Visit to England,216
Henry VIII.'s Opinion of Holbein,217
Holbein's Portrait of the Duchess Dowager of Milan,218
Holbein's Flattery in Portraits—a Warning to Painters,219
Holbein's Portrait of Cratzer,219
Holbein's Portrait of Sir Thomas More and Family,220
Sir John Vanbrugh and his Critics,221
Anecdote of the English Painter, James Seymour,223
Precocity of Luca Giordano,224
Giordano's Enthusiasm,225
Luca Fa Presto,226
Giordano's Skill in Copying,226
Giordano's Success at Naples,227
Giordano, the Viceroy, and the Duke of Diano,228
Giordano Invited to Florence,229
Giordano and Carlo Dolci,229
Giordano's Visit to Spain,230
Giordano's Works in Spain,231
Giordano at the Escurial,232
Giordano's Habits in Spain,233
Giordano's First Picture Painted in Spain,233
Giordano a Favorite at Court,234
Giordano's Return to Naples,236
Giordano's Personal Appearance and Character,237
Giordano's Riches,238
Giordano's Wonderful Facility of Hand,239
Giordano's Powers of Imitation,240
Giordano's Fame and Reputation,240
Remarkable Instance of Giordano's Rapidity of Execution,242
Revival of Painting in Italy,244
Giovanni Cimabue,251
Cimabue's Passion for Art,252
Cimabue's Famous Picture of the Virgin,253
The Works of Cimabue,255
Death of Cimabue,256
Giotto's St. Francis Stigmata,259
Giotto's Invitation to Rome,260
Giotto's Living Model,262
Giotto and the King of Naples,264
Giotto and Dante,266
Death of Giotto,266
Buonamico Buffalmacco,267
Buffalmacco and his Master,267
Buffalmacco and the Nuns of the Convent of Faenza,270
Buffalmacco and the Nun's Wine,272
Buffalmacco, Bishop Guido and his Monkey,273
Buffalmacco's Trick on the Bishop of Arezzo,277
Origin of Label Painting,278
Utility of Ancient Works,280
Buffalmacco and the Countryman,282
Buffalmacco and the People of Perugia,283
Buffalmacco's Novel Method of Enforcing Payment,285
Stefano Fiorentino,286
Paolo Uccello,287
Ucello's Enthusiasm,288
Uccello and the Monks of San Miniato,289
Uccello's Five Portraits,290
Uccello's Incredulity of St. Thomas,291
The Italian Schools of Painting,292
Claude Joseph Vernet,295
Vernet's Precocity,295
Vernet's Enthusiasm,296
Vernet at Rome298
Vernet's "Alphabet of Tones,"299
Vernet and the Connoisseur,301
Vernet's Works,301
Vernet's Passion for Music,306
Vernet's Opinion of his own Merits,307
Curious Letter of Vernet,308
Charles Vernet,310
Anecdote of Charles Vernet,311
M. de Lasson's Caricature,311
Frank Hals and Vandyke,312

[Pg 1]


The name of this illustrious painter was Tiziano Vecellio or Vecelli, and he is called by the Italians, Tiziano Vecellio da Cadore. He was descended of a noble family; born at the castle of Cadore in the Friuli in 1477, and died in 1576, according to Ridolfi; though Vasari and Sandrart place his birth in 1480. Lanzi says he died in 1576, aged 99 years. He early showed a passion for the art, which was carefully cultivated by his parents.—Lanzi says in a note, that it is pretty clearly ascertained that he received his first instruction from Antonio Rossi, a painter of Cadore; if so, it was at a[Pg 2] very tender age, for when he was ten years old he was sent to Trevigi, and placed under Sebastiano Zuccati. He subsequently went to Venice, and studied successively under Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. Giorgione was his fellow-student under the last named master, with whom Titian made extraordinary progress, and attained such an exact imitation of his style that their works could scarcely be distinguished, which greatly excited the jealousy of Bellini.

On the death of Giorgione, Titian rose rapidly into favor. He was soon afterwards invited to the court of Alphonso, Duke of Ferrara, for whom he painted his celebrated picture of Bacchus and Ariadne, and two other fabulous subjects, which still retain somewhat of the style of Giorgione. It was there that he became acquainted with Ariosto, whose portrait he painted, and in return the poet spread abroad his fame in the Orlando Furioso. In 1523, the Senate of Venice employed him to decorate the Hall of the Council Chamber, where he represented the famous Battle of Cadore, between the Venetians and the Imperialists—a grand performance, that greatly increased his reputation. This work was afterwards destroyed by fire, but the composition has been preserved by the burin of Fontana. His next performance was his celebrated picture of St. Pietro Martire, in the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, at Venice, which is generally regarded as his master-piece in historical paint[Pg 3]ing. This picture was carried to Paris by the French, and subsequently restored by the Allies. Notwithstanding the importance of these and other commissions, and the great reputation he had acquired, it is said, though with little probability of truth, that he received such a small remuneration for his works, that he was in actual indigence in 1530, when the praises bestowed upon him in the writings of his friend Pietro Aretino, recommended him to the notice of the Emperor Charles V., who had come to Bologna to be crowned by Pope Clement VII. Titian was invited thither, and painted the portrait of that monarch, and his principal attendants, for which he was liberally rewarded.—About this time, he was invited to the court of the Duke of Mantua, whose portrait he painted, and decorated a saloon in the palace with a series of the Twelve Cæsars, beneath which Giulio Romano afterwards painted a subject from the history of each. In 1543, Paul III. visited Ferrara, where Titian was then engaged, sat for his portrait and invited him to Rome, but previous engagements with the Duke of Urbino, obliged him to decline or defer the invitation. Having completed his undertakings for that prince, he went to Rome at the invitation of the Cardinal Farnese in 1548, where he was received with marks of great distinction. He was accommodated with apartments in the palace of the Belvidere, and painted the Pope, Paul III., a second time, whom he represented seated[Pg 4] between the Cardinal Farnese and Prince Ottavio. He also painted his famous picture of Danaë, which caused Michael Angelo to lament that Titian had not studied the antique as accurately as he had nature, in which case his works would have been inimitable, by uniting the perfection of coloring with correctness of design. It is said that the Pope was so captivated with his works that he endeavored to retain him at Rome, and offered him as an inducement the lucrative office of the Leaden Seal, then vacant by the death of Frà Sebastiano del Piombo, but he declined on account of conscientious scruples. Titian had no sooner returned from Rome to Venice, than he received so pressing an invitation from his first protector, Charles V., to visit the court of Spain, that he could no longer refuse; and he accordingly set out for Madrid, where he arrived at the beginning of 1550, and was received with extraordinary honors. After a residence of three years at Madrid, he returned to Venice, whence he was shortly afterwards invited to Inspruck, where he painted the portrait of Ferdinand, king of the Romans, his queen and children, in one picture.—Though now advanced in years, his powers continued unabated, and this group was accounted one of his best productions. He afterwards returned to Venice, where he continued to exercise his pencil to the last year of his long life.[Pg 5]


Most writers observe that Titian had four different manners, at as many different periods of his life: first that of Bellini, somewhat stiff and hard, in which he imitated nature, according to Lanzi, with a greater precision than even Albert Durer, so that "the hairs might be numbered, the skin of the hands, the very pores of the flesh, and the reflection of objects in the pupils seen:" second, an imitation of Giorgione, more bold and full of force; Lanzi says that some of his portraits executed at this time, cannot be distinguished from those of Giorgione: third, his own inimitable style, which he practiced from about his thirtieth year, and which was the result of experience, knowledge, and judgment, beautifully natural, and finished with exquisite care: and fourth, the pictures which he painted in his old age. Sandrart says that, "at first he labored his pictures highly, and gave them a polished beauty and lustre, so as to produce their effect full as well when they were examined closely, as when viewed at a distance; but afterwards, he so managed his penciling that their greatest force and beauty appeared at a more remote view, and they pleased less when they were beheld more nearly; so that many of those artists who studied to imitate him, being misled by appearances which they did not sufficiently consider, imagined that Titian executed his works with readiness and mas[Pg 6]terly rapidity; and concluded that they should imitate his manner most effectually by a freedom of hand and a bold pencil; whereas Titian in reality took abundance of pains to work up his pictures to so high a degree of perfection, and the freedom that appears in the handling was entirely effected by a skillful combination of labor and judgment, and a few bold, artful strokes of the pencil to conceal his labor."


The works of Titian, though many of his greatest productions have been destroyed by terrible conflagrations at Venice and Madrid, are numerous, scattered throughout Europe, in all the royal collections, and the most celebrated public galleries, particularly at Venice, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Florence, Vienna, Dresden, Paris, London, and Madrid. The most numerous are portraits, Madonnas, Magdalens, Bacchanals, Venuses, and other mythological subjects, some of which are extremely voluptuous. Two of his grandest and most celebrated works are the Last Supper in the Escurial, and Christ crowned with Thorns at Milan. It is said that the works of Titian, to be appreciated, should be seen at Venice or Madrid, as many claimed to be genuine elsewhere are of very doubtful authenticity. He painted many of his best works for the Spanish court, first for the Emperor Charles V., and next for his successor, Philip II., who is known[Pg 7] to have given him numerous commissions to decorate the Escurial and the royal palaces at Madrid. There are numerous duplicates of some of his works, considered genuine, some of which he is supposed to have made himself, and others to have been carefully copied by his pupils and retouched by himself; he frequently made some slight alterations in the backgrounds, to give them more of the look of originals; thus the original of his Christ and the Pharisees, or the Tribute Money, is now in the Dresden Gallery, yet Lanzi says there are numerous copies in Italy, one of which he saw at St. Saverio di Rimini, inscribed with his name, which is believed to be a duplicate rather than a copy. There are more than six hundred engravings from his pictures, including both copper-plates and wooden cuts. He is said to have engraved both on wood and copper himself, but Bartsch considers all the prints attributed to him as spurious, though a few of them are signed with his name, only eight of which he describes.


Titian, the great head of the Venetian school, like Raffaelle, the head of the Roman, had a host of imitators and copyists, some of whom approached him so closely as to deceive the best judges; and many works attributed to him, even in the public galleries of Europe, were doubtless executed by them.[Pg 8]


This chef-d'œuvre of Titian, so celebrated in the history of art, represents Venus endeavoring to detain Adonis from the fatal chase. Titian is known to have made several repetitions of this charming composition, some of them slightly varied, and the copies are almost innumerable. The original is supposed to have been painted at Rome as a companion to the Danaë, for the Farnese family, about 1548, and is now in the royal gallery at Naples. The most famous of the original repetitions is that at Madrid, painted for King Philip II., when prince of Spain, and about the period of his marriage with Queen Mary of England. There is a fine duplicate of this picture in the English National Gallery, another in the Dulwich gallery, and two or three more in the private collections of England. Ottley thus describes this picture:—

"The figure of Venus, which is seen in a back view, receives the principal light, and is without drapery, save that a white veil, which hangs from her shoulder, spreads itself over the right knee. The chief parts of this figure are scarcely less excellent in respect of form than of coloring. The head possesses great beauty, and is replete with nat[Pg 9]ural expression. The fair hair of the goddess, collected into a braid rolled up at the back of her head, is entwined by a string of pearls, which, from their whiteness, give value to the delicate carnation of her figure. She throws her arms, impassioned, around her lover, who, resting with his right hand upon his javelin, and holding with the left the traces which confine his dogs, looks upon her unmoved by her solicitations, and impatient to repair to the chase. Cupid, meantime, is seen sleeping at some distance off, under the shadow of a group of lofty trees, from one of which are suspended his bow and quiver; a truly poetic thought, by which, it is scarcely necessary to add, the painter intended to signify that the blandishments and caresses of beauty, unaided by love, may be exerted in vain. In the coloring, this picture unites the greatest possible richness and depth of tone, with that simplicity and sobriety of character which Sir Joshua Reynolds so strongly recommends in his lectures, as being the best adapted to the higher kinds of painting. The habit of the goddess, on which she sits, is of crimson velvet, a little inclining to purple, and ornamented with an edging of gold lace, which is, however, so subdued in tone as not to look gaudy, its lining being of a delicate straw color, touched here and there with a slight glazing of lake. The dress of Adonis, also, is crimson, but of a somewhat warmer hue. There is little or no blue in the sky, which is covered with clouds, and but a small pro[Pg 10]portion of it on the distant hills; the effect altogether appearing, to be the result of a very simple principle of arrangement in the coloring, namely, that of excluding almost all cold tints from the illuminated parts of the picture."


One of the most pleasant things recorded in the life of Titian, is the long and intimate friendship that subsisted between him and the great and good Emperor Charles V., whose name is known in history as one of the wisest and best sovereigns of Europe. According to Vasari, Titian, when he was first recommended to the notice of the Emperor by Pietro Aretino, was in deep poverty, though his name was then known all over Italy. Charles, who appreciated, and knew how to assist genius without wounding its delicacy, employed Titian to paint his portrait, for which he munificently rewarded him. He afterwards invited him to Madrid in the most pressing and flattering terms, where he was received with extraordinary honors. He was appointed gentleman of the Emperor's bed-chamber, that he might be near his person; Charles also conferred upon him the order of St. Jago, and made him a Count Palatine of the empire. He did not grace the great artist with splendid titles and decorations only, but showed him more solid marks of his favor, by be stowing upon him life-rents in Naples and Milan of[Pg 11] two hundred ducats each, besides a munificent compensation for each picture. These honors and favors were, doubtless, doubly gratifying to Titian, as coming from a prince who was not only a lover of the fine arts, but an excellent connoisseur. "The Emperor," says Palomino, "having learned drawing in his youth, examined pictures and prints with all the keenness of an artist; and he much astonished Æneas Vicus of Parma, by the searching scrutiny that he bestowed on a print of his own portrait, which that famous engraver had submitted to his eye." Stirling, in his Annals of Spanish Artists, says, that of no prince are recorded more sayings which show a refined taste and a quick eye. He told the Burghers of Antwerp that, "the light and soaring spire of their cathedral deserved to be put under a glass case." He called Florence "the Queen of the Arno, decked for a perpetual holiday." He regretted that he had given his consent for the conversion of the famous mosque of Abderahman at Cordova into a cathedral, when he saw what havoc had been made of the forest of fairy columns by the erection of the Christian choir. "Had I known," said he to the abashed improvers, "of what you were doing, you should have laid no finger on this ancient pile. You have built a something, such as is to be found anywhere, and you have destroyed a wonder of the world."

The Emperor delighted to frequent the studio of Titian, on which occasions he treated him with ex[Pg 12]traordinary familiarity and condescension. The fine speeches which he lavished upon him, are as well known as his more substantial rewards. The painter one day happening to let fall his brush, the monarch picked it up, and presented it to the astonished artist, saying, "It becomes Cæsar to serve Titian." On another occasion, Cæsar requested Titian to retouch a picture which hung over the door of the chamber, and with the assistance of his courtiers moved up a table for the artist to stand upon, but finding the height insufficient, without more ado, he took hold of one corner, and calling on those gentlemen to assist, he hoisted Titian aloft with his own imperial hands, saying, "We must all of us bear up this great man to show that his art is empress of all others." The envy and displeasure with which men of pomp and ceremonies viewed these familiarities, that appeared to them as so many breaches in the divinity that hedged their king and themselves, only gave their master opportunities to do fresh honors to his favorite in these celebrated and cutting rebukes: "There are many princes, but there is only one Titian;" and again, when he placed Titian on his right hand, as he rode out on horseback, "I have many nobles, but I have only one Titian." Not less valued, perhaps, by the great painter, than his titles, orders, and pensions, was the delicate compliment the Emperor paid him when he declared that "no other hand should draw his portrait, since he had thrice received immortality from[Pg 13] the pencil of Titian." Palomino, perhaps carried away by an artist's enthusiasm, asserts that "Charles regarded the acquisition of a picture by Titian with as much satisfaction as he did the conquest of a province." At all events, when the Emperor parted with all his provinces by abdicating his throne, he retained some of Titian's pictures. When he betook himself to gardening, watchmaking, and manifold masses at San Yuste, the sole luxury to be found in his simple apartments, with their hangings of sombre brown, was that master's St. Jerome, meditating in a cavern scooped in the cliffs of a green and pleasant valley—a fitting emblem of his own retreat. Before this appropriate picture, or the "Glory," which hung in the church of the convent, and which was removed in obedience to his will, with his body to the Escurial, he paid his orisons and schooled his mind to forgetfulness of the pomps and vanities of life.


Titian was not less esteemed by Philip II., than by his father, Charles V. When Philip married Mary, Queen of England, he presented him his famous picture of Venus and Adonis, with the following letter of congratulation, which may be found in Ticozzi's Life of Titian:

"To Philip, King of England, greeting:

"Most sacred Majesty! I congratulate your Majesty on the kingdom which God has granted to[Pg 14] you; and I accompany my congratulations with the picture of Venus and Adonis, which I hope will be looked upon by you with the favorable eye you are accustomed to cast upon the works of your servant


According to Palomino, Philip was sitting on his throne, in council, when the news arrived of the disastrous conflagration of the palace of the Prado, in which so many works by the greatest masters were destroyed. He earnestly demanded if the Titian Venus was among those saved, and on being informed it was, he exclaimed, "Then every other loss may be supported!"


Palomino says that when Titian's famous painting of the Last Supper arrived at the Escurial, it was found too large to fit the panel in the refectory, where it was designed to hang. The king, Philip II., proposed to cut it to the proper size. El Mudo (the dumb painter), who was present, to prevent the mutilation of so capital a work, made earnest signs of intercession with the king, to be permitted to copy it, offering to do it in the space of six months. The king expressed some hesitation, on account of the length of time required for the work, and was proceeding to put his design in execution, when El Mudo repeated his supplications in behalf of his favorite master with more fervency than ever, offering to complete the copy in less time than he at first demanded, ten[Pg 15]dering at the same time his head as the punishment if he failed. The offer was not accepted, and execution was performed on Titian, accompanied with the most distressing attitudes and distortions of El Mudo.


Titian continued to paint to the last year of his long life, and many writers, fond of the marvellous, assert that his faculties and his powers continued to the last. Vasari, who saw him in 1566 for the last time, said he "could no longer recognize Titian in Titian." Lanzi says, "There remains in the church of S. Salvatore, one of these pictures (executed towards the close of his life), of the Annunciation, which attracts the attention only from the name of the master. Yet when he was told by some one that it was not, or at least did not appear to have been executed by his hand, he was so much irritated that, in a fit of senile indignation, he seized his pencil and inscribed upon it, 'Tizianus fecit, fecit.' Still the most experienced judges are agreed that much may be learned, even from his latest works, in the same manner as the poets pronounce judgment upon the Odyssey, the product of old age, but still by Homer."


A monument to Titian, from the studio of the brothers Zandomenghi, was erected in Ve[Pg 16]nice in 1852; and the civil, ecclesiastical, and military authorities were present at the ceremony of inauguration. It represents Titian, surrounded by figures impersonating the Fine Arts; below are impersonations of the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. The basement is adorned with five bas-reliefs, representing as many celebrated paintings by the great artist.


Among all the artists of our day, is one standing almost alone, and singularly characterized in many respects. He is entirely wanting in that lofty religious character which fills with pureness and beauty the works of the early masters; he has not the great and impressive historical qualities of the school of Raffaelle, nor the daring sublimity of Michael Angelo; he has not the rich luxury of color that renders the works of the great Venetians so gorgeous, nor even that sort of striking reality which makes the subjects rendered by the Flemish masters incomparably life-like. Yet he is rich in qualities deeply attractive and interesting to the people, especially the French people, of our own day. He displays an astonishing capacity and rapidity of execution, an almost unparalleled accuracy of memory, a rare life and motion on the canvass, a vigorous comprehension of the military tactics of the time, a wonderful aptitude at rendering the camp and field potent subjects for the pencil, not[Pg 17]withstanding the regularity of movement, and the unpicturesque uniformity of costume demanded by the military science of our day. Before a battle-piece, of Horace Vernet (and only his battle-pieces are his masterpieces), the crowd stands breathless and horrified at the terrible and bloody aspect of war; while the military connoisseur admires the ability and skill of the feats of arms, so faithfully rendered that he forgets he is not looking at real soldiers in action. In the landscapes and objects of the foreground or background, there are not that charm of color and aërial depth and transparency in which the eye revels, yet there is a hard vigorous actuality which adds to the force and energy of the actors, and strengthens the idea of presence at the battle, without attracting or charming away the mind from the terrible inhumanities principally represented. No poetry, no romance, no graceful and gentle beauty; but the stern dark reality as it might be written in an official bulletin, or related in a vigorous, but cold and accurate, page of history. Such is the distinguishing talent of Horace Vernet—talent sufficient, however, to make his pictures the attractive centres of crowds at the Louvre Exhibitions, and to make himself the favorite of courts and one of the illustrissimi of Europe.

The Vernets have been a family of painters during four generations. The great-grandfather of Horace was a well-known artist at Avignon, a hundred and fifty years ago. His son and pupil, Claude Joseph[Pg 18] Vernet, was the first marine painter of his time; and occupies, with his works alone, an entire apartment of the French Gallery at the Louvre, besides great numbers of sea-pieces and landscapes belonging to private galleries. He died in 1789, but his son and pupil, Antoine Charles Horace Vernet, who had already during two years sat by his side in the Royal Academy, continued the reputation of the family during the Consulate and Empire. He was particularly distinguished for cavalry-battles, hunting scenes, and other incidents in which the horse figured largely as actor. In some of these pictures the hand of the son already joined itself to that of the father, the figures being from the pencil of Horace; and before the death of the father, which took place in 1836, he had already seen the artistic reputation of the family increased and heightened by the fame of his son.

Horace Vernet was born at the Louvre on the 30th June, 1789, the year of the death of his grandfather, who, as painter to the king, had occupied rooms at the Louvre, where his father also resided; so that Horace not only inherited his art from a race of artist-ancestors, but was born amid the chef d' œuvres of the entire race of painters. Of course, his whole childhood and youth were surrounded with objects of Art; and it was scarcely possible for him not to be impressed in the most lively manner by the unbroken artist-life in which he was necessarily brought up. It would appear that from his[Pg 19] childhood he employed himself in daubing on walls, and drawing on scraps of paper all sorts of little soldiers.

Like his father and grandfather, his principal lessons as a student were drawn from the paternal experience, and certainly no professor could more willingly and faithfully save him all the loss of time and patience occasioned by the long and often fruitless groping of the almost solitary Art-student. He was also thus saved from falling into the errors of the school of David. Certainly no great penchant towards the antique is discoverable in his father's works; nor in his own do we find painted casts of Greek statues dressed in the uniforms of the nineteenth century. At twenty, it is true, he tried, but without success, the classic subject offered to competition at the Academy for the prize of visiting Rome. The study of the antique did not much delight him. On the contrary, he rather joined with the innovators, whose example was then undermining the over-classic influence of David's school, the most formidable and influential of whom, a youth about his own age, and a fellow-student in his father's atelier, was then painting a great picture, sadly decried at the time, but now considered one of the masterpieces of the French school in the Louvre—the "Raft of the Medusa." Gericault was his companion in the studio and in the field, at the easel and on horseback; and we might trace here one of the many instances of the influence which this powerful and original[Pg 20] genius exercised on the young artists of his time, and which, had it not been arrested by his premature death in January, 1824, would have made Gericault more strikingly distinguished as one of the master-spirits in French Art, and the head of a school entirely the opposite to that of David.

Horace's youth, however, did not pass entirely under the smiles of fortune. He had to struggle with those difficulties of narrow means with which a very large number of young artists are tolerably intimate. He had to weather the gales of poverty by stooping to all sorts of illustrative work, whose execution we fancy must have been often a severe trial to him. Any youth aiming at "high art," and feeling, though poor, too proud to bend in order to feed the taste, (grotesque and unrefined enough, it must be allowed,) of the good public, which artists somewhat naturally estimate rather contemptuously, might get a lesson of patience by looking over an endless series of the most variedly hideous costumes or caricatures of costume which Horace was glad to draw, for almost any pecuniary consideration. A series of amusingly naive colored prints, illustrating the adventures of poor La Vallière with Louis XIV., would strengthen the lesson. These were succeeded by lithographs of an endless variety of subjects—the soldier's life in all its phases, the "horse and its rider" in all their costumes, snatches of romances, fables, caricatures, humorous pieces, men, beasts, and things. In short, young Horace tried his hand[Pg 21] at any thing and every thing in the drawing line, at once earning a somewhat toughly-woven livelihood, and perfecting his talent with the pencil. In later years, the force and freedom of this talent were witnessed to by illustrations of a more important character in a magnificent edition of Voltaire's Henriade, published in 1825, and of the well known Life of Napoleon by Laurent.

Failing, as we have said, and perhaps fortunately for him, in the achievement of the great Prize of Rome, he turned to the line of Art for which he felt himself naturally endowed, the incidents of the camp and field. The "Taking of a Redoubt;" the "Dog of the Regiment;" the "Horse of the Trumpeter;" "Halt of French Soldiers;" the "Battle of Tolosa;" the "Barrier of Clichy, or Defense of Paris in 1814" (both of which last, exhibited in 1817, now hang in the gallery of the Luxembourg), the "Soldier-Laborer;" the "Soldier of Waterloo;" the "Last Cartridge;" the "Death of Poniatowski;" the "Defense of Saragossa," and many more, quickly followed each other, and kept up continually and increasingly the public admiration. The critics of the painted bas-relief school found much to say against, and little in favor of, the new talent that seemed to look them inimically in the face, or rather did not seem to regard them at all. But people in general, of simple enough taste in matter of folds of drapery or classic laws of composition or antique lines of beauty, saw before them with all the varied[Pg 22] sentiments of admiration, terror, or dismay, the soldier mounting the breach at the cannon's mouth, or the general, covered with orders, cut short in the midst of his fame. Little of the romantic, little of poetical idealization, little of far-fetched style was there on these canvasses, but the crowd recognized the soldier as they saw him daily, in the midst of the scenes which the bulletin of the army or the page of the historian had just narrated to them. They were content, they were full of admiration, they admired the pictures, they admired the artist; and, the spleen of critics notwithstanding, Horace Vernet was known as one of the favorite painters of the time.

In 1819 appeared the "Massacre of the Mamelukes at Cairo," now in the Luxembourg. We do not know how the public accepted this production. We have no doubt, however, that they were charmed at the gaudy éclat of the bloodthirsty tyrant, with his hookah and lion in the foreground, and dismayed at the base assassinations multiplied in the background. Nor do we doubt that the critics gave unfavorable judgments thereupon, and that most of those who loved Art seriously, said little about the picture. We would at all events express our own regret that the authorities do not find some better works than this and the "Battle of Tolosa," to represent in a public gallery the talent of the most famous battle-painter of France. The Battles of Jemmapes, Valmy, Hanau, and Montmirail, exe[Pg 23]cuted at this time, and hung till lately in the gallery of the Palais Royal (now, we fear, much, if not entirely, destroyed by the mob on the 24th February), were much more worthy of such a place. Whether it was by a considerate discernment that the mob attacked these, as the property of the ex-king, or by a mere goth-and-vandalism of revolution, we do not know; but certainly we would rather have delivered up to their wrath these others, the "property of the nation." The same hand would hardly seem to have executed both sets of paintings. It is not only the difference in size of the figures on the canvass, those of the Luxembourg being life-sized, and those of the Palais Royal only a few inches in length, but the whole style of the works is different. The first seem painted as if they had been designed merely to be reproduced in gay silks and worsteds at the Gobelins, where we have seen a copy of the "Massacre of the Mamelukes," in tapestry, which we would, for itself, have preferred to the original. But the latter four battles, notwithstanding the disadvantage of costume and arrangement necessarily imposed by the difference of time and country, produce far more satisfactory works of Art, and come much nearer to historical painting. They are painted without pretension, without exaggeration. The details are faithfully and carefully, though evidently rapidly, executed. The generals and personages in the front are speaking portraits; and the whole scene is full of that sort of life and action which im[Pg 24]presses one at once as the very sort of action that must have taken place. Now it is a battery of artillery backed against a wood,—now it is a plain over which dense ranks of infantry march in succession to the front of the fire. Here it is a scene where in the full sunlight shows the whole details of the action; there it is night—and a night of cloud and storm, draws her sombre veil over the dead and wounded covering the field. A historian might find on these canvasses, far better than in stores of manuscript, wherewith to fill many a page of history with accurate and vivid details of these bloody days; or rather, many a page of history would not present so accurate and vivid a conception of what is a field of battle.

In 1822, entry to the exhibition at the Louvre being refused to his works, Horace Vernet made an exhibition-room of his atelier, had a catalogue made out (for what with battles, hunts, landscapes, portraits, he had a numerous collection), and the public were admitted. In 1826 he was admitted a Member of the Institute, and in 1830 was appointed Director of the Academy at Rome, so that the young man who could not so far decline his antiques as to treat the classic subject of the Royal Academy, and thus gain the Academy at Rome, now went there as chief of the school, and as one of the most distinguished artists of his time. This residence for five years among the best works of the great masters of Italy naturally inspired him with ideas and de[Pg 25]sires which it had not been hitherto in his circumstances to gratify. And once installed in the Villa Medici, which he made to resound with the voices of joy and revelry, splendid fêtes and balls, he set himself to study the Italian school.

A series of pictures somewhat new in subject and manner of treatment was the result of this change of circumstances and ideas. To the Paris Exhibition of 1831 he sent a "Judith and Holofernes," which is one of the least successful of his pictures in the Luxembourg, where it hangs still, with another sent two years after, "Raffaelle and Michael Angelo in the Vatican." This is perhaps the best of his works at the Luxembourg, all being inferior; but it has a certain dry gaudiness of color, and a want of seriousness of design, which render it unfit to be considered a master-work. One unquestionably preferable, the "Arresting of the Princes at the Palais Royal by order of Anne of Austria," found its way to the Palais Royal, so that in this, as in the other we have remarked, the king seemed to know how to choose better than the Art-authorities of the "Gallery of Living Painters." A number of other pictures testified to the activity of the artist's pencil at Rome:—"Combat of Brigands against the Pope's Riflemen," "Confession of the Dying Brigand," also at the Palais Royal, but also we fear destroyed by the popular vandalism of the 24th February; a "Chase in the Pontine Marshes," "Pope Leo XII. carried into St. Peter's." The favor of[Pg 26] the public, however, still turned to the usual subject of Horace Vernet—the French soldier's life; finding which, on his return from Rome, he recurred to his original study. In 1836 he exhibited four new battle-pieces, "Friedland," "Wagram," "Jena," and "Fontenoy," in which were apparent all his usual excellencies.

The occupation of the Algerine territory by the French troops afforded the artist an opportunity of exhibiting his powers in that department most suited to them. A whole gallery at Versailles was set apart for the battle-painter, called the Constantine Gallery, after the most important feat of arms yet performed by the French troops in Africa, the Taking of the town of Constantine. Some of the solitary and extraordinary, we might say accidental, military exploits in Europe of Louis Philippe's reign, are also commemorated there. The "Occupation of Ancona," the "Entry of the Army into Belgium," the "Attack of the Citadel of Antwerp," the "Fleet forcing the Tagus," show that nothing is forgotten of the Continental doings. The African feats are almost too many to enumerate. In a "Sortie of the Arab Garrison of Constantine," the Duke de Nemours is made to figure in person. Then we have the Troops of Assault receiving the Signal to leave the Trenches, and "The Scaling of the Breach." There are the "Occupation of the Defile of Teniah," "Combat of the Habrah, of the Sickak, of Samah, of Afzoum." In fine, there is[Pg 27] the largest canvass in existence, it is said, the "Taking of the Smalah," that renowned occasion when the army was so very near taking Abd-el-Kader; and the "Battle of Isly," which gained that splendid trophy, the parasol of command. Besides these great subjects there are decorations of military trophies and allegorical figures, which seem to have been painted by some pupil of Vernet. These battles were first of all exhibited to the admiration of Paris in the various salons after their execution, and were then sent off to decorate Versailles. There are also, in the Gallery of French History, at Versailles, several others of his, such as the "Battle of Bouvines;" "Charles X. reviewing the National Guard;" the "Marshal St. Cyr," and some others among those we have already named. In them the qualities of the artist are manifested more fully, we think, than in any others of his works. They are full of that energy, vivacity, and daguerreotypic verity which he so eminently displays. There is none of that pretension after "high Art" which has injured the effect of some of his pictures. The rapidity of their execution too in general was such, that the public had hardly finished reading the last news of the combats, when the artist, returned in many cases from witnessing the scenes, had placed them on the canvass, and offered them to popular gaze. Yet the canvasses are in many cases of great extent, and often, the figures of life-size. But the artist rarely employs the model, painting mostly from memory, a[Pg 28] faculty most astonishingly developed in him. He generally also saves himself the trouble of preparing a smaller sketch to paint after, working out his subject at once in the definitive size. Of course with more serious and elevated subjects, worked out in a more serious and elevated spirit, such a system would not do. But for the style of subject and execution required by Horace Vernet's artistic organization, these careful preparations would not answer. They would only tend to diminish the sweeping passion of the fiery melée, and freeze the swift impulsive rush of the attack or flight.

Vernet has several times attempted Biblical subjects, but they have never succeeded so well as to add anything to his fame as a battle-painter. "Judah and Tamar," "Agar dismissed by Abraham," "Rebecca at the Fountain," "Judith with the head of Holofernes," "The Good Samaritan," have rather served to illustrate Arab costume and manners, (which he makes out to be the same as, or very similar to, those of old Biblical times,) than to illustrate his own power in the higher range of Art.

In the midst of painting all these, Horace Vernet has found time, which for him is the smallest requisite in painting, to produce an innumerable mass of pictures for private galleries, or at the command of various crowned heads; which, with many of those already mentioned, are well known all over Europe by engravings. "The Post of the Desert," "The Prayer in the Desert," "The Lion Hunt in the[Pg 29] Desert," "Council of Arabs," "Episode of the Pest of Barcelona," "The Breach of Constantine," "Mazeppa," and a host of others, together with landscapes, portraits, &c., have served both to multiply his works in the galleries of every country in Europe, and to make him one of the most popular of living artists.


The Colosseum, or Coliseum, was commenced by Vespasian, and completed by Titus, (A. D. 79.) This enormous building occupied only three years in its erection. Cassiodorus affirms that this magnificent monument of folly cost as much as would have been required to build a capital city. We have the means of distinctly ascertaining its dimensions and its accommodations from the great mass of wall that still remains entire; and although the very clamps of iron and brass that held together the ponderous stones of this wonderful edifice were removed by Gothic plunderers, and succeeding generations have resorted to it as to a quarry for their temples and their palaces—yet the "enormous skeleton" still stands to show what prodigious works may be raised by the skill and perseverance of man, and how vain are the mightiest displays of his physical power when compared with those intellectual efforts which have extended the empire of virtue and of science.

The Colosseum, which is of an oval form, occupies the space of nearly six acres. It may[Pg 30] justly be said to have been the most imposing building, from its apparent magnitude, in the world; the Pyramids of Egypt can only be compared with it in the extent of their plan, as they each cover nearly the same surface. The greatest length, or major axis, is 620 feet; the greatest breadth, or minor axis, is 513 feet. The outer wall is 157 feet high in its whole extent. The exterior wall is divided into four stories, each ornamented with one of the orders of architecture. The cornice of the upper story is perforated for the purpose of inserting wooden masts, which passed also through the architrave and frieze, and descended to a row of corbels immediately above the upper range of windows, on which are holes to receive the masts. These masts were for the purpose of attaching cords to, for sustaining the awning which defended the spectators from the sun or rain. Two corridors ran all round the building, leading to staircases which ascended to the several stories; and the seats which descended towards the arena, supported throughout upon eighty arches, occupied so much of the space that the clear opening of the present inner wall next the arena is only 287 feet by 180 feet. Immediately above and around the arena was the podium, elevated about twelve or fifteen feet, on which were seated the emperor, senators, ambassadors of foreign nations, and other distinguished personages in that city of distinctions. From the podium to the top of the second story were seats of marble for[Pg 31] the equestrian order; above the second story the seats appear to have been constructed of wood. In these various seats eighty thousand spectators might be arranged according to their respective ranks; and indeed it appears from inscriptions, as well as from expressions in Roman writers, that many of the places in this immense theatre were assigned to particular individuals, and that each might find his seat without confusion. On extraordinary occasions, 110,000 persons could crowd into it.

Gibbon has given a splendid description, in his twelfth book, of the exhibitions in the Colosseum; but he acknowledges his obligations to Montaigne, who, says the historian, "gives a very just and lively view of Roman magnificence in these spectacles." Our readers will, we doubt not, be gratified by the quaint but most appropriate sketch of the old philosopher of France:—

"It was doubtless a fine thing to bring and plant within the theatre a great number of vast trees, with all their branches in their full verdure, representing a great shady forest, disposed in excellent order, and the first day to throw into it a thousand ostriches, a thousand stags, a thousand boars, and a thousand fallow deer, to be killed and disposed of by the people: the next day to cause an hundred great lions, an hundred leopards and three hundred bears to be killed in his presence: and for the third day, to make three hundred pair of fencers to fight it out to the last,—as the Emperor[Pg 32] Probus did. It was also very fine to see those vast amphitheatres, all faced with marble without, curiously wrought with figures and statues, and the inside sparkling with rare decorations and enrichments; all the sides of this vast space filled and environed from the bottom to the top, with three or four score ranks of seats, all of marble also, and covered with cushions, where an hundred thousand men might sit placed at their ease; and the place below, where the plays were played, to make it by art first open and cleave into chinks, representing caves that vomited out the beasts designed for the spectacle; and then secondly, to be overflowed with a profound sea, full of sea-monsters, and loaded with ships of war, to represent a naval battle: and thirdly, to make it dry and even again for the combats of the gladiators; and for the fourth scene, to have it strewed with vermilion and storax, instead of sand, there to make a solemn feast for all that infinite number of people—the last act of only one day.

"Sometimes they have made a high mountain advance itself, full of fruit-trees and other flourishing sorts of woods, sending down rivulets of water from the top, as from the mouth of a fountain: other whiles, a great ship was seen to come rolling in, which opened and divided itself; and after having disgorged from the hold four or five hundred beasts for fight, closed again, and vanished without help. At other times, from the floor of this place, they made spouts of perfumed water dart their streams[Pg 33] upward, and so high as to besprinkle all that infinite multitude. To defend themselves from the injuries of the weather, they had that vast place one while covered over with purple curtains of needle-work, and by-and-by with silk of another color, which they could draw off or on in a moment, as they had a mind. The net-work also that was set before the people to defend them from the violence of these turned-out beasts, was also woven of gold."

"If there be anything excusable in such excesses as these," continues Montaigne, "it is where the novelty and invention creates more wonder than expense." Fortunately for the real enjoyments of mankind, even under the sway of a Roman despot, "the novelty and invention" had very narrow limits when applied to matters so utterly unworthy and unintellectual as the cruel sports of the amphitheatre. Probus indeed, transplanted trees to the arena, so that it had the appearance of a verdant grove; and Severus introduced four hundred ferocious animals in one ship sailing in the little lake which the arena formed. But on ordinary occasions, profusion,—tasteless, haughty, and uninventive profusion,—the gorgeousness of brute power, the pomp of satiated luxury—these constituted the only claim to the popular admiration. If Titus exhibited five thousand wild beasts at the dedication of the amphitheatre, Trajan bestowed ten thousand on the people at the conclusion of the Dacian war. If the younger Gordian collected together bears, elks, ze[Pg 34]bras, ostriches, boars, and wild horses, he was an imitator only of the spectacles of Carus, in which the rarity of the animals was as much considered as their fierceness.


"For very many centuries, the hoary monuments of Egypt—its temples, its obelisks, and its tombs—have presented to the eye of the beholder strange forms of sculpture and of language; the import of which none could tell. The wild valleys of Sinai, too, exhibited upon their rocky sides the unknown writings of a former people; whose name and existence none could trace. Among the ruined halls of Persepolis, and on the rock-hewn tablets of the surrounding regions, long inscriptions in forgotten characters seemed to enrol the deeds and conquests of mighty sovereigns; but none could read the record. Thanks to the skill and persevering zeal of scholars of the 19th century, the key of these locked up treasures has been found; and the records have mostly been read. The monuments of Egypt, her paintings and her hieroglyphics, mute for so many ages, have at length spoken out; and now our knowledge of this ancient people is scarcely less accurate and extensive than our acquaintance with the classic lands of Greece and Rome. The unknown characters upon the rocks of Sinai have been deciphered, but the meagre contents still leave us in darkness as to their origin and purpose. The[Pg 35] cuneiform or arrow-headed inscriptions of the Persian monuments and tablets, have yielded up their mysteries, unfolding historical data of high importance; thus illustrating and confirming the few and sometimes isolated facts preserved to us in the Scriptures and other ancient writings. Of all the works, in which the progress and results of these discoveries have been made known, not one has been reproduced or made generally accessible in this country. The scholar who would become acquainted with them, and make them his own, must still have recourse to the Old World.

"The work of Mr. Layard brings before us still another step of progress. Here we have not to do, with the hoary ruins that have borne the brunt of centuries in the presence of the world, but with a resurrection of the monuments themselves. It is the disentombing of temple-palaces from the sepulchre of ages; the recovery of the metropolis of a powerful nation from the long night of oblivion. Nineveh, the great city 'of three days' journey,' that was 'laid waste, and there was none to bemoan her,' whose greatness sank when that of Rome had just begun to rise, now stands forth again to testify to her own splendor, and to the civilization, and power, and magnificence of the Assyrian Empire. This may be said, thus far, to be the crowning historical discovery of the nineteenth century. But the century as yet, is only half elapsed.

"Nineveh was destroyed in the year 606 before[Pg 36] Christ; less than 150 years after Rome was founded. Her latest monuments, therefore, date back not less than five-and-twenty centuries; while the foundation of her earliest is lost in an unknown antiquity. When the ten thousand Greeks marched over this plain in their celebrated retreat, (404 B.C.) they found in one part, a ruined city called Larissa; and in connection with it, Xenophon, their leader and historian, describes what is now the pyramid of Nimroud. But he heard not the name of Nineveh; it was already forgotten in its site; though it appears again in the later Greek and Roman writers. Even at that time, the widely extended walls and ramparts of Nineveh had perished, and mounds, covering magnificent palaces, alone remained at the extremities of the ancient city, or in its vicinity, much as at the present day.

