E-text prepared by Roy Brown
THE LIVES OF THE PAINTERS, SCULPTORS & ARCHITECTS
In Eight Volumes
CIMABUE (1240-1302) ARNOLFO DI LAPO (1232-1310) BONANNO (fl. 1174-1186 LAPO (1190-1260) NICCOLA AND GIOVANNI PISANI fl 1205, 1278, 1250-1328) ANDREA TAFI (1250-1320) GADDO GADDI (1259-1333) MARGARITONE (1210-1293) GIOTTO (1267-1337) PUCCIO CAPANNA (fl. 1350) AGOSTINO AND AGNOLO (fl. 1286-1330) STEFANO AND UGOLINO (1301-1350, 1260-1339) PIETRO LAURATI (died c. 1350) ANDREA PISANO (1270-1348) BUONAMICO BUFFALMACCO (fl. 1311-1351) AMBRUOGIO LORENZETTI (died c. 1338) PIETRO CAVALLINI (1259-1334) SIMONE MARTINI AND LIPPO MEMMI (1285-1344; died 1357)
PREFACE TO THE LIVES
I am aware that it is commonly held as a fact by most writers that sculpture, as well as painting, was naturally discovered originally by the people of Egypt, and also that there are others who attribute to the Chaldeans the first rough carvings of statues and the first reliefs. In like manner there are those who credit the Greeks with the invention of the brush and of colouring. But it is my opinion that design, which is the creative principle in both arts, came into existence at the time of the origin of all things. When the Most High created the world and adorned the heavens with shining lights, His perfect intellect passing through the limpid air and alighting on the solid earth, formed man, thus disclosing the first form of sculpture and painting in the charming invention of things. Who will deny that from this man, as from a living example, the ideas of statues and sculpture, and the questions of pose and of outline, first took form; and from the first pictures, whatever they may have been, arose the first ideas of grace, unity, and the discordant concords made by the play of lights and shadows? Thus the first model from which the first image of man arose was a lump of earth, and not without reason, for the Divine Architect of time and of nature, being all perfection, wished to demonstrate, in the imperfection of His materials, what could be done to improve them, just as good sculptors and painters are in the habit of doing, when, by adding additional touches and removing blemishes, they bring their imperfect sketches to such a state of completion and of perfection as they desire. God also endowed man with a bright flesh colour, and the same shades may be drawn from the earth, which supplies materials to counterfeit everything which occurs in painting. It is indeed true that it is impossible to feel absolutely certain as to what steps men took for the imitation of the beautiful works of Nature in these arts before the flood, although it appears, most probable that even then they practised all manner of painting and sculpture; for Bel, son of the proud Nimrod, about 200 years after the flood, had a statue made, from which idolatry afterwards arose; and his celebrated daughter-in-law, Semiramis, queen of Babylon, in the building of that city, introduced among the ornaments there coloured representations from life of divers kinds of animals, as well as of herself and of her husband Ninus, with the bronze statues of her father, her mother-in-law, and her great-grandmother, as Diodorus relates, calling them Jove, Juno, and Ops—Greek names, which did not then exist. It was, perhaps, from these statues that the Chaldeans learned to make the images of their gods. It is recorded in Genesis how 150 years later, when Rachel was fleeing from Mesopotamia with her husband Jacob, she stole the idols of her father Laban. Nor were the Chaldeans singular in making statues, for the Egyptians also had theirs, devoting great pains to those arts, as is shown by the marvellous tomb of that king of remote antiquity, Osimandyas, described at length by Diodorus, and, as the severe command of Moses proves, when, on leaving Egypt, he gave orders that no images should be made to God, upon pain of death. Moses also, after having ascended the Mount, and having found a golden calf manufactured and adored by his people, was greatly troubled at seeing divine honours accorded to the image of a beast; so that he not only broke it to powder, but, in the punishment of so great a fault, caused the Levites to put to death many thousands of the false Israelites who had committed this idolatry. But as the sin consisted in adoring idols and not in making them, it is written in Exodus that the art of design and of making statues, not only in marble but in all kinds of metal, was given by the mouth of God himself to Bezaleel, of the tribe of Judah, and to Aholiab, of the tribe of Dan, who made the two cherubim of gold, the candles, the veil, and the borders of the sacerdotal vestments, together with a number of other beautiful things in the tabernacle, for no other purpose than that people should put them on for their own adornment and delight. From the things seen before the flood, the pride of man found the means to make statues of those who wished their fame in the world to be immortal; and the Greeks, who give a different origin to this, say that the Ethiopians found the first statues, according to Diodorus, the Egyptians imitated these, while the Greeks followed the Egyptians. From this time until Homer's day it is clear that sculpture and painting were perfect, as we may see from the description of Achilles' shield by that divine poet, who represents it with such skill that the image of it is presented to our minds as clearly as if we had seen the thing itself. Lactantius Firmianus attributes the credit of the invention to Prometheus, who like God formed the human form out of dust. But according to Pliny this art was introduced into Egypt by Gyges of Lydia, who on seeing his shadow cast by the fire, at once drew a representation of himself on the wall with a piece of coal. For some time after that it was the custom to draw in outline only, without any colouring, Pliny again being our authority. This was afterwards introduced by Philocles of Egypt with considerable pains, and also by Cleanthes and Ardices of Corinth and by Telephanes of Sicyon. Cleophantes of Corinth was the first of the Greeks to use colours, and Apollodorus was the first to introduce the brush. Polignotus of Thasos, Zeuxis and Timagoras of Chalcis, Pythia and Aglaphon followed them, all most celebrated, and after them came the renowned Apelles who was so highly esteemed and honoured for his skill by Alexander the Great, for his wonderful delineation of Calumny and Favour, as Lucian relates. Almost all the painters and sculptors were of high excellence, being frequently endowed by heaven, not only with the additional gift of poetry, as we read in Pacuvius, but also with that of philosophy. Metrodorus is an instance in point, for he was equally skilled as a philosopher and as a painter, and when Apelles was sent by the Athenians to Paulus Emilius to adorn his triumph he remained to teach philosophy to the general's sons. Sculpture was thus generally practised in Greece, where there flourished a number of excellent artists, among them being Phidias of Athens, Praxiteles and Polycletus, very great masters. Lysippus and Pyrgoteles who were of considerable skill in engraving, and Pygmalion in ivory carving in relief, it being recorded of him that he obtained life by his prayers for the figure of a maid carved by him. The ancient Greeks and Romans also honoured and rewarded painting, since they granted the citizenship and very liberal gifts to those who excelled in this art. Painting flourished in Rome to such an extent that Fabius gave a name to his house, subscribing himself in the beautiful things he did in the temple of safety as Fabius the painter. By public decree slaves were prohibited from practising painting, and so much honour was continually afforded by the people to the art and to artists that rare works were sent to Rome among the spoils to appear in the triumphs; excellent artists who were slaves obtained their liberty and received notable rewards from the republic. The Romans bore such a reverence for the art that when the city of Syracuse was sacked Marcellus gave orders that his men should treat with respect a famous artist there, and also that they should be careful not to set fire to a quarter in which there was a very fine picture. This was afterwards carried to Rome to adorn his triumph. To that city in the course of time almost all the spoils of the world were brought, and the artists themselves gathered there beside these excellent works. By such means Rome became an exceedingly beautiful city, more richly adorned by the statues of foreign artists than by those made by natives. It is known that in the little island city of Rhodes there were more than 30,000 statues, in bronze and marble, nor did the Athenians possess less, while those of Olympus and Delphi were more numerous still, and those of Corinth were without number, all being most beautiful and of great price. Does not every one know how Nicomedes, king of Lycia, expended almost all the wealth of his people owing to his passion for a Venus by the hand of Praxiteles? Did not Attalus do the same? who without an afterthought expended more than 6000 sesterces to have a picture of Bacchus painted by Aristides. This picture was placed by Lucius Mummius, with great pomp to adorn Rome, in the temple of Ceres. But although the nobility of this art was so highly valued, it is uncertain to whom it owes its origin. As I have already said, it is found in very ancient times among the Chaldeans, some attribute the honour to the Ethiopians, while the Greeks claim it for themselves. Besides this there is good reason for supposing that the Tuscans may have had it earlier, as our own Leon Batista Alberti asserts, and weighty evidence in favour of this view is supplied by the marvellous tomb of Porsena at Chiusi, where not long ago some tiles of terracotta were found under the ground, between the walls of the Labyrinth, containing some figures in half-relief, so excellent and so delicately fashioned that it is easy to see that art was not in its infancy