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a very common occurrence, and even in those days forged signatures were not unusual.
666. THE ANNUNCIATION.
Fra Filippo Lippi (about 1406-1469). This and the companion picture by the same artist (667, p. 61) were painted for Cosmo de' Medici (this one is marked with Cosmo's crestthree feathers tied together in a ring), and are identified with a story told by Vasari, which Mr. Browning has worked up in his poem on the artist. Cosmo, knowing the artist's ways, kept him under lock and key that his work might be the quicker done, but Lippi one night contrived a way of escape; and “from that time forward,” adds Vasari, “Cosmo gave the artist more liberty, and was by this means more promptly and effectually served by the painter, and was wont to say that men of genius were not beasts of burden, but forms of light.” This story is only one of several romances in Filippo's life. He lost his parents in childhood, and was placed by an aunt in a Carmelite convent. He left it when he was about twenty, and during an excursion at sea was taken captive by some Moorish pirates. But after a while he found opportunity to draw a whole length portrait of his master with charcoal on a white wall, which the pirates deemed so marvellous that they set him at liberty. Finally, when he was painting an altar-piece for the nuns of Santa Margherita at Prato, he became enamoured of Lucrezia Buti, who sat to him for the Madonna, and finally he ran off with her. He is said to have been poisoned in the end by her relations. Filippino Lippi was his son, and Sandro Botticelli his pupil.
The story of his life accurately reflects his character as seen in his art. “His art is the finest, out and out, that ever monk did, which I attribute myself to what is usually considered faultful in him, his having run away with a pretty novice out of a convent. ... The real gist of the matter is that Lippi did, openly and bravely, what the highest prelates in the Church did basely and in secret ; also he loved, where they only lusted ; and he has been proclaimed therefore by them-and too foolishly believed by us—to have been a shameful person ” (Fors Clavigera, 1872, xxii. 4; Ariadne Florentina, vi. & 5 n.) In other words, Lippi, while true to his religion, did not shut himself out from the world — to use the theological language, he “sanctified,” not “ crucified," the flesh. His pictures are “nobly religious work, -examples of the most perfect unison of religious myth with faithful realism of human nature yet produced in this world ” (Fors Clavigera, 1876, p. 187). · Here the traditional legend of the Annunciation is faithfully adhered to, and there is much“ unusually mystic spiritualism of conception" in the dove, the Spirit of God, proceeding in rays of golden light from the hand of an unseen Presence ; but the painter delights to elaborate also every element of human interest and worldly beauty. Note, for instance, the prettiness of the angel's face, the gracefulness of his figure, the sheen of his wings, and the dainty splendour of the Virgin's chamber.
916. VENUS WITH CUPIDS.
Botticelli (1446-1510). See under 1034, p. 56. The expression of melancholy characteristic of Botticelli's Madonnas is not absent from his heathen goddesses either. Notice also the roses — the painter's favourite fower (see 226, p. 61).
583. THE BATTLE OF ST. EGIDIO.
Paolo Uccello (1396–1479). A picture of great interest both from a technical and from a moral point of view. From the former, it shows the beginning of scientific “perspective” (i.e. the science of representing the form and dimensions of things as they really look, instead of as we conceive them by touch or measurement to be); the painter is pleased with the new discovery, and sets himself, as it were, the hardest problem in perspective he can find. Note the “foreshortening” of the figure on the ground (objects are said to be “ foreshortened” when viewed so that we see their breadth, and not their length-for example, the leg of Titian's Ganymede in VII. 32, p. 163). So devoted was Paolo to his science that he became (says Vasari) more needy than famous. His wife used to complain to her friends that he sat up all night studying, and that the only answer she ever got to her remonstrances was “ What a delightful thing is this perspective!” He had another and a softer passion : he was so fond of birds that he was called Paul of the Birds (“ Uccelli”-his family name being Paolo di Dono) and he had numbers of painted birds, cats and dogs, in his house, being too poor to keep the living creatures.
From the moral point of view, we may see in this picture, says Mr. Ruskin, what a gentleman's view of war is, as distinguished from a boor's, with mean passion and low fury on every face. “Look at the young Malatesta, riding into the battle of Sant'Egidio. His uncle Carlo, the leader of the army, a grave man of about sixty, has just given orders for the knights to close : two have pushed forward with lowered lances, and the mêlée has begun only a few yards in front; but the young knight, riding at his uncle's side, has not yet put his helmet on, nor intends doing so yet. Erect he sits, and quiet, waiting for his captain's order to charge ; calm as if he were at a hawking party, only more grave; his golden hair wreathed about his proud white brow, as about a statue's” (Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. ix. ch. viïi. $ 9). Another point to notice is the type this picture affords of “the neglect of the perfectness of the earth's beauty, by reason of the passions of men. The armies meet on a country road beside a hedge of wild roses ; the tender red flowers tossing above their helmets, and glowing between the lowered lances.” In like manner, adds Mr. Ruskin, in the Middle Ages, when men lived for safety in walled cities, “the whole of Nature only shone for man between the tossing of helmet-crests; and sometimes I cannot but think of the trees of the earth as capable of a kind of sorrow, in that imperfect life of theirs, as they opened their innocent leaves in the warm spring-time, in vain for men ; and all along the dells of England her beeches cast their dappled shade only where the outlaw drew his bow, and the king rode his careless chase” (Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. vi. ch. i. $ 6).