"Of the site of Nineveh, there is scarcely a further mention, beyond the brief notices by Benjamin of Tudela and Abulfeda, until Niebuhr saw it and described its mounds nearly a century ago. In 1820, Mr. Rich visited the spot; he obtained a few square sun-dried bricks with inscriptions, and some other slight remains; and we can all remember the profound impression made upon the public mind, even by these cursory memorials of Nineveh and Babylon."[Pg 37]


"During the winter, Mr. Longworth, and two other English travelers, visited me at Nimroud. As they were the only Europeans, (except Mr. Ross) who saw the palace when uncovered, it may be interesting to the reader to learn the impression which the ruins were calculated to make upon those who beheld them for the first time, and to whom the scene was consequently new. Mr. Longworth, in a letter, thus graphically describes his visit:—

"'I took the opportunity, whilst at Mosul, of visiting the excavations of Nimroud. But before I attempt to give a short account of them, I may as well say a few words as to the general impression which these wonderful remains made upon me, on my first visit to them. I should begin by stating, that they are all under ground. To get at them, Mr. Layard has excavated the earth to the depth of twelve to fifteen feet, where he has come to a building composed of slabs of marble. In this place, which forms the northwest angle of the mound, he has fallen upon the interior of a large palace, consisting of a labyrinth of halls, chambers, and galleries, the walls of which are covered with bas-reliefs and inscriptions in the cuneiform character, all in excellent preservation. The upper part of the walls, which was of brick, painted with flowers, &c., in the brightest colors, and the roofs, which were of wood, have fallen; but fragments of them are strewed[Pg 38] about in every direction. The time of day when I first descended into these chambers happened to be towards evening; the shades of which, no doubt, added to the awe and mystery of the surrounding objects. It was of course with no little excitement that I suddenly found myself in the magnificent abode of the old Assyrian Kings; where, moreover, it needed not the slightest effort of imagination to conjure up visions of their long departed power and greatness. The walls themselves were covered with phantoms of the past; in the words of Byron,'Three thousand years their cloudy wings expand,' unfolding to view a vivid representation of those who conquered and possessed so large a portion of the earth we now inhabit. There they were, in the Oriental pomp of richly embroidered robes, and quaintly-artificial coiffure. There also were portrayed their deeds in peace and war, their audiences, battles, sieges, lion-hunts, &c. My mind was overpowered by the contemplation of so many strange objects; and some of them, the portly forms of kings and vizirs, were so life-like, and carved in such fine relief, that they might almost be imagined to be stepping from the walls to question the rash intruder on their privacy. Then mingled with them were other monstrous shapes—the old Assyrian deities, with human bodies, long drooping wings, and the heads and beaks of eagles; or, still faithfully guarding the portals of the deserted halls, the colossal forms of winged lions and bulls, with gigantic human faces.[Pg 39] All these figures, the idols of a religion long since dead and buried like themselves, seemed in the twilight to be actually raising their desecrated heads from the sleep of centuries; certainly the feeling of awe which they inspired me with, must have been something akin to that experienced by their heathen votaries of old.'—Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, vol. I. p. 298.

"The interior of the Assyrian palace must have been as magnificent as imposing. I have led the reader through its ruins, and he may judge of the impression its halls were calculated to make upon the stranger who, in the days of old, entered for the first time into the abode of the Assyrian Kings. He was ushered in through the portal guarded by the colossal lions or bulls of white alabaster. In the first hall he found himself surrounded by the sculptured records of the empire. Battles, sieges, triumphs, the exploits of the chase, the ceremonies of religion, were portrayed on the walls, sculptured in alabaster, and painted in gorgeous colors. Under each picture were engraved, in characters filled up with bright copper, inscriptions describing the scenes represented. Above the sculptures were painted other events—the king attended by his eunuchs and warriors, receiving his prisoners, entering into alliances with other monarchs, or performing some sacred duty. These representations were enclosed in colored borders, of elaborate and elegant design.[Pg 40] The emblematic tree, winged bulls, and monstrous animals were conspicuous among the ornaments.

"At the upper end of the hall was the colossal figure of the king in adoration before the supreme deity, or receiving from his eunuch the holy cup. He was attended by warriors bearing his arms, and by the priests or presiding divinities. His robes, and those of his followers, were adorned with groups of figures, animals, and flowers, all painted with brilliant colors. The stranger trod upon the alabaster slabs, each bearing an inscription, recording the titles, genealogy, and achievements of the great King.—Several door-ways, formed by gigantic winged lions or bulls, or by the figures of guardian deities, led into other apartments, which again opened into more distant halls. In each were new sculptures. On the walls of some were processions of colossal figures—armed men and eunuchs following the king, warriors laden with spoil, leading prisoners, or bearing presents and offerings to the gods. On the walls of others were portrayed the winged priests, or presiding divinities, standing before the sacred trees.

"The ceilings above him were divided into square compartments, painted with flowers, or with the figures of animals. Some were inlaid with ivory, each compartment being surrounded by elegant borders and mouldings. The beams as well as the sides of the chambers, may have been gilded, or even plated, with gold and silver; and the rarest[Pg 41] woods, in which the cedar was conspicuous, were used for the wood work. Square openings in the ceilings of the chambers admitted the light of day. A pleasing shadow was thrown over the sculptured walls, and gave a majestic expression to the human features of the colossal figures which guarded the entrances. Through these apertures was seen the bright blue of an eastern sky, enclosed in a frame on which were painted, in varied colors, the winged circle, in the midst of elegant ornaments, and the graceful forms of ideal animals.

"These edifices, as it has been shown, were great national monuments, upon the walls of which were represented in sculpture, or inscribed in alphabetic characters, the chronicles of the empire. He who entered them might thus read the history, and learn the glory and triumphs of the nation. They served at the same time to bring continually to the remembrance of those who assembled within them on festive occasions, or for the celebration of religious ceremonies, the deeds of their ancestors, and the power and majesty of their gods."—Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, vol. II. p 262.


The origin of the Arch is very uncertain. It was unknown to the Egyptians, for their chambers were roofed with long flat stones, and sometimes the upper layers of stones form projections, so as to diminish the roof surface. It is also supposed that it was[Pg 42] unknown to the Greeks, when they constructed their most beautiful temples, in the 5th, 4th, and 3d centuries B. C., as no structure answering to the true character of the Arch has been found in any of these works. Minutoli has given specimens of arches at Thebes; circular, and formed of four courses of bricks, and it is maintained that these belonged to a very ancient period, long before the Greek occupancy of that country. The Macedonians were a civilized people long before the rest of the Greeks, and were, in fact, their instructors; but the Greeks afterwards so far excelled them that they regarded them as barbarians. Some say that Etruria was the true birth-place of the Arch; it was doubtless from them that the Romans learned its use. Tarquinius Priscus conquered the Etrurians, and he it was who first introduced and employed the Arch in the construction of the cloacæ, or sewers of Rome. The cloaca maxima, or principal branch, received numerous other branches between the Capitoline, Palatine, and Quirinal hills. It is formed of three consecutive rows of large stones piled above each other without cement, and has stood nearly 2,500 years, surviving without injury the earthquakes and other convulsions that have thrown down temples, palaces, and churches of the superincumbent city. From the time of Tarquin, the Arch was in general use among the Romans in the construction of aqueducts, public edifices, bridges, &c. The Chinese understood the use of the Arch in the most remote[Pg 43] times, and in such perfection as to enable them to bridge large streams with a single span. Mr. Layard has shown that the Ninevites knew its use at least 3000 years ago; he not only discovered a vaulted chamber, but that "arched gate-ways are continually represented in the bas-reliefs." Diodorus Siculus relates that the tunnel from the Euphrates at Babylon, ascribed to Semiramis, was vaulted. There are vaults under the site of the temple at Jerusalem, which are generally considered as ancient as that edifice, but some think them to have been of more recent construction, as they suppose the Jews were ignorant of the Arch; but it is evident that it was well known in the neighboring countries before the Jewish exile, and at least seven or eight centuries before the time of Herod. It seems highly probable, that the Arch was discovered by several nations in very remote times.


The city of Herculaneum, distant about 11,000 paces from Naples, was so completely buried by a stream of lava and a shower of ashes from the first known eruption of Vesuvius, during the reign of Titus, A. D. 79, that its site was unknown for many ages. The neighboring city of Pompeii, on the river Sarno, one of the most populous and flourishing towns on the coast, as well as Stabiæ, Oplontia, and Teglanum, experienced the same fate. Earlier[Pg 44] excavations had already been forgotten, when three female figures, (now in the Dresden Gallery) were discovered while some workmen were digging a well for Prince Elbeuf at Portici, a village situated on the site of ancient Herculaneum. In 1738 the well was dug deeper, and the theatre of Herculaneum was first discovered. In 1750, Pompeii and Stabiæ were explored; the former place being covered with ashes rather than lava, was more easily examined. Here was discovered the extensive remains of an amphitheatre. In the cellar of a villa twenty-seven female skeletons were found with ornaments for the neck and arms; lying around, near the lower door of another villa, two skeletons were found, one of which held a key in one hand, and in the other a bag of coins and some cameos, and near them were several beautiful silver and bronze vessels. It is probable, however, that most of the inhabitants of this city had time to save themselves by flight, as comparatively few bodies have been found. The excavations since the discovery, have been continued by the government, up to the present time, with more or less interruptions. For the antiquary and the archæologist, antiquity seems here to revive and awaken the sensations which Schiller has so beautifully described in his poem of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The ancient streets and buildings are again thrown open, and in them we see, as it were, the domestic life of the ancient Romans. We had never before such an opportu[Pg 45]nity of becoming acquainted with the disposition of their houses, and of their utensils. Whole streets, with magnificent temples, theatres, and private mansions, have been disentombed. Multitudes of statues, bas-reliefs, and other sculptures have been found in these buried cities; also many fresco paintings, the most remarkable of which are Andromeda and Perseus, Diana and Endymion, the Education of Bacchus, the Battle of Platea, &c. In one splendid mansion were discovered several pictures, representing Polyphemus and Galatea, Hercules and the three Hesperdies, Cupid and a Bacchante, Mercury and Io, Perseus killing Medusa, and other subjects. There were also in the store rooms of the same house, evidently belonging to a very rich family, an abundance of provisions, laid in for the winter, consisting of dates, figs, prunes, various kinds of nuts, hams, pies, corn, oil, peas, lentils, &c. There were also in the same house, vases, articles of glass, bronze, and terra-cotta, several medallions in silver, on one of which was represented in relief, Apollo and Diana. A great treasure of ancient books or manuscripts, consisting of papyrus rolls, has also been discovered, which has excited the greatest curiosity of the learned, in the hope of regaining some of the lost works of ancient writers; but though some valuable literary remains of Grecian and Roman antiquity have been more or less completely restored, the greater part remain yet untouched, no effectual means having been discovered[Pg 46] by which the manuscripts could be unrolled and deciphered, owing to their charred and decomposed state.

The following vivid sketch of the present appearance of these devoted cities, is from the pen of an American traveler:—

"In the grounds of the Royal Palace at Portici, which are extensive, there is a small fortress, with its angles, its bastions, counter-scarps, and all the geometrical technicalities of Vauban, in miniature. It was erected by Charles III., for the instruction, or perhaps more correctly speaking, the amusement of his sons. The garden on the front of the palace next to the bay, is enchanting. Here, amidst statues, refreshing fountains, and the most luxurious foliage, the vine, the orange, the fig, in short, surrounded by all the poetry of life, one may while 'the sultry hours away,' till the senses, yielding to the voluptuous charm, unfit one for the sober realities of a busy world.

"The towns of Portici and Resinia, which are in fact united, are very populous. The shops, at the season of my visit, Christmas, particularly those where eatables were sold, exhibited a very gay appearance; and gilt hams, gilt cheese, festoons of gilt sausages, intermixed with evergreens, and fringes of maccaroni, illuminated Virgin Marys, and gingerbread Holy Families, divided the attention of the stranger, with the motley crowds in all the gay vari[Pg 47]ety of Neapolitan costume. At the depth of seventy or eighty feet beneath these crowded haunts of busy men, lies buried, in a solid mass of hard volcanic matter, the once splendid city of Herculaneum, which was overthrown in the first century of the Christian era, by a terrible eruption of Vesuvius. It was discovered about the commencement of the last century, by the digging of a well immediately over the theatre. For many years the excavations were carried on with spirit; and the forum, theatres, porticos, and splendid mansions, were successively exposed, and a great number of the finest bronzes, marble statues, busts, &c., which now delight the visitor to the Museum at Naples, were among the fruits of these labors. Unfortunately, the parts excavated, upon the removal of the objects of art discovered, were immediately filled up in lieu of pillars, or supports to the superincumbent mass being erected. As the work of disentombment had long since ceased, nothing remained to be seen but part of the theatre, the descent to which is by a staircase made for the purpose. By the light of a torch, carried by the custode, I saw the orchestra, proscenium, consular seats, as well as part of the corridors, all stripped, however, of the marbles and paintings which once adorned them. I was shewn the spot where the celebrated manuscripts were found. The reflection that this theatre had held its ten thousand spectators, and that it[Pg 48] then lay, with the city of which it was an ornament, so horribly engulphed, gave rise to feelings in awful contrast to those excited by the elysium of Portici almost immediately above. About seven miles further along the base of the mountain, lies the long lost city of Pompeii. The road passes through, or rather over Torre del Greco, a town almost totally destroyed by the eruption in 1794. The whole surface of the country for some distance is laid waste by the river of lava, which flowed in a stream or body, of twenty feet in depth, destroyed in its course vineyards, cottages, and everything combustible, consumed and nearly overwhelmed the town, and at last poured into the sea, where as it cooled, it formed a rugged termination or promontory of considerable height. The surface of this mass presented a rocky and sterile aspect, strongly opposed to the exuberance of vegetation in the more fortunate neighborhood. Passing through Torre del Annunziata, a populous village, the street of which was literally lined with maccaroni hanging to dry, I soon reached Pompeii. Between these last mentioned places, I noticed at the corner of a road a few dwellings, upon the principal of which, an Inn, was inscribed in formidable looking letters, Gioachinopoli. Puzzled at the moment, I inquired what this great word related to, when lo, I was told that I was now in the city of Gioachinopoli, so called in compliment to the reigning sovereign, Gioachino Murat, the termina[Pg 49]tion being added in imitation of the emperor Constantine, who gave his name to the ancient Byzantium!

"Although suffering a similar fate with the sister city Herculaneum, the manner of the destruction of Pompeii was essentially different, for while the former lies imbedded at a great depth in solid matter, like mortar or cement, the latter is merely covered with a stratum of volcanic ashes, the surface of which being partly decomposed by the atmosphere, affords a rich soil for the extensive vineyards which are spread over its surface. No scene on earth can vie in melancholy interest with that presented to the spectator on entering the streets of the disinterred city of Pompeii. On passing through a wooden enclosure, I suddenly found myself in a long and handsome street, bordered by rows of tombs, of various dimensions and designs, from the simple cippus or altar, bearing the touching appeal of siste viator, stop traveler, to the Patrician mausoleum with its long inscription. Many of these latter yet contain the urns in which the ashes of the dead were deposited. Several large semicircular stone seats mark where the ancient Pompeians had their evening chat, and no doubt debated upon the politics of the day. Approaching the massive walls, which are about thirty feet high and very thick, and entering by a handsome stone arch, called the Herculaneum gate, from the road leading to that city, I beheld a vista of houses or shops, and except that they were roof[Pg 50]less, just as if they had been occupied but yesterday, although near eighteen centuries have passed away since the awful calamity which sealed the fate of their inhabitants. The facilities for excavation being great, both on account of the lightness of the material and the little depth of the mass, much of the city has been exposed to view. Street succeeds street in various directions, and porticos, theatres, temples, magazines, shops, and private mansions, all remain to attest the mixture of elegance and meanness of Pompeii; and we can, from an inspection, not only form a most correct idea of the customs and tastes of the ancient inhabitants, but are thereby the better enabled to judge of those of contemporary cities, and learn to qualify the accounts of many of the ancient writers themselves.

"Pompeii is so perfectly unique in its kind, that I flatter myself a rather minute description of the state in which I saw it, will not be uninteresting. The streets, with the exception of the principal one, which is about thirty-three feet wide, are very narrow. They are paved with blocks of lava, and have raised side-walks for pedestrians, things very rare in modern Europe. At the corners of the streets are fountains, and also stepping-stones for crossing. The furrows worn by the carriage wheels are strongly marked, and are not more than forty-four inches apart, thus giving us the width of their vehicles.

"The houses in general are built with small red bricks, or with volcanic matter from Vesuvius, and[Pg 51] are only one or two stories high. The marble counters remain in many of the stores, and the numbers, names of the occupiers, and their occupations, still appear in red letters on the outside. The names of Julius, Marius, Lucius, and many others, only familiar to us through the medium of our classic studies, and fraught with heroic ideas, we here see associated with the retailing of oil, olives, bread, apothecaries' wares, and nearly all the various articles usually found in the trading part of Italian cities even at the present day. All the trades, followed in these various edifices, were likewise distinctly marked by the utensils found in them; but the greater part of these, as discovered, were removed for their better preservation to the great Museum at Naples; a measure perhaps indispensable, but which detracts in some degree from the local interest. We see, however, in the magazine of the oil merchant, his jars in perfect order, in the bakehouse are the hand mills in their original places, and of a description which exactly tallies with those alluded to in holy writ; the ovens scarcely want repairs; where a sculptor worked, there we find his marbles and his productions, in various states of forwardness, just as he left them.

"The mansions of the higher classes are planned to suit the delicious climate in which they are situated, and are finished with great taste. They generally have an open court in the centre, in which is a fountain. The floors are of mosaic. The walls and[Pg 52] ceilings are beautifully painted or stuccoed and statues, tripods, and other works of art, embellished the galleries and apartments. The kitchens do not appear to have been neglected by the artists who decorated the buildings, and although the painting is of a coarser description than in other parts of the edifices, the designs are in perfect keeping with the plan. Trussed fowls, hams, festoons of sausages, together with the representations of some of the more common culinary utensils, among which I noticed the gridiron, still adorn the walls. In some of the cellars skeletons were found, supposed to be those of the inmates who had taken refuge from the shower of ashes, and had there found their graves, while the bulk of their fellow citizens escaped. In one vault, the remains of sixteen human beings were discovered, and from the circumstance of some valuable rings and a quantity of money being found with the bones, it is concluded that the master of the house was among the sufferers. In this vault or cellar I saw a number of earthen jars, called Amphoræ, placed against the wall. These, which once held the purple juice, perhaps the produce of favorite vintages, were now filled to the brim with ashes. Many of the public edifices are large, and have been magnificent. The amphitheatre, which is oval, upon the plan of that at Verona, would contain above ten thousand spectators. This majestic edifice was disentombed by the French, to whose taste and activity, during their rule in Italy,[Pg 53] particularly in the district of Naples, every lover of the arts stands indebted. I had the good fortune to be present at the clearing of a part of the arena of this colossal erection, and witnessed the disclosure of paintings which had not seen the light for above seventeen hundred years. They were executed in what is termed fresco, a process of coloring on wet plaster, but which, after it becomes hard, almost defies the effects of time. The subjects of those I allude to were nymphs, and the coloring of the draperies, in some instances, was as fresh as if just applied.

"Not far distant from the amphitheatre are two semicircular theatres, one of which is supposed to have been appropriated to tragedy and the other to comedy. The first mentioned is large, and built of stone, or a substance called tufo, covered with marble. It had no roof. The Proscenium and Orchestra remain. The stage, or rather the place where it was, is of considerable width, but so very shallow that stage effect, as regards scenery, could not have been much studied, nor indeed did the dramas of the ancients require it. The comic theatre is small, and nearly perfect. It appears to have had a roof or covering. These two theatres are close together. Of the public edifices discovered, the Temple of Isis is one of the most interesting. It is of brick, but coated with a hard and polished stucco. The altars for sacrifice remain unmolested. A hollow pedestal or altar yet exists, from which oracles were once de[Pg 54]livered to the credulous multitude, and we behold the secret stairs by which the priests descended to perform the office. In the chamber of this Temple, which may have been a refectory, were found some of the remains of eatables, which are now in the museum. I recollect noticing egg-shells, bread, with the maker's name or initials stamped thereon, bones, corn, and other articles, all burnt black, but perfect in form. The Temple of Hercules, as it is denominated, is a ruin, not one of its massive fragments being left upon another. It was of the Doric order of architecture, and is known to have suffered severely by an earthquake some years before the fatal eruption. Not far from this temple is an extensive court or forum, where the soldiers appear to have had their quarters. In what has evidently been a prison, is an iron frame, like the modern implements of punishment, the stocks, and in this frame the skeletons of some unfortunate culprits were found. On the walls of what are called the soldiers' quarters, from the helmets, shields, and pieces of armor which have been found there, are scrawled names and rude devices, just as we find on the walls of the buildings appropriated to the same purpose in the present day. At this point of the city, travelers who have entered at the other, usually make their exit. The scene possessed far too great an interest, however, in my eyes, to be hastily passed over, and on more than one visit, I lingered among the deserted thresholds, until the moon had thrown her[Pg 55] chaste light upon this city of the dead. The feelings excited by a perambulation of Pompeii, especially at such an hour, are beyond the power of my pen to describe. To behold her streets once thronged with the busy crowd, to tread the forum where sages met and discoursed, to enter the theatres once filled with delighted thousands, and the temples whence incense arose, to visit the mansions of the opulent which had resounded with the shouts of revelry, and the humbler dwellings of the artisan, where he had plied his noisy trade, in the language of an elegant writer and philosopher, to behold all these, now tenantless, and silent as the grave, elevates the heart with a series of sublime meditations."


The ancients well understood the arts of painting both in fresco and mosaic, as is evinced by the discoveries made at Rome, but more especially at Pompeii. The most remarkable pictures discovered at Pompeii have been sawed from the walls, and deposited in the Royal Museums at Naples and Portici, for their preservation. Not only mosaic floors and pavements are numerous in the mansions of the wealthy at Pompeii, but some walls are decorated with pictures in mosaic.


A grand mosaic, representing as some say the Battle of Platæa, and others, with more probability[Pg 56] one of the victories of Alexander, is now in the Academy at Naples. It was discovered at Pompeii, and covered the whole side of the apartment where it was found. This great work is the admiration of connoisseurs and the learned, not only for its antiquity, but for the beauty of its execution. The most probable supposition is, that it is a copy of the celebrated Victory of Arbela, painted by Philoxenes, and described by Pliny as one of the most remarkable works of antiquity, with whose description the mosaic accords.


This famous antique fresco was discovered in the time of Clement VIII., not far from the church of S. Maria Maggiore, in the place where were the gardens of Mæcenas. It was carried from thence into the villa of the princely house of the Aldobrandini; hence its name. It is very beautifully executed, and evidently intended to represent or celebrate a wedding. Winckelmann supposes it to be the wedding of Peleus and Thetis; the Count Bondi, that of Manlius and Julia.


The most celebrated antique vase is that which, during more than two centuries, was the principal ornament of the Barberini Palace, and which is now known as the Portland Vase. It was found about the middle of the 16th century, enclosed in a mar[Pg 57]ble sarcophagus within a sepulchral chamber under Monte del Grano, two miles and a half from Rome, supposed to have been the tomb of Alexander Severus, who died in the year 235. It is ornamented with white opaque figures in bas-relief, upon a dark blue transparent ground; the subject of which has not hitherto received a satisfactory elucidation, though it is supposed to represent the Eleusinian Mysteries; but the design, and more particularly the execution, are truly admirable. The whole of the blue ground, or at least the part below the handles, must have been originally covered with white enamel, out of which the figures have been sculptured in the style of a cameo, with most astonishing skill and labor. This beautiful Vase is sufficient to prove that the manufacture of glass was carried to a state of high perfection by the ancients. It was purchased by the Duchess of Portland for 1000 guineas, and presented to the British Museum in 1810.

The subterranean ruins of Herculaneum afforded many specimens of the glass manufacture of the ancients: a great variety of phials and bottles were found, and these were chiefly of an elongate shape, composed of glass of unequal thickness, of a green color, and much heavier than common glass; of these the four large cinerary urns in the British Museum are very fine specimens. They are of an elegant round figure, with covers, and two double handles, the formation of which must convince persons capable[Pg 58] of appreciating the difficulties which even the modern glass-maker would have in executing similar handles, that the ancients were well acquainted with the art of making round glass vessels; although their knowledge appears to have been extremely limited as respects the manufacture of square vessels, and more particularly of oval, octagonal, or pentagonal forms. Among a great number of lachrymatories and various other vessels in the British Museum, there is a small square bottle with a handle, the rudeness of which sufficiently bears out this opinion.


A most singular art of forming pictures with colored glass seems to have been practiced by the ancients, which consisted in laying together fibres of glass of various colors, fitted to each other with the utmost exactness, so that a section across the fibres represented the object to be painted, and then cementing them into a homogeneous mass. In some specimens of this art which were discovered about the middle of the 18th century, the painting has on both sides a granular appearance, and seems to have been formed in the manner of mosaic work; but the pieces are so accurately united, that not even with the aid of a powerful magnifying glass can the junctures be discovered. One plate, described by Winckelmann, exhibits a Duck of various colors, the outlines of which are sharp and well-defined, the[Pg 59] colors pure and vivid, and a brilliant effect is obtained by the artist having employed in some parts an opaque, and in others a transparent glass. The picture seems to be continued throughout the whole thickness of the specimen, as the reverse corresponds in the minutest points to the face; so that, were it to be cut transversely, the same picture of the Duck would be exhibited in every section. It is conjectured that this curious process was the first attempt of the ancients to preserve colors by fusing them into the internal part of glass, which was, however, but partially done, as the surfaces have not been preserved from the action of the atmosphere.


This eminent historical painter, and very extraordinary man, was born at Zurich, in Switzerland, in 1741, according to all accounts save his own; but he himself placed it in 1745, without adding the day or month. He always spoke of his age with reluctance. Once, when pressed about it, he peevishly exclaimed, "How should I know? I was born in February or March—it was some cursed cold month, as you may guess from my diminutive stature and crabbed disposition." He was the son of the painter, John Caspar Fuseli, and the second of eighteen children.


During his school-boy days, as soon as released[Pg 60] from his class, he was accustomed to withdraw to a secret place to enjoy unmolested the works of Michael Angelo, of whose prints his father had a fine collection. He loved when he grew old to talk of those days of his youth, of the enthusiasm with which he surveyed the works of his favorite masters, and the secret pleasure which he took in acquiring forbidden knowledge. With candles which he stole from the kitchen, and pencils which his pocket-money was hoarded to procure, he pursued his studies till late at night, and made many copies from Michael Angelo and Raffaelle, by which he became familiar thus early with the style and ruling character of the two greatest masters of the art.


He early manifested strong powers of mind, and with a two-fold taste for literature and art, he was placed in Humanity College at Zurich, of which two distinguished men, Bodmer and Breitenger, were professors. Here he became the bosom companion of that amiable enthusiast, Lavater, studied English, and conceived such a love for the works of Shakspeare, that he translated Macbeth into German. The writings of Wieland and Klopstock influenced his youthful fancy, and from Shakspeare he extended his affection to the chief masters in English literature. His love of poetry was natural, not affected—he practiced at an early age the art which he admired through life, and[Pg 61] some of his first attempts at composition were pieces in his native language, which made his name known in Zurich.


In conjunction with his friend Lavater, Fuseli composed a pamphlet against a ruler in one of the bailiwicks, who had abused his powers, and perhaps personally insulted the two friends. The peasantry, it seems, conceiving themselves oppressed by their superior, complained and petitioned; the petitions were read by young Fuseli and his companion, who, stung with indignation at the tale of tyranny disclosed, expressed their feelings in a satire, which made a great stir in the city. Threats were publicly used against the authors, who were guessed at, but not known; upon which they distributed placards in every direction, offering to prove before a tribunal the accusations they had made. Nay, Fuseli actually appeared before the magistrates—named the offender boldly—arraigned him with great vehemence and eloquence, and was applauded by all and answered by none. Pamphlets and accusations were probably uncommon things in Zurich; in some other countries they would have dropped from the author's hands harmless or unheeded; but the united labors of Fuseli and Lavater drove the unjust magistrate into exile, and procured remuneration to those who had suffered.[Pg 62]


Fuseli early gained a reputation for scholarship, poetry, and painting. He possessed such extraordinary powers of memory, that when he read a book once, he thoroughly comprehended its contents; and he not only wrote in Latin and Greek, but spoke them with the fluency of his native tongue. He acquired such a perfect knowledge of the several modern languages of Europe, especially of the English, French, and Italian, that it was indifferent to him which he spoke or wrote, except that when he wished to express himself with most power, he said he preferred the German. After having obtained the degree of Master of Arts from the college at Zurich, Fuseli bade farewell to his father's house, and traveled in company with Lavater to Berlin, where he placed himself under the care of Sulzer, author of the "Lexicon of the Fine Arts." His talents and learning obtained him the friendship of several distinguished men, and his acquaintance with English poetry induced Professor Sulzer to select him as one well qualified for opening a communication between the literature of Germany and that of England. Sir Andrew Mitchell, British ambassador at the Prussian court, was consulted; and pleased with his lively genius, and his translations and drawings from Macbeth and Lear, he received Fuseli with much kindness, and advised him to visit Britain. Lavater, who till now had[Pg 63] continued his companion, presented him at parting with a card, on which he had inscribed in German. "Do but the tenth part of what you can do." "Hang that up in your bed-head," said the physiognomist, "obey it—and fame and fortune will be the result."


Fuseli arrived in the capital of the British Empire early one morning, before the people were stirring. "When I stood in London," said he, "and considered that I did not know one soul in all this vast metropolis, I became suddenly impressed with a sense of forlornness, and burst into a flood of tears. An incident restored me. I had written a long letter to my father, giving him an account of my voyage, and expressing my filial affection—now not weakened by distance—and with this letter in my hand, I inquired of a rude fellow whom I met, the way to the Post Office. My foreign accent provoked him to laughter, and as I stood cursing him in good Shaksperian English, a gentleman kindly directed me to the object of my inquiry."


Fuseli's wit, learning, and talents gained him early admission to the company of wealthy and distinguished men. He devoted himself for a considerable time after his arrival in London to the daily toils of literature—translations, essays, and critiques.[Pg 64] Among other works, he translated Winckelmann's book on Painting and Sculpture. One day Bonnycastle said to him, after dinner,

"Fuseli, you can write well,—why don't you write something?"

"Something!" exclaimed the other; "you always cry write—Fuseli write!—blastation! what shall I write?"

"Write," said Armstrong, who was present, "write on the Voltaire and Rousseau Rowthere is a subject!"

He said nothing, but went home and began to write. His enthusiastic temper spurred him on, so that he composed his essay with uncommon rapidity. He printed it forthwith; but the whole edition caught fire and was consumed! "It had," says one of his friends, "a short life and a bright ending."

While busied with his translations and other literary labors, he had not forgotten his early attachment to Art. He found his way to the studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and submitted several of his drawings to the President's examination, who looked at them for some time, and then said, "How long have you studied in Italy?" "I never studied in Italy—I studied at Zurich—I am a native of Switzerland—do you think I should study in Italy?—and, above all, is it worth while?" "Young man," said Reynolds, "were I the author of these drawings, and were offered ten thousand a year not to[Pg 65] practice as an artist, I would reject the proposal with contempt." This very favorable opinion from one who considered all he said, and was so remarkable for accuracy of judgment, decided the destiny of Fuseli; he forsook for ever the hard and thankless trade of literature—refused a living in the church from some patron who had been struck with his talents—and addressed himself to painting with heart and hand.


No sooner had Fuseli formed the resolution of devoting his talents to painting, in 1770, than he determined to visit Rome. He resided in Italy eight years, and studied with great assiduity the pictures in the numerous galleries, particularly the productions of Michael Angelo, whose fine and bold imagination, and the lofty grandeur of his works, were most congenial to his taste. It was a story which he loved to tell in after life, how he lay on his back day after day, and week after week, with upturned and wondering eyes, musing on the splendid ceiling of the Sistine chapel—on the unattainable grandeur of the great Florentine. During his residence abroad, he made notes and criticisms on everything he met with that was excellent, much of which he subsequently embodied in his lectures before the Royal Academy. His talents, acquirements, and his great conversational powers made his society courted; and he formed some valuable acquaint[Pg 66]ances at Rome, particularly among the English nobility and gentry, who flocked there for amusement, and who heralded his fame at home. He also sent some of his choice drawings, illustrating Shakspeare and Milton, to the annual exhibitions of the Royal Academy. In 1778, he left Italy and returned to England, passing through Switzerland and his native city.


Soon after his return to England, Fuseli painted his "Nightmare," which was exhibited in 1782. It was unquestionably the work of an original mind. "The extraordinary and peculiar genius which it displayed," says one of his biographers, "was universally felt, and perhaps no single picture ever made a greater impression in this country. A very fine mezzotinto engraving of it was scraped by Raphael Smith, and so popular did the print become, that, although Mr. Fuseli received only twenty guineas for the picture, the publisher made five hundred by his speculation." This was a subject suitable to the unbridled fancy of the painter, and perhaps to no other imagination has the Fiend which murders our sleep ever appeared in a more poetical shape.


This picture was a work of far higher order than his "Nightmare," although the latter caught the[Pg 67] public fancy most. It is distinguished by singular power, full of feeling and terror. The desolate old man is seated on the ground, and his whole frame seems inspired with a presentiment of the coming vengeance of heaven. His daughters are clasping him wildly, and the sky seems mustering the thunder and fire in which the tragic bard has made him disappear. "Pray, sir, what is that old man afraid of?" said some one to Fuseli, when the picture was exhibited. "Afraid, sir," exclaimed the painter, "why, afraid of going to hell!"


His rising fame, his poetic feeling, his great knowledge, and his greater confidence, now induced Fuseli to commence an undertaking worthy of the highest genius—the Shakspeare Gallery. An accidental conversation at the table of the nephew of Alderman Boydell, started, as it is said, the idea; and West, Romney, and Hayley shared with Fuseli in the honor. But to the mind of the latter, such a scheme had been long present; it dawned on his fancy in Rome, even as he lay on his back marveling in the Sistine, and he saw in imagination a long and shadowy succession of pictures. He figured to himself a magnificent temple, and filled it, as the illustrious artists of Italy did the Sistine, with pictures from his favorite poet. All was arranged according to character. In the panels and accessories[Pg 68] were the figures of the chief heroes and heroines—on the extensive walls were delineated the changes of many-colored life, the ludicrous and the sad—the pathetic and the humorous—domestic happiness and heroic aspirations—while the dome which crowned the whole exhibited scenes of higher emotion—the joys of heaven—the agonies of hell—all that was supernatural and all that was terrible. This splendid piece of imagination was cut down to working dimensions by the practiced hands of Boydell, who supported the scheme anxiously and effectually. On receiving £500 Reynolds entered, though with reluctance, into an undertaking which consumed time and required much thought; but Fuseli had no rich commissions in the way—his heart was with the subject—in his own fancy he had already commenced the work, and the enthusiastic alderman found a more enthusiastic painter, who made no preliminary stipulations, but prepared his palette and began.


This wonderful work, engraved for Boydell's Shakspeare Gallery, is esteemed among the best of Fuseli's works. It is, indeed, strangely wild and superhuman—if ever a Spirit visited earth, it must have appeared to Fuseli. The "majesty of buried Denmark" is no vulgar ghost such as scares the belated rustic, but a sad and majestic shape with the port of a god; to imagine this, required poetry, and[Pg 69] in that our artist was never deficient. He had fine taste in matters of high import; he drew the boundary line between the terrible and the horrible, and he never passed it; the former he knew was allied to grandeur, the latter to deformity and disgust. An eminent metaphysician visited the gallery before the public exhibition; he saw the Hamlet's Ghost of Fuseli, and exclaimed, like Burns' rustic in Halloween, "Lord, preserve me!" He declared that it haunted him round the room.


His Titania (also engraved in the Shakspeare Gallery), overflows with elvish fun and imaginative drollery. It professes to embody that portion of the first scene in the fourth act where the spell-blinded queen caresses Bottom the weaver, on whose shoulders Oberon's transforming wand has placed an ass' head. Titania, a gay and alluring being, attended by her troop of fairies, is endeavoring to seem as lovely as possible in the sight of her lover, who holds down his head and assumes the air of the most stupid of all creatures. One almost imagines that her ripe round lips are uttering the well-known words,—

"Come sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk roses in thy sleek smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy."
[Pg 70]

The rout and revelry which the fancy of the painter has poured around this spell-bound pair, baffles all description. All is mirthful, tricksy, and fantastic. Sprites of all looks and all hues—of all "dimensions, shapes, and mettles,"—the dwarfish elf and the elegant fay—Cobweb commissioned to kill a red-hipped humble-bee on the top of a thistle, that Bottom might have the honey-bag—Pease-Blossom, who had the less agreeable employment of scratching the weaver's head—and that individual fairy who could find the hoard of the squirrel and carry away his nuts—with a score of equally merry companions are swarming everywhere and in full employment. Mustard-Seed, a fairy of dwarfish stature, stands on tiptoe in the hollow of Bottom's hand, endeavoring to reach his nose—his fingers almost touch, he is within a quarter of an inch of scratching, but it is evident he can do no more, and his new master is too much of an ass to raise him up.


Fuseli was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1788, and early in 1790 became an Academician—honors won by talent without the slightest coöperation of intrigue. His election was nevertheless unpleasant to Reynolds, who desired to introduce Bonomi the architect. Fuseli, to soothe the President, waited on him beforehand, and said, "I wish to be elected an academician. I have been disappoint[Pg 71]ed hitherto by the deceit of pretended friends—shall I offend you if I offer myself next election?" "Oh, no," said Sir Joshua with a kindly air, "no offence to me; but you cannot be elected this time—we must have an architect in." "Well, well," said Fuseli, who could not conceive how an architect could be a greater acquisition to the Academy than himself—"Well, well, you say that I shall not offend you by offering myself, so I must make a trial." The trial was successful.


Concerning his picture of Theodore and Honorio, Fuseli used to say, "Look at it—it is connected with the first patron I ever had." He then proceeded to relate how Cipriani had undertaken to paint for Horace Walpole a scene from Boccaccio's Theodore and Honorio, familiar to all in the splendid translation of Dryden, and, after several attempts, finding the subject too heavy for his handling, he said to Walpole, "I cannot please myself with a sketch from this most imaginative of Gothic fictions; but I know one who can do the story justice—a man of great powers, of the name of Fuseli." "Let me see this painter of yours," said the other. Fuseli was sent for, and soon satisfied Walpole that his imagination was equal to the task, by painting a splendid picture.[Pg 72]


While Fuseli was laboring on his celebrated "Milton Gallery," he was frequently embarrassed by pecuniary difficulties. From these he was relieved by a steadfast friend—Mr. Coutts—who aided him while in Rome, and forsook him not in any of his after difficulties. The grateful painter once waited on the banker, and said, "I have finished the best of all my works—the Lazar House—when shall I send it home?" "My friend," said Mr. Coutts, "for me to take this picture would be a fraud upon you and upon the world. I have no place in which it could be fitly seen. Sell it to some one who has a gallery—your kind offer of it is sufficient for me, and makes all matters straight between us." For a period of sixty years that worthy man was the unchangeable friend of the painter. The apprehensions which the latter entertained of poverty were frequently without cause, and Coutts has been known on such occasions to assume a serious look, and talk of scarcity of cash and of sufficient securities. Away flew Fuseli, muttering oaths and cursing all parsimonious men, and having found a friend, returned with him breathless, saying, "There! I stop your mouth with a security." The cheque for the sum required was given, the security refused, and the painter pulled his hat over his eyes,

"To hide the tear that fain would fall"—

and went on his way.[Pg 73]


Fuseli once repeated half-a-dozen sonorous and well sounding lines in Greek, to Prof. Porson, and said,—

"With all your learning now, you cannot tell me who wrote that."

The Professor, "much renowned in Greek," confessed his ignorance, and said, "I don't know him."

"How the devil should you know him?" chuckled Fuseli, "I made them this moment."


When thwarted in the Academy (which happened not unfrequently), his wrath aired itself in a polyglott. "It is a pleasant thing, and an advantageous," said the painter, on one of these occasions, "to be learned. I can speak Greek, Latin, French, English, German, Danish, Dutch, and Spanish, and so let my folly or my fury get vent through eight different avenues."


Fuseli knew not well how to begin with quiet beauty and serene grace: the hurrying measures, the crowding epithets, and startling imagery of the northern poetry suited his intoxicated fancy. His "Thor battering the Serpent" was such a favorite[Pg 74] that he presented it to the Academy as his admission gift. Such was his love of terrific subjects, that he was known among his brethren by the name of Painter in ordinary to the Devil, and he smiled when some one officiously told him this, and said, "Aye! he has sat to me many times." Once, at Johnson the bookseller's table, one of the guests said, "Mr. Fuseli, I have purchased a picture of yours." "Have you, sir; what is the subject?" "Subject? really I don't know." "That's odd; you must be a strange fellow to buy a picture without knowing the subject." "I bought it, sir, that's enough—I don't know what the devil it is." "Perhaps it is the devil," replied Fuseli, "I have often painted him." Upon this, one of the company, to arrest a conversation which was growing warm, said, "Fuseli, there is a member of your Academy who has strange looks—and he chooses as strange subjects as you do." "Sir," exclaimed the Professor, "he paints nothing but thieves and murderers, and when he wants a model, he looks in the glass."


Cunningham says, "Fuseli had sketched a picture of Miranda and Prospero from the Tempest, and was considering of what dimensions he should make the finished painting, when he was told that Lawrence had sent in for exhibition a picture on the[Pg 75] same subject, and with the same figures. His wrath knew no bounds. 'This comes,' he cried, 'of my blasted simplicity in showing my sketches—never mind—I'll teach the face-painter to meddle with my Prospero and Miranda.' He had no canvas prepared—he took a finished picture, and over the old performance dashed in hastily, in one laborious day, a wondrous scene from the Tempest—hung it in the exhibition right opposite that of Lawrence, and called it 'a sketch for a large picture.' Sir Thomas said little, but thought much—he never afterwards, I have heard, exhibited a poetic subject."


Fuseli mentions Reynolds in his Lectures, as a great portrait painter, and no more. One evening in company, Sir Thomas Lawrence was discoursing on what he called the "historic grandeur" of Sir Joshua, and contrasting him with Titian and Raffaelle. Fuseli kindled up—"Blastation! you will drive me mad—Reynolds and Raffaelle!—a dwarf and a giant!—why will you waste all your fine words?" He rose and left the room, muttering something about a tempest in a pint pot. Lawrence followed, soothed him, and brought him back.


"These two eminent men," says Cunningham, "loved one another. The Keeper had no wish to[Pg 76] give permanent offence, and the President had as little desire to be on ill terms with one so bitter and so satirical. They were often together; and I have heard Sir Thomas say, that he never had a dispute with Fuseli save once—and that was concerning their pictures of Satan. Indeed, the Keeper, both with tongue and pen, took pleasure in pointing out the excellencies of his friend, nor was he blind to his defects. 'This young man,' thus he wrote in one of his early criticisms, 'would do well to look at nature again; his flesh is too glassy.' Lawrence showed his sense of his monitor's accuracy by following the advice."


