SOPHIA PEABODY HAWTHORNE
EXTRACTS FROM 'NOTES IN ITALY' I
From the engraving in Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel
Hawthorne and his Wife (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1885),
Numbers in red correspond to places on the
map at http://www.florin.ms/florencemap.html
June 5th  - We arrived here on the 31st of May, leaving Arezzo at six in the morning. We drove up the Via Fornace, and stopped at this Casa del Bello which we had requested Mr Powers to take for us. The portress said it was not taken yet, however, and so we proceeded to a hotel. In the evening Mr Powers called to see us, and appointed an early hour in the morning for us to go and examine the apartment. We went to his studio, which is a suite of six or seven rooms, and he came across the street with us to the Casa del Bello (which is opposite his house), and we agreed to take it at once. It is a delightful residence. We have the first piano, which opens at the back upon a broad terrace, leading down into a garden full of roses, jessamine, orange and lemon trees, and a large willow-tree, drooping over a fountain in the midst. We have thirteen rooms on the one piano, besides four kitchen-rooms beneath. The Casa is three rooms wide, and four deep - (five in one of the rows) - and we are, each one, perfectly accommodated, and each one can be alone and remote from the othrs. It is the very luxury of comfort. I have selected the best of the three parlors for the study. It is hung with crimson velvety hangings, and the doors are draped in that graceful way they have in Europe; and the windows, of course, are curtained, - for there is not a window on this side the ocean undraped, I believe. It has an ormolu table, two couches, four stuffed easy-chairs, candelabras, chandelier, and a Turkey carpet (an unusual grace). It gives upon the garden, and there is no sound but 'bird voices' that can can reach it; - the very ideal of a study, such as the 'artist of the Beautiful' ought to have, but which till now he has not found * * * * *
I am sitting in an enchanted boudoir, a gabinetto, *
* * * * The only light is through a glass door which opens
upon the terrace. Green trees and shrubbery only can be seen
as I sit, excepting small glimpses of sky and gold sunshine,
and four or five busts, arranged along the side of the
terrace. A thatched rustic bower is constructed in one part,
with rustic chairs and tables, where one can read, write, and
meditate. Down in the garden are other bowers, seats, and
tables. A small, delicate rose-vine is trained over the iron
tracery that guards the outer side of the terrace. In the
centre of our piano is a drawing-room that can never
be too warm; for its only great window looks upon an inner
court where the sun never shines. And we have a star to our
servant; for Stella is her name.
Perseus, Loggia, Benvenuto Cellini, drawn by
James Rotherham 9
Perseo di Benvenuto Cellini, Loggia dei Lanzi, disegno di James Rotherham
On the first day I walked out, and saw the outside of the Pitti Palace 29, - a vast prison of a palace, grim and hard in its aspect. I saw also Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus, in the Loggia de' Lanzi 9. I had seen a fine cast of it at the Crystal Palace, and could hardly conceive that I stood before the original. I passed over a bridge, and saw other beautiful bridges spanning the Arno, and the city rising around 11; but I was very tired after the journey, and have stayed at home, since we have had a home again. I was amused to find I could rest in fifteen easy-chairs, disposed about the rooms. There were so many, that I was induced to count them.
Firenze - Veduta dei Ponti Vecchio, S. Trinita, della Carraia e di Ferro alle Cascine
Colonel Goff, Water Colour, Prior to 1905
Colonel Goff, Acquerello, anteriore al 1905
Our approach to Florence, toward the sunset, was
perfectly lovely. It reposes in the hollow of many mountains
and hills; and its glorious Dome and Campanile, arched bridges
and palaces, make a rare picture. The atmosphere was so clear
that we saw the lofty Apennines pointing into the sky, and
there was a purply-gold splendor over all.
Longworth Powers' Photograph of Hiram Powers. EBB
spoke of Powers' expressive black eyes.
Fotografia di Hiram Powers di Longworth Powers. EEB ha parlato degli occhi scuri ed espressivi di Powers.
Mr Powers is agreeably simple in his manners, with wonderful great eyes. In his studio, that first morning, I had hurried glimpses of a bust of Mr Sparks, California, and Mrs Ward, and a Psyche with a butterfly as a jewel, clasping the bands of her hair - Proserpine, and many more, all of which I shall be truly glad to contemplate at leisure.
June 6th. - After tea last evening, just at set of
sun, we went out for a walk, and promenaded the whole length
of the Via Fornace, and were soles were greatly consoled by
the broad flat pavement. All the world was in the street in
the warm, rosy twilight. At the end of the Via we came upon a
bridge which crosses the Arno, and a scene of varied beauty
opened upon us. The river was smooth as plate-glass, and all
of Florence that was near it ascended, or rather descended
into the pure depths of the heaven beneath. It was not
possible to tell where the immaterial city began and the
material city ended. All the arches of the bridges became
complete ovals. The thronging crowds, whether they would or
no, became spiritual beings, with bonnets, hats, and
crinolines; and horses that could never be whipped nor be
weary - and carriages that never would raise the dust - passed
in glory below. On the sunset side were golden tings; but our
way tended in the opposite direction, and we were soon
swallowed up between tall houses on our quest of the Duomo.
1002 Firenze. Cattedrale
I had never happened to hear this Duomo described, so that I had not the slightest notion of it, and it struck me as an undreamed-of wonder 1. First the Campanile 2! Campanile and cathedral both appeared to be covered with precious marbles - vast mosaics. As the inside of the church is quite plain, J - declared that 'it was turned outside in'. It was so late, we merely glanced within, but I had enough to do to look at the exterior. We walked entirely round it, as it is in the centre of the piazza, and so we gained an idea of its immense size, as we cannot of St Peter's, which is seen only on the front, and is also dwarfed by the vast square on one side of which it stands. It is, besides, built of unornamented buff travertine. This inlaying, or rather outlaying of various marbles in patterns has a gorgeously rich effect. The forms of the building have also a Gothic diversity, though perhaps there is a certain regularity in the diversity which I did not at once detect. The windows are of Gothic shape, and full of painted glass, which U - , who has been inside, says is superb. All the doors are carved outside with heads of Bishops, Cardinals, Popes, and perhaps Grand dukes. The dome is the largest in the world. I like to record the well-known fact, that when Michel Angelo set forth for Rome to build St Peter's, he looked back at this, and said, 'Like it I will not - better I cannot'. As we walked round, the cathedral seemed to extend indefinitely, like a city in itself, enabling me to perceive its size most satisfactorily.
I should not have supposed that a square tower could be beautiful; but the Campanile is exceedingly so, - all in mosaic, like the Duomo, and nearly three hundred feet high. It rises alone, quite disconnected from the cathedral, and is at the same time grand and beautiful. One of my peerless old masters, Giotto, was its architect, and he designed to have a flame-like spire on its summit. I do not know why it is not there; for I think it would be better even than it is now, if it climbed into the heavens like fire - though to add to it would be like 'painting the rose', and certainly no one should dare to finish Giotto's work. As he left it, so let it remain. How can it have such indefinable grace - a straight tower as it is? Giotto must have diffused his spirit through the stones and lines. One of its bells rang out as we passed - a deep, round, liquid sound, which immediately made me think of the bulbul's note. It was music, dropped through water, - a novel, peculiar, and a sublime tone, worthy of Giotto's Campanile. It was as if the great dome itself had rolled from the soul of its artists, a plure globe of melody, and dropped singing into the sea of space.
The Baptistery 3 is opposite the Cathedral, and I looked a moment at the gate which Michel Angelo said was worthy to be the gate of Paradise. I was well acquainted with the design from the admirable bronzed cast of it in the Crystal Palace; but in the deep twilight I could not see it distinctly.
We returned by way of the Piazza del Gran Duca, and passed the Palazzo Vecchio 8, with its strange old tower, bulging out near the top into a balcony. In front of it are statues, all colossal, and one of them is Micehl Angelo's David, and there is a noble equestrian statue of Cosimo de Medici. It is a relief not to see P.M. after every name - post-master, as some one used always to read it. The Grand Dukes will be quite a pleasant change after the Pontifex Maximus.
On another side of the Piazza are three lofty arches of a wide, high loggia, close upon the Uffizi Palace 10 [spelled here 'Uffizzi' throughout]. Beneath it are statues. On the left of this magnificent Portico we entered the court of the Place, through which the world passes to the Arno. Stately open arcades extend along on each side, which, by day, are filled with gar merchandise; but at this hour they were empty and solemn, and sentinels were pacing up and down. It must be a nice place to shop, on a hot or rainy day. Between the arches are niches, in which stand marble statues of Florentine heroes, artists, statesmen, and poets; and above are the halls, where we are to wander and muse on masterpieces of genius.
As we issued from the dim shade of the court, the golden light and the transparent mirror of the Arno burst upon us like a symphony, and now our way was toward the west, still glowing, with one star brilliant over the central arch of a bridge, making the apex of an invisible pyramid. All being reflected, there was also a pyramid below, each pointed by the star, so that the ovals of the arches and the pyramids were in a lovely struggle together.
The Lungarno was lighted with gas along its whole extent, making a cornice of glittering gems, converging in the distance, and the reflection of the illumianted border below made a fairy show. No painting, and scarcely a dream could equal the magical beauty of the scene. Florence is as enchanting as I expected. It is a place to live and be happy in - so cheerful, so full of art, and so well paved.
It is delicious weather today, and the air is full of the songs of birds. The merlins are in choir over against our terrace, in a wood of the Torrigiani Gardens. The marble busts, on their pedetsals, seem to enjoy themselves in the bosky shade. The green lizards run across the parapet, and to exist is a joy. J. is drawing Pericles, in his little study from a fine photograph of the marble in the Vatican. U. is reading Tennyson, looking moony in white muslin. R. is playing with Stella, who is very good, though not as bright as a star. Mr. H. is luxuriating down in the garden, buried up in roses and jessamine. 'If the air stirs, it can only be by two contending butterflies', as Jean Paul says.
Generally, in these palatial houses, there is a rez chausses first, then an entresol, and then what is called the first piano, and so on to the top. In this is no entresol. We enter a great arched door into a hall, along which pots of flowers are set, leading straight into the garden, whose delicious green shrubbery we see through an open iron gate. On the left of the entrance is the lodge of the porter. Midway on the right is the great staircase, and farther on there are other rooms for servants and stores. The legend of this Casa del Bello is, that there was a chief of the house so beautiful - the handsomest man in Florence - that he acquired the sobriquet of Il Bello.
June 7th. - Yesterday I was interrupted in writing by the announcement of Mr Powers. He made us a delightful and edifying call, of more than two hours. He expounded his ideas of form, and said that color was nothing needful to expression. He seemed to think there were no good busts, except that of Caracalla, and he said Canova always modelled himself.
June 8th. We have been to the hotel New York,
to call on the Bryants - * * * * * and afterward Mrs Powers
took me to see Casa Guidi 29, and the palace of Bianca Capello, the bronze
boar, and other things. We crossed the Ponte di St Trinità,
and the Arno was pale green, very grateful to the eyes after
the yellow muddy color of the Tiber; but I should not like to
hear anyone speaking slightingly of the Tiber.
Pen Browning, Elizabeth's son, born in Florence, 9 March 1849
Pen Browning, figlio di Elizabeth, nato a Firenze il 9 marzo 1849
June 8th. - This day has been memorable by my seeing
Mr and Mrs Browning for the first time. At noon Mr Browning
called upon us. * * * * * His grasp of the hand gives new
value to life, revealing so much fervor and sincerity of
nature. He invited us most cordially to go at eight and spend
the evening. * * * * * and so at eight we went to the
illustrious Casa Guidi. We found a little boy in an upper
hall, with a servant. I asked him if he were Pennini, and he
said 'Yes'. In the dim light he looked like a wiaf of poetry,
drifted up into the dark corner, with long, curling, brown
hair and buff silk tunic, embroidered with white. He took us
through an ante-room, into the drawing-room, and out upon the
balcony. In a brighter light he was lovelier still, with brown
eyes, fair skin, and a slender, graceful figure. In a moment
Mr Browning appeared, and welcomed us cordially. In a church
near by, opposite the house, a melodious choir was chanting.
The balcony was full of flowers in vases, growing and
blooming. In the dark blue fields of space overhead, the
stars, flowers of light, were also blossoming, one by one, as
evening deepened. The music, the stars, the flowers, Mr
Browning and his child, all combined to entrance my wits.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Michele Gordigiani, 1858
Then Mrs Browning came out to us - very small, delicate, dark and expressive. She looked like a spirit. A cloud of hair falls on each side her face in curls, so as partly to veil her features. But out of the veil look sweet, sad eyes, musing and far-seeing and weird. Her fairy fingers seem too airy to hold, and yet their pressure was very firm and strong. The smallest possible amount of substance encloses her soul, and every particle of it is infused with heart and intellect. I was never conscious of so little unredeemed, perishable dust in any human being. I gave her a branch of small pink roses, twelve on the stem, in various stages of bloom, which I had plucked from our terrace vine, and she fastened it in her black-velvet dress with most lovely effect to her whole aspect. Such roses were fit emblems of her.
Casa Guidi, by George Mignaty, 1861
We soon returned to the drawing-room - a lofty, spacious apartment, hung with gobelin tapestry and pictures, and filled with carved furniture and objects of vertù. Everything harmonized - Poet, Poetess, child, house, the rich air and the starry night. Pennini was an Ariel, flitting about, gentle, tricksy, and intellectual - but it rather disturbed my dream 'of the golden prime of the good Haroun Alraschid' to have a certain Mr and Mrs E. come in, and then Mr B. and his daughter. Mr B. is always welcome to the eye, with his snowdrift of beard and hair, and handsome face; but he looked too inflexible and hard for that society. The three poets, Mr Browning, Mr B. and Mr Hawthorne, both their heads together in a triangle, and talked a great deal, while Mrs E. told me what an angel Mrs Browning is; and Mr E. talked to Ada, who looked charmingly, in white muslin and blue ribbons - her face a gleam of delight, because she was so glad to be at Casa Guidi. Tea was brought and served on a long, narrow table, placed before a sofa, and Mrs Browning presided, assisted by Mrs E. We all gathered at this table. Pennini handed about the cake, graceful as Ganymede. Mr Browning introduced the subject of psiritism, and there was an animated talk. Mr Browning cannot believe, and Mrs Browning cannot help believing. They kindly expressed regret that they were going to the seaside in a few weeks, since we were to stay in Florence, and hoped to find us here on their return. Mrs Browning wished me to take U. to see her, and Mr Browning exclaimed, 'You must send Pennini to see their boy - such a fine creature! with eyes kindling - Pennini must see him, and the little R, a dearest little thing'. This I record for my children's sake, hereafter.
