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Renaissance in Italy Vol. 3 - The Fine Arts
by John Addington Symonds
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RENAISSANCE IN ITALY

THE FINE ARTS

BY

JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS

AUTHOR OF

"AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF DANTE", "STUDIES OF THE GREEK POETS"

AND "SKETCHES IN ITALY AND GREECE"

* * * * *

Dii Romae indigetes, Trojae tuque auctor, Apollo, Unde genus nostrum coeli se tollit ad astra, Hanc saltem auferri laudem prohibete Latinis: Artibus emineat semper, studiisque Minervae, Italia, et gentes doceat pulcherrima Roma; Quandoquidem armorum penitus fortuna recessit, Tanta Italos inter crevit discordia reges; Ipsi nos inter saevos distringimus enses, Nec patriam pudet externis aperire tyrannis

VIDA, Poetica, lib. ii.

* * * * *

LONDON

SMITH, ELDER & CO

1899



PREFACE[1]

This third volume of my book on the "Renaissance in Italy" does not pretend to retrace the history of the Italian arts, but rather to define their relation to the main movement of Renaissance culture. Keeping this, the chief object of my whole work, steadily in view, I have tried to explain the dependence of the arts on mediaeval Christianity at their commencement, their gradual emancipation from ecclesiastical control, and their final attainment of freedom at the moment when the classical revival culminated.

Not to notice the mediaeval period in this evolution would be impossible; since the revival of Sculpture and Painting at the end of the thirteenth century was among the earliest signs of that new intellectual birth to which we give the title of Renaissance. I have, therefore, had to deal at some length with stages in the development of Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting, which form a prelude to the proper age of my own history.

In studying the architectural branch of the subject, I have had recourse to Fergusson's "Illustrated Handbook of Architecture," to Burckhardt's "Cicerone," to Gruener's "Terra-Cotta Buildings of North Italy," to Milizia's "Memorie degli Architetti," and to many illustrated works on single buildings in Rome, Tuscany, Lombardy, and Venice. For the history of Sculpture I have used Burckhardt's "Cicerone," and the two important works of Charles C. Perkins, entitled "Tuscan Sculptors," and "Italian Sculptors." Such books as "Le Tre Porte del Battistero di Firenze," Gruener's "Cathedral of Orvieto," and Lasinio's "Tabernacolo della Madonna d'Orsammichele" have been helpful by their illustrations. For the history of Painting I have made use principally of Vasari's "Vite de' piu eccellenti Pittori," &c., in Le Monnier's edition of Crowe and Cavalcaselle's "History of Painting," of Burckhardt's "Cicerone," of Rosini's illustrated "Storia della Pittura Italiana," of Rio's "L'Art Chretien," and of Henri Beyle's "Histoire de la Peinture en Italie." I should, however, far exceed the limits of a preface were I to make a list of all the books I have consulted with profit on the history of the arts in Italy.

In this part of my work I feel that I owe less to reading than to observation. I am not aware of having mentioned any important building, statue, or picture which I have not had the opportunity of studying. What I have written in this volume about the monuments of Italian art has always been first noted face to face with the originals, and afterwards corrected, modified, or confirmed in the course of subsequent journeys to Italy. I know that this method of composition, if it has the merit of freshness, entails some inequality of style and disproportion in the distribution of materials. In the final preparation of my work for press I have therefore endeavoured, as far as possible, to compensate this disadvantage by adhering to the main motive of my subject—the illustration of the Renaissance spirit as this was manifested in the Arts.

I must add, in conclusion, that Chapters VII. and IX. and Appendix II. are in part reprinted from the "Westminster," the "Cornhill," and the "Contemporary."

CLIFTON: March 1877.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

THE PROBLEM FOR THE FINE ARTS

Art in Italy and Greece—The Leading Phase of Culture—AEsthetic Type of Literature—Painting the Supreme Italian Art—Its Task in the Renaissance—Christian and Classical Traditions—Sculpture for the Ancients—Painting for the Romance Nations—Mediaeval Faith and Superstition—The Promise of Painting—How far can the Figurative Arts express Christian Ideas?—Greek and Christian Religion—Plastic Art incapable of solving the Problem—A more Emotional Art needed—Place of Sculpture in the Renaissance—Painting and Christian Story—Humanization of Ecclesiastical Ideas by Art—Hostility of the Spirit of True Piety to Art—Compromises effected by the Church—Fra Bartolommeo's S. Sebastian—Irreconcilability of Art and Theology, Art and Philosophy—Recapitulation—Art in the end Paganises—Music—The Future of Painting after the Renaissance.

CHAPTER II

ARCHITECTURE

Architecture of Mediaeval Italy—Milan, Genoa, Venice—The Despots as Builders—Diversity of Styles—Local Influences—Lombard, Tuscan, Romanesque, Gothic—Italian want of feeling for Gothic—Cathedrals of Siena and Orvieto—Secular Buildings of the Middle Ages—Florence and Venice—Private Palaces—Public Halls—Palazzo della Signoria at Florence—Arnolfo di Cambio—S. Maria del Fiore—Brunelleschi's Dome—Classical Revival in Architecture—Roman Ruins—Three Periods in Renaissance Architecture—Their Characteristics—Brunelleschi —Alberti—Palace-building—Michellozzo—Decorative Work of the Revival—Bramante—Vitoni's Church of the Umilta at Pistoja—Palazzo del Te—Villa Farnesina—Sansovino at Venice—Michael Angelo—The Building of S. Peter's—Palladio—The Palazzo della Ragione at Vicenza—Lombard Architects—Theorists and Students of Vitruvius—Vignola and Scamozzi—European Influence of the Palladian Style—Comparison of Scholars and Architects in relation to the Revival of Learning.

CHAPTER III

SCULPTURE

Niccola Pisano—Obscurity of the Sources for a History of Early Italian Sculpture—Vasari's Legend of Pisano—Deposition from the Cross at Lucca—Study of Nature and the Antique—Sarcophagus at Pisa—Pisan Pulpit—Niccola's School—Giovanni Pisano—Pulpit in S. Andrea at Pistoja—Fragments of his work at Pisa—Tomb of Benedict XI. at Perugia—Bas-reliefs at Orvieto—Andrea Pisano—Relation of Sculpture to Painting—Giotto—Subordination of Sculpture to Architecture in Italy—Pisano's Influence in Venice—Balduccio of Pisa—Orcagna—The Tabernacle of Orsammichele—The Gates of the Florentine Baptistery —Competition of Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Della Quercia—Comparison of Ghiberti's and Brunelleschi's Trial-pieces—Comparison of Ghiberti and Della Quercia—The Bas-reliefs of S. Petronio—Ghiberti's Education—His Pictorial Style in Bas-relief—His Feeling for the Antique—Donatello—Early Visit to Rome—Christian Subjects—Realistic Treatment—S. George and David—Judith—Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata—Influence of Donatello's Naturalism—Andrea Verocchio—His David—Statue of Colleoni—Alessandro Leopardi—Lionardo's Statue of Francesco Sforza—The Pollajuoli—Tombs of Sixtus IV. and Innocent VIII.—Luca della Robbia—His Treatment of Glazed Earthenware—Agostino di Duccio—The Oratory of S. Bernardino at Perugia—Antonio Rossellino—Matteo Civitali—Mino da Fiesole—Benedetto da Majano—Characteristics and Masterpieces of this Group—Sepulchral Monuments—Andrea Contucci's Tombs in S. Maria del Popolo—Desiderio da Settignano—Sculpture in S. Francesco at Rimini—Venetian Sculpture—Verona—Guido Mazzoni of Modena—Certosa of Pavia—Colleoni Chapel at Bergamo—Sansovino at Venice—Pagan Sculpture—Michael Angelo's Scholars—Baccio Bandinelli—Bartolommeo Ammanati—Cellini—Gian Bologna—Survey of the History of Renaissance Sculpture.

CHAPTER IV

PAINTING

Distribution of Artistic Gifts in Italy—Florence and Venice —Classification by Schools—Stages in the Evolution of Painting—Cimabue —The Rucellai Madonna—Giotto—His widespread Activity—The Scope of his Art—Vitality—Composition—Colour—Naturalism—Healthiness—Frescoes at Assisi and Padua—Legend of S. Francis—The Giotteschi—Pictures of the Last Judgment—Orcagna in the Strozzi Chapel—Ambrogio Lorenzetti at Pisa—Dogmatic Theology—Cappella degli Spagnuoli—Traini's "Triumph, of S. Thomas Aquinas"—Political Doctrine expressed in Fresco—Sala della Pace at Siena—Religious Art in Siena and Perugia—The Relation of the Giottesque Painters to the Renaissance.

CHAPTER V

PAINTING

Mediaeval Motives exhausted—New Impulse toward Technical Perfection—Naturalists in Painting—Intermediate Achievement needed for the Great Age of Art—Positive Spirit of the Fifteenth Century—Masaccio—The Modern Manner—Paolo Uccello—Perspective—Realistic Painters—The Model—Piero della Francesca—His Study of Form—Resurrection at Borgo San Sepolcro—Melozzo da Forli—Squarcione at Padua—Gentile da Fabriano—Fra Angelico—Benozzo Gozzoli—His Decorative Style—Lippo Lippi—Frescoes at Prato and Spoleto—Filippino Lippi—Sandro Botticelli—His Value for the Student of Renaissance Fancy—His Feeling for Mythology—Piero di Cosimo—Domenico Ghirlandajo—In what sense he sums up the Age—Prosaic Spirit—Florence hitherto supreme in Painting—Extension of Art Activity throughout Italy—Medicean Patronage.

CHAPTER VI

PAINTING

Two Periods in the True Renaissance—Andrea Mantegna—His Statuesque Design—His Naturalism—Roman Inspiration—Triumph of Julius Caesar—Bas-reliefs—Luca Signorelli—The Precursor of Michael Angelo—Anatomical Studies—Sense of Beauty—The Chapel of S. Brizio at Orvieto—Its Arabesques and Medallions—Degrees in his Ideal—Enthusiasm for Organic Life—Mode of treating Classical Subjects—Perugino—His Pietistic Style—His Formalism—The Psychological Problem of his Life—Perugino's Pupils—Pinturicchio—At Spello and Siena—Francia—Fra Bartolommeo—Transition to the Golden Age—Lionardo da Vinci—The Magician of the Renaissance—Raphael—The Melodist—Correggio—The Faun—Michael Angelo—The Prophet.