Fuseli, on the whole, was liked as Keeper. It is true that he was often satirical and severe on the students—that he defaced their drawings by corrections which, compared to their weak and trembling lines, seemed traced with a tar-mop, and that he called them tailors and bakers, vowing that there was more genius in the claw of one of Michael Angelo's eagles, than in all the heads with which the Academy was swarming. The youths on whom fell this tempest of invective, smiled; and the Keeper pleased by submission, walked up to each easel, whispered a word of advice confidentially, and retired in peace to enjoy the company of his Homer, Michael Angelo, Dante, and Milton. The students were unquestionably his friends; those of the year[Pg 77] 1807 presented him with a silver vase, designed by one whom he loved—Flaxman the sculptor; and he received it very graciously. Ten years after, he was presented with the diploma of the first class in the Academy of St. Luke at Rome.


The students found constant amusement from Fuseli's witty and characteristic retorts, and they were fond of repeating his jokes. He heard a violent altercation in the studio one day, and inquired the cause. "It is only those fellows, the students, sir," said one of the porters. "Fellows!" exclaimed Fuseli, "I would have you to know, sir, that those fellows may one day become academicians." The noise increased—he opened the door, and burst in upon them, exclaiming, "You are a den of damned wild beasts." One of the offenders, Munro by name, bowed and said, "and Fuseli is our Keeper." He retired smiling, and muttering "the fellows are growing witty." Another time he saw a figure from which the students were making drawings lying broken to pieces. "Now who the devil has done this?" "Mr. Medland," said an officious probationer, "he jumped over the rail and broke it." He walked up to the offender—all listened for the storm. He calmly said, "Mr. Medland, you are fond of jumping—go to Sadler's Wells—it is the[Pg 78] best academy in the world for improving agility." A student as he passed held up his drawing, and said confidently, "Here, sir—I finished it without using a crumb of bread." "All the worse for your drawing," replied Fuseli, "buy a two-penny loaf and rub it out." "What do you see, sir?" he said one day to a student, who, with his pencil in his hand and his drawing before him, was gazing into vacancy. "Nothing, sir," was the answer. "Nothing, young man," said the Keeper emphatically, "then I tell you that you ought to see something—you ought to see distinctly the true image of what you are trying to draw. I see the vision of all I paint—and I wish to heaven I could paint up to what I see."


He loved especially to exercise his wit upon Northcote. He looked on his friend's painting of the Angel meeting Balaam and his Ass. "How do you like it?" said the painter. "Vastly, Northcote," returned Fuseli, "you are an angel at an ass—but an ass at an angel!"

When Northcote exhibited his Judgment of Solomon, Fuseli looked at it with a sarcastic smirk on his face. "How do you like my picture?" inquired Northcote. "Much" was the answer—"the action suits the word—Solomon holds out his fingers like a pair of open scissors at the child, and says, 'Cut it.'—I like it much!" Northcote remembered this[Pg 79] when Fuseli exhibited a picture representing Hercules drawing his arrow at Pluto. "How do you like my picture?" inquired Fuseli. "Much!" said Northcote—"it is clever, very clever, but he'll never hit him." "He shall hit him," exclaimed the other, "and that speedily." Away ran Fuseli with his brush, and as he labored to give the arrow the true direction, was heard to mutter "Hit him!—by Jupiter, but he shall hit him!"


He rarely spared any one, and on Nollekens he was frequently merciless; he disliked him for his close and parsimonious nature, and rarely failed to hit him under the fifth rib. Once, at the table of Mr. Coutts the banker, Mrs. Coutts, dressed like Morgiana, came dancing in, presenting her dagger at every breast. As she confronted the sculptor, Fuseli called out, "Strike—strike—there's no fear; Nolly was never known to bleed!" When Blake, a man infinitely more wild in conception than Fuseli himself, showed him one of his strange productions, he said, "Now some one has told you this is very fine." "Yes," said Blake, "the Virgin Mary appeared to me and told me it was very fine; what can you say to that?" "Say!" exclaimed Fuseli, "why nothing—only her ladyship has not an immaculate taste."

Fuseli had aided Northcote and Opie in obtain[Pg 80]ing admission to the Academy, and when he desired some station for himself, he naturally expected their assistance—they voted against him, and next morning went together to his house to offer an explanation. He saw them coming—he opened the door as they were scraping their shoes, and said, "Come in—come in—for the love of heaven come in, else you will ruin me entirely." "How so?" cried Opie "Marry, thus," replied the other, "my neighbors over the way will see you, and say, 'Fuseli's done,—for there's a bum bailiff,'" he looked at Opie, "'going to seize his person; and a little Jew broker,'" he looked at Northcote, "'going to take his furniture,—so come in I tell you—come in!'"


One day, during varnishing time in the exhibition, an eminent portrait painter was at work on the hand of one of his pictures; he turned to the Keeper, who was near him, and said, "Fuseli, Michael Angelo never painted such a hand." "No, by Pluto," retorted the other, "but you have, many!"

He had an inherent dislike to Opie; and some one, to please Fuseli, said, in allusion to the low characters in the historical pictures of the Death of James I. of Scotland, and the Murder of David Rizzio, that Opie could paint nothing but vulgarity and dirt. "If he paints nothing but dirt," said Fuseli, "he paints it like an angel."[Pg 81]

One day, a painter who had been a student during the keepership of Wilton, called and said, "The students, sir, don't draw so well now as they did under Joe Wilton." "Very true," replied Fuseli, "anybody may draw here, let them draw ever so bad—you may draw here, if you please!"

During the exhibition of his Milton Gallery, a visitor accosted him, mistaking him for the keeper—"Those paintings, sir, are from Paradise Lost I hear, and Paradise Lost was written by Milton. I have never read the poem, but I shall do it now." "I would not advise you, sir," said the sarcastic artist, "you will find it an exceedingly tough job!"

A person who desired to speak with the Keeper of the Academy, followed so close upon the porter whose business it was to introduce him, that he announced himself with, "I hope I don't intrude." "You do intrude," said Fuseli, in a surly tone. "Do I?" said the visitor; "then, sir, I will come to-morrow, if you please." "No, sir," replied he, "don't come to-morrow, for then you will intrude a second time: tell me your business now!"

A man of some station in society, and who considered himself a powerful patron in art, said at a public dinner, where he was charmed with Fuseli's conversation, "If you ever come my way, Fuseli, I shall be happy to see you." The painter instantly caught the patronizing, self-important spirit of the invitation. "I thank you," retorted he, "but I never go your way—I never even go down your street, although I often pass by the end of it!"[Pg 82]


Looking upon a serpent with its tail in its mouth, carved upon an exhibited monument as an emblem of Eternity, and a very commonplace one, he said to the sculptor, "It won't do, I tell you; you must have something new." The something new startled a man whose imagination was none of the brightest, and he said, "How shall I find something new?" "O, nothing so easy," said Fuseli, "I'll help you to it. When I went away to Rome I left two fat men cutting fat bacon in St. Martin's Lane; in ten years' time I returned, and found the two fat men cutting fat bacon still; twenty years more have passed, and there the two fat fellows cut the fat flitches the same as ever. Carve them! if they look not like an image of eternity, I wot not what does."


During the exhibition of his Milton pictures, he called at the banking house of Mr. Coutts, saying he was going out of town for a few days, and wished to have some money in his pocket. "How much?" said one of the firm. "How much!" said Fuseli, "why, as much as twenty pounds; and as it is a large sum, and I don't wish to take your establishment by surprise, I have called to give you a day's notice of it!" "I thank you, sir," said the[Pg 83] cashier, imitating Fuseli's own tone of irony, "we shall be ready for you—but as the town is thin and money scarce with us, you will oblige me greatly by giving us a few orders to see your Milton Gallery—it will keep cash in our drawers, and hinder your exhibition from being empty." Fuseli shook him heartily by the hand, and cried, "Blastation! you shall have the tickets with all my heart; I have had the opinion of the virtuosi, the dilettanti, the cognoscenti, and the nobles and gentry on my pictures, and I want now the opinion of the blackguards. I shall send you and your friends a score of tickets, and thank you too for taking them."


During the delivery of one of his lectures, in which he calls landscape painters the topographers of art, Beechey admonished Turner with his elbow of the severity of the sarcasm; presently, when Fuseli described the patrons of portrait painting as men who would give a few guineas to have their own senseless heads painted, and then assume the air and use the language of patrons, Turner administered a similar hint to Beechey. When the lecture was over, Beechey walked up to Fuseli, and said, "How sharply you have been cutting up us poor laborers in portraiture!" "Not you, Sir William," exclaimed the professor, "I only spoke of the blasted fools who employ you!"[Pg 84]


His life was not without disappointment, but for upwards of eighty years he was free from sickness. Up to this period, and even beyond it, his spirits seemed inexhaustible; he had enjoyed the world, and obtained no little distinction; nor was he insensible to the advantages which he had enjoyed. "I have been a happy man," he said, "for I have always been well, and always employed in doing what I liked"—a boast which few men of genius can make. When work with the pencil failed, he lifted the pen; and as he was ready and talented with both, he was never obliged to fill up time with jobs that he disliked.


He was an early riser, and generally sat down to breakfast with a book on entomology in his hand. He ate and read, and read and ate—regarding no one, and speaking to no one. He was delicate and abstemious, and on gross feeders he often exercised the severity of his wit. Two meals a day were all he ventured on—he always avoided supper—the story of his having supped on raw pork-chops that he might dream his picture of the Nightmare, has no foundation. Indeed, the dreams he delighted to relate were of the noblest kind, and consisted of galleries of the fairest pictures and statues, in which[Pg 85] were walking the poets and painters of old. Having finished breakfast and noted down some remarks on entomology, he went into his studio—painted till dinner time—dined hastily, if at home, and then resumed his labors, or else forgot himself over Homer, or Dante, or Shakspeare, or Milton, till midnight.


He was subject to fits of despondency, and during the continuance of such moods he sat with his beloved book on entomology upon his knee—touched now and then the breakfast cup with his lips, and seemed resolutely bent on being unhappy. In periods such as these it was difficult to rouse him, and even dangerous. Mrs. Fuseli on such occasions ventured to become his monitress. "I know him well," she said one morning to a friend who found him in one of his dark moods, "he will not come to himself till he is put into a passion—the storm then clears off, and the man looks out serene." "Oh no," said her visitor, "let him alone for a while—he will soon think rightly." He was spared till next morning—he came to the breakfast table in the same mood of mind. "Now I must try what I can do," said his wife to the same friend whom she had consulted the day before; she now began to reason with her husband, and soothe and persuade him; he answered only by a forbidding look and a shrug[Pg 86] of the shoulder. She then boldly snatched away his book, and dauntlessly abode the storm. The storm was not long in coming—his own fiend rises up not more furiously from the side of Eve than did the painter. He glared on his friend and on his wife—uttered a deep imprecation—rushed up stairs and strode about his room in great agitation. In a little while his steps grew more regular—he soon opened the door, and descended to his labors all smiles and good humor.

Fuseli's method of curing his wife's anger was not less original and characteristic. She was a spirited woman, and one day, when she had wrought herself into a towering passion, her sarcastic husband said, "Sophia, my love, why don't you swear? You don't know how much it would ease your mind."


Fuseli was of low stature—his frame slim, his forehead high, and his eyes piercing and brilliant. His look was proud, wrapt up in sarcastic—his movements were quick, and by an eager activity of manner he seemed desirous of occupying as much space as belonged to men of greater stature. His voice was loud and commanding—nor had he learned much of the art of winning his way by gentleness and persuasion—he was more anxious as to say pointed and stinging things, than solicitous about their[Pg 87] accuracy; and he had much pleasure in mortifying his brethren of the easel with his wit, and over whelming them with his knowledge. He was too often morose and unamiable—habitually despising those who were not his friends, and not unapt to dislike even his best friends, if they retorted his wit, or defended themselves successfully against his satire. In dispute he was eager, fierce, unsparing, and often precipitated himself into angry discussions with the Council, which, however, always ended in peace and good humor—for he was as placable as passionate. On one occasion he flew into his own room in a storm of passion, and having cooled and come to himself, was desirous to return; the door was locked and the key gone; his fury overflowed all bounds. "Sam!" he shouted to the porter, "Sam Strowager, they have locked me in like a blasted wild beast—bring crowbars and break open the door." The porter—a sagacious old man, who knew the trim of the Keeper—whispered through the keyhole, "Feel in your pocket, sir, for the key!" He did so, and unlocking the door with a loud laugh exclaimed, "What a fool!—never mind—I'll to the Council, and soon show them they are greater asses than myself."


Fuseli was so near-sighted that he was obliged to retire from his easel to a distance and examine his labors by means of an opera-glass, then return and[Pg 88] retouch, and retire again to look. His weakness of sight was well known, and one of the students, in revenge for some satirical strictures, placed a bench in his way, over which he nearly fell. "Bless my soul," said the Keeper, "I must put spectacles on my shins!"


Notwithstanding his sarcastic temper, and various peculiarities, Fuseli was generally liked, and by none more than by the students who were so often made the objects of his satire. They were sensible that he was assiduous in instruction, that he was very learned and very skilful, and that he allowed no one else to take liberties with their conduct or their pursuits. He had a wonderful tact in singling out the most intellectual of the pupils; he was the first to notice Lawrence, and at the very outset of Wilkie, he predicted his future eminence.


The following critique from the pen of Allan Cunningham, gives a good idea of Fuseli's abilities as an artist. "His main wish was to startle and astonish. It was his ambition to be called Fuseli the daring and the imaginative, the illustrator of Milton and Shakspeare, the rival of Michael Angelo. His merits are of no common order. He was no timid or creeping adventurer in the region of art, but a man peculiarly bold and daring—who rejoiced only[Pg 89] in the vast, the wild, and the wonderful, and loved to measure himself with any subject, whether in the heaven above, the earth beneath, or the waters under the earth. The domestic and humble realities of life he considered unworthy of his pencil, and employed it only on those high or terrible themes where imagination may put forth all her strength, and fancy scatter all her colors. He associated only with the demi-gods of verse, and roamed through Homer, and Dante, and Shakspeare, and Milton, in search of subjects worthy of his hand; he loved to grapple with whatever he thought too weighty for others; and assembling round him the dim shapes which imagination readily called forth, he sat brooding over the chaos, and tried to bring the whole into order and beauty. His coloring is like his design; original; it has a kind of supernatural hue, which harmonizes with many of his subjects—the spirits of the other world and the hags of hell are steeped in a kind of kindred color, which becomes their natural characters. His notion of color suited the wildest of his subjects; and the hue of Satan and the lustre of Hamlet's Ghost are part of the imagination of those supernatural shapes."


The magnificent plan of the "Milton Gallery" originated with Fuseli, was countenanced by Johnson the bookseller, and supported by the genius of[Pg 90] Cowper, who undertook to prepare an edition of Milton, with translations of his Latin and Italian poems. The pictures were to have been engraved, and introduced as embellishments to the work.—The Gallery was commenced in 1791, and completed in 1800, containing forty-seven pictures. "Out of the seventy exhibited paintings," says Cunningham, on which he reposed his hopes of fame, not one can be called commonplace—they are all poetical in their nature, and as poetically treated. "Some twenty of these alarm, startle, and displease; twenty more may come within the limits of common comprehension; the third twenty are such as few men could produce, and deserve a place in the noblest collections; while the remaining ten are equal in conception to anything that genius has hitherto produced, and second only in their execution to the true and recognised masterpieces of art. It cannot be denied, however, that a certain air of extravagance and a desire to stretch and strain, are visible in most of his works. A common mind, having no sympathy with his soaring, perceives his defects at once, and ranks him with the wild and unsober—a poetic mind will not allow the want of serenity and composure to extinguish the splendor of the conception; but whilst it notes the blemish, will feel the grandeur of the work. The approbation of high minds fixes the degree of fame to which genius of all degrees is entitled, and the name of Fuseli is safe."[Pg 91]


This celebrated painter was born at Renella, a small village near Naples, in 1615. There is so much fiction mingled with his early history, that it is impossible to arrive at the truth. It is certain, however, that he commenced the study of painting under his brother-in-law, Francesco Fracanzani, that he passed his early days in poverty, that he was compelled to support himself by his pencil, and that he exposed his juvenile performances for sale in the public markets, and often sold them to the dealers for the most paltry prices.


To the honor of Cav. Lanfranco, it is related that while riding in his carriage one day along the streets of Naples, he observed one of Salvator's pictures exposed for sale in a shop window, and surprised at the uncommon genius which it displayed, he purchased the picture, and inquired the name of the young artist. The picture dealer, who had probably found Salvator's necessities quite profitable to himself, refused to communicate the desired information, whereupon Lanfranco directed his scholars to watch for his pictures, and seek him out. When he had found him, he generously relieved his wants, and encouraged him in the pursuit of his studies. After receiving some instructions from Aniello Falcone, an eminent painter of battle-pieces, he was admitted, through the influence of Lanfranco, into the[Pg 92] academy of Giuseppe Ribera, called Il Spagnoletto, and remained there until the age of twenty, when he accompanied that master to Rome.


The Cardinal Brancacci, having become acquainted with the merits of Salvator Rosa at Naples, took him under his protection, and conducted him to his bishopric of Viterbo, where he painted several historical works, and an altar-piece for the cathedral, representing the Incredulity of St. Thomas. On his return to Rome, the prince Gio. Carlo de' Medici employed him to execute several important works, and afterwards invited him to Florence. During a residence of nine years in that city, he greatly distinguished himself as a painter, and also as a satirical and dramatic poet; his Satires, composed in Florence, have passed through several editions. His wit, lively disposition, and unusual conversational powers, drew around him many choice spirits, and his house was the great centre of attraction for the connoisseurs and literati of Florence. He fitted up a private theatre, and was accustomed to perform the principal parts in his comedies, in which he displayed extraordinary talents. He painted many of his choicest pictures for the Grand Duke, who nobly rewarded him; also for the noble family of the Maffei, for their palace at Volterra.[Pg 93]


After Salvator Rosa's return to Rome from Florence, he demanded exorbitant prices for his works, and though his greatest talent lay in landscape painting, he affected to despise that branch, being ambitious of shining as an historical painter. He painted some altar-pieces and other subjects for the churches, the chief of which are four pictures in S. Maria di Monte Santo, representing Daniel in the Lions' Den, Tobit and the Angel, the Resurrection of Christ, and the Raising of Lazarus; the Martyrdom of St. Cosimo and St. Damiano, in the church of S. Giovanni.

The brightest era of landscape painting is said with truth to have been in the time of Pope Urban VIII., when flourished Claude Lorraine, Gaspar Poussin, and Salvator Rosa. Of these, Salvator was the most distinguished, though certainly not the best; each was the head of a perfectly original school, which had many followers, and each observed nature on the side in which he felt impelled to imitate her. The first admired and represented nature in her sweetest appearance; the second, in her most gorgeous array; and the third in her most convulsed and terrific aspects.


Salvator Rosa painted history, landscape, battle-pieces, and sea-ports; and of these he was most[Pg 94] eminent in landscape. The scholar of Spagnoletto, he attached himself to the strong natural style and dark coloring of that master, which well accords with his subjects. In his landscapes, instead of selecting the cultured amenity which captivates in the views of Claude or Poussin, he made choice of the lonely haunts of wolves and robbers; instead of the delightful vistas of Tivoli and the Campagna, he adopted the savage scenery of the Alps, rocky precipices, caves with wild thickets and desert plains; his trees are shattered, or torn up by the roots, and in the atmosphere itself he seldom introduced a cheerful hue, except occasionally a solitary sunbeam. These gloomy regions are peopled with congenial inhabitants, ferocious banditti, assassins, and outlaws. In his marines, he followed the same taste; they represent the desolate and shelvy shores of Calabria, whose dreary aspect is sometimes heightened by terrific tempests, with all the horrors of shipwreck. His battles and attacks of cavalry also partake of the same principle of wild beauty; the fury of the combatants, and the fiery animation of the horses are depicted with a truth and effect that strikes the mind with horror. Notwithstanding the singularity and fierceness of his style, he captivates by the unbounded wildness of his fancy, and the picturesque solemnity of his scenes.

Salvator Rosa wrought with wonderful facility, and could paint a well finished landscape and insert all the figures in one day; it is impossible to inspect[Pg 95] one of his bold, rapid sketches, without being struck with the fertility of his invention, and the skill of hand that rivalled in execution the activity of his mind. He was also an excellent portrait painter. A portrait of himself is in the church degli Angeli, where his remains were interred, and he introduced his own portrait into several of his pictures, one of which is in the Chigi gallery, representing a wild scene with a poet in a sitting attitude, (with the features of Salvator); before him stands a satyr, allusive to his satiric style of poetry. During his life-time, his works were much sought after by princes and nobles, and they are now to be found in the choicest collections of Italy and of Europe. There is a landscape in the English National Gallery which cost 1800 guineas; a picture in the collection of Sir Mark Sykes brought the enormous sum of 2100 guineas.


It happened one day that Salvator Rosa, in his youth, on his way to mass, brought with him by mistake, his bundle of burned sticks, with which he used to draw, instead of his mother's brazen clasped missal; and in passing along the magnificent cloisters of the great church of the Certosa at Naples, sacred alike to religion and the arts, he applied them between the interstices of its Doric columns to the only unoccupied space on the pictured walls. History has not detailed what was the subject which oc[Pg 96]cupied his attention on this occasion, but he was working away with all the ardor which his enthusiastic genius inspired, when unfortunately the Prior, issuing with his train from the choir, caught the hapless painter in the very act of scrawling on those sacred walls which required all the influence of the greatest masters to get leave to ornament. The sacrilegious temerity of the boy artist, called for instant and exemplary punishment. Unluckily too, for the little offender, this happened in Lent, the season in which the rules of the rigid Chartreuse oblige the prior and procurator to flagellate all the frati, or lay brothers of the convent. They were, therefore, armed for their wonted pious discipline, when the miserable Salvatoriello fell in their way; whether he was honored by the consecrated hand of the prior, or writhed under the scourge of the procurator, does not appear; but that he was chastised with great severity more than proportioned to his crime, is attested by one of the most scrupulous of his biographers, Pascoli, who, though he dwells lightly on the fact, as he does on others of more importance, confesses that he suffered severely from the monks' flagellation.


A Roman prince, more notorious for his pretensions to virtu than for his liberality to artists, sauntering one day in Salvator's gallery, in the Via Babbuina, paused before one of his landscapes, and af[Pg 97]ter a long contemplation of its merits, exclaimed, "Salvator mio! I am strongly tempted to purchase this picture: tell me at once the lowest price."—"Two hundred scudi," replied Salvator, carelessly. "Two hundred scudi! Ohime! that is a price! but we'll talk of that another time." The illustrissimo took his leave; but bent upon having the picture, he shortly returned, and again inquired the lowest price. "Three hundred scudi!" was the sullen reply. "Carpo di bacco!" cried the astonished prince; "mi burla, vostra signoria; you are joking! I see I must e'en wait upon your better humor; and so addio, Signor Rosa."

The next day brought back the prince to the painter's gallery; who, on entering, saluted Salvator with a jocose air, and added, "Well, Signor Amico, how goes the market to-day? Have prices risen or fallen?"

"Four hundred scudi is the price to-day!" replied Salvator, with affected calmness; when suddenly giving way to his natural impetuosity, and no longer stifling his indignation, he burst forth: "The fact is, your excellency shall not now obtain this picture from me at any price; and yet so little do I value its merits, that I deem it worthy no better fate than this;" and snatching the panel on which it was painted from the wall, he flung it to the ground, and with his foot broke it into a hundred pieces. His excellency made an uncere[Pg 98]monious retreat, and returned no more to the enraged painter's studio.


While a Roman nobleman was one day endeavoring to drive a hard bargain with Salvator Rosa, he coolly interrupted him, saying that, till the picture was finished, he himself did not know its value; "I never bargain, sir, with my pencil; for it knows not the value of its own labor before the work is finished. When the picture is done, I will let you know what it costs, and you may then take it or not as you please."


There is an etching by Salvator Rosa, which seems so plainly to tell the story of the wandering artist's captivity, that it merits a particular description. In the midst of wild, rocky scenery, appears a group of banditti, armed at all points, and with all sorts of arms; they are lying in careless attitudes, but with fierce countenances, around a youthful prisoner, who forms the foreground figure, and is seated on a rock, with his languid limbs hanging over the precipice, which may be supposed to yawn beneath. It is impossible to describe the despair depicted in this figure: it is marked in his position, in the drooping of his head, which his nerveless arms seem with difficulty to support, and the little that may be seen of his face, over which, from his recum[Pg 99]bent attitude, his hair falls in luxuriant profusion. All is alike destitute of energy and of hope, which the beings grouped around the captive seem to have banished forever by some sentence recently pronounced; yet there is one who watches over the fate of the young victim: a woman stands immediately behind him, with her hand stretched out, while her fore finger, resting on his head, marks him as the subject of discourse which she addresses to the listening bandits. Her figure, which is erect is composed of those bold, straight lines, which in art and nature, constitute the grand. Even the fantastic cap or turban, from which her long dishevelled hair has escaped, has no curve of grace; and her drapery partakes of the same rigid forms. Her countenance is full of stern melancholy—the natural character of one whose feelings and habits are at variance; whose strong passions may have flung her out of the pale of society, but whose womanly sympathies still remain unchanged. She is artfully pleading for the life of the youth, by contemptuously noting his insignificance; but she commands while she soothes. She is evidently the mistress or the wife of the chief, in whoso absence an act of vulgar violence may be meditated. The youth's life is saved: for that cause rarely fails, to which a woman brings the omnipotence of her feelings.[Pg 100]


It was during the residence of Salvator Rosa in Naples, that the memorable popular tumult under Massaniello took place; and our painter was persuaded by his former master, Aniello Falcone, to become one of an adventurous set of young men, principally painters, who had formed themselves into a band for the purpose of taking revenge on the Spaniards, and were called "La Compagna della Morte." The tragical fate of Massaniello, however, soon dispersed these heroes; and Rosa, fearing he might be compelled to take a similar part in that fatal scene, sought safety by flight, and took refuge in Rome.


Salvator Rosa is said never to have suffered the rank or office of his auditors to interfere with the freedom of his expressions in his poetic recitations. Cardinal Sforza Pullavicini, one of the most generous patrons of the fine arts, and a rigid critic of his day, was curious to hear the improvisatore of the Via Babbuina, and sent an invitation requesting Salvator's company at his palace. Salvator frankly declared that two conditions were annexed to his accepting the honor of his Eminence's acquaintance; first, that the Cardinal should come to his house, as he never recited in any other; and second, that he should not object to any passage, the omission of which would detract from the original character of[Pg 101] his work, or compromise his own sincerity. The Cardinal accepted the conditions. The next day all the literary coxcombs of Rome crowded to the levee of the hypercritical prelate to learn his opinion of the poet, whose style was without precedent. The Cardinal declared, with a justice which posterity has sanctioned, that "Salvator's poetry was full of splendid passages, but that, as a whole, it was unequal."


In Salvator Rosa's celebrated picture of La Fortuna, the nose of one powerful ecclesiastic, and the eye of another were detected in the brutish physiognomy of the swine treading upon pearls, and in an ass, scattering with his hoofs the laurel and myrtle which lay in his path; and in an old goat, reposing on roses, some there were, who even fancied they discovered the Infallible Lover of Donna Olympia, the Sultana, queen of the Quirinal!

The cry of atheism and sedition—of contempt of established authorities—was thus raised under the influence of private pique and long-cherished envy: it soon found an echo in the painted walls where the conclave sat "in close divan," and it was handed about from mouth to mouth, till it reached the ears of the Inquisitor, within the dark recesses of his house of terror. A cloud was now gathering over the head of the devoted Salvator which it seemed[Pg 102] no human power could avert. But ere the bolt fell, his fast and tried friend Don Maria Ghigi threw himself between his protégé and the horrible fate which awaited him, by forcing the sullen satirist to draw up an apology, or rather an explanation of his offensive picture.

This explanation, bearing title of a "Manifesto," he obtained permission to present to those powerful and indignant persons in whose hands the fate of Salvator now lay; Rosa explained away all that was supposed to be personal in his picture, and proved that his hogs were not churchmen, his mules pretending pedants, his asses Roman nobles, and his birds and beasts of prey the reigning despots of Italy. His imprudence however, subsequently raised such a storm that he was obliged to quit Rome, when he fled to Florence.


Salvator Rosa secretly deplored his banishment from Rome; and his impatience at being separated from Carlo Rossi and some other of his friends, was so great that he narrowly escaped losing his liberty to obtain an interview with them. About three years after his arrival in Florence, he took post-horses, and at midnight set off for Rome. Having reached the gardens of the "Vigna Navicella," and bribed the custode to lend them for a few hours, and otherwise to assist him, he dispatched a circular billet to eighteen of his friends, suppli[Pg 103]cating them to give him a rendezvous at the Navicella. Each believed that Salvator had fallen into some new difficulty, which had obliged him to fly from Florence, and all attended his summons. He received them at the head of a well furnished table, embraced them with tenderness, feasted them sumptuously, and then mounting his horse, returned to Florence before his Roman persecutors or Tuscan friends were aware of his adventure.


Salvator Rosa exhibited a clever picture, the work of an amateur by profession a surgeon, which had been rejected by the academicians of St. Luke. The artists came in crowds to see it; and by those who were ignorant of the painter, it was highly praised. On being asked who had painted it by some one, Salvator replied, "It was performed by a person whom the great academicians of St. Luke thought fit to scorn, because his ordinary profession was that of a surgeon. But (continued he), I think they have not acted wisely; for if they had admitted him into their academy, they would have had the advantage of his services in setting the broken and distorted limbs that so frequently occur in their exhibitions."


The departure of Salvator Rosa from Rome was an escape: his arrival in Florence was a triumph. The Grand Duke and the princes of his house re[Pg 104]ceived him, not as an hireling, but as one whose genius placed him beyond the possibility of dependence. An annual income was assigned to him during his residence in Florence, in the service of the court, besides a stipulated price for each of his pictures: and he was left perfectly unconstrained and at liberty to paint for whom he pleased.


In 1647, Salvator Rosa received an invitation to repair to the court of Tuscany, of which he availed himself the more willingly, as by the machinations of his enemies, he was in great danger of being thrown into prison. At Florence he met with the most flattering reception, not only at the court and among the nobility, but among the literary men and eminent painters with which that city abounded. His residence soon became the rendezvous of all who were distinguished for their talents, and who afterwards formed themselves into an academy, to which they gave the title of "I. Percossi." Salvator, during the carnivals, frequently displayed his abilities as a comic actor, and with such success, that when he and a friend of his (a Bolognese merchant, who, though sixty years old, regularly left his business three months in the year, for the sole pleasure of performing with Rosa) played the parts of Dottore Graziano and Pascariello, the laughter and applause of their audience were so excessive as often to interrupt their performance for a length of time.[Pg 105]


The character, in fact the manners and the talents of Salvator Rosa came out in strong relief, as opposed to the servile deportment and mere professional acquirements of the herd of artists of all nations then under the protection of the Medici. He was received at the Palazzo Pitti not only as a distinguished artist, but as a guest; and the Medici, at whose board Pulci (in the time of their Magnifico) had sung his Morgante Maggiore with the fervor of a rhapsodist, now received at their table another improvisatore, with equal courtesy and graciousness. The Tuscan nobility, in imitation of the court, and in the desire to possess Salvator's pictures, treated him with singular honor.


The boldness and rapidity of Salvator Rosa's pencil, aided by the fertility of his highly poetical imagination, enabled him to paint an immense number of pictures while he was at Florence; but not finding sufficient leisure to follow his other pursuits, he retired to Volterra, after having resided at Florence nine years, respected and beloved by all who knew him. The three succeeding years were passed in the family of the Maffei, alternately at Volterra and their villa at Monte Ruffoli, in which time[Pg 106] he completed his Satires, except the Sixth, "L'Invidia;" which was written after the publication of the others. He also painted several portraits for the Maffei, and among others one of himself, which was afterwards presented to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and placed in the Royal Gallery at Florence.


Salvator Rosa's confidence in his own powers was as frankly confessed as it was justified by success. Happening one day to be found by a friend in Florence, in the act of modulating on a very indifferent old harpsichord, he was asked how he could keep such an instrument in his house. "Why," said his friend, "it is not worth a scudo." "I will wager what you please," said Salvator, "that it shall be worth a thousand before you see it again." A bet was made, and Rosa immediately painted a landscape with figures on the lid, which was not only sold for a thousand scudi, but was esteemed a capital performance. On one end of the harpsichord he also painted a skull and music-books. Both these pictures were exhibited in the year 1823 at the British Institution.


While Salvator Rosa was on a visit to Florence, and refused all applications for his pictures he was accidentally taken in to paint what he so rarely condescended to do a portrait.[Pg 107]

There lived in Florence a good old dame of the name of Anna Gaetano, of some celebrity for keeping a notable inn, over the door of which was inscribed in large letters, "Al buon vino non bisogna fruscia" (good wine needs no bush). But it was not the good wines alone of Madonna Anna that drew to her house some of the most distinguished men of Florence, and made it particularly the resort of the Cavaliere Oltramontani—her humor was as racy as her wine; and many of the men of wit and pleasure about town were in the habit of lounging in the Sala Commune of Dame Gaetano, merely for the pleasure of drawing her out. Among these were Lorenzo Lippi and Salvator Rosa; and, although this Tuscan Dame Quickly was in her seventieth year, hideously ugly, and grotesquely dressed, yet she was so far from esteeming her age an "antidote to the tender passion," that she distinguished Salvator Rosa by a preference, which deemed itself not altogether hopeless of return. Emboldened by his familiarity and condescension, she had the vanity to solicit him to paint her portrait, "that she might," she said, "reach posterity by the hand of the greatest master of the age."

Salvator at first received her proposition as a joke; but perpetually teased by her reiterated importunities, and provoked by her pertinacity, he at last exclaimed, "Well, Madonna, I have resolved to comply with your desire; but with this agreement, that, not to distract my mind during my[Pg 108] work, I desire you will not move from your seat until I have finished the picture." Madonna, willing to submit to any penalty in order to obtain an honor which was to immortalize her charms, joyfully agreed to the proposition; and Salvator, sending for an easel and painting materials, drew her as she sat before him, to the life. The portrait was dashed off with the usual rapidity and spirit of the master, and was a chef d'œuvre. But when at last the vain and impatient hostess was permitted to look upon it, she perceived that to a strong and inveterate likeness the painter had added a long beard; and that she figured on the canvas as an ancient male pilgrim—a character admirably suited to her furrowed face, weather-beaten complexion, strong lineaments, and grey hairs. Her mortified vanity vented itself in the most violent abuse of the ungallant painter, in rich Tuscan Billingsgate. Salvator, probably less annoyed by her animosity than disgusted by her preference, called upon some of her guests to judge between them. The artists saw only the merits of the picture, the laughers looked only to the joke. The value affixed to the exquisite portrait soon reconciled the vanity of the original through her interest. After the death of Madonna Anna, her portrait was sold by her heirs at an enormous price, and is said to be still in existence.—Lady Morgan.[Pg 109]


At the time of Salvator Rosa's return to Rome says Pascoli, he figured away as the great painter, opening his house to all his friends, who came from all parts to visit him, and among others, Antonio Abbati, who had resided for many years in Germany. This old acquaintance of the poor Salvatoriello of the Chiesa della Morte at Viterbo, was not a little amazed to find his patient and humble auditor of former times one of the most distinguished geniuses and hospitable Amphitryons of the day. Pascoli gives a curious picture of the prevailing pedantry of the times, by describing a discourse of Antonio Abbati's at Salvator's dinner-table, on the superior merits of the ancient painters over the moderns, in which he "bestowed all the tediousness" of his erudition on the company. Salvator answered him in his own style, and having overturned all his arguments in favor of antiquity with more learning than they had been supported, ended with an impromptu epigram, in his usual way, which brought the laugher's on his side.


Salvator Rosa was fond of splendor and ostentatious display. He courted admiration from whatever source it could be obtained, and even sought it by means to which the frivolous and the vain are[Pg 110] supposed alone to resort. He is described, therefore, as returning to Rome, from which he had made so perilous and furtive an escape, in a showy and pompous equipage, with "servants in rich liveries, armed with silver hafted swords, and otherwise well accoutred." The beautiful Lucrezia, as "sua Governante," accompanied him, and the little Rosalvo gave no scandal in a society where the instructions of religion substitute license for legitimate indulgence. Immediately on his arrival in Rome, Salvator fixed upon one of the loveliest of her hills for his residence, and purchased a handsome house upon the Monte Pincio, on the Piazza della Trinità del Monte—"which," says Pascoli, "he furnished with noble and rich furniture, establishing himself on the great scale, and in a lordly manner." A site more favorable than the Pincio, for a man of Salvator's taste and genius, could scarcely be imagined, commanding at once within the scope of its vast prospect, picturesque views, and splendid monuments of the most important events in the history of man—the Capitol and the Campus Martius, the groves of the Quirinal and the cupola of St. Peter's, the ruined palaces of the Cæsars, and sumptuous villas of the sons of the reigning church. Such was then, as now, the range of unrivalled objects which the Pincio commanded; but the noble terrace smoothed over its acclivities, which recalled the memory of Aurelian and the feast of Belisarius, presented at that period a far different aspect from[Pg 111] that which it now offers. Everything in this enchanting sight was then fresh and splendid; the halls of the Villa Medici, which at present only echo to the steps of a few French students or English travelers, were then the bustling and splendid residence of the old intriguing Cardinal Carlo de Medici, called the Cardinal of Tuscany, whose followers and faction were perpetually going to and fro, mingling their showy uniforms and liveries with the sober vestments of the neighboring monks of the convent della Trinità! The delicious groves and gardens of the Villa de Medici then covered more than two English miles, and amidst cypress shades and shrubberies, watered by clear springs, and reflected in translucent fountains, stood exposed to public gaze all that now form the most precious treasures of the Florentine Gallery—the Niobe, the Wrestlers, the Apollo, the Vase, and above all, the Venus of Venuses, which has derived its distinguishing appellation from these gardens, of which it was long the boast and ornament.


The last performances of Salvator's pencil were a collection of portraits of obnoxious persons in Rome—in other words, a series of caricatures, by which he would have an opportunity of giving vent to his satirical genius; but whilst he was engaged on his own portrait, intending it as the concluding[Pg 112] one of the series he was attacked with a dropsy, which in the course of a few months brought him to the grave.


Salvator Rosa's greatest talent lay in landscape painting, a branch which he affected to despise, as he was ambitious of being called an historical painter. Hence he called his wild scenes, with small figures merely accessory, historical paintings, and was offended if others called them landscapes. Pascoli relates that Prince Francisco Ximenes, soon after his arrival at Rome, in the midst of the honors paid him, found time to visit the studio of Salvator Rosa, who showed him into his gallery. The Prince frankly said, "I have come, Signor Rosa, for the purpose of seeing and purchasing some of those beautiful landscapes, whose subjects and manner have delighted me in many foreign collections."—"Be it known then, to your excellency," interrupted Salvator impetuously, "that I know nothing of landscape painting. Something indeed I do know of painting figures and historical subjects, which I strive to exhibit to such eminent judges as yourself, in order that, once for all, I may banish from the public mind that fantastic humor of supposing I am a landscape and not an historical painter." At another time, a very rich (ricchissimo) Cardinal called on Salvator to purchase some of his pictures[Pg 113] As he walked up and down the gallery, he paused before the landscapes, but only glanced at the historical subjects, while Salvator muttered from time to time, "sempre, sempre, paesi piccoli," (always, always, some little landscape.) When, at length, the Cardinal carelessly glanced his eye over one of Salvator's great historical pictures, and asked the price, as a sort of introduction, the painter bellowed out, un milione; his Eminence, justly offended, made an unceremonious retreat without making his intended purchases, and returned no more.


(From Lady Morgan's Life of Salvator Rosa.)

The princes of the family of Ghigi had been among the first of the aristocratic virtuosi of Rome to acknowledge the merits of Salvator Rosa, as their ancestors had been to appreciate the genius of Raffaelle. Between the Prince Don Mario Ghigi, (whose brother Fabio was raised to the pontifical throne by the name of Alexander VII.) and Salvator, there seems to have existed a personal intimacy; and the prince's fondness for the painter's conversation was such, that during a long illness he induced Salvator to bring his easel to his bedside, and to work in his chamber at a small picture he was then painting for the prince. It happened, that while Rosa was sketching and chatting by the prince's couch, one of the most fashionable physi[Pg 114]cians in Rome entered the apartment. He appears to have been one of those professional coxcombs, whose pretensions, founded on unmerited vogue, throws ridicule on the gravest calling.

After some trite remarks upon the art, the doctor, either to flatter Salvator, or in imitation of the physician of the Cardinal Colonna, who asked for one of Raffaelle's finest pictures as a fee for saving the Cardinal's life, requested Don Mario to give him a picture by Salvator as a remuneration for his attendance. The prince willingly agreed to the proposal; and the doctor, debating on the subject he should choose, turned to Salvator and begged that he would not lay pencil to canvas, until he, the Signor Dottore, should find leisure to dictate to him il pensiero e concetto della sua pittura, the idea and conceit of his picture! Salvator bowed a modest acquiescence, and went on with his sketch. The doctor having gone the round of professional questions with his wonted pomposity, rose to write his prescription; when, as he sat before the table with eyes upturned, and pen suspended over the paper, Salvator approached him on tiptoe, and drawing the pen gently through his fingers, with one of his old Coviello gesticulations in his character of the mountebank, he said, "fermati dottor mio! stop doctor, you must not lay pen to paper till I have leisure to dictate the idea and conceit of the prescription I may think proper for the malady of his Excellency."[Pg 115]

"Diavalo!" cried the amazed physician, "you dictate a prescription! why, I am the prince's physician, and not you!"

"And I, Caro," said Salvator, "am a painter, and not you. I leave it to the prince whether I could not prove myself a better physician than you a painter; and write a better prescription than you paint a picture."

The prince, much amused, decided in favor of the painter; Salvator coolly resumed his pencil, and the medical cognoscente permitted the idea of the picture to die away, sul proprio letto.


