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in this field, as senior, is Signorelli da Cortona, whose Résurrection, Punishment of the Wicked, and Reward of the Just, as they are reen in the Duomo at Orvieto, with other minor compositions in the same church, display a vivid imagination, bold and daring foreshortenings, accompanied by great vigour of line; exhibiting perfect knowledge of the anatomy of the human figure, employed by a varied and fertile invention in striking contrasts and combinations; and with an almost complete abandonment of the style of arrangement and effect which had till then been the guide of the school. The skill he there exhibited, fully justifies a belief in the declaration of Vasari, and of others, that Michel Angelo attentively studied his works. 3.1 Lionardo da Vinci was a contemporary of Signorelli, and was fortunate in being able to add to the art a novel and important faculty, the now well-known quality chiaro-oscuro. Before the era of Da Vinci, little more was attended to by even the Florentine artists, in respect of light and shade in their pictures, than their management according to the natural varieties, as those were ordinarily presented to their observation. The grand principle of the change effected by Da Vinci, was his selections of a concentrated light; he then threw a large quantity of shade upon his figures, and united these shades with the grounds of relief.
The practice, however, was timidly pursued by its inventor; it was subsequently improved upon, but moderately, by Fra. Bartolomeo, and Mariotti Albertinelli, and only received from the hands of Correggio, that breadth and spirit which were absolutely essential to its perfection. We participate deeply in the feeling of regret which Mr. Phillips expresses when he tells us that the celebrated composition, " The Last Supper” of Da Vinci, is now only a ruin. The description, therefore, of this master-piece of human ingenuity becomes doubly valuable; and when we state that the
passage which we are about to give is drawn from notes taken on the spot where the picture was to be seen, by Mr. Phillips, no apology need be made for claiming for it the reader's best attention.
• Mr. Hilton and myself examined its condition with careful and minute attention, and could with difficulty find a portion of its original surface. The little we did find, exhibited to us an exceedingly well-prepared ground, smooth to the highest degree, and the painting upon it free, firm, and pure. Till this time all paintings on walls had been wrought in fresco ; but oil painting, which had become known and practised in smaller .works, better suited Da Vinci's mode of proceeding, as it admits of retouching or repeating; and unfortunately he adopted it here. He was not, however, the firstwho had employed it in that way; Domenico Veneziano, and one or two others, had made tempting examples for him; and thus led to a result so unfavourable to his reputation. It would appear that the vehicle which he employed, whatever it were,
had with the ground, and therefore the surface cracked; and whenever damp
found its way through those cracks, and between the painting and the ground, small parts of the former were thrown off, till at length large blotches were formed, exhibiting the white preparation beneath. These have at various times been filled up; and it had been well, if with that fillingup
had rested the efforts of the restorers, But their attempts to match the remaining colours failing, as I suppose, they have taken the shorter method of cure, by repainting the whole surface of the part they were required to mend; so that, at the present time, little or nothing, it may be said, remains of Lionardo, save the composition and the forms generally. Of the heads, there is not one untouched, and many are totally ruined. Fortunately, that of the Saviour is the most pure, being but faintly retouched; and it presents even yet, a most perfect image of that Divine character. Whence arose the story of its not having been finished it is difficult now to conceive, and the history itself varies among the writers who have mentioned it. But perhaps a man so scrupulous as he, in the definement of character and expression, and so ardent in his pursuit of them, might have expressed himself unsatisfied, where all others could see only perfection.'-pp. 65, 66, 67.