CHAPTER VII

VENETIAN PAINTING

Painting bloomed late in Venice—Conditions offered by Venice to Art—Shelley and Pietro Aretino—Political Circumstances of Venice—Comparison with Florence—The Ducal Palace—Art regarded as an adjunct to State Pageantry—Myth of Venezia—Heroic Deeds of Venice—Tintoretto's Paradise and Guardi's Picture of a Ball—Early Venetian Masters of Murano—Gian Bellini—Carpaccio's Little Angels—The Madonna of S. Zaccaria—Giorgione—Allegory, Idyll, Expression of Emotion—The Monk at the Clavichord—Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese—Tintoretto's Attempt to dramatise Venetian Art—Veronese's Mundane Splendour—Titian's Sophoclean Harmony—Their Schools—Further Characteristics of Veronese—of Tintoretto—His Imaginative Energy—Predominant Poetry—Titian's Perfection of Balance—Assumption of Madonna—Spirit common to the great Venetians.

CHAPTER VIII

LIFE OF MICHAEL ANGELO

Contrast of Michael Angelo and Cellini—Parentage and Boyhood of Michael Angelo—Work with Ghirlandajo—Gardens of S. Marco—The Medicean Circle—Early Essays in Sculpture—Visit to Bologna—First Visit to Rome—The Pieta of S. Peter's—Michael Angelo as a Patriot and a friend of the Medici—Cartoon for the Battle of Pisa—Michael Angelo and Julius II.—The Tragedy of the Tomb—Design for the Pope's Mausoleum—Visit to Carrara—Flight from Rome—Michael Angelo at Bologna—Bronze Statue of Julius—Return to Rome—Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel—Greek and Modern Art—Raphael—Michael Angelo and Leo X.—S. Lorenzo—The new Sacristy—Circumstances under which it was designed and partly finished—Meaning of the Allegories—Incomplete state of Michael Angelo's Marbles—Paul III.—The "Last Judgment"—Critiques of Contemporaries—The Dome of S. Peter's—Vittoria Colonna—Tommaso Cavalieri—Personal Habits of Michael Angelo—His Emotional Nature—Last Illness.

CHAPTER IX

LIFE OF BENVENUTO CELLINI

His Fame—His Autobiography—Its Value for the Student of History, Manners, and Character in the Renaissance—Birth, Parentage, and Boyhood—Flute-playing—Apprenticeship to Marcone—Wanderjahr—The Goldsmith's Trade at Florence—Torrigiani and England—Cellini leaves Florence for Rome—Quarrel with the Guasconti—Homicidal Fury—Cellini a Law to Himself—Three Periods in his Manhood—Life in Rome—Diego at the Banquet—Renaissance Feeling for Physical Beauty—Sack of Rome—Miracles in Cellini's Life—His Affections—Murder of his Brother's Assassin—Sanctuary—Pardon and Absolution—Incantation in the Colosseum—First Visit to France—Adventures on the Way—Accused of stealing Crown Jewels in Rome—Imprisonment in the Castle of S. Angelo—The Governor—Cellini's Escape—His Visions—The Nature of his Religion—Second Visit to France—The Wandering Court—Le Petit Nesle—Cellini in the French Law Courts—Scene at Fontainebleau—Return to Florence—Cosimo de' Medici as a Patron—Intrigues of a Petty Court—Bandinelli—The Duchess—Statue of Perseus—End of Cellini's Life—Cellini and Machiavelli.

CHAPTER X

THE EPIGONI

Full Development and Decline of Painting—Exhaustion of the old Motives—Relation of Lionardo to his Pupils—His Legacy to the Lombard School—Bernardino Luini—Gaudenzio Ferrari—The Devotion of the Sacri Monti—The School of Raphael—Nothing left but Imitation—Unwholesome Influences of Rome—Giulio Romano—Michael Angelesque Mannerists—Misconception of Michael Angelo—Correggio founds no School—Parmigianino—Macchinisti—The Bolognese—After-growth of Art in Florence—Andrea del Sarto—His Followers—Pontormo—Bronzino—Revival of Painting in Siena—Sodoma—His Influence on Pacchia, Beccafumi, Peruzzi—Garofalo and Dosso Dossi at Ferrari—The Campi at Cremona—Brescia and Bergamo—The Decadence in the second half of the Sixteenth Century—The Counter-Reformation—Extinction of the Renaissance Impulse.

APPENDICES

I.—The Pulpits of Pisa and Ravello

II.—Michael Angelo's Sonnets

III.—Chronological Tables

FOOTNOTES:

[1] To the original edition of this volume.



CHAPTER I

THE PROBLEM FOR THE FINE ARTS

Art in Italy and Greece—The Leading Phase of Culture—AEsthetic Type of Literature—Painting the Supreme Italian Art—Its Task in the Renaissance—Christian and Classical Traditions—Sculpture for the Ancients—Painting for the Romance Nations—Mediaeval Faith and Superstition—The Promise of Painting—How far can the Figurative Arts express Christian Ideas?—Greek and Christian Religion—Plastic Art incapable of solving the Problem—A more Emotional Art needed—Place of Sculpture in the Renaissance—Painting and Christian Story—Humanization of Ecclesiastical Ideas by Art—Hostility of the Spirit of True Piety to Art—Compromises effected by the Church—Fra Bartolommeo's S. Sebastian—Irreconcilability of Art and Theology, Art and Philosophy—Recapitulation—Art in the end Paganises—Music—The Future of Painting after the Renaissance.

It has been granted only to two nations, the Greeks and the Italians, and to the latter only at the time of the Renaissance, to invest every phase and variety of intellectual energy with the form of art. Nothing notable was produced in Italy between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries that did not bear the stamp and character of fine art. If the methods of science may be truly said to regulate our modes of thinking at the present time, it is no less true that, during the Renaissance, art exercised a like controlling influence. Not only was each department of the fine arts practised with singular success; not only was the national genius to a very large extent absorbed in painting, sculpture, and architecture; but the aesthetic impulse was more subtly and widely diffused than this alone would imply. It possessed the Italians in the very centre of their intellectual vitality, imposing its conditions on all the manifestations of their thought and feeling, so that even their shortcomings may be ascribed in a great measure to their inability to quit the aesthetic point of view.

We see this in their literature. It is probable that none but artistic natures will ever render full justice to the poetry of the Renaissance. Critics endowed with a less lively sensibility to beauty of outline and to harmony of form than the Italians, complain that their poetry lacks substantial qualities; nor is it except by long familiarity with the plastic arts of their contemporaries that we come to understand the ground assumed by Ariosto and Poliziano. We then perceive that these poets were not so much unable as instinctively unwilling to go beyond a certain circle of effects. They subordinated their work to the ideal of their age, and that ideal was one to which a painter rather than a poet might successfully aspire. A succession of pictures, harmoniously composed and delicately toned to please the mental eye, satisfied the taste of the Italians. But, however exquisite in design, rich in colour, and complete in execution this literary work may be, it strikes a Northern student as wanting in the highest elements of genius—sublimity of imagination, dramatic passion, energy and earnestness of purpose. In like manner, he finds it hard to appreciate those didactic compositions on trifling or prosaic themes, which delighted the Italians for the very reason that their workmanship surpassed their matter. These defects, as we judge them, are still more apparent in the graver branches of literature. In an essay or a treatise we do not so much care for well-balanced disposition of parts or beautifully rounded periods, though elegance may be thought essential to classic masterpieces, as for weighty matter and trenchant observations. Having the latter, we can dispense at need with the former. The Italians of the Renaissance, under the sway of the fine arts, sought after form, and satisfied themselves with rhetoric. Therefore we condemn their moral disquisitions and their criticisms as the flimsy playthings of intellectual voluptuaries. Yet the right way of doing justice to these stylistic trifles is to regard them as products of an all-embracing genius for art, in a people whose most serious enthusiasms were aesthetic.

The speech of the Italians at that epoch, their social habits, their ideal of manners, their standard of morality, the estimate they formed of men, were alike conditioned and qualified by art. It was an age of splendid ceremonies and magnificent parade, when the furniture of houses, the armour of soldiers, the dress of citizens, the pomp of war, and the pageantry of festival were invariably and inevitably beautiful. On the meanest articles of domestic utility, cups and platters, door-panels and chimney-pieces, coverlets for beds and lids of linen-chests, a wealth of artistic invention was lavished by innumerable craftsmen, no less skilled in technical details than distinguished by rare taste. From the Pope upon S. Peter's chair to the clerks in a Florentine counting-house, every Italian was a judge of art. Art supplied the spiritual oxygen, without which the life of the Renaissance must have been atrophied. During that period of prodigious activity the entire nation seemed to be endowed with an instinct for the beautiful, and with the capacity for producing it in every conceivable form. As we travel through Italy at the present day, when "time, war, pillage, and purchase" have done their worst to denude the country of its treasures, we still marvel at the incomparable and countless beauties stored in every burgh and hamlet. Pacing the picture galleries of Northern Europe, the country seats of English nobles, and the palaces of Spain, the same reflection is still forced upon us: how could Italy have done what she achieved within so short a space of time? What must the houses and the churches once have been, from which these spoils were taken, but which still remain so rich in masterpieces? Psychologically to explain this universal capacity for the fine arts in the nation at this epoch, is perhaps impossible. Yet the fact remains, that he who would comprehend the Italians of the Renaissance must study their art, and cling fast to that Ariadne-thread throughout the labyrinthine windings of national character. He must learn to recognise that herein lay the sources of their intellectual strength as well as the secret of their intellectual weakness.