at that time, for to judge by the perfection of these specimens it was nearer its zenith than its origin. Evidence to the same purport is supplied every day by the quantity of pieces of red and black Aretine vases, made about the same time, to judge by the style, with light carvings and small figures and scenes in bas-relief, and a quantity of small round masks, cleverly made by the masters of that age, and which prove the men of the time to have been most skilful and accomplished in that art. Further evidence is afforded by the statues found at Viterbo at the beginning of the pontificate of Alexander VI., showing that sculpture was valued and had advanced to no small state of perfection in Tuscany. Although the time when they were made is not exactly known, yet from the style of the figures and from the manner of the tombs and of the buildings, no less than by the inscriptions in Tuscan letters, it may be conjectured with great reason that they are of great antiquity, and that they were made at a time when such things were highly valued. But what clearer evidence can be desired than the discovery made in our own day in the year 1554 of a bronze figure representing the Chimaera of Bellerophon, during the excavation of the fortifications and walls of Arezzo. This figure exhibits the perfection of the art attained by the Tuscans. Some small letters carved on a paw are presumed, in the absence of a knowledge of the Etruscan language, to give the master's name, and perhaps the date. This figure, on account of its beauty and antiquity, has been placed by Duke Cosimo in a chamber in his palace in the new suite of rooms which contains my paintings of the deeds of Pope Leo X. The Duke also possesses a number of small bronze figures which were found in the same place. But as the antiquity of the works of the Greeks, Ethiopians, Chaldeans, and Tuscans is enveloped in darkness, and because it is necessary in such matters to base one's opinions on conjectures, although these are not so ill founded that one is in danger of going very far astray, yet I think that anyone who will take the trouble to consider the matter carefully will arrive at the same conclusion as I have, that art owes its origin to Nature herself, that this beautiful creation the world supplied the first model, while the original teacher was that divine intelligence which has not only made us superior to the other animals, but like God Himself, if I may venture to say it. In our own time it has been seen, as I hope to show quite shortly, that simple children, roughly brought up in the woods, have begun to draw by themselves aided by the vivacity of their intellect, instructed solely by the example of these beautiful paintings and sculptures of Nature. Much more then is it probable that the first men, being less removed from their divine origin, were more perfect, possessing a brighter intelligence, and that with Nature as a guide, a pure intellect for master, and the lovely world as a model, they originated these noble arts, and by gradually improving them brought them at length, from small beginnings, to perfection. I do not deny that there must have been an originator, since I know quite well that there must have been a beginning at some time, due to some individual. Neither will I deny that it is possible for one person to help another, and to teach and open the way to design, colour, and relief, because I know that our art consists entirely of imitation, first of Nature, and then, as it cannot rise so high of itself, of those things which are produced from the masters with the greatest reputation. But I will say that an attempt to determine the exact identity of such men is a very dangerous task, and the knowledge when gained would probably prove unprofitable, since we have seen the true and original root of all. But the life and fame of artists depend upon their works which are destroyed by time one after the other in the order of their creation. Thus the artists themselves are unknown as there was no one to write about them and could not be, so that this source of knowledge was not granted to posterity. But when writers began to commemorate things made before their time, they were unable to speak of those of which they had seen no notice, so that those who came nearest to these were the last of whom no memorial remains. Thus Homer is by common consent admitted to be the first of the poets, not because there were none before him, for there were although they were not so excellent, and in his own works this is clearly shown, but because all knowledge of these, such as they were, had been lost two thousand years before. But we will now pass over these matters which are too vague on account of their antiquity and we will proceed to deal with clearer questions, namely, the rise of the arts to perfection, their decline and their restoration or rather renaissance, and here we stand on much firmer ground. The practice of the arts began late in Rome, if the first figures were, as reported, the image of Ceres made of the money of Spurius Caasius, who was condemned to death without remorse by his own father, because he was plotting to make himself king. But although the arts of painting and sculpture continued to flourish until the death of the last of the twelve Caesars, yet they did not maintain that perfection and excellence which had characterised them before, as is seen as seen in the buildings of the time. The arts declined steadily from day to day, until at length by a gradual process they entirety lost all perfection of design. Clear testimony to this is afforded by the works in sculpture and architecture produced in Rome in the time of Constantine, notably in the triumphal arch made for him by the Roman people at the Colosseum, where we see, that for lack of good masters not only did they make use of marble works carved in the time of Trajan, but also of spoils brought to Rome from various places. These bas-reliefs, statues, the columns, the cornices and other ornaments which belong to another epoch only serve to expose the defects in those parts of the work which are entirely due to the sculptors of the day and which are most rude. Very rude also are some scenes of small figures in marble under the circles and the pediment, representing victories, while between the side arches there are some rivers also very crude and so poor that they leave one firmly under the impression that the art of sculpture had been in a state of decadence for a long while. Yet the Goths and the other barbarous and foreign nations who combined to destroy all the superior arts in Italy had not then appeared. It is true that architecture suffered less than the other arts of design. The bath erected by Constantine at the entrance of the principal portico of the Lateran contains, in addition to its porphyry columns, capitals carved in marble and beautifully carved double bases taken from elsewhere, the whole composition of the building being very well ordered. On the other hand, the stucco, the mosaic and some incrustations of the walls made by the masters of the time are not equal to those which had been taken away for the most part from the temples of the gods of the heathen, and which Constantine caused to be placed in the same building. Constantine observed the same methods, according to report, with the garden of AEquitius in building the temple which he afterwards endowed and gave to Christian priests. In like manner the magnificent church of S. John Lateran, built by the same emperor, may serve as evidence of the same fact, namely, that sculpture had already greatly declined in his time, because the figures of the Saviour and of the twelve apostles in silver, which he caused to be made, were very base works, executed without art and with very little design. In addition to this, it is only necessary to examine the medals of this emperor, and other statues made by the sculptors of his day, which are now at the Capitol, to clearly perceive how far removed they are from the perfection of the medals and statues of the other emperors, all of which things prove that sculpture had greatly declined long before the coming of the Goths to Italy. Architecture, as I have said, maintained its excellence at a higher though not at the highest level. Nor is this a matter for surprise, since large buildings were almost entirely constructed of spoils, so that it was easy for the architects to imitate the old in making the new, since they had the former continually before their eyes. This was an easier task for them than far the sculptors, as the art of imitating the good figures of the ancients had declined. A good illustration of the truth of this statement is afforded by the church of the chief of the apostles in the Vatican, which is rich in columns, bases, capitals, architraves, cornices, doors and other incrustations and ornaments which were all taken from various places and buildings, erected before that time in very magnificent style. The same remarks apply to S. Croce at Jerusalem, which Constantine erected at the entreaty of his mother, Helena; of S. Lorenzo outside the wall, and of S. Agnesa, built by the same emperor at the request of his daughter Constance. Who also is not aware that the font which served for the baptism of the latter and of one of her sisters, was ornamented with fragments of great antiquity? as were the porphyry pillar carved with beautiful figures and some marble candelabra exquisitely carved with leaves, and some children in bas-relief of extraordinary beauty? In short, by these and many other signs, it is clear that sculpture was in decadence in the time of Constantine, and with it the other superior arts. If anything was required to complete their ruin it was supplied by the departure of Constantine from Rome when he transferred the seat of government to Byzantium, as he took with him to Greece not only all the best sculptors and other artists of the age, such as they were, but also a quantity of statues and other beautiful works of sculpture.
