Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a later generation in the old spirit ; some of it was vocal, in the fiery eloquence of Savonarola, whose influence may be seen in Botticelli's work (III. 1034, p. 57).

But the development went on, all protests notwithstanding; for as the life of every nation runs its appointed course, so does its art; and the second point of interest in studying a school of painting is to watch its successive periods of birth, growth, maturity, and decay. In no school is this development so completely marked as in the Florentine, which for this reason, as well as for its priority in time, and therefore influence on succeeding schools, takes precedence of all others. The first period-covering roughly the fourteenth century, called the Giottesque, from its principal master—is that in which the thing told is of more importance than the manner of telling it, and in which the religious sentiment dominated the plastic faculty. Fragmentary examples of this Giottesque period in the art of Florence will be found in Room IV. In the second period, covering roughly the fifteenth century, and called by the Italians the period of the quattro-centisti,1 the artist, beginning as we have seen to look freely at the world around him, begins also to study deeply with a view to represent nature more exactly. One may see the new passion for the scientific study of the art in Paolo Uccello (III. 583, p. 53), who devoted himself to perspective ; and in Pollajuolo (292, p. 18), who first studied anatomy from the dead body. It is customary to group the Florentine artists of this scientific and realistic period under three heads, according to the main tendencies which they severally exhibit. The first group aimed especially at "action, movement, and the expression of intense passions.” The artist who stands at the head of this group, Masaccio, is, unhappily, not represented in the National Gallery, but the descent from him is represented by Fra Filippo Lippi, Pesellino, Botticelli, Filippino Lippi. The second group aimed rather at “realistic probability, and correctness in hitting off the characteristics of individual things," and is represented by Cosimo Rosselli, Piero di Cosimo, Ghirlandajo, Andrea del Sarto, Francia Bigio. Thirdly, some of the Florentine School were directly influenced by the work of contemporary sculptors. Chief amongst this group are Pollajuolo, Verocchio, himself a sculptor, not represented in the gallery, and Lorenzo di Credi. We come now to the third stage in the Florentine, as in every other vital school of painting. This period witnesses the perfection of the technical processes of the art, and the attempt of the painter to “raise forms, imitated by the artists of the preceding period from nature, to ideal beauty, and to give to the representations of the sentiments and affections the utmost grace and energy.” The great Florentine masters of this culminating period are Leonardo da Vinci and Michael Angelo. The former is especially typical of this stage of development. “When a nation's culture has reached its culminating point, we see everywhere,” says Morelli, 2 “in daily life as well as in literature and art, that grace3 comes to be valued more than character. So it was in Italy during the closing decades of the fifteenth century and the opening ones of the sixteenth. To no artist was it given to express this feeling so fully as to the great Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps the most richly gifted man that mother Nature ever made. He was the first who tried to express the smile of inward happiness, the sweetness of the soul.” But this culminating period of art already contained within it the germs of decay. The very perfection of the technical processes of painting caused in all, except painters of the highest mental gifts, a certain deadness and coldness, such as Mr. Browning makes Andrea del Sarto (1487-1531) be conscious of in his own works; the “faultless painter ” as compared with others less technically perfect but more full of soul (see under 690, p. 27). Moreover the very fascination of the great men, the pleasure in imitating their technical skill, led to decay. Grace soon passed into insipidity, and the dramatic energy of Michael Angelo into exaggerated violence. One mannerism led to another until the "Eclectics” (see Room XIII.) sought to unite the mannerisms of all, and Italian art, having run its course, became extinct.

i It should be noted that the Italian terms quattro-cento and cinquecento correspond with our fifteenth (1400-1500) and sixteenth (1500-1600) centuries respectively.

1 But see under 296 in this room, p. 17.

2 Italian Masters in German Galleries, p. 124. By Giovanni Morelli. Translated from the German by Mrs. L. M. Richter, 1883. Hereafter referred to as Morelli.

3 Well said: but it remains to be asked, whether the "grace" sought is modest, or wanton ; affectionate, or licentious (J. R.)

The growth and decay of painting described above is connected by Mr. Ruskin with a corresponding growth and decay in religion. He divides the course of mediæval art into two stages : the first stage (covering the first two periods above) "is that of the formation of conscience by the discovery of the true laws of social order and personal virtue, coupled with sincere effort to live by such laws as they are discovered. All the Arts advance steadily during this stage of national growth, and are lovely, even in their deficiencies, as the buds of flowers are lovely by their vital force, swift change, and continent beauty. The next stage is that in which the conscience is entirely formed, and the nation, finding it painful to live in obedience to the precepts it has discovered, looks about to discover, also, a compromise for obedience to them. In this condition of mind its first endeavour is nearly always to make its religion pompous, and please the gods by giving them gifts and entertainments, in which it may piously and pleasurably share itself; so that a magnificent display of the powers of art it has gained by sincerity, takes place for a few years, and is then followed by their extinction, rapid and complete exactly in the degree in which the nation resigns itself to hypocrisy. The works of Raphael, Michael Angelo, and Tintoret, belong to this period of compromise in the career of the greatest nation of the world; and are the most splendid efforts yet made by human creatures to maintain the dignity of states with beautiful colours, and defend the doctrines of theology with anatomical designs.” It is easy