It lies beyond the scope of this work to embrace in one inquiry the different forms of art in Italy, or to analyse the connection of the aesthetic instinct with the manifold manifestations of the Renaissance. Even the narrower task to which I must confine myself, is too vast for the limits I am forced to impose upon its treatment. I intend to deal with Italian painting as the one complete product which remains from the achievements of this period, touching upon sculpture and architecture more superficially. Not only is painting the art in which the Italians among all the nations of the modern world stand unapproachably alone, but it is also the one that best enables us to gauge their genius at the time when they impressed their culture on the rest of Europe. In the history of the Italian intellect painting takes the same rank as that of sculpture in the Greek. Before beginning, however, to trace the course of Italian art, it will be necessary to discuss some preliminary questions, important for a right understanding of the relations assumed by painting to the thoughts of the Renaissance, and for explaining its superiority over the sister art of sculpture in that age. This I feel the more bound to do because it is my object in this volume to treat of art with special reference to the general culture of the nation.

What, let us ask in the first place, was the task appointed for the fine arts on the threshold of the modern world? They had, before all things, to give form to the ideas evolved by Christianity, and to embody a class of emotions unknown to the ancients.[2] The inheritance of the Middle Ages had to be appropriated and expressed. In the course of performing this work, the painters helped to humanise religion, and revealed the dignity and beauty of the body of man. Next, in the fifteenth century, the riches of classic culture were discovered, and art was called upon to aid in the interpretation of the ancient to the modern mind. The problem was no longer simple. Christian and pagan traditions came into close contact, and contended for the empire of the newly liberated intellect. During this struggle the arts, true to their own principles, eliminated from both traditions the more strictly human elements, and expressed them in beautiful form to the imagination and the senses. The brush of the same painter depicted Bacchus wedding Ariadne and Mary fainting on the hill of Calvary. Careless of any peril to dogmatic orthodoxy, and undeterred by the dread of encouraging pagan sensuality, the artists wrought out their modern ideal of beauty in the double field of Christian and Hellenic legend. Before the force of painting was exhausted, it had thus traversed the whole cycle of thoughts and feelings that form the content of the modern mind. Throughout this performance, art proved itself a powerful co-agent in the emancipation of the intellect; the impartiality wherewith its methods were applied to subjects sacred and profane, the emphasis laid upon physical strength and beauty as good things and desirable, the subordination of classical and mediaeval myths to one aesthetic law of loveliness, all tended to withdraw attention from the differences between paganism and Christianity, and to fix it on the goodliness of that humanity wherein both find their harmony.

This being in general the task assigned to art in the Renaissance, we may next inquire what constituted the specific quality of modern as distinguished from antique feeling, and why painting could not fail to take the first place among modern arts. In other words, how was it that, while sculpture was the characteristic fine art of antiquity, painting became the distinguishing fine art of the modern era? No true form of figurative art intervened between Greek sculpture and Italian painting. The latter took up the work of investing thought with sensible shape from the dead hands of the former. Nor had the tradition that connected art with religion been interrupted, although a new cycle of religious ideas had been substituted for the old ones. The late Roman and Byzantine manners, through which the vital energies of the Athenian genius dwindled into barren formalism, still lingered, giving crude and lifeless form to Christian conceptions. But the thinking and feeling subject, meanwhile, had undergone a change so all-important that it now imperatively required fresh channels for its self-expression. It was destined to find these, not as of old in sculpture, but in painting.

During the interval between the closing of the ancient and the opening of the modern age, the faith of Christians had attached itself to symbols and material objects little better than fetishes. The host, the relic, the wonder-working shrine, things endowed with a mysterious potency, evoked the yearning and the awe of medieval multitudes. To such concrete actualities the worshippers referred their sense of the invisible divinity. The earth of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre, the House of Loreto, the Sudarium of Saint Veronica, aroused their deepest sentiments of aweful adoration. Like Thomas, they could not be contented with believing; they must also touch and handle. At the same time, in apparent contradistinction to this demand for things of sense as signs of super-sensual power, the claims of dogma on the intellect grew more imperious, and mysticism opened for the dreaming soul a realm of spiritual rapture. For the figurative arts there was no true place in either of these regions. Painting and sculpture were alike alien to the grosser superstitions, the scholastic subtleties, and the ecstatic trances of the Middle Ages; nor had they anything in common with the logic of theology. Votaries who kissed a fragment of the cross with passion, could have found but little to satisfy their ardour in pictures painted by a man of genius. A formless wooden idol, endowed with the virtue of curing disease, charmed the pilgrim more than a statue noticeable only for its beauty or its truth to life. We all know that wunderthaetige Bilder sind meist nur schlechte Gemaelde. In architecture alone, the mysticism of the Middle Ages, their vague but potent feelings of infinity, their yearning towards a deity invisible, but localised in holy things and places, found artistic outlet. Therefore architecture was essentially a medieval art. The rise of sculpture and painting indicated the quickening to life of new faculties, fresh intellectual interests, and a novel way of apprehending the old substance of religious feeling; for comprehension of these arts implies delight in things of beauty for their own sake, a sympathetic attitude towards the world of sense, a new freedom of the mind produced by the regeneration of society through love.

The mediaeval faiths were still vivid when the first Italian painters began their work, and the sincere endeavour of these men was to set forth in beautiful and worthy form the truths of Christianity. The eyes of the worshipper should no longer have a mere stock or stone to contemplate: his imagination should be helped by the dramatic presentation of the scenes of sacred history, and his devotion be quickened by lively images of the passion of our Lord. Spirit should converse with spirit, through no veil of symbol, but through the transparent medium of art, itself instinct with inbreathed life and radiant with ideal beauty. The body and the soul, moreover, should be reconciled; and God's likeness should be once more acknowledged in the features and the limbs of man. Such was the promise of art; and this promise was in a great measure fulfilled by the painting of the fourteenth century. Men ceased to worship their God in the holiness of ugliness; and a great city called its street Glad on the birthday-festival of the first picture investing religious emotion with aesthetic charm. But in making good the promise they had given, it was needful for the arts on the one hand to enter a region not wholly their own—the region of abstractions and of mystical conceptions; and on the other to create a world of sensuous delightfulness, wherein the spiritual element was materialised to the injury of its own essential quality. Spirit, indeed, spake to spirit, so far as the religious content was concerned; but flesh spake also to flesh in the aesthetic form. The incarnation promised by the arts involved a corresponding sensuousness. Heaven was brought down to earth, but at the cost of making men believe that earth itself was heavenly.

At this point the subject of our inquiry naturally divides into two main questions. The first concerns the form of figurative art specially adapted to the requirements of religious thought in the fourteenth century. The second treats of the effect resulting both to art and religion from the expression of mystical and theological conceptions in plastic form.

When we consider the nature of the ideas assimilated in the Middle Ages by the human mind, it is clear that art, in order to set them forth, demanded a language the Greeks had never greatly needed, and had therefore never fully learned. To over-estimate the difference from an aesthetic point of view between the religious notions of the Greeks and those which Christianity had made essential, would be difficult. Faith, hope, and charity; humility, endurance, suffering; the Resurrection and the Judgment; the Pall and the Redemption; Heaven and Hell; the height and depth of man's mixed nature; the drama of human destiny before the throne of God: into the sphere of thoughts like these, vivid and solemn, transcending the region of sense and corporeity, carrying the mind away to an ideal world, where the things of this earth obtained a new reality by virtue of their relation to an invisible and infinite Beyond, the modern arts in their infancy were thrust. There was nothing finite here or tangible, no gladness in the beauty of girlish foreheads or the swiftness of a young man's limbs, no simple idealisation of natural delightfulness. The human body, which the figurative arts must needs use as the vehicle of their expression, had ceased to have a value in and for itself, had ceased to be the true and adequate investiture of thoughts demanded from the artist. At best it could be taken only as the symbol of some inner meaning, the shrine of an indwelling spirit nobler than itself; just as a lamp of alabaster owes its beauty and its worth to the flame it more than half conceals, the light transmitted through its scarce transparent walls.

In ancient art those moral and spiritual qualities which the Greeks recognised as truly human and therefore divine, allowed themselves to be incarnated in well-selected types of physical perfection. The deities of the Greek mythology were limited to the conditions of natural existence: they were men and women of a larger mould and freer personality; less complex, inasmuch as each completed some one attribute; less thwarted in activity, inasmuch as no limit was assigned to exercise of power. The passions and the faculties of man, analysed by unconscious psychology, and deified by religious fancy, were invested by sculpture with appropriate forms, the tact of the artist selecting corporeal qualities fitted to impersonate the special character of each divinity. Nor was it possible that, the gods and goddesses being what they were, exact analogues should not be found for them in idealised humanity. In a Greek statue there was enough soul to characterise the beauty of the body, to render her due meed of wisdom to Pallas, to distinguish the swiftness of Hermes from the strength of Heracles, or to contrast the virginal grace of Artemis with the abundance of Aphrodite's charms. At the same time the spirituality that gave its character to each Greek deity, was not such that, even in thought, it could be dissociated from corporeal form. The Greeks thought their gods as incarnate persons; and all the artist had to see to, was that this incarnate personality should be impressive in his marble.

Christianity, on the other hand, made the moral and spiritual nature of man all-essential. It sprang from an earlier religion, that judged it impious to give any form to God. The body and its terrestrial activity occupied but a subordinate position in its system. It was the life of the soul, separable from this frame of flesh, and destined to endure when earth and all that it contains had ended—a life that upon this planet was continued conflict and aspiring struggle—which the arts, insofar as they became its instrument, were called upon to illustrate. It was the worship of a Deity, all spirit, to be sought on no one sacred hill, to be adored in no transcendent shape, that they were bound to heighten. The most highly prized among the Christian virtues had no necessary connection with beauty of feature or strength of limb. Such beauty and such strength at any rate were accidental, not essential. A Greek faun could not but be graceful; a Greek hero was of necessity vigorous. But S. Stephen might be steadfast to the death without physical charm; S. Anthony might put to flight the devils of the flesh without muscular force. It is clear that the radiant physical perfection proper to the deities of Greek sculpture was not sufficient in this sphere.