Uffizi 10 and Pitti 29 Palaces
June 9th. - Today U., Ada and I went to the Uffizi and Pitti Palaces. I have now taken my first glance at the Venus de Medici, Raphael's Fornarina, Titian's Venus, Julius Second, the Madonna della Seggiola and dell'Impannata. We were very deliberately going through with the Uffizi, when we met Mr Rothermel, who said that this was the only day when the apartments of the Grand Duke could be seen at the Pitti Palace, and he counselled us to go. It was now one o'clock, yet, having no conception what unheard-of splendors might be in store for us there, we concluded to brave the noon sun, and go. The loggia of the great court was hung with superb gobelin tapestries, and crimson silk and gold, and the balconies were draped with the same. One of the tapestries was Raphael's Heliodorus, filling the end of a loggia, as brilliant as color could make it. The story of Esther was on one whole side, and on the pilasters, between the open arches, were narrow groups, all of the gobelin arras.
Besides the Great Cortile, there was another smaller one, entered by a corridor, which was adorned with tapestry of the same kind, and this little court also blazed with red and gold, and woven pictures. It was all good to behold, but Mr Rothermel was mistaken about the ducal partments, which cannot be still till to-morrow, and so we returned to the picture galleries again. Yet no sooner were we there, than Mrs Mountford came up to say that they were making a flower-carpet in the Great Court, which we must see in its first freshness, and, very grateful to her, we immediately hurried down. To be sure, twenty or more men were at work, weaving a wonderful tissue, composed of petals of flowers, and leaves of box. The pattern was carefully chalked upon the flat flag-stones, and the men were rapidly filling in the forms with separate colors. Each of their baskets contained petals of one hue, and they, being perfectly instructed in what they were to accomplish, moved about, scattering blue, or red, or purple, or yellow petals in each defined division, so quickly and accurately, that like a vision, the gorgeous carpet soon was spread over the stones. Its life was preserved bright and fresh by the continual sprinkling of water from many watering-pots, which also made the petal heavy, so that the breeze would not blow them out of their places. The gragrance was delicious, and can antyhing be fancied more preciously beautiful than such a carpet? for its evanescence, in this case, added to its value. Such prodigality of richness just for a few hours - at the expense of so much toil! It was like carving and painting for the Lord, with the single purpose of worship; for it was Corpus-Christi day, and the body of the Saviour was to pass over it - and the procession would inevitably destroy all the cunning workmanship. Thousands of wax-candles, in prismatic chandeliers, and in candelabras, placed in front of mirrors, with crystal pendants, were to light up the scene. As these chandeliers, composed of prisms, vibrated, they reflected the crimson tints of the surrounding silk hangings, and so looked like rubies flashing, even by daylight.
'La Tribuna degli Uffizi' (1772-78) di Johann Zoffany. (10)
I was sorry to find the Venus de Medici with so many other sculptures and pictures. I always though it had been alone in the Tribune, or nearly so, with only Raphael's Fornarina and Titian's Venus. But it is crowded, and its outline interrupted by all kinds of background. Yet its beauty equalled my jopes, and I can scarcely say more. It is not in such perfect, unsullied condition as the Apollo, but is evidently an Olympian like him, and the dignity of a goddess is in her air. By a cunning art in the modelling of the eyes, a singular depth and indrawing sweetness is given by the expression, and an effect of motion, as from the action of long lashes, or the glimmering of water, - wholly unprecedented in any other sculptured eyes I have seen before. It gives an irresistable attraction to the face. At the same time the loftiness of her mien makes a too familiar approach impossible. The slight bend of the figure suggests the immortal curve of which Ruskin speaks, while the erect line of the brow gives a commanding aspect. Bernini has put on some of his ranting hands, and the fingers are singularly contorted, bending in and out in an extravagant manner. He should never have meddled with anything Greek - especially, he should never have touched the statue that
enchants the world.No cast or copy conveys any idea of it to the eye of one who has not seen it. Life, emotion, instant thought, vary it every moment, - a movement in perpetual rest. The soul of the artist must have been of kindred delicacy, or he could not have so clothed it with maidenly modesty. This modesty becomes a complete veil, and it is an evidence that the inward sentiment is all that is essential, and no outwards condition whatever, to show the character; - character - that mysterious entity that no covering can hide and no nudity expose, for it is a presence that nothing can modify. Now I have seen the most beautiful Apollo, the most beautiful Minerva, and the most beautiful Venus in the word. I have heard that the Venus de Milo is thought more noble. But in the Venus we want Beauty - not Nobleness - to predominate. Pure nobleness is for Minerva. The Goddess of Beauty certainly should win and enchant, not strike with awe, except that there must always be a degree of awfulness in such purity as this expresses. But I have seen the Venus of Milo in the Louvre, and she looks proud and not quite amiable. There is grandeur in her mien and a noble beauty in her form; but she has not an attractive, irresistable fascination. I looked at it for hours, and having heard that the motive of the design had not yet been discovered, I set about trying to find it out. I tried so vehemently, that for a long time I was wholly at a loss; but suddently glancing at it without purpose, I though I plainly saw what the action was. As both arms are gone, it was at first difficult to perceive, but I am sure she is taking the apple from Paris. There is disdain in her air and curled lips, that any questions whould have arisen concerning the pre-eminence of her claim; and an assurance, also, that Paris would not hesitate. Easy, haughty triumph is in the attitude and look - almost a scornful smile, which must have been highly exasperating to the irascible Juno. The moment I saw it all, I wondered that there could ever have been a doubt about the intention of the artist, and now I wish I could know, undeniably, whether I am right or wrong. She seems to be drawing back a little, while she extends her hand for the prize, as if she inwardly despised to accept the proof of so self-evident a thing as her superior beauty. The Venus de Medici has more winning sweetness and unconscious charm, I think.
I next search for Raphael's Fornarina, which I immediately found, and a man was attempting to copy it. How worse than foolish it is for any one to try to copy Raphael! Always the touch divine is omitted - the soul, the meaning are not seized, and all are deceived by the copyists, who do not see the original picture. This Fornarina exceeds my expectations even, for, though I though I should find rich beauty, I did not suppose, from copies and engravings, that there was such purity of expression in the exquisite mouth. The Fornarina of the Barberini Palace, I never liked, as I have elsewhere recorded. She is bold, saucy, and earthly, though not so full in form as this. This has a sumptious fulness. The eyes are sweet and arch, the cheeks like pomegranates for richness of color, and it has the depth of hues of Titian or Pimobo; yet, with all the glory of tint and roundness of proportions, there is the delicacy and vernal sentiment of womanhood, which Titian never attained, and Raphael alone fully rendered. In copies, I have thought it an enitrely handsome person, rather robust and buxom. In the original, the face transfigures the rest, She is beautiful and lovable, spirited, warm, tender, and strong, glowing with Italian sunshine in perfect bloom. Of this wonderful picture the copyist was making a vulgar woman.
After two nearly complete exhaustions upon these masterpieces, I was arrested by another, a Madonna with the Infant and St John. It resembles Raphael's earlier manner. There is a trace of Perugino in its color and expression, but it is Raphael, and no other possible person who painted the picture. It is a sacred face of maternity - woman, without a shadow of earth upon her, with something of the delicate tints of Fra Angelico's angels. The lides are cast down; for her eyes rest upon the blessed Child. Her serene brow is like a cloudless dawn, and her pale gold hair around it like a faint, amber cloud, which the unrisen or invisible sun is suffusing with light. Not even the first of her seven sorrows has yet disturbed the peace of her lovely mouth. Titian's Venuses, after this and the marble Venus, were really intolerable, positively disagreeable to me - nay, really indecent; for they are not goddesses - not womanhood - not materity - not maidenhood, but nude female figures.
I did not really see anything in the Tribune this morning excepting the Venus de Medici, the Fornarina, Raphael's Madonna, and Titian's Venuses. Oh yes; I saw the Slave Whetting his Knife - a powerful, earnest, truthful form and face, but a singular subject for sculpture. It must have a significance not yet fancied or understood.
I remember particularly to-day a marble bust of Lorenzo the Magnificent, which is monstrous in ugliness; and afterwards an oil picture of him equally repulsive. The face is clever, but very evil. A bold, bad man he looks to have been. How my dream of this prince is dispelled! To be sure, the Medici were no princes, but doctors originally, and Sismondi gives no good character of Lorenzo; yet I supposed him grand and comely in appearance. The degree to which ugliness culminates in these old civilizations is fearful and suggestive. Ages of crime sometimes seem to be concentrated in one countenance. The baby Nero, however, whom I saw to-day, looked innocent, and opposite the infant-bust was the full-grown Emperor, revolting to behold, as if it needed but one life to develop the depravity. The inherited tendencies of the babe were doubtless downward, and his mother did not win him upward, but drove him deeper into sin as he grew older. Yet Nero, at his worst, looke like a great self-indulgent, pampered boy, while Lorenzo is, apparantly, an incarnation of complicated, well-planned wickedness, and when only a week old he could hardly have had a sweet and guileless expression.
The Madonna della Seggiola surpasses entirely all copies in oil and all engravings.An artist was at work before it, and had succeeded a little with the infant Christ; but had wholly missed the young mother. In the faces of this masterpiece there is a singular pensiveness - not so profound and sublime as in the Dresden Madonna; but a tender, meditative, shadowed sentiment - delicate, fine, and pathetic. Mary may be musing over the mysterious words of Simeon; and the loving caress with which she bends her cheek to the child, and clasps him so closely, seems to express, 'He is mine - take him not from me! Let not that sword separate me, O Lord!' Yet there is also an all-absorbing content in the attitude and glance - a certainty of bliss so great that the fear may arise that it cannot last. There is far more prophecy of the worship of sorrow in the face of Jesus than in that of May, and the rapture of love in little John's eyes is suffused with tearfulness. The babe is grand. In the Madonna is a penetrating sweetness that I believe I have seen in no other, though I had thought there could be no more complete expression of it than in some of his other Holy Families. This is sweeter than the sweetest, and distances all hope of imitation. Somewhere the drawing, the color, the life, fail in all copies. So many are the applicants to paint this picture that they are five years deep. Every day I grow more and more amazed at the genius of Raphael. It gets to be miraculous. This work transcends any power I possess of conveying it to the mind of another. My words seem poor rags, with which I endeavor to clothe the idea - heaps of rags - the more I try, the larger the heaps. At each separate one of the works I exclaim, 'What! another new fact!' - which I isntantly perceive must be Raphael's, yet as new as each separate soul is new, and unlike all other souls. Color, form, expression, grace - each equal to each, and all best. What an eye, what a hand, what a heart, and what an intellect must his have been, and how we know him at once, though there is no mannerism in his style! We know him, because he is superior to all, and there is no fault. We may find some lesser or greater shortcomings in others; but Raphael cannot be criticised. We only must be thankful that we have eyes to see what he has done, and some degree of capacity to appreciate it.
Let me not forget to record, however, another wonder I met with to-day - Fra Angelico's Madonna and Child, of life-size, surrounded with angels in choir [now in the San Marco Museum]. It is in three parts - a tryptich - and on the folding doors are saints. The backgrounds are gold. The wreath of angels, each one with a different instrument of music, and one, over Mary's head, with hands folded in prayer, are worthy of the holy Friar. I do not know in what he dips his pencil, unless in the rainbow; but the robes of this celestial band are glorious in color; gold cirlces are round their heads, fretted with poits that catch the light - a brighter gold than gold. Their hair is still another shade, and their instruments also are gold, and their wings purple and crimson and azure, mingled with plumes of shining gold. The hues of their faces have his peculiar transparency and softness of tint; and it must be the complexion of celestial beings, for there is no earth in it. The grace, splendor, and state of this garland of divine choristers give an idea of the heavenly world, which Fra Angelico alone reveals. The Virgin Mary sits in the centre, with the babe standing upon her knee, with both little arms extended in blessing. From his fair face and blue eyes suns seem to radiate and actually dazzle. He is the Sun of Righteousness, delineated with the pencil of a mortal saint, and this Sun is all made up of Love - good-will to man. How can any one believe in an angry, avenging Deity who looks upon this true revelation of the Father? How paltry are words in the presence of such an apocalypse of boundless grace to all! Two artists were each copying an ange, and their backgrounds being fresh gold just laid on, showed how gorgeous the original picture must have been when first executed. When Fra Angelico first unfolded the doors of the tryptich, the beholder must have thought the heavens opened upon him, with the sound of sackbut, psaltery, harp, and soft recorders, blown by the breath and touched wuth the fingers of glorious angels, in accompaniment to the world-wide blessing, that blazes in starry beams from the countenance of the express image of his Father.
At the Pitti Palace I saw two Holy Families of Murillo, in his peasant style. One is quite the peasant - the other is somewhat transfigured, and the eyes are musing, absent, and dreamy - the expression most pure and sweet. The child is a lovely little baby, but not the infant Christ. The 'Bella' of Titian is rich in color, with a neck and bosom of exquisite beauty, but the Venetian school has, I think, no spirituality. It is all sense, with whatever sense can manifest of magnificence and sumptuousness - not one ray from heaven, however, by any chance. So my observation has been, thus far.