After the departure of Constantine, the Caesars whom he left in Italy, were continually building in Rome and elsewhere, endeavouring to make these works as good as possible, but as we see, sculpture, painting and architecture were steadily going from bad to worse. This arose perhaps from the fact that when human affairs begin to decline, they grow steadily worse until the time comes when they can no longer deteriorate any further. In the time of Pope Liberius the architects of the day took considerable pains to produce a masterpiece when they built S. Maria Maggiore, but they were not very happy in the result, because although the building, which is also mostly constructed of spoils, is of very fair proportions, it cannot be denied that, not to speak of other defects, the decoration of the church with stucco and painting above the columns is of very poor design, and that many other things to be seen there leave no doubt as to the degradation of the arts. Many years later, when the Christians were suffering persecution under Julian the Apostate, a church was erected on the Celian Hill to SS. John and Paul, the martyrs, in so inferior a style to the others mentioned above that it is quite clear that at that time, art had all but entirely disappeared. The edifices erected in Tuscany at the same time bear out this view to the fullest extent. The church outside the walls of Arezzo, built to St Donato, bishop of that city, who suffered martyrdom with Hilarion the monk, under the same Julian the Apostate, is in no way superior to the others, and this is only one of many. It cannot be contended that such a state of affairs was due to anything but the lack of good architects, since the church in question, which is still standing, has eight sides, and was built of the spoils of the theatre, colosseum and other buildings erected in Arezzo before it was converted to the Christian faith. No expense has been spared, its columns being of granite and porphyry and variegated marble which, had formerly adorned the ancient buildings. For my own part, I have no doubt, seeing the expense incurred, that if the Aretines had been able to employ better architects they would have produced something marvellous, since what they actually accomplished proves that they spared themselves nothing in order to make this building as magnificent and complete as possible. But as architecture had lost less of its excellence than the other arts, as I have often said before, some good things may be seen there. At the same period the church of S. Maria in Grado was enlarged in honour of St Hilarion, who had lived in the city a long time before he accompanied Donato to receive the palm of martyrdom. But as Fortune, when she has brought men to the top of the wheel, either for amusement or because she repents, usually turns them to the bottom, it came to pass after these things that almost all the barbarian nations rose in divers parts of the world against the Romans, the result being the abasement of that great empire in a short time, and the destruction of everything, notably of Rome herself. That fall involved the complete destruction of the most excellent artists, sculptors, painters and architects who abandoned their profession and were themselves buried and submerged under the debris and ruins of that most celebrated city. The first to go were painting and sculpture, as being arts which served rather for pleasure than for utility, the other art, namely architecture, being necessary and useful for the welfare of the body, continued in use, but not in its perfection and purity. The very memory of painting and sculpture would have speedily disappeared had they not represented before the eyes of the rising generation, the distinguished men of another age. Some of them were commemorated by effigies and by inscriptions placed on public and private buildings, such as amphitheatres, theatres, baths, aqueducts, temples, obelisks, colosseums, pyramids, arches, reservoirs and treasuries, yes, and even on the very tombs. The majority of these were destroyed and obliterated by the barbarians, who had nothing human about them but their shape and name. Among others there were the Visigoths, who having made Alaric their king, invaded Italy and twice sacked Rome without respect for anything. The Vandals who came from Africa with Genseric, their king, did the like. But he, not content with his plunder and booty and the cruelties he inflicted, led into servitude the people there, to their infinite woe, and with them Eudoxia the wife of the Emperor Valentinian, who had only recently been assassinated by his own soldiers. These men had greatly degenerated from the ancient Roman valour, because a great while before, the best of them had all gone to Constantinople with the Emperor Constantine, and those left behind were dissolute and abandoned. Thus true men and every sort of virtue perished at the same time; laws, habits, names and tongues suffered change, and these varied misfortunes, collectively and singly, debased and degraded every fine spirit and every lofty soul. But the most harmful and destructive force which operated against these fine arts was the fervent zeal of the new Christian religion, which, after long and sanguinary strife, had at length vanquished and abolished the old faith of the heathen, by means of a number of miracles and by the sincerity of its acts. Every effort was put forth to remove and utterly extirpate the smaller things from which errors might arise, and thus not only were the marvellous statues, sculptures, paintings, mosaics and ornaments of the false pagan gods destroyed and thrown down, but also the memorials and honours of countless excellent persons, to whose distinguished merits statues and other memorials had been set up by a most virtuous antiquity. Besides all this, in order to build churches for the use of the Christians, not only were the most honoured temples of the idols destroyed, but in order to ennoble and decorate S. Peter's with more ornaments than it then possessed, the mole of Hadrian, now the castle of S. Angelo, was despoiled of its stone columns, as well as of many other things which are now seen in ruins.
Now, although the Christian religion did not act thus from any hatred for talent, but only because of its contempt for the heathen gods, yet the utter ruin of these honourable professions, which entirely lost their form, was none the less entirely due to this burning zeal. That nothing might be wanting to these grave disasters there followed the rage of Totila against Rome, who destroyed the walls, ruined all the most magnificent and noble buildings with fire and sword, burned it from one end to another, and having stripped it of every living creature left it a prey to the flames, so that for the space of eighteen days not a living soul could be found there. He utterly destroyed the marvellous statues, paintings, mosaics and stuccos, so that he left Rome not only stripped of every trace of her former majesty, but destitute of shape and life. The ground floors of the palaces and other building had been adorned with paintings, stuccos and statues, and these were buried under the debris, so that many good things have come to light in our own day. Those who came after, judging everything to be ruined, planted vines over them so that these ruined chambers remained entirely underground, and the moderns have called them grottos and the paintings found there grotesques. The Ostrogoths being exterminated by Narses, the ruins of Rome were inhabited in a wretched fashion when after an interval of a hundred years there came the Emperor Constans of Constantinople, who was received in a friendly manner by the Romans. However he wasted, plundered and carried away everything that had been left in the wretched city of Rome, abandoned rather by chance than by the deliberate purpose of those who had laid it waste. It is true that he was not able to enjoy this booty, for being driven to Sicily by a storm at sea, he was killed by his followers, a fate he richly deserved, and thus lost his spoils, his kingdom and his life. But as if the troubles of Rome had not been sufficient, for the things which had been taken away could never return, there came an army of Saracens to ravage that island, who carried away the property of the Sicilians and the spoils of Rome to Alexandria, to the infinite shame and loss of Italy and of all Christendom. Thus what the popes had not destroyed, notably St Gregory, who is said to have put under the ban all that remained of the statues and of the spoils of the buildings, finally perished through the instrumentality of this traitorous Greek. Not a trace or a vestige of any good thing remained, so that the generations which followed being rough and material, particularly in painting and sculpture, yet feeling themselves impelled by nature and inspired by the atmosphere of the place, set themselves to produce things, not indeed according to the rules of art, for they had none, but as they were instructed by their own intelligence.
The arts of design having arrived at this pitch, both before and during the time that the Lombards ruled Italy, they subsequently grew worse and worse, until at length they reached the lowest depths of baseness. An instance of their utter tastelessness and crudeness may be seen in some figures over the door in the portico of S. Peter's at Rome, in memory of some holy fathers who had disputed for Holy Church in certain councils. Further evidence is supplied by a number of examples in the same style in the city and in the whole of the Exarchate of Ravenna, notably some in S. Maria Rotonda outside that city, which were made shortly after the Lombards were driven from Italy. But I will not deny that there is one very notable and marvellous thing in this church, and that is the vault or cupola which covers it, which is ten braccia across and serves as the roof of the building, and yet is of a single piece and so large that it appears impossible that a stone of this description, weighing more than 200,000 pounds, could be placed so high up. But to return to our point, the masters of that day produced nothing but shapeless and clumsy things which may still be seen to-day. It was the same with architecture, for it was necessary to build, and as form and good methods were lost by the death of good artists and the destruction of good buildings, those who devoted themselves to this profession built erections devoid of order or measure, and totally deficient in grace, proportion or principle. Then new architects arose who created that style of building, for their barbarous nations, which we call German, and produced some works which are ridiculous to our modern eyes, but appeared admirable to theirs. This lasted until a better form somewhat similar to the good antique manner was discovered by better artists, as is shown by the oldest churches in Italy which are not antique, which were built by them, and by the palaces erected for Theoderic, King of Italy, at Ravenna, Pavia, and Modena, though the style is barbarous and rather rich and grand than well conceived or really good. The same may be said of S. Stefano at Rimini and of S. Martino at Ravenna, of the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista in the same city built by Galla Placida about the year of grace 438, of S. Vitale which was built in the year 547, and of the abbey of Classi di fuori, and indeed of many other monasteries and churches built after the time of the Lombards. All these buildings, as I have said, are great and magnificent, but the architecture is very rude. Among them are many abbeys in France built to S. Benedict and the church and monastery of Monte Casino, the church of S. Giovanni Battista built by that Theodelinda, Queen of the Goths, to whom S. Gregory the Pope wrote his dialogues. In this place that queen caused the history of the Lombards to be painted. We thus see that they shaved the backs of their heads, and wore tufts in front, and were dyed to the chin. Their clothes were of broad linen, like those worn by the Angles and Saxons, and they wore a mantle of divers colours; their shoes were open to the toes and bound above with small leather straps. Similar to the churches enumerated above were the church of S. Giovanni, Pavia, built by Gundiperga, daughter of Theodelinda, and the church of S. Salvatore in the same city, built by Aribert, the brother of the same queen, who succeeded Rodoaldo, husband of Gundiberta, in the government; the church of S. Ambruogio at Pavia, built by Grimoald, King of the Lombards, who drove from the kingdom Aribert's son Perterit. This Perterit being restored to his throne after Grimoald's death built a nunnery at Pavia called the Monasterio Nuovo, in honour of Our Lady and of St Agatha, and the queen built another dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Pertica outside the walls. Cunibert, Perterit's son, likewise built a monastery and church to St George called di Coronato, in a similar style, on the spot where he had won a great victory over Alahi. Not unlike these was the church which the Lombard king Luit-prand, who lived in the time of King Pepin, the father of Charlemagne, built at Pavia, called S. Piero, in Cieldauro, or that which Desiderius, who succeeded Astolf, built to S. Piero Clivate in the diocese of Milan; or the monastery of S. Vincenzo at Milan, or that of S. Giulia at Brescia, because all of them were very costly, but in a most ugly and rambling style. In Florence the style of architecture was slightly improved somewhat later, the church of S. Apostolo built by Charlemagne, although small, being very beautiful, because the shape of the columns, although made up of pieces, is very graceful and beautifully made, and the capitals and the arches in the vaulting of the side aisles show that some good architect was left in Tuscany, or had arisen there. In fine the architecture of this church is such that Pippo di Ser Brunnellesco did not disdain to make use of it as his model in designing the churches of S. Spirito and S. Lorenzo in the same city. The same progress may be noticed in the church of S. Mark's at Venice, not to speak of that of S. Giorgio Maggiore erected by Giovanni Morosini in the year 978. S. Mark's was begun under the Doge Giustiniano and Giovanni Particiaco next to S. Teodosio, when the body of the Evangelist was brought from Alexandria to Venice. After the Doge's palace and the church had suffered severely from a series of fires, it was rebuilt upon the same foundations in the Byzantine style as it stands to-day, at a great cost and with the assistance of many architects, in the time of the Doge Domenico Selvo, in the year 973, the columns being brought from the places where they could be obtained. The construction was continued until the year 1140, M. Piero Polani being then Doge, from the plans of several masters who were all Greeks, as I have said. Erected at the same time, and also in the Byzantine style, were the seven abbeys built in Tuscany by Count Hugh, Marquis of Brandenburg, such as the Badia of Florence, the abbey of Settimo, and the others. All these structures and the vestiges of others which are not standing bear witness to the fact that architecture maintained its footing though in a very bastard form far removed from the good antique style. Further evidence is afforded by a number of old palaces erected in Florence in Tuscan work after the destruction of Fiesole, but the measurements of the doors and the very elongated windows and the sharp-pointed arches after the manner of the foreign architects of the day, denote some amount of barbarism. In the year after 1013 the art appears to have received an access of vigour in the rebuilding of the beautiful church of S. Miniato on the Mount in the time of M. Alibrando, citizen and bishop of Florence, for, in addition to the marble ornamentation both within and without, the facade shows that the Tuscan architects were making efforts to imitate the good ancient order in the doors, windows, columns, arches and cornices, so far as they were able, having as a model the very ancient church of S. Giovanni in their city. At the same period, pictorial art, which had all but disappeared, seems to have made some progress, as is shown by a mosaic in the principal chapel of the same church of S. Miniato.