Again, the most stirring episodes of the Christian mythology involved pain and perturbation of the spirit; the victories of the Christian athletes were won in conflicts carried on within their hearts and souls—"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers," demoniac leaders of spiritual legions. It is, therefore, no less clear that the tranquillity and serenity of the Hellenic ideal, so necessary to consummate sculpture, was here out of place. How could the Last Judgment, that day of wrath, when every soul, however insignificant on earth, will play the first part for one moment in an awful tragedy, be properly expressed in plastic form, harmonious and pleasing? And supposing that the artist should abandon the attempt to exclude ugliness and discord, pain and confusion, from his representation of the Dies Irae, how could he succeed in setting forth by the sole medium of the human body the anxiety and anguish of the soul at such a time? The physical form, instead of being adequate to the ideas expressed, and therefore helpful to the artist, is a positive embarrassment, a source of weakness. The most powerful pictorial or sculpturesque delineation of the Judgment, when compared with the pangs inflicted on the spirit by a guilty conscience, pangs whereof words may render some account, but which can find no analogue in writhings of the limbs or face, must of necessity be found a failure. Still more impossible, if we pursue this train of thought into another region, is it for the figurative arts to approach the Christian conception of God in His omnipotence and unity. Christ Himself, the central figure of the Christian universe, the desired of all nations, in whom the Deity assumed a human form and dwelt with men, is no fit subject for such art at any rate as the Greeks had perfected. The fact of His incarnation brought Him indeed within the proper sphere of the fine arts; but the religious idea which He represents removed Him beyond the reach of sculpture. This is an all-important consideration. It is to this that our whole argument is tending. Therefore to enlarge upon this point will not be useless.

Christ is specially adored in His last act of love on Calvary; and how impossible it is to set that forth consistently with the requirements of strictly plastic art, may be gathered by comparing the passion of S. Bernard's Hymn to our Lord upon the Cross with all that Winckelmann and Hegel have so truly said about the restrained expression, dignified generality, and harmonious beauty essential to sculpture. It is the negation of tranquillity, the excess of feeling, the absence of comeliness, the contrast between visible weakness and invisible omnipotence, the physical humiliation voluntarily suffered by Him that "ruled over all the angels, that walked on the pavements of heaven, whose feet were clothed with stars"—it is all this that gives their force and pathos to these stanzas:

Omnis vigor atque viror Hinc recessit; non admiror: Mors apparet in inspectu, Totus pendens in defectu, Attritus aegra macie.

Sic affectus, sic despectus, Propter me sic interfectus, Peccatori tam indigno Cum amoris in te signo Appare clara facie[3].

We have never heard that Pheidias or Praxiteles chose Prometheus upon Caucasus for the supreme display of his artistic skill; and even the anguish expressed in the group of the Laocoon is justly thought to violate the laws of antique sculpture. Yet here was a greater than Prometheus—one who had suffered more, and on whose suffering the salvation of the human race depended, to exclude whom from the sphere of representation in art was the same as confessing the utter impotence of art to grasp the vital thought of modern faith. It is clear that the muses of the new age had to haunt Calvary instead of Helicon, slaking their thirst at no Castalian spring, but at the fount of tears outpoured by all creation for a stricken God. What Hellas had achieved supplied no norm or method for the arts in this new service.

From what has hitherto been advanced, we may assert with confidence that, if the arts were to play an important part in Christian culture, an art was imperatively demanded that should be at home in the sphere of intense feeling, that should treat the body as the interpreter and symbol of the soul, and should not shrink from pain and passion. How far the fine arts were at all qualified to express the essential thoughts of Christianity—a doubt suggested in the foregoing paragraphs—and how far, through their proved inadequacy to perform this task completely, they weakened the hold of mediaeval faiths upon the modern mind, are questions to be raised hereafter. For the present it is enough to affirm that, least of all the arts, could sculpture, with its essential repose and its dependence on corporeal conditions, solve the problem. Sculpture had suited the requirements of Greek thought. It belonged by right to men who not unwillingly accepted the life of this world as final, and who worshipped in their deities the incarnate personality of man made perfect. But it could not express the cycle of Christian ideas. The desire of a better world, the fear of a worse; the sense of sin referred to physical appetites, and the corresponding mortification of the flesh; hope, ecstasy, and penitence and prayer; all these imply contempt or hatred for the body, suggest notions too spiritual to be conveyed by the rounded contours of beautiful limbs, too full of struggle for statuesque tranquillity. The new element needed a more elastic medium of expression. Motives more varied, gradations of sentiment more delicate, the fugitive and transient phases of emotion, the inner depths of consciousness, had somehow to be seized. It was here that painting asserted its supremacy. Painting is many degrees further removed than sculpture from dependence on the body in the fulness of its physical proportions. It touches our sensibilities by suggestions more indirect, more mobile, and more multiform. Colour and shadow, aerial perspective and complicated grouping, denied to sculpture, but within the proper realm of painting, have their own significance, their real relation to feelings vaguer, but not less potent, than those which find expression in the simple human form. To painting, again, belongs the play of feature, indicative of internal movement, through a whole gamut of modulations inapprehensible by sculpture. All that drapery by its partial concealment of the form it clothes, and landscape by its sympathies with human sentiment, may supply to enhance the passion of the spectator, pertains to painting. This art, therefore, owing to the greater variety of means at its disposal, and its greater adequacy to express emotion, became the paramount Italian art.

To sculpture in the Renaissance, shorn of the divine right to create gods and heroes, was left the narrower field of decoration, portraiture, and sepulchral monuments. In the last of these departments it found the noblest scope for its activity; for beyond the grave, according to Christian belief, the account of the striving, hoping, and resisting soul is settled. The corpse upon the bier may bear the stamp of spiritual character impressed on it in life; but the spirit, with its struggle and its passion, has escaped as from a prison-house, and flown else-whither. The body of the dead man, for whom this world is over, and who sleeps in peace, awaiting resurrection, and thereby not wholly dead, around whose tomb watch sympathising angels or contemplative genii, was, therefore, the proper subject for the highest Christian sculpture. Here, if anywhere, the right emotion could be adequately expressed in stone, and the moulded form be made the symbol of repose, expectant of restored activity. The greatest sculptor of the modern age was essentially a poet of Death.

Painting, then, for the reasons already assigned and insisted on, was the art demanded by the modern intellect upon its emergence from the stillness of the Middle Ages. The problem, however, even for the art of painting was not simple. The painters, following the masters of mosaic, began by setting forth the history, mythology, and legends of the Christian Church in imagery freer and more beautiful than lay within the scope of treatment by Romanesque or Byzantine art. So far their task was comparatively easy; for the idyllic grace of maternal love in the Madonna, the pathetic incidents of martyrdom, the courage of confessors, the ecstasies of celestial joy in redeemed souls, the loveliness of a pure life in modest virgins, and the dramatic episodes of sacred story, furnish a multitude of motives admirably pictorial. There was, therefore, no great obstacle upon the threshold, so long as artists gave their willing service to the Church. Yet, looking back upon this phase of painting, we are able to perceive that already the adaptation of art to Christian dogma entailed concessions on both sides. Much, on the one hand, had to be omitted from the programme offered to artistic treatment, for the reason that the fine arts could not deal with it at all. Much, on the other hand, had to be expressed by means which painting in a state of perfect freedom would repudiate. Allegorical symbols, like Prudence with two faces, and painful episodes of agony and anguish, marred her work of beauty. There was consequently a double compromise, involving a double sacrifice of something precious. The faith suffered by having its mysteries brought into the light of day, incarnated in form, and humanised. Art suffered by being forced to render intellectual abstractions to the eye through figured symbols.

As technical skill increased, and as beauty, the proper end of art, became more rightly understood, the painters found that their craft was worthy of being made an end in itself, and that the actualities of life observed around them had claims upon their genius no less weighty than dogmatic mysteries. The subjects they had striven at first to realise with all simplicity now became little better than vehicles for the display of sensuous beauty, science, and mundane pageantry. The human body received separate and independent study, as a thing in itself incomparably beautiful, commanding more powerful emotions by its magic than aught else that sways the soul. At the same time the external world, with all its wealth of animal and vegetable life, together with the works of human ingenuity in costly clothing and superb buildings, was seen to be in every detail worthy of most patient imitation. Anatomy and perspective taxed the understanding of the artist, whose whole force was no longer devoted to the task of bringing religious ideas within the limits of the representable. Next, when the classical revival came into play, the arts, in obedience to the spirit of the age, left the sphere of sacred subjects, and employed their full-grown faculties in the domain of myths and Pagan fancies. In this way painting may truly be said to have opened the new era of culture, and to have first manifested the freedom of the modern mind. When Luca Signorelli drew naked young men for a background to his picture of Madonna and the infant Christ, he created for the student a symbol of the attitude assumed by fine art in its liberty of outlook over the whole range of human interests. Standing before this picture in the Uffizzi, we feel that the Church, while hoping to adorn her cherished dogmas with aesthetic beauty, had encouraged a power antagonistic to her own, a power that liberated the spirit she sought to enthral, restoring to mankind the earthly paradise from which monasticism had expelled it.