June 10th. - We went to the Pitti this morning early, to see the tapestries in the great court, and the wrecks, perhaps, of the flower carpet; and also, if possible, the Grand Ducal private apartments. Nearly all the arras had been removed, and the flower-carpet was utterly dont; but we gained admittance into the palace: - first, into the Entrance Hall of Stuccoes, long, wide, and lofty - the walls and arched ceilings covered with stucco figures and ornaments of every device. In the centre, a door upon the right admitted us to another ante-room, equally lofty, and not so large, entirely painted in fresco by Porchetti (or Porcetti); but the custode did not tell us what subjects were illustrated. Now the guard took out his keys, and unlocked a door and ushered us into a bedchamber, high, but small, - the walls hung with satin damask of deep dahlia-red, illumined with lines of bright gold. The bed, doors, and windows were hung with the same material. It is a fine custom of these southern kingdoms to drape the doors with sweeping folds. It probably obtains all over Europe.
The next room was hung with gobelin tapestry - one whole side a charming scene of gardening and husbandry, carried on by a troup of little genii of loveliest baby-forms and sweet faces, all full of earnestness, and as busy as so many bees. They made labor soar and sing. The brilliant, fresh coloring, the careful drawing, and living expression of these tapestries amazed me; for the softest, roun cheek is rendered as by enamel-painting. Several apartments followed one another, filled with similar beautiful hangings - sometimes landscapes; and one was particularly delicate in its aerial perspective. In England, and even in Rome, the arras we saw was always somewhat faded; but these were as radiant as if this moment woven. Every room contained tables of Florentine mosaic, in pietra dura, as well as of the most precious marbles; and superb cabinets of ebony, with small columns of oriental alabaster and of lapis-lazuli, and of the rare Blue John (which however is purple) - inlaid with flowers, birds, and shells, composed of pearls and gems, in infinitely varied devices, and with no end of beauty. Each cabinet differed from every other in form, and they were of all varieties of substance. The flowers can never fade that are composed of jewels and marbles - lilies, passion-flowers, roses, jessamines, morning-glories, trailing in long vines with lapis-lazuli petals, forget-me-nots of turquoise, and other blossoms of earth, together with birds of the air, involved in graceful arabesques, winding and wreathing about. After the tapestries ceased, velvet and satin-damask took their place, so thick and solid that my hand could scarcely clutch it. It had the thickness and richness of Genoa velvet, with the sheen of the satin added - woven into flowers and leaves, like embossed work. Just fancy the walls made up of this gorgeousness, and full, trailing curtains at all the doors and windows.
At last we came to the chamber of the Grand Duchess.
The bed was hung with white satin, heavily embroidered with
gold - the satin seeming to be an eighth of an inch in
thickness. The walls, windows, and doors, were draped with
light-blue saint and gold - as well as the chairs and couches.
On the toilet, were candlesticks entirely of flowers in
wreaths, in enamel. A chandelier of the same design hung from
the centre of the frescoed ceiling. A prie-dieu, near
the bed, was inlaid with pietra dura and gems, and cushioned
with white satin rayed with gold. But the dressing-room! On a
marble table, of Greek form, stood a small gothic-shaped
glass, framed in enamelled flowers. Tabourets of white satin,
embroidered with flowers, stood against the walls, which were
encased in azure damask. And so we went on, in splendid mazes
lost, till we opened upon an ante-room or hall of audience,
and then I supposed we were at the end. But behold! the
custode unlocked another door, and we began upon a suite of
winter-apartments, which were carpeted. Our feet seemed
sinking in deep moss, and we crushed down fresh blooming
flowers at every step. Hitherto we had walked over marble and
inlaid floors. Now, each room showed a new variety of carpet -
a new color for groundwork, and new designs elaborated upon
it. In each was also a clock of some rare device. One was made
entirely of gold and Blue John. Some were of gold and oriental
alabaster, and all were clicking. One struck while we were
near by, and it was like fairy music. The cabinets seemed to
become more and more superb, and the tables richer, as we went
on. In the Grand Duke's bedroom hung the only oil painting we
saw, a Madonna by Carlo Dolce, a replica of the original one,
in the Borghese Palace in Rome, entirely different from any
other Madonna, very beautiful and highly finished. Wonderful
eyes has the Virgin, with tender, deep shadows, as from long
lashes. I like it extremely at Rome, but this is more lovely
still. The prie-dieu here was particularly exquisite, in
Florentine mosaic, and one table in the room had marvellous
groups of faces and figures, inlaid. Inlaying certainly can go
no further than in the Florentine work. The walls of all the
winter-suite were covered with satin and velvet damask - one
was again entirely azure. At the close, we entered upon a hall
surrounded with marble statues, in niches, where, I think, the
custode said the Academy of Arts hold meetings, and this
opened upon a cabinet of antique sculpture - one Apollo there
greatly resembling our friend the Count O'S. And now we had
really finished the circuit. * * * * *
Casa Guidi, by George Mignaty, 1861
At one o'clock I took U and R to Casa Guidi, to see Mrs Browning. She does not see people till eight in the evening, but as R is fast asleep at that hour, she requested me to come at one with her. We rang a great while, and no one answered the bell, but presently a woman came up the staircase and admitted us; but she was surprised that we expected to see Mrs Browning at such a time. I gave her my credentials, and so she invited us to follow her in. We found the wondrous lady in her drawing-room, very pale and looking ill, yet she received us affectionately, and was deeply interesting, as usual. She took R into her lap, and seemed to enjoy talking to and looking at her, as well as at U. She said, 'Oh how rich and happy you are to have two daughters, a son, and such a husband!' Her boy was gone to his music-master's, which I was very sorry for, but we saw two pictures of him. Mrs Browning said he had a vocation for music, but did not like to apply to anything else any more than a butterfly, and the only way she could command his attentiion was to have him upon her knees, and hold his hands and feet. He knows German pretty well already, and Italian perfectly, being born a Florentine. * * *
I was afraid to say long, or to have Mrs Browning talk, because she looked so pale, and seemed so much exhuasted, and I perceived that the motion of R's fan distressed her. I do not understand how she can live long, or be at all restored while she does live. I ought rather to say that she lives so ardently that her delicate earthly vesture must soon be burnt up and destroyed by her soul of pure fire.
Soon after five I took R to the Boboli gardens 28. They are open to the public two days in the week. We soon found a lake with swans, and R did not wish to go a step farther, and so I sat down on a marble seat, while she watched the majestic creatures. The grounds extend for an immense distance, and include hill, plain and valley, groves, avenues, lawns, fountains, lakes, islands, statues, flowers, conservatories - impenetrable shades and sunny open spaces - extensive views from the heights - temples, bowers, grottoes - in short, 'enormous bliss' of every green, flowery, and bosky kind. They are the gardens of the palace, and have an entrace nearer to our Casa del Bello. In the swans' lake was a rough rock, upon which sat a marble Ariadne, stretching out her fair arms wildly for help against a horrible green dragon, who was creeping out of the water on one side, while an enormous frog - probably antidiluvian - was opening his jaws upon her from the other. * * * * *
From Susan Horner's Diary. Courtesy, Alyson Price, Archivist, British Institute, Florence
June 12th. - We set forth for the Pitti Gallery this morning, and first went into Mrs Powers' to leave R for a visit. We found Mr Powers, and had a very interesting call. He took us into all his many rooms, and gave us a great deal of instruction in the human face and form. I was surprised to find that he never models his ideal heads and statues in clay, but cuts them out of plaster, so that his models never crumble, and can be brought to any degree of perfection he chooses. He had a figure of Milton's Penserosa, with 'looks commercing with the skies', of the heroic size, and very majestic and impressive - an extraordinary light in the eyes - a rapturous gleam, which one would not have supposed possible to give without the iris and the sheen of color. But his belief and theory is that every effect can be given by pure form, and he seems to prove it very well. He has studied anatomy, and observed nature most carefully, and thinks he has found truth upon which to stand and work and expound. He says he not only render the glance of the eyes, but indicate the firection of the beam, so that one can put one's self in the line of sight and meet the look. Perhaps we thought the iris was only a part of the smooth surface of the bal, and, to show us the contrary, he closed his lids and moved the iris back and forth beneath them, and we saw immediately that it was raised from the ball and moved, a perceptible globe, over it. Therefore, whenever the ris might be upon the ball, it would slightly raise the lid in that spot, and this should always be attended to in modelling, for it indicated the posiiton and direction of the glance. He said, also, that the elevation or depression of the lachrymal gland showed the way the eye turned, and he bade us look at his own. We saw that if he looked to the right, the little gland in the corner of the eye, next the nose, was higher in the right eye and depressed in the left, and that very seldom was this gland modelled at all, instead of being carefully distinguished. His own ideal busts proved his laws, all obeyed; and, under the light of his expositions, it was very interesting to examine them anew. He told us also that the skin round the mouth was knitted over the lips in its own cunning way, separating the roseate color from the white cuticle. This he found in nature, but never found it imitated in sculpture till he did it himself. The ear, also, he said, was generally neglected, while it was a very beautiful part, when well formed; and the ears of his own heads proved how exquisite it could be. W.S. had said that Mr Powers had but one type, and there was no variety in his ideal faces and forms. I found this to be an unjust remark. There is an entire difference between them. Prosperine has a face tender and emotional, with the pure sentiment of womanhood - a little pensive, with prophecy of future sweet cares, blooming with changing rose-hues, affectionate, ready for tears and for smiles, - ideal girlhood, developing into higher experience. It is a dewy, blushing, tendril-like in affections. A wreath of wheat is wound round her head, blending with the bands of hair, which are gathered in a rich knot, and then fall upon the neck. For such a daughter Ceres might well search with an immortal sorrow.
Nearby this is Psyche, a conception of pure soul, without relation to persons or time. It is eternal youth, and one cannot determine the degree of youthfulness, because it is not young, but youth. The eyes look straight forward with a clear, serene, self-centred expression. They demand no sympathy or responsive, loving glance, like the soft. liquid eyes of Prosperine. They seem to look into the source of light without surprise and without blenching, lofty and steady. Her hair, folded on her brow in the Olympian style, is fastened there by a butterfly, like a jewel - emblem of the soul. It is a face niether pensive nor joyful, neither for smiles nor for tears, but superior to our regards and content in itself: not arrogant, but lofty; not cold, but calm and collected, and soft only through perfect beauty and a plastic power. Such is Psyche. And Psyche differs again wholly from Diana, which is in the same room. Diana is of heroic size. She has the cold, distant air of a queen and goddess. She is not soul, but only a part of its soul - its chastity. A slight Hyperion scorn is in her mouth. She has nothing to do with mortals, but is accustomed to hold her highway among the courses of the stars, with the constellations for her maids of honor. She steps only on the adamantine floors of heaven, and her brow is caressed only by the blue ether, in fathomless spaces above. Even now she turns aside her face with a fine and delicate disdain of what may meet her indifferent glance here below. She wears a coronet with stars and a crescent, and a richly sculptured baldric holds her drapery over her shoulders. Who can say that Diana is like the Proserpine or the Psyche?
Eve looks primal. There is not one hour's experience in her new soul, beaming out of her large, innocent eyes. I am sure she has not yet tasted the apple she holds in her hand, and knows nothing whatever about good and evil. But I did not observe Eve sufficiently to-day, and intend to see it another time.
Mr Powers showed us a machine in which he cuts and finishes the separate parts of his statues. If he wishes to elaborate a hand, he takes if off the arm, and puts it in a vice, and turns it to ever light and point of view, and then fastens it again to the figure; and so with each portion. He is a genius of machanics as well as at sculpture, and has invented and made various tools, and machines for fashioning the tools, and for effecting manifold processes. He has made an instrument for scooping or punching a clearly cut hole in a thick piece of iron, in which he has concentrated sixty thousand pounds weight of power into his own individual amount of power; so that by leaning upon a spike or pivot for a second, without perceptibly great effort, the hole is punched. This saves the time used for drilling. Enormous labor, expense, and time were all saved - I forgot in what proportions. He has also invented a file or grater, which frees itself perpectualy from the clogging of the substance grated, so as to work clear, without trouble; and this, he said, was 'firstrate for culinary purposes', as well as for grating his statues. After exhibiting to us all his inventions and productions visible round about, he asked us if we had seen the little hand. No, we had only heard of it. So he brought out 'the little hand' - the hand of his daughter Louisa, when five months old. All the hands of babies are pretty, but Louisa's is peculiarly so. It bears the palm; and her father has carved a perfect fac-simile. It is outstretched, with lovely taper fingers, every nail rendered exactly, and the effect of the delicate skin given, with the folds over the knuckles, and the deep crease round the plump wrist. This little hand comes forth from a cuff, as it were - or ruffle of beautifully sculpted leaves, which fall back from it.
I think we must have stayed more than an hour, yet we were not tired of it, though the pitty was in store for us; and it was after eleven when we arrived at the Palace.
I saw today, for the first time, the Madonna del Baldecchino of Raphael. I do not like the face of the Virgin so well as that of many others, but it is lovely, and the whole picture is a superb one - with saints and angels, and low in fron the Chanting Cherubs, which Greenough so exactly copied in marble. According to Mr Mozier, of Rome, Greenough never originated the slightest thing, but copied the antique, and embodied detailed descriptions of antique statues, now not extant, and put into marble painted figures, like these cherubs. Here are these, at any rate, perfectly familiar to me through Greenough's group, which I saw so many years ago in Boston, and always supposed his own conception. No one ever told me they were copies.
Mary sits enthroned, with the child, beneath a canopy or baldecchino, the folds of which are held back by two angels, floating above. Four fathers of the Church, two on each side, stand by the throne and the little choristers are in the foreground. In the same saloon is a small and wonderful picture by Raphael, of the Vision of Ezekiel: 'He rode upon a cherub and did fly'. The Almighty is upborne by the mysterious, complex shapes. The effect of the whole is sublime, and I cannot tell how or why, except that Raphael has rendered what the prophet saw, and we kindle to read. It is grand, bast, incomprehensible, yet all comprised in a space no larger than this page (small letter-paper), showing that size is not necessary element of grandeur. Both this and the Baldecchino will be good for study.