Da Vinci has the reputation, in medical literature, of being the authority to whom we owe the first scientific tables of
anatomy. From the description of the powers of Da Vinci, we pass over some mixed names to reach the account which the author gives of the works of M. Angelo, and here we find Mr. Phillips endowe ed with new powers of expression and of feeling, such as could emanate alone from genuine inspiration. The sight of these works, he declares, filled him with astonishment and delight, and gave him the most ample opportunity for determining the inadequacy of language to reach the power of actual vision. Mr. Phillips informs us that the copies and imitations of M. Angelo's works, which are pointed out in these countries as giving a faithful idea of the style of the artist, are no more than so many practical misrepresentations of that style, the faults of which are usually those portions that are most strictly adhered to. The copyers and imitators of this master have, for the most part, entirely misunderstood the quality which constituted the intrinsic excellence of his art, their persuasion being that the varied grandeur of outline, and those contrasts of form by which his works are distinguished, make up the whole of the characteristics of M. Angelo's genius. But our author distinctly shows that these results are only the products of a higher inherent quality, that they emanate from that strong feeling of his mind, which urged him to the greatest of human efforts, to master the most arduous of the tasks of the pencil, namely, that of imparting life and sentiment to his figures, by the appearance of motion. Hence the truth of the conclusion at which Mr. Phillips at last arrives, and which he expressed by saying, that where the art of other men ended, that of M. Angelo began. Imagination seems to have been the home of the triumphant artist, and there alone was it that he rested with satisfaction. In the power of pourtraying a fact, Mr. Phillips keenly remarks, that M. Angelo was far surpassed by Raffaelle; but in striking out a new path in his art, particularly in relation to the human figure, which he constituted into a new element of design, by increasing the grandeur of its form, by giving life and energy to its motions, intensity to the thoughts, and strength to the character which he represented; in accomplishing this, he repeats, he performed a prodigy which admits of no competitor near his throne. These at least were the feelings which filled the breast of our accomplished lecturer on contemplating the mighty performances of M. Angelo on the coving and ceiling of the Sistina Chapel, in the Vatican, and particularly in the figures of the Prophets, the Sibyls, and, above all
, the form of Adam as he is seen in this magnificent group, and touched into living existence by the Omnipotent hand. “Whoever dwells upon it," exclaims Mr. Phillips, rising with his subject to a strain of noble eloquence, “ whoever dwells upon it, till his sense imbibes the feeling it is calculated to inspire, will be led to the highest estimation of the imaginative power that conceived it. No art has yet surpassed that noble figure of the first man rising upwards at the divine command, to receive the spark of animation from the finger of his Almighty Creator; who self-impelled, and floating in the atmosphere, is surrounded by the acknowledged personifications of his wisdom and his power; the secret agents of his sovereign will, hidden from the view of man by the dark mantle that surrounds them! In the whole region of the art in which it has been my lot to range, I have met with no picture so full, so just, so spiritual, yet so simple as this; so grand and solemn in its effect; yet without the aid of that customary resort of those who make the grand and imposing their aim-darkness. There is poetic feeling of the highest class; allegory of the most refined nature; the application of the art exalted to the noblest
purpose. " It is in the peculiar power exhibited in that picture, that he stands as much apart from the practice of his predecessors, as by his grandeur of line, or the fulness of his breadth; and he stands so entirely apart, that no one, whose works I have seen, approaches him. Even in his most capricious compositions, and it cannot be denied that many deserve that title, that power of imparting life, and motion, and sentiment prevails, and distinguishes him from all others.
The commemoration of Raffaelle is by no means so enthusiastically dwelt upon by Mr. Phillips as that of M. Angelo; but still there is a serenity about the panegyric of the latter, which is quite in accordance with the character of the artist, at the same time that it takes nothing from the amount of praise bestowed on bis memory.
Raffaelle is particularly eulogized by Mr. Phillips for the perseverance and steadiness with which he cultivated truth and beauty in all their purity. He was the great dramatist of the pencil, and displayed those ever-fascinating scenes which
are made up of the actions of men, under the influence of various characters and passions. It is true that a difference subsisted between M. Angelo and Raffaelle in this respect, that, whilst the former drew the whole of his resources from himself, the latter was a debtor in no small degree to his predecessors; but this imperfection was amply redeemed by the one main quality which constitutes the true antiseptic that preserves in youthful freshness the memory of Raffaelle,--the extension and refinement of picturesque historical composition, and this, of which he was the true inventor, he conducted with the highest and soundest sense. The result of a comparison, which is admirably instituted by Mr. Phillips between the two illustrious artists just spoken of, may be briefly summed up. Each of these triumphed in the branch to which he directed his great powers; each, therefore, retains his specific influence over our minds; and it is stated, as a curious fact by the lecturer, that such was the difference of genius in these two men, that each failed most in that department where the other was most triumphant. Raffaelle, however, after all, is the painter of the heart; M. Angelo, by his towering ambition and the exaltation of his flights, excites more of our admiration than of our affection; but Raffaelle is satisfied to remain amongst his fellow-creatures, and to cultivate the charities and sympathies of life with them.
The peculiarities which distinguished the Florentine school, it must be remembered, were confined to a portion only of Italy; for in the Venetian section of her territory, as well as in the Lombard district, distinct schools of art existed, the first being represented by Giorgione and Titian, and the latter by Correggio. The Venetian painters were renowned for their colouring, and especially for a species of chiaro-oscuro, perfectly separated in its principle from the chiaro-oscuro of Da Vinci, being the result of certain arrangements of light and dark, or warm and cold colours, and of artificial or imaginary effects of light and shade. Another prominent feature of the Venetians was the ingenious management of form in a picture. The Florentines may be said to have considered it a matter of duty to tell a story fairly out in their picture, and therefore to congregate alone in the scene such person's as formed the regular group of the dramatis personæ: the Venetians on the other hand took the liberty of consulting their own taste, and granted the privilege of an appearance on the canvas to those figures alone which were sure to make an adequate return by some very agreeable quality. But the grand object of the Venetian school at last came to be the colouring. The causes of this