Not to diverge at this point, and to entertain the difficult problem of the relation of the fine arts to Christianity, would be to shrink from the most thorny question offered to the understanding by the history of the Renaissance. On the very threshold of the matter I am bound to affirm my conviction that the spiritual purists of all ages—the Jews, the iconoclasts of Byzantium, Savonarola, and our Puritan ancestors—were justified in their mistrust of plastic art. The spirit of Christianity and the spirit of figurative art are opposed, not because such art is immoral, but because it cannot free itself from sensuous associations[4]. It is always bringing us back to the dear life of earth, from which the faith would sever us. It is always reminding us of the body which piety bids us to forget. Painters and sculptors glorify that which saints and ascetics have mortified. The masterpieces of Titian and Correggio, for example, lead the soul away from compunction, away from penitence, away from worship even, to dwell on the delight of youthful faces, blooming colour, graceful movement, delicate emotion[5]. Nor is this all: religious motives may be misused for what is worse than merely sensuous suggestiveness. The masterpieces of the Bolognese and Neapolitan painters, while they pretend to quicken compassion for martyrs in their agony, pander to a bestial blood-lust lurking in the darkest chambers of the soul[6]. Therefore it is that piety, whether the piety of monastic Italy or of Puritan England, turns from these aesthetic triumphs as from something alien to itself. When the worshipper would fain ascend on wings of ecstasy to God, the infinite, ineffable, unrealised, how can he endure the contact of those splendid forms, in which the lust of the eye and the pride of life, professing to subserve devotion, remind him rudely of the goodliness of sensual existence? Art, by magnifying human beauty, contradicts these Pauline maxims: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain;" "Set your affections on things above, not on things on earth;" "Your life is hid with Christ in God." The sublimity and elevation it gives to carnal loveliness are themselves hostile to the spirit that holds no truce or compromise of traffic with the flesh. As displayed in its most perfect phases, in Greek sculpture and Venetian painting, art dignifies the actual mundane life of man; but Christ, in the language of uncompromising piety, means everything most alien to this mundane life—self-denial, abstinence from fleshly pleasure, the waiting for true bliss beyond the grave, seclusion even from social and domestic ties. "He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me," "He that taketh not his cross and followeth me, is not worthy of me." It is needful to insist upon these extremest sentences of the New Testament, because upon them was based the religious practice of the Middle Ages, more sincere in their determination to fulfil the letter and embrace the spirit of the Gospel than any succeeding age has been.[7]

If, then, there really exists this antagonism between fine art glorifying human life and piety contemning it, how came it, we may ask, that even in the Middle Ages the Church hailed art as her coadjutor? The answer lies in this, that the Church has always compromised. The movement of the modern world, upon the close of the Middle Ages, offered the Church a compromise, which it would have been difficult to refuse, and in which she perceived art first no peril to her dogmas. When the conflict of the first few centuries of Christianity had ended in her triumph, she began to mediate between asceticism and the world. Intent on absorbing all existent elements of life and power, she conformed her system to the Roman type, established her service in basilicas and Pagan temples, adopted portions of the antique ritual, and converted local genii into saints. At the same time she utilised the spiritual forces of monasticism, and turned the mystic impulse of ecstatics to account. The Orders of the Preachers and the Begging Friars became her militia and police; the mystery of Christ's presence in the Eucharist was made an engine of the priesthood; the dreams of Paradise and Purgatory gave value to her pardons, interdictions, jubilees, indulgences, and curses. In the Church the spirit of the cloister and the spirit of the world found neutral ground, and to the practical accommodation between these hostile elements she owed her wide supremacy. The Christianity she formed and propagated was different from that of the New Testament, inasmuch as it had taken up into itself a mass of mythological anthropomorphic elements. Thus transmuted and materialised, thus accepted by the vivid faith of an unquestioning populace, Christianity offered a proper medium for artistic activity. The whole first period of Italian painting was occupied with the endeavour to set forth in form and colour the popular conceptions of a faith at once unphilosophical and unspiritual, beautiful and fit for art by reason of the human elements it had assumed into its substance. It was natural, therefore, that the Church should show herself indulgent to the arts, which were effecting in their own sphere what she had previously accomplished, though purists and ascetics, holding fast by the original spirit of their creed, might remain irreconcilably antagonistic to their influence. The Reformation, on the contrary, rejecting the whole mass of compromises sanctioned by the Church, and returning to the elemental principles of the faith, was no less naturally opposed to fine arts, which, after giving sensuous form to Catholic mythology, had recently attained to liberty and brought again the gods of Greece.

A single illustration might be selected from the annals of Italian painting to prove how difficult even the holiest-minded and most earnest painter found it to effect the proper junction between plastic beauty and pious feeling. Fra Bartolommeo, the disciple of Savonarola, painted a Sebastian in the cloister of S. Marco, where it remained until the Dominican confessors became aware, through the avowals of female penitents, that this picture was a stumbling-block and snare to souls. It was then removed, and what became of it we do not know for certain. Fra Bartolommeo undoubtedly intended this ideal portrait of the martyr to be edifying. S. Sebastian was to stand before the world as the young man, strong and beautiful, who endured to the end and won the crown of martyrdom. No other ideas but those of heroism, constancy, or faith were meant to be expressed; but the painter's art demanded that their expression should be eminently beautiful, and the beautiful body of the young man distracted attention from his spiritual virtues to his physical perfections. A similar maladjustment of the means of plastic art to the purposes of religion would have been impossible in Hellas, where the temples of Eros and of Phoebus stood side by side; but in Christian Florence the craftsman's skill sowed seeds of discord in the souls of the devout[8].

This story is but a coarse instance of the separation between piety and plastic art. In truth, the difficulty of uniting them in such a way that the latter shall enforce the former, lies far deeper than its powers of illustration reach. Religion has its proper end in contemplation and in conduct. Art aims at presenting sensuous embodiment of thoughts and feelings with a view to intellectual enjoyment. Now, many thoughts are incapable of sensuous embodiment; they appear as abstractions to the philosophical intellect or as dogmas to the theological understanding. To effect an alliance between art and philosophy or art and theology in the specific region of either religion or speculation is, therefore, an impossibility. In like manner there are many feelings which cannot properly assume a sensuous form; and these are precisely religious feelings, in which the soul abandons sense, and leaves the actual world behind, to seek her freedom in a spiritual region.[9] Yet, while we recognise the truth of this reasoning, it would be unscientific to maintain that, until they are brought into close and inconvenient contact, there is direct hostility between religion and the arts. The sphere of the two is separate; their aims are distinct; they must be allowed to perfect themselves, each after its own fashion. In the large philosophy of human nature, represented by Goethe's famous motto, there is room for both, because those who embrace it bend their natures neither wholly to the pietism of the cloister nor to the sensuality of art. They find the meeting-point of art and of religion in their own humanity, and perceive that the antagonism of the two begins when art is set to do work alien to its nature, and to minister to what it does not naturally serve.

At the risk of repetition I must now resume the points I have attempted to establish in this chapter. As in ancient Greece, so also in Renaissance Italy, the fine arts assumed the first place in the intellectual culture of the nation. But the thought and feeling of the modern world required an aesthetic medium more capable of expressing emotion in its intensity, variety, and subtlety than sculpture. Therefore painting was the art of arts for Italy. Yet even painting, notwithstanding the range and wealth of its resources, could not deal with the motives of Christianity so successfully as sculpture with the myths of Paganism. The religion it interpreted transcended the actual conditions of humanity, while art is bound down by its nature to the limitations of the world we live in. The Church imagined art would help her; and within a certain sphere of subjects, by vividly depicting Scripture histories and the lives of saints, by creating new types of serene beauty and pure joy, by giving form to angelic beings, by interpreting Mariolatry in all its charm and pathos, and by rousing deep sympathy with our Lord in His Passion, painting lent efficient aid to piety. Yet painting had to omit the very pith and kernel of Christianity as conceived by devout, uncompromising purists. Nor did it do what the Church would have desired. Instead of riveting the fetters of ecclesiastical authority, instead of enforcing mysticism and asceticism, it really restored to humanity the sense of its own dignity and beauty, and helped to proved the untenability of the mediaeval standpoint; for art is essentially and uncontrollably free, and, what is more, is free precisely in that realm of sensuous delightfulness from which cloistral religion turns aside to seek her own ecstatic liberty of contemplation.

The first step in the emancipation of the modern mind was taken thus by art, proclaiming to men the glad tidings of their goodliness and greatness in a world of manifold enjoyment created for their use. Whatever painting touched, became by that touch human; piety, at the lure of art, folded her soaring wings and rested on the genial earth. This the Church had not foreseen. Because the freedom of the human spirit expressed itself in painting only under visible images, and not, like heresy, in abstract sentences; because this art sufficed for Mariolatry and confirmed the cult of local saints; because its sensuousness was not at variance with a creed that had been deeply sensualised—the painters were allowed to run their course unchecked. Then came a second stage in their development of art. By placing the end of their endeavour in technical excellence and anatomical accuracy, they began to make representation an object in itself, independently of its spiritual significance. Next, under the influence of the classical revival, they brought home again the old powers of the earth—Aphrodite and Galatea and the Loves, Adonis and Narcissus and the Graces, Phoebus and Daphne and Aurora, Pan and the Fauns, and the Nymphs of the woods and the waves.

When these dead deities rose from their sepulchres to sway the hearts of men in the new age, it was found that something had been taken from their ancient bloom of innocence, something had been added of emotional intensity. Italian art recognised their claim to stand beside Madonna and the Saints in the Pantheon of humane culture; but the painters re-made them in accordance with the modern spirit. This slight touch of transformation proved that, though they were no longer objects of religious devotion, they still preserved a vital meaning for an altered age. Having personified for the antique world qualities which, though suppressed and ignored by militant and mediaeval Christianity, were strictly human, the Hellenic deities still signified those qualities for modern Europe, now at length re-fortified by contact with the ancient mind. For it is needful to remember that in all movements of the Renaissance we ever find a return in all sincerity and faith to the glory and gladness of nature, whether in the world without or in the soul of man. To apprehend that glory and that gladness with the pure and primitive perceptions of the early mythopoets, was not given to the men of the new world. Yet they did what in them lay, with senses sophisticated by many centuries of subtlest warping, to replace the first, free joy of kinship with primeval things. For the painters, far more than for the poets of the sixteenth century, it was possible to reproduce a thousand forms of beauty, each attesting to the delightfulness of physical existence, to the inalienable rights of natural desire, and to the participation of mankind in pleasures held in common by us with the powers of earth and sea and air.