To-day I saw also Michel Angelo's Three Fates; and I needed more than one pair of eyes to gaze, for I had all my life wished to see it. An artist was copying it badly, which is a pity; for his copy will deceive somebody, who will suppose it like the original. Mr Emerson has a copy, but I cannot recall that vividly enough to compare it with Michel Angelo's. The weird sister who stands in the middle seemed to me to have a slight compunction in her mouth and eyes, but Mr Hawthorne said she had not to him, and that 'if she had, she would not be a Fate, but a Providence'. I think the other two are pitiless enough, however. They are as hard as metal. One, she who holds th distaff, and has spun the thread, is crying out. Or I think she holds the distaff, and the central sister has spun the thread, which the third one is about to clip. I cannot help seeing a little softness in the mouth of her who holds the slender thread of life. It is the clipper who looks merciless and stony. It seems as if the distaff-holder were enraged that the substance she has supplied should be wasted, and that the thread-holder regrets that the cunningly twisted filament should be snapped asunder. It is a work of mighty power and expression, rendered with the same single regard to truth and indifference to comeliness, which the great artist so often manifested. It reminded me of the statue of an old woman at the Capitol in Rome - thought to be Hecuba or a Sibyl - an antique, and painfully like a despairing or oracle-mad old prophetess, opposed to the usual tranquil Greek sculptures.
Raphael's Madonna del Gran Duca, never seen out of the royal private apartments, except when some one is copying it, was visible to-day. She stands, holding the infant. Her face is fair, and more like Perugino or Fra Angelico in form, color, and expression, but yet unmistakably Raphael.
Just as I was about leaving the palace, I discovered a Madonna adoring the Infant by Perugino, one of the divinest I have yet seen by him. I shall have great profit and solace in that picture henceforth.
There is a large round table in one of the saloons of fabylous magnificence. The ground of the mosaic is lapis-lazuli, and on that srich substance every graceful flower and fancy is inlaid with precious stones. So in a corridor running from one apartment to another are closed cabinets of Venetian glass and ivory carvings of almost impossible delicacy; and on the wall hang pictures composed of pietra dura - one the Pantheon at Rome - very superb - and two, representing great beauty of expression and grace of form, in which the immitagable stone is made to flow, apparently, at the determined will of genius.
This afternoon I took a carriage to make calls on the Lung'Arno, with Ada and the children; but finding no one at home, we drove to the Cascine, the Hyde Park of Florence, and found it very delicious. It is outside the gates, and consists of long carriage-drives, deeply shaded with noble trees, lovely park-like groves, sunny lawns, fountains and shrubbery; and one side afar mountains crowned with cities, and fringed with villages, and a delightful odor of flowers diffused through all.
June 14th. - This morning we spent at the Uffizi 11. We first sat down in the vestibule to look at the marble busts of the Medici which surround it. Alas! what presentments! Gaston, 'smothered in his own wig', as Mr Hawthorne truly said, has also a face and air in perfect harmony with the bravery of his wig - the truculent mien of a turkeycock - the head thrown back, the nose in the shape of a gallop - an immense assumption of importance, not borne out by any intellectual superiority. Lorenzo has none of this pomposity; but a very broad head, and an equally broad face, with an expression of power, unscrupulousness, and complexity - ambitious, ignoble, and cruel. Leopold, son of Cosimo, is almost monstrous. From an admirable economy in nature, what should have been brain is, in Leopold, under lip, certainly the biggest I ever beheld in a white man, and as coarse as a negro's. There are two others who also have an African coarseness of contour, and there is but one who is respectable in aspect - one Ferdinand. Such men as these ruled my beautiful Florence! the flower of cities, the most highly cultivated of communities, the very rose of civilization. Florence must have done very wrong to deserve so severe a punishement.
The first Medici to be Duke of Florence was Alessandro, son of illegitimate Giulio de Medici who became Cardinal, then Pope Clement VII, and grandson of the murdered Giuliano de Medici, and of a black slave mother, Simonetta, though he was claimed as the son of Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino, and raised as the brother of Catherine de Medici who became Queen of France. Following his own murder, he was buried in the Michelangelo tomb together with his supposed father, Lorenzo, and opposite that of his grandfather, Giuliano. From him descended the subsequent ducal Medici rulers of Florence and Tuscany.
A few weeks ago the crypt of the Medicean chapel was opened, and the dead bodies of these grim prince-doctors were visible, because they had been enbalmed 20. Conceive the idea of trying to preserve the dead bodies of such frightful-looking persons - of being anxious to keep forever that under lip, for instance! I should have like to see Lorenzo for a flitting instant, because he was so famous; but I am glad, on the whole, that I escaped the ghastly show.
The charming group of Silenus, with the infant
Bacchus in his arms, stands in the vestibule, on one side the
door. It is in bronze. I was acquainted with it in marble in
the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican, and it is most beautiful, in
whatever material - one of the antique masterpieces. Very
finely-cut ancient bas-reliefs of marble are inserted in the
walls of the room - noble, heroic, draped figures of Roman
times. In an inner ante-room is the Medicean boar, and dogs
and a marble horse, and busts of the Roman emperors, old
acquaintances of ours. Then we entered the long gallery of marble busts and groups, and specimens of the old oil-painters from Cimabue. Here we paused before Fra Angelico's Tryptich - the Madonna, surrounded by the Choral Angels. I found that there are two in a devout attitude over her head - one with hands joined palm to palm, the other with arms crossed over the bosom. The artists were not arrived yet, and so we could not see the splendor of the new gold. On our return, however, they were painting, and they had commenced two other copies, one of them exceedingly beautiful. I should like to possess such good copies as these, and set up an angel in each room of our house.
We remained a long while in the Tribune, and I saw there, for the first time, Michel Angelo's Holy Family. Mary sits on the ground, and is lifting the infant to Joseph, who is behind her. The child is grand, and Joseph is fine, but Mary is too plain and old. The noble Samian Sibul of Guercino is there also, with the head raised, and turned over the right shoulder. A man was making a perfectly incorrect copy of it. The lovely Venus de Medici maintained her state, notwithstanding Mr Powers' censure of her face and head. He says she has the face of an idiot! and certainly the casts seem to have. But the marble is not so. The profile view is sweet and delicate, and fitly surmounts the unsurpassed beauty of the form.
The Madonna of Sasso Ferrato, with downcast lids, and a blue nun-like mantle over the head - so much copied and engraved - called the Virgin of Sorrows, I saw at last as originally painted, as well as the Magdalen of Carlo Dolci [spelled here 'Dolce' throughout], so much liked, with upraised head, holding a vase to her breast. But there is a singular metallic finish and tin in Carlo Dolci's paintings, which I do not like. They are coppery, brassy, or silvery and golden, and sometimes irony - but the shadows are not transparent, and he is too Dolce generally. This Magdalen, however, is not dolce, though dark and metallic. I like nothing that I have seen of Carlo Dolci entirely, exceting the Madonna in the Grand Duke's bedchamber at the Pitti Palace. That is rare and exquisite, with a noble expression. Titian's celebrated Flora is in the same room - a maiden with flowing auburn hair, a loose white Greek dress, and flowers in her hand. Her complexion is very fair and luminous; but the face is disagreeable, like many of Titian's ladies' faces, while his portrais of men are gracious and agreeable.
Today is distinguished by my first seeing Niobe and her children, arranged round a vast hall - the very original marbles. They were found just outside one of the gates of Rome. The dying son is very beautiful, as well as the daughter, who is looking down upon him - or who was - for they are separated now. The light in the hall is not good for sculpture, and these noble forms are at great disadvantage, and we did not stay long to-day to study them. [One of these figures was irreparably damaged in the Uffizi bomb explosion.]
Two very large rooms are filled with portraits of artists, where one can see face to face all who have ever had a name. At this time I looked at Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, Michel Angelo, Titian, and Mengs. The portrait of Raphael shows the utmost delicacy and grace of soul. All the copies and engravings fail here as usual. It is said that Raphael's eyes in this picture were once blue and the hair fait, and that the cleaners have retouched them and made them dark. This is proved true by the portrait of him by his contemporary, Pinturricchio, in the library of the Siena Cathedral. That has golden hair and blue eyes. So that this Florence picture, by himself, has been shamefully spoiled, and we see only his drawing, and none of his coloring. Picture-cleaners are often the destruction isntead of the restorers of works of art. But the beauty of these lines has not been interfered with.
In a small cabinet of sculpture, is an unfinished head of Brutus - Marcus Brutus - by Michel Angelo, with a countenance of stupendous force of expression and careful thought.
Michelangelo, Bust of Brutus, Bargello Museum 7
Michelangelo, Busto di Bruto, Museo del Bargello
There is also here his first attempt in marbel at fifteen years - a satyr's head or mask - by no means lovely. Near by is a colossal head of Alexander the Great - grand, and expressive of wild grief and disturbance. I think I know his face well now, for there are several busts of him at Rome, and a resemblance runs through them all. In the hall of the Portraits, stands the Medicaean vase, upon which is carved, in relief, the Sacrifice of Iphigenia, which I so long ago admired in engravings. It is a good deal injured, and much larger than I supposed. [Now in the Archeological Museum]
June 17th. - We celebrated this day by going to the Academy of Arts 23. We went into the first gallery through a hall of casts, none of which detained us long. The paintings of the Academy are all by the great masters, except a few by Andrea del Sarto, the Florentine. We first looked at an Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano. The faces and figures are all admirable, many of them beautiful, the coloring gorgeous, and made actually to shine by real gold embroidery, gold-hilted swords, embossed gold crowns that glittered with gems, rings and brooches and bracelets of gold, set with jewels; and the gold is gold and not a semblance. I suppose this is a questionable license in art, but the effect was sumptuous.
Mary is lovely, and the majestic babe stoops over an aged king, who kneels to kiss his little foot, and blesses the venerable potentate, bristling and crinkling with gorgeous brocade, by placing his hand upon his head. Wonderful is the dignity and sweetness of the grand infant's countenance. One of the kings is young, and stands in the centre of the group, with a handsome face - perfectly magnificent in costume, and with that expression of true devoutness, found only in the old masters - a look of entire self-surrender to an absorbing religious sentiment, accompanied with a peculiar bend of the head, in which are worship, gentleness, submission, and serenity. Behind the young monarch stands Gabriele da Fabriano himself, in a red turban - a portrait - his broad, earnest face expressive of much interest in gazing at the kneeling kig at Mary's feet. Gold and jewelled cups, attendants and officers, crowd the scene. In the upper part of the picture this splendid throng is represented winding its way up into the town of Bethlehem, like a distant rainbow.
2397. Firenze. Accademia. Adorazione dei Magi. (Gentile da Fabbriano)
A descent from the Cross, by Fra Angelico, highly finished - the colors as bright as if just flashed from a prism - attracted me, like all his works, by its delicacy of conception and reverent feeling. An Assumption, by Perugino, called one of his masterpieces, is distinguished by four figures standing below - three saints and the archangel Michael. St John Gualberto is in the habit of a Cardinal, the red hat upon his head, and tied under his chin - the head bent a little. The face is full of living thought and feeling, and a vast serenity - the attitude exceedingly graceful, with a sort of heavenly grace, rather than the grace of the drawing-room. St Benedict is next, looking up in ecstasy. Both these saints prefigure Raphael in expression, dignity, and sentiment; but Raphael always went beyond his master in perfection of execution. HIs outlines are never hard, nor his coloring opaque, as Perugino's often are. The archangel stands, leaning upon his shield (or rather resting his hands upon it, for his figure is erect), looking out of the picture. There is what Mr Powers would call 'the royal eye' - the glance that does not meet one - that passes over, through and away - calm, closed lips, an air of princely command, and the celestial imponderability, which Perugino and his compeers knew how to give to their angels and archangels so astonishingly. He wears his heavenly corselet, and his limbs are clasped in ruby mail; a helmet of precious metal is upon his head - glorious - resembling that of Perugino's St Michael, in the London National Gallery - and what a miracle is here accomplished! The three mortal saints are heavy with human experience and suffering, and, though they are holy men, the weight of mortality presses them down, while in the form and countenance of St Michael is no trace of care, and there is a birdlike lightness and airiness of tread and motion, as if he were the insubstantial breath of God. And we cannot detect in any line or tint the manner in which this is brought about. Genius alone could not effect such a marvel, I think; but Perugino, through religious sympathy and aspiration, and unconscious simplicity and singleness of aim, always won the heavenly hierarchies to his studio 'in order serviceable' for portraiture.
A Deposition, by Filippo Lippi and Perugino together, is also a grand picture. Two angels, one on each side of the Eternal Father, who appears above, are in the noblest manner; their beauty is perfect and grand. They look down, and fold their hands before the Supreme Deity. What is remarkable in these faces is a blending of mute, profound worship with imperturbable quiet. Not even the presence of God disturbs their repose. His effluence flows through and through their transparent being, and fills the pure chalices of their lily souls. One is in a white robe, and I wish I could make this flower of heaven bloom to eyes that cannot see it here; but language will not avail. Therefore, what am I to do about an Entombment, still be Perugino, and I am constrained to say more powerful to me in sentiment than any other, though I have already seen so many that baffle my faculty of describing?
