Ariadne Florentina Part 17

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260. You will find in the 138th and 147th paragraphs of my Inaugural lectures, statements which, if you were reading the book by yourselves, would strike you probably as each of them difficult, and in some degree inconsistent,--namely, that the school of color has exquisite character and sentiment; but is childish, cheerful, and fantastic; while the school of shade is deficient in character and sentiment; but supreme in intellect and veracity. "The way by light and shade," I say, "is taken by men of the highest powers of thought and most earnest desire for truth."

The school of shade, I say, is deficient in character and sentiment.

Compare any of Durer's Madonnas with any of Angelico's.

Yet you may discern in the Apocalypse engravings that Durer's mind was seeking for truths, and dealing with questions, which no more could have occurred to Angelico's mind than to that of a two-years-old baby.

261. The two schools unite in various degrees; but are always distinguishably generic, the two headmost masters representing each being Tintoret and Perugino. The one, deficient in sentiment, and continually offending us by the want of it, but full of intellectual power and suggestion.

The other, repeating ideas with so little reflection that he gets blamed for doing the same thing over again, (Vasari); but exquisite in sentiment and the conditions of taste which it forms, so as to become the master of it to Raphael and to all succeeding him; and remaining such a type of sentiment, too delicate to be felt by the latter practical mind of Dutch-bred England, that Goldsmith makes the admiration of him the test of absurd connoisseurship. But yet, with under-current of intellect, which gets him accused of free-thinking, and therefore with under-current of entirely exquisite chiaroscuro.

Light and shade, then, imply the understanding of things--Color, the imagination and the sentiment of them.

262. In Turner's distinctive work, color is scarcely acknowledged unless under influence of sunshine. The sunshine is his treasure; his lividest gloom contains it; his grayest twilight regrets it, and remembers. Blue is always a blue shadow; brown or gold, always light;--nothing is cheerful but sunshine; wherever the sun is not, there is melancholy or evil. Apollo is G.o.d; and all forms of death and sorrow exist in opposition to him.

But in Perugino's distinctive work,--and therefore I have given him the captain's place over all,--there is simply _no_ darkness, _no_ wrong.

Every color is lovely, and every s.p.a.ce is light. The world, the universe, is divine: all sadness is a part of harmony; and all gloom, a part of peace.



[BL] See note to the close of this article, p. 156.

[BM] The raven, however, like all d.i.c.kens's animals, is perfect: and I am the more angry with the rest because I have every now and then to open the book to look for him.

[BN] "Laws of Fesole."

[BO] 2, Church Terrace, Richmond, Surrey. NOTE.--I have hitherto permitted Mr. Ward to copy any Turner drawing he was asked to do; but, finding there is a run upon the vignettes of Loch Lomond and Derwent, I have forbidden him to do more of them for the present, lest his work should get the least mechanical. The admirable drawings of Venice, by my good a.s.sistant, Mr. Bunney, resident there, will become of more value to their purchasers every year, as the buildings from which they are made are destroyed. I was but just in time, working with him at Verona, to catch record of Fra Giocondo's work in the smaller square; the most beautiful Renaissance design in North Italy.

[BP] The engraving of Turner's "Scene on the Rhine" (near Bingen?) with boats on the right, and reedy foreground on the left; the opening between its mountain banks in central distance. It is exquisitely engraved, the plate being of the size of the drawing, about ten inches by six, and finished with extreme care and feeling.

[BQ] See the horrible picture of St. Sebastian by him in our own National Gallery.

[BR] See "The Eagle's Nest," - 79.

[BS] As in the muscles of the legs and effort in stretching bows, of the executioners, in the picture just referred to.

[BT] Observe, I entirely distinguish the study of _anatomy_--i.e., of intense bone and muscle--from study of the nude, as the Greeks practiced it. This for an entirely great painter is absolutely necessary; but yet I believe, in the case of Botticelli, it was n.o.bly restricted. The following note by Mr. Tyrwhitt contains, I think, the probable truth:--

"The facts relating to Sandro Botticelli's models, or rather to his favorite model (as it appears to me), are but few; and it is greatly to be regretted that his pictures are seldom dated;--if it were certain in what order they appeared, what follows here might approach moral certainty.

"There is no doubt that he had great personal regard for Fra Filippo, up to that painter's death in 1469, Sandro being then twenty-two years old.