It is wonderful to watch the blending of elder and of younger forces in this process. The old gods lent a portion of their charm even to Christian mythology, and showered their beauty-bloom on saints who died renouncing them. Sodoma's Sebastian is but Hyacinth or Hylas, transpierced with arrows, so that pain and martyrdom add pathos to his poetry of youthfulness. Lionardo's S. John is a Faun of the forest, ivy-crowned and laughing, on whose lips the word "Repent" would be a gleeful paradox. For the painters of the full Renaissance, Roman martyrs and Olympian deities—the heroes of the Acta Sanctorum, and the heroes of Greek romance—were alike burghers of one spiritual city, the city of the beautiful and human. What exquisite and evanescent fragrance was educed from these apparently diverse blossoms by their interminglement and fusion—how the high-wrought sensibilities of the Christian were added to the clear and radiant fancies of the Greek, and how the frank sensuousness of the Pagan gave body and fulness to the floating wraiths of an ascetic faith—remains a miracle for those who, like our master Lionardo, love to scrutinise the secrets of twin natures and of double graces. There are not a few for whom the mystery is repellent, who shrink from it as from Hermaphroditus. These will always find something to pain them in the art of the Renaissance.

Having co-ordinated the Christian and Pagan traditions in its work of beauty, painting could advance no farther. The stock of its sustaining motives was exhausted. A problem that preoccupied the minds of thinking men at this epoch was how to harmonise the two chief moments of human culture, the classical and the ecclesiastical. Without being as conscious of their hostility as we are, men felt that the Pagan ideal was opposed to the Christian, and at the same time that a reconciliation had to be effected. Each had been worked out separately; but both were needed for the modern synthesis. All that aesthetic handling, in this region more precocious and more immediately fruitful than pure thought, could do towards mingling them, was done by the impartiality of the fine arts. Painting, in the work of Raphael, accomplished a more vital harmony than philosophy in the writings of Pico and Ficino. A new Catholicity, a cosmopolitan orthodoxy of the beautiful, was manifested in his pictures. It lay outside his power, or that of any other artist, to do more than to extract from both revelations the elements of plastic beauty they contained, and to show how freely he could use them for a common purpose. Nothing but the scientific method can in the long run enable us to reach that further point, outside both Christianity and Paganism, at which the classical ideal of a temperate and joyous natural life shall be restored to the conscience educated by the Gospel. This, perchance, is the religion, still unborn or undeveloped, whereof Joachim of Flora dimly prophesied when he said that the kingdom of the Father was past, the kingdom of the Son was passing, and the kingdom of the Spirit was to be. The essence of it is contained in the whole growth to usward of the human mind; and though a creed so highly intellectualised as that will be, can never receive adequate expression from the figurative arts, still the painting of the sixteenth century forms for it, as it were, a not unworthy vestibule. It does so, because it first succeeded in humanising the religion of the Middle Ages, in proclaiming the true value of antique paganism for the modern mind, and in making both subserve the purposes of free and unimpeded art.

Meanwhile, at the moment when painting was about to be exhausted, a new art had arisen, for which it remained, within the aesthetic sphere, to achieve much that painting could not do. When the cycle of Christian ideas had been accomplished by the painters, and when the first passion for antiquity had been satisfied, it was given at last to Music to express the soul in all its manifold feeling and complexity of movement. In music we see the point of departure where art leaves the domain of myths, Christian as well as Pagan, and occupies itself with the emotional activity of man alone, and for its own sake. Melody and harmony, disconnected from words, are capable of receiving most varied interpretations, so that the same combinations of sound express the ecstasies of earthly and of heavenly love, conveying to the mind of the hearer only that element of pure passion which is the primitive and natural ground-material of either. They give distinct form to moods of feeling as yet undetermined; or, as the Italians put it, la musica e il lamento dell' amore o la preghiera a gli dei. This, combined with its independence of all corporeal conditions, fenders music the true exponent of the spirit in its freedom, and therefore the essentially modern art.

For Painting, after the great work accomplished during the Renaissance, when the painters ran through the whole domain of thought within the scope of that age, there only remained portraiture, history, dramatic incident, landscape, genre, still life, and animals. In these spheres the art is still exercised, and much good work, undoubtedly, is annually produced by European painters. But painting has lost its hold upon the centre of our intellectual activity. It can no longer give form to the ideas that at the present epoch rule the modern world. These ideas are too abstract, too much a matter of the understanding, to be successfully handled by the figurative arts; and it cannot be too often or too emphatically stated that these arts produce nothing really great and universal in relation to the spirit of their century, except by a process analogous to the mythopoetic. With conceptions incapable of being sensuously apprehended, with ideas that lose their value when they are incarnated, they have no power to deal. As meteors become luminous by traversing the grosser element of our terrestrial atmosphere, so the thoughts that art employs must needs immerse themselves in sensuousness. They must be of a nature to gain rather than to suffer by such immersion; and they must make a direct appeal to minds habitually apt to think in metaphors and myths. Of this sort are all religious ideas at a certain stage of their development, and this attitude at certain moments of history is adopted by the popular consciousness. We have so far outgrown it, have so completely exchanged mythology for curiosity, and metaphor for science, that the necessary conditions for great art are wanting. Our deepest thoughts about the world and God are incapable of personification by any aesthetic process; they never enter that atmosphere wherein alone they could become through fine art luminous. For the painter, who is the form-giver, they have ceased to be shining stars, and are seen as opaque stones; and though divinity be in them, it is a deity that refuses the investiture of form.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] It may fairly be questioned whether that necessary connection between art and religion, which is commonly taken for granted, does in truth exist; in other words, whether great art might not flourish without any religious content. This, however, is a speculative problem, for present and the future rather than the past. Historically, it has always been found that the arts in their origin are dependent on religion. Nor is the reason far to seek. Art aims at expressing an ideal; and this ideal is the transfiguration of human elements into something nobler, felt and apprehended by the imagination. Such an ideal, such an all-embracing glorification of humanity only exists for simple and unsophisticated societies in the form of religion. Religion is the universal poetry which all possess; and the artist, dealing with the mythology of his national belief, feels himself in vital sympathy with the imagination of the men for whom he works. More than the painter is required for the creation of great painting, and more than the poet for the exhibition of immortal verse. Painters are but the hands, and poets but the voices, whereby peoples express their accumulated thoughts and permanent emotions. Behind them crowd the generations of the myth-makers; and around them floats the vital atmosphere of enthusiasms on which their own souls and the souls of their brethren have been nourished.

[3] All Thy strength and bloom are faded: Who hath thus Thy state degraded? Death upon Thy form is written; See the wan worn limbs, the smitten Breast upon the cruel tree!

Thus despised and desecrated, Thus in dying desolated, Slain for me, of sinners vilest, Loving Lord, on me Thou smilest: Shine, bright face, and strengthen me!



[4] I am aware that many of my readers will demur that I am confounding Christianity with ascetic or monastic Christianity; yet I cannot read the New Testament, the Imitatio Christi, the Confessions of S. Augustine, and the Pilgrim's Progress without feeling that Christianity in its origin, and as understood by its chief champions, was and is ascetic. Of this Christianity I therefore speak, not of the philosophised Christianity, which is reasonably regarded with suspicion by the orthodox and the uncompromising. It was, moreover, with Christianity of this primitive type that the arts came first into collision.

[5] Titian's "Assumption of the Virgin" at Venice, Correggio's "Coronation of the Virgin" at Parma.

[6] Domenichino, Guido, Ribera, Salvator Rosa.

[7] Not to quote again the Imitatio Christi, it is enough to allude to S. Francis as shown in the Fioretti.

[8] The difficulty of combining the true spirit of piety with the ideal of natural beauty in art was strongly felt by Savonarola. Rio (L'Art chretien, vol. ii. pp. 422-426) has written eloquently on this subject, but without making it plain how Savonarola's condemnation of life studies from the nude could possibly have been other than an obstacle to the liberal and scientific prosecution of the art of painting.

[9] See Rio, L'Art chretien, vol. ii. chap. xi. pp. 319-327, for an ingenious defence of mystic art. The tales he tells of Bernardino da Siena and the blessed Umiliana will not win the sympathy of Teutonic Christians, who must believe that semi-sensuous, semi-pious raptures, like those described by S. Catherine of Siena and S. Theresa, have something in them psychologically morbid.



CHAPTER II

ARCHITECTURE

Architecture of Mediaeval Italy—Milan, Genoa, Venice—The Despots as Builders—Diversity of Styles—Local Influences—Lombard, Tuscan, Romanesque, Gothic—Italian want of feeling for Gothic—Cathedrals of Siena and Orvieto—Secular Buildings of the Middle Ages—Florence and Venice—Private Palaces—Public Halls—Palazzo della Signoria at Florence—Arnolfo di Cambio—S. Maria del Fiore—Brunelleschi's Dome—Classical Revival in Architecture—Roman Ruins—Three Periods in Renaissance Architecture—Their Characteristics—Brunelleschi —Alberti—Palace-building—Michellozzo—Decorative Work of the Revival—Bramante—Vitoni's Church of the Umilta at Pistoja—Palazzo del Te—Villa Farnesina—Sansovino at Venice—Michael Angelo—The Building of S. Peter's—Palladio—The Palazzo della Ragione at Vicenza—Lombard Architects—Theorists and Students of Vitruvius—Vignola and Scamozzi—European Influence of the Palladian Style—Comparison of Scholars and Architects in relation to the Revival of Learning.

Architecture is always the first of the fine arts to emerge from barbarism in the service of religion and of civic life. A house, as Hegel says, must be built for the god, before the image of the god, carved in stone or figured in mosaic, can be placed there. Council chambers must be prepared for the senate of a State before the national achievements can be painted on the walls. Thus Italy, before the age of the Renaissance proper, found herself provided with churches and palaces, which were destined in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to be adorned with frescoes and statues.