Directly beneath an arch sits the Virgin Mary; across her knees lies the dead body of Christ, his head supported by St John and his feet resting upon Mary Magdalen's lap. Nicodemus stands on one side, and Joseph of Arimathea on the other. It is a long and rather narrow canvas. The head and face of Christ rest directly against the head of St John, whose hands are beneath the arms of Jesus. John looks out of the picture, with eyes full of a mighty sorrow, as if they demanded of all the world whether ever before on earth were so grievous and sad a sight as this of his murdered Lord. His lips tremble with the brimming woe. The expression is a little startled, but amazement is overcome with tender deprecation. The contrast between the troubled gaze of John and the immovable calm of the dead face, beautiful in death, with a broad light on the brow and lids, is grand. Mary Magdalen sits, her hands clasped, her eyes fixed upon the lifeless limbs, wholly absorbed in the mighty sorrow, as if they demanded of al the world whether ever before on earth were so grievous and sad a sight as this of his murdered Lord. His lips tremble with the brimming woe. The expression is a little startled, but amazement is overcome with tender deprecation. The contrast between the troubled gaze of John and the immovable calm of the dead face, beautiful in death, with a broad light on the brow and lids, is grand. Mary Magdalen sits, her hands clasped, her eyes fixed upon the lifeless limbs, wholly absorbed in that piteous spectacle, forgetful of the world, of the mother, and of John, remembering only and seeing only that Jesus is dead. I do not remember that she had beauty or grace, or any entrancing golden hair, or rich robe; but her face draws the soul of the observer with irresistable attraction, on account of the sentiment pervading it. What can be said of Mary adolorata? The grief of all the bereaved mothers since Eve is concentred in hers. She turns her head aside, for she cannot look at her crucified Son, and she does not care to look at anything else, so that her gaze is impersonal. She is conscious of the heavy weight of the beloved form; but she cannot weep more. Her grief is deeper than tears now, and she asks for no sympathy and wishes to hear no word. The sorrow of the others is measurable; but this mother's sorrow no plummet can sound, and no one can comfort her. She becomes majestic from her unapproachableness of emotion. Nicodemus lifts his eyes upward. Joseph contemplates the rest; and the central point is the dead face, in sublime repose. The Worship of Sorrow and the Triumph of Love are both begun here. It is a divine poem on the theme of Love faithful unto Death - of the heart-writhing pain of bereavement, which is tribulation for a time, though for an eternity there will be joy.
On the other side of the room is the Eternal Father, by Carlo Dolci. Fancy a delicately colored, feminine, weak, absolutely foolish head, more feeble than the weakest attempts at the head of Christ, appearing to sink through the clouds from helplessness. And this Carlo Dolci conceived as the Almighty! It is truly laughable - but exquisitely painted.
In a small cabinet are many little pictures, from which two come out eminent - an Entombment, by Fra Angelico, and a Last Judgment, also by him. The Entombment seemed to me his greatest work; but I cannot describe it now.
June 19th. - This morning we went to the Church of St Lorenzo 20, to see Michel Angelo's monumental sculptures. The church is undergoing repairs within and without, and heaps of rubbish were all around. Upon entering, I was very much disappointed in the general effect of the interior. Indeed, it is difficult to be reconciled to the plain walls, after being accustomed to the magnificent mosaics of marbles in all Roman churches. But along our journey from Rome we found the walls bare; and in Florence they are so likewise, so far as I have yet seen them. On our return - no, on our way from the Academy of Arts, the other day - we went into the Duomo 1. It seemed very small and dismal after St Peter's - covered inside with pietra serena, a pale brownish stone, grave and sombre - with no mosaic pictures to glorify the arches, and no chapels in the side-aisles. The pavement is composed of beautiful marbles, but is so dim and soiled that one can hardly see them. It is a reief, however, to find none of Bernini's tornadoes of saints, vexing the quiet atmosphere at every point; and there are scarcely any monuments or statues. Behind the high altar, in so dark a shadow that it is nearly impossible to see it, is an unfinished Pietà, by Michel Angelo [now in the Opera del Duomo].It is very curious to see how he left his works, after expressing the idea. It seems as if he grew impatient at the slow process of chiselling the marble, as he was of the slow process of painting in oils. Fresco-painting, I suspect, suited him best, because he could dash it off, and find an instant response to his thought. I tried hard to see the Pietà, but could only discern an outline of the design, which was grand.
This dome is really larger than St Peter's, but it appears to me smaller. It is covered with frescoes, which I could not distinguish; but they are not considered good, and it is conjectured that the Florentines will whitewash them, as Assisi whitewashes better things. The Duomo has, however, something that St Peter's has not, and this is painted windows. They are narrow, but very superb, and light comes only through the faces and forms of saints, angels, and prophets, robed in rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and gold, glowing - sparkling at one view with points of light, and at another with broad effulgence. There should never be a window in any temple erected for worship, without painted glass, I think. It ought to be as much a matter of course as to have walls and roofs. It is poetically just that the Life of Christ and its consequences, which are a flowering out of blessed and holy men, should alone be the medium of light, making it glorious. It is so inspiring to look up and see a divine face, radiating a splendor of love, praise, and tender devotion, amidst prismatic hues; as if the natural garments of the ascended spirits were the pure colors of which God makes the rainbows, or as if the White Ray, emanating in concentrated unity from the countenance of the Creator, had broken into the seven colors, in flashes of rapture, to enrobe his obedient children.
There is an interesting picture of Dante on the wall, - an authentic portrait. He is standing, with hell on his right side, Florence on his left, and Paradise behind him, - the seven heavens being represented by seven circles, rising like steps, 'very much in the shape of a beehive', Mr Hawthorne suggested.
Giotto is buried in this cathedral, and a bust of him is placed over his tomb.
Now I return to St Lorenzo's 20. There is, on the left of the high altar, a very large fresco, by Bronzino, of the Martyrdom of S. Lorenzo, a youthful figure surrounded by a throng. But I never care to look twice at Bronzino's pictures. One each side the altar are ancient, oblong pulpits, supported upon columns of various marbles, and covered by bronze bas-reliefs.
At last we found the chapel designed and adorned by Michel Angelo. It is perfectly pain, with white walls and four arched recesses. In one is the tomb of Lorenzo; in another, of Giuliano; in another, of the father of the reigning Grand Duke, Ferdinand III; and in the last, sitting statues of St Damian and St Cosmo, and the Virgin and Child, an unfinished group by Michel Angelo. The statue of Giuliano de Medici is very life-like and spiritied, and the grand Dante and Night at his feet make his monument illustrious; but the chef-d'oeuvre of genius is the figure of Lorenzo, sitting opposite. He is resting his chin upon his left hand, the forefinger on his upper lip. The right hand is upon his right knee, and the palm is turned outward. There is a wonderful expression of abandonment to profound meditation in this position of the hand. His face is deeply shaded by his helm, a most graceful and heroic head-dress, and it is pressed down for ever over his brow. He wears a sort of Greek armor, covering his whole person, except a small portion of the knees: and Michel Angelo seems to have refrained, in this almost solitary instance, to mark the muscles in his usual pronounced way. He has transferred all that expression of physical power and feeling to the expression of intellectual power and feeling, which is certainly vast. It becomes no longer a marble image, but a conscious heroic prince and leader, absorbed in mighty purposes and cares of state, anxious for his people. He breathes most thoughtful breath, and his heart seems to throb with large emotion. To me there is a ook of terrible perplexity, fearful trouble; but far beyond personal considerations. Perhaps Michel Angelo had no regard to the private character of Lorenzo, which history says was excessively bad (he was the son of Piero, grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent), but carved out an ideal father of his people. Or perhaps Lorenzo was an archangel ruined, and not a weak sinner, and could not err without an infinite remose. At any rate, there he is - the most potent, the most fascinating, the grandest human life in marble yet portrayed, in which the stone is no obstruction, but only a fit medium of disembodied thought. The helmet, and the recess in which he sits, make his face very dark. It may add to the effect of introspection; but I should like to see it more distinctly. In the Crystal Palace there is an admirable cast of it, which we liked better than anything else there, though it was only in plaster. At his feet, upon the sarcaphagus, repose the colossal figures of Morning and Evening, as they are called. Morning is not finished, but, so far, is very serene and noble. There is great anxiety and trouble in the face of the female figure, and I do not know why Evening shoul look, disturbed, nor why it should be so old. Evening is perfectly finished, as well as Night opposite; while Day is merely blocked out, and looks over his large shoulder dimly, like a clouded sun rising over a mountain.
This plain, small chapel is called the Capella dei Depositi. Up-stairs is the Medicean Chapel, which Ferdinand I intended for the reception of the Holy Sepulchre, when he should obtain it from Jerusalem. It is octagonal, surmounted with a dome, brilliant with frescoes by Benvenuti. The walls are entirely covered with the richest marbles; and the lapis-lazuli, agate, chalcedony, and jasper, and even precious stones, are inlaid in them also. The dual coronets of the several princes, glittering with gems, repose upon cushions, embroidered with jewels, each upon its sarcophagus of antique marbles. The escutcheons are magnificently elaborated with these pietre commessi e dure, of their natural colors, so that the Florentine mosaic differs essentially from the Roman, in which smalto is used - a kind of hard enamel, artificially composed. But with all this paintfully wrought splendor, what a mere gewgew is the Medicean Chapel compared to the Capella dei Depositi! Genius and character make paltry all the shining show, and, do what the Medici would, one looks with more interest upon a half-formed, rough-hewed limb by Michel Angelo than upon all the cold pomp with which they have emblazoned their burial-place. We did not stay long there, but returned to the Sagrestia Nuova, where Lorenzo sits; and after another long contemplation of him, and of the Virgin and Child, we looked again at the church. The nave has two rows of noble pillars, which, I doubt not, belonged to the original basilica, which was ruined by fire. It is always a mystery to me how these stone edifices were so often destroyed by fire. What can burn? We walked all round; but there was not one fine paintings in the shrines, and the sacred quiet of the cloisters is quite scared away by modern and secular dwellings.
In the piazza is a sitting statue of Giovanni di Medici, the founder of the family. It has a remarkabler head, and looks worthy to begin a race of heroes. But his posterity was far enough from heroic.
We then went to the Baptistery 3, a very small Pantheon, and once lighted by an open eye in the dome like that, but now it is dark, till the eyes become owlish. It was anciently the Temple of Mars, and is surrounded with oriental granite, Corinthian columns, the capitals gilded, supporting an arched balcony, a beautiful arcade. The dome is covered with old mosaics. On one side the Saviour, of colossal proportions, sits as judge. The feet are frightfully grotesque in all the details. The pavement is of inlaid marble, and in the centre of it once stood the font broken by Dante, when rescuing a child from drowning. Marble saints stand round in niches, and men were to-day arranging candelabra at the feet of each one, to be lighted at the festical of St John, next week. That is a great day in Florence, and there will be illuminations and processions also. The Baptistery is the Church of St John, and all the baptisms in Florence are administered here still [no longer]. Its chief charm to me is the Gate of Paradise, by Ghiberti. The more I see it the more enchantingly beautiful I discover it to be, and I wish Westmacott would not twaddle so about bas-reliefs as he does. I do not agree with him at all; but when Academicians get hold of a rule they stultify themselves by holding to it, against all the intuitions of genius. Each part of this peerless gate surpasses the other parts. The single figures round the framework, among whom I recognise Miriam with her timbrel, Judith, and other well designated persons, seem best of all; and, outside of these, the borders of flowers, fruits, and animals are so perfectly true and lovely that nothing can be so good as they; and then we come to the eight compartments, containing sculptured events of the Old Testament. The Fall of Jericho is marvellous in force of expression and grace of figure and movement. Can anything be better? Ans so of each one. Such delicate exactness and fidelity of finish satisfies one's soul. After this, an hour and a half at the Uffizi concluded our pleasant labors for the day.
June 27th. - I have not written here for a long time, and now I must gather up my sheaf of memories - my golden sheaf - as well as I can. On that day at the Uffizi I particularly lingered in the Tribune 10. I thought I recognised in one of Titian's Venuses the face of his 'Bella' in the Pitti. It is a very unattractive face, with no delicacy nor tender sweetness nor virgin modesty in either picture. Titian did not seem able to paint innocence and purity, and apparently had no acquaintance with those states of being. The perfection of the coloring of that Venus of the Tribune, however, fascinates one's eyes. It is life itself. It is such a wonder how he did it, that we gaze in the vain endeavor to discover his secret, and I suppose we might almost as well succeed in creating the petal of a flower as in imitating his breathing tissues.
I do not know what is wanting in me, but I cannot like Correggio's famous Adoring Madonna. Just compare it with Perugino's in the Pitti! One is divine and the other earthly. A girlish rapture is in the face and action of one, and in the other the grave, ineffable tenderness of ideal maternity, the sense of a priceless gift of God, the surprise at a new soul, and a prophecy of something to come, not yet fully comprehended - something heavy as the conscience, but sweet, precious, and eternally dear. There is more softness in the lines of that face than is usual with Perugino. As regards Correggio, my eyes may be now holden, and I may in time see the charm of his rendering, but now I cannot.
I searched for the Bacchus which Michel Angelo sculptured, in imitation of the Greek, and then buried, having first broken off a hand [now in the Bargello 7]. The story is well known. The Bacchus is in a state of inebriation. He holds up a cup and is crowned with grapes, and his countenance is full of jollity and folly. It is not the Olympian Bacchus, the fairest of the gods, who stands with Ampelos in one of the halls of the Uffizi, all beauty, grace, benignity, and gay eternal youth: but it is a strong figure, given over to wine and fun; though I have no right to say anything about it till I have seen it more.
In the portrait-hall, I looked at the magnificent Leonardo da Vinci. It is covered with plate-glass, as very precious, and the painting has become quite obscure. But the grand drawing of the head and face is well visible still. The beautiful Raphael hung in its place. He looked like a dove among crows, side by side with those bearded, mustachoed, darl-hued men. Such a pure, clean brow; and cheek and chin 'clean as Apollo's' (as Mr E said of his brother Charles'), and the graceful swan-throat which no man ever had before or since - as I am well persuaded - these the cleaners have not ruined, though they have hidden the blue eyes and golden hair beneath their black pigments.
An antique Bacchus in the cross-gallery I observed for the first time. The delicate lithe figure is in a fine strain of excitement, dancing with all his life - light as a breeze and arily mad. The marble will not hold it long, I thought.