Salvator Rosa, in his last illness, demanded of the priests and others that surrounded him, what they required of him. They replied, "in the first instance to receive the sacrament as it is administered in Rome to the dying." "To receive the sacrament," says his confessor, Baldovini, "he showed no repugnance, but he vehemently and positively refused to allow the host, with all the solemn pomp of its procession, to be brought to his house, which he deemed unworthy of the divine presence." He objected to the ostentation of the ceremony, to its éclat, to the noise and bustle, smoke and heat it would create in the close sick chamber. He appears to have objected to more than it was discreet to object to in Rome: and all that his[Pg 116] family and his confessor could extort from him on the subject was, that he would permit himself to be carried from his bed to the parish church, and there, with the humility of a contrite heart, would consent to receive the sacrament at the foot of the altar.

As immediate death might have been the consequence of this act of indiscretion, his family, who were scarcely less interested for a life so precious, than for the soul which was the object of their pious apprehensions, gave up the point altogether; and on account of the vehemence with which Salvator spoke on the subject, and the agitation it had occasioned, they carefully avoided renewing a proposition which had rallied all his force of character and volition to their long abandoned post.

The rejection of a ceremony which was deemed in Rome indispensably necessary to salvation, by one who was already stamped with the church's reprobation, soon spread; report exaggerated the circumstance into a positive expression of infidelity; and the gossip of the Roman ante-rooms was supplied for the time with a subject of discussion, in perfect harmony with their love for slander, bigotry, and idleness.

"As I went forth from Salvator's door," relates the worthy Baldovini, "I met the Canonico Scornio, a man who has taken out a license to speak of all men as he pleases. 'And how goes it with Salvator?' demands this Canonico of me. 'Bad[Pg 117] enough, I fear.'—Well, a few nights back, happening to be in the anteroom of a certain great prelate, I found myself in the centre of a circle of disputants, who were busily discussing whether the aforesaid Salvator would die a Schismatic, a Huguenot, a Calvinist, or a Lutheran?—'He will die, Signor Canonico,' I replied, 'when it pleases God, a better Catholic than any of those who now speak so slightingly of him!'—and so pursued my way."

This Canonico, whose sneer at the undecided faith of Salvator roused all the bile of the tolerant and charitable Baldovini, was the near neighbor of Salvator, a frequenter of his hospitable house, and one of whom the credulous Salvator speaks in one of his letters as being "his neighbor, and an excellent gentleman."

On the following day, as the Padre sat by the pillow of the suffering Rosa, he had the simplicity, in the garrulity of his heart, to repeat all these idle reports and malicious insinuations to the invalid: "But," says Baldovini, "as I spoke, Rosa only shrugged his shoulders."

Early on the morning of the fifteenth of March, that month so delightful in Rome, the anxious and affectionate confessor, who seems to have been always at his post, ascended the Monte della Trinità, for the purpose of taking up his usual station by the bed's head of the fast declining Salvator. The young Agosto flew to meet him at the door, and with a countenance radiant with joy, informed him[Pg 118] of the good news, that "his dear father had given evident symptoms of recovery, in consequence of the bursting of an inward ulcer."

Baldovini followed the sanguine boy to Iris father's chamber; but, to all appearance Salvator was suffering great agony. "How goes it with thee, Rosa?" asked Baldovini kindly, as he approached him.

"Bad, bad!" was the emphatic reply. While writhing with pain, the sufferer added after a moment:—"To judge by what I now endure, the hand of death grasps me sharply."

In the restlessness of pain he then threw himself on the edge of the bed, and placed his head on the bosom of Lucrezia, who sat supporting and weeping over him. His afflicted son and friend took their station at the other side of the couch, and stood in mournful silence watching the issue of these sudden and frightful spasms. At that moment a celebrated Roman physician, the Doctor Catanni, entered the apartment. He felt the pulse of Salvator, and perceived that he was fast sinking. He communicated his approaching dissolution to those most interested in the melancholy intelligence, and it struck all present with unutterable grief. Baldovini, however, true to his sacred calling, even in the depth of his human affliction, instantly despatched the young Agosto to the neighboring Convent della Trinità, for the holy Viaticum. While life was still fluttering at the heart of Salvator, the officiating[Pg 119] priest of the day arrived, bearing with him the holy apparatus of the last mysterious ceremony of the church. The shoulders of Salvator were laid bare, and anointed with the consecrated oil; some prayed fervently, others wept, and all even still hoped; but the taper which the Doctor Catanni held to the lips of Salvator while the Viaticum was administered, burned brightly and steadily! Life's last sigh had transpired, as religion performed her last rite.

Between that luminous and soul-breathing form of genius, and the clod of the valley, there was now no difference; and the "end and object" of a man's brief existence was now accomplished in him who, while yet all young and ardent, had viewed the bitter perspective of humanity with a philosophic eye and pronounced even on the bosom of pleasure,

"Nasci pœna—Vita labor—Necesse mori."

On the evening of the fifteenth of March, 1673, all that remained of the author of Regulus, of Catiline, and the Satires—the gay Formica, the witty Coviello—of the elegant composer, and greatest painter of his time and country—of Salvator Rosa! was conveyed to the tomb, in the church of Santa Maria degli Angioli alle Terme—that magnificent temple, unrivalled even at Rome in interest and grandeur, which now stands as it stood when it formed the Pinacotheca of the Thermæ of Dioclesian. There, accompanied by much funeral pomp, the body of Salvator lay in[Pg 120] state; the head and face, according to the Italian custom, being exposed to view. All Rome poured into the vast circumference of the church, to take a last view of the painter of the Roman people—the "Nostro Signor Salvatore" of the Pantheon; and the popular feelings of regret and admiration were expressed with the usual bursts of audible emotions in which Italian sensibility on such occasions loves to indulge. Some few there were, who gathered closely and in silence round the bier of the great master of the Neapolitan school; and who, weeping the loss of the man, forgot for a moment even that genius which had already secured its own meed of immortality. These were Carlo Rossi, Francesco Baldovini, and Paolo Oliva, each of whom returned from the grave of the friend he loved, to record the high endowments and powerful talents of the painter he admired, and the poet he revered. Baldovini retired to his cell to write the Life of Salvator Rosa, and then to resign his own; Oliva to his monastery, to compose the epitaph which is still read on the tomb of his friend; and Carlo Rossi to select from his gallery such works of his beloved painter, as might best adorn the walls of that chapel, now exclusively consecrated to his memory.

On the following night, the remains of Salvator Rosa were deposited, with all the awful forms of the Roman church, in a grave opened expressly in the beautiful vestibule of Santa Maria degli An[Pg 121]gioli alle Terme. Never did the ashes of departed genius find a more appropriate resting place;—the Pinacotheca of the Thermæ of Dioclesian had once been the repository of all that the genius of antiquity had perfected in the arts; and in the vast interval of time which had since elapsed, it had suffered no change, save that impressed upon it by the mighty mind of Michael Angelo.—Lady Morgan.


This great artist is now universally esteemed the most distinguished disciple of the school of the Caracci, and the learned Count Algarotti prefers him even to the Caracci themselves. Poussin ranked him next after Raffaelle, and Passeri has expressed nearly the same opinion. He was born at Bologna in 1581, and received his first instruction from Denis Calvart, but having been treated with severity by that master, who had discovered him making a drawing after Annibale Caracci, contrary to his injunction, Domenichino prevailed upon his father to remove him from the school of Calvart, and place him in the Academy of the Caracci, where Guido and Albano were then students.


The great talents of Domenichino did not develop themselves so early as in many other great painters. He was assiduous, thoughtful and circumspect;[Pg 122] which his companions attributed to dullness, and they called him the Ox; but the intelligent Annibale Caracci, who observed his faculties with more attention, testified of his abilities by saying to his pupils, "this Ox will in time surpass you all, and be an honor to the art of painting." It was the practice in this celebrated school to offer prizes to the pupils for the best drawings, to excite them to emulation, and every pupil was obliged to hand in his drawing at certain periods. It was not long after Domenichino entered this school before one of these occasions took place, and while his fellow-students brought in their works with confidence, he timidly approached and presented his, which he would gladly have withheld. Lodovico Caracci, after having examined the whole, adjudged the prize to Domenichino. This triumph, instead of rendering him confident and presumptuous, only stimulated him to greater assiduity, and he pursued his studies with such patient and constant application, that he made such progress as to win the admiration of some of his cotemporaries, and to beget the hatred of others. He contracted a friendship with Albano, and on leaving the school of the Caracci, they visited together, Parma, Modena, and Reggio, to contemplate the works of Correggio and Parmiggiano. On their return to Bologna, Albano went to Rome, whither Domenichino soon followed him, and commenced his bright career.

The student may learn a useful lesson from the[Pg 123] untiring industry, patience, and humility of this great artist. Passeri attributes his grand achievements more to his amazing study than to his genius; and some have not hesitated to deny that he possessed any genius at all—an opinion which his works abundantly refute. Lanzi says, "From his acting as a continual censor of his own productions, he became among his fellow pupils the most exact and expressive designer, his colors most true to nature, and of the best impasto, the most universal master in the theory of his art, the sole painter amongst them all in whom Mengs found nothing to desire except a little more elegance. That he might devote his whole being to the art, he shunned all society, or if he occasionally sought it in the public theatres and markets, it was in order better to observe the play of nature's passions in the features of the people—those of joy, anger, grief, terror, and every affection of the mind, and commit it living to his tablets. Thus it was, exclaims Bellori, that he succeeded in delineating the soul, in coloring life, and raising those emotions in our breasts at which his works all aim; as if he waved the same wand which belonged to the poetical enchanters, Tasso and Ariosto."


Domenichino was employed by the Cardinal Borghese, to paint in competition with Guido, the cele[Pg 124]brated frescos in the church of S. Gregorio at Rome. Both artists painted the same subject, but the former represented the Scourging of St. Andrew, and the latter St. Andrew led away to the Gibbet. Lanzi says it is commonly reported that an aged woman, accompanied by a little boy, was seen long wistfully engaged in viewing Domenichino's picture, showing it part by part to the boy, and next, turning to that of Guido, painted directly opposite, she gave it a cursory glance and passed on. Some assert that Annibale Caracci took occasion, from this circumstance, to give his preference to the former picture. It is also related that while Domenichino was painting one of the executioners, he actually threw himself into a passion, using high threatening words and actions, and that Annibale, surprising him at that moment, embraced him, exclaiming, "To-day, my Domenichino, thou art teaching me"—so novel, and at the same time so natural did it appear to him, that the artist, like the orator, should feel within himself all that he would represent to others.


The chef-d'œuvre of Domenichino is the dying St. Jerome receiving the last rites of his church, commonly called the Communion of St. Jerome, painted for the principal altar of St. Girolamo della Carita. This work has immortalized his name, and is universally allowed to be the finest picture Rome[Pg 125] can boast after the Transfiguration of Raffaelle. It was taken to Paris by Napoleon, restored in 1815 by the Allies, and has since been copied in mosaic, to preserve so grand a work, the original having suffered greatly from the effects of time. Lanzi says, "One great attraction in the church paintings of Domenichino, consists in the glory of the angels, exquisitely beautiful in feature, full of lively action, and so introduced as to perform the most gracious offices in the piece, as the crowning of martyrs, the bearing of palms, the scattering of roses, weaving the mazy dance, and making sweet melodies."


The reputation which Domenichino had justly acquired at Rome had excited the jealousy of some of his cotemporaries, and the applause bestowed upon his Communion of St. Jerome, only served to increase it. The Cav. Lanfranco in particular, one of his most inveterate enemies, asserted that the Communion of St. Jerome was little more than a copy of the same subject by Agostino Caracci, at the Certosa at Bologna, and he employed Perrier, one of his pupils, to make an etching from the picture by Agostino. But this stratagem, instead of confirming the plagiarism, discovered the calumny, as it proved that there was no more resemblance between the two works than must necessarily result in two artists treating the same subject, and that every essential part, and all that was admired was entirely[Pg 126] his own. If it had been possible for modest merit to have repelled the shafts of slander, the work which he executed immediately afterwards in the church of S. Lodovico, representing the life of St. Cecilia, would have silenced the attacks of envy and malevolence; but they only tended to increase the alarm of his competitors, and excite them to redoubled injustice and malignity. Disgusted with these continued cabals, Domenichino quitted Rome, and returned to Bologna, where he resided several years in the quiet practice of his profession, and executed some of his most admired works, particularly the Martyrdom of St. Agnes for the church of that Saint, and the Madonna del Rosario, both of which were engraved by Gerard Audran, and taken to Paris and placed in the Louvre by order of Napoleon. The fame of Domenichino was now so well established that intrigue and malice could not suppress it, and Pope Gregory XV. invited him back to Rome, and appointed him principal painter, and architect to the pontifical palace.


"The public," says Lanzi, "is an equitable judge; but a good cause is not always sufficient without the advantage of many voices to sustain it. Domenichino, timid, retiring, and master of few pupils, was destitute of a party equal to his cause. He was constrained to yield to the crowd that trampled[Pg 127] upon him, thus verifying the prediction of Monsignore Agucchi, that his merits would never be rightly appreciated during his life-time. The spirit of party having passed away, impartial posterity has rendered him justice; nor is there a royal gallery but confesses an ambition to possess his works. His figure pieces are in the highest esteem, and command enormous prices."


No better proof of the exalted merits of Domenichino can be desired, than the fact that upwards of fifty of his works have been engraved by the most renowned engravers, as Gerard Audran, Raffaelle Morghen, Sir Robert Strange, C. F. von Muller, and other illustrious artists; many of these also have been frequently repeated.


While Domenichino was in Naples, he was visited by his biographer Passeri, then a young man, who was engaged to assist in repairing the pictures in the Cardinal's chapel. "When he arrived at Frescati," says Passeri, "Domenichino received me with much courtesy, and hearing that I took a singular delight in the belles-lettres, it increased his kindness to me. I remember that I gazed on this man as though he were an angel. I remained there to the end of September, occupied in restoring the[Pg 128] chapel of St. Sebastian, which had been ruined by the damp. Sometimes Domenichino would join us, singing delightfully to recreate himself. When night set in, we returned to our apartment; while he most frequently remained in his room, occupied in drawing, and permitting none to see him. Sometimes, however, to pass the time, he drew caricatures of us all, and of the inhabitants of the villa. When he succeeded to his perfect satisfaction, he was wont to indulge in immoderate fits of laughter; and we, who were in the adjoining room, would run in to know his reason, when he showed us his spirited sketches. He drew a caricature of me with a guitar, one of Carmini (the painter), and one of the Guarda Roba, who was lame of the gout; and of the Sub-guarda Roba, a most ridiculous figure—to prevent our being offended, he caricatured himself. These portraits are now preserved by Signor Giovanni Pietro Bellori."


The conspiracy of Bellisario Corenzio, Giuseppe Ribera, and Gio. Battista Caracciolo, called the Neapolitan Triumvirate of Painters, to monopolize to themselves all valuable commissions, and particularly the honor of decorating the chapel of St. Januarius, is one of the most curious passages in the history of art. The following is Lanzi's account of this disgraceful cabal:[Pg 129]

"The three masters whom I have just noticed in successive order, (Corenzio, Ribera, and Caracciolo) were the authors of the unceasing persecutions which many of the artists who had come to, or were invited to Naples, were for several years subjected to. Bellisario had established a supreme dominion, or rather a tyranny, over the Neapolitan painters, by calumny and insolence, as well as by his station. He monopolized all lucrative commissions to himself, and recommended, for the fulfilment of others, one or other of the numerous and inferior artists that were dependent on him. The Cav. Massimo Stanziozi, Santafede, and other artists of talent, if they did not defer to him, were careful not to offend him, as they knew him to be a man of a vindictive temper, treacherous, and capable of every violence, and who was known, through jealousy, to have administered poison to Luigi Roderigo, the most promising and the most amiable of his scholars.

"Bellisario, in order to maintain himself in his assumed authority, endeavored to exclude all strangers who painted in fresco rather than in oil. Annibale Caracci arrived there in 1609, and was engaged to ornament the churches of Spirito Santo and Gesu Nuovo, for which, as a specimen of his style, he painted a small picture. The Greek and his adherents being required to give their opinion on this exquisite production, declared it to be tasteless, and decided that the painter of it did not possess talent for large compositions. This divine artist in conse[Pg 130]quence took his departure under a burning sun, for Rome, where he soon afterwards died. But the work in which strangers were the most opposed was the chapel of S. Gennaro, which a committee had assigned to the Cav. d'Arpino, as soon as he should finish painting the choir of the Certosa. Bellisorio, leaguing with Spagnoletto (like himself a fierce and ungovernable man) and with Caracciolo, who aspired to this commission, persecuted Cesari in such a manner, that before he had finished the choir he fled to Monte Cassino, and from thence returned to Rome. The work was then given to Guido, but after a short time two unknown persons assaulted the servant of that artist, and at the same time desired him to inform his master that he must prepare himself for death, or instantly quit Naples, with which latter mandate Guido immediately complied. Gessi, the scholar of Guido, was not however intimidated by this event, but applied for, and obtained the honorable commission, and came to Naples with two assistants, Gio. Batista Ruggieri and Lorenzo Menini. But these artists were scarcely arrived, when they were treacherously invited on board a galley, which immediately weighed anchor and carried them off, to the great dismay of their master, who although he made the most diligent inquiries both at Rome and Naples, could never procure any tidings of them.

"Gessi in consequence also taking his departure, the committee lost all hope of succeeding in their[Pg 131] task, and were in the act of yielding to the reigning cabal, assigning the fresco work to Corenzio and Caracciolo, and promising the pictures to Spagnoletto, when suddenly repenting of their resolution, they effaced all that was painted of the two frescos, and intrusted the decoration of the chapel entirely to Domenichino. It ought to be mentioned to the honor of these munificent persons, that they engaged to pay for every entire figure, 100 ducats, for each half-figure 50 ducats, and for each head 25 ducats. They took precautions also against any interruption to the artist, threatening the Viceroy's high displeasure if he were in any way molested. But this was only matter of derision to the junta. They began immediately to cry him down as a cold and insipid painter, and to discredit him with those, the most numerous class in every place, who see only with the eyes of others. They harassed him by calumnies, by anonymous letters, by displacing his pictures, by mixing injurious ingredients with his colors, and by the most insidious malice they procured some of his pictures to be sent by the viceroy to the court of Madrid; and these, when little more than sketched, were taken from his studio and carried to the court, where Spagnoletto ordered them to be retouched, and, without giving him time to finish them, hurried them to their destination. This malicious fraud of his rival, the complaints of the committee, who always met with some fresh obstacle to the completion of the work, and the sus[Pg 132]picion of some evil design, at last determined Domenichino to depart secretly to Rome. As soon however as the news of his flight transpired, he was recalled, and fresh measures taken for his protection; when he resumed his labors, and decorated the walls and base of the cupola, and made considerable progress in the painting of his pictures.

"But before he could finish his task he was interrupted by death, hastened either by poison, or by the many severe vexations he had experienced both from his relatives and his adversaries, and the weight of which was augmented by the arrival of his former enemy Lanfranco. This artist superceded Zampieri in the painting of the basin of the chapel; Spagnoletto, in one of his oil pictures; Stanzioni in another; and each of these artists, excited by emulation, rivaled, if he did not excel, Domenichino. Caracciolo was dead. Bellisario, from his great age, took no share in it, and was soon afterwards killed by a fall from a stage, which he had erected for the purpose of retouching some of his frescos. Nor did Spagnoletto experience a better fate; for, having seduced a young girl, and become insupportable even to himself from the general odium which he experienced, he embarked on board a ship; nor is it known whither he fled, or how he ended his life, if we may credit the Neapolitan writers. Palomino, however, states him to have died in Naples in 1656, aged sixty-seven, though he does not contradict the first part of our state[Pg 133]ment. Thus these ambitious men, who by violence or fraud had influenced and abused the generosity and taste of so many noble patrons, and to whose treachery and sanguinary vengeance so many professors of the art had fallen victims, ultimately reaped the merited fruit of their conduct in a violent death; and an impartial posterity, in assigning the palm of merit to Domenichino, inculcates the maxim, that it is a delusive hope to attempt to establish fame and fortune on the destruction of another's reputation."


José Ribera, a native of Valencia in Spain, studied for some time under Francisco Ribalta, and afterwards found his way to Italy. At the age of sixteen, he was living in Rome, in a very destitute condition; subsisting on crusts, clothed in rags, yet endeavoring with unswerving diligence to improve himself in art by copying the frescos on the façades of palaces, or at the shrines on the corners of the streets. His poverty and industry attracted the notice of a compassionate Cardinal, who happened to see him at work from his coach-window; and he provided the poor boy with clothes, and food, and lodging in his own palace. Ribera soon found, however, that to be clad in good raiment, and to fare plentifully every day, weakened his powers of[Pg 134] application; he needed the spur of want to arouse him to exertion; and therefore, after a short trial of a life in clover, beneath the shelter of the purple, he returned to his poverty and his studies in the streets. The Cardinal was at first highly incensed at his departure, and when he next saw him, rated him soundly as an ungrateful little Spaniard; but being informed of his motives, and observing his diligence, his anger was turned to admiration. He renewed his offers of protection, which, however, Ribera thankfully declined.


Ribera's adventure with the Cardinal, and his abilities, soon distinguished him among the crowd of young artists in Rome. He became known by the name which still belongs to him, Il Spagnoletto, (the little Spaniard,) and as an imitator of Michael Angelo Caravaggio, the bold handling of whose works, and their powerful effects of light and shade, pleased his vigorous mind. Finding Rome overstocked with artists, he went to Naples, where he made the acquaintance of a rich picture-dealer. The latter was so much pleased with Ribera's genius, that be offered him his beautiful and well-dowered daughter in marriage. The Valencian, not less proud than poor, at first resented this proposal as an unseasonable pleasantry upon his forlorn condition; but at last finding that it was made in[Pg 135] good faith, he took "the good the gods provided," and at once stepped from solitary indigence into the possession of a handsome wife, a comfortable home, a present field of profitable labor, and a prospect of future opulence.


Ease and prosperity now rather stimulated than relaxed his exertions. Choosing for his subject the Flaying of St. Bartholomew, he painted that horrible martyrdom with figures of life-size, so fearfully truthful to nature that when exposed to the public in the street, it immediately attracted a crowd of shuddering gazers. The place of exhibition being within view of the royal palace, the eccentric Viceroy, Don Pedro de Giron, Duke of Ossuna, who chanced to be taking the air on his balcony, inquired the cause of the unusual concourse, and ordered the picture and the artist to be brought into his presence. Being well pleased with both, he purchased the one for his own gallery, and appointed the other his court painter, with a monthly salary of sixty doubloons, and the superintendence of all decorations in the palace.


Ribera seems to have been a man of considerable social talent, lively in conversation, and dealing in[Pg 136] playful wit and amusing sarcasm. Dominici relates that two Spanish officers, visiting at his house one day, entered upon a serious discussion on the subject of alchemy. The host, finding their talk some what tedious, gravely informed them that he him self happened to be in possession of the philosopher's stone, and that they might, if they pleased, see his way of using it, the next morning at his studio. The military adepts were punctual to their appointment, and found their friend at work, not in a mysterious laboratory, but at his easel, on a half-length picture of St. Jerome. Entreating them to restrain their eagerness, he painted steadily on, finished his picture, sent it out by his servant, and received a small rouleau in return. This he broke open in the presence of his visitors, and throwing ten gold doubloons on the table, said, "Learn of me how gold is to be made; I do it by painting, you by serving his majesty—diligence in business is the only true alchemy." The officers departed somewhat crest-fallen, neither relishing the jest, nor likely to reap any benefit from it.


His subjects are generally austere, representing anchorets, prophets, apostles, &c., and frequently of the most revolting character, such as sanguinary executions, martyrdoms, horrid punishments, and lingering torments, which he represented with a startling fidelity that intimidates and shocks the[Pg 137] beholder. His paintings are very numerous, and his drawings and etchings are highly esteemed by connoisseurs.


The talents of this great painter, seem to have been obscured by a cruel and revengeful disposition, partaking of the character of his works. He was one of the triumvirate of painters, who assassinated, persecuted, or drove every talented foreign painter from Naples, that they might monopolize the business. He was also a reckless libertine, and, according to Dominici, having seduced a beautiful girl, he was seized with such remorse for his many crimes, as to become insupportable to himself; and to escape the general odium which was heaped upon him, he fled from Naples on board a ship, and was never heard of more. This story however is doubtless colored, for, according to Palomino and several other writers, Ribera died at Naples in 1656. See page 132 of this volume.


Over a certain fountain in Rome, there was a cornice so skilfully painted, that the birds were deceived, and trying to alight on it, frequently fell into the water beneath. Annibale Caracci painted some ornaments on a ceiling of the Farnese palace, which the Duke of Sessa, Spanish ambassador to[Pg 138] the Pope, took for sculptures, and would not believe they were painted on a flat ground, until he had touched them with a lance. Agostino Caracci painted a horse, which deceived the living animal—a triumph so celebrated in Apelles. Juan Sanchez Cotan, painted at Granada a "Crucifixion," on the cross of which Palomino says birds often attempted to perch, and which at first sight the keen-eyed Cean Bermudez mistook for a piece of sculpture. The reputation of this painter stood so high, that Vincenzio Carducci traveled from Madrid to Granada on purpose to see him; and he is said to have recognized him among the white-robed fraternity of which he was a member, by observing in the expression of his countenance, a certain affinity to the spirit of his works.

It is related of Murillo's picture of St. Anthony of Padua, that the birds, wandering up and down the aisles of the cathedral at Seville, have often attempted to perch upon a vase of white lilies painted on a table in the picture, and to peck at the flowers. The preëminent modern Zeuxis, however, was Pierre Mignard, whose portrait of the Marquise de Gouvernet was accosted by that lady's pet parrot, with an affectionate "Baise moi, ma maitresse!"


Raffaelle was transcendant not only in history, but in portrait. His portraits have deceived even persons most intimately acquainted with the origi[Pg 139]nals. Lanzi says he painted a picture of Leo X. so full of life, that the Cardinal Datary approached it with a bull and pen and ink, for the Pope's signature. A similar story is related of Titian.


Count Algarotti relates, that Annibale Caracci was so deceived by a book painted upon a table by Jacopo da Ponte, that he stretched out his hand to take it up. Bassano was highly honored by Paul Veronese, who placed his son Carletto under him as a pupil, to receive his general instructions, "and more particularly in regard to that just disposition of lights reflected from one object to another, and in those happy counterpositions, owing to which the depicted objects seemed clothed with a profusion of light."


Giovanni Rosa, a Fleming who flourished at Rome in the first part of the seventeenth century, was famous for his pictures of animals. "He painted hares so naturally as to deceive the dogs, which would rush at them furiously, thus renewing the wonderful story of Zeuxis and his Grapes, so much boasted of by Pliny."


This artist was a close imitator of Titian. He was extremely accurate in his portraits, which he[Pg 140] painted with force, sweetness, and strong likeness. He painted a portrait of Marco Dolce, and when the picture was sent home, his dogs began to fawn upon it, mistaking it for their master.


The style of Guercino displays a strong contrast of light and shadow, both exceedingly bold, yet mingled with great sweetness and harmony, and a powerful effect in relief, a branch of art so much admired by professors. "Hence," says Lanzi, "some foreigners bestowed upon him the title of the Magician of Italian painting, for in him were renewed those celebrated illusions of antiquity. He painted a basket of grapes so naturally that a ragged urchin stretched out his hand to steal some of the fruit. Often, in comparing the figures of Guido with those of Guercino, one would say that the former had been fed with roses, and the latter with flesh, as observed by one of the ancients."


Lanzi says, "In painting landscape, fruit, and flowers, Bernazzano succeeded so admirably as to produce the same wonderful effects that are told of Zeuxis and Apelles in Greece. These indeed Italian artists have frequently renewed, though with a less degree of applause. Having painted a strawberry-bed in a court yard, the pea-fowls were so deceived[Pg 141] by the resemblance, that they pecked at the wall till they had destroyed the painting. He painted the landscape part of a picture of the Baptism of Christ, and on the ground drew some birds in the act of feeding. On its being placed in the open air, the birds were seen to fly towards the picture, to join their companions. This beautiful picture is one of the chief ornaments in the gallery of the distinguished family of the Trotti at Milan."


There has been a world of discussion on this subject, but there can be no doubt that John van Eyck, called John of Bruges, and by the Italians, Giovanni da Bruggia, and Gio. Abeyk or Eyck, is entitled to the honor of the invention of Oil Painting as applied to pictures, though Mr. Raspe, the celebrated antiquary, in his treatise on the invention of Oil Painting, has satisfactorily proved that Oil Painting was practised in Italy as early as the 11th century, but only as a means of protecting metalic substances from rust.

According to van Mander, the method of painting in Flanders previous to the time of the van Eycks, was with gums, or a preparation called egg-water, to which a kind of varnish was afterwards applied in finishing, which required a certain degree of heat to dry. John van Eyck having worked a long time on a picture and finished it with great care, placed[Pg 142] it in the sun-shine to dry, when the board on which it was painted split and spoiled the work. His disappointment at seeing so much labor lost, urged him to attempt the discovery, by his knowledge of chemistry, of some process which would not in future expose him to such an unfortunate accident. In his researches, he discovered the use of linseed and nut oil, which he found most siccative. This is generally believed to have happened about 1410. There is however, a great deal of contradiction among writers as to the van Eycks, no two writers being found to agree. Some assert that John van Eyck introduced his invention both into Italy and Spain, while others declare that he never left his own country, which would seem to be true. Vasari, the first writer on Italian art, awards the invention to Giovanni da Bruggia, and gives an account of its first introduction into Italy by Antonello da Messina, as we shall presently see. But Dominici asserts that oil painting was known and practised at Naples by artists whose names had been forgotten long before the time of van Eyck. Many other Italian writers have engaged in the controversy, and cited many instances of pictures which they supposed to have been painted in oil at Milan, Pisa, Naples, and elsewhere, as early as the 13th, 12th, and even the 9th centuries. But to proceed with the brothers van Eyck, John and Hubert—they generally painted in concert till the death of Hubert, and executed many works in oil, which were held in the highest estima[Pg 143]tion at the time when they flourished. Their most important work was an altar-piece, with folding doors, painted for Jodocus Vyts, who placed it in the church of St. Bavon at Ghent. The principal picture in this curious production represents the Adoration of the Lamb as described by St. John in the Revelations. On one of the folding doors is represented Adam and Eve, and on the other, St. Cecilia. This extraordinary work contains over three hundred figures, and is finished with the greatest care and exactness. It was formerly in the Louvre, but it is now unfortunately divided into two parts, one of which is at Berlin, and the other at Ghent. Philip I. of Spain desired to purchase it, but finding that impracticable, he employed Michael Coxis to copy it, who spent two years in doing: it, for which he received 4,000 florins. The king placed this copy in the Escurial, and this probably gave rise to the story that John van Eyck visited Spain and introduced his discovery into that country. In the sacristy of the cathedral at Bruges is preserved with great veneration, a picture painted by John van Eyck, after the death of Hubert, representing the Virgin and Infant, with St. George, St. Donatius, and other saints. It is dated 1436. John died in 1441.

According to Vasari, the fame of Masaccio drew Antonello da Messina to Rome; from thence he proceeded to Naples, where he saw some oil paintings by John van Eyck, which had been brought to[Pg 144] Naples from Flanders, by some Neapolitan merchants, and presented or sold to Alphonso I., King of Naples. The novelty of the invention, and the beauty of the coloring inspired Antonello with so strong a desire to become possessed of the secret, that he went to Bruges, and so far ingratiated himself into the favor of van Eyck, then advanced in years, that he instructed him in the art. Antonello afterwards returned to Venice, where he secretly practised the art for some time, communicating it only to Domenico Veneziano, his favorite scholar. Veneziano settled at Florence, where his works were greatly admired both on account of their excellence and the novelty of the process. Here he unfortunately formed a connexion with Andrea del Castagno, an eminent Tuscan painter, who treacherously murdered Domenico, that he might become, as he supposed, the sole possessor of the secret. Castagno artfully concealed the atrocious deed till on his death-bed, when struck with remorse, he confessed the crime for which innocent persons had suffered. Vasari also says that Giovanni Bellini obtained the art surreptitiously from Messina, by disguising himself and sitting for his portrait, thus gaining an opportunity to observe his method of operating; but Lanzi has shown that Messina made the method public on receiving a pension from the Venetian Senate. Many writers have appeared, who deny the above statement of Vasari; but Lanzi, who carefully investigated the whole subject, finds no[Pg 145] just reason to claim for his countrymen priority of the invention, or to doubt the correctness of Vasari's statement in the main. Those old paintings at Milan, Pisa, Naples, Vienna, and elsewhere, have been carefully examined and proved to have been painted in encaustic or distemper. This subject will be found fully discussed in Spooner's Dictionary of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors, and Architects, under the articles John and Hubert van Eyck, Antonello da Messina, Domenico Veneziano, Andrea del Castagno, and Roger of Bruges.


Foreshortening is the art of representing figures and objects as they appear to the eye, viewed in positions varying from the perpendicular. The meaning of the term is exemplified in the celebrated Ascension, in the Pietá dé Tárchini, at Naples, by Luca Giordano, in which the body of Christ is so much foreshortened, that the toes appear to touch the knees, and the knees the chin. This art is one of the most difficult in painting, and though absurdly claimed as a modern invention, was well known to the ancients. Pliny speaks expressly of its having been practised by Parrhasius and Pausias. Many writers erroneously attribute the invention to Correggio; but Lanzi says, "it was discovered and enlarged by Melozzo da Forli, improved by Andrea Mantegna and his school, and perfected by Correggio and[Pg 146] others." About the year 1472, Melozzo painted his famous fresco of the Ascension in the great chapel of the Santi Apostoli at Rome. Vasari says of this work, "the figure of Christ is so admirably foreshortened, as to appear to pierce the vault; and in the same manner, the Angels are seen sweeping through the fields of air in different directions." This work was so highly esteemed that when the chapel was rebuilt in 1711, the painting was cut out of the ceiling with the greatest care, and placed in the Quirinal palace, where it is still preserved.


According to Lanzi, Antonio Contri discovered a valuable process, by means of which he was enabled to transfer fresco paintings from walls to canvass, without the least injury to the work, and thus preserved many valuable paintings by the great masters, which obtained him wide celebrity and profitable employment. For this purpose, he spread upon a piece of canvass of the size of the painting to be transferred, a composition of glue or bitumen, and placed it upon the picture. When this was sufficiently dry, he beat the wall carefully with a mallet, cut the plaster around it, and applied to the canvass a wooden frame, well propped, to sustain it, and then, after a few days, cautiously removed the canvass, which brought the painting with it; and[Pg 147] having extended it upon a smooth table he applied to the back of it another canvass prepared with a more adhesive composition than the former. After a few days, he examined the two pieces of canvass, detached the first by means of warm water, which left the whole painting upon the second as it was originally upon the wall.

Contri was born at Ferrara about 1660, and died in 1732. Palmaroli, an Italian painter of the present century, rendered his name famous, and conferred a great benefit on art by his skill in transferring to canvass some of the frescos and other works of the great masters. In 1811 he transferred the famous fresco of the Descent from the Cross by Daniello da Volterra (erroneously said, as related above, to have been the first effort of the kind), which gained him immense reputation. He was employed to restore a great number of works at Rome, and in other places. He was invited to Germany, where, among other works, he transferred the Madonna di San Sisto, by Raffaelle, from the original panel, which was worm-eaten and decayed, and thus preserved one of the most famous works of that prince of painters. At the present time, this art is practised with success in various European cities, particularly in London and Paris.


Guido Fassi, called del Conte, a native of Carpi, born in 1584, was the inventor of a valuable kind[Pg 148] of work in imitation of marble, called by the Italians Scagliola or Mischia, which was subsequently carried to great perfection, and is now largely employed in the imitation of works in marble. The stone called selenite forms the principal ingredient. This is pulverized, mixed with colors and certain adhesive substances which gradually become as hard as stone, capable of receiving a high polish. Fassi made his first trials on cornices, and gave them the appearance of fine marble, and there remain two altar-pieces by him in the churches of Carpi. From him, the method rapidly spread over Italy, and many artists engaged in this then new art. Annibale Griffoni, a pupil of Fassi, applied the art to monuments. Giovanni Cavignani, also a pupil of Fassi, far surpassed his master, and executed an altar of St. Antonio, for the church of S. Niccolo, at Carpi, which is still pointed out as something extraordinary. It consists of two columns of porphyry adorned with a pallium, covered with lace, which last is an exact imitation of the covering of an altar, while it is ornamented in the margin with medals, bearing beautiful figures. In the Cathedral at Carpi, is a monument by one Ferrari, which so perfectly imitates marble that it cannot be distinguished from it, except by fracture. It has the look and touch of marble. Lanzi, from whom these facts are obtained, says that these artists ventured upon the composition of pictures, intended to represent engravings as well as oil paintings, and that[Pg 149] there are several such works, representing even historical subjects, in the collections of Carpi. Lanzi considers this art of so much importance, that he thus concludes his article upon it: "After the practice of modeling had been brought to vie with sculpture, and after engraving upon wood had so well counterfeited works of design, we have to record this third invention, belonging to a State of no great dimensions. Such a fact is calculated to bring into higher estimation the geniuses who adorned it. There is nothing of which man is more ambitious, than of being called an inventor of new arts; nothing is more flattering to his intellect, or draws a broader line between him and the animals. Nothing was held in higher reverence by the ancients, and hence it is that Virgil, in his Elysian Fields, represented the band of inventors with their brows bound with white chaplets, equally distinct in merit as in rank, from the more vulgar shades around them."


"We have now arrived," says Lanzi, "at the most brilliant period of the Roman school, and of modern painting itself. We have seen the art carried to a high degree of perfection by Da Vinci and Buonarotti, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and it is remarkable that the same period embraces not only Rafaelle, but also Correggio, Giorgione, Titian, and the most celebrated Venetian paint[Pg 150]ers; so that a man enjoying the common term of life might have seen the works of all these illustrious masters. The art in a few years thus reached a height to which it had never before attained, and which has never been rivalled, except in the attempt to imitate these early masters, or to unite in one style their various and divided excellencies. It seems an ordinary law of providence that individuals of consummate genius should be born and flourish at the same period, or at least at short intervals from each other, a circumstance of which Velleius Paterculus protested he could never discover the real cause. 'I observe,' he says, 'men of the same commanding genius making their appearance together, in the smallest possible space of time; as it happens in the case of animals of different kinds, which, confined in a close place, nevertheless, each selects its own class, and those of a kindred race separate themselves from the rest. A single age sufficed to illustrate Tragedy, in the persons of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides: ancient comedy under Cratinus, Aristophanes, and Eumolpides, and in like manner the new comedy under Menander, Diphilus, and Philemon. There appeared few philosophers of note after the days of Plato and Aristotle, and whoever has made himself acquainted with Isocrates and his school, is acquainted with the summit of Grecian eloquence.' The same remark applies to other countries. The great Roman writers are included under the single age of Octavius: Leo X. was the Augustus of modern[Pg 151] Italy; the reign of Louis XIV. was the brilliant period of French letters; that of Charles II. of the English."

This rule applies equally to the fine arts. Hoc idem, proceeds Velleius, evenisse plastis, pictoribus, sculptoribus, quisquis temporum institerit notis reperiet, et eminentiam cujusque operis artissimis temporum claustris circumdatum. Of this union of men of genius in the same age, Causus, he says, quum sempre requiro, numquam invenio quas veras confidam. It seems to him probable that when a man finds the first station in art occupied by another, he considers it as a post that has been rightfully seized on, and no longer aspires to the possession of it, but is humiliated, and contented to follow at a distance. But this solution does not satisfy my mind. It may indeed account to us why no other Michael Angelo, or Raffaelle, has ever appeared; but it does not satisfy me why these two, and the others before mentioned, should all have appeared in the same age. I am of opinion that the age is always influenced by certain principles, universally adopted both by professors of the art, and by amateurs; which principles happening at a particular period to be the most just and accurate of their kind, produce in that age some preëminent professors, and a number of good ones. These principles change through the instability of all human affairs, and the age partakes in the change. I may add that these happy periods never occur without[Pg 152] the circumstance of a number of princes and influential individuals rivalling each other in the encouragement of works of taste; and amidst these there always arise persons of commanding genius, who give a bias and tone to art. The history of sculpture in Athens, where munificence and taste went hand in hand, favors my opinion, and it is confirmed by this golden period of Italian art. Nevertheless, I do not pretend to give a verdict on this important question, but leave the decision of it to a more competent tribunal.


"The reign of Augustus was the golden age of science and the fine arts. Grecian architecture at that period was so encouraged at Rome, that Augustus could with reason boast of having left a city of marble where he had found one of brick. In the time of the Cæsars, fourteen magnificent aqueducts, supported by immense arches, conducted whole rivers to Rome, from a distance of many miles, and supplied 150 public fountains, 118 large public baths, besides the water necessary for those artificial seas in which naval combats were represented: 100,000 statues ornamented the public squares, the temples, the streets, and the houses; 90 colossal statues raised on pedestals; 48 obelisks of Egyptian granite, besides, adorned various parts of the city; nor was this stupendous magnificence confined to Rome, or even to Italy. All the pro[Pg 153]vinces of the vast empire were embellished by Augustus and his successors, by the opulent nobles, by the tributary kings and the allies, with temples, circuses, theatres, palaces, aqueducts, amphitheatres, bridges, baths, and new cities. We have, unfortunately, but scanty memorials of the architects of those times; and, amidst the abundance of magnificent edifices, we search in vain for the names of those who erected them. However much the age of Augustus may be exalted, we cannot think it superior, or even equal to that of Alexander: the Romans were late in becoming acquainted with the arts; they cultivated them more from pride and ostentation than from feeling. Expensive collections were frequently made, without the possessors understanding their value; they knew only that such things were in reputation, and, to render themselves of consequence, purchased on the opinion of others. Of this, the Roman history gives frequent proofs. Domitian squandered seven millions in gilding the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus only, bringing from Athens a number of columns of Pentelic marble, extremely beautiful, and of good proportion, but which were recut and repolished, and thus deprived of their symmetry and grace. If the Romans did possess any taste for the fine arts, they left the exercise of it to the conquered—to Greece, who had no longer her Solon, Lycurgus, Themistocles, and Epaminondas, but was unarmed, depressed, and had become the slave of Rome. 'Græcia capta ferum victorem[Pg 154] cepit.' How poor are such triumphs to those gained by the fine arts! The means by which Greece acquired and maintained such excellence, is worthy of an inquiry. It is generally allowed that climate and government have a powerful influence on the intellect. Greece was peculiarly favored in these two points; her atmosphere was serene and temperate, and being divided into a number of small, but independent states, a spirit of emulation was excited, which continually called forth some improvement in the liberal arts. The study of these formed a principal branch of education in the academies and schools, to which none but the free youth were admitted. To learning alone was the tribute of applause offered. At those solemn festivals to which all Greece resorted, whoever had the plurality of votes was crowned in the presence of the whole assembly, and his efforts afterwards rewarded with an immense sum of money; sometimes a million of crowns. Statues, with inscriptions, were also raised to those who had thus distinguished themselves, and their works, or whatever resembled them, for ever after bore their names; distinctions far more flattering than any pecuniary reward. Meticus gave his to a square which he built at Athens, and the appellation of Agaptos was applied to the porticos of the stadium. Zeuxis, when he painted Helen, collected a number of beautiful women, as studies for his subject: when completed, the Agrigentines, who had ordered it, were so delighted[Pg 155] with this performance, that they requested him to accept of five of the ladies. Thebes, and other cities, fined those that presented a bad work, and looked on them ever afterwards with derision. The applause bestowed on the best efforts, was repeated by the orators, the poets, the philosophers, and historians; the Cow of Miron, the Venus of Apelles, and the Cupid of Praxiteles, have exercised every pen. By these means Greece brought the fine arts to perfection; by neglecting them, Rome failed to equal her; and, by pursuing the same course, every country may become as refined as Greece."—Milizia.