It was in the middle of the thirteenth century, during the long struggle for independence carried on by the republics of Lombardy and Tuscany against the Empire and the nobles, that some of the most durable and splendid public works were executed. The domes and towers of Florence and of Pisa were rising above the city walls, while the burghers who subscribed for their erection were staining the waves of Meloria and the cane-brakes of the Arbia with their blood. Lombardy, at the end of her duel with Frederick Barbarossa, completed a vast undertaking, by which the fields of Milan are still rendered more productive than any other pastureland in Europe. The Naviglio Grande, bringing the waters of the Ticino through a plain of thirty miles to Milan, was begun in 1179, and was finished in 1258. The torrents of S. Gothard and the Simplon, which, after filling the Lago Maggiore, seemed destined to run wasteful through a wilderness of pebbles to the sea, were thus turned to account; and to this great engineering work, as bold as it was simple, Milan owed the wealth that placed her princes on a level with the sovereigns of Europe. At the same period she built her walls, and closed their circuit with the sixteen gates that showed she loved magnificence combined with strength. Genoa, between 1276 and 1283, protected her harbours by a gigantic mole, and in 1295 brought the streams of the Ligurian Alps into the city by an aqueduct worthy of old Rome. Venice had to win her very footing from the sea and sand. So firmly did she drive her piles, so vigilantly watch their preservation, that palaces and cathedrals of marble might be safely reared upon the bosom of the deep. Meanwhile, stone bridges began to span the rivers of Italy; the streets and squares of towns were everywhere paved with flags. Before the first years of the fourteenth century the Italian cities presented a spectacle of solid and substantial comfort, very startling to northerners who travelled from the unpaved lanes of London and the muddy labyrinths of Paris.

Sismondi remarks with just pride that these great works were Republican. They were set on foot for the public use, and were constructed at the expense of the commonwealths. It is, however, right to add that what the communes had begun the princes continued. To the splendid taste of the Visconti dynasty, for instance, Milan owed her wonderful Duomo and the octagon bell-tower of S. Gottardo. The Certosas of Pavia and Chiaravalle, the palace of Pavia, and a host of minor monuments remain in Milan and its neighbourhood to prove how much a single family performed for the adornment of the cities they had subjugated. And what is true of Milan applies to Italy throughout its length and breadth. The Despots held their power at the price of magnificence in schemes of public utility. So much at least of the free spirit of the communes survived in them, that they were always rivalling each other in great works of architecture. Italian tyranny implied aesthetic taste and liberality of expenditure.

In no way is the characteristic diversity of the Italian communities so noticeable as in their buildings. Each district, each town, has a well-defined peculiarity, reflecting the specific qualities of the inhabitants and the conditions under which they grew in culture. In some cases we may refer this local character to nationality and geographical position. Thus the name of the Lombards has been given to a style of Romanesque, which prevailed through Northern and Central Italy during the period of Lombard ascendency.[10] The Tuscans never forgot the domes of their remote ancestors; the Romans adhered closely to Latin traditions; the Southerners were affected by Byzantine and Saracenic models. In many instances the geology of the neighbourhood determined the picturesque features of its architecture. The clay-fields of the valley of the Po produced the brickwork of Cremona, Pavia, Crema, Chiaravalle, and Vercelli. To their quarries of mandorlato the Veronese builders owed the peach-bloom colours of their columned aisles. Carrara provided the Pisans with mellow marble for their Baptistery and Cathedral; Monte Ferrato supplied Pistoja and Prato with green serpentine; while the pietra serena of the Apennines added austerity to the interior of Florentine buildings. Again, in other instances, we detect the influence of commerce or of conquest. The intercourse of Venice with Alexandria determined the unique architecture of S. Mark's. The Arabs and the Normans left ineffaceable traces of their sojourn on Palermo. Naples and Messina still bear marks upon their churches of French workmen. All along the coasts we here and there find evidences of Oriental style imported into mediaeval Italy, while the impress of the Spaniard is no less manifest in edifices of a later period.

Existing thus in the midst of many potent influences, and surrounded by the ruins of past civilisations, the Italians recombined and mingled styles of marked variety. The Roman, Byzantine, Saracenic, Lombard, and German traditions were blended in their architecture, as the presiding genius of each place determined. It followed that master-works of rare and subtle invention were produced, while no one type was fully perfected, nor can we point to any paramount Italian manner. In Italy what was gained in richness and individuality was lost in uniformity and might. Yet we may well wonder at the versatile appreciation of all types of beauty that these monuments evince. How strange, for example, it is to think of the Venetians borrowing the form and structure of their temple from the mosques of Alexandria, decking its facade with the horses of Lysippus, and panelling the sanctuary with marbles from the harem-floors of Eastern emperors; while at the other end of Italy, at Palermo, close beside the ruined colonnades of Greek Segesta, Norman kings were embroidering their massive churches with Saracenic arabesques and Byzantine mosaics, interspersing delicate Arabian tracery with rope-patterns and monsters of the deep, and linking Cuphic sentences with Scandinavian runes. Meanwhile, at Rome, tombs, baths, and theatres had been turned into fortresses. The Orsini held the Mole of Hadrian; the Savelli ensconced themselves in the Theatre of Marcellus, and the Colonnesi in the Mausoleum of Augustus; the Colosseum and the Arches of Constantine and Titus harboured the Frangipani; the Baths of Trajan housed the Capocci; while the Gaetani made a castle of Caecilia Metella's tomb. Under those vast resounding vaults swarmed a brood of mediaeval bravi—like the wasps that hang their pear-shaped combs along the cloisters of Pavia. There the ghost of the dead empire still sat throned and sceptred. The rites of Christianity were carried on beneath Agrippa's dome, in Diocletian's baths, in the Basilicas. No other style but that of the imperial people struck root near the Eternal City. Among her three hundred churches, Rome can only show one Gothic building. Further to the north, where German influences were more potent, the cathedrals still displayed, each after its own kind, a sunny southern waywardness. Glowing with marbles and mosaics, glittering with ornaments, where the foliage of the Corinthian acanthus hides the symbols of the Passion, and where birds and Cupids peep from tangled fruits beneath grave brows of saints and martyrs; leaning now to the long low colonnades of the Basilica, now to the high-built arches of the purely Pointed style; surmounting the meeting point of nave and transept with Etruscan domes; covering the facade with bas-reliefs, the roof with statues; raising the porch-pillars upon lions and winged griffins; flanking the nave with bell-towers, or planting them apart like flowers in isolation on the open square—these wonderful buildings, the delight and joy of all who love to trace variety in beauty, and to note the impress of a nation's genius upon its art, seem, like Italy herself, to feel all influences and to assimilate all nationalities.

Amid the many styles of architecture contending for mastery in Italy, three, before the age of the Revival, bid fair to win the battle. These were the Lombard, the Tuscan Romanesque, and the Gothic. Chronologically the two former flourished nearly during the same centuries, while Gothic, coming from without, suspended their development. But chronology is of little help in the history of Italian architecture; its main features being, not uniformity of progression, but synchronous diversity and salience of local type. What remained fixed through all changes in Italy was a bias toward the forms of Roman building, which eventually in the Renaissance, becoming scientifically apprehended, determined the taste of the whole nation.

It is, perhaps, not wholly fanciful to say that, as the Lombards just failed to mould the Italians by conquest into an united people, so their architecture fell short of creating one type for the peninsula.[11] From some points of view the historian might regret that Italy did not receive that thorough subjugation in the eighth century, which would have broken down local distinctions. Such regrets, however, are singularly idle; for the main currents of the world's history move not by chance; and how, moreover, could Italy have fulfilled her destiny without the divers forms of political existence that made her what she was? Yet, standing before some of the great Lombard churches, we are inclined to speculate, perhaps with better reason, what the result would have been if that style of architecture could have assumed the complete ascendency over the Italians which the Romanesque and Gothic of the North exerted over France and England?[12] The pyramidal facade common in these buildings, the campanili that suspend aerial lanterns upon plain square towers, the domes rising tier over tier from the intersection of nave and transept to end in minarets and pinnacles, the low long colonnades of marble pilasters, the open porches resting upon lions, the harmonious blending of baked clay and rosy-tinted stone, the bold combination of round and pointed arches, and the weird invention whereby every string-course and capital has been carved with lions, sphinxes, serpents, mermaids, griffins, harpies, winged horses, lizards, and knights in armour—all these are elements that might, we fancy, have been developed into a noble national style. As it is, the churches in question are often more bizarre than really beautiful. Their peculiar character, however, is inseparably associated with the long reaches of green plain, the lordly rivers, and the background of blue hills and snowy Alps that constitute the charm of Lombard landscape.

If Lombard architecture, properly so-called, was partial in its influence and confined to a comparatively narrow local sphere, the same is true of the Tuscan Romanesque. The church of Samminiato, near Florence [about 1013], and the cathedral of Pisa [begun 1063], not to mention other less eminent examples at Lucca and Pistoja, are sufficient evidences that in the darkest period of the Middle Ages the Italians were aiming at an architectural Renaissance. The influence of classical models is apparent both in the construction and the detail of these basilicas; while the deeply grounded preference of the Italian genius for round arches, for colonnades of pillars and pilasters, and for large rectangular spaces, with low roofs and shallow tribunes, finds full satisfaction in these original and noble buildings. It is impossible to refrain from deploring that the Romanesque of Tuscany should have been checked in its development by the intrusion of the German Gothic. Had it run its course unthwarted, a national style suited to the temperament of the people might have been formed, and much that was pedantic in the revival of the fifteenth century have been obviated.

The place of Gothic architecture in Italy demands fuller treatment. It was due partly to the direct influence of German emperors, partly to the imperial sympathies of the great nobles, partly to the Franciscan friars, who aimed at building large churches cheaply, and partly to the admiration excited by the grandeur of the Pointed style as it prevailed in Northern Europe, that Gothic—so alien to the Italian genius and climate—took root, spread widely, and flourished freely for a season. In thus enumerating the conditions favourable to the spread of Gottico-Tedesco, I am far from wishing to assert that this style was purely foreign. Italy, in common with the rest of Europe, passed by a natural process of evolution from the Romanesque to the Pointed manner, and treated the latter with an originality that proves a certain natural assimilation. Yet the first Gothic church, that of S. Francis at Assisi, was designed by a German; the most splendid, that of Our Lady at Milan, is emphatically German.[13] During the comparatively brief period of Gothic ascendency the Italians never forgot their Latin and Lombard sympathies. The mood of mind in which they Gothicised was partial and transient. The evolution of this style was, therefore, neither so spontaneous and simple, nor yet so uninterrupted and complete, in Italy as in the North. While it produced the church of S. Francesco at Assisi and the cathedrals of Siena, Orvieto, Lucca, Bologna, Florence, and Milan, together with the town-halls of Perugia, Siena, and Florence, it failed to take firm hold upon the national taste, and died away before the growing passion for antiquity that restored the Italians to a sense of their own intellectual greatness. It is clear that, as soon as they were conscious of their vocation to revive the culture of the classic age, they at once and for ever abandoned the style appropriate to northern feudalism. They seem to have adopted it half-unwillingly and to have understood it only in the imperfect way in which they comprehended chivalry.