From such beginnings design and a general improvement in the arts began to make headway in Tuscany, as in the year 1016 when the Pisans began to erect their Duomo. For in that time it was a considerable undertaking to build such a church, with its five aisles and almost entirely constructed of marble both inside and out. This church, built from the plans and under the direction of Buschetto, a clever Greek architect from Dulichium, was erected and adorned by the Pisans when at the zenith of their power with an endless quantity of spoils brought by sea from various distant parts, as the columns, bases, capitals, cornices and other stones there of every description, amply demonstrate. Now since all these things were of all sizes, great, medium, and small, Buschetto displayed great judgment in adapting them to their places, so that the whole building is excellently devised in every part, both within and without. Amongst other things he devised the facade, which is made up of a series of stages, gradually diminishing toward the top and consisting of a great number of columns, adorning it with other columns and antique statues. He carried out the principal doors of that facade in the same style, beside one of which, that of the Carroccio, he afterwards received honourable burial, with three epitaphs, one being in Latin verse, not unlike other things of the time:
Quod vix mille boum possent juga juncta movere Et quod vix potuit per mare ferre ratis Buschetti nisu, quod erat Mirabile visu Dena puellarum turba levavit onus.
As I have mentioned the church of S. Apostolo at Florence above, I will here give an inscription which may be read on a marble slab on one of the sides of the high altar, which runs:
VIII. v. Die vi. Aprilis in resurrectione Domini Karolus Francorum Rex Roma revertens, ingressus Florentiam cum magno gaudio et tripudio succeptus, civium copiam torqueis aureis decoravit. Ecclesia Sanctorum Apostolorum in altari inclusa est laminea plumbea, in qua descripta apparet praefacta fundatio et consecratio facta per Archiepiscopum Turpinum, testibus Rolando et Uliverio.
The edifice of the Duomo at Pisa gave a new impulse to the minds of many men in all Italy, and especially in Tuscany, and led to the foundation in the city of Pistoia in 1032 of the church of S. Paolo, in the presence of S. Atto, the bishop there, as a contemporary deed relates, and indeed of many other buildings, a mere mention of which would occupy too much space.
I must not forget to mention either, how in the course of time the round church of S. Giovanni was erected at Pisa in the year 1060, opposite the Duomo and on the same piazza. A marvellous and almost incredible statement in connection with this church is that of an ancient record in a book of the Opera of the Duomo, that the columns, pillars and vaulting were erected and completed in fifteen days and no more. The same book, which may be examined by any one, relates that an impost of a penny a hearth was exacted for the building of the temple, but it does not state whether this was to be of gold or of base metal. The same book states that there were 34,000 hearths in Pisa at that time. It is certain that the work was very costly and presented formidable difficulties, especially the vaulting of the tribune, which is pear-shaped and covered outside with lead. The exterior is full of columns, carving, scenes, and the middle part of the frieze of the doorway contains figures of Christ and the twelve apostles in half-relief and in the Byzantine style.
About the same time, namely in 1061, the Lucchese, in emulation of the Pisans, began the church of S. Martino at Lucea, from the designs of some pupils of Buschetto, there being no other artists then in Tuscany. The facade has a marble portico in front of it containing many ornaments and carvings in honour of Pope Alexander II., who had been bishop of the city just before he was raised to the pontificate. Nine lines in Latin relate the whole history of the facade and of the Pope, repeated in some antique letters carved in marble inside the doors of the portico. The facade also contains some figures and a number of scenes in half-relief below the portico relating to the life of St Martin executed in marble and in the Byzantine style. But the best things there, over one of these doors, were done by Niccola Pisano, 170 years later, and completed in 1233, as will be related in the proper place, Abellenato and Aliprando being the craftsmen at the beginning, as some letters carved in marble in the same place fully relate. The figures by Niccola Pisano show to what an extent the art was improved by him. Most of the buildings erected in Italy from this time until the year 1250 were similar in character to these, for architecture made little or no apparent progress in all these years, but remained stationary, the same rude style being retained. Many examples of this may be seen to-day, but I will not now enumerate them, because I shall refer to them again as the occasion presents itself.
The admirable sculptures and paintings buried in the ruins of Italy remained hidden or unknown to the men of this time who were engrossed in the rude productions of their own age, in which they used no sculptures or paintings except such as were produced by the old artists of Greece, who still survived, making images of clay or stone, or painting grotesque figures and only colouring the first lineaments. These artists were invited to Italy for they were the best and indeed the only representatives of their profession. With them they brought the mosaics, sculptures, and paintings which they themselves produced and thus they taught their methods to the Italians, after their own rough and clumsy style. The Italians practised the art in this fashion up to a certain time, as I shall relate.
As the men of the age were not accustomed to see any excellence or greater perfection than the things thus produced, they greatly admired them, and considered them to be the type of perfection, base as they were. Yet some rising spirits aided by some quality in the air of certain places, so far purged themselves of this crude style that in 1250 Heaven took compassion on the fine minds that the Tuscan soil was producing every day, and directed art into its former channels. And although the preceding generations had before them the remains of arches, colossi, statues, pillars or stone columns which were left after the plunder, ruin and fire which Rome had passed through, yet they could never make use of them or derive any profit from them until the period named. Those who came after were able to distinguish the good from the bad, and abandoning the old style they began to copy the ancients with all ardour and industry. That the distinction I have made between old and ancient may be better understood I will explain that I call ancient the things produced before Constantine at Corinth, Athens, Rome and other renowned cities, until the days of Nero, Vaspasian, Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus; the old works are those which are due to the surviving Greeks from the days of St Silvester, whose art consisted rather of tinting than of painting. For the original artists of excellence had perished in the wars, as I have said, and the surviving Greeks, of the old and not the ancient manner, could only trace profiles on a ground of colour. Countless mosaics done by these Greeks in every part of Italy bear testimony to this, and every old church of Italy possesses examples, notably the Duomo of Pisa, S. Marco at Venice and yet other places. Thus they produced a constant stream of figures in this style, with frightened eyes, outstretched hands and on the tips of their toes, as in S. Miniato outside Florence between the door of the sacristy and that of the convent, and in S. Spirito in the same city, all the side of the cloister towards the church, and in Arezzo in S. Giuliano and S. Bartolommeo and other churches, and at Rome in old S. Peter's in the scenes about the windows, all of which are more like monsters than the figures which they are supposed to represent. They also produced countless sculptures, such as those in bas-relief still over the door of S. Michele on the piazza Padella at Florence, and in Ognissanti, and in many places, in tombs and ornaments for the doors of churches, where there are some figures acting as corbels to carry the roof, so rude and coarse, so grossly made, and in such a rough style, that it is impossible to imagine worse.