According to Tacitus, Nero's famous golden palace was one of the most magnificent edifices ever built, and far surpassed all that was stupendous and beautiful in Italy. It was erected on the site of the great conflagration at Rome, which was attributed by many to the wickedness of the tyrant. His statue, 120 feet high, stood in the midst of a court, ornamented with porticos of three files of lofty columns, each full a mile long; the gardens were of vast extent, with vineyards, meadows, and woods, filled with every sort of domestic and wild animals; a pond was converted into a sea, surrounded by a sufficient number of edifices to form a city; pearls, gems, and the most precious materials were used everywhere, and especially gold, the[Pg 156] profusion of which, within and without, and ever on the roofs, caused it to be called the Golden House; the essences and costly perfumes continually shed around, showed the extreme extravagance of the inhuman monster who seized on the wealth of the people to gratify his own desires. Among other curiosities was a dining-room, in which was represented the firmament, constantly revolving, imitative of the motion of the heavenly bodies; from it was showered down every sort of odoriferous waters. This great palace was completed by Otho, but did not long remain entire, as Vespasian restored to the people the lands of which Nero had unjustly deprived them, and erected in its place the mighty Colosseum, and the magnificent Temple of Peace.


According to Pliny, Saurus and Batrarchus, two Lacedemonian architects, erected conjointly at their own expense, certain temples at Rome, which were afterwards enclosed by Octavius. Not being allowed to inscribe their names, they carved on the pedestals of the columns a lizard and a frog, which indicated them—Saurus signifying a lizard, and Batrarchus a frog. Milizia says that in the church of S. Lorenzo there are two antique Ionic capitals with a lizard and a frog carved in the eyes of the volutes, which are probably those alluded to by[Pg 157] Pliny, although the latter says pedestal. Modern painters and engravers have frequently adopted similar devices as a rebus, or enigmatical representation of their names. See Spooner's Dictionary of Painters, Engravers, Sculptors, and Architects; Key to Monograms and Ciphers, and the twenty-four plates.


Triumphal arches are monuments consisting of a grand portico or archway, erected at the entrance of a town, upon a bridge, or upon a public road, to the glory of some celebrated general, or in memory of some important event. The invention of these structures is attributed to the Romans. The earliest specimens are destitute of any magnificence. For a long time, they consisted merely of a plain arch, at the top of which was placed the trophies and statue of the triumpher. Subsequently the span was enlarged, the style enriched, and a profusion of all kinds of sculptures and ornaments heaped upon them. The triumphal arches varied greatly in point of construction, form, and decoration. The arch of Constantine at Rome is the best preserved of all the great antique arches; the Arch of Septimus Severus at the foot of the Capitoline hill, greatly resembles that of Constantine. The Arch of Titus is the most considerable at Rome. The Arch of Benvenuto, erected in honor of Trajan, is one of the most remarkable relics of antiquity, as[Pg 158] well on account of its sculptures as its architecture. The Arch of Trajan at Ancona is also one of the most elegant works of the kind. The Arch of Rimini, erected in honor of Augustus, on the occasion of his repairing the Flaminian Way from that town to Rome, is the most ancient of all the antique arches, and from its size, one of the noblest existing. Many beautiful structures of this kind have been erected in modern times, but principally on the plan, and in imitation of some of the above mentioned. Ancient medals often bear signs of this species of architecture, and some of them represent arches that have ceased to exist for centuries. Triumphal arches seem to have been in use among the Chinese in very ancient times. Milizia says, "There is no country in the world in which those arches are so numerous as in China. They are found not only in the cities but on the mountains; and are erected in the public streets in honor of princes, generals, philosophers, and mandarins, who have benefitted the public, or signalized themselves by any great action; there are more than 1100 of these latter, 200 of which are of extraordinary size and beauty; there are also some in honor of females. The Chinese annals record 3636 men who have merited triumphal arches." Milizia also says, the friezes of the Chinese arches are of great height, and ornamented with sculpture. The highest arches are twenty-five feet, embellished with human figures, animals, flowers, and grotesque forms, in various attitudes, and in full relief.[Pg 159]


The large Statue of Pompey, formerly in the collection of the Cardinal Spada, is supposed to be the same as that, at the base of which "Great Cæsar fell." It was found on the very spot where the Senate was held on the fatal ides of March, while some workmen were engaged in making excavations, to erect a private house. The Statue is not only interesting from its antiquity and historical associations, but for a curious episode that followed its discovery. The trunk lay in the ground of the discoverer, but the head projected into that of his neighbor; this occasioned a dispute as to the right of possession. The matter was at length referred to the decision of Cardinal Spada, who, like the wise man of old, ordered the Statue to be decapitated, and division made according to position—the trunk to one claimant, and the head to the other. The object of the wily Cardinal was not so much justice, as to get possession of the Statue himself, which he afterwards did, at a tithe of what it would otherwise have cost him. The whole cost him only 500 crowns.


In 1824, there were more than 10,600 pieces of ancient sculpture in Rome; (statues, busts, and relievos,) and upwards of 6300 ancient columns of marble. What multitudes of the latter have been[Pg 160] sawed up for tables, and for wainscotting chapels, or mixed up with walls, and otherwise destroyed! And what multitudes may yet lie undiscovered underneath the many feet of earth and rubbish which buries ancient Rome! When we reflect on this, it may give us some faint idea of the vast magnificence of Rome in all its pristine splendor!


The Ichnography of Rome, in the fine collection of antiquities in the Palazzo Farnese, was found in the temple of Romulus and Remus, which is now dedicated to Sts. Cosmo and Damiano, who were also twin brothers. Though incomplete, it is one of the most useful remains of antiquity. The names of the particular buildings and palaces are marked upon it, as well as the outlines of the buildings themselves; and it is so large, that the Horrea Lolliana are a foot and a half long; and may serve as a scale to measure any other building or palace in it. It is published in Grœvius's Thesaurus.


The Emperor Julian commanded Alypius, a learned architect of Antioch, who held many important offices under that monarch, to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem, A. D. 363, with the avowed object of falsifying the prophecy of our Saviour with regard to that structure. While the workmen[Pg 161] were engaged in making excavations for the foundation, balls of fire issued from the earth and destroyed them. This indication of divine wrath against the reprobate Jews and the Apostate Julian, compelled him to abandon his project. The story is affirmed by many Christian and classic authors.


When Mausolus, king of Caria, died about B. C. 353, his wife Artemisia, was so disconsolate, that she drank up his ashes, and resolved to erect in the city of Halicarnassus, one of the grandest and noblest monuments of antiquity, to celebrate the memory of a husband whom she tenderly loved. She therefore employed Bryaxis, Scopas, Timotheus, and Leocarus, four of the most renowned sculptors and architects of the golden age of Grecian art, to erect that famous mausoleum which was accounted one of the seven wonders of the world, and gave its name to all similar structures in succeeding ages. Its dimensions on the north and south sides were sixty-three feet, the east and west sides were a little shorter, and its extreme height was one hundred and forty feet. It was surrounded with thirty-six splendid marble columns. Byaxis executed the north side, Scopas the east, Timotheus the south, and Leocarus the west. Artemisia died before the work was completed; but the artists continued their work with unabated zeal, and they endeavored to rival[Pg 162] each other in the beauty and magnificence with which they decorated this admirable work. A fifth sculptor, named Pythis, was added to them, who executed a noble four horse chariot of marble, which was placed on a pyramid crowning the summit of the mausoleum.


Mandrocles, probably a Greek architect in the service of Darius, King of Persia, who flourished about B. C. 500, acquired a great name for the bridge which he constructed across the Thracian Bosphorus, or Straits of Constantinople, by order of that monarch. This bridge was formed of boats so ingeniously and firmly united that the innumerable army of Persia passed over it from Asia to Europe. To preserve the memory of so singular a work, Mandrocles represented in a picture, the Bosphorus, the bridge, the king of Persia seated on a throne, and the army that passed over it. This picture was preserved in the Temple of Juno at Samos, where Herodotus saw it, with this inscription:—"Mandrocles, after having constructed a bridge of boats over the Bosphorus, by order of the king Darius of Persia, dedicated this monument to Juno, which does honor to Samos, his country, and confers glory on the artificer."


This prodigious Statue, which, was accounted one of the seven wonders of the world, was planned, and[Pg 163] probably executed by Chares, an ancient sculptor of Lindus, and a disciple of Lysippus. According to Strabo, the statue was of brass, and was seventy cubits, or one hundred feet high; and Chares was employed upon it twelve years. It was said to have been placed at the entrance of the harbor of Rhodes, with the feet upon two rocks, in such a manner, that the ships then used in commerce could pass in full sail between them. This colossus, after standing fifty-six years, was overthrown by an earthquake. An oracle had forbidden the inhabitants to restore it to its former position, and its fragments remained in the same position until A. D. 667, when Moaviah, a calif of the Saracens, who invaded Rhodes in that year, sold them to a Jewish merchant, who is said to have loaded nine hundred camels with them.

Pliny says that Chares executed the statue in three years, and he relates several interesting particulars, as that few persons could embrace its thumb, and that the fingers were as long as an ordinary statue. Muratori reckons this one of the fables of antiquity. Though the accounts in ancient authors concerning this colossal statue of Apollo are somewhat contradictory, they all agree that there was such a statue, seventy or eighty cubits high, and so monstrous a fable could not have been imposed upon the world in that enlightened age. Some antiquarians have thought, with great justice, that the fine head of Apollo which is stamped upon the Rhodian medals, is a representation of that of the Colossus.[Pg 164]


Pliny says, (lib. xxxiv. cap. 7.) that Rhodes, in his time, "possessed more than 3000 statues, the greater part finely executed; also paintings and other works of art, of more value than those contained in the cities of Greece. There was the wonderful Colossus, executed by Chares of Lindus, the disciple of Lysippus."


This celebrated work of antiquity was built by Sostratus, by order of Ptolemy Philadelphus. It was a species of tower, erected on a high promontory or rock, on the above mentioned island, then situated about a mile from Alexandria. It was 450 ft. high, divided into several stories, each decreasing in size; the ground story was hexagonal, the sides alternately concave and convex, each an eighth of a mile in length; the second and third stories were of the same form; the fourth was a square, flanked by four round towers; the fifth was circular. The whole edifice was of wrought stone; a magnificent staircase led to the top, where fires were lighted every night, visible from the distance of a hundred miles, to guide the coasting vessels. Sostratus is said to have engraved an inscription on stone, and covered it with a species of cement, upon which he sculptured the name of Ptolemy, calculating that the cement would decay, and bring to[Pg 165] light his original inscription. Strabo says it read, Sostratus, the friend of kings, made me. Lucian reports differently, and more probably, thus, Sostratus of Cnidus, the son of Dexiphanes, to the Gods the Saviors, for the safety of Mariners. It is also said that Ptolemy left the inscription to the inclination of the architect; and that by the Gods the Saviors were meant the reigning king and queen, with their successors, who were ambitious of the title of Soteros or Savior.


According to Vitruvius, this famous architect, having provided himself with recommendatory letters to the principal personages of Alexander's court, set out from his native country with the hope of gaining, through their means, the favor of the monarch. The courtiers made him promises which they neglected to perform, and framed various excuses to prevent his access to the sovereign; he therefore determined upon the following expedient:—Being of a gigantic and well proportioned stature, he stripped himself, anointed his body with oil, bound his head with poplar leaves, and throwing a lion's skin across his shoulders, with a club in his hand, presented himself to Alexander, in the place where he held his public audience. Alexander, astonished at his Herculean figure, desired him to approach, demanding, at the same time, his name:—"I am,"[Pg 166] said he, "a Macedonian architect, and am come to submit to you designs worthy of the fame you have acquired. I have modelled Mount Athos in the form of a giant, holding in his right hand a city, and his left a shell, from which are discharged into the sea all the rivers collected from the mountain." It was impossible to imagine a scheme more agreeable to Alexander, who asked seriously whether there would be sufficient country round this city to maintain its inhabitants. Dinocrates answered in the negative, and that it would be necessary to supply it by sea. Athos consequently remained a mountain; but Alexander was so pleased with the novelty of the idea, and the genius of Dinocrates, that he at once took him into his service. The design of Dinocrates may be found in Fischer's History of Architecture. According to Pliny, Dinocrates planned and built the city of Alexandria.


"I cannot conceive," said Spence, the author of Polymetis, to Pope, "how Dinocrates could ever have carried his proposal of forming Mount Athos into a statue of Alexander the Great, into execution."—"For my part," replied Pope, "I have long since had an idea how that might be done; and if any body would make me a present of a Welch mountain, and pay the workmen, I would under[Pg 167]take to see it executed. I have quite formed it sometimes in my imagination: the figure must be on a reclining posture, because of the hollowing that would be necessary, and for the city's being in one hand. It should be a rude unequal hill, and might be helped with groves of trees for the eye brows, and a wood for the hair. The natural green turf should be left wherever it would be necessary to represent the ground he reclines on. It should be so contrived, that the true point of view should be at a considerable distance. When you were near it, it should still have the appearance of a rough mountain, but at the proper distance such a rising should be the leg, and such another an arm. It would be best if there were a river, or rather a lake, at the bottom of it, for the rivulet that came through his other hand, to tumble down the hill, and discharge itself into it."

Diodorus Siculus, says that Semiramis had the mountain Bajitanus, in Media, cut into a statue of herself, seventeen stadii high, (about two miles) surrounded by one hundred others, probably representing the various members of her court. China, among other wonders, is said to have many mountains cut into the figures of men, animals, and birds. It is probable, however, that all these stories have originated in the imagination, from the real or fanciful resemblance of mountains, to various objects, which are found in every country, as "The Old Man of the Mountain," Mt. Washington, N. H., "St.[Pg 168] Anthony's Nose," in the Highlands, "Camel's Rump," Green Mountains, "Giant of the Valley," on lake Champlain, &c. It is easy to imagine a mountain as a cloud, "almost in shape of a camel," "backed like a weasel," or "very like a whale."


According to Pliny, Dinocrates built a temple at Alexandria, in honor of Arsinoe, sister and wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus. The whole interior was to have been incrusted with loadstone, in order that the statue of the princess, composed of iron, should be suspended in the centre, solely by magnetic influence. On the death of Ptolemy and of the architect, the idea was abandoned, and has never been executed elsewhere, though believed to be practicable. A similar fable was invented of the tomb of Mahomet.


According to Vitruvius, Pisistratus, who flourished about B. C. 555, employed the four Grecian architects, Antistates, Antimachides, Calleschros, and Porinus, to erect this famous temple in the place of one built in the time of Deucalion, which the storms of a thousand years had destroyed. They proceeded so far with it that Pisistratus was enabled to dedicate it, but after his death the work ceased; and the completion of the temple, so mag[Pg 169]nificent and grand in its design that it impressed the beholder with wonder and awe, became the work of after ages. Perseus, king of Macedonia, and Antiochus Epiphanes, nearly four hundred years after Pisistratus, finished the grand nave, and placed the columns of the portico, Cossutius, a Roman, being the architect. It was considered, and with good reason, one of the four celebrated marble temples of Greece: the other three were that of Diana, at Ephesus; Apollo, at Miletus; and Ceres, at Eleusis. The Corinthian order prevailed in its design. In the siege that Sylla laid to Athens, this temple was greatly injured, but the allied kings afterwards restored it at their common expense, intending to dedicate it to the genius of Augustus. Livy says that among so many temples, this was the only one worthy of a god. Pausanias says the Emperor Adrian enclosed it with a wall, as was usual with the Grecian temples, of half a mile in circumference, which the cities of Greece adorned with statues erected to that monarch. The Athenians distinguished themselves by the elevation of a colossal statue behind the temple. This enclosure was also ornamented with a peristyle, one hundred rods in length, supported by superb marble Corinthian columns, and to this façade were three grand vestibules which led to the temple. Adrian dedicated it a second time. In the temple was placed a splendid statue of Jupiter Olympius, of gold and ivory; and the courtiers added four statues of the Emperor.[Pg 170] This wonderful structure, which is said to have cost five millions of scudi, is now in ruins. Sixteen Corinthian columns are still standing, six feet four inches and some six feet six inches, in diameter. The length of the temple, according to Stuart, upon the upper step, was three hundred and fifty-four feet, and its breadth one hundred and seventy-one feet; the entire length of the walls of the peribolous is six hundred and eighty-eight feet, and the width four hundred and sixty-three feet.


This celebrated temple was built by Ictinus and Callicrates, two Greek architects who flourished about B. C. 430. Ictinus was celebrated for the magnificent temples which he erected to the heathen gods. Among these were the famous Doric temple of Ceres and Proserpine at Eleusis, of which he built the outer cell, capable of accommodating thirty thousand persons; also the temple of Apollo, near Mount Cotylion, in Arcadia, which was considered one of the finest of antiquity, and was vaulted with stone. But his most important work was the famous Parthenon at Athens, erected within the citadel, by Ictinus and Callicrates, by order of Pericles. According to Vitruvius, the two artists exerted all their powers to make this temple worthy the goddess who presided over the arts. The plan was a rectangle, like most of the Greek and Roman;[Pg 171] its length from east to west, was 227 feet 7 inches, and its width 101 feet 2 inches, as measured on the top step. It was peripteral, octastyle; that is, surrounded with a portico of columns, with eight to each façade. The height of the columns was 34 feet, and their diameter 6 feet. Within the outer portico was a second, also formed of isolated columns, but elevated two steps higher than the first; from thence the interior of the temple was entered, which contained the famous statue of Minerva in gold and ivory, by Phidias. This famous temple was built entirely of white marble, and from its elevated position, could be seen from an immense distance. On a nearer approach, it was admired for the elegance of its proportions, and the beauty of the bas-reliefs with which its exterior was decorated. It was preserved entire until 1677, when it was nearly destroyed by an explosion during the siege of Athens by Morosini. It was further dilapidated by the Turks, and afterwards by Lord Elgin, who removed all the bas-reliefs and other ornaments practicable, and transported them to London, where they now adorn the British Museum. King Otho has adopted measures to preserve the edifice from further mischief.


The following exceedingly interesting account of the removal of the sculptures from the Parthenon, is extracted from Hamilton's "Memorandum on the[Pg 172] Subject of the Earl of Elgin's Pursuits in Greece."

"In the year 1799, when Lord Elgin was appointed his majesty's ambassador extraordinary to the Ottoman Porte, he was in habits of frequent intercourse with Mr. Harrison, an architect of great eminence in the west of England, whom his lordship consulted on the benefits that might possibly be derived to the arts in this country, in case an opportunity could be found for studying minutely the architecture and sculpture of ancient Greece; whose opinion was, that although we might possess exact admeasurements of the public buildings in Athens, yet a young artist could never form to himself an adequate conception of their minute details, combinations, and general effects, without having before him some such sensible representation of them as might be conveyed by casts."

On this suggestion Lord Elgin proposed to his majesty's government, that they should send out English artists of known eminence, capable of collecting this information in the most perfect manner; but the prospect appeared of too doubtful an issue for ministers to engage in the expense attending it. Lord Elgin then endeavored to engage some of these artists at his own charge; but the value of their time was far beyond his means. When, however, he reached Sicily, on the recommendation of Sir William Hamilton, he was so fortunate as to prevail on Don Tita Lusieri, one of the best general painters in Europe, of great knowledge in the[Pg 173] arts, and of infinite taste, to undertake the execution of this plan; and Mr. Hamilton, who was then accompanying Lord Elgin to Constantinople, immediately went with Signor Lusieri to Rome, where, in consequence of the disturbed state of Italy, they were enabled to engage two of the most eminent formatori or moulders, to make the madreformi for the casts; Signor Balestra, a distinguished architect there, along with Ittar, a young man of promising talents, to undertake the architectural part of the plan; and one Theodore, a Calmouk, who during several years at Rome, had shown himself equal to the first masters in the design of the human figure.

After much difficulty, Lord Elgin obtained permission from the Turkish government to establish these six artists at Athens, where they systematically prosecuted the business of their several departments during three years, under the general superintendence of Lusieri.

Accordingly every monument, of which there are any remains in Athens, has been thus most carefully and minutely measured, and from the rough draughts of the architects (all of which are preserved), finished drawings have been made by them of the plans, elevations, and details of the most remarkable objects; in which the Calmouk has restored and inserted all the sculpture with exquisite taste and ability. He has besides made accurate drawings of all the bas-reliefs on the several temples, in the pre[Pg 174]cise state of decay and mutilation in which they at present exist.

Most of the bassi rilievi, and nearly all the characteristic features of architecture in the various monuments at Athens, have been moulded, and the moulds of them brought to London.

Besides the architecture and sculpture at Athens, all similar remains which could be traced through several parts of Greece have been measured and delineated with the most scrupulous exactness, by the second architect Ittar.

In the prosecution of this undertaking, the artists had the mortification of witnessing the very willful devastation to which all the sculpture, and even the architecture, were daily exposed on the part of the Turks and travelers: the former equally influenced by mischief and by avarice, the latter from an anxiety to become possessed, each according to his means, of some relic, however small, of buildings or statues which had formed the pride of Greece. The Ionic temple on the Ilyssus which, in Stuart's time, about the year 1759, was in tolerable preservation, had so entirely disappeared, that its foundation was no longer to be ascertained. Another temple near Olympia had shared a similar fate within the recollection of many. The temple of Minerva had been converted into a powder magazine, and was in great part shattered from a shell falling upon it during the bombardment of Athens by the Venetians, towards the end of the seventeenth century;[Pg 175] and even this accident has not deterred the Turks from applying the beautiful temple of Neptune and Erectheus to the same use, whereby it is still constantly exposed to a similar fate. Many of the statues over the entrance of the temple of Minerva, which had been thrown down by the explosion, had been powdered to mortar, because they offered the whitest marble within reach; and parts of the modern fortification, and the miserable houses where this mortar had been so applied, are easily traced. In addition to these causes of degradation, the Turks will frequently climb up the ruined walls and amuse themselves in defacing any sculpture they can reach; or in breaking columns, statues, or other remains of antiquity, in the fond expectation of finding within them some hidden treasures.

Under these circumstances, Lord Elgin felt himself irresistibly impelled to endeavor to preserve, by removal from Athens, any specimens of sculpture he could, without injury, rescue from such impending ruin. He had, besides, another inducement, and an example before him, in the conduct of the last French embassy sent to Turkey before the Revolution. French artists did then attempt to remove several of the sculptured ornaments from several edifices in the Acropolis, and particularly from the Parthenon. In lowering one of the Metopes the tackle failed, and it was dashed to pieces; one other object was conveyed to France, where it is held in the highest estimation, and where it occupies[Pg 176] a conspicuous place in the gallery of the Louvre, and constituted national property during the French Revolution. The same agents were remaining at Athens during Lord Elgin's embassy, waiting only the return of French influence at the Porte to renew their operations. Actuated by these inducements, Lord Elgin made every exertion; and the sacrifices he has made have been attended with such entire success, that he has brought to England from the ruined temples at Athens, from the modern walls and fortifications, in which many fragments had been used as blocks for building, and from excavations from amongst the ruins, made on purpose, such a mass of Athenian sculpture, in statues, alti and bassi rilievi, capitals, cornices, friezes, and columns as, with the aid of a few of the casts, to present all the sculpture and architecture of any value to the artist or man of taste which can be traced at Athens.

In proportion as Lord Elgin's plan advanced, and the means accumulated in his hands towards affording an accurate knowledge of the works of architecture and sculpture in Athens and in Greece, it became a subject of anxious inquiry with him, in what way the greatest degree of benefit could be derived to the arts from what he had been so fortunate as to procure.

In regard to the works of the architects employed by him, he had naturally, from the beginning, looked forward to their being engraved; and accordingly[Pg 177] all such plans, elevations, and details as to those persons appeared desirable for that object, were by them, and on the spot, extended with the greatest possible care for the purpose of publication. Besides these, all the working sketches and measurements offer ample materials for further drawings, if they should be required. It was Lord Elgin's wish that the whole of the drawings might be executed in the highest perfection of the art of engraving; and for this purpose a fund should be raised by subscription, exhibition, or otherwise; by aid of which these engravings might still be distributable, for the benefit of artists, at a rate of expense within the means of professional men.

Great difficulty occurred in forming a plan for deriving the utmost advantage from the marbles and casts. Lord Elgin's first attempt was to have the statues and bassi rilievi restored; and in that view he went to Rome to consult and to employ Canova. The decision of that most eminent artist was conclusive. On examining the specimens produced to him, and making himself acquainted with the whole collection, and particularly with what came from the Parthenon, by means of the persons who had been carrying on Lord Elgin's operations at Athens, and who had returned with him to Rome, Canova declared, "That however greatly it was to be lamented that these statues should have suffered so much from time and barbarism, yet it was undeniable that they never had been retouched; that[Pg 178] they were the work of the ablest artists the world had ever seen; executed under the most enlightened patron of the arts, and at a period when genius enjoyed the most liberal encouragement, and had attained the highest degree of perfection; and that they had been found worthy of forming the decoration of the most admired edifice ever erected in Greece. That he should have had the greatest delight, and derived the greatest benefit from the opportunity Lord Elgin offered him of having in his possession and contemplating these inestimable marbles." But (his expression was) "it would be sacrilege in him or any man to presume to touch them with his chisel." Since their arrival in this country they have been laid open to the inspection of the public; and the opinions and impressions, not only of artists, but of men of taste in general, have thus been formed and collected.

From these the judgment pronounced by Canova has been universally sanctioned; and all idea of restoring the marbles deprecated. Meanwhile the most distinguished painters and sculptors have assiduously attended the Museum, and evinced the most enthusiastic admiration of the perfection to which these marbles now prove to them that Phidias had brought the art of sculpture, and which had hitherto only been known through the medium of ancient authors. They have attentively examined them, and they have ascertained that they were executed with the most scrupulous anatomical truth,[Pg 179] not only in the human figure, but in the various animals to be found in this collection. They have been struck with the wonderful accuracy, and at the same time, the great effect of minute detail; and with the life and expression so distinctly produced in every variety of attitude and action. Those more advanced in years have testified great concern at not having had the advantage of studying these models; and many who have had the opportunity of forming a comparison (among these are the most eminent sculptors and painters in this metropolis), have publicly and unequivocally declared, that in the view of professional men, this collection is far more valuable than any other collection in existence.

With such advantages as the possession of these unrivalled works of art afford, and with an enlightened and encouraging protection bestowed on genius and the arts, it may not be too sanguine to indulge a hope, that, prodigal as nature is in the perfections of the human figure in this country, animating as are the instances of patriotism, heroic actions, and private virtues deserving commemoration, sculpture may soon be raised in England to rival these, the ablest productions of the best times of Greece. The reader is referred to the synopsis of the British Museum, and to the Chevalier Visconti's Memoirs, before quoted, for complete and authentic catalogues of these marbles, but the following brief abstract is necessary to give a view of what they consist, to readers who may reside at a distance[Pg 180] from the metropolis, or have not those works at hand.

In that part of the collection which came from the eastern pediment of the Parthenon are several statues and fragments, consisting of two horses' heads in one block, and the head of one of the horses of Night, a statue of Hercules or Theseus, a group of two female figures, a female figure in quick motion, supposed to be Iris, and a group of two goddesses, one represented sitting, and the other half reclining on a rock. Among the statues and fragments from the western pediment are part of the chest and shoulders of the colossal figure in the centre, supposed to be Neptune, a fragment of the colossal figure of Minerva, a fragment of a head, supposed to belong to the preceding, a fragment of a statue of Victory, and a statue of a river god called Ilissus, and several fragments of statues from the pediments, the names or places of which are not positively ascertained, among which is one supposed to have been Latona, holding Apollo and Diana in her arms; another of the neck and arms of a figure rising out of the sea, called Hyperion, or the rising Sun; and a torso of a male figure with drapery thrown over one shoulder. The metopes represent the battles between the Centaurs and Lapithæ, at the nuptials of Pirithous. Each metope contains two figures, grouped in various attitudes; sometimes the Lapithæ, sometimes the Centaurs victorious. The figure of one of the La[Pg 181]pithæ, who is lying dead and trampled on by a Centaur, is one of the finest productions of the art, as well as the group adjoining to it of Hippodamia, the bride, carried off by the Centaur Eurytion; the furious style of whose galloping in order to secure his prize, and his shrinking from the spear that has been hurled after him, are expressed with prodigious animation. They are all in such high relief as to seem groups of statues; and they are in general finished with as much attention behind as before.

They were originally continued round the entablature of the Parthenon, and formed ninety-two groups. The frieze which was carried along the outer walls of the cell offered a continuation of sculptures in low relief, and of the most exquisite beauty. It represented the whole of the solemn procession to the temple of Minerva during the Panathenaic festival; many of the figures are on horseback, others are about to mount, some are in chariots, others on foot, oxen and other victims are led to sacrifice, the nymphs called Canephoræ, Skiophoræ, &c., are carrying the sacred offering in baskets and vases; there are priests, magistrates, warriors, deities, &c., forming altogether a series of most interesting figures in great variety of costume, armor, and attitude.

From the Opisthodomus of the Parthenon, Lord Elgin also procured some valuable inscriptions, written in the manner called Kionedon or columnar. The subjects of these monuments are public decrees[Pg 182] of the people, accounts of the riches contained in the treasury, and delivered by the administrators to their successors in office, enumerations of the statues, the silver, gold, and precious stones, deposited in the temple, estimates for public works, &c.


The first Odeon, (ὡδειον, from ὡδη, a song), was built by Pericles at Athens. It was constructed on different principles from the theatre, being of an eliptical form, and roofed to preserve the harmony and increase the force of musical sounds. The building was devoted to poetical and musical contests and exhibitions. It was injured in the siege of Sylla, but was subsequently repaired by Ariobarzanes Philopator, king of Cappadocia. At a later period, two others were built at Athens by Pausanias and Herodes Atticus, and other Greek cities followed their example. The first Odeon at Rome was built in the time of the emperors; Domitian erected one, and Trajan another. The Romans likewise constructed them in several provincial cities, the ruins of one of which are still seen at Catanea, in Sicily.


According to Pausanias, Callimachus made a golden lamp for the Temple of Minerva at Athens, with a wick composed of asbestos, which burned day and night for a year without trimming or re[Pg 183]plenishing with oil. If this was true, the font of the lamp must have been large enough to have contained a year's supply of oil; for, though some profess that the economical inventions of the ancients have been forgotten, the least knowledge in chemistry proves that oil in burning must be consumed. The perpetual lamps, so much celebrated among the learned of former times, said to have been found burning after many centuries, on opening tombs, are nothing more than fables, arising perhaps from phosphorescent appearances, caused by decomposition in confined places, which vanished as soon as fresh air was admitted. Such phenomena have frequently been observed in opening sepulchres.


Is preserved as an object of great veneration in the Academy of St. Luke, which the students visit as if in the hope of being inspired with similar talents; and it is wonderful that, admiring him so much, modern painters should so little resemble him. Either they do not wish to imitate him, or do not know how to do so. Those who duly appreciate his merits have attempted it, and been successful. Mengs is an example of this observation.


The four most celebrated pictures in Rome, are The Transfiguration by Raffaelle, St. Jerome by[Pg 184] Domenichino, The Descent from the Cross by Daniele da Volterra, and The Romualdo by Andrea Sacchi.


It is a singular fact that the four most distinguished painters of the 17th century were named Charles, viz.: le Brun, Cignani, Maratta, and Loti, or Loth. Hence they are frequently called by writers, especially the Italian, "The four Carlos of the 17th century."


Crespi relates that Pietro Galletti, misled by a pleasing self-delusion that he was born a painter, made himself the butt and ridicule of all the artists of Bologna. When they extolled his works and called him the greatest painter in the world, he took their irony for truth, and strutted with greater self-complacency. On one occasion, the students assembled with great pomp and ceremony, and solemnly invested him with the degree of Doctor of Painting.


Ætion gained so much applause by his picture, representing the nuptials of Alexander and Roxana, which he publicly exhibited at the Olympic Games, that Proxenidas, the president, rewarded him, by giving him his daughter in marriage. This picture[Pg 185] was taken to Rome after the conquest of Greece, where it was seen by Lucian, who gives an accurate description of it, from which, it is said, Raffaelle sketched one of his finest compositions.


This famous sculptor was a native of Argos, and flourished about B. C. 500. He was celebrated for his works in bronze, the chief of which were a statue of Jupiter, in the citadel of Ithone, and one of Hercules, placed in the Temple at Melite, in Attica, after the great plague. Pausanias mentions several other works by him, which were highly esteemed. He was also celebrated as the instructor of Myron, Phidias, and Polycletus.


According to Pausanias, Agaptos, a Grecian architect, invented the porticos around the square attached to the Greek stadii, or race courses of the Gymnasiums, which gained him so much reputation, that they were called the porticos of Agaptos, and were adopted in every stadium.


Pliny says there was a doubt in his time, whether some statues representing the dying children of Niobe (Niobæ liberos morientes), in the Temple of Apollo Sosianus at Rome, were by Scopas or Prax[Pg 186]iteles. The well known group of this subject in the Florentine gallery, is generally believed to be the identical work mentioned by Pliny. Whether it be an original production of one of these great artists, or as some critics have supposed, only a copy, it will ever be considered worthy of their genius, as one of the sweetest manifestations of that deep and intense feeling of beauty which the Grecian artists delighted to preserve in the midst of suffering. The admirable criticism of Schlegel (Lectures on the Drama, III), developes the internal harmony of the work. "In the group of Niobe, there is the most perfect expression of terror and pity. The upturned looks of the mother, and the mouth half open in supplication, seem to accuse the invisible wrath of Heaven. The daughter, clinging in the agonies of death to the bosom of her mother, in her infantile innocence, can have no other fear than for herself; the innate impulse of self-preservation was never represented in a manner more tender and affecting. Can there, on the other hand, be exhibited to the senses, a more beautiful image of self-devoting, heroic magnanimity than Niobe, as she bends her body forward, that, if possible, she may alone receive the destructive bolt? Pride and repugnance are melted down in the most ardent maternal love. The more than earthly dignity of the features are the less disfigured by pain, as from the quick repetition of the shocks, she appears, as in the fable, to have become insensible and[Pg 187] motionless. Before this figure, twice transformed into stone, and yet so inimitably animated—before this line of demarkation of all human suffering, the most callous beholder is dissolved in tears."


The famous antique statue of the Fighting Gladiator, which now adorns the Louvre, was executed by Agasias, a Greek sculptor of Ephesus, who flourished about B. C. 450. It was found among the ruins of a palace of the Roman Emperors at Capo d'Anzo, the ancient Antium, where also the Apollo Belvidere was discovered.


As Laocoön, a priest of Neptune, (or according to some, of Apollo) was sacrificing a bull to Neptune, on the shore at Troy, after the pretended retreat of the Greeks, two enormous serpents appeared swimming from the island of Tenedos, and advanced towards the altar. The people fled; but Laocoön and his two sons fell victims to the monsters. The sons were first attacked, and then the father, who attempted to defend them, the serpents coiling themselves about him and his sons, while in his agony he endeavored to extricate them. They then hastened to the temple of Pallas, where, placing themselves at the foot of the goddess, they hid themselves under her shield. The people saw in[Pg 188] this omen, Laocoön's punishment for his impiety in having pierced with his spear, the wooden horse which was consecrated to Minerva. Thus Virgil relates the story in the Æneid; others, as Hyginus, give different accounts, though agreeing in the main points. The fable is chiefly interesting to us, as having given rise to one of the finest and most celebrated works of antique sculpture, namely, the Laocoön, now in the Vatican. It was discovered in 1506 by some workmen, while employed in making excavations in a vineyard on the site of the Baths of Titus. Pope Julius II. bought it for an annual pension, and placed it in the Belvidere in the Vatican. It was taken to Paris by Napoleon, but was restored to its place in 1815. It is perfect in preservation, except that the right arm of Laocoön was wanting, which was restored by Baccio Bandinelli. This group is so perfect a work, so grand and so instructive for the student of the fine arts, that many writers of all nations have written on it. It represents three persons in agony, but in different attitudes of struggling or fear, according to their ages, and the mental anguish of the father. All connoisseurs declare the group perfect, the product of the most thorough knowledge of anatomy, of character, and of ideal perfection. According to Pliny, it was the common opinion in his time, that the group was made of one stone by three sculptors, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenadorus, all three natives of Rhodes, and the two last probably sons of the former. He[Pg 189] says, "The Laocoön, which is in the palace of the Emperor Titus, is a work to be preferred to all others, either in painting or sculpture. Those great artists, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenadorus, Rhodians, executed the principal figure, the sons, and the wonderful folds of the serpents, out of one piece of marble." Doubts exist respecting the era of this work. Maffei places it in the 88th Olympiad, or the first year of the Peloponnesian War; Winckelmann, in the time of Lysippus and Alexander; and Lessing, in the time of the first Emperors. Some doubt whether this is the work mentioned by Pliny, because it has been discovered that the group was not executed out of one block of marble, as asserted by him. In the opinion of many judicious critics, however, it is considered an original group, and not a copy, for no copy would possess its perfections; and that it is certainly the one described by Pliny, because, after his time, no known sculptor was capable of executing such a perfect work; and had there been one, his fame would certainly have reached us. It was found in the place mentioned by Pliny, and the joinings are so accurate and artfully concealed, that they might easily escape his notice. There are several copies of this matchless production by modern sculptors, the most remarkable of which, are one in bronze by Sansovino, and another in marble by Baccio Bandinelli, which last is in the Medici gallery at Florence. It has also been frequently engraved; the best is the famous[Pg 190] plate by Bervic, engraved for the Musée Francais, pronounced by connoisseurs, the finest representation of a marble group ever executed, proof impressions of which have been sold for 30 guineas each.


It is said that Julius II. desired Angelo to restore the missing arm behind the Laocoön. He commenced it, but left it unfinished, "because," said he, "I found I could do nothing worthy of being joined to so admirable a work." What a testimony of the superiority of the best ancient sculptors over the moderns, for of all modern sculptors, Michael Angelo is universally allowed to be the best!


There is a curious letter not generally known, but published by the Abate Fea, from Francesco da Sangallo, the sculptor, to Monsignore Spedalengo, in which the circumstances of the discovery of the Laocoön are thus alluded to. The letter is dated 1509. He says, "It being told to the Pope that some fine statues had been discovered in a vineyard near S. Maria Maggiore, he sent to desire my father, (Giuliano da Sangallo) to go and examine them. Michael Angelo Buonarotti being often at our house, father got him to go also; and so," continues Francesco, "I mounted behind my father, and we[Pg 191] went. We descended to where the statues were. My father immediately exclaimed, 'This is the Laocoön spoken of by Pliny!' They made the workmen enlarge the aperture or excavation, so as to be able to draw them out, and then, having seen them, we returned to dinner."


This eminent English architect, and munificent public benefactor, was the son of a poor bricklayer, and was born at Reading in 1753. He showed early indications of talent and a predilection for architecture; and, at the age of fifteen, his father placed him with Mr. George Dance (then considered one of the most accomplished of the English architects), probably in the capacity of a servant. At all events he was not regularly articled, but he soon attracted notice by his industry, activity, and talents. Mr. Donaldson says, "his sister was a servant in Mr. Dance's family, which proves that the strength of Soane's character enabled him to rise to so distinguished a rank merely by his own exertions." He afterwards studied under Holland, and in the Royal Academy, where he first attracted public notice by a design for a triumphal bridge, which drew the gold medal of that institution, and entitled him to go to Italy for three years on the pension of the Academy. During a residence of six years in Italy, he studied the remains of antiquity and the[Pg 192] finest modern edifices with great assiduity, and made several original designs, which attracted considerable attention; among them were one for a British Senate House, and another for a Royal Palace. In 1780 he returned to England, and soon distinguished himself by several elegant palaces, which he was commissioned to erect for the nobility in different parts of the kingdom, the plans and elevations of which he published in a folio volume in 1788. In the same year, in a competition with nineteen other architects, he obtained the lucrative office of Surveyor and Architect to the Bank of England, which laid the foundation of the splendid fortune he afterwards acquired. Other advantageous appointments followed; that of Clerk of the Woods of St. James' Palace, in 1791; Architect of the Woods and Forests, in 1795; Professor of Architecture in the Royal Academy in 1806; and Surveyor of Chelsea Hospital in 1807. In addition to his public employments, he received many commissions for private buildings. He led a life of indefatigable industry in the practice of his profession till 1833, when he reached his eightieth year. He died in 1837.


Sir John Soane was a munificent patron of various public charities, and was even more liberal in his contributions for the advancement of art; he subscribed £1000 to the Duke of York's monument;[Pg 193] a similar sum to the Royal British Institution; £750 to the Institute of British Architects; £250 to the Architectural Society, &c. He made a splendid collection of works of art, valued at upwards of £50,000 before his death, converted his house into a Museum, and left the whole to his country, which is now known as Sir John Soane's Museum—one of the most attractive institutions in London. He devoted the last four years of his life in classifying and arranging his Museum, which is distributed in twenty-four rooms, and consists of architectural models of ancient and modern edifices; a large collection of architectural drawings, designs, plans, and measurements, by many great architects; a library of the best works on art, particularly on Architecture; antique fragments of buildings, as columns, capitals, ornaments, and friezes in marble; also, models, casts, and copies of similar objects in other collections; fragments and relics of architecture in the middle ages; modern sculptures, especially by the best British sculptors; Greek and Roman antiquities, consisting of fragments of Greek and Roman sculpture antique busts, bronzes, and cinerary urns; Etruscan vases; Egyptian antiquities; busts of remarkable persons; a collection of 138 antique gems, cameos and intaglios, originally in the collection of M. Capece Latro, Archbishop of Tarentum, and 136 antique gems, principally from the Braschi collection; a complete set of Napoleon medals, selected by the Baron Denon for the Em[Pg 194]press Josephine, and formerly in her possession, curiosities; rare books and illuminated manuscripts; a collection of about fifty oil paintings, many of them of great value, among which are the Rake's Progress, a series of eight pictures by Hogarth, and the Election, a series of four, by the same artist; and many articles of virtu too numerous to mention here, forming altogether a most rare, unique, and valuable collection. What a glorious monument did the poor bricklayer's son erect to his memory, which, while it blesses, will cause his countrymen to bless and venerate the donor, and make his name bright on the page of history! Some there are who regard posthumous fame a bubble, and present pomp substantial; but the one is godlike, the other sensual and vain.