The Italians never rightly apprehended the specific nature of Gothic architecture. They could not forget the horizontal lines, flat roofs, and blank walls of the Basilica. Like their Roman ancestors, they aimed at covering the ground with the smallest possible expenditure of construction; to enclose large spaces within simple limits was their first object, and the effect of beauty or sublimity was gained by the proportions given to the total area. When, therefore, they adopted the Gothic style, they failed to perceive that its true merit consists in the negation of nearly all that the Latin style holds precious. Horizontal lines are as far as possible annihilated; walls are lost in windows; aisles and columns, apses and chapels, are multiplied with a view to complexity of architectonic effect; flat roofs become intolerable. The whole force employed in the construction has an upward tendency, and the spire is the completion of the edifice; for to the spire its countless soaring lines—lines not of stationary strength, but of ascendent growth—converge. All this the Italians were slow to comprehend. The campanile, for example, never became an integral part of their buildings. It stood alone, and was reserved for its original purpose of keeping the bells. The windows, for a reason very natural in Italy, where there is rather too much than too little sunlight, were curtailed; and instead of the multiplied bays and clustered columns of a northern Gothic aisle, the nave of so vast a church as S. Petronio at Bologna is measured by six arches raised on simple piers. The facade of an Italian cathedral was studied as a screen, quite independently of its relation to the interior; in the beautiful church of Crema, for example, the moon at night looks through the upper windows of a frontispiece raised far above the low roof of the nave. For the total effect of the exterior, as will be apparent to anyone who observes the Duomo of Orvieto from behind, no thought was taken. In this way the Italians missed the point and failed to perceive the poetry of Gothic architecture. Its symbolical significance was lost upon them; perhaps we ought to say that the Italian temperament, in art as in religion, was incapable of assimilating the vague yet powerful mysticism of the Teutonic races.

On the other hand, what they sacrificed of genuine Gothic character, was made good after their own fashion. Surface decoration, whether of fresco or mosaic, bronze-work or bas-relief, wood-carving or panelling in marble, baked clay or enamelled earthenware was never carried to such perfection in Gothic buildings of the purer type; nor had sculpture in the North an equal chance of detaching itself from the niche and tabernacle, which forced it to remain the slave of architecture. Thus the comparative defects of Italian Gothic were directly helpful in promoting those very arts for which the people had a genius unrivalled among modern nations.

It is only necessary to contrast the two finest cathedrals of this style, those of Siena and Orvieto, with two such buildings as the cathedrals of Rheims and Salisbury, in order to perceive the structural inferiority of the former, as well as their superiority for all subordinate artistic purposes. Long straight lines, low roofs, narrow windows, a facade of surprising splendour but without a strict relation to the structure of the nave and aisles, a cupola surmounting the intersection of nave, choir, and transepts; simple tribunes at the east end, a detached campanile, round columns instead of clustered piers, a mixture of semicircular and pointed arches; these are some of the most salient features of the Sienese Duomo. But the material is all magnificent; and the hand, obedient to the dictates of an artist's brain, has made itself felt on every square foot of the building. Alternate courses of white and black marble, cornices loaded with grave or animated portraits of the Popes, sculptured shrines, altars, pulpits, reliquaries, fonts and holy-water vases, panels of inlaid wood and pictured pavements, bronze candelabra and wrought-iron screens, gilding and colour and precious work of agate and lapis lazuli—the masterpieces of men famous each in his own line—delight the eye in all directions. The whole church is a miracle of richness, a radiant and glowing triumph of inventive genius, the product of a hundred master-craftsmen toiling through successive centuries to do their best. All its countless details are so harmonised by the controlling taste, so brought together piece by piece in obedience to artistic instinct, that the total effect is ravishingly beautiful. Yet it is clear that no one paramount idea, determining and organising all these marvels, existed in the mind of the first architect. In true Gothic work the details that make up the charm of this cathedral would have been subordinated to one architectonic thought; they would not have been suffered to assert their individuality, or to contribute, except as servants, to the whole effect. The northern Gothic church is like a body with several members; the southern Gothic church is an accretion of beautiful atoms. The northern Gothic style corresponds to the national unity of federalised races, organised by a social hierarchy of mutually dependent classes. In the southern Gothic style we find a mirror of political diversity, independent personality, burgher-like equality, despotic will. Thus the specific qualities of Italy on her emergence from the Middle Ages may be traced by no undue exercise of the fancy in her monuments. They are emphatically the creation of citizens—of men, to use Giannotti's phrase, distinguished by alternating obedience and command, not ranked beneath a monarchy, but capable themselves of sovereign power.[14]

What has been said of Siena is no less true of the Duomo of Orvieto. Though it seems to aim at a severer Gothic, and though the facade is more architecturally planned, a single glance at the exterior of the edifice shows that the builders had no lively sense of the requirements of the style they used. What can be more melancholy than those blank walls, broken by small round recesses protruding from the side chapels of the nave, those gaunt and barren angles at the east end, and those few pinnacles appended at a venture? It is clear that the spirit of the northern Gothic manner has been wholly misconceived. On the other hand, the interior is noble. The feeling for space possessed by the architect has expressed itself in proportions large and solemn; the area enclosed, though somewhat cold and vacuous to northern taste, is at least impressive by its severe harmony. But the real attractions of the church are isolated details. Wherever the individual artist-mind has had occasion to emerge, there our gaze is riveted, our criticism challenged, our admiration won. The frescoes of Signorelli, the bas-reliefs of the Pisani, the statuary of Lo Scalza and Mosca, the tarsia of the choir stalls, the Alexandrine work and mosaics of the facade, the bronzes placed upon its brackets, and the wrought acanthus scrolls of its superb pilasters—these are the objects for inexhaustible wonder in the cathedral of Orvieto. On approaching a building of this type, we must abandon our conceptions of organic architecture: only the Greek and northern Gothic styles deserve that epithet. We must not seek for severe discipline and architectonic design. Instead of one presiding, all-determining idea, we must be prepared to welcome a wealth of separate beauties, wrought out by men of independent genius, whereby each part is made a masterpiece, and many diverse elements become a whole of picturesque rather than architectural impressiveness.

It would not be difficult to extend this kind of criticism to the Duomo of Milan. Speaking strictly, a more unlucky combination of different styles—the pyramidal facade of Lombard architecture and the long thin lights of German Gothic, for example—a clumsier misuse of ill-appropriated details in the heavy piers of the nave, or a more disastrous adjustment of the monster windows to the main lines of the nave and aisles, could scarcely be imagined. Yet no other church, perhaps, in Europe leaves the same impression of the marvellous upon the fancy. The splendour of its pure white marble, blushing with the rose of evening or of dawn, radiant in noonday sunlight, and fabulously fairy-like beneath the moon and stars, the multitudes of statues sharply cut against a clear blue sky, and gazing at the Alps across that memorable tract of plain, the immense space and light-irradiated gloom of the interior, the deep tone of the bells above at a vast distance, and the gorgeous colours of the painted glass, contribute to a scenical effect unparalleled in Christendom.

The two styles, Lombard and Gothic, of which I have been speaking, were both in a certain sense exotic. Within the great cities the pith of the population was Latin; and no style of building that did not continue the tradition of the Romans, in the spirit of the Roman manner, and with strict observance of its details, satisfied them. It was a main feature of the Renaissance that, when the Italians undertook the task of reuniting themselves by study with the past, they abandoned all other forms of architecture, and did their best to create one in harmony with the relics of Latin monuments. To trace the history of this revived classic architecture will occupy me later in this chapter; but for the moment it is necessary to turn aside and consider briefly the secular buildings of Italy before the date of the Renaissance proper.

About the same time that the cathedrals were being built, the nobles filled the towns with fortresses. These at first were gaunt and unsightly; how overcrowded with tall bare towers a mediaeval Italian city could be, is still shown by San Gemignano, the only existing instance where the torroni have been left untouched.[15] In course of time, when the aristocracy came to be fused with the burghers, and public order was maintained by law in the great cities, these forts made way for spacious palaces. The temper of the citizens in each place and the local character of artistic taste determined the specific features of domestic as of ecclesiastical architecture. Though it is hard to define what are the social differences expressed by the large quadrangles of Francesco Sforza's hospital at Milan, and the heavy cube of the Riccardi palace at Florence, we feel that the genius loci has in each case controlled the architect. The sunny spaces of the one building, with its terra-cotta traceries of birds and grapes and Cupids, contrast with the stern brown mouldings and impenetrable solidity of the other. That the one was raised by the munificence of a sovereign in his capital, while the other was the dwelling of a burgher in a city proud of its antique sobriety, goes some way to explain the difference. In like manner the court-life of a dynastic principality produced the castle of Urbino, so diverse in its style and adaptation from the ostentatious mansions of the Genoese merchants. It is not fanciful to say that the civic life of a free and factious republic is represented by the heavy walls and narrow windows of Florentine dwelling-places. In their rings of iron, welded between rock and rock about the basement, as though for the beginning of a barricade—in their torch-rests of wrought metal, gloomy portals and dimly-lighted courts, we trace the habits of caution and reserve that marked the men who led the parties of Uberti and Albizzi. The Sienese palaces are lighter and more elegant in style, as belonging to a people proverbially pleasure-loving; while a still more sumptuous and secure mode of life finds expression in the open loggie and spacious staircases of Venice. The graceful buildings which overhang the Grand Canal are exactly fitted for an oligarchy, sure of its own authority and loved of the people. Feudal despotism, on the contrary, reigns in the heart of Ferrara, where the Este's stronghold, moated, draw-bridged, and portcullised, casting dense shadow over the water that protects the dungeons, still seems to threaten the public square and overawe the homes of men.

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