927. AN ANGEL ADORING.
Filippino Lippi (1457-1504.) See under I. 293, p. 20.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
1033. THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI.
Filippino Lippi (1457-1504). See under I. 293, p. 20. This picture is often ascribed to Botticelli, from whom Filippino learnt his fondness for the circular form. Every one will recognise too the resemblance to Botticelli in the daintiness of the dresses, the trappings of the horses (especially in the middle of the foreground), and the other accessories (such as the head-dresses of the Magi on the right). Vasari, indeed, says of Filippino that “the ornaments he added were so new, so fanciful, and so richly varied, that he must be considered the first who taught the moderns the new method of giving variety to the habiliments, and who first embellished his figures by adorning them with vestments after the antique." Filippino
and later painters gave these embellishments to angels as well as to men; and Vasari, it will be seen, considered it altogether an improvement. Some remarks on the other side will be found in Modern Painters, vol. ii. pt. jii. sec. ii. ch. v. $ 14 (“ Of the Superhuman Ideal ''). “The ornaments used by Angelico, Giotto, and Perugino (see e.g. VI. 288, p. 102), are always of a generic and abstract character. They are not diamonds, nor brocades, nor velvets, nor gold embroideries; they are mere spots of gold or of colour, simple patterns upon textureless draperies ; the angel wings burn with transparent crimson and purple and amber, but they are not set forth with peacocks' plumes; the golden circlets gleam with changeful light, but they are not beaded with pearls, nor set with sapphires. In the works of Filippino Lippi, Mantegna, and many other painters following, interesting examples may be found of the opposite treatment; and as in Lippi the heads are usually very sweet, and the composition severe, the degrading effect of the realised decorations and imitated dress may be seen in him simply, and without any addition of painfulness from other deficiencies of feeling.” In addition to the minor ornamentation, one may notice in this picture the crowded groups of spectators which Filippino was fond of introducing. But so harmoniously are they grouped in six principal groups that the spectator will at first probably be surprised to hear that there are as many as seventy figures in the picture.
626. PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN.
Unknown (Florentine School : 15th Century). This portrait was formerly ascribed in the Official Catalogue to Masaccio. The wish was perhaps father to the thought, for Masaccio is a very important person in the development of art (being the leader of the scientific movement in Florentine painting, and also “the first man,” says Mr. Ruskin, “who entirely broke through the conventionality of his time and painted pure landscape"), and is not otherwise represented in the National Gallery. Mr. Wornum (the late Keeper) ascribed the portrait to Filippino Lippi ; later critics have ascribed it to Botticelli, who was also distinguished in portrait-painting, which in his time was becoming increasingly fashionable. “The waving lines in the falling hair, and the drawing of the mouth, seem to leave no doubt that Botticelli alone is the
author of this impressive, yet simple and unpretentious, likeness of an unknown Florentine" (Richter, p. 24). 1196. THE TRIUMPH OF CHASTITY.
Unknown 1 (Florentine School : 15th Century). Chastity clothed only in white innocence is assailed by Love, She receives his arrows on a shield of polished steel; the points of the arrows break and burst forth into tiny golden flames—each temptation only causing the sacred fire of Chastity to burn more brightly. The scene is laid in a romantic landscape where everything is pure and beautiful. The field is enamelled with flowers
Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine ;
And all, save the spirit of man, is divine. Beyond, in the bend of a river, two swans float on its tranquil surface; a tall oak sapling rises straight and firm, and over all rests a clear blue sky. The picture recalls the scene in Milton's Comus
My sister is not so defenceless left
Second Brother. What hidden strength,
First Brother. I mean that too, but yet a hidden strength
She that has that, is clad in complete steel. 1034. THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST.
Sandro Botticelli (1446-1510). The family surname of Sandro (Alessandro, or Alexander) was Filipepi. “He was apprenticed when a lad to a goldsmith, called Botticello (for he obstinately refused to learn either to read, write, or sum); of which master we know only that he so formed this boy that
i Formerly ascribed to Botticelli --an ascription which, owing to the absence of that master's predominating facial type, as well as to the accuracy of landscape such as he never attempted, has now been abandoned. But the exquisite workmanship-visible only in a good light-of the shield and the quiver indicates the hand of one of the goldsmith painters, whilst the allegorical invention and the atmosphere of imaginative poetry have the true Botticellian ring" (see Times, December 22, 1885). The picture, it may be interesting to add, was sold at the Hamilton sale for £1420, but was bought a year or two later at the Beckett Denison sale for the National Gall