One of the most interesting and valuable relics in Sir John Soane's Museum, is the Belzoni Sarcophagus. It was discovered by Belzoni, the famous French traveler, in 1816, in a tomb in the valley of Beban el Malouk, near Gournon. He found it in the centre of a sepulchral chamber of extraordinary magnificence, and records the event with characteristic enthusiasm: "I may call this a fortunate day, one of the best, perhaps, of my life. I do not mean to say that fortune has made me rich, for I do not consider all rich men fortunate; but she has given me that satisfaction, that extreme pleasure which[Pg 195] wealth cannot purchase—the pleasure of discovering what has long been sought in vain." It is constructed of one single piece of alabaster, so translucent that a lamp placed within it shines through, although it is more than two inches in thickness. It is nine feet four inches in length, three feet eight inches in width, and two feet eight inches in depth, and is covered with hieroglyphics outside and inside, which have not yet been satisfactorily interpreted, though they are supposed by some to refer to Osirei, the father of Rameses the Great. It was transported from Egypt to England at great expense, and offered to the Trustees of the British Museum for £2,000, which being refused, Sir John Soane immediately purchased it and exhibited it free, with just pride, to crowds of admiring visitors. When Belzoni discovered this remarkable relic of Egyptian royalty, the lid had been thrown off and broken into pieces, and its contents rifled; the sarcophagus itself is in perfect preservation.


The original copy of "Gerusalemme Liberata," in the handwriting of Tasso, is in the Soane Museum. It was purchased by Sir John Soane, at the sale of the Earl of Guilford's Library, in 1829. This literary treasure, which cannot be contemplated without emotion, once belonged to Baruffaldi, one of the most eminent literary characters of mo[Pg 196]dern Italy. Serassi describes it, and refers to the emendations made by the poet in the margin (Serassi's edit. Florence, 1724;) but expresses his fear that it had been taken out of Italy. In allusion to this expression of Serassi, Lord Guilford has written on the fly-leaf of the MS., "I would not wish to hurt the honest pride of any Italian; but the works of a great genius are the property of all ages and all countries: and I hope it will be recorded to future ages, that England possesses the original MS. of one of the four greatest epic poems the world has produced, and, beyond all doubt, the only one of the four now existing." There is no date to this MS. The first printed edition of the Gerusalemme is dated 1580.

There are other rare and valuable MSS. in this Museum, the most remarkable of which are a Commentary in Latin on the epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, by Cardinal Grimani. It is adorned with exquisite miniature illustrations, painted by Don Giulio Clovio, called the Michael Angelo of miniature painters. "The figures are about an inch in height," says Mrs. Jameson, "equaling in vigor, grandeur, and originality, the conceptions of Michael Angelo and of Raffaelle, who were his cotemporaries and admirers." Also, a missal of the fifteenth century, containing ninety-two miniatures by Lucas van Leyden and his scholars, executed in a truly Dutch style, just the reverse of those of Clovio, except in point of elaborate finishing.[Pg 197]


The life of this extraordinary genius is full of interest, and his melancholy fall full of warning and instruction. He was the son of an indifferent painter, whose principal business was in cleaning and repairing, and dealing in ancient pictures. Morland showed an extraordinary talent for painting almost in his infancy, and before he was sixteen years old, his name was known far and wide by engravings from his pictures. His father, who seems to have been a man of a low and sordid disposition, had his son indented to him as an apprentice, for seven years, in order to secure his services as long as possible, and he constantly employed him in painting pictures and making drawings for sale; and these were frequently of a broad character, as such commanded the best prices, and found the most ready sale. Hence he acquired a wonderful facility of pencil, but wholly neglected academic study. His associates were the lowest of the low. On the expiration of his indenture, he left his father's house, and the remainder of his life is the history of genius degraded by intemperance and immorality, which alternately excites our admiration at his great talents, our regrets at the profligacy of his conduct, and our pity for his misfortunes. According to his biographer, Mr. George Dawe, who wrote an impartial and excellent life of Morland, he reached the full maturity of his powers, about 1790[Pg 198] when he was twenty-six years old; and from that time, they began and continued to decline till his death in 1804. Poor Morland was constantly surrounded by a set of harpies, who contrived to get him in their debt, and then compelled him to paint a picture for a guinea, which they readily sold for thirty or forty, and which now bring almost any sum asked for them. Many of his best works were painted in sponging houses to clear him from arrest.


Morland's father having embarked in the business of picture dealing, had become bankrupt, and it is said that he endeavored to repair his broken fortunes by the talents of his son George, who, almost as soon as he escaped from the cradle, took to the pencil and crayon. Very many artists are recorded to have manifested an "early inclination for art," but the indications of early talent in others are nothing when compared with Morland's. "At four, five, and six years of age," says Cunningham, "he made drawings worthy of ranking him among the common race of students; the praise bestowed on these by the Society of Artists, to whom they were exhibited, and the money which collectors were willing to pay for the works of this new wonder, induced his father to urge him onward in his studies, and he made rapid progress."[Pg 199]


The danger of overtasking either the mind or body in childhood, is well known; and there is every reason to believe that young Morland suffered both of these evils. His father stimulated him by praise and by indulgence at the table, and to ensure his continuance at his allotted tasks, shut him up in a garret, and excluded him from free air, which strengthens the body, and from education—that free air which nourishes the mind. His stated work for a time was making drawings from pictures and from plaster casts, which his father carried out and sold; but as he increased in skill, he chose his subjects from popular songs and ballads, such as "Young Roger came tapping at Dolly's window," "My name is Jack Hall," "I am a bold shoemaker, from Belfast Town I came," and other productions of the mendicant muse. The copies of pictures and casts were commonly sold for three half-crowns each; the original sketches—some of them a little free in posture, and not over delicately handled, were framed and disposed of for any sum from two to five guineas, according to the cleverness of the piece, or the generosity of the purchaser. Though far inferior to the productions of his manhood, they were much admired; engravers found it profitable to copy them, and before he was sixteen years old, his name had flown far and wide.[Pg 200]


From ten years of age, young Morland appears to have led the life of a prisoner and a slave under the roof of his father, hearing in his seclusion the merry din of the schoolboys in the street, without hope of partaking in their sports. By-and-by he managed to obtain an hour's relaxation at the twilight, and then associated with such idle and profligate boys as chance threw in his way, and learned from them a love for coarse enjoyment, and the knowledge that it could not well be obtained without money. Oppression keeps the school of Cunning; young Morland resolved not only to share in the profits of his own talents, but also to snatch an hour or so of amusement, without consulting his father. When he made three drawings for his father, he made one secretly for himself, and giving a signal from his window, lowered it by a string to two or three knowing boys, who found a purchaser at a reduced price, and spent the money with the young artist. A common tap-room was an indifferent school of manners, whatever it might be for painting, and there this gifted lad was now often to be found late in the evening, carousing with hostlers and potboys, handing round the quart pot, and singing his song or cracking his joke.

His father, having found out the contrivance by which he raised money for this kind of revelry[Pg 201] adopted, in his own imagination, a wiser course. He resolved to make his studies as pleasant to him as he could; and as George was daily increasing in fame and his works in price, this could be done without any loss. He indulged his son, now some sixteen years old, with wine, pampered his appetite with richer food, and moreover allowed him a little pocket-money to spend among his companions, and purchase acquaintance with what the vulgar call life. He dressed him, too, in a style of ultra-dandyism, and exhibited him at his easel to his customers, attired in a green coat with very long skirts, and immense yellow buttons, buckskin breeches, and top boots with spurs. He permitted him too to sing wild songs, swear grossly, and talk about anything he liked with such freedom as makes anxious parents tremble. With all these indulgences the boy was not happy; he aspired but the more eagerly after full liberty and the unrestrained enjoyment of the profits of his pencil.


Hassell and Smith give contradictory accounts of this important step in young Morland's life, which occurred when he was seventeen years old. The former, who knew him well, says that, "he was determined to make his escape from the rigid confinement which paternal authority had imposed upon[Pg 202] him; and, wild as a young quadruped that had broken loose from his den, at length, though late, effectually accomplished his purpose." "Young George was of so unsettled a disposition," says Smith, "that his father, being fully aware of his extraordinary talents, was determined to force him to get his own living, and gave him a guinea, with something like the following observation: 'I am determined to encourage your idleness no longer; there—take that guinea, and apply to your art and support yourself.' This Morland told me, and added, that from that moment he commenced and continued wholly on his own account." It would appear by Smith's relation, that our youth, instead of supporting his father, had all along been depending on his help; this, however, contradicts not only Hassell, but Fuseli also, who, in his edition of Pilkington's Dictionary, accuses the elder Morland of avariciously pocketing the whole profits of his son's productions.


After leaving his father, Morland plunged into a career of wildness and dissipation, amidst which, however, his extraordinary talents kept his name still rising. While residing at Kensall Green, he was frequently thrown in the company of Ward, the painter, whose example of moral steadiness was exhibited to him in vain. At length, however, he[Pg 203] fell in love with Miss Ward, a young lady of beauty and modesty, and the sister of his friend. Succeeding in gaining her affections, he soon afterwards married her; and to make the family union stronger, Ward sued for the hand of Maria Morland, and in about a month after his sister's marriage, obtained it. In the joy of this double union, the brother artists took joint possession of a good house in High Street, Marylebone. Morland suspended for a time his habit of insobriety, discarded the social comrades of his laxer hours, and imagined himself reformed. But discord broke out between the sisters concerning the proper division of rule and authority in the house; and Morland, whose partner's claim perhaps was the weaker, took refuge in lodgings in Great Portland Street. His passion for late hours and low company, restrained through courtship and the honey-moon, now broke out with the violence of a stream which had been dammed, rather than dried up. It was in vain that his wife entreated and remonstrated—his old propensities prevailed, and the post-boy, the pawnbroker, and the pugilist, were summoned again to his side, no more to be separated.


Morland's dissipated habits and worthless companions, produced the effect that might have been expected; and this talented painter, who might have mingled freely among nobles and princes, came[Pg 204] strength to hold a position in society that is best illustrated by the following anecdote. Raphael Smith, the engraver, had employed him for years on works from which he engraved, and by which he made large sums of money. He called one day with Bannister the comedian to look at a picture which was upon the easel. Smith was satisfied with the artist's progress, and said, "I shall now proceed on my morning ride." "Stay a moment," said Morland, laying down his brush, "and I will go with you." "Morland," answered the other, in an emphatic tone, which could not be mistaken, "I have an appointment with a gentleman, who is waiting for me." Such a sarcasm might have cured any man who was not incurable; it made but a momentary impression upon the mind of our painter, who cursed the engraver, and returned to his palette.


Morland once received an invitation to Barnet, and was hastening thither with Hassell and another friend, when he was stopped at Whetstone turnpike by a lumber or jockey cart, driven by two persons, one of them a chimney-sweep, who were disputing with the toll-gatherer. Morland endeavored to pass, when one of the wayfarers cried, "What! Mr. Morland, won't you speak to a body!" The artist endeavored to elude further greeting, but this was not to be; the other bawled out so lustily, that[Pg 205] Morland was obliged to recognize at last his companion and croney, Hooper, a tinman and pugilist. After a hearty shake of the hand, the boxer turned to his neighbor the chimney-sweep and said, "Why, Dick, don't you know this here gentleman? 'tis my friend Mr. Morland." The sooty charioteer smiling a recognition, forced his unwelcome hand upon his brother of the brush; they then both whipt their horses and departed. This rencontre mortified Morland very sensibly; he declared that he knew nothing of the chimney-sweep, and that he was forced upon him by the impertinence of Hooper: but the artist's habits made the story generally believed, and "Sweeps, your honor," was a joke which he was often obliged to hear.


Morland loved to visit this isle in his better days, and some of his best pictures are copied from scenes on that coast. A friend once found him at Freshwater-Gate, in a low public-house called The Cabin. Sailors, rustics, and fishermen, were seated round him in a kind of ring, the rooftree rung with laughter and song; and Morland, with manifest reluctance, left their company for the conversation of his friend. "George," sad his monitor, "you must have reasons for keeping such company." "Reasons, and good ones," said the artist, laughing; "see—where could I find such a picture of life as that, unless among the originals of The Cabin?" He[Pg 206] held up his sketch-book and showed a correct delineation of the very scene in which he had so lately been the presiding spirit. One of his best pictures contains this fac-simile of the tap-room, with its guests and furniture.


"It frequently happened," says one of Morland's biographers, "when a picture had been bespoke by one of his friends, who advanced some of the money to induce him to work, if the purchaser did not stand by to see it finished and carry it away with him, some other person, who was lurking within sight for that purpose, and knew the state of Morland's pocket, by the temptation of a few guineas laid upon the table, carried off the picture. Thus all were served in their turn; and though each exulted in the success of the trick when he was so lucky as to get a picture in this easy way, they all joined in exclaiming against Morland's want of honesty in not keeping his promises to them."


Hassell's introduction to Morland was decidedly in character. "As I was walking," he says, "towards Paddington on a summer morning, to inquire about the health of a relation, I saw a man posting on before me with a sucking-pig, which he carried in his arms like a child. The piteous squeaks[Pg 207] of the little animal, and the singular mode of conveyance, drew spectators to door and window; the person however who carried it minded no one, but to every dog that barked—and there were not a few—he sat down the pig, and pitted him against the dog, and then followed the chase which was sure to ensue. In this manner he went through several streets in Mary-le-bone, and at last, stopping at the door of one of my friends, was instantly admitted. I also knocked and entered, but my surprise was great on finding this original sitting with the pig still under his arm, and still greater when I was introduced to Morland the painter."


A person at whose house Morland resided when in the Isle of Wight, having set out for London, left an order with an acquaintance at Cowes to give the painter his own price for whatever works he might please to send. The pictures were accompanied by a regular solicitation for cash in proportion, or according to the nature of the subject. At length a small but very highly finished drawing arrived, and as the sum demanded seemed out of all proportion with the size of the work, the conscientious agent transmitted the piece to London and stated the price. The answer by post was, "Pay what is asked, and get as many others as you can at the same price." There is not one sketch in[Pg 208] the collection thus made but what would now produce thrice its original cost.


One evening Hassell and his friends were returning to town from Hempstead, when Morland accosted them in the character of a mounted patrole, wearing the parish great-coat, girded with a broad black belt, and a pair of pistols depending. He hailed them with "horse patrole!" in his natural voice; they recognised him and laughed heartily, upon which he entreated them to stop at the Mother Red Cap, a well known public-house, till he joined them. He soon made his appearance in his proper dress, and gave way to mirth and good fellowship. On another occasion he paid a parishioner, who was drawn for constable, to be permitted to serve in his place, he billeted soldiers during the day, and presided in the constable's chair at night.


At another time, having promised to paint a picture for M. de Calonne, Morland seemed unwilling to begin, but was stimulated by the following stratagem. Opposite to his house in Paddington was the White Lion. Hassell directed two of his friends to breakfast there, and instructed them to look anxiously towards the artist's window, and occasionally walk up and down before the house. He then waited[Pg 209] on Morland, who only brandished his brush at the canvas and refused to work. After waiting some time, Hassell went to the window and effected surprise at seeing two strangers gazing intently at the artist's house. Morland looked at them earnestly—declared they were bailiffs, who certainly wanted him—and ordered the door to be bolted. Hassell having secured him at home, showed him the money for his work, and so dealt with him that the picture, a landscape with six figures, one of his best productions, was completed in six hours. He then paid him, and relieved his apprehensions respecting the imaginary bailiffs—Morland laughed heartily.


While spending some time at Yarmouth, Morland was looked upon as a suspicious character, and was apprehended as a spy. After a sharp examination, the drawings he had made on the shores of the Isle of Wight were considered as confirmation of his guilt; he was therefore honored with an escort of soldiers and constables to Newport, and there confronted by a bench of justices. At his explanation, they shook their heads, laid a strict injunction upon him to paint and draw no more in that neighborhood, and dismissed him. This adventure he considered a kind of pleasant interruption; and indeed it seems ridiculous enough in the officials who apprehended him.[Pg 210]


On one occasion, Morland was on his way from Deal, and Williams, the engraver, was his companion. The extravagance of the preceding evening had fairly emptied their pockets; weary, hungry and thirsty, they arrived at a small ale-house by the way-side; they hesitated to enter. Morland wistfully reconnoitered the house, and at length accosted the landlord—"Upon my life, I scarcely knew it: is this the Black Bull?" "To be sure it is, master," said the landlord, "there's the sign."—"Ay! the board is there, I grant," replied our wayfarer, "but the Black Bull is vanished and gone. I will paint you a capital new one for a crown." The landlord consented, and placed a dinner and drink before this restorer of signs, to which the travelers did immediate justice. "Now, landlord," said Morland, "take your horse, and ride to Canterbury—it is but a little way—and buy me proper paint and a good brush." He went on his errand with a grudge, and returned with the speed of thought, for fear that his guests should depart in his absence. By the time that Morland had painted the Black Bull, the reckoning had risen to ten shillings, and the landlord reluctantly allowed them to go on their way; but not, it is said, without exacting a promise that the remainder of the money should be paid with the first opportunity. The painter, on his arrival it town, related this adventure in the Hole-in-the-Wall,[Pg 211] Fleet Street. A person who overheard him, mounted his horse, rode into Kent, and succeeded in purchasing the Black Bull from the Kentish Boniface for ten guineas.


Even when Morland had sunk to misery and recklessness, the spirit of industry did not forsake him, nor did his taste or his skill descend with his fortunes. One day's work would have purchased him a week's sustenance, yet he labored every day, and as skilfully and beautifully as ever. A water man was at one time his favorite companion, whom, by way of distinction, Morland called "My Dicky." Dicky once carried a picture to the pawnbroker's, wet from the easel, with the request for the advance of three guineas upon it. The pawnbroker paid the money; but in carrying it into the room his foot slipped, and the head and foreparts of a hog were obliterated. The money-changer returned the picture with a polite note, requesting the artist to restore the damaged part. "My Dicky!" exclaimed Morland, "an that's a good one! but never mind!" He reproduced the hog in a few minutes, and said, "There! go back and tell the pawnbroker to advance me five guineas more upon it; and if he won't, say I shall proceed against him; the price of the picture is thirty guineas." The demand was complied with.[Pg 212]


Morland was well descended. In his earlier and better days, a solicitor informed him that he was heir to a baronet's title, and advised him to assert his claim. "Sir George Morland!" said the painter—"It sounds well, but it won't do. Plain George Morland will always sell my pictures, and there is more honor in being a fine painter than in being a fine gentleman."


As an artist, Morland's claims are high and undisputed. He is original and alone; his style and conceptions are his own; his thoughts are ever at home, and always natural; he extracts pleasing subjects out of the most coarse and trivial scenes, and finds enough to charm the eye in the commonest occurrences. His subjects are usually from low life, such as hog-sties, farm-yards, landscapes with cattle and sheep, or fishermen with smugglers on the sea-coast. He seldom or ever produced a picture perfect in all its parts, but those parts adapted to his knowledge and taste were exquisitely beautiful. Knowing well his faults, he usually selected those subjects best suited to his talents. His knowledge of anatomy was extremely limited; he was totally unfitted for representing the human figure elegantly or correctly, and incapable of large compositions. He never paints above the most ordi[Pg 213]nary capacity, and gives an air of truth and reality to whatever he touches. He has taken a strong and lasting hold of the popular fancy: not by ministering to our vanity, but by telling plain and striking truths. He is the rustic painter for the people; his scenes are familiar to every eye, and his name is on every lip. Painting seemed as natural to him as language is to others, and by it he expressed his sentiments and his feelings, and opened his heart to the multitude. His gradual descent in society may be traced in the productions of his pencil; he could only paint well what he saw or remembered; and when he left the wild sea-shore and the green wood-side for the hedge ale-house and the Rules of the Bench, the character of his pictures shifted with the scene. Yet even then his wonderful skill of hand and sense of the picturesque never forsook him. His intimacy with low life only dictated his theme—the coarseness of the man and the folly of his company never touched the execution of his pieces. All is indeed homely—nay, mean—but native taste and elegance redeemed every detail. To a full command over every implement of his art, he united a facility of composition and a free readiness of hand perhaps quite unrivalled.


This artist was a pupil of Sir Godfrey Kneller, and met with plentiful employment in portrait painting. His abilities were very inferior, but, says Walpole,[Pg 214] "Such was the badness of the age's taste, and the dearth of good masters, that Jervas sat at the head of his profession, although he was defective in drawing, coloring, composition, and likeness. In general, his pictures are a light flimsy kind of fan-painting as large as life. Yet I have seen a few of his works highly colored, and it is certain that his copies of Carlo Maratti, whom he most studied and imitated, were extremely just, and scarcely inferior to the originals."


What will recommend the name of Jervas to inquisitive posterity, was his intimacy with Pope, whom he instructed to draw and paint. The poet has enshrined the feeble talents of the painter in "the lucid amber of his flowing lines." Spence informs us, that Pope was "the pupil of Jervas for the space of a year said a half," meaning that he was constantly so, for that period. Tillemans was engaged in painting a landscape for Lord Radnor, into which Pope by stealth inserted some strokes, which the prudent painter did not appear to observe; and of this circumstance Pope was not a little vain. In proof of his proficiency in the art of painting, Pope presented his friend Mr. Murray, with a head of Betterton the celebrated tragedian, which was afterwards at Caen Wood. During a long visit at Holm Lacy in Herefordshire, he amused his leisure by copying from Vandyck, in crayons, a[Pg 215] head of Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, which was still preserved there many years afterwards, and is said to have possessed considerable merit. For an account of Pope's skill in painting fans, see vol. I. page 201 of this work.


Jervas, who affected to be a Free-thinker, was one day talking very irreverently of the Bible. Dr. Arbuthnot maintained to him that he was not only a speculative, but a practical believer. Jervas denied it. Arbuthnot said that he would prove it: "You strictly observe the second commandment;" said the Doctor, "for in your pictures you 'make not the likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth'"!


His vanity and conceit knew no bounds. He copied a picture by Titian in the Royal collection, which he thought so vastly superior to the original, that on its completion he exclaimed with great complacency, "Poor little Tit, how he would stare!" Walpole says, "Jervas had ventured to look upon the fair Lady Bridgewater with more than a painter's eye; so entirely did that lovely form possess his imagination, that many a homely dame was delighted to find her picture resemble Lady Bridgewater. Yet neither his presumption nor his passion[Pg 216] could extinguish his self-love." One day, as she was sitting to him, he ran over the beauties of her face with rapture—'but,' said he, "I cannot help telling your ladyship that you have not a handsome ear." "No!" returned the lady, "pray, Mr. Jervas, what is a handsome ear?" He turned his cap, and showed her his own. When Kneller heard that Jervas had sent up a carriage and four horses, he exclaimed, "Ah, mine Got! if his horses do not draw better than he does, he will never get to his journey's end!"


Before Holbein quitted Basile for England, he intimated that he should leave a specimen of the power of his abilities. Having a portrait in his house which he had just finished for one of his patrons, he painted a fly on the forehead, and sent it to the person for whom it was painted. The gentleman was struck with the beauty of the piece, and went eagerly to brush off the fly, when he found out the deceit. The story soon spread, and orders were immediately given to prevent the city being deprived of Holbein's talents; but he had already departed.


Furnished with recommendatory letters from his friend Sir Thomas More, Holbein went to England, and was received into More's house, where he[Pg 217] wrought for nearly three years, drawing the portraits of Sir Thomas, his relations and friends. The King, (Henry VIII.) visiting the Chancellor, saw some of these pictures, and expressed his satisfaction. Sir Thomas begged him to accept which ever he liked; but his Majesty inquired for the painter, who was accordingly introduced to him. Henry immediately took him into his own service and told the Chancellor that now he had got the artist, he did not want the pictures. An apartment in the palace was allotted to Holbein, with a salary of 200 florins besides the price of his pictures.


The King retained Holbein in his service many years, during which time he painted the portrait of his Majesty many times, and probably those of all his queens, though no portrait of Catharine Parr is certainly known to be from his hand. An amusing and characteristic anecdote is related, showing the opinion the King entertained of this artist. One day, as Holbein was privately drawing some lady's picture for Henry, a great lord forced himself into the chamber, when the artist flew into a terrible passion, and forgetting everything else in his rage, ran at the peer and threw him down stairs! Upon a sober second thought, however, seeing the rashness of this act, Holbein bolted the door, escaped over the top of the house, and running directly to the[Pg 218] King, besought pardon, without telling his offence. His majesty promised he would forgive him if he would tell the truth; but on finding out the offence, began to repent of his promise, and said he should not easily overlook such insults, and bade him wait in the apartment till he learned more of the matter. Immediately after, the lord arrived with his complaint, but diminishing the provocation. At first the monarch heard the story with temper, but soon broke out, reproaching the nobleman with his want of truth, and adding, "You have not to do with Holbein, but with me; I tell you, of seven peasants I can make seven lords; but of seven lords I cannot make one Holbein! Begone, and remember that if you ever attempt to revenge yourself, I shall look on any injury offered to the painter as done to myself."


After the death of Jane Seymour, Holbein was sent to Flanders by the King, to paint the portrait of the Duchess Dowager of Milan, widow of Francesco Sforza, whom Charles V. had recommended to Henry for a fourth wife, although the German Emperor subsequently changed his mind, and prevented the marriage. There is a letter among the Holbein MSS. from Sir Thomas Wyatt, congratulating his Majesty on his escape, as the Duchess' chastity was somewhat equivocal, but says Walpole, "If[Pg 219] it was, I am apt to think, considering Henry's temper, that the Duchess had the greater escape!"—About the same time it is said that the Duchess herself, sent the King word, "That she had but one head; if she had two, one of them should be at his Majesty's service."


Holbein was dispatched by Cromwell, Henry's Minister, to paint the Lady Anne of Cleves, and by practising the common flattery of his profession, "he was," says Walpole, "the immediate cause of the destruction of that great subject, and of the disgrace which fell upon the princess herself. He drew so favorable a likeness that Henry was content to wed her; but when he found her so inferior to the miniature, the storm which should have really been directed at the painter, burst on the minister; and Cromwell lost his head, because Anne was a Flanders mare, and not a Venus, as Holbein had represented her."


He painted the portrait of Nicholas Cratzer, astronomer to Henry VIII., which Walpole mentions as being in the Royal collection in France. This astronomer erected the dial at Corpus Christi, Oxford College, in 1550. After thirty years' residence in England, he had scarce learned to speak[Pg 220] the language, and his Majesty asking him how that happened, he replied, "I beseech your highness to pardon me; what can a man learn in only thirty years?" The latter half of this memorable sentence may remind the reader of Sir Isaac Newton; and perhaps the study of astronomy does naturally produce such a feeling in the reflective mind.


Holbein painted the portraits of the Chancellor and family; and no less than six different pictures of this subject are attributed to his hand; but of these Walpole thinks only two to possess good evidences of originality. One of these was in Deloo's collection, and after his death was purchased by Mr. Roper, More's grandson. Another was in the Palazzo Delfino at Venice, where it was long on sale, the price first set being £1500; but the King of Poland purchased it about 1750, for near £400. The coloring of this work is beautiful beyond description, and the carnations have that bloom so peculiar to Holbein, who touched his works until not a touch remained discernible. Walpole says, "It was evidently designed for a small altar-piece to a chapel; in the middle on a throne sits the Virgin and child; on one side kneels an elderly gentleman with two sons, one of them a naked infant opposite kneeling are his wife and daughters.[Pg 221]"

There is recorded a bon-mot of Sir Thomas on the birth of his son. He had three daughters, but his wife was impatient for a son: at last they had one, but not much above an idiot—"you have prayed so long for a boy," said the Chancellor, "that now we have got one who I believe will be a boy as long as he lives!"


This eminent English architect, who flourished about the commencement of the 18th century, had to contend with the wits of the age. They waged no war against him as a wit, for he was not inferior; but as an architect, he was the object of their keenest derision, particularly for his celebrated work of the stupendous palace of Blenheim, erected for the Duke of Marlborough in accordance with the vote of a grateful nation. Swift was a satirist, therefore no true critic; and his disparagement of Blenheim arose from party-feeling. Pope was more decisive, and by the harmony of his numbers contributed to lead and bias the public opinion, until a new light emanated from the criticism of Sir Joshua Reynolds; and this national palace is now to be considered, not on its architectural, but its picturesque merits. A criticism which caused so memorable a revolution in public taste, must be worthy of an extract. "I pretend to no skill in architecture—I judge now of the art merely as a painter. To speak then of Vanbrugh in the language of a painter, he had origi[Pg 222]nality of invention, he understood light and shadow, and had great skill in composition. To support his principal object he produced his second and third groups of masses; he perfectly understood in his art what is most difficult in ours, the conduct of the background, by which the design and invention is set off to the greatest advantage. What the background is in painting, is the real ground upon which the building is erected; and no architect took greater care that his works should not appear crude and hard; that is, it did not start abruptly out of the ground, without speculation or preparation. This is the tribute which a painter owes to an architect who composed like a painter."

Besides this, the testimony of Knight, Price, and Gilpin, have contributed to remove the prejudices against Vanbrugh. Knight says in his "Principles of Taste," Sir John Vanbrugh is the only architect I know of, who has either planned or placed his houses according to the principles recommended; and in his two chief works, Blenheim and Castle Howard, it appears to have been strictly adhered to, at least in the placing of them, and both are certainly worthy of the best situations, which not only the respective places, but the island of Great Britain could afford.

Vanbrugh also evinced great talent as a dramatic writer, and his masterly powers in comedy are so well evinced in the Relapse, the Provoked Wife, and other plays, that were it not for their strong[Pg 223] libertine tendency which have properly banished them from the stage, and almost from the closet, he would have been regarded as a standard classic author in English dramatic literature. His private character seems to have been amiable, and his conduct tolerably correct. He died at his own house in Whitehall, in 1726. In his character of architect, Dr. Evans bestowed on him the following witty epitaph:

"Lie heavy on him, earth, for he
Laid many a heavy load on thee"!


He was employed by the Duke of Somerset, commonly called "the Proud Duke," to paint the portraits of his horses at Petworth, who condescended to sit with Seymour (his namesake) at table. One day at dinner, the Duke filled his glass, and saying with a sneer, "Cousin Seymour, your health," drank it off. "My Lord," said the artist, "I believe I have the honor of being related to your grace." The proud peer rose from the table, and ordered his steward to dismiss the presumptuous painter, and employ an humbler brother of the brush. This was accordingly done; but when the new painter saw the spirited works of his predecessor, he shook his head, and retiring said, "No man in England can compete with James Seymour." The Duke now con[Pg 224]descended to recall his discarded cousin. "My Lord," was the answer of Seymour, "I will now prove to the world that I am of your blood—I won't come." Upon receiving this laconic reply, the Duke sent his steward to demand a former loan of £100. Seymour briefly replied that "he would write to his Grace." He did so, but directed his letter, "Northumberland House, opposite the Trunkmaker's, Charing Cross." Enraged at this additional insult, the Duke threw the letter into the fire without opening it, and immediately ordered his steward to have him arrested. But Seymour, struck with an opportunity of evasion, carelessly observed that "it was hasty in his Grace to burn his letter, because it contained a bank note for £100, and that therefore, they were now quits."


At the age of five years, the natural taste of Lucia Giordano for painting, led him to adopt the pencil as a plaything; at six he could draw the human figure with surprising correctness. The Cav. Stanzioni, passing by his father's shop, and seeing the child at work, stopped to see his performances, and is said to have predicted that "he would one day become the first painter of the age." Before he was eight years old he painted, unknown to his father, two cherubs in a fresco, entrusted to that artist, in an obscure part of the church of S. Maria[Pg 225] Nuova—figures so graceful as to attract considerable attention. This fact coming to the knowledge of the Duke de Medina de las Torres, the Viceroy of Naples, he rewarded the precocious painter with some gold ducats, and recommended him to the instruction of Spagnoletto, then the most celebrated painter in Naples, who accordingly received him into his studio. There, says Palomino, he spent nine years in close application to study, and there, he probably enjoyed the advantage of seeing Velasquez, during that great artist's second visit to Naples.


When Giordano was about seventeen years old, having learned from Ribera all he could teach him, he conceived a strong desire to prosecute his studies at Rome. To this step, his father, who was poor, and could perhaps ill afford to lose his earnings, refused to give his consent. Luca therefore embraced the earliest opportunity to abscond, and ran away on foot to the metropolis of art, where he applied himself with the greatest assiduity. He copied all the great frescos of Raffaelle in the Vatican several times; he next turned his rapid pencil against the works of Annibale Caracci in the Farnese palace. Meantime, his father divining the direction which the truant had taken, followed him to Rome, where, after a long search, he discovered him sketching in St. Peter's church.[Pg 226]


Giordano resided at Rome about three years with his father, who seems to have been a helpless creature, subsisting by the sale of his son's drawings; but Luca cared for nothing but his studies, satisfied with a piece of bread or a few maccaroni. When their purse was low, the old man would accompany him to the scene of his labors, and constantly urge him on, by repeating Luca, fa presto, (hurry Luca) which became a byword among the painters, and was fixed upon the young artist as a nickname, singularly appropriate to his wonderful celerity of execution. He afterwards traveled through Lombardy to Venice, still accompanied by his father, and having studied the works of Correggio, Titian, and other great masters, returned by way of Florence and Leghorn to Naples, where he soon after married the Donna Margarita Ardi, a woman of exquisite beauty, who served him as a model for his Virgins, Madonnas, Lucretias, and Venuses.


Luca Giordano could copy any master so accurately as to deceive the best judges. Among his patrons in his youth was one Gasparo Romero, who was in the habit of inflicting upon him a great deal of tedious and impertinent advice. For this he had his revenge by causing his father to send to that connoisseur as originals, some of his imitations of[Pg 227] Titian, Tintoretto, and Bassano, and afterwards avowing the deception; but he managed the joke so pleasantly that Romero was rather pleased than offended at his skill and wit.


In 1655, Giordano painted in competition with Giacomo Forelli, a large picture of St. Nicholas borne away by angels, for the church of S. Brigida, a work of such power and splendor, that it completely eclipsed his rival, and established his reputation at the early age of twenty-three. Two years after, he was employed by the Viceroy to paint several pictures for the church of S. Maria del Pianto, in competition with Andrea Vaccaro. The principal subjects which fell to Giordano, were the Crucifixion, and the Virgin and St. Januarius pleading with the Saviour for Naples, afflicted with pestilence; these he executed with great ability. He and Vaccaro having a dispute about placing the pictures, the matter was referred to the Viceroy, who gave the choice to Vaccaro as the senior artist; Giordano immediately yielded with so much grace and discretion, that he made a firm friend of his successful rival. His master, Ribera, being now dead, he soon stepped into the vacant place of that popular artist. The religious bodies of the kingdom, the dignitaries of the church, and princes and nobles, eagerly sought after his works.[Pg 228]


The honors heaped upon Giordano by the Marquess of Heliche, compelled him to neglect and offend other patrons. One of these personages, the Duke of Diano, being very anxious for the completion of his orders, at last, lost all patience, and collaring the artist, he threatened him with personal chastisement if he did not immediately fulfil his engagements. The Viceroy being informed of the insult, took up the painter's quarrel in right royal style. He invited the Duke, who affected connoisseurship, to pass judgment on a picture lately painted by Luca for the palace, in imitation of the style of Rubens. The unlucky noble fell into the trap, and pronounced it an undoubted work by the great Fleming. Seeming to assent to this criticism, the Viceroy replied that Giordano was painting a companion to the picture, a piece of information which Diano received with a sneer and a remark on the artist's uncivil treatment to persons of honor. Here Heliche hastily interposed, telling him that the work which he had praised was painted, not by Rubens, but by Giordano, and repeating the sentiment expressed by several crowned heads on like occasions, admonished him of the respect due to a man so highly endowed by his Maker. "And how dare you," cried he, in a loud tone, and seizing the Duke by the collar, as the latter had done to Giordano, "thus insult a man, who is besides, retained in my[Pg 229] service? Know, for the future, that none shall play the brave here, so long as I bear rule in Naples!" "This scene," says Dominici, "passing in the presence of many of the courtiers, and some of these, witnesses of the insult offered to the painter, so mortified the pride of the provincial grandee, that he retired, covered with confusion, and falling into despondency, died soon after of a fever."


In 1679, Giordano was invited to Florence by the Grand Duke, Cosmo III., to decorate the chapel of S. Andrea Corsini in the Carmine. His works gave so much satisfaction to that prince, that he not only liberally rewarded him, but overwhelmed him with civilities, and presented him with a gold medal and chain, which he did him the honor to place about his neck with his own royal hands.


While sojourning in that city, he became acquainted with Carlo Dolci, then advanced in years, who is said to have been so affected at seeing the rapid Neapolitan execute in a few hours what would have required him months to perform, in his own slow and laborious manner, that he fell into a profound melancholy, of which he soon after died: This circumstance Dominici assures us, Giordano long afterwards remembered with tears, on being[Pg 230] shown at Naples "a picture painted by poor Carlino."


The fame of Giordano had already reached Madrid, when Don Cristobal de Ontañon, a favorite courtier of Charles II., returning from Italy, full of admiration for Giordano and his works, so sounded his praises in the royal ear, that the King invited him to his court, paying the expense of his journey, and giving him a gratuity of 1500 ducats, and appointing him his principal painter, with a salary of 200 crowns a month.

The painter embarked from Naples on board one of the royal galleys, accompanied by his son Nicolo, a nephew named Baldassare Valente, and two scholars, Aniello Rossi and Matteo Pacelli, attended by three servants. Landing at Barcelona, and resting there a few days, he proceeded to Madrid, where he arrived in May 1692. Six of the royal coaches were sent to meet him on the road, and conduct him to the house of his friend Ontañon. On the day of his arrival, by the desire of the King, he was carried to the Alcaza and presented to his Majesty. Charles received him with great kindness, inquired how he had borne the fatigues of his journey, and expressed his joy at finding him much younger in appearance than he had been taught to expect. The painter, with his usual courtly tact, replied, that the journey he had undertaken to enter[Pg 231] the service of so great a monarch, had revived his youth, and that in the presence of his Majesty, he felt as if he were twenty again. "Then," said Charles smiling, "you are not too weary to pay a visit to my gallery," and led him through the noble halls of Philip II., rich with the finest pictures of Italy and Spain. It was probably on this occasion, that Giordano, passing before Velasquez's celebrated picture of the Infanta and her meniñas, bestowed on it the well known name of the Theology of Painting. The King, who paid the painter the extraordinary honor to embrace him when first presented, gave him a still greater mark of his favor at parting, by kissing him on the forehead, and presenting him with the golden key as gentleman of the royal bed-chamber.


Luca Giordano resided in Spain ten years, and in that time he executed an incredible number of grand frescos, and other works for the royal palaces, churches, and convents, as well as many more for individuals, enough to have occupied an ordinary man a long life. In the short space of two years, he painted in fresco, the stupendous ceiling of the church, and the grand staircase of the Escurial; the latter, representing the Battle of St. Quintin, and the Capture of Montmorenci, is considered one of his finest works. His next productions were the[Pg 232] great saloon in the Bueno Retiro; the sacristy of the great church at Toledo; the ceiling of the Royal Chapel at Madrid, and other important works. After the death of Charles II., he was employed in the same capacity by his successor, Philip V. These labors raised his reputation to the highest pitch; he was loaded with riches and favors, and Charles conferred upon him the honor of knighthood.


Whilst Giordano was employed at the Escurial two Doctors of Theology were ordered to attend upon him, to answer his questions, and resolve any doubts that might arise as to the orthodox manner of treating his subjects. A courier was despatched every evening to Madrid, with a letter from the prior to the King, rendering an account of the artist's day's work; and within the present century, some of these letters were preserved at the Escurial. On one occasion he wrote thus, "Sire, your Giordano has painted this day about twelve figures, thrice as large as life. To these he has added the powers and dominations, with proper angels, cherubs, and seraphs, and clouds to support the same. The two Doctors of Divinity have not answers ready for all his questions, and their tongues are too slow too keep pace with the speed of his pencil."[Pg 233]


Giordano was temperate and frugal. He wrought incessantly, and to the scandal of the more devout, was found at his easel, even on days of religious festivals. His daily habit was to paint from eight in the morning, till noon, when he dined and rested two hours. At two he resumed his pencil, and wrought till five or six o'clock. He then took an airing in one of the royal carriages which was placed at his disposal. "If I am idle a single day," he used to say, "my pencils get the better of me; I must keep them in subjection by constant practice." The Spanish writers accuse him of avarice, and attribute his intense application to his ambition to acquire a large fortune; that he received large prices for his works, and never spent a maravedi except in the purchase of jewelry, of which he was very fond, and considered a good investment; thus he astonished Palomino by showing him a magnificent pearl necklace; but it should be recollected he was in the service of the King, and had a fixed salary, by no means large, which he was entitled to receive whether he wrought or played. He was doubtless better paid for his private commissions, which he could quickly despatch, than for his royal labors.


The first work Giordano executed in Spain was a fine imitation of a picture by Bassano, which hap[Pg 234]pened under the following circumstances. The King, during his first interview with the painter, had remarked with regret, that a certain picture in the Alcaza, by that master, wanted a companion, Giordano secretly procured a frame and a piece of old Venetian canvas of the size of the other, and speedily produced a picture, having all the appearance of age and a fine match to the original, and hung it by its side. The King, in his next walk through the gallery, instantly noticed the change with surprise and satisfaction, and learning the story from his courtiers, he approached the artist, and laying his hand on his shoulder, saluted him with "Long life to Giordano."


No painter, not even Titian himself, was more caressed at court, than Giordano. Not only Charles II., but Philip V., delighted to do him honor, and treated him with extraordinary favor and familiarity. His brilliant success is said to have shortened the life of Claudio Coello, the ablest of his Castilian rivals. According to Dominici, that painter, jealous of Giordano, and desirous of impairing his credit at the court of Spain, challenged him to paint in competition with him in the presence of the King, a large composition fifteen palms high, representing the Archangel Michael vanquishing Satan. Giordano at once accepted the challenge, and[Pg 235] in little more than three hours, produced a work which not only amazed and delighted the royal judge, but confounded poor Coello. "Look you, man," said the King to the discomfited Spaniard, and pointing to Luca Fa-presto, "there stands the best painter in Naples, Spain, and the whole world; verily, he is a painter for a King."