On the 21st June it was sultry and threatened rain, but we ventured to rush to the Pitti before the storm broke loose, and it is so near us, that we arrived safely. In five minutes came a tornado and a thunder-crash, and it rained floods for more than three hours. Part of the time the lowering clouds made it too dark to see the pictures well; but it brightened enough to allow us a pretty good study. A Holy Family by Rubens delighted me. It is not at all Mary and the Christ, but it is, however, a most beautiful group, more refined and soft than Rubens' usual manner. The mother, a handsome Flemish lady of brilliant complexion and matronly, benign expression, stands in the centre, looking down upon the two babies, an enchanting little pair. Christ (or one baby) is in a cradle, just raising himself by his left hand, while with the right he caresses the cheek of the other child, meant for John - who, with both hands folded, gazes upon him with a rapture of love. The children are lovely peaches in color, and not so rotund and boucing in form as usual with Rubens. An unwonted delicacy then alighted upon his pencil. Elizabeth holds John's little hands, as she stoops behind him, and Joseph looks down over the cradle. It is not the family divine, but it is a noble, charming family, in Rubens' highest style.
I mused a long time over Perugino's Adoring Madonna, which grows upon me the more I study it and a Deposition by him, a very large picture, I saw for the first time on Monday. I like it all exceedingly except the face of Christ. The Mary's are wonderful in varied expression. As to Titian's Magdalen, a very large woman, quite nude, and gathering about her a world of golden hair, amazing as is the beauty of her hair, I do thoroughly detest the picture. Such a woman would be incapable of repentance. She is coarse and earthly in every fibre of her frame, and in every recess of her mind. It is a pity that such a woman should be painted so well. I have no doubt it is a portrait, and I am sorry that Titian knew such a person and contemplated her so minutely. It seems to show a depraved taste and nature. How could it have been?
The dark, stately, most noble and I fear most terrible Ippolito de Medici, attracted me as usual by his beauty, his evil glance, and the princely state with which he bears himself. It is one of Titian's grand portraits, and recalls Raphael's Caesar Borgia in Rome.
A Cardinal by Vandyke is also one of the truly great portraits, with an air of consummate elegance, high bred and quiet and a little sad. Vandyke perhaps caught the trick of kingly pensiveness from the face of Charles I of England, whom he so often painted. This is Cardinal Bentivoglio.
I saw a table to-day of extraordinary splendor. The slab was oriental alabaster, almost transparent, like liquid topaz or amber, and in this were inlaid grapes of precious amethyst, and birds and flowers of other oriental stones, and they all seemed floating in a golden sea.
One day I went to meet Mr Browning and the improvisatrice, Giovannina Milli, at Miss H's. Mr Browning and his little son were there; but not improvisatrice. An English Waterloo Major Gregorie ['English' Cemetery] was there too, and a Mr Trollope, and Miss Blagden ['English' Cemetery], and Miss E., a literary, elderly lady, horrent with plumes, who was very clever. All were English excepting myself. The little Browning played to us some of his sonatas admirably, though he has only known how to play for fourteen months; and I had a delightful talk with his father, who is most fascinating, with his mobile life and his deep earnestness.
On the 23rd, we drove, in an open barouche, over the
Arno to see the illuminations that illustrated St John's Eve -
the Eve of St John, sung of in poetry. It was a scene of
enchantment. We paused on the Ponte Vecchio, and looked toward
the west, up the river. The Ponte Santa Trinità and Ponte
Carraja were hung with globes of light, like huge bubbles, and
all were reflected in the water beneath. The parapets, on both
sides the river, were studded with the same delicate globes,
making a glittering cornice, doubled beneath; and lighted
boats floated quietly in every direction, each one a moving
constellation of stars, on the surface of the water, as well
as in pictured world below. The palaces on the Lung'Arno were
kindled up over their façades, and, afar off, the mountains, a
dark, waving outline; and above a black sky, with heavy, windy
clouds, were the frame of this radiant pageant.
William Holman Hunt, The Arno Illuminated
Through thick crowds of people, and in a long line of carriages, we went on to the Piazza of the Gran Duca. But there I was disappointed. I thought I should see the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio in a blaze of fire; but the lights had been blown by the wind, and a very few only remained, looking very wild and restless. The noble Loggia dei Lanzi 9, with its statues, was illuminated, though inadequately; but we could see the solemn priestesses standing, - the Roman, rushing away with the Sabine woman, torn from her husband, - the potent Hercules, just about destroying the Centaur - the noble lions, reposing in reserved might - the antique group of Ajax, dying or dead in the arms of a soldier, - and a dim vision of the heroic Perseus, with upraised arm, holding Medusa's severed head. The light also struck upon Michel Angelo's David, and the colossal group of Hercules and Cacus, on one side the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, and brought into view the Neptune of the fountain. Meanwhile, a band of musicians stood in the Loggia, performing symphonies of the great composers, which made all the marble figures seem to live and breathe and move.
We then drove to the Piazza of the Duomo 1. The Duomo was kindled with little flames, and the general blaze of the Piazza fully revealed the beautiful Campanile, climbing up into the inky sky, with its bright marbles, - the stately outline perfectly defined, as it could not be by day. Whether the lights had been blown out on this bell-tower, or whether it had been purposely left unlighted for better effect, I cannot tell, but the effect was infinitely better so. Another band was stationed here, enriching the air with Beethoven's music, enriching the air with Beethoven's music, and by the potent conjuration of 'inweaved harmonies' the dome and the Campanile both seemed to rise that moment into space, - the vast dome swelling with triumphant pomp, and piercing the darkness with its illuminated Cross. We then came round to the Lung'Arno, where still another band suddenly struck up Verdi's opera of the Traviata, and we waited to hear it, within sight of the river; and, afterward, we returned on our way, and reviewed all our pictures.
The 24th was St John's Day, the chief day in Florence. In the afternoon, Miss H kindly took us to the éalazzo Villa, where, from a balcony, we could overlook the Corso, and where we were directly opposite the Loggia of the Grand Duke, in which the Court assembled to see the Race. The race-course reaches from the Porta Santa Croce to the Porta al Prato, which, I believe, is the gate that opens upon the Cascine. That day it was covered with gravel, and very thoroughly wetted, becauce the pavements here are so smooth tht the horses might slip upon them. All Florence was gathered on the sides of the Corso, - on foot and upon temporary steads, raised in rows one above another, on either hand, and at every balcony, window and roof - all in festal attire. Slowly moving over the course were two lines of carriages, as at the Roman Carnival; but it was not Carnival-time, no confetti were thrown. Ladies, in ball-dresses, but with bonnets, sat quietly and looked and were looked upon; and every color of the rainbow, in stuffs, made the scene gay. Beneath our balcony, opposite the Ducal Loggia, two battalions of soldiers stood on guard. Dragoons rested, statue-like, or pranced up and down to marshal the throng. Fancy at the corner of a block of houses, a square, lofty apartment, open in front and one one side, and supported at those openings by gray stone Corinthian columns, and you have the royal Loggia. Our balcony was on a level with it. It was richly carpeted, and a crimson divan was arranged around two sides. In the centre stood six crimson and ormulu arm-chairs - thrones for the royal family. Over the solid balustrades, between the side-columns, heavy red velvet and gold for the GRand Duke and Duchess, and the Archduyke and Archduchess, to rest their princely arms upon withal, damask not being good enough for royalty. Curtains of crimson silk with gold fringe were festooned between the pillars; and the walls within were hung with white satin.
After seeing endless carriages go and return for two hours, a sudden and most lugubrious sound of the drum, monotonous and inharmonious, mace me look about, and I saw a carriage with six horses and three footmen appear, and within were laces, brocades, pearls and diamonds, and military uniforms gold-laced; but as this as well as all the court-carriages were covered, we could see only half-faces, as we were so high. Fair arms we saw, much bejewelled however. There were the Prince Poniatowski and his Princess. Many state-carriages, each with six horses, followed, till a flourish of trumpets announced a greter dignity - and this was the Grand Duke himself. On his six horses were postillions in green and gold. His coach was golden, and on the top of it the ducal crown reposed. Behind stood three footmen, one (he who was to lay his hands upon Majesty), entirely in white velvet, with yellow boots. Following this cortège rode the Guarda Nobile, the noble guard, in scarlet uniform, with white-plumed helmets, on fine horses - and then came several more state-carriages, with the rest of the court. Twice this splendid train passed up and down the Corso for the benefit of the beholders; and to the bows and greeting of the drowd, the noble personages perpetually raised half-way and let fall again the carriage windows, quite a novel style of salute.
Finally, all this goodly company was gathered into the Loggia. First came the Pope's nuncio, with purple legs, and a broad scarlet ribbon round his neck, meeting in a star in front - a youthful, earthly, fat, round priest, very unprepossessing, and attended by an attaché. So came the other ministers of foreign countries, with their ladies, and also the maids of honor, designated by bows on their left shoulders. Some were fair, with coronets of pearls and diamonds, and clouds of illusion-lace; and all, of course, with rich brocaded trains, which, in the absence of pages, they held on their left arms. Faintly and lovelily gleamed the pearls without price, and, like fine, promethean fire, burned and flashed the diamonds, certainly the raoylest of gems. I never till that day witnessed it in such full play, and it certainly has a light that is nowhere else to be seen on sea or land or sky. Such a delicate, spiritual, soul of a flame, piercing like ten thousand damascus-blades of an army of fairies! such an indescribable fineness of fierceness - so etherial and so real - so fleeting - ah! I have it!- no! I have it not! too celestial to hold. It is like the crossing of wit in angels. It is the symbol of angelic intellects in collision. It includes all light and all color. It blinds like a ray from the 'Sovereign Eye', or would blind, if it did not vanish as soon as it comes. What a deep significance has this gem! Nursed in utter dark - of solid blackness - and then becoming invisible in purity absolute, were it not held in sight by combining all hues in its hueless substance. Where is so perfect an emblem of the soul, in the concrete? All the precious jewels are cymbolical, and this is the secret of their charm, I think. Ah! the best of the show to me, on St John's Day, were the diamonds.
Presently the white-haired Grand Duke and Grand Duchess arrived - the treacherous Grand Duke! Mrs Browning has deprived him of his princeliness by the deeds of his she has sung in 'Casa Guidi Windows'. Yet she told me he is a kind, devoted father to his young children, and even walks with them in his arms at night, when they are ill; and so she thinks there must be good in him. He is not tall, and his hair is very white. His dress was embroidered richly with broad courses of gold. Over one shoulder a wide scarlet ribbon passed, and his breast was covered with orders and stars. He held a white plumed hat flat beneath his arm, and wore buff hose. I had seen a bust of the Grand Duchess in Mr Powers' studio, and in that she was extremely red, and, though gracious and stately, was not beautiful. Twelve years have passed, hwoever, since the bust was taken. She wore a white silk petticoat trimmed with lace - a pink damask train, flowered with silver - a scarlet ribbon over one shoulder - pink and white marabouts in her hair, waving off from a coronet of flashing jewels. But the young Archduchess was lovely. She also was in white and pink, with pink marabouts and a band of large pearls and scintillating diamond points round her head. The Archduke was most repulsive in countenance, with with a good figure, in military costume. The Grand Duke walked round her court, first speaking to the Ministers and then to all the ladies, with one of whom she talked a great while. It was very nice to watch at will this living picture of the royal group - to see them in full dress, moving, courtseying, laughing, practising le bel air - their ease and their grace. It was much more full of life that the Court of Lisbon, which is the only one at which I have been presented. There was no queen there, which may have been one cause of the excessive stiffness and formality. The ladies sat round the walls of the saloons, like so many statues, and when the King approached, six would start up at once, with a sort of galvanic shock, to receive him; and when he passed on, these six would sink down, and other six rise up in their stead, and they said little else besides 'Yes, Sire' (Si, Sire).
Presently the poor horses, goaded by leathers, pricked with points, rushed by, and the Grand Duke and Duchess leaned on their velvet to look at them. It was all over in a twinkling. The Princess Bonaparte meanwhile came into our balcony to see the sights - a lady with a most singular countenance, white as drifted show, with not a particle of color. She seemed hardly human - not alive - an image of dead white wax. We then ate ice-creams, and were exceedingly comfortable.
June 25th. - We spent this evening at Casa Guidi 29. I saw Mrs Browning more satisfactorily, and she grows lovelier on farther knowing. Mr Browning gave me a pomegranate bud from 'Casa Guidi Windows', to press in my memorial-book. He is full of vivid life, like a rushing river. I should think nothing could ever resist the powerful impetus of his mind and heart; and this effervescing, resplendent life - fresh every moment, like a waterful or a river - seems to have a shadow over it, like a light cloud, as if he were perplexed in the disposal of his forces. An anxious line is on his brow. His voice is glad and rich - a union of oboe and flute tones.
The finest light gleams from Mrs Browning's arched eyes - for she has those arched eyes so unusual, with an intellectual, spiritual radiance in them., They are sapphire, with dark lashes, shining from out a bower of curling, very dark, but, I think, not black hair. It is sad to see such deep pain furrowed into her face - such pain that the great happiness of her life cannot smooth it away. In moments of rest from speaking her countenance reminds one of those mountain-sides, ploughed deep with spent water-torrents, there are traces in it of so much grief, so much suffering. The angelic spirit, triumphing at moments, restores the even surface. How has anything so delicate braved the storms? Her soul is mighty, and a great love has kept her on earth a season longer. She is a seraph in her flaming worship of hearts, while a calm, cherubic knwoledge sits enthroned on her large brow. How she remains visible to us, with so little admixture of earth, is a mystery; but fortunate are the eyes that see her, and the ears that hear her.