Up to the present, I have discoursed exclusively upon the origin of sculpture and painting, perhaps more at length than was necessary at this stage. I have done so, not so much because I have been carried away by my love for the arts, as because I wish to be of service to the artists of our own day, by showing them how a small beginning leads to the highest elevation, and how from so noble a situation it is possible to fall to utterest ruin, and consequently, how the nature of these arts resembles nature in other things which concern our human bodies; there is birth, growth, age, death, and I hope by this means they will be enabled more easily to recognise the progress of the renaissance of the arts, and the perfection to which they have attained in our own time. And again, if ever it happens, which God forbid, that the arts should once more fall to a like ruin and disorder, through the negligence of man, the malignity of the age, or the ordinance of Heaven, which does not appear to wish that the things of this world should remain stationary, these labours of mine, such as they are (if they are worthy of a happier fate), by means of the things discussed before, and by those which remain to be said, may maintain the arts in life, or, at any rate, encourage the better spirits to provide them with assistance, so that, by my good will and the labours of such men, they may have an abundance of those aids and embellishments which, if I may speak the truth freely, they have lacked until now.
But it is now time to come to the life of Giovanni Cimabue, who originated the new method of design and painting, so that it is right that his should be the first of the Lives. And here I may remark that I shall follow the schools rather than a chronological order. And in describing the appearance and the arts of the artists, I shall be brief, because their portraits, which I have collected at great expense, and with much labour and diligence, will show what manner of men they were to look at much better than any description could ever do. If some portraits are missing, that is not my fault, but because they are not to be found anywhere. If it chance that some of the portraits do not appear to be exactly like others which are extant, it is necessary to reflect that a portrait of a man of eighteen or twenty years can never be like one made fifteen or twenty years later, and, in addition to this, portraits in black and white are never so good as those which are coloured, besides which the engravers, who do not design, always take something from the faces, because they are never able to reproduce those small details which constitute the excellence of a work, or to copy that perfection which is rarely, if ever, to be found in wood engravings. To conclude, the reader will be able to appreciate the amount of labour, expense, and care which I have bestowed upon this matter when he sees what efforts I have made in my researches.
VASARI'S LIVES OF THE PAINTERS.
Cimabue, Painter of Florence.
The endless flood of misfortunes which overwhelmed unhappy Italy not only ruined everything worthy of the name of a building, but completely extinguished the race of artists, a far more serious matter. Then, as it pleased God, there was born in the year 1240 in the city of Florence, Giovanni, surnamed Cimabue, of the noble family of the Cimabui, to shed the first light on the art of painting. As he grew up he appeared to his father and others to be a boy of quick intelligence, so that he was accordingly sent to receive instruction in letters to a relation, a master at S. Maria Novella, who then taught grammar to the novices of that convent. Instead of paying attention to his lessons, Cimabue spent the whole day in drawing men, horses, houses, and various other fancies on his books and odd sheets, like one who felt himself compelled to do so by nature. Fortune proved favourable to this natural inclination, for some Greek artists were summoned to Florence by the government of the city for no other purpose than the revival of painting in their midst, since that art was not so much debased as altogether lost. Among the other works which they began in the city, they undertook the chapel of the Gondi, the vaulting and walls of which are to-day all but destroyed by the ravages of time. It is situated in S. Maria Novella, next the principal chapel. In this way Cimabue made a beginning in the art which attracted him, for he often played the truant and spent the whole day in watching the masters work. Thus it came about that his father and the artists considered him so fitted to be a painter that, if he devoted himself to the profession, he might look for honourable success in it, and to his great satisfaction his father procured him employment with the painters. Then, by dint of continual practice and with the assistance of his natural talent, he far surpassed the manner of his teachers both in design and in colour. For they had never cared to make any progress, and had executed their works, not in the good manner of ancient Greece, but in the rude modern style of that time. But although Cimabue imitated the Greeks he introduced many improvements in the art, and in a great measure emancipated himself from their awkward manner, bringing honour to his country by his name and by the works which he produced. The pictures which he executed in Florence bear testimony to this, such as the antipendium to the altar of St Cecilia, and a Madonna in S. Croce, which was then and still is fastened to a pillar on the right hand side of the choir. Subsequently he painted on a panel a St Francis, on a gold ground. He drew this from nature, to the best of his powers, although it was a novelty to do so in those days, and about it he represented the whole of the saint's life in twenty small pictures full of little figures, on a gold ground. He afterwards undertook a large picture for the monks of Vallombrosa in their abbey of S, Trinita at Florence. This was a Madonna with the child in her arms, surrounded by many adoring angels, on a gold ground. To justify the high opinion in which he was already held, he worked at it with great industry, showing improved powers of invention and exhibiting our lady in a pleasing attitude. The painting when finished was placed by the monks over the high altar of the church, whence it was afterwards removed to make way for the picture of Alesso Baldovinetti, which is there to-day. It was afterwards placed in a small chapel of the south aisle in that church. Cimabue next worked in fresco at the hospital of the Porcellana, at the corner of the via Nuova which leads to the Borgo Ognissanti. On one side of the facade, in the middle of which is the principal door, he represented an Annunciation, and on the other side, Jesus Christ with Cleophas and Luke, life-size figures. In this work he abandoned the old manner, making the draperies, garments, and other things somewhat more life-like, natural and soft than the style of the Greeks, full as that was of lines and profiles as well in mosaics as in painting. The painters of those times had taught one another that rough, awkward and common-place style for a great number of years, not by means of study but as a matter of custom, without ever dreaming of improving their designs by beauty of colouring or by any invention of worth. After this was finished Cimabue again received a commission from the same superior for whom he had done the work at S. Croce. He now made him a large crucifix of wood, which may still be seen in the church. The work caused the superior, who was well pleased with it, to take him to their convent of S. Francesco at Pisa, to paint a picture of St Francis there. When completed it was considered most remarkable by the people there, since they recognised a certain quality of excellence in the turn of the heads and in the fall of the drapery which was not to be found in the Byzantine style in any work executed up to that time not only in Pisa but throughout Italy.
For the same church Cimabue afterwards painted a large picture of Our Lady with the child in her arms, surrounded by several angels, on a gold ground. In order to make room for the marble altar which is now there it was soon afterwards removed from its original situation and placed inside the church, near the door on the left hand. For this work he was much praised and rewarded by the Pisans. In Pisa also he painted a panel of St Agnes surrounded by a number of small figures representing scenes from her life, at the request of the Abbot of S. Paolo in Ripa d'Arno. The panel is to-day over the altar of the Virgin in that church.
The name of Cimabue having become generally known through these works, he was taken to Assisi, a city of Umbria, where, in conjunction with some Greek masters, he painted a part of the vaulting of the lower Church of S. Franceso, and on the walls, the life of Jesus Christ and that of St Francis. In these paintings he far surpassed the Greek masters, and encouraged by this, he began to paint the upper church in fresco unaided, and on the large gallery over the choir, on the four walls, he painted some subjects from the history of Our Lady, that is to say, her death, when her soul is carried to Heaven by Christ on a throne of clouds, and when He crowns her in the midst of a choir of angels, with a number of saints beneath. These are now destroyed by time and dust. He then painted several things at the intersections of the vaulting of that church, which are five in number. In the first one over the choir he represented the four Evangelists, larger than life-size, and so well done, that even to-day they are acknowledged to possess some merit; and the freshness of the flesh colouring shows, that by his efforts, fresco-painting was beginning to make great progress. The second intersection he filled with gilt stars on an ultramarine field. In the third he represented Jesus Christ, the Virgin his mother, St John the Baptist and St Francis in medallions, that is to say, a figure in each medallion and a medallion in each of the four divisions of the vault. The fourth intersection like the second he painted with gilt stars on ultramarine. In the fifth he represented the four Doctors of the church, and beside each of them a member of the four principal religious orders. This laborious undertaking was carried out with infinite diligence. When he had finished the vaults he painted the upper part of the walla on the left side of the church from one end to the other, also in fresco. Near the high altar between the windows and right up to the vaulting he represented eight subjects from the Old Testament, starting from the beginning of Genesis and selecting the most noteworthy incidents. In the space flanking the windows to the point where they terminate at the gallery which runs round the inside of the church, he painted the remainder of the Old Testament history in eight other subjects. Opposite these and corresponding to them he painted sixteen subjects representing the deeds of Our Lady and of Jesus Christ, while on the end wall over the principal entrance and about the rose window above it, he painted the Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This work which is most extraordinary for richness and beauty, must, in my opinion, have astounded the people of those times, painting having been in such blindness for so long a apace. When I saw it again in the year 1563 it seemed most beautiful, as I reflected how marvellous it was that Cimabue should see so much light in the midst of so great darkness. But it is worthy of note that of all these paintings those of the vaults are much the best preserved since they are less injured by the dust and other accidents. When these works were finished Giovanni set about painting the walls beneath, namely those beneath the windows, and he did some things there, but as he was summoned to Florence on some affairs of his own, he did not pursue the task, which was finished by Giotto many years after, as will be related when the time comes.