He may probably have got only good from him; anyhow he would get a strong turn for Realism,--i.e. the treatment of sacred and all other subjects in a realistic manner. He is described in Crowe and Cavalcaselle from Filippino Lippi's Martyrdom of St. Peter, as a sullen and sensual man, with beetle brows, large fleshy mouth, etc., etc.

Probably he was a strong man, and intense in physical and intellectual habit.

"This man, then, begins to paint in his strength, with conviction--rather happy and innocent than not--that it is right to paint any beautiful thing, and best to paint the most beautiful,--say in 1470, at twenty-three years of age. The allegorical Spring and the Graces, and the Aphrodite now in the Ufficii, were painted for Cosmo, and seem to be taken by Vasari and others as early, or early-central, works in his life: also the portrait of Simonetta Vespucei[1]. He is known to have painted much in early life for the Vespucei and the Medici;--and this daughter of the former house seems to have been inamorata or mistress of Giuliano de' Medici, murdered by the Pazzi in 1478. Now it seems agreed by Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Pater, etc., (and I am quite sure of it myself as to the pictures mentioned)--first, that the same slender and long-throated model appears in Spring, the Aphrodite, Calumny, and other works.[2] Secondly, that she was Simonetta, the original of the Pitti portrait.

"Now I think she must have been induced to let Sandro draw from her whole person undraped, more or less; and that he must have done so as such a man probably would, in strict honor as to deed, word, and _definite_ thought, but under occasional accesses of pa.s.sion of which he said nothing, and which in all probability and by grace of G.o.d refined down to nil, or nearly so, as he got accustomed to look in honor at so beautiful a thing. (He may have left off the undraped after her death.) First, her figure is absolutely fine Gothic; I don't think any antique is so slender. Secondly, she has the sad, pa.s.sionate, and exquisite Lombard mouth. Thirdly, her limbs shrink together, and she seems not quite to have 'liked it' or been an accustomed model. Fourthly, there is tradition, giving her name to all those forms.

"Her lover Giuliano was murdered in 1478, and Savonarola hanged and burnt in 1498. Now, can her distress, and Savonarola's preaching, between them, have taken, in few years, all the carnality out of Sandro, supposing him to have come already, by seventy-eight, to that state in which the sight of her delighted him, without provoking ulterior feelings? All decent men accustomed to draw from the nude tell us they get to that.

"Sandro's Dante is dated as published in 1482. He may have been saddening by that time, and weary of beauty, pure or mixed;--though he went on painting Madonnas, I fancy. (Can Simonetta be traced in any of them? I think not. The Sistine paintings extend from 1481 to 1484, however. I cannot help thinking Zipporah is impressed with her.) After Savonarola's death, Sandro must have lost heart, and gone into Dante altogether. Most ways in literature and art lead to Dante; and this question about the nude and the purity of Botticelli is no exception to the rule.

"Now in the Purgatorio, l.u.s.t is the last sin of which we are to be made pure, and it has to be burnt out of us; being itself as searching as fire, as smoldering, devouring, and all that. Corruptio: optimi pessima; and it is the most searching and lasting of evils, because it really is a corruption attendant on true Love, which is eternal--whatever the word means. That this is so, seems to me to demonstrate the truth of the Fall of Man from the condition of moral very-goodness in G.o.d's sight. And I think that Dante connected the purifying pains of his intermediate state with actual sufferings in this life, working out repentance,--in himself and others. And the 'torment' of this pa.s.sion, to the repentant or resisting, or purity-seeking soul is decidedly like the pain of physical burning.

"Further, its casuistry is impracticable; because the more you stir the said 'fire' the stronger hold it takes. Therefore, men and women are _rightly_ secret about it, and detailed confessions unadvisable. Much talk about 'hypocrisy' in this matter is quite wrong and unjust. Then, its connection with female beauty, as a cause of love between man and woman, seems to me to be the inextricable nodus of the Fall, the here inseparable mixture of good and evil, till soul and body are parted. For the sense of seen Beauty is the awakening of Love, at whatever distance from any kind of return or sympathy--as with a rose, or what not. Sandro may be the man who has gone nearest to the right separation of Delight from Desire: supposing that he began with religion and a straight conscience; saw lovingly the error of Fra Filippo's way; saw with intense distant love the error of Simonetta's; and reflected on Florence and _its_ way, and drew nearer and nearer to Savonarola, being yet too big a man for asceticism; and finally wearied of all things and sunk into poverty and peace."

[1] Pitti, Stanza di Prometeo, 348.

[2] I think Zipporah may be a remembrance of her.

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Ariadne Florentina Part 17 summary

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