Both Charles and Queen Mariana of Neuberg, sat several times to Giordano for their portraits. They were never weary of visiting his studio, and took great pleasure in his lively conversation, and exhibitions of artistic skill. One day, the Queen questioned him curiously about the personal appearance of his wife, who she had learned was very beautiful. Giordano dashed off the portrait of his Cara Sposa, and cut short her interrogation by saying, "Here, Madame, is your Majesty's most humble servant herself," an effort of skill and memory, which struck the Queen as something so wonderful as to require a particular mark of her approbation,—she accordingly "sent to the Donna Margarita a string of pearls from the neck of her most gracious sovereign." Giordano would sometimes amuse the royal pair, by laying on his colors with his fingers and thumb, instead of brushes. In this manner, says Palomino, he executed a tolerable portrait of Don Francisco Filipin, a feat over which the monarch rejoiced with almost boyish transport. "It seemed to him as if he was carried back to that delightful night when he first saw his beautiful Maria Louisa dance a[Pg 236] saraband at the ball of Don Pedro of Aragon. His satisfaction found vent in a mark of favor which not a little disconcerted the recipient. Removing the sculpel which the artist had permission to wear in the royal presence, he kissed him on the crown of the head, pronounced him a prodigy, and desired him to execute in the same digital style, a picture of St. Francis of Assisi for the Queen." Charles, on another occasion, complimented the artist, by saying, "If, as a King I am greater than Luca, Luca as a man wonderfully gifted by God, is greater than myself," a sentiment altogether novel for a powerful monarch of the 17th century. The Queen mother, Mariana of Austria, was equally an admirer of the fortunate artist. On occasion of his painting for her apartment a picture of the Nativity of our Lord, she presented him with a rich jewel and a diamond ring of great value, from her own imperial finger. It was thus, doubtless, that he obtained the rich jewels which astonished Palomino, and not by purchase. Charles II., dying in 1700, Giordano continued for a time in the service of his successor Philip V., who treated him with the same marked favor, and commissioned him to paint a series of pictures as a present to his grandfather, Louis XIV., of France.


The war of succession, however, breaking out, Giordano was glad to seize the opportunity of re-[Pg 237]returning to his family, on the occasion of the King's visit to Naples. He accompanied the court to Barcelona, in February, 1702, but as Philip delayed his embarkation, he asked and received permission to proceed by land. Parting through Genoa and Florence to Rome, he was received everywhere with distinction, and left some pictures in those cities. At Rome he had the honor to kiss the feet of Clement XI., and was permitted by special favor to enter the Papal apartments with his sword at his side, and his spectacles upon his nose. These condescensions he repaid with two large pictures, highly praised, representing the passage of the Red Sea, and Moses striking the Rock. On his arrival at Naples, he met with the most enthusiastic reception from his fellow-citizens, his renown in Spain having made him still more famous at home. Commissions poured into him, more than he could execute, and though rich, he does not seem to have relaxed his efforts or his habits of industry, but he did not long survive; he died of a putrid fever in January, 1705, in the 73d year of his age.


In person, Luca Giordano was of the middle height, and well-proportioned. His complexion was dark, his countenance spare, and chiefly remarkable for the size of its nose, and an expression ra[Pg 238]ther melancholy than joyous. He was, however, a man of ready wit and jovial humor; he was an accomplished courtier, understood the weak points of men that might be touched to advantage, and possessed manners so engaging, that he passed through life a social favorite. His school was always filled with scholars, and as a master he was kind and popular, although, according to Palomino, on one occasion he was so provoked that he broke a silver-mounted maul-stick over the head of one of his assistants. Greediness of gain seems to have been his besetting sin. He refused no commission that was offered to him, and he despatched them according to the prices he received, saying that "he had three sorts of pencils, made of gold, of silver, and of wood." Yet he frequently painted works gratuitously, as pious offerings to the altars of poor churches and convents.


Giordano died very rich, leaving 150,000 ducats invested in various ways; 20,000 ducats worth of jewels; many thousands in ready money, 1,300 pounds weight of gold and silver plate, and a fine house full of rich furniture. Out of this he founded an entailed estate for his eldest son, Lorenzo, and made liberal provisions for his widow, two younger sons and six daughters. His sons and sons-in-law enjoyed several posts conferred on them in the kingdom of Naples by the favor of Charles II.[Pg 239]


Giordano may be said to have been born with a pencil in his hand, and by constant practice, added to a natural quickness, he acquired that extraordinary facility of hand which, while in his subsequent career, it tended to corrupt art, materially aided his fame and success. He was also indefatigable in his application. Bellori says, "he made twelve different designs of the Loggia and paintings by Raffaelle in the Vatican; and twenty after the Battle of Constantine by Giulio Romano, besides many after Michael Angelo, Polidoro da Caravaggio, and others. The demand for his drawings and sketches was so great, that Luca, when obliged to take refreshments, did not retire from his work, but gaping like a young bird, gave notice to his father of the calls of nature, who, always on the watch, instantly supplied him with food, at the same time repeating, Luca, fa presto. The only principle which his father instilled into his mind was despatch." Probably no artist, not even Tintoretto, produced so many pictures as Giordano. Lanzi says, "his facility was not derived wholly from a rapidity of pencil, but was aided by the quickness of his imagination, which enabled him clearly to perceive, from the commencement of the work, the result he intended, without hesitating to consider the component parts, or doubling, proving, and selecting, like other painters." Hence Giordano was also called, Il pro[Pg 240]teo della pittura, and Il Falmine della pittura—the Proteus, and the Lightning of painting. As an instance of the latter, it is recorded that he painted a picture while his guests were waiting for dinner.


Giordano had the rare talent of being able to imitate the manner of every master so successfully as frequently to deceive the best judges; he could do this also without looking at the originals, the result of a wonderful memory, which retained everything once seen. There are numerous instances of pictures painted by him in the style of Albert Durer, Bassano, Titian, and Rubens, which are valued in commerce at two or three times the price of pictures in his own style. In the church of S. Teresa at Naples, are two pictures by him in the style of Guido, and there is a Holy Family at Madrid, which Mengs says may be easily mistaken for a production of Raffaelle. Giordano also had several scholars, who imitated his own style with great precision.


Perhaps no artist ever enjoyed a greater share of contemporary fame than Luca Giordano. Possessed of inexhaustible invention, and marvellous facility of hand, which enabled him to multiply his works to any required amount he had the good fortune to[Pg 241] hit upon a style which pleased, though it still farther corrupted the declining taste of the age. He despatched a large picture in the presence of Cosmo III., Grand Duke of Florence, in so short a space of time as caused him to exclaim in wonder, "You are fit to be the painter of a sovereign prince." The same eulogium, under similar circumstances, was passed upon him by Charles II. A similar feat at Naples, had previously won the admiration and approbation of the Viceroy, the Marquess de Heliche, and laid the foundation of his fortune. It became the fashion, to admire everything that came from his prolific pencil, at Madrid, as well as at Naples. Everywhere, his works, good or bad, were received with applause. When it was related as a wonder that Giordano painted with his fingers, no Angelo was found to observe, "Why does not the blockhead use his brush." That Giordano was a man of genius, there can be no doubt, but had he executed only a tenth part of the multitude he did, his fame would have been handed down to posterity with much greater lustre. Cean Bermudez says of his works in Spain, "He left nothing that is absolutely bad, and nothing that is perfectly good." His compositions generally bear the marks of furious haste, and they are disfigured in many cases by incongruous associations of pagan mythology with sacred history, and of allegory with history, a blemish on the literature as well as the art of the age. Bermudez also accuses him of having corrupted and degraded Spanish art,[Pg 242] by introducing a new and false style, which his great reputation and royal favoritism, brought into vogue. Still, he deserves praise for the great facility of his invention, the force and richness of his coloring, and a certain grandeur of conception and freedom of execution which belong only to a great master. The royal gallery at Madrid possesses no less than fifty-five of his pictures, selected from the multitude he left in the various royal palaces. There are also many in the churches. Lanzi says, "Naples abounds with the works of Giordano, both public and private. There is scarcely a church in this great city which does not boast some of his works."


Giordano, on his return to Naples from Florence, established himself in Ribera's fine house, opposite the Jesuit's church of S. Francesco Xavier. In 1685 he was commissioned by the Fathers to paint a large picture for one of the principal altars, and agreed that it should be completed by the approaching festival of the patron saint. Giordano, having other engagements on hand, put off the execution of the altar-piece so long, that the Jesuits began to be clamorous, and at length appealed to the Viceroy to exercise his authority. Determined to see for himself how matters stood, that great man paid an unexpected visit to Giordano's studio. The[Pg 243] painter had barely time to escape by a back door to avoid his wrath, when the Marquess de Heliche entered, who perceiving that he had not touched the vast canvas with his brush, as suddenly retired, muttering imprecations and menaces. Luca's dashing pencil now stood him in good stead. He immediately sketched the outlines of his composition, and setting his disciples to prepare his palettes, he painted all that day and night with so much diligence that by the following afternoon, he was able to announce to the impatient Fathers the completion of the picture. The subject was the patron of the church, St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary, baptizing the people of Japan. He is represented standing on a lofty flight of steps; behind him, in the distance, is a party of zealous converts pulling down the images of their gods, and beneath in the foreground, kneels St. Francis Borgia in the attitude of prayer. The picture was executed with such boldness and freedom, and excellence of coloring, that at the proper distance it produced a grand and magnificent effect. It was immediately carried to the church, and placed over the destined altar, the day before the appointed festival, and the Viceroy whose anger had hardly cooled, invited to inspect it. Charmed with the beauty of the work, and amazed by the celerity of its execution, he exclaimed, "the painter of this picture must be either an angel or a demon." Giordano received his compliments, and made his own excuses with so much[Pg 244] address, that the Marquess, forgetting all past offences engaged him to paint in the palace, and passed much of his time by his side, observing his progress, and enjoying his lively conversation.


"Poetry, Painting, and Sculpture," says Cunningham, "are of the same high order of genius; but, as words provide at once shape and color to our thoughts, Poetry has ever led the way in the march of intellect: as material forms are ready made, and require but to be skillfully copied, Sculpture succeeded; and as lights and shadows demand science and experience to work them into shape, and endow them with sentiment, Painting was the last to rise into elegance and sublimity. In this order these high Arts rose in ancient Greece; and in the like order they rose in modern Italy; but none of them reached true excellence, till the light of knowledge dawned on the human mind, nor before civilization, following in the steps of barbarism, prepared the world for the reception of works of polished grace and tranquil grandeur.

"From the swoon into which the Fine Arts were cast by the overthrow of the Roman Empire, they were long in waking: all that was learned or lofty was extinguished: of Painting, there remained but the memory, and of Sculpture, some broken stones, yet smothered in the ruins of temples and cities[Pg 245] the rules which gave art its science were lost; the knowledge of colors was passed away, and that high spirit which filled Italy and Greece with shapes and sentiments allied to heaven, had expired. In their own good time, Painting and Sculpture arose from the ruins in which they had been overwhelmed, but their looks were altered; their air was saddened; their voice was low, though it was, as it had been in Greece, holy, and it called men to the contemplation of works of a rude grace, and a but dawning beauty. These 'sisters-twin' came at first with pale looks and trembling steps, and with none of the confidence which a certainty of pleasing bestows: they came too with few of the charms of the heathen about them: of the scientific unity of proportion, of the modest ease, the graceful simplicity, or the almost severe and always divine composure of Greece, they had little or none. But they came, nevertheless, with an original air and character all their own; they spoke of the presence of a loveliness and sentiment derived from a nobler source than pagan inspiration; they spoke of Jesus Christ and his sublime lessons of peace, and charity, and belief, with which he had preached down the altars and temples of the heathen, and rebuked their lying gods into eternal silence.

"Though Sculpture and Painting arose early in Italy, and arose with the mantle of the Christian religion about them, it was centuries before they were able to put on their full lustre and beauty. For[Pg 246] this, various causes may be assigned. 1. The nations, or rather wild hordes, who ruled where consuls and emperors once reigned, ruled but for a little while, or were continually employed in expeditions of bloodshed and war. 2. The armed feet of the barbarians had trodden into dust all of art that was elegant or beautiful:—they lighted their camp-fires with the verses of Euripides or Virgil; they covered their tents with the paintings of Protogenes and Apelles, and they repaired the breaches in the walls of a besieged city, with the statues of Phidias and Praxiteles;—the desires of these barbarians were all barbarous. 3. Painting and Sculpture had to begin their labors anew; all rules were lost; all examples, particularly of the former, destroyed: men unable, therefore, to drink at the fountains of Greece, did not think, for centuries, of striking the rock for themselves. 4. The Christian religion, for which Art first wrought, demanded sentiment rather than shape: it was a matter of mind which was wanted: the personal beauty of Jesus Christ is nowhere insisted upon in all the New Testament: the earliest artists, when they had impressed an air of holiness or serenity on their works, thought they had done enough; and it was only when the fears of looking like the heathen were overcome, and a sense of the exquisite beauty of Grecian sculpture prevailed, that the geometrical loveliness of the human form found its way into art. It may be added, that no modern people, save the Italians alone, seem to[Pg 247] share fully in the high sense of the ideal and the poetic, visible in the works of Greece.

"The first fruits of this new impulse were representations of Christ on the Cross; of his forerunner, St. John; of his Virgin Mother; and of his companions, the Apostles. Our Saviour had a meek and melancholy look; the hands of the Virgin are held up in prayer; something of the wildness of the wilderness was in the air of St. John, and the twelve Apostles were kneeling or preaching. They were all clothed from head to heel; the faces, the hands, and the feet, alone were bare; the sentiment of suffering or rejoicing holiness, alone was aimed at. The artists of the heathen religion wrought in a far different spirit; the forms which they called to their canvas, and endowed with life and beauty, were all, or mostly naked; they saw and felt the symmetry and exquisite harmony of the human body, and they represented it in such elegance, such true simplicity and sweetness, as to render their nude figures the rivals in modesty and innocence of the most carefully dressed. A sense of this excellence of form is expressed by many writers. 'If,' says Plato, 'you take a man as he is made by nature, and compare him with another who is the effect of art, the work of nature will always appear the less beautiful, because art is more accurate than nature.' Maximus Tyrus also says, that 'the image which is taken by a painter from several bodies, produces a beauty which it is impossible to find in[Pg 248] any single natural body, approaching to the perfection of the fairest statues.' And Cicero informs us, that Zeuxis drew his wondrous picture of Helen from various models, all the most beautiful that could be found; for he could not find in one body all those perfections, which his idea of that princess required.

"So far did the heathens carry their notions of ideal beauty, that they taxed Demetrius with being too natural, and Dionysius they reproached as but a painter of men. Lysippus himself upbraided the ordinary sculptors of his day, for making men such as they were in nature, and boasted of himself, that he made men as they ought to be. Phidias copied his statues of Jupiter and Pallas from forms in his own soul, or those which the muse of Homer supplied. Seneca seems to wonder, that, the sculptor having never beheld either Jove or Pallas, yet could conceive their divine images in his mind; and another eminent ancient says, that 'the fancy more instructs the painter than the imitation; for the last makes only the things which it sees, but the first makes also the things which it never sees.' Such were also, in the fulness of time and study, the ideas of the most distinguished moderns. Alberti tells us, that 'we ought not so much to love the likeness as the beauty, and to choose from the fairest bodies, severally, the fairest parts.' Da Vinci uses almost the same words, and desires the painter to form the idea for himself; and the incomparable Raphael thus[Pg 249] writes to Castiglione concerning his Galatea: 'To paint a fair one, it is necessary for me to see many fair ones; but because there is so great a scarcity of lovely women, I am constrained to make use of one certain idea, which I have formed in my own fancy.' Guido Reni approaches still closer to the pure ideal of the great Christian School of Painting, when he wishes for the wings of an angel, to ascend to Paradise, and see, with his own eyes, the forms and faces of the blessed spirits, that he might put more of heaven into his pictures.

"Of the heaven which the great artist wished to infuse into his works, there was but little in painting, when it rose to aid religion in Italy. The shape was uncooth, the coloring ungraceful, and there was but the faint dawn of that divine sentiment, which in time elevated Roman art to the same eminence as the Grecian. Yet all that Christianity demanded from Art, at first, was readily accomplished: fine forms, and delicate hues, were not required for centuries, by the successors of the Apostles; a Christ on the Cross; the Virgin lulling her divine Babe in her bosom; the Miracle of Lazarus; the Preaching on the Mount; the Conversion of St. Paul; and the Ascension—roughly sculptured or coarsely painted, perhaps by the unskilful hands of the Christian preachers themselves—were found sufficient to explain to a barbarous people some of the great ruling truths of Christianity. These, and such as these, were placed in churches, or borne about by gospel missionaries[Pg 250] and were appealed to, when words failed to express the doctrines and mysteries which were required to be taught. Such appeals were no doubt frequent, in times when Greek and Latin ceased to be commonly spoken, and the present languages of Europe were shaping themselves, like fruit in the leaf, out of the barbarous dissonance of the wild tongues which then prevailed. These Christian preachers, with their emblems and their relics, were listened to by the Gothic subverters of the empire of art and elegance, with the more patience and complacency, since they desired not to share in their plunder or their conquests, and opened to them the way to a far nobler kingdom—a kingdom not of this earth.

"Though abundance of figures of saints were carved, and innumerable Madonnas painted throughout Italy, in the earlier days of the Christian church, they were either literal transcripts of common life, or mechanical copies or imitations of works furnished from the great store looms of the Asiatic Greeks. There were thousands—nay, tens of thousands of men, who wrote themselves artists, while not one of them had enough of imagination and skill to lift art above the low estate in which the rule and square of mechanical imitation had placed it. Niccolo Pisano appears to have been the first who, at Pisa, took the right way in sculpture: his groups, still in existence, are sometimes too crowded; his figures badly designed, and the whole de[Pg 251]fective in sentiment; but he gave an impulse—communicated through the antique—to composition, not unperceived by his scholars, who saw with his eyes and wrought with his spirit. The school which he founded produced, soon after, the celebrated Ghiberti, whose gates of bronze, embellished with figures, for the church of San Giovanni, were pronounced by Michael Angelo worthy to be the gates of Paradise. While the sister art took these large strides towards fame, Painting lagged ruefully behind; she had no true models, and she had no true rules; but 'the time and the man' came at last, and this man was Giovanni Cimabue."


This great painter is universally considered the restorer of modern painting. The Italians call him "the Father of modern Painting;" and other nations, "the Creator of the Italian or Epic style of Painting." He was born at Florence in 1240, of a noble family, and was skilled both in architecture and sculpture. The legends of his own land make him the pupil of Giunta; for the men of Florence are reluctant to believe that he was instructed in painting by those Greek artists who were called in to embellish their city with miracles and Madonnas. He soon conquered an education which consisted in reproducing, in exact shape and color, the works of other men: he desired to advance: he[Pg 252] went to nature for his forms; he grouped them with a new skill; he bestowed ease on his draperies, and a higher expression on his heads. His talent did not reside in the neat, the graceful, and the lovely; his Madonnas have little beauty, and his angels are all of one make: he succeeded best in the heads of the old and the holy, and impressed on them, in spite of the barbarism of his times, a bold sublimity, which few have since surpassed. Critics object to the fierceness of his eyes, the want of delicacy in the noses of his figures, and the absence of perspective in his compositions; but they admit that his coloring is bright and vigorous, his conceptions grand and vast, and that he loved the daring and the splendid. Nevertheless, a touch of the mechanical Greek School, and a rudeness all his own, have been observed in the works of this great painter. His compositions were all of a scriptural or religious kind, such as the church required: kings were his visitors, and the people of Florence paid him honors almost divine.


Cimabue gave early proof of an accurate judgment and a clear understanding, and his father designed to give him a liberal education, but instead of devoting himself to letters, says Vasari, "he consumed the whole day in drawing men, horses, houses, and other various fancies on his books and different pa[Pg 253]pers—an occupation to which he felt himself impelled by nature; and this natural inclination was favored by fortune, for the governors of the city, had invited certain Greek painters to Florence, for the purpose of restoring the art of painting, which had not merely degenerated, but was altogether lost; those artists, among other works, began to paint the chapel of Gondi, situated next to the principal chapel in S. Maria Novella, where Giovanni was being educated, who often escaping from school, and having already made a commencement in the art he was so fond of, would stand watching these masters at their work the day through." Vasari goes on to say, that this passion at length induced his father, already persuaded that he had the genius to become a great painter, to place Giovanni under the instruction of these Greek artists. From this time, he labored incessantly day and night, and aided by his great natural powers, he soon surpassed his teachers.


Cimabue had already distinguished himself by many works, executed in fresco and distemper for the churches at Florence, Pisa, and Assisi, when he painted his famous picture of the Holy Virgin for the church of S. Maria Novella in the former city. This picture was accounted such a wonderful performance by his fellow citizens, that they carried it from the house of Cimabue to the church in solemn[Pg 254] procession, with sound of trumpets and every demonstration of joy. "It is further reported," says Vasari, "that whilst Cimabue was painting this picture in a garden near the gate of San Pietro, King Charles the elder, of Anjou, passed through Florence, and the authorities of the city, among other marks of respect, conducted him to see the picture of Cimabue." This picture, representing the Virgin and Infant Jesus surrounded by angels, larger than life, then so novel, was regarded as such a wonderful performance, that all the people of Florence flocked in crowds to admire it, making all possible demonstrations of delight. It still adorns the chapel of the Rucellai family in the church of S. Maria Novella for which it was painted. The heads of the Virgin, of the infant Jesus, and the angels, are all fine, but the hands are badly drawn; this defect, however, is common with the Quattrocentisti, or artists of the 14th century. The editors of the Florentine edition of Vasari, commenced in 1846, by an association of learned Italians, observe, "This picture, still in fair preservation, is in the chapel of the Rucellai family; and whoever will examine it carefully, comparing it, not only with works before the time of Cimabue, but also with those painted after him, by the Florentine masters, particularly Giotto, will perceive that the praises of Vasari are justified in every particular."[Pg 255]


Some writers assert that the works of Cimabue possessed little merit when compared with those of later times; and that the extraordinary applause which he received flowed from an age ignorant of art. It should be recollected, however, that it is much easier to copy or follow, when the path has been marked out, than to invent or discover; and hence that the glorious productions of the "Prince of modern Painters," form no criterion by which to judge of the merits of those of the "Father of modern Painters." The former had "the accumulated wisdom of ages" before him, of which he availed himself freely; the latter had nothing worthy of note, but his own talents and the wild field of nature, from which he was the first of the moderns who drew in the spirit of inspiration. "Giotto," says Vasari, "did obscure the fame of Cimabue, as a great light diminishes the splendor of a lesser one; so that, although Cimabue may be considered the cause of the restoration of the art of painting, yet Giotto, his disciple, impelled by a laudable ambition, and well aided by heaven and nature, was the man, who, attaining to superior elevation of thought, threw open the gate of the true way, to those who afterwards exalted the art to that perfection and greatness which it displays in our own age; when accustomed, as men are, daily to see the prodigies and miracles, nay the impossibilities, now performed by artists,[Pg 256] they have arrived at such a point, that they no longer marvel at anything accomplished by man, even though it be more divine than human. Fortunate, indeed, are artists who now labor, however meritoriously, if they do not incur censure instead of praise; nay, if they can even escape disgrace." It should be recollected that Vasari held this language in the days of Michael Angelo.

All the great frescos of Cimabue, and most of his easel pictures, have perished. Besides the picture of the Virgin before mentioned, there is a St. Francis in the church of S. Croce, an excellent picture of St. Cecilia, in that of S. Stefano, and a Madonna in the convent of S. Paolino at Florence. There are also two paintings by Cimabue in the Louvre—the Virgin with angels, and the Virgin with the infant Jesus. Others are attributed to him, but their authenticity is very doubtful.


According to Vasari, Cimabue died in 1300, and was entombed in the church of S. Maria del Fiore at Florence. The following epitaph, composed by one of the Nini, was inscribed on his monument:

"Credidit ut Cimabos picturæ castra tenere
Sic tenuit, vivens, nunc tenet astra poli."

It appears, however, from an authentic document, cited by Campi, that Cimabue was employed in 1302 in executing a mosaic picture of St. John, for[Pg 257] the cathedral of Pisa; and as he left this figure unfinished, it is probable that he did not long survive that year.


This great artist, one of the fathers of modern painting, was born at Vespignano, a small town near Florence, in 1276. He was the son of a shepherd named Bondone, and while watching his father's flocks in the field, he showed a natural genius for art by constantly delineating the objects around him. A sheep which he had drawn upon a flat stone, after nature, attracted the attention of Cimabue, who persuaded his father, Bondone, to allow him to go to Florence, confident that he would be an ornament to the art. Giotto commenced by imitating his master, but he quickly surpassed him. A picture of the Annunciation, in the possession of the Fathers of Badia at Florence, is one of his earliest works, and manifests a grace and beauty superior to Cimabue, though the style is somewhat dry. In his works, symmetry became more chaste, design more pleasing, and coloring softer than before. Lanzi says that if Cimabue was the Michael Angelo of that age, Giotto was the Raffaelle. He was highly honored, and his works were in great demand. He was invited to Rome by Boniface VIII., and afterwards to Avignon by Clement V. The noble families of Verona, Milan, Ravenna, Urbino, and Bologna, were eager to possess his works. In[Pg 258] 1316, according to Vasari, he returned from Avignon, and was employed at Padua, where he painted the chapel of the Nunziata all' Arena, divided all around into compartments, each of which represents some scriptural event. Lanzi says it is truly surprising to behold, not less on account of its high state of preservation beyond any other of his frescos, than for its graceful expression, and that air of grandeur which Giotto so well understood. About 1325 he was invited to Naples by King Robert, to paint the church of S. Chiara, which he decorated with subjects from the New Testament, and the Mysteries of the Apocalypse. These, like many of his works, have been destroyed; but there remains a Madonna, and several other pictures, in this church. Giotto's portraits were greatly admired, particularly for their air of truth and correct resemblance. Among other illustrious persons whom he painted, were the poet Dante, and Clement VIII. The portrait of the former was discovered in the chapel of the Podesta, now the Bargello, at Florence, which had for two centuries been covered with whitewash, and divided into cells for prisoners. The whitewash was removed by the painter Marini, at the instance of Signor Bezzi and others, and the portrait discovered in the "Gloria" described by Vasari. Giotto was also distinguished in the art of mosaic, particularly for the famous Death of the Virgin at Florence, greatly admired by Michael Angelo; also the celebrated Navicella, or Boat of[Pg 259] St. Peter, in the portico of the Basilica of St. Peter's at Rome, which is now so mutilated and altered as to leave little of the original design.

As an architect, Giotto attained considerable eminence, according to Milizia, and erected many important edifices, among which is the bell-tower of S. Maria del Fiore. The thickness of the walls is about ten feet; the height is two hundred and eighty feet. The cornice which supports the parapet is very bold and striking; the whole exterior is of Gothic design, inlaid with marble and mosaic, and the work may be considered one of the finest specimens of campanile in Italy.


In the church of S. Francesco at Pisa, is a picture by Giotto, representing St. Francis receiving the Stigmata,[A] which is in good preservation, and held in great veneration, not only for the sake of the master, but for the excellence of the work. Vasari says, "It represents St. Francis, standing on the frightful rocks of La Verna; and is finished with extraordinary care. It exhibits a landscape with many trees and precipices, which was a new thing in those times. In the attitude and expression of[Pg 260] St. Francis, who is on his knees receiving the Stigmata, the most eager desire to obtain them is clearly manifest, as well as infinite love towards Jesus Christ, who, from heaven above, where he is seen surrounded by the seraphim, grants those stigmata to his servant, with looks of such lively affection, that it is not possible to conceive anything more perfect. Beneath this picture are three others, also from the life of St. Francis, and very beautiful."

[A] Stigmata, signifies the five wounds of the Saviour impressed by himself on the persons of certain saints, male and female, in reward for their sanctity and devotion to the service.


Boniface VIII., desirous of decorating St. Peter's church with some paintings, having heard of the extraordinary talents of Giotto, despatched one of his courtiers to Tuscany, to ascertain the truth, as to his merits, and to procure designs from other artists for his approbation and selection. Vasari says, "The messenger, when on his way to visit Giotto, and to enquire what other good masters there were in Florence, spoke first with many artists in Siena—then, having received designs from them, he proceeded to Florence, and repaired one morning to the workshop where Giotto was occupied with his labors. He declared the purpose of the Pope, and the manner in which that pontiff desired to avail himself of his assistance, and finally requested to have a drawing that he might send it to his holiness. Giotto, who was very courteous, took a sheet of paper and a pencil dipped in a red color;[Pg 261] then resting his elbow on his side to form a sort of compass, with one turn of the hand, he drew a circle so perfect and exact that it was a marvel to behold. This done, he turned smiling to the courtier, saying, 'There is your drawing.' 'Am I to have nothing more than this?' enquired the latter, conceiving himself to be jested with. 'That is enough and to spare,' replied Giotto, 'send it with the rest, and you will see if it will not be recognized.' The messenger, unable to obtain anything more, went away very ill satisfied, and fearing that he had been fooled. Nevertheless, having despatched the other drawings to the Pope, with the names of those who had done them, he sent that of Giotto also, relating the mode in which he had made his circle, without moving his arm and without compass; from which the Pope, and such of the courtiers as were well versed in the subject, perceived how far Giotto surpassed all the other painters of his time. This incident becoming known, gave rise to the proverb still used in relation to people of dull wits, 'In sei più tondo che l'O di Giotto,' (round as Giotto's O,) the significance of which consists in the double meaning of the word tondo, which is used in the Tuscan for slowness of intellect, and slowness of comprehension, as well as for an exact circle. The proverb besides has an interest from the circumstance which gave it birth."

Giotto was immediately invited to Rome by the Pope, who received him with distinction, and com[Pg 262]missioned him to paint a large picture in the sacristy of St. Peter's, with five others in the church, representing subjects from the life of Christ, which gave so much satisfaction to the pontiff, that he commanded 600 gold ducats to be paid to the artist, "besides conferring on him so many favors," says Vasari, "that there was talk of them throughout Italy."


Giotto, about to paint a picture of the Crucifixion, induced a poor man to suffer himself to be bound to a cross, under the promise of being set at liberty in an hour, and handsomely rewarded for his pains. Instead of this, as soon as Giotto had made his victim secure, he seized a dagger, and, shocking to tell, stabbed him to the heart! He then set about painting the dying agonies of the victim to his foul treachery. When he had finished his picture, he carried it to the Pope; who was so well pleased with it, that he resolved to place it above the altar of his own chapel. Giotto observed, that, as his holiness liked the copy so well, he might perhaps like to see the original. The Pope, shocked at the impiety of the idea, uttered an exclamation of surprise. "I mean," added Giotto, "I will show you the person whom I employed as my model in this picture, but it must be on condition that your holiness will absolve me from all punishment for the use which I have made of him." The Pope pro[Pg 263]mised Giotto the absolution for which he stipulated, and accompanied the artist to his workshop. On entering, Giotto drew aside a curtain which hung before the dead man, still stretched on the cross, and covered with blood.

The barbarous exhibition struck the pontiff with horror; he told Giotto he could never give him absolution for so cruel a deed, and that he must expect to suffer the most exemplary punishment. Giotto, with seeming resignation, said that he had only one favor to ask, that his holiness would give him leave to finish the piece before he died. The request had too important an object to be denied; the Pope readily granted it; and, in the meantime, a guard was set over Giotto to prevent his escape.

On the painting being replaced in the artist's hands, the first thing he did was to take a brush, and, dipping it into a thick varnish, he daubed the picture all over with it, and then announced that he had finished his task. His holiness was greatly incensed at this abuse of the indulgence he had given, and threatened Giotto that he should be put to the most cruel death, unless he painted another picture equal to the one which he had destroyed. "Of what avail is your threat," replied Giotto, "to a man whom you have doomed to death at any rate?" "But," replied his holiness, "I can revoke that doom." "Yes," continued Giotto, "but you cannot prevail on me to trust to your verbal promise a second time." "You shall have a pardon[Pg 264] under my signet before you begin." On that, a conditional pardon was accordingly made out and given to Giotto, who, taking a wet sponge, in a few minutes wiped off the coating with which he had bedaubed the picture, and instead of a copy, restored the original in all its beauty to his holiness. Although this story is related by many writers, it is doubtless a gross libel on the fair fame of this great artist, originating with some witless wag, who thought nothing too horrible to impose upon the credulity of mankind. It is discredited by the best authors. A similar fable is related of Parrhasius. See the Olynthian Captive, vol. I. page 151 of this work.


After Giotto's return to Florence, about 1325, Robert, King of Naples, wrote to his son Charles, King of Calabria, who was then in Florence, desiring that he would by all means send Giotto to him at Naples, to decorate the church and convent of Santa Clara, which he had just completed, and desired to have adorned with noble paintings. Giotto readily accepted this flattering invitation from so great and renowned a monarch, and immediately set out to do him service. He was received at Naples with every mark of distinction, and executed many subjects from the old and New Testaments in the different chapels of the building. It is said[Pg 265] that the pictures from the Apocalypse, which he painted in one of the chapels, were the inventions of Dante; but Dante was then dead, and if Giotto derived any advantage from him, it must have been from previous discussions on the subject. These works gave the greatest satisfaction to the King, who munificently rewarded the artist, and treated him with great kindness and extraordinary familiarity. Vasari says that Giotto was greatly beloved by King Robert, who delighted to visit him in his painting room, to watch the progress of his work, to hear his remarks, and to hold conversation with him; for Giotto had a ready wit, and was always as ready to amuse the monarch with his lively conversation and witty replies as with his pencil. One day the King said to him, "Giotto, I will make you the first man in Naples," to which Giotto promptly replied, "I am already the first man in Naples; for this reason it is that I dwell at the Porta Reale." At another time the King, fearing that he would injure himself by overworking in the hot season, said to him, "Giotto, if I were in your place, now that it is so hot, I would give up painting for a time, and take my rest." "And so would I do, certainly," replied Giotto, "were I the King of Naples." One day the King to amuse himself, desired Giotto to paint his kingdom. The painter drew an ass carrying a packsaddle loaded with a crown and sceptre, while a similar saddle, also bearing the ensigns of royalty, lay at his feet; these last were all new,[Pg 266] and the ass scented them, with an eager desire to change them for those he bore. "What does this signify, Giotto?" enquired the King. "Such is thy kingdom," replied Giotto, "and such thy subjects, who are every day desiring a new lord."


The children of Giotto were remarkably ill-favored. Dante, one day, quizzed him by asking, "Giotto, how is it that you, who make the children of others so beautiful, make your own so ugly?" "Ah, my dear friend," replied the painter, "mine were made in the dark."


"Giotto," says Vasari, "having passed his life in the production of so many admirable works, and proved himself a good Christian, as well as an excellent painter, resigned his soul to God in the year 1336, not only to the great regret of his fellow citizens, but of all who had known him, or even heard his name. He was honorably entombed, as his high deserts had well merited, having been beloved all his life, but more especially by the learned men of all professions." Dante and Petrarch were his warm admirers, and immortalized him in their verse. The commentator of Dante, who was cotemporary with Giotto, says, "Giotto was, and is, the most eminent of all the painters of Florence,[Pg 267] and to this his works bear testimony in Rome, Naples, Avignon, Florence, Padua, and many other parts of the world."


The first worthy successor of Giotto in the Florentine school, was Buffalmacco, whose name has been immortalized by Boccaccio in his Decameron, as a man of most facetious character. He executed many works in fresco and distemper, but they have mostly perished. He chiefly excelled in Crucifixions and Ascensions. He was born, according to Vasari, in 1262, and died in 1340, aged 78; but Baldinucci says that he lived later than 1358. His name is mentioned in the old Book of the Company of Painters, under the date of 1351, (Editors of the Florentine edition of Vasari, 1846.). Buffalmacco was a merry wag, and a careless spendthrift, and died in the public hospital.


"Among the Three Hundred Stories of Franco Saccheti," says Vasari, "we find it related to begin with, what our artist did in his youth—that when Buffalmacco was studying with Andrea Tafi, his master had the habit of rising before daylight when the nights were long, compelling his scholars also to awake and proceed to their work. This provoked Buonamico, who did not approve of being[Pg 268] aroused from his sweetest sleep. He accordingly bethought himself of finding some means by which Andrea might be prevented from rising so early, and soon found what he sought." Now it happened that Tafi was a very superstitious man, believing that demons and hobgoblins walked the earth at their pleasure. Buffalmacco, having caught about thirty large beetles, he fastened to the back of each, by means of small needles, a minute taper, which he lighted, and sent them one by one into his master's room, through a crack in the door, about the time he was accustomed to rise and summon him to his labors. Tafi seeing these strange lights wandering about his room, began to tremble with fright, and repeated his prayers and exorcisms, but finding they produced no effect on the apparitions, he covered his head with the bed clothes, and lay almost petrified with terror till daylight. When he rose he enquired of Buonamico, if "he had seen more than a thousand demons wandering about his room, as he had himself in the night?" Buonamico replied that he had seen nothing, and wondered he had not been called to work. "Call thee to work!" exclaimed the master, "I had other things to think of besides painting, and am resolved to stay in this house no longer;" and away he ran to consult the parish priest, who seems to have been as superstitious as the poor painter himself. When Tafi discoursed of this strange affair with Buonamico, the latter told him that he had been taught to believe[Pg 269] that the demons were the greatest enemies of God, consequently they must be the most deadly adversaries of painters. "For," said he, "besides that we always make them most hideous, we think of nothing but painting saints, both men and women, on walls and pictures, which is much worse, since we thereby render men better and more devout to the great despite of the demons; and for all this, the devils being angry with us, and having more power by night than by day, they play these tricks upon us. I verily believe too, that they will get worse and worse, if this practice of rising to work in the night be not discontinued altogether." Buffalmacco then advised his master to make the experiment, and see whether the devils would disturb him if he did not work at night. Tafi followed this advice for a short time, and the demons ceased to disturb him; but forgetting his fright, he began to rise betimes, as before, and to call Buffalmacco to his work. The beetles then recommenced their wanderings, till Tafi was compelled by his fears and the earnest advice of the priest to desist altogether from that practice. "Nay," says Vasari, "the story becoming known through the city, produced such an effect that neither Tafi, nor any other painter dared for a long time to work at night."

Another laughable story is related of Buffalmacco's ingenuity to rid himself of annoyance. Soon after he left Tafi, he took apartments adjoining those occupied by a man who was a penurious old simple[Pg 270]ton, and compelled his wife to rise long before daylight to commence work at her spinning wheel. The old woman was often at her wheel, when Buonamico retired to bed from his revels. The buzz of the instrument put all sleep out of the question; so the painter resolved to put a stop to this annoyance. Having provided himself with a long tube, and removed a brick next to the chimney, he watched his opportunity, and blew salt into their soup till it was spoiled. He then succeeded in making them believe that it was the work of demons, and to desist from such early rising. Whenever the old woman touched her wheel before daylight, the soup was sure to be spoiled, but when she was allowed reasonable rest, it was fresh and savory.


Soon after Buffalmacco left his master, he was employed by the nuns of Faenza to execute a picture for their convent. The subject was the slaughter of the Innocents. While the work was in progress, those ladies some times took a peep at the picture through the screen he had raised for its protection. "Now Buffalmacco," says Vasari, "was very eccentric and peculiar in his dress, as well as manner of living, and as he did not always wear the head-dress and mantle usual at the time, the nuns remarked to their intendant, that it did not[Pg 271] please them to see him appear thus in his doublet; but the steward found means to pacify them, and they remained silent on the subject for some time. At length, however, seeing the painter always accoutred in like manner, and fancying that he must be some apprentice, who ought to be merely grinding colors, they sent a messenger to Buonamico from the abbess, to the effect, that they would like to see the master sometimes at the work, and not always himself. To this Buffalmacco, who was very pleasant in manner, replied, that as soon as the master came to the work he would let them know of his arrival; for he perceived clearly how the matter stood. Thereupon, he placed two stools, one on the other, with a water-jar on the top; on the neck of the jar he set a cap, which was supported by the handle; he then arranged a long mantle carefully around the whole, and securing a pencil within the mouth, on that side of the jar whence the water is poured, he departed. The nuns, returning to examine the work through the hole which they had made in the screen, saw the supposed master in full robes, when, believing him to be working with all his might, and that he would produce a very different kind of thing from any that his predecessor in the jacket could accomplish, they went away contented, and thought no more of the matter for some days. At length, they were desirous of seeing what fine things the master had done, and at the end of a fortnight (during which Buffalmacco had[Pg 272] never set foot within the place), they went by night, when they concluded that he would not be there, to see his work. But they were all confused and ashamed, when one, bolder than the rest, approached near enough to discover the truth respecting this solemn master, who for fifteen days had been so busy doing nothing. They acknowledged, nevertheless, that they had got but what they merited—the work executed by the painter in the jacket being all that could be desired. The intendant was therefore commanded to recall Buonamico, who returned in great glee and with many a laugh, to his labor, having taught these good ladies the difference between a man and a water-jug, and shown them that they should not always judge the works of men by their vestments."


Buffalmacco executed an historical painting for the nuns, which greatly pleased them, every part being excellent in their estimation, except the faces, which they thought too pale and wan. Buonamico, knowing that they kept the very best Vernaccia (a kind of delicious Tuscan wine, kept for the uses of the mass) to be found in Florence, told his fair patrons, that this defect could only be remedied by mixing the colors with good Vernaccia, but that when the cheeks were touched with colors thus tempered, they would become rosy and life-like enough. "The good ladies," says Vasari, "be[Pg 273]lieving all he said, kept him supplied with the very best Vernaccia during all the time that his labors lasted, and he joyously swallowing this delicious nectar, found color enough on his palette to give his faces the fresh rosiness they so much desired." Bottari says, that Buonamico, on one occasion, was surprised by the nuns, while drinking the Vernaccia, when he instantly spirted what he had in his mouth on the picture, whereby they were fully satisfied; if they cut short his supply, his pictures looked pale and lifeless, but the Vernaccia always restored them to warmth and beauty. The nuns were so much pleased with his performances that they employed him a long time, and he decorated their whole church with his own hand, representing subjects from the life of Christ, all extremely well executed.