Cimabue having thus returned to Florence painted in the cloister of S. Spirito, where the whole length of wall towards the church is done in the Byzantine style by other masters, events from the life of Christ, in three arches, with considerable excellence of design. At the same time, he sent to Empoli some things executed by him in Florence, which are held in great reverence to this day in the Pieve of that town. He next painted a picture of Our Lady for the church of S. Maria Novella, where it hangs high up between the chapel of the Rucellai and that of the Bardi of Vernio. The figure was of a larger size than any which had been executed up to that time, and the angels about it show that, although be still had the Byzantine style, he was making, some progress towards the lineaments and methods of modern times. The people of that day, who had never seen anything better, considered this work so marvellous, that they carried it to the church from Cimabue's house in a stately procession with great rejoicing and blowing of trumpets, while Cimabue himself was highly rewarded and honoured. It is reported, and some records of the old painters relate that while Cimabue was painting this picture in some gardens near the gate of S. Piero, the old king Charles of Anjou passed through Florence. Among the many entertainments prepared for him by the men of the city, they brought him to see the picture of Cimabue. As it had not then been seen by anyone, all the men and women of Florence flocked thither in a crowd, with the greatest rejoicings, so that those who lived in the neighbourhood called the place Borgo Allegri (Joyful Quarter), because of the rejoicing there. This name it has ever afterwards retained, being in the course of time enclosed within the walls of the city.
At S. Francesco, at Pisa, where Cimabue executed some other works, which have been mentioned above, in the cloister, at a corner beside the doorway leading into the church, is a small picture in tempera by his hand, representing Christ on the cross, surrounded by some angels who are weeping, and hold in their hands certain words written about the head of Christ, and which they are directing towards the ears of our Lady, who is standing weeping on the right hand side; and on the other side to St John the Evangelist, who is there, plunged in grief. The words to the Virgin are: "Mulier, ecce filius tuus," and those to St John: "Ecce mater tua." Another angel, separated from these, holds in its hands the sentence: "Ex illa hora accepit eam discipulus in suam." In this we perceive how Cimabue began to give light and open the way to inventions, bringing words, as he does here, to the help of his art in order to express his meaning, a curious device certainly and an innovation.
By means of these works Cimabue had now acquired a great name and much profit, so that he was associated with Arnolfo Lapi, an excellent architect of that time, in the building of S. Maria del Fiore, at Florence. But at length, when he had lived sixty years, he passed to the other life in the year 1300, having achieved hardly less than the resurrection of painting from the dead.
He left behind a number of disciples, and among others Giotto, who was afterwards an excellent painter. Giotto dwelt in his master's old house in the via del Cocomero after Cimabue's death. Cimabue was buried in S. Maria del Fiore, with this epitaph made for him by one of the Nini:—
"Credidit ut Clmabos picturae castra tenere Sic tenuit vivens, nunc tenet astra poli."
I must not omit to say that if the greatness of Giotto, his pupil, had not obscured the glory of Cimabue, the fame of the latter would have been more considerable, as Dante points out in his Commedia in the eleventh canto of the Purgatorio, with an allusion to the inscription on the tomb, where he says:
"Credette Cimabue nella pintura Tener lo campo, ed ora ha Giotto il grido Si che la fama di colui oscura."
A commentator on Dante, who wrote during Giotto's lifetime, about 1334, some ten or twelve years after the poet's death, in his explanation of these lines, says the following words in speaking of Cimabue: "Cimabue was a painter of Florence in the time of our author, a man of unusual eminence and so arrogant and haughty withal, that if any one pointed out a fault or defect in his work, or if he discovered any himself, since it frequently happens that an artist makes mistakes through a defect in the materials which he employs, or because of some fault in the instrument with which he works, he immediately destroyed that work, however costly it might be. Giotto was, and is, the most eminent among the painters of the same city of Florence, as his works testify, at Rome, Naples, Avignon, Florence, Padua, and many parts of the world," etc. This commentary is now in the possession of the Very Rev. Vincenzio Borghini, prior of the Innocents, a man distinguished for his eminence, piety and learning, but also for his love for and skill in all the superior arts, so that he has well deserved his judicious selection by Duke Cosimo to be the ducal representative in our academy of design.
Returning to Cimabue, Giotto certainly overshadowed his renown, just as a great light eclipses a much smaller one, and although Cimabue was, as it were, the first cause of the revival of the art of painting, yet Giotto, his disciple, moved by a praiseworthy ambition, and aided by Heaven and by Nature, penetrated deeper in thought, and threw open the gates of Truth to those who afterwards brought art to that perfection and grandeur which we see in our own age. In fact the marvels, miracles, and impossibilities executed at the present time by those who practise this art, and which are to be seen every day, have brought things to such a pitch, that no one marvels at them although they are rather divine than human, and those who make the most praiseworthy efforts may consider themselves fortunate, if, instead of being praised and admired, they escape censure, and even disgrace. The portrait of Cimabue by the hand of Simone of Siena may be seen in the chapter-house of S. Maria Novella, executed in profile in the picture of the Faith. The face is thin the small beard is somewhat red and pointed, and he wears a hood after the fashion of the day, bound gracefully round his head and throat. The one beside him is Simone himself, the designer of the work, who drew himself with the aid of two mirrors placed opposite each other, which have enabled him to draw his head in profile. The soldier in armour between them is said to be Count Guido Novello, lord of Poppi. In concluding this life I have to remark that I have some small things by Cimabue's hand in the beginning of a book in which I have collected drawings by the hand of every artist, from Cimabue onwards. These little things of Cimabue are done like miniatures, and although they may appear rather crude than otherwise to modern eyes, yet they serve to show to what an extent the art of design profited by his labours.
Arnolfo di Lapo, Florentine Architect.
In the preface to these lives I have spoken of some edifices in the old but not antique style, and I was silent respecting the names of the artists who executed the work, because I did not know them. In the introduction to the present life I propose to mention some other buildings made in Arnolfo's time, or shortly before, the authors of which are equally unknown, and then to speak of those which were erected during his lifetime, the architects of which are known, either because they may be recognised through the style of the buildings, or because there is some notice of them in the writings and memorials left by them in the works done. This will not be beside the point, for although the buildings are neither beautiful nor in good style, but only very large and magnificent, yet they are none the less worthy of some consideration.
In the time of Lapo, and of Arnolfo his son, many buildings of importance were erected in Italy and outside, of which I have not been able to find the names of the architects. Among these are the abbey of Monreale in Sicily, the Piscopio of Naples, the Certosa of Pavia, the Duomo of Milan, S. Pietro and S. Petrodio of Bologna, and many others, which may be seen in all parts of Italy, erected at incredible cost. I have seen and examined all these buildings, as well as many sculptures of these times, particularly at Ravenna, but I have never found any memorial of the masters, and frequently not even the date when they were erected, so that I cannot but marvel at the simplicity and indifference to fame exhibited by the men of that age. But to return to our subject. After the buildings just enumerated there arose some persons of a more exalted temper, who, if they did not succeed in lighting upon the good, at least made the attempt.
The first was Buono, of whom I knew neither the country nor the surname, since he himself has put nothing beyond his simple name to the works which he has signed. He was both a sculptor and architect, and he worked at first in Ravenna, building many palaces and churches, and executing some sculptures, in the year of grace 1152. Becoming known by these things, he was summoned to Naples, where he began the Castel Capoano and the Castel dell' Uovo, although they were afterwards finished by others, as will be related. Subsequently, in the time of the Doge Domenico Morosini, he founded the campanile of S. Marco at Venice, with much prudence and good judgment, and so well did he drive the piles and lay the foundations of that tower, that it has never moved a hair's breadth, as many buildings erected in that city before his time may be seen to have done. Perhaps it was from him that the Venetians learned their present method of laying the foundations of the rich and beautiful edifices which are erected every day to adorn that most noble city. At the same time it must be admitted that the tower has no other excellence of its own, either in style or decoration, or indeed anything which is worthy of much praise. It was finished under the Popes Anastasius IV. and Adrian IV. in the year 1154. Buono was also the architect of the Church of S. Andrea at Pistoia, and a marble architrave over the door, full of figures executed in the Gothic style, is his work; On this architrave his name is carved, as well as the date at which the work was done by him, which was in the year 1166. Being afterwards summoned to Florence, he prepared the design for enlarging the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, which was carried out. The church was then outside the city, and was held in veneration, because Pope Pelagius had consecrated it many years before, and because it was in size and style a building of considerable merit.
Buono was next invited by the Aretines to their city, where he built the old residence of the lords of Arezzo, a palace in the Gothic style, and near it a tower for a bell. This building, which was very tolerable for that style, was thrown down in 1533 because it was opposite and too near the fortifications of the city.
The art now began to receive some amount of improvement through the works of a certain Guglielmo, a German by race, as I believe, and some buildings were erected at a great expense and in a slightly better style. In the year 1174 this Guglielmo, in conjunction with Bonanno, a sculptor, is said to have founded the campanile of the Duomo at Pisa, where the following words are carved:
A.D. M..C. 74 campanile hoc fuit fundatum Mense Aug.