June 26th. - I stood long at the gate of the Baptistery this morning 3, and I see why Raphael studied and copied those figures. He drew from them some of his ineffable grace. In the afternoon we drove to Bellosguardo, to take tea with Miss Blagden at her Villa Brichieri. The balcony commands a magnificent view of Florence and the surrounding mountains. There blooms the Flower-City, with the Duomo in its chalice. The soft heights immediately around are crowned with castles, towers, and villas, like white and yellow lilies among the green foliage., Galileo lived in one of them, and in one Savonarola was imprisoned. Many illustrious men make the landscape rich with heroic memories. Day faded away over the Val d'Arno on the left of us, as we looked forth. After tea, we went out again, and a wonderful ceremony, a 'function', was then going on in the east, in which the state-dress was cloth of silver. The same costly material was soon flung over the whole valley, for the Queen of Night arose, without the thinnest, slightest veil of illusion over the keen splendor of her royal face, and Mr Browning was talking to us! It seemed like a wonderful dream, and not a real experience in this word-a-day world. On our return the city gate swung up in the air to let our carriage pass under, and we might have smuggled Mazzini into Florence; for though they asked us a question, they did not look into our midst, and the guard on duty quietly stood aside.
June 28th. - This morning was very fine and cool, and we went to Sante Croce, 'the Westminster Abbey of Florence' (says the book), because great men are buried there 26. It is large and stately, with rows of many-sided columns, clothed today in red and yellow damask, because a Function was in process. The high altar was lighted up with a multitude of wax candles, and there was chanting and organ bursts, and genuflections, and bells, and swinging of censors.
Michel Angelo's monument is surmounted with a faithful portrait bust of him, which was deeply interesting to see. I know his face now perfectly well. Figures of sculpture, painting, and architecture sit mourning round this sarcophagus. Architecture is the best. There was something tawdry about the adornments over the bust, not respectful to the mighty genius - a sort of daubing of mock drapery. How could they do so, right before his face, and he so true - a despiser of shams? I felt ashmaed. The too late monument to Dante is not good at all. The poet sits, leaning on his hand, with the well-known features and profile; but they have put a laurel crown on his head, in a sort of tiara fashion, which takes away from the likeness; and he is very stern, as if sitting in judgment on his beloved and ungrateful Florence. Florence (I presume) stands on the pedestal of the sarcophagus, and points to Dante, sitting above, with an air of peculiar bravado, and says, 'Onorate l'altissimo Poeta', indicating imperisously those inscribed words with her finger. A weeping figure is on the other side; but I do not know who. The wall-crown of the other showed her to be a city. Farther on is Alfieri's monument, cut by Canova and erected by the Countess of Albany. It is not good for anything to me. One draped mourner stands leaning on the tomb. Some of the pictures of the chapels were by Vasari, who never interests me, and some were by Bronzino, equally indifferent to my fancy; and finally we arrived in the south transept out of which opens the chapel of the Holy Sacrament, which we entered. There we found some good and curious old china statues of saints, by Luca della Robbia. In the south transept was a painting of the Coronation of the Virgin, on a gold ground, by Giotto, with crowds of saints and angels - beautiful heads. After seeing more ordinary altar-pictures, it was inspiring to meet again a truly devout one. And on the left side of the same chapel were frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi - the Presentation at the Temple, the Marriage of the Virgin, and an Assumption. One may look at any number of Bronzino's or of Vasari's pictures till one is blind, and not be moved or affected by a face or form or sentiment. But Giotto or Taddeo Gaddi immediately rouses attention and reverence. I am never weary of them. Mr Hawthorne declared that Giotto would be the death of him; for he hates to see half-obliterated and pale wrecks of these old masters. But I live better for even pale Giottos, and the whole quaint, devout old band, in any stage of ruin.
One the other side-aisle we found Galileo's tomb, and that of [Raffaele] Morghen, the famous engraver, and finally we got into some chapels painted by Giotto and Giottino. Here I was again glad and Mr Hawthorne desperate; for they had all been whitewashed over, and only lately brought to view by a zealous priest; and so they were injured and then repaired and patched. There was an Entombment, and events in the life of St Francis. I found many noble expressive faces and figures through all the broken surface; and when the services at the altar were over, I went to a chapel on the right of it, entirely painted over by Giotto. A queenly Elizabeth of Hungary is in one panel, and the sides are illustrated with the life of St Francis, wonderful forms, which I must try to record another time for my future delectation; but not now. Though, vanishing into the past, I could still catch the grand lines, the majestic repose and religious solemnity of expression. Oh, where are the artists to draw these departing glories, that they may be engraved for a never-ending inspiration to all preent and future time! Can this child-like, unconscious grandeur ever again be found in art?
In the piazza is a palace, whose façade is covered with fine but faded frescoes by the best artists of the day. It is the Palazzo of Niccolo dell'Antella, and a bust of one of the Medici is over the great arched entrance. It was in this piazza the assemblies of the people were held, and the free institutions of Florence first established. The short-lived Liberty was born there, and it has a fountain from which flows the only pure water in the city.
We went through the Via dei Librai, where frowns the palace of the former hateful Podestà - a vast fortress, with a lofty tower at one end, now a prison. In the court of the Duomo 1, we delayed awhile by the 'Sasso di Dante' where he used to sit and look at the Campanile 2 and the Cathedral, as an inscription on a marble slab in the wall announces. Near by, sit also, in marble, Brunelleschi and Arnolfo di Lapo, the illustrious architects - one gazing, with upturned head, at the noble works before him. Of course we lingered round the Gate of Paradise 3. With what a breezy grace stand the angels before the prostrate Abraham! I have seen no figures so much like Raphael's as Ghiberti's. He was surely a kindred spirit. The heads in very high relief round the framework are, I believe, all portraits. At any rate, the perfectly bald one is Ghiberti himself. The walls of Jericho will inevitably fall flat at the blast of those trumpers, blown with such vigor. Three women, just behind some men who carry heavy stones to batter the city withal, are wonders of stately grace. The beauty and expression of the countenances are very marvellous. Indeed Ghiberti was one of the miracles of genius. I wish the precints of the Baptistery were not a coach-stand, so that one could be more quiet while looking at this gate. It is so precious, too, that I do not like to have it endangered by the accidents of time. I think I would put it under plate-glass within the eternal walls of the Pitti Palace. It should not be out of doors.
P.1.N.1807. Firenze. Il Battistero (Dal VII e VIII secolo, restaurato e rivestito di marmi di Arnolfo di Cambio)
It is so precious, too, that I do not like to have it endangered by the accidents of time. I think I would put it under plate-glass within the eternal walls of the Pitti Palace. It should not be out of doors. [The 1966 Flood destroyed five of the ten panels of these doors which were battered for hours on the spikes of the protective railing by the force of the waters. They are now replaced by copies copied from exact copies in San Francisco, a project funded by the Japanese.]
P.1. 1858. Firenze. Battistero. La Porta principale. Lorenzo Ghiberti.
For larger image, click here
We thought we would visit the Palazzo Riccardi 21. Mr Ware ventures to compare it to the Coliseum. It is grand and high and majestic; but it is no more to be compared to the Coliseum than a mole-hill to a mountain. Besides, it has an ever-enduring newness of aspect. No ruin can be imagined of it. Every one of those mighty stones of rough Tuscan finish will look just as now when time shall be no longer. They can never decay, and never appear old. And the Coliseum could hide it away in one of its own vast recesses - in one of its great pockets. When I look at these dark, indestructible, gloomy palaces, they terrify me with a sense of hopelessness. They are defiant with strength, and like prisons from which there is no escape. But always they seem to be finished to-day, and not to belong to the past, though they are half a thousand years old already. This clear, bright atmosphere can never harm them. And the Coliseum, softened by the ages in tint, and genial in the first place, being of buff travertine, looks hoary with the years that have passed; and flowers and moss and ivy, and even trees, grow upon and out of its stones. It is the Ruin of Ruins. Could a flower be persuaded to plant its delicate foot in a crevice ever even be found in that nicely-fitted, firmly-compacted, unsympathizing mass? Nothing so soft as earth could rest there. When a prince gets inside those walls, can he feel any pity?
The Riccardi is now devoted to Government offices. Soldiers keep guard before the entrance; but we wlked in without being molested. The first court is surrounded with Corinthian columns of oriental granite. The loggie behind the columns are filled with sculptures - busts, statues, three antique sarcophagi and bas-reliefs, and a beautiful large porphryy vase of an oval shape. On the right-hand side, as one enters, is a grand staircase, leading from the loggia, with ancient marble statues, in niches, on the way up. We were guided into a glorious little chapel, paved with mosaics, and its walls beautifully frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli, and as fresh as if painted just now, though they are three hundred and eighty years old! They have caught the spirit of the eternal walls, and never mean to fade. Lovely angels, kneeling in perpetual prayer - hunters radiant for the chase, and the famous foreshortened ass. I though of Mr Browning's poem of the Statue and the Bust, and questioned whether the unfortunate Princess Riccardi ever knelt down in this chapel, either in despair or in penitence.
From the Chapel we went to the Gallery, probably once a ball-room, and now used for the meetings of the Della Crusca Society. It is panelled with plate.mirrors, upon which are painted Cupids and wreaths of flowers, as in some of the Roman palaces. The arched ceiling is covered with frescoes - in the centre the apotheosis of the Medici!! Tough work have the angels to lift the Medici above the world! There they are, with their ignoble faces, endeavouring to rise through the air. The aforementioned under lip of Leopold alone might make an angel stagger. All around are symbolical groups - the whole by Il Volteranno. It was a baby-house compared to the magnificent gallery of the Colonna at Rome; and I was much disappointed to find no oil-paintings in it. On the sides of the apartment were ranged innumerable tabourets of red damask, and no other furniture. These are common in palaces, standing in solemn rows. The furniture of palaces never seems to be available. The chairs are generally as large and ponderous as thrones; and no one would think of moving them into a companionable group. The superb tables of ormolu, with tops of precious marbles and jewels, must not be used to hold anything; for if anything were put upon them, some exquisite flower, composed of amethyst, agate, coraline, or sardonyx, with leaves malachite - or some bird of Paradise, of chalcedony, diaspre, and pearl, would be hidden. There is no inhabitableness in halls of state, no place for the heart, no inducement to live and unfold, so wonderful are the compensations of Providence!
In the afternoon Miss Blagden came in her carriage to drive me to Bellosguardo, to look at a villa which she hopes we will take for August and September, because she thinks we should not be safe in Florence during the dog-days. J went with us. The weather was brilliant, and we had a charming excursion. I found a sumptuous villa for delight, with multitudinous halls and chambers - with deeply shaded avenues; clear, smooth lawn and semicircular terraces - a strong, old, grey-stone tower, at one end, where owls do whoop and hoot and sit, 'to warm their wit', and in which Savonarola was imprisoned. But, above all, the view from it, who can paint or describe? From the tower Florence can be seen, and from the windows of the villa we looked upon a rich plain of great extent, Pistoia afar off, and the lovely mountains keeping watch and ward; and, at that moment, receiving into their fastnesses the sun, who was retiring to rest in great pomp of gold. The air was nectar and elixir. I think we must go there.
June 29th. - In the afternoon I took U and R to the Race, with Ada. We had a much more favorable situation for seeing the pageant than before, and could sit all the time. It was not a day of such state as St John's Day, and it closed the festival. There were no trains nor coronets of diamonds and pearls, and no scarlet ribbons over shoulders; neither did the Grand Duke drive in his golden coach, with the crown atop. As it luckily chanced in the course, the royal carriage was obliged to stop just before us, and we had three or four minutes to stare straight into the faces of the Grand Duke and Duchess. The Grand Duke looked like a monkey, with a evil disposition, most ugly and mean. The lady has not a ray of beauty left, but amiably kept bowing to the people every instant. But it was worth while to see the young Archduchess who followed. She is most lovely - pale and sweet. Her dark hair was rolled back and confined with a band of pearls, and blue marabouts waved from it, and her robe was azure brocade. All the maids of honor wore wreaths of flowers round their heads. The Grand Duke has that fightful, coarse, protruding under lip, peculiar to the imperial race of Austria and formerly of Spain. It is worth while to extinguish the race, for the sake of expunging that lip and what it signifies. No man with such a mouth can love liberty or spiritual things. It got into the Medici family somehow - probably by marriage, and it plunges one into musing to see how inexorable is nature in avenging broken laws; while, also, she 'never did betray the heart that loved her', as Wordsworth says.
The scene was very gay, and the crowd most orderly and gentle, like all Tuscan crowds. We could see the course even to the Porta al Prato; and after the court had arrived, the carriage left the street, and a body of dragoons, slowly and courteously, drove all the people off the Corso, in preparation for the horses. Two men were killed the other day, and therefore great precautions were taken now. As soon as the poor steeds were let to run, the six royal people leaned over their baluster to see; and then the Grand Duke threw a paper to some privileged person which caused immense merriment, and the Duchess laughed very much. I have yet to discover what this paper was. * * We did not arrive home till nearly eight, and though all Florence was in the streets, the city was as quiet and safe as a drawing-room.