Not by its own natural course or decay; but by the political and moral ruin of the cities by whose virtue it had been taught, and in whose glory it had flourished. The analysis of the decline of religious faith quoted below does not enough regard the social and material mischief which accompanied that decline (J. R.)

to see how the progress in realism led to a decline in religion. “The greater the (painter's) powers became, the more (his) mind was absorbed in their attainment, and complacent in their display. The early arts of laying on bright colours smoothly, of burnishing golden ornaments, or tracing, leaf by leaf, the outlines of flowers, were not so difficult as that they should materially occupy the thoughts of the artist, or furnish foundation for his conceit; he learned these rudiments of his work without pain, and employed them without pride, his spirit being left free to express, so far as it was capable of them, the reaches of higher thought. But when accurate shade, and subtle colour, and perfect anatomy, and complicated perspective, became necessary to the work, the artist's whole energy was employed in learning the laws of these, and his whole pleasure consisted in exhibiting them. His life was devoted, not to the objects of art, but to the cunning of it; and the sciences of composition and light and shade were pursued as if there were abstract good in them ;-as if, like astronomy or mathematics, they were ends in themselves, irrespective of anything to be effected by them. And without perception, on the part of any one, of the abyss to which all were hastening, a fatal change of aim took place throughout the whole world of art. In early times art was employed for the display of religious facts ; now, religious facts were employed for the display of art. The transition, though imperceptible, was consummate ; it involved the entire destiny of painting. It was passing from the paths of life to the paths of death " (Relation between Michael Angelo and Tintoret, pp. 8, 9, and Modern Painters, vol. iii. pt. iv. ch. iv. § 1. See also under VI. 744, p. 113).

650. PORTRAIT OF A LADY.

Angelo Bronzino (1502-1572). See under 651, p. 29. “ In the rich costume of the sixteenth century,” says the Official Catalogue, and the portrait therein resembles the one we have already passed in the Vestibule, in which the Lady is in the equally rich costume of the fifteenth century. It is interesting that the first pictures which meet the visitor in the Gallery should be thus distinguished. For it is a remarkable thing how much great art depends on gay and dainty gowns. Note, first, in going round these rooms, how fondly all the best painters enjoy dress patterns. “It doesn't matter what school they belong to-Fra Angelico, Perugino, John Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoret, Veronese, Leonardo da Vinci—no matter how they differ in other respects, all of them like dress patterns; and what is more, the nobler the painter is, the surer he is to do his patterns well.” Then, note as following from this fact, how much the splendour of the pictures that we most admire depends on splendour of dress. " True nobleness of dress is a necessity to any nation which wishes to possess living art, concerned with portraiture of human nature. No good historical painting ever yet existed, or ever can exist, where the dresses of the people of the time are not beautiful : and had it not been for the lovely and fantastic dressing of the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries, neither French, nor Florentine, nor Venetian art could have risen to anything like the rank it reached” (see, e.g. under VII. 294, p. 166). And with regard to this nobleness of dress, it may be observed lastly how “the best dressing was never the costliest; and its effect depended much more on its beautiful and, in early times, modest, arrangement, and on the simple and lovely manner of its colour, than on gorgeousness of clasp or embroidery” (Cambridge Inaugural Address, p. II; A joy for ever, S 54).

848. VIRGIN AND CHILD.

Lorenzo di Credi (1459–1537). Lorenzo Sciarpelloni was called (like so many of his fellow-artists) after his first master, Credi, a goldsmith by trade ; but he afterwards studied with Perugino and Leonardo under Verocchio. Like his master, he was a sculptor as well as a painter, and Verocchio in his will requested that Lorenzo might finish his famous statue (at Venice) of Bartolommeo Colleoni, Lorenzo was one of the few men who lived through the Renaissance without swerving from the religious traditions of earlier art, and even without being much influenced by his fellow-pupils—though in his grave and sweet Madonnas there is yet a suspicion of the side-long look, half sweet, half sinister, and of the long, oval face, which distinguish Leonardo. He was a disciple of Savonarola, and burnt his share of pictures in the famous bonfire. “ He was a very careful and laborious workman, distilling his own oils and grinding his own colours; and when he was working he would

« ZurückWeiter »