But these two architects had not much experience in laying foundations in Pisa, and since they did not drive in piles as they should have done, before they were half through the work, there was a subsidence on one side, and the building leant over on its weaker side, so that the campanile hangs 6-1/2 braccia out of the straight according to the subsidence on that side, and although this appears slight from below, it is very apparent above, so that one is filled with amazement that the tower can stand thus without falling and without the walls being cracked. The reason is that the building is round both within and without, and the stones are so arranged and bound together, that its fall is all but impossible, and it is supported moreover by foundations raised 3 braccia above the ground level, which were made to maintain it after the subsidence had taken place, as may be seen. Had it been square; I am convinced that it would not be standing, to-day, as the corners of the square would have pushed out the sides so that they would have fallen, a thing which frequently happens. And if the Carisenda tower at Bologna, which is square, leans without falling, that is because it is lighter and does not hang over so much, nor is it nearly so heavy a structure as this campanile, which is praised, not because of its design or good style, but simply by reason of its extraordinary position, since to a spectator it does not appear possible that it can remain standing. The Bonanno mentioned above, while he was engaged on the campanile, also executed in 1180 the principal door of the Duomo of Pisa in bronze. On it may be seen these words:
Ego Bonannus Pis, mea arle hanc portam uno anno perfeci tempore Benedicti operarii.
That the art was making steady progress may be seen by the walls of S. Giovanni Lateran at Rome, which were constructed of the spoils of antiquity under Popes Lucius III. and Urban III., when the Emperor Frederick was crowned by the latter, because certain small temples and chapels there, made with these spoils, possess considerable merit of design and contain some things which are worth notice, and this, among others, that the vaults were made of small tubes with compartments of stucco, so as not to overload the side walls of the buildings, a very praiseworthy contrivance for those times. The cornices and other parts show that the artists were helping one another to find the good.
Innocent III. afterwards caused two palaces to be erected on the Vatican hill, and from what can be seen of them they appear to have been in a fairly good style, but since they were destroyed by other popes, and especially by Nicholas V., who pulled down and rebuilt the greater part of the palace, I will say no more about them, except that a part of them may be seen in the great round tower, and a part in the old sacristy of St Peter's. This Innocent III., who wore the tiara for nineteen years, took great delight in architecture, and erected many buildings in Rome, notably the tower of the Conti, so called after the name of his family, from designs by Marchionne, an architect and sculptor of Arezzo. In the year that Innocent died this artist completed the Pieve of Arezzo, as well as the campanile. He adorned the front of the church with three rows of columns, one above the other, in great variety, not only in the shape of the capitals and bases, but even in the shafts, some being heavy, others slender, some bound together in pairs, others in fours. In like manner some are covered with representations of the vine, while others are made to become supporting figures, variously carved. He further introduced many animals of different kinds, which carry the weight of the columns on their backs, the whole exhibiting the strangest and most extravagant fantasies imaginable, not only altogether removed from the excellent antique order, but opposed to all good and reasonable proportion. Yet in spite of all this, anyone who will justly consider the matter will see that he was making strenuous efforts to do well, and possibly he imagined that he had discovered the way in this manner of work and in this wondrous variety. The same artist carved a rather large God the Father, with certain angels in half-relief in the arch over the door of that church in a rude style, together with the twelve months of the year, adding underneath his name, cut in round letters, as was customary, and the date, 1216. It is said that Marchionne also erected for Pope Innocent the old building and church of the hospital of S. Spirito in Sassia, in the Borgo Vecchio at Rome, where some part of the old work may still be seen. Indeed the old church remained standing to our own day, when It was restored in the modern style, with more ornament and design, by Pope Paul III. of the house of the Farnese. In S. Maria Maggiore, also in Rome, he made the marble chapel, which contains the manger of Jesus Christ, in which he placed a portrait of Pope Honorius III., drawn from life. He also made that Pope's tomb, decorating it with ornaments which were somewhat better than, and very different from, the style then prevalent throughout Italy. At the same time also Marchionne made the lateral door of S. Pietro at Bologna, which truly was a very great work for those times, because of the number of sculptures which are seen in it, such as lions in relief, which sustain columns, with men and other animals, also bearing burdens. In the arch above he made the twelve months in relief, with varied fancies, each month with its zodiacal sign, a work which must have been considered marvellous in those times.
About the same time the order of the friars minors of St Francis was established, which, after it had been confirmed by Pope Innocent III., increased the general devoutness and the number of friars, not only in Italy, but in every part of the world, to such an extent, that there was scarcely a city of note which did not build churches and convents for them at very great cost, each one according to its ability. Thus brother Elias, who was superior of that order at Assisi, founded a church, dedicated to Our Lady in that place, two years before the death of St Francis, while the saint, as general of the order, was away preaching. After the death of St Francis all Christendom crowded to visit the body of a man, who, both in life and in death, was known to have been so much beloved of God. As every man did alms to the saint according to his ability, it was determined that the church begun by friar Elias should be made much larger and more magnificent. But since there was a scarcity of good architects, and as the work demanded an excellent one, it being necessary to erect the building on a very high hill, round the base of which runs a torrent called Tescio, a German master named Jacopo was brought to Assisi after much deliberation, as being the best man who was then to be found. After he had examined the site and understood the wishes of the friars, who held a chapter general at Assisi for the purpose, he designed a most beautiful church and convent, making it in three stories. One of these was underground, while the two others served as churches, the lower one to be a vestibule with a portico of considerable size about it, the other as the church proper. The ascent from the first to the second was managed by means of a very convenient arrangement of steps, which encircled the chapel and which were divided into two flights for the sake of greater comfort, leading up to the second church. He built this in the form of the letter T, making it five times as long as it was broad, dividing one nave from the other by great stone pillars, uniting them with stout arches, between which he set up the vaulting. This truly monumental work then was carried out from such plans in every detail, except that he did not use the Cross vaulting on the walls between the body of the church and the principal chapel, but employed barrel vaulting for the sake of greater strength. He afterwards placed the altar before the principal chapel of the lower church, and when this was finished he deposited the body of St Francis beneath, after a most solemn translation. And because the tomb of the glorious saint is in the first or lower church, where no one ever goes, and which has its doors walled up, there is a magnificent iron railing about the altar, richly adorned with marble and mosaic which permits the tomb to be seen. On one side of the building were erected two sacristies and a lofty campanile, five times as high as it is broad. Above it there was originally a lofty spire of eight sides, but it was removed because it threatened to fall down. The work was brought to a conclusion in the space of four years and no more by the ability of Master Jacopo the German, and by the industry of friar Elias. After the friar's death twelve strong towers were erected about the lower church in order that the vast erection should never be destroyed; in each of these is a spiral staircase ascending from the ground to the summit. In the course of time, moreover, several chapels were added and other rich ornaments, of which it is not necessary to speak further, as enough has been said about the matter for the present, especially as it is in the power of every one to see how much that is useful, ornamental, and beautiful has been added to this beginning of Master Jacopo, by popes, cardinals, princes, and many other great persons of all Europe.
And now to return to Master Jacopo. By means of this work he acquired such renown throughout Italy that he was invited to Florence by the government of the city, and was afterwards received there with the utmost goodwill. But the Florentines, in accordance with a custom of abbreviating names which they practised then as they do now, called him not Jacopo, but Lapo, all his life, for he settled permanently in that city with all his family. And although at divers times he went away to erect a number of buildings in Tuscany his residence was always at Florence. As examples of such buildings I may cite the palace of the Poppi at Casentino which he built for the count there, who had married the beautiful Gualdrada, with the Casentino as her dower; the Vescovado for the Aretines, and the Palazzo Vecchio of the lords of Pietramela. It was at Florence that he laid the piles of the ponte alla Carraia, then called the ponte Nuovo, in 1218, and finished them in two years. A short while afterwards it was completed in wood, as was then the custom. In the year 1221 he prepared plans for the church of S. Salvadore del Vescovado which was begun under his direction, as was the church of S. Michele on the piazza Padella where there are some sculptures in the style of those days. He next designed a system of drainage for the city, raised the piazza S. Giovanni, and in the time of M. Rubaconte da Mandella of Milan, constructed the bridge which still bears his name. It was he who discovered the useful method of paving the streets with stone, when they had previously been paved only with bricks. He designed the existing Podesta palace, which was originally built for the amziani, and finally, after he had designed the tomb of the Emperor Frederick for the abbey of Monreale in Sicily, by the order of Manfred, he died, leaving Arnolfo, his son, heir to his ability, no leas than to his fortune.