June 30th. - This morning, I went with the children and Ada to the Academy of Arts, and to the Pietre-dure Rooms. In the first of the latter are specimens of all the pietre dure stones used in Florentine mosaic, in their rough state; then specimens of each, polished. I had no idea that there was such a rich variety used in mosaics. Agates of all realms and of exquisite beauty - chalcedony, coralline, malachite, lapis-lazuli of all combinations of tints - the oriental, of deepest and purest blue shades, and the French, much mixed with bright gold veins; green and red porphyries, jaspers, many kinds of sardonyx and onyx, nero, rosso, giallo and verde antico, serpentine of Egypt (also green), granites of all countries, some very beautiful, of a rosy hue - which was surprising to me. (I having been accustomed to supposing the grey New England granite the only one)- samples of all the marbles in the world, some marked with mosses and ferns shells - and a marble called 'flowers of Persia', from its gorgeous colors; and another named 'stellaria', from its starred appearance. I cannot recollect a tenth parth, however. Four rooms were surrounded with cases filled with specimens, all numbered, and for each room were six or seven printed lists, in the form of hand-screens, for visitors. It is, as usual with the Grand ducal treasures, free to the public, not a crazia being required as fee. Guards, in the royal livery, keep watch. After this suite of precious-stone saloons came a gallery, with copies in mosaics of oil paintings - and then another, with more of these, but, in addition, cabinets of the best work executed there, in small articles - little landscapes, figures in groups, birds, flowers, and arabesques. I saw on this wall the model for the admirable mosaic of the Pantheon, which I liked so much in the Pitti Palace, and also models of some of the tables there. Then followed a large saloon, with superb inlaid cabinets, vases, large and small tables, and a great part of the ornaments for the altar in the Medicean Chapel at San Lorenzo. Some of these were high-reliefs in precious stones! figures of saints and angels and solid birds. Fancy an angel arrayed in robes of real amethyst, chalcedony, jasper, topaz, and ruby, starred with crystals (perhaps diamonds) and emeralds! Petrified wood make some of the most superb stones.
In the Academy of Arts we spent nearly two hours in the first gallery. The Assumption of the Virgin, the Pietà, and the Descent from the Cross, by Perugino, the Adoration of the Magi, by Gentile di Fabriano, the Deposition, by Fra Angelico, and a few others, occupied us all that time. All were better upon farther knowing.
July 1st. - To-day we set forth to see the house of Michel Angelo, where he once lived, and where a Buonarotti, minister of state, now resides, and allows the palace to be shown every Thursday. But after our long walk we were disappointed, because repairs are going on in it. So we went into the Church of Santa Croce 26, and looked at the beautiful marble pulpit, cut in bas-relief, in the cinque-cento style, which I did not examine before. But I am now thinking of the Palazzo Vecchio 8, which we afterward visited. The Cortile, with its sculptured columns, fountains, and frescoed walls, is noble; and from that we went up some right royal staircases, - broad and low steps, so lw that, instead of using effort to go up, they seemed to lift one along with a buoyant bound. Not even those of the Barberini Palace are equal to them. Up, up, and up we mounted, to be sure, for on the continent nothing is downstairs worth seeing. We must climb near the sky first. At last we attained a large ante-room, 'in faded splendor want' (for in this palace the Medici formerly displayed great state). The walls on three sides were covered with gold fleur-de-lis, and on the fourth were frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio, the master of Michel Angelo. From this we entered the Hall of Audience, covered by frescoes of the deeds of Camillus, by Salviati, and it had a gorgeous ceiling of sunken panels and bosses, with argosies of gold upon them. Three large cabinets were there, containing carvings in ivory of the most delicate beauty, and the custode said that some of them were the work of Benvenuto Cellini himself. One cabinet was filled with an altar-service of a hundred or more pieces, carved out of the finest amber, of both the transparent and opaque kings - cups, crucifixes, vases, many varieties of pyx, and other vessels, of which I do not know the names. They were like lucid gold, or sunshine crystallized, and polished like glass. This superb equipage once covered the altar of the private chapel of the palace. No doubt many of the figures and cups were cut by Benvenuto Cellini; but the custode did not say so.
The chapel is small, but exceedingly precious; for it is painted all over with frescoes by Ridolflo Ghirlandaio - angels, cherubs, prophets, saints; and the Annunciation is at one end. The frescoes are very grand - glorious little cherubs - grouped like bouquets of flowers in circles - and mighty old prophets and evangelists, sitting in eternal repose - and sacred heards, with the peace of heaven in them, painted in medallions over the altar, as if they beamed through the walls in answer to earnest prayer, revelations of a future, happy world. What a pity it is that any wall should remain a dead blank when they might all blaze with glory in this way, and wake the soul by touch of art divine! Must we not go back to this adornement again, since it arose from the demand of the soul, and the soul demands it still? What were colors made for, if not to use for the worship of God, and the culture of the spirit? Are we more devout for bare walls? Are we less spiritually-minded when the plain plaster gives place to rainbow-winged angels, holding dulcimer, cithern, and harp, praising God - their faces refulgent with His light? We need more Fra Angelicos to open the doors of Paradise for us, and to crowd blank space with seraphim and cherubim - also Ghirlandaios and Michel Angelos to reveal the sublime brows and forms of Prophets, Sibyls, Saints, and Martyrs whenever we lift up our eyes. It is, to be sure, a serious obstacle to the satisfying of such needs that we now have no devout masters in the world. I try to fancy a function going on in this chapel. A hundred waxen-tapers kindle into flaming magnificence these amber implements. The carved figures are diaphanous, as if they had put on celestial bodies, which offer no obstruction to the blazing light, but rather seem to organize it. Wings sparkle and flow and wave with arrested, golden currents. Every vase seems filled with the wine of life in its own substance. The pyxes look as if the mysterious Host they had held had transfused itself into a visible Sun of Righteousness, shining through the amber; - the Christ on the crucifixes has changed into glory, and even transfigured the cross. The priests who are administering here, robed in creamy cloth of gold, add a living splendor as they move; and, turning from the radiance of the altar and its ministers, behold the heavenly hierarchies, beaming through the walls on every side, with love, joy, and immutable peace, bringing blessings for sincere worshippers, and remaining fixed assurances of never-failing help in time of trouble. But how inexplicable it is that, with all these appliances, even the very priests themselves could continue as stolid as stones, and receive not a single divine idea or impulse from all that art could fashion and the mind conceive. I must not omit the music from my function - the organ-thunders, and human voices, rising and falling in tuneful adoration with tones that seem to cause the pictured faces to flash with rapture - and the wings of angels to plume themselves for flight. The Medici were present at such services in this chapel of theirs; but beauty of soul and person were not the result to them.
The custode, at my request, now took us into a small room to show us Bianca Capello, a very rotund and jolly dame - not at all distinguished in aspect. Francesco de' Medici was her pendant, and between them stood Cosmo II, in marble. The Empress Helea was also there, and a fair little Carolina de' Medici, sweet and innocent, with pale, gold hair and clear, azure eyes. It was a relief to see one innocent looking de' Medici. From this we were led into a narrow corridor, and looked down into the grand saloon, built for the consiglio populare. It was full of workmen and in confusion; but we could perceive its stateliness. The walls are covered with frescoes of the victories of Cosimo I, - conquests of Pisa and Siena, by Vasari - besides others by Cigoli, etc. Round the vast hall, upon the floor, are marble statues and groups, by famous artists, and one by Michel Angelo, left unfinished. This is Victory and Captivity. The face of Victory is as clear and calm and powerful as ideal Victory ought to be. It looks like Day without a cloud. There is no expression of humanity in it - I mean of a man. It is a Princedom. The attitude is almost indescribable. The figure fronts toward the right; but the head is turned, looking over the shoulder, so that it faced me as I stood before it. Beneath the hands and feet crouches Captivity, an old man, half bowed on his knees, with a noble contour, only partly made out. Michel Angelo struggled with the marble till the idea was evident, and then left it, like so many of his other half-evolved blocks. The limbs of Captivity have not fought they way out of the stone yet - they are captive to it - though one can discern indications, as if through an almost transparent medium. Mr Hawthorne thought the figure of Victory too tall, and the head too small in proportion. Perhaps it is, and perhaps Michel Angelo left it because he was not content with it. Yet, in that case, I think he woul dhave given it one of his Cyclopean blows and demolished the whole. The expression is so fine, that I did not mind the discrepancies, if there be any.
I saw one day in the cortile of the Academy of Art another abozzo of the great artist 23. It is St Matthew. One can see the colossal form, sitting with a book; and yet one cannot tell how anything is seen (except one limb), for nothing is distinctly rendered. But somehow the design, shaped in the brain of the sculptor, has passed into the stone - no - rather, in the stone, Michel Angelo saw St Matthew sitting with his Evangel, and took up his hammer and chisel to hew him out. He struck away the marble till he obtained access to him, and them being assured he was there, he left him very safe till he should be in the mood to release him entirely. But he will never be released now, for now there is no angel Michael to smite off his chains.
I should have said that after taking a view of the salone from above, the custode took us down into it, and that it was then I saw sculpture 8. There was also a fine heroic statue of Pietro de' Medici, as handsome as Achilles or Mars, and in the costume of a Greek warrior. But history says that Pietro (or Piero) de' Medici was not distinguished for intellect or character; yet if this be a true portrait, he must have been famous for his beauty, at least - and is not he the father of the superb Lorenzo in the Capella dei Deposit? Who was his mother - the mother of Pietro - I wonder; for not from the dei Medici could such beauty come.
Clement VII, who played so like a cat with Henry VIII of England, sits in marble, with a King kneeling before him - and there is a grand statue of Leo X, resembling Raphaelìs portrait of him in the Pitti. But the marble transfigures his earthliness somewhat.
The ceiling of the Hall is divided into compartments, richly carved and heavily gilded; and in these compartments are finished oil paintings, extending over a hundred and seventy feet by seventy five of space! The colors are deep and bright, and the effect is sumptuous. The Flroentines are very proud of this salone, and believe it is the largest in the world. The doors are hung with crimson satin, fringed with gold, and when the rubbish is cleared away and the workmen gone, I think Florence may well be proud of it.
When we left the Palazzo, we saw the Lion, at the end of the broad terrace, which the Pisans were forced to kiss, after their defeat; and Michel Angelo's David, which I do not like, probably because I do not understand it - and Hercules and Cacus and two inexplicable figures. And we crossed to the Loggia of the Lancers, by Orgagna, and looked at the Perseus more carefully than I have done before.
It is one of those faces in which deepest thought is expressed, earnest, sad though, and heroic beauty. There is not much taper to the limbs, but immense strength in the arms. I hope Benvenuto Cellini will not destroy me, in enraged self-complacence, if I say that I wish they were slenderer, to harmonize with the intellectual fineness of the face. The irises of the eyes are cut out - incised - which gives them a dark, intent look, which I do not altogether like for sculpture. The winged helmet is falling from his clustering hair; for he need not be invisible any longer, now tht the deed is done. He holds out the terrible head dreamily, almost unconsciously, as lost in thought. Canova's Perseus is only a vain toy compared to this noble creation. Canova was external, I think. He cut the outside of the marble nicely, and never wrrestled after a profound idea, hidden in it. It is all very neat, but who cares?
It was exceedingly interesting to see the statuetts, placed round the pedestal of the Perseus, referring to the myth. For the Grand Duchess liked them so much, she wished to have them in her boudoir, and Benvenuto was so determined she should not, that he placed them in their proper niches, in the night, while the Duchess was asleep. The account he gives in his autobiography of the casting of the statue is very characteristic. After loitering about the most beautiful of all Loggie for a long time, we went into the Gallery of the Uffizi, and sat down in the first vestibule, to contemplate the Medici. I must confess that Ferdinand III has quite a grand head, wherever he got it. Cosimo III is as repulsive and ugly as Philip II of Spain. Cosimo II looks like a negro, with frightful, thick, prominent lips; and, indeed, they are a fearful set of men. Oh, beautiful Florence! how insane must have been you conduct, to fall into the hands of such keepers! * * *
We passed on to the Tribune, for I wished to see Michel Angelo's Holy Family, after reading Mr Ware's excessive eulogy of the Madonna. Mr Ware has gone mad on that Madonna, I believe, for I am sure she is not what he describes her to be. With all my faith and enthusiasm for the artist, I cannot see in it what he rages about. The mother is looking up into the infant's face, and not into the heavens in a prayer or dream or musing. To me she is not noble nor particularly full of expression. The infant is grand and Joseph is benign - only the Madonna disappoints me.
We did not stay long in the entrancing Tribune, because to-day I wished to see the pencil and pen and ink drawings of the great masters. As we came out of the southern gallery, however, we found the door of the cabinet of gems open, and were drawn in. There we saw splendors upon splendors of precious jewels and stones. A toad, made of one priceless, great pearl, with two jewels in his head, was certainly a toad in glory. There was a face oriental jade, with dazzling diamonds for eyes; and a negro's head of paragon (a black precious stone) with an immense pearl for headress, and a tunic of one entire pearl, bordered with rubies! I think he was probably the ancestor of the negro-lipped Medici. There were innumerable vases of every form, size, and precious material - columns of crystal, with bands of diamonds, emerablds, and rubies round their capitals; but I cannot tell all that there was. The little cabinet was a gem of itself, surrounded by columns of verde antique, and paved with marbles.
So now we were too late for the drawings to-day, and too tired also, and therefore we strolled into the portrait gallery, where I sketched the beautiful Raphael, and became better acquainted with Leonardo da Vinci and Titian. Titian is handsome, by I neither love nor reverence him, for some reason best known to himself. In the hall of Bacchus, we looked at the authentic Plato, as it is said to be, a most noble, intellectual brow, and fine features, except that the mouth is not firm and strong. Can this be true of the divine Plato? As he shares with Lord Bacon the highest human intellect, I am sure he must be strong; but it may be that this is a bust of him when his mouth had lost its precision of line from age. As I believe Lord Bacon and Shakspeare to be one and the same person - or rather, as I believe Lord Bacon wrote what are called Shakspeare's plays and sonnets, this will account for my leaving him out of that lofty companionship. Now, no more. What a day this has been! Oh, yet - a little more. When we came down into the Court, we saw the statue of Benvenuto Cellini, very handsome, a noble figure, holding loving on his arm his bronze Perseus. How profoundly one may admire and appreciate Benvenuto, I think he goes beyond any one in admiration of himself; yet in such a simple, genuine way, that it is not offensive, but rather winsome than otherwise. I cannot thank him enough for his entertaining autobiography, though it be somewhat mendacious. His mendacity is a mixture of fun and vanity; but who ever had such cunning fingers? I do not wonder that the Prince loved to watch him at work. It must have been like a glimpse into fairy land, when he was upon his bijouterie. I should be glad to know whether his hands were delicate and taper. And, no again, no more - to-night.
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