"In the year 1302," says Vasari, "Buffalmacco was invited to Assisi, where, in the church of San Francesco, he painted in fresco the chapel of Santa Caterina, with stories taken from her life. These paintings are still preserved, and many figures in them are well worthy of praise. Having finished this chapel, Buonamico was passing through Arezzo, when he was detained by the Bishop Guido, who had heard that he was a cheerful companion, as well as a good painter, and who wished him to remain for a time in that city, to paint the chapel[Pg 274] of the episcopal church, where the baptistery now is. Buonamico began the work, and had already completed the greater part of it, when a very curious circumstance occurred; and this, according to Franco Sacchetti, who relates it among his Three Hundred Stories, was as follows. The bishop had a large ape, of extraordinary cunning, the most sportive and mischievous creature in the world. This animal sometimes stood on the scaffold, watching Buonamico at his work, and giving a grave attention to every action: with his eyes constantly fixed on the painter, he observed him mingle his colors, handle the various flasks and tools, beat the eggs for his paintings in distemper—all that he did, in short; for nothing escaped the creature's observation. One Saturday evening, Buffalmacco left his work; and on the Sunday morning, the ape, although fastened to a great log of wood, which the bishop had commanded his servants to fix to his foot, that he might not leap about at his pleasure, contrived, in despite of the weight, which was considerable, to get on the scaffold where Buonamico was accustomed to work. Here he fell at once upon the vases which held the colors, mingled them all together, beat up whatever eggs he could find, and, plunging the pencils into this mixture, he daubed over every figure, and did not cease till he had repainted the whole work with his own hand. Having done that, he mixed all the remaining colors together, and getting down from the scaffold, he went[Pg 275] his way. When Monday morning came, Buffalmacco returned to his work; and, finding his figures ruined, his vessels all heaped together, and every thing turned topsy-turvy, he stood amazed in sore confusion. Finally, having considered the matter within himself, he arrived at the conclusion that some Aretine, moved by jealousy, or other cause, had worked the mischief he beheld. Proceeding to the bishop, he related what had happened, and declared his suspicions, by all which that prelate was greatly disturbed; but, consoling Buonamico as best he could, he persuaded him to return to his labors, and repair the mischief. Bishop Guido, thinking him nevertheless likely to be right, his opinion being a very probable one, gave him six soldiers, who were ordered to remain concealed on the watch, with drawn weapons, during the master's absence, and were commanded to cut down any one, who might be caught in the act, without mercy. The figures were again completed in a certain time; and one day as the soldiers were on guard, they heard a strange kind of rolling sound in the church, and immediately after saw the ape clamber up to the scaffold and seize the pencils. In the twinkling of an eye, the new master had mingled his colors; and the soldiers saw him set to work on the saints of Buonamico. They then summoned the artist, and showing him the malefactor, they all stood watching the animal at his operations, being in danger of fainting with laughter, Buonamico more than all;[Pg 276] for, though exceedingly disturbed by what had happened, he could not help laughing till the tears ran down his cheeks. At length he betook himself to the bishop, and said: 'My lord, you desire to have your chapel painted in one fashion, but your ape chooses to have it done in another.' Then, relating the story, he added: 'There was no need whatever for your lordship to send to foreign parts for a painter, since you had the master in your house; but perhaps he did not know exactly how to mix the colors; however, as he is now acquainted with the method, he can proceed without further help; I am no longer required here, since we have discovered his talents, and will ask no other reward for my labors, but your permission to return to Florence.' Hearing all this, the bishop, although heartily vexed, could not restrain his laughter; and the rather, as he remembered that he who was thus tricked by an ape, was himself the most incorrigible trickster in the world. However, when they had talked and laughed over this new occurrence to their hearts' content, the bishop persuaded Buonamico to remain; and the painter agreed to set himself to work for the third time, when the chapel was happily completed. But the ape, for his punishment, and in expiation of the crimes he had committed, was shut up in a strong wooden cage, and fastened on the platform where Buonamico worked; there he was kept till the whole was finished; and no imagination could conceive the leaps and flings of the[Pg 277] creature thus enclosed in his cage, nor the contortions he made with his feet, hands, muzzle, and whole body, at the sight of others working, while he was not permitted to do anything."


"When the works of the chapel before mentioned, were completed, the bishop ordered Buonamico—either for a jest, or for some other cause—to paint, on one of the walls of his palace, an eagle on the back of a lion, which the bird had killed. The crafty painter, having promised to do all that the bishop desired, caused a stout scaffolding and screen of wood-work to be made before the building, saying that he could not be seen to paint such a thing. Thus prepared, and shut up alone within his screen, Buonamico painted the direct contrary of what the bishop had required—a lion, namely, tearing an eagle to pieces; and, having painted the picture, he requested permission from the bishop to repair to Florence, for the purpose of seeking certain colors needful to his work. He then locked up the scaffold, and departed to Florence, resolving to return no more to the bishop. But the latter, after waiting some time, and finding that the painter did not reappear, caused the scaffolding to be taken down, and discovered that Buonamico had been making a jest of him. Furious at this affront, Guido condemned the artist to banishment for life from his dominions; which, when Buonamico learnt, he sent[Pg 278] word to the bishop that he might do his worst, whereupon the bishop threatened him with fearful consequences. Yet considering afterwards that he had been tricked, only because he had intended to put an affront upon the painter, Bishop Guido forgave him, and even rewarded him liberally for his labors. Nay, Buffalmacco was again invited to Arezzo, no long time after, by the same prelate, who always treated him as a valued servant and familiar friend, confiding many works in the old cathedral to his care, all of which, unhappily, are now destroyed. Buonamico also painted the apsis of the principal chapel in the church of San Giustino in Arezzo."

In the notes of the Roman and other earlier editions of Vasari, we are told that the lion being the insignia of Florence, and the eagle, that of Arezzo, the bishop designed to assert his own superiority over the former city, he being lord of Arezzo; but later commentators affirm, that Guido, being a furious Ghibelline, intended rather to offer an affront to the Guelfs, by exalting the eagle, which was the emblem of his party, over the lion, that of the Guelfs.


Buffalmacco is generally considered the inventor of label painting, or the use of a label drawn from the mouth to represent it speaking; but it was practiced by Cimabue, and probably long before his time, in Italy. Pliny tells us that it was prac[Pg 279]ticed by the early Greek painters. Vasari says that Buffalmacco was invited to Pisa, where he painted many pictures in the Abbey of St. Paul, on the banks of the Arno, which then belonged to the monks of Vallambrosa. He covered the entire surface of the church, from the roof to the floor, with histories from the Old Testament, beginning with the creation of man and continuing to the building of the Tower of Babel. In the church of St. Anastasia, he also painted certain stories from the life of that saint, "in which," says Vasari, "are very many beautiful costumes and head-dresses of women, painted with a charming grace of manner." Bruno de Giovanni, the friend and pupil of Buonamico, was associated with him in this work. He too, is celebrated by Boccaccio, as a man of joyous memory. When the stories on the façade were finished, Bruno painted in the same church, an altar-piece of St. Ursula, with her company of virgins. In one hand of the saint, he placed a standard bearing the arms of Pisa—a white cross on a field of red; the other is extended towards a woman, who, climbing between two rocks, has one foot in the sea, and stretches out both hands towards the saint, in the act of supplication. This female form represents Pisa. She bears a golden horn upon her head, and wears a mantle sprinkled over with circlets and eagles. Being hard pressed by the waves, she earnestly implores succor of the saint.

While employed on this work, Bruno complained[Pg 280] that his faces had not the life and expression which distinguished those of Buonamico, when the latter, in his playful manner, advised him to paint words proceeding from the mouth of the woman supplicating the saint, and in like manner those proceeding from the saint in reply. "This," said the wag, "will make your figures not only life-like, but even eloquently expressive." Bruno followed this advice; "And this method," says Vasari, "as it pleased Bruno and other dull people of that day, so does it equally satisfy certain simpletons of our own, who are well served by artists as commonplace as themselves. It must, in truth, be allowed to be an extraordinary thing that a practice thus originating in jest, and in no other way, should have passed into general use; insomuch that even a great part of the Campo Santo, decorated by much esteemed masters, is full of this absurdity." This picture is now in the Academy of the Fine Arts at Pisa.


The works of Buffalmacco greatly pleased the good people of Pisa, who gave him abundant employment; yet he and his boon companion Bruno, merrily squandered all they had earned, and returned to Florence, as poor as when they left that city. Here they also found plenty of work. They decorated the church of S. Maria Novella with several productions which were much applauded, particu[Pg 281]larly the Martyrdom of St. Maurice and his companions, who were decapitated for their adherence to the faith of Christ. The picture was designed by Buonamico, and painted by Bruno, who had no great power of invention or design. It was painted for Guido Campere, then constable of Florence, whose portrait was introduced as St. Maurice.—The martyrs are led to execution by a troop of soldiers, armed in the ancient manner, and presenting a very fine spectacle. "This picture," says Vasari, "can scarcely be called a very fine one, but it is nevertheless worthy of consideration as well for the design and invention of Buffalmacco, as for the variety of vestments, helmets, and other armor used in those times; and from which I have myself derived great assistance in certain historical paintings, executed for our lord, the Duke Cosmo, wherein it was necessary to represent men armed in the ancient manner, with other accessories belonging to that period; and his illustrious excellency, as well as all else who have seen these works, have been greatly pleased with them; whence we may infer the valuable assistance to be obtained from the inventions and performances of the old master, and the mode in which great advantages may be derived from them, even though they may not be altogether perfect; for it is these artists who have opened the path to us, and led the way to all the wonders performed down to the present time, and still being performed even in these of our days."[Pg 282]


While Buonamico was employed at Florence, a countryman came and engaged him to paint a picture of St. Christopher for his parish church; the contract was, that the figure should be twelve braccia in length,[B] and the price eight florins. But when the painter proceeded to look at the church for which the picture was ordered, he found it but nine braccia high, and the same in length; therefore, as he was unable to paint the saint in an upright position he represented him reclining, bent the legs at the knees, and turned them up against the opposite wall. When the work was completed, the countryman declared that he had been cheated, and refused to pay for it. The matter was then referred to the authorities, who decided that Buffalmacco had performed his contract, and ordered the stipulated payment to be made.

The writer of these pages, in his intercourse with artists, has met with incidents as comical as that just related of Buonamico. Some artists proceed to paint without having previously designed, or even[Pg 283] sketched out their subject on the canvass. We know an artist, who painted a fancy portrait of a child, in a landscape, reclining on a bank beside a stream; but when he had executed the landscape, and the greater part of the figure, he found he had not room in his canvass to get the feet in; so he turned the legs up in such a manner, as to give the child the appearance of being in great danger of sliding into the water. We greatly offended the painter by advising him to drive a couple of stakes into the bank to prevent such a catastrophe. Another artist, engaged in painting a full-length portrait, found, when he had got his picture nearly finished, that his canvass was at least four inches too short. "What shall I do," said the painter to a friend, "I have not room for the feet." "Cover them up with green grass," was the reply. "But my background represents an interior." "Well, hay will do as well." "Confound your jokes; a barn is a fine place to be sure for fine carpets, fine furniture, and a fine gentleman. I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll place one foot on this stool, and hide the other beneath this chair." He did so, but the figure looked all body and no legs, and the sitter refused to take the portrait.

[B] The braccio, (arm, cubit) is an Italian measure which varies in length, not only in different parts of Italy, but also according to the thing measured. In Parma, for example, the braccio for measuring silk is 23 inches, for woolens and cottons 25 and a fraction, while that for roads and buildings is 21 only. In Siena, the braccio for cloth is 14 inches, while in Florence it is 23, and in Milan it is 39 inches, English measure.


The Perugians engaged Buonamico to decorate their market-place with a picture of the patron saint of the city. Having erected an enclosure of planks[Pg 284] and matting, that he might not be disturbed in his labors, the painter commenced his operations. Ten days had scarcely elapsed before every one who passed by enquired with eager curiosity, "when the picture would be finished?" as though they thought such works could be cast in a mould. Buffalmacco, wearied and disgusted at their impatient outcries, resolved on a bit of revenge. Therefore, keeping the work still enclosed, he admitted the Perugians to examine it, and when they declared themselves satisfied and delighted with the performance, and wished to remove the planks and matting, Buonamico requested that they would permit them to remain two days longer as he wished to retouch certain parts when the painting was fully dry. This was agreed to; and Buonamico instantly mounting his scaffold, removed the great gilt diadem from the head of the saint, and replaced it with a coronet of gudgeons. This accomplished, he paid his host, and set off to Florence.

Two days having past, and the Perugians not seeing the painter going about as they were accustomed to do, inquired of his host what had become of him, and learning that he had left the city, they hastened to remove the screen that concealed the picture, when they discovered their saint solemnly crowned with gudgeons. Their rage now knew no bounds, and they instantly despatched horsemen in pursuit of Buonamico,—but in vain—the painter having found shelter in Florence. They then set[Pg 285] an artist of their own to remove the crown of fishes and replace the gilded diadem, consoling themselves for the affront, by hurling maledictions at the head of Buonamico and every other Florentine.


Buffalmacco painted a fresco at Calcinaia, representing the Virgin with the Child in her arms. But the man for whom it was executed, only made fair promises in place of payment. Buonamico was not a man to be trifled with or made a tool of; therefore, he repaired early one morning to Calcinaia, and turned the child in the arms of the Holy Virgin into a young bear. The change being soon discovered, caused the greatest scandal, and the poor countryman for whom it was painted, hastened to the painter, and implored him to remove the cub and replace the child as before, declaring himself ready to pay all demands. This Buonamico agreed to do on being paid for the first and second painting, which last was only in water colors, when with a wet sponge, he immediately restored the picture to its peristine beauty. The Editors of the Florentine edition of Vasari, (1846) say that "in a room of the priory of Calcinaia, are still to be seen the remains of a picture on the walls, representing the Madonna with the Child in her arms, and other saints, evidently a work of the 14th century; and a[Pg 286] tradition preserved to this day, declares that painting to be the one alluded to by our author."


This old Florentine painter was born in 1301. He was the grandson and disciple of Giotto, whom, according to Vasari, he greatly excelled in every department of art. From his close imitations of nature, he was called by his fellow citizens, "Stefano the Ape," (ape of nature.) He was the first artist who attempted to show the naked under his draperies, which were loose, easy, and delicate. He established the rules of perspective, little known at that early period, on more scientific principles. He was the first who attempted the difficult task of foreshortening. He also succeeded better than any of his cotemporaries in giving expression to his heads, and a less Gothic turn to his figures. He acquired a high reputation, and executed many works, in fresco and distemper, for the churches and public edifices of Florence, Rome, and other cities, all of which have perished, according to Lanzi, except a picture of the Virgin and Infant Christ in the Campo Santo at Pisa. He died in 1350.


Tommaso Stefano, called II Giottino, the son and scholar of Stefano Fiorentino, was born at Florence in 1324. According to Vasari, he adhered so close[Pg 287]ly to the style of Giotto, that the good people of Florence called him Giottino, and averred that the soul of his great ancestor had transmigrated and animated him. There are some frescoes by him, still preserved at Assissi, and a Dead Christ with the Virgin and St. John, in the church of S. Remigio at Florence, which so strongly partake of the manner of Giotto as to justify the name bestowed upon him by his fellow citizens. He died in the flower of his life at Florence in 1356.


This old painter was born at Florence in 1349, and was a disciple of Antonio Veneziano. His name was Mazzocchi, but being very celebrated as a painter of animals, and especially so of birds, of which last he formed a large collection of the most curious, he was called Uccello (bird). He was one of the first painters who cultivated perspective. Before his time buildings had not a true point of perspective, and figures appeared sometimes as if falling or slipping off the canvass. He made this branch so much his hobby, that he neglected other essential parts of the art. To improve himself he studied geometry with Giovanni Manetti, a celebrated mathematician. He acquired great distinction in his time and some of his works still remain in the churches and convents of Florence. In the church of S. Maria Novella are several fresco his[Pg 288]tories from the Old Testament, which he selected for the purpose of introducing a multitude of his favorite objects, beasts and birds; among them, are Adam and Eve in Paradise, Noah entering the Ark, the Deluge, &c. He painted battles of lions, tigers, serpents, &c., with peasants flying in terror from the scene of combat. He also painted landscapes with figures, cattle and ruins, possessing so much truth and nature, that Lanzi says "he may be justly called the Bassano of his age." He was living in 1436. Vasari places his birth in 1396-7, and his death in 1479, but later writers have proved his dates to be altogether erroneous.


"Paolo Uccello employed himself perpetually and without any intermission," says Vasari, "in the consideration of the most difficult questions connected with art, insomuch that he brought the method of preparing the plans and elevations of buildings, by the study of linear perspective, to perfection. From the ground plan to the cornice, and summit of the roof, he reduced all to strict rules, by the convergence of intersecting lines, which he diminished towards the centre, after having fixed the point of view higher or lower, as seemed good to him; he labored, in short, so earnestly in these difficult matters that he found means, and fixed rules, for making his figures really to seem standing on the plane[Pg 289] whereon they were placed; not only showing how in order manifestly to draw back or retire, they must gradually be diminished, but also giving the precise manner and degree required for this, which had previously been done by chance, or effected at the discretion of the artist, as he best could. He also discovered the method of turning the arches and cross-vaulting of ceilings, taught how floors are to be foreshortened by the convergence of the beams; showed how the artist must proceed to represent the columns bending round the sharp corners of a building, so that when drawn in perspective, they efface the angle and cause it to seem level. To pore over all these matters, Paolo would remain alone, almost like a hermit, shut up in his house for weeks and months without suffering himself to be approached."


Uccello was employed to decorate one of the cloisters of the monastery of San Miniato, situated without the city of Florence, with subjects from the lives of the Holy Fathers. While he was engaged on these works, the monks gave him scarcely anything to eat but cheese, of which the painter soon became tired, and being shy and timid, he resolved to go no more to work in the cloister. The prior sent to enquire the cause of his absence, but when Paolo heard the monks asking for him, he would never be at home, and if he chanced to meet any of[Pg 290] the brothers of that order in the street, he gave them a wide berth. This extraordinary conduct excited the curiosity of the monks to such a degree that one day, two of the brothers, more swift of foot than the rest, gave chase to Paolo, and having, cornered him, demanded why he did not come to finish the work according to his agreement, and wherefore he fled at the sight of one of their body. "Faith," replied the painter, "you have so murdered me, that I not only run away from you, but dare not stop near the house of any joiner, or even pass by one; and all this owing to the bad management of your abbot; for, what with his cheese-pies, and cheese-soup, he has made me swallow such a mountain of cheese, that I am all turned into cheese myself, and tremble lest the carpenters should seize me, to make their glue of me; of a certainty had I stayed any longer with you, I should be no more Paolo, but a huge lump of cheese." The monks, bursting with laughter, went their way, and told the story to their abbot, who at length prevailed on Uccello to return to his work on condition that he would order him no more dishes made of cheese.


Uccello was a man of very eccentric character and peculiar habits; but he was a great lover of art, and applauded those who excelled in any of its branches. He painted the portraits of five distin[Pg 291]guished men, in one oblong picture, that he might preserve their memory and features to posterity. He kept it in his own house, as a memorial of them, as long as he lived. In the time of Vasari, it was in the possession of Giuliano da Sangallo. At the present day, (Editor's Florentine edition of Vasari, 1846) all trace of this remarkable picture is lost. The first of these portraits was that of the painter Giotto, as one who had given new light and life to art; the second, Fillippo Brunelleschi, distinguished for architecture; the third, Donatello, eminent for sculpture; the fourth, Uccello himself, for perspective and animals; and the fifth was his friend Giovanni Manetti, for the mathematics.


It is related, says Vasari, of this master, that being commissioned to paint a picture of St. Thomas seeking the wound in the side of Christ, above the door of the church dedicated to that saint, in the Mercato Vecchio, he declared that he would make known in that work, the extent of what he had acquired and was capable of producing. He accordingly bestowed upon it the utmost care and consideration, and erected an enclosure around the place that he might not be disturbed until it should be completed. One day, his friend Donatello met him, and asked him, "What kind of work is this of thine, that thou art shutting up so closely?" Paolo re[Pg 292]plied, "Thou shalt see it some day; let that suffice thee." Donatello would not press him, thinking that when the time came, he should, as usual, behold a miracle of art. It happened one morning, as he was in the Mercato Vecchio, buying fruit, he saw Paolo uncovering his picture, and saluting him courteously, the latter anxiously demanded what he thought of his work. Donatello having examined the painting very closely, turned to the painter with a disappointed look, and said, "Why, Paolo, thou art uncovering thy picture at the very moment when thou shouldst be shutting it up from the sight of all!" These words so grievously afflicted the painter, who at once perceived that he would be more likely to incur derision from his boasted master-piece, than the honor he had hoped for, that he hastened home and shut himself up, devoting himself to the study of perspective, which, says Vasari, kept him in poverty and depression till the day of his death. If this story be true, Uccello must have painted the picture referred to in his old age.


The fame and success of Cimabue and Giotto, brought forth painters in abundance, and created schools all over Italy. The church increasing in power and riches, called on the arts of painting and sculpture, to add to the beauty and magnificence of her sanctuaries; riches and honors were showered[Pg 293] on men whose genius added a new ray of grace to the Madonna, or conferred a diviner air on St. Peter or St. Paul; and as much of the wealth of Christendom found its way to Rome, the successors of the apostles were enabled to distribute their patronage over all the schools of Italy. Lanzi reckons fourteen schools of painting in Italy, each of which is distinguished by some peculiar characteristics, as follows: 1, the Florentine school; 2, the Sienese school; 3, the Roman school; 4, the Neapolitan school; 5, the Venetian school; 6, the Mantuan school; 7, the Modenese school; 8, the school of Parma; 9, the school of Cremona; 10, the school of Milan; 11, the school of Bologna; 12, the school of Ferrara; 13, the school of Genoa; 14, the school of Piedmont. Of these, the Florentine, the Roman, and the Bolognese are celebrated for their epic grandeur of composition; that of Siena for its poetic taste; that of Naples for its fire; and that of Venice for the splendor of its coloring.

Other writers make different divisions, according to style or country; thus, Correggio, being by birth a Lombard, and the originator of a new style, the name of the Lombard school has been conferred by many upon the followers of his maxims, the characteristics of which are contours drawn round and full, the countenances warm and smiling, the union of the colors clear and strong, and the foreshortenings frequent, with a particular attention to the chiaro-scuro. Others again, rank the artists of Milan, Mantua[Pg 294] Parma, Modena, and Cremona, under the one head of the Lombard school; but Lanzi justly makes the distinctions before mentioned, because their manners are very different. Writers of other nations rank all these subdivisions under one head—the Italian school. Lanzi again divides these schools into epochs, as they rose from their infancy, to their greatest perfection, and again declined into mannerism, or servile imitation, or as eminent artists rose who formed an era in art. Thus writers speak of the schools of Lionardo da Vinci, of Michael Angelo, of Raffaelle, of Correggio, of Titian, of the Caracci, and of every artist who acquired a distinguished reputation, and had many followers. Several great artists formed such a marked era in their schools, that their names and those of their schools are often used synonymously by many writers; thus, when they speak of the Roman school, they mean that of Raffaelle; of the Florentine, that of Michael Angelo; of Parma or Lombardy, that of Correggio; of Bologna, that of the Caracci; but not so of the Venetian and Neapolitan schools, because the Venetian school produced several splendid colorists, and that of Naples as many, distinguished by other peculiarities. These distinctions should be borne in mind in order rightly to understand writers, especially foreigners, on Italian art.[Pg 295]


Claude Joseph Vernet, the father of Carl Vernet, and the grandfather of Horace, was born at Avignon in 1714. He was the son of Antoine Vernet, an obscure painter, who foretold that he would one day render his family illustrious in art, and gave him every advantage that his limited means would permit. Such were the extraordinary talents he exhibited almost in his infancy, that his father regarded him as a prodigy, and dreaming of nothing but seeing him become the greatest historical painter of the age, he resolved to send him to Rome; and having, by great economy, saved a few louis d'or, he put them into Joseph's pocket, when he was about eighteen years of age, and sent him off with a wagoner, who undertook to conduct him to Marseilles.


The wonderful stories told about the early exhibitions of genius in many celebrated painters are really true with respect to Joseph Vernet. In his infancy, he exhibited the most extraordinary passion for painting. He himself has related, that on his return from Italy, his mother gave him some drawings which he had executed at the age of five years, when he was rewarded by being allowed to use the pencils he had tried to purloin. Before he was fifteen, he painted frieze-panels, fire-screens,[Pg 296] coach-panels, sedan chair-panels, and the like, whenever he could get a commission; he also gave proof of that facility of conceiving and executing, which was one of the characteristics of his genius.


It has been before stated that Vernet's father intended him for an historical painter, but nature formed his genius to imitate her sweetest, as well as most terrible aspect. When he was on his way to Marseilles, he met with so many charming prospects, that he induced his companion to halt so often while he sketched them, that it took them a much longer time to reach that port than it would otherwise have done.

When he first saw the sea from the high hill, called La Viste, near Marseilles, he stood wrapt in admiration. Before him stretched the blue waters of the Mediterranean as far as the eye could reach, while three islands, a few leagues from the shore, seemed to have been placed there on purpose to break the uniformity of the immense expanse of waters, and to gratify the eye; on his right rose a sloping town of country houses, intersected with trees, rising above one another on successive terraces; on his left was the little harbor of Mastigues; in front, innumerable vessels rocked to and fro in the harbor of Marseilles, while the horizon was terminated by the picturesque tower of Bouc, nearly[Pg 297] lost, however, in the distance. This scene made a lasting impression on Vernet. Nature seemed not only to invite, but to woo him to paint marine subjects, and from that moment his vocation was decided on. Thus nature frequently instructs men of genius, and leads them on in the true path to excellence and renown. Like the Æolian harp, which waits for a breath of air to produce a sound, so they frequently wait or strive in vain, till nature strikes a sympathetic chord, that vibrates to the soul. Thus Joseph Vernet never thought of his forte till he first stood on La Viste; and after that, he was nothing but a painter of ships and harbors, and tranquil seas, till the day when lashed to the mast, he first beheld the wild sea in such rude commotion, as threatened to engulf the noble ship and all on board at every moment. Then his mind was elevated to the grandeur of the scene; and he recollected forever the minutest incident of the occasion.

"It was on going from Marseilles to Rome," says one of his biographers, M. Pitra, "that Joseph Vernet, on seeing a tempest gathering, when they were off the Island of Sardinia, was seized, not with terror, but with admiration; in the midst of the general alarm, the painter seemed really to relish the peril; his only desire was to face the tempest, and to be, so to say, mixed up with it, in order that, some day or other, he might astonish and frighten others by the terrible effects he would learn to produce; his only fear was that he might lose the[Pg 298] sight of a spectacle so new to him. He had himself lashed to the main mast, and while he was tossed about in every direction, saturated with seawater, and excited by this hand-to-hand struggle with his model, he painted the tempest, not on his canvass, but in his memory, which never forgot anything. He saw and remembered all—clouds, waves, and rock, hues and colors, with the motion of the boats and the rocking of the ship, and the accidental light which intersected a slate-colored sky that served as a ground to the whiteness of the sea-foam." But, according to D'Argenville and others, this event occurred in 1752, when he was on his way to Paris, at the invitation of Louis XV. Embarking at Leghorn in a small felucca, he sailed to Marseilles. A violent storm happened on the voyage, which greatly terrified some of the passengers, but Vernet, undaunted, and struck with the grandeur of the scene, requested the sailors to lash him to the mast head, and there he remained, absorbed in admiration, and endeavoring to transfer to his sketch-book, a correct picture of the sublime scene with which he was surrounded. His grandson, Horace Vernet, painted an excellent picture of this scene, which was exhibited in the Louvre in 1816, and attracted a great deal of attention.


Vernet arrived at Rome in 1732, and became the scholar of Bernardino Fergioni, then a celebra[Pg 299]ted marine painter, but Lanzi says, "he was soon eclipsed by Joseph Vernet, who had taken up his abode at Rome." Entirely unknown in that metropolis of art, always swarming with artists, Vernet lived for several years in the greatest poverty, subsisting by the occasional sale of a drawing or picture at any price he could get. He even painted panels for coach builders, which were subsequently sawed out and sold as works of great value. Fiorillo relates that he painted a superb marine for a suit of coarse clothes, which brought 5000 francs at the sale of M. de Julienne. Finding large pictures less saleable, he painted small ones, which he sold for two sequins a-piece, till a Cardinal, one day gave him four louis d'or for a marine. Yet his ardor and enthusiasm were unabated; on the contrary, he studied with the greatest assiduity, striving to perfect himself in his art, and feeling confident that his talents would ultimately command a just reward.


It was the custom of Vernet to rise with the lark, and he often walked forth before dawn and spent the whole day in wandering about the surrounding country, to study the ever changing face of nature. He watched the various hues presented by the horizon at different hours of the day. He soon found that with all his powers of observation and pencil, great and im[Pg 300]passioned as they were, he could not keep pace with the rapidly changing and evanescent hues of the morning and evening sky. He began to despair of ever being able to represent on canvass the moving harmony of those pictures which nature required so little time to execute in such perfection, and which so quickly passed away. At length, after long contemplating how he could best succeed in catching and transferring these furtive tints to his canvass, bethought himself of a contrivance which he called his Alphabet of tones, and which is described by Renou in his "Art de Peindre."

The various characters of this alphabet are joined together, and correspond to an equal number of different tints; if Vernet saw the sun rise silvery and fresh, or set in the colors of crimson; or if he saw a storm approaching or disappearing, he opened his table and set down the gradations of the tones he admired, as quickly as he could write ten or twelve letters on a piece of paper. After having thus noted down in short hand, the beauties of the sky and the accidental effects of nature, he returned to his studio, and endeavored to make stationary on canvass the moving picture he had just been contemplating. Effects which had long disappeared were thus recomposed in all their charming harmony to delight the eye of every lover of painting.[Pg 301]


Vernet relates, that he was once employed to paint a landscape, with a cave, and St. Jerome in it; he accordingly painted the landscape, with St. Jerome at the entrance of the cave. When he delivered the picture, the purchaser, who understood nothing of perspective, said, "the landscape and the cave are well made, but St. Jerome is not in the cave." "I understand you, Sir," replied Vernet, "I will alter it." He therefore took the painting, and made the shade darker, so that the saint seemed to sit farther in. The gentleman took the painting; but it again appeared to him that the saint was not in the cave. Vernet then wiped out the figure, and gave it to the gentleman, who seemed perfectly satisfied. Whenever he saw strangers to whom he shewed the picture, he said, "Here you see a picture by Vernet, with St. Jerome in the cave." "But we cannot see the saint," replied the visitors. "Excuse me, gentlemen," answered the possessor, "he is there; for I have seen him standing at the entrance, and afterwards farther back; and am therefore quite sure that he is in it."


Far from confining himself within the narrow limits of one branch of his profession, Vernet determined to take as wide a range as possible. At[Pg 302] Rome, he made the acquaintance of Lucatelli, Pannini, and Solimene. Like them, he studied the splendid ruins of the architecture of ancient Rome, and the noble landscapes of its environs, together with every interesting scene and object, especially the celebrated cascades of Tivoli. He paid particular attention to the proportions and attitudes of his figures, which were mostly those of fishermen and lazzaroni, as well as to the picturesque appearance of their costume. Such love of nature and of art, such assiduous study of nature at different hours of the day, of the phenomena of light, and such profound study of the numerous accessories essential to beauty and effect, made an excellent landscape painter of Vernet, though his fame rests chiefly on the unrivalled excellence of his marine subjects. Diderot remarks, that "though he was undoubtedly inferior to Claude Lorraine in producing bold and luminous effects, he was quite equal to that great painter in rendering the effects of vapor, and superior to him in the invention of scenes, in designing figures, and in the variety of his incidents."

At a later period, Diderot compared his favorite painter to the Jupiter of Lucian, who, tired of listening to the lamentable cries of mankind, rose from table and exclaimed: 'Let it hail in Thrace!' and the trees were immediately stripped of their leaves, the heaviest cut to pieces, and the thatch of the houses scattered before the wind: then he said[Pg 303], "Let the plague fall on Asia!" and the doors of the houses were immediately closed, the streets were deserted, and men shunned one another; and again he exclaimed: 'Let a volcano appear here!' and the earth immediately shook, the buildings were thrown down, the animals were terrified, and the inhabitants fled into the surrounding country; and on his crying out: 'Let this place be visited with a death!' the old husbandman died of want at his door. Jupiter calls that governing the world, but he was wrong. Vernet calls it painting pictures, and he is right.

It was with reference to the twenty-five paintings exhibited by Vernet, in 1765, that Diderot penned the foregoing lines, which formed the peroration to an eloquent and lengthy eulogium, such as it rarely falls to a painter to be the subject of. Among other things, the great critic there says: "There is hardly a single one of his compositions which any painter would have taken not less than two years to execute, however well he might have employed his time. What incredible effects of light do we not behold in them! What magnificent skies! what water! what ordonnance! what prodigious variety in the scenes! Here, we see a child borne off on the shoulders of his father, after having been saved from a watery grave; while there, lies a woman dead upon the beach, with her forlorn and widowed husband weeping at her side. The sea roars, the wind bowls, the thunder fills the air with its peals, and[Pg 304] the pale and sombre glimmers of the lightning that shoots incessantly through the sky, illuminate and hide the scene in turn. It appears as if you heard the sides of the ship crack, so natural does it look with its broken masts and lacerated sails; the persons on deck are stretching their hands toward heaven, while others have thrown themselves into the sea. The latter are swept by the waves against the neighboring rocks, where their blood mingles with the white foam of the raging billows. Some, too, are floating on the surface of the sea, some are about to sink, and some are endeavoring to reach the shore, against which they will be inevitably dashed to pieces. The same variety of character, action, and expression is observable among the spectators, some of whom are turning aside with a shudder, some are doing their utmost to assist the drowning persons, while others remain motionless and are merely looking on. A few persons have made a fire beneath a rock, and are endeavoring to revive a woman, who is apparently expiring. But now turn your eyes, reader, towards another picture, and you will there see a calm, with all its charms. The waters, which are tranquil, smooth, and cheerful-looking, insensibly lose their transparency as they extend further from the sight, while their surface gradually assumes a lighter tint, as they roll from the shore to the horizon. The ships are motionless, and the sailors and passengers are whiling away the time in various amusements. If it is[Pg 305] morning, what light vapors are seen rising all around! and how they have refreshed and vivified every object they have fallen on! If it is evening, what a golden tint do the tops of the mountains assume! How various, too, are the hues of the sky! And how gently do the clouds move along, as they cast the reflection of their different colors into the sea! Go, reader, into the country, lift your eyes up towards the azure vault of heaven, observe well the phenomena you then see there, and you will think that a large piece of the canvass lighted by the sun himself has been cut out and placed upon the easel of the artist: or form your hand into a tube, so that, by looking through it, you will only be able to see a limited space of the canvass painted by nature, and you will at once fancy that you are gazing on one of Vernet's pictures which has been taken from off his easel and placed in the sky. His nights, too, are as touching as his days are fine; while his ports are as fine as his imaginative pieces are piquant. He is equally wonderful, whether he employs his pencil to depict a subject of everyday life, or he abandons himself completely to his imagination; and he is equally incomprehensible, whether he employs the orb of day or the orb of night, natural or artificial lights, to light his pictures with: he is always bold, harmonious, and staid, like those great poets whose judgment balances all things so well, that they are never either exaggerated or cold. His fabrics, edifices, cos[Pg 306]tumes, actions, men and animals are all true. When near, he astonishes you, and, at a distance, he astonishes you still more."


Vernet, notwithstanding he loved to depict the sea in its most convulsed and terrible aspects, was a perfect gentleman of the French school, whose manners were most amiable and engaging. What he most loved after painting was music. He had formed at Rome, an intimate friendship with Pergolesi, the composer, who afterwards became so celebrated, and they lived almost continually together. Vernet placed a harpsichord in his studio for the express use of his friend, and while the painter, carried away by his imagination, put the waters of the mighty main into commotion, or suspended persons on the towering waves, the grave composer sought, with the tips of his fingers, for the rudiments of his immortal melodies. It was thus that the melancholy stanzas of that chef d'œuvre of sadness and sorrow, the Stabat-Mater, were composed for a little convent in which one of Pergolesi's sisters resided. It seems to one that while listening to this plaintive music, Vernet must have given a more mellow tint to his painting; and it was, perhaps, while under its influence, that he worked at his calms and moonlights, or, making a truce with the roaring billows of the sea, painted it tranquil and smooth, and represented on the[Pg 307] shore nothing but motionless fishermen, sailors seated between the carriages of two cannons, and whiling away the time by relating their travels to one another, or else stretched on the grass in so quiescent a state, that the spectator himself becomes motionless while gazing on them.

Pergolesi died in the arms of Joseph Vernet, who could never after hear the name of his friend pronounced, without being moved to tears. He religiously preserved the scraps of paper, on which he had seen the music of the Stabat-Mater dotted down before his eyes, and brought them with him to France in 1752, at which period he was sent for by the Marquis de Marigny, after an absence of twenty years. Vernet's love for music procured Grétry a hearty welcome, when the young composer came to Paris. Vernet discovered his talent, and predicted his success. Some of Grétry's features, his delicate constitution, and, above all, several of his simple and expressive airs, reminded the painter of the immortal man to whom music owes so large a portion of its present importance; for it was Pergolesi who first introduced in Italy the custom of paying such strict attention to the sense of the words and to the choice of the accompaniments.


Though Vernet rose to great distinction, he was never fully appreciated till long after his decease.[Pg 308] At the present day, he is placed in the first rank of marine painters, not only by his own countrymen, but by every other nation. He himself pronounced judgment on his own merits, the justness of which, posterity has sanctioned. The sentence deserves to be preserved, for it is great. Comparing himself to the great painters, his rivals, he says, "If you ask me whether I painted skies better than such and such an artist, I should answer 'no!' or figures better than any one else, I should also say 'no!' or trees and landscapes better than others, still I should answer 'no!' or fogs, water, and vapors better than others, my answer would ever be the same but though inferior to each of them in one branch of the art, I surpass them in all the others."


The Marquis de Marigny, like his sister, Madame de Pompadour, loved and protected the arts. It was mainly through his influence that Vernet was invited to Paris in 1752, and commissioned to paint the sea-ports of France. No one could have been found better fitted for the ungrateful task, which, though offering so few resources, required so much knowledge. Thus imprisoned in official programme, Vernet must have felt ill at ease, if we may judge from a letter which he wrote to the Marquis at a subsequent period, with respect to another order. Indeed, the truth of his remarks were verified in[Pg 309] the very series just mentioned, which are not considered among his happiest productions. The following is the main part of the letter referred to, dated May 6th, 1765:

"I am not accustomed to make sketches for my pictures. My general practice is to compose on the canvass of the picture I am about to execute, and to paint it immediately, while my imagination is still warm with conception; the size, too, of my canvas tells me at once what I have to do, and makes me compose accordingly. I am sure, if I made a sketch beforehand, that I should not only not put in it what might be in the picture, but that I should also throw into it all the fire I possess, and the larger picture would, in consequence, become cold. This would also be making a sort of copy, which it would annoy me to do. Thus, sir, after thoroughly weighing and examining everything, I think it best that I should be left free to act as I like. This is what I require from all those for whom I wish to do my best; and this is also what I beg your friend towards whom I am desirous of acting conscientiously, to let me do. He can tell me what size he wishes the picture to be, with the general subject of it, such as calm, tempest, sun-rise, sun-set, moon-light, landscape, marine-piece, etc., but nothing more. Experience has taught me that, when I am constrained by the least thing, I always succeed worse than generally.[Pg 310]

"If you wish to know the usual prices of my pictures, they are as follows:—For every one four feet wide, and two and a half, or three high, £60, for every one three feet wide, and of a proportionate height, £48; for every one two feet and a half wide £40; for every one two feet wide, £32; and for every one eighteen inches wide, £24, with larger or smaller ones as required; but it is as well to mention that I succeed much better with the large ones."


Antoine Charles Horace Vernet was the son of Claude Joseph Vernet, and born at Bordeaux in 1758. He acquired distinction as a painter, and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and of the order of St Michael. He chiefly excelled in battle and parade pieces of large dimensions; and he thus commemorated the battles of Rivoli, Marengo, Austerlitz, Wagram, the Departure of the Marshals, and other events of French history which occurred during his artistical career. More pleasing to many are his smaller pictures, mostly referring to battles and camps. He was uncommonly successful in depicting the horse, and there are numerous equestrian portraits by him, which are greatly admired. His studies from nature, and his hunting pieces, for vivacity, spirit, and boldness of conception, are only rivaled by those of his son Horace. Many of his works have been litho[Pg 311]graphed; the twenty-eight plates in folio, illustrating the Campaign of Bonaparte in Italy, are esteemed among his most successful efforts. He died in 1836.


A short time before his death, Charles Vernet, having some business to transact with one of the public functionaries, called at his office and sent in his card. The minister left him waiting two whole hours in the anteroom before he admitted him to his presence, when the business was quickly dispatched. Meeting Vernet at a soiree soon afterwards, the minister apologized for his apparent neglect, which not appearing very satisfactory to the veteran painter, he mildly rebuked him by observing, "It is of no consequence, sir, but permit me to say that I think a little more respect should have been shown to the son of Joseph and the father of Horace Vernet."


A Norman priest, who lived in the middle of the seventeenth century, named the Abbé Malotru, was remarkably deformed in his figure, and ridiculous in his dress. One day, while he was performing mass, he observed a smile of contempt on the face of M. de Lasson, which irritated him so much that the moment the service was over, he instituted a[Pg 312] process against him. Lasson possessed the talent of caricature drawing: he sketched a figure of the ill-made priest, accoutred, as he used to be, in half a dozen black caps over one another, nine waistcoats, and as many pair of breeches. When the court before whom he was cited urged him to produce his defense, he suddenly exhibited his Abbé Malotru, and the irresistible laughter which it occasioned insured his acquittal.


In the early part of Frank Hals' life, to accommodate his countrymen, who were sparing both of their time and money, he painted portraits for a low price at one sitting in a single hour. Vandyke on his way to Rome, passing through the place, sat his hour as a stranger to the rapid portrait painter. Hals had seen some of the works of Vandyke, but was unacquainted with his person. When the picture was finished, Vandyke, assuming a silly manner, said it appeared to be easy work, and that he thought he could do it. Hals, thinking to have some fun, consented to sit an hour precisely by the clock, and not to rise or look at what he fully expected to find a laughable daub. Vandyke began his work; Hals looked like a sitter. At the close, the wag rose with all his risible muscles prepared for a hearty laugh; but when he saw the splendid sketch, he started, looked, and exclaimed, "You must be either Vandyke or the Devil!"

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