Arnolfo, by whose talents architecture was no less improved than painting had been by Cimabue, was born in the year 1232, and was thirty-two years of age at his father's death. He was at that time held in very great esteem, because, not only had he learned all that his father had to teach, but had studied design under Cimabue in order to make use of it in sculpture, so that he was reputed the best architect in Tuscany. Thus not only did the Florentines found, under his direction, the last circuit of the walls of their city in the year 1284, but they also built, after his design, the loggia and pillars of Or San Michele, where grain is sold, constructing it of brick with a simple roof above. It was also in conformity with his advice that when the cliff of the Magnoli fell, on the slope of S, Giorgio above S. Lucia in the via dei Bardi, a public decree was issued the same year that no walls or edifices should ever more be erected in that place seeing that they would always be in danger owing to the undermining of the rock by water. That this is true has been seen in our day in the fall of many buildings and fine houses of the aristocracy. The year after, 1285, he founded the loggia and piazza of the priors, and in the Boedia of Florence he constructed the principal chapel and those on either side of it, restoring both the church and choir, which had originally been built on a much smaller scale by Count Ugo, the founder. For the cardinal Giovanni degli Orsini, papal legate in Tuscany, he built the campanile of that church, which woo some praise among the works of those times, but it did not receive its stone finishing until after the year 1303. His next work was the foundation, in 1294, of the church of S, Croce, where the friars minors are. Arnolfo designed the nave and side aisles of this church on such a large scale that he was unable to vault the space under the roof owing to the great distances, so with much judgment he made arches from pillar to pillar, and on these he placed the roof with stone gutters along the top of the arches to carry off the water, inclined at such an angle that the roof should be safe, as it is, from the danger of damp. This thing was so novel and ingenious that it well deserves the consideration of our day. He next prepared plans for the first cloisters of the old convent of that church, and shortly after he removed from the outside of the church of S. Giovanni all the arches and tombs of marble and stone which were there and put a part of them behind the campanile in the facade of the Canonical Palace, beside the oratory of S. Zanobi, when he proceeded to incrust all the eight sides of the exterior of the church with black Prato marble, removing the rough stone which was originally used with the antique marbles.
In the meantime the Florentines were desirous of erecting buildings in Valdarno above the castle of S. Giovanni and Castelfranco for the convenience of the city and for the supply of victuals to their markets. Arnolfo prepared the plan for this in the year 1295, and gave such general satisfaction, as indeed he had in his other works, that he was awarded the citizenship of Florence.
After these things the Florentines took counsel together, as Giovanni Villani relates in his History, to build a principal church for their city, and to make it so grand and magnificent that nothing larger or finer could be desired by the industry and power of man; and thus Arnolfo prepared the plans for the church of S. Maria del Fiore, a building which it is impossible to praise too highly. He provided that the exterior should be entirely incrusted with polished marble, with all the cornices, pillars, columns, carvings of leaves, figures, and other things which may be seen to-day, and which were brought very near completion, although not quite. But the most marvellous circumstance of all in this undertaking was the care and judgment with which he made the foundations, for in clearing the site, which is a very fine one, other small churches and houses about S. Reparata were involved beside that edifice itself. He made the foundations of this great structure both broad and deep, filling them with good materials, such as gravel and lime, with large stones at the bottom, so that they have been able without difficulty to bear the weight of the huge dome with which Filippo di Ser Brunellesco vaulted the church, as may be seen to-day. The excellence of this initial work was such that the place is still called Lungo i Fondamenti (beside the foundations). The laying of the foundations and the initiation of so great a church was celebrated with much ceremony. The first stone was laid on the day of the Nativity of Our Lady 1298 by the cardinal legate of the Pope, in the presence not only of many bishops and of all the clergy, but also of the podesta, captains, priors, and other magistrates of the city, and indeed of all the people of Florence, the church being called S. Maria del Fiore. Now, as it was estimated that the expenses of this work would be very heavy, as they afterwards proved to be, a tax of four deniers the pound was imposed at the chamber of the commune on everything exported from the city, as well as a tax of two soldi per head yearly. In addition to this, the Pope and the legate offered the most liberal indulgences to those who would contribute alms towards the work. I must not omit to mention, however, that besides the broad foundations of 15 braccia deep, buttresses were, with great foresight, placed at each angle of the eight sides, and it was the presence of these which encouraged Brunellesco to impose a much greater weight there than Arnolfo had originally contemplated.
It is said that when Arnolfo began the two first lateral doors of S. Maria del Fiore, he caused some fig leaves to be carved in a frieze, which were the armorial bearings of his father Lapo, from which it may be inferred that the family of the Lapi, now among the nobility of Florence, derives its origin from him. Others say that Filippo di Ser Brunellesco was also among the descendants of Arnolfo. But I let this pass for what it is worth, and return to Arnolfo, for there are some who say that the Lapi originally came from Figaruolo, a castle situated at the mouth of the Po. I say that for this magnificent achievement he deserved unstinted praise and an immortal renown, since he caused the exterior of the building to be incrusted with marble of various colours, and the interior with hard stone, making even the most insignificant corners of the building of the same stone. But, in order that every one may know the proportions of this marvellous edifice, I will add that from the doorway to the far end of the chapel of St Zanobi the length is 260 braccia, the breadth at the transepts is 166 braccia, that of nave and aisles 66. The nave is 72 braccia high, and the aisles 48. The external circumference of the entire church is 1280 braccia; the cupola, from the ground to the base of the lantern, is 154 braccia; the lantern, without the ball, is 36 braccia high, the ball 4 braccia high, and the cross 8 braccia; the entire cupola, from the ground to the top of the cross, is 202 braccia. But to return to Arnolfo, I say that he was considered so excellent, and so much confidence was felt in him, that nothing of importance was discussed without his advice being first asked. Thus the foundation of the final circuit of the city walls having been finished that same year by the community of Florence, the commencement of which was referred to above, and also the gate towers, and the work being well forward, he began the palace of the Signori, making it similar in design to that which his father Lapo had erected for the counts of Poppi. But he was unable to realise the grand and magnificent conception which he had formed in that perfection which his art and judgment required, because a piazza had been made by the dismantling and throwing down of the houses of the Uberti, rebels against the Florentine people and Ghibellines, and the blind prejudice of certain persons prevailed against all the arguments brought forward by Arnolfo to such an extent that he could not even obtain permission to make the palace square, because the rulers of the city were most unwilling to allow the building to have its foundations in the land of the Uberti, and they would rather suffer the destruction of the south nave of S. Piero Scheraggio than give him free scope in the space designated. They were also desirous that he should include and adapt to the palace the tower of the Fieraboschi, called the Torre della Vacca (Cow Tower), 50 braccia in height, in which the great bell was hung, together with some houses bought by the commune for such a building. For these reasons it is no marvel if the foundations of the palace are awry and out of the square, as, in order to get the tower in the middle and to make it stronger, he was obliged to surround it with the walls of the palace. These were found to be in excellent condition in the year 1561 by Giorgio Vasari, painter and architect, when he restored the palace in the time of Duke Cosimo, Thus, as Arnolfo filled the tower with good materials, it was easy for other masters to erect upon it the lofty campanile which we see to-day, since he himself finished no more than the palace in the space of two years. It was in later years that the building received those improvements to which it owes its present grandeur and majesty.
After all these things, and many others not less useful than beautiful, Arnolfo died at the age of seventy, in the year 1300, about the time when Giovanni Villani began to write the general history of his times. And since he left S. Maria del Fiore not only with its foundations laid, but saw three principal apses under the cupola vaulted in, to his great praise, he deserves the memorial set up to him in the church on the side opposite the campanile, with these lines carved in the marble in round letters:—
"Anno millenis centum bis octo nogenis Venit legatus Roma bonitate donatus Qui lapidem fixit fundo, simul et benedixit Praesule Francisco, gestante pontificatum Istud ab Arnolpho templum fuit aedificatum Hoc opus insigne decorans Florentia digne Reginae coeli construxit mente fideli Quam tu, Virgo pia, semper defende, Maria,"
I have written the life of Arnolfo with the greatest possible brevity because, although his works do not nearly approach the perfection of those of the present time, yet he none the less deserves to be remembered with affection, since, in the midst of so great darkness, he pointed out the road to perfection to those who came after him. The portrait of Arnolfo, by the hand of Giotto, may be seen in S. Croce, next to the principal chapel, where the friars are mourning the death of St Francis. He is represented in the foreground as one of the two men who are talking together. A representation of the exterior of the church of S. Maria del Fiore, with the dome, by the hand of Simon of Siena, may be seen in the chapter-house of S. Maria Novella. It was taken from the actual model of wood which Arnolfo made. From this representation it is clear that Arnolfo proposed to begin to vault his space, starting immediately above the first cornice, whilst Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, desiring to lighten the weight and make the appearance of the structure more graceful, added above this the whole of the space which contains the round windows before he began his vaulting. This matter would be even more obvious than it is had not the negligence and carelessness of those who had charge of the works of S. Maria del Fiore in past years allowed Arnolfo's own model, as well as those of Brunellesco and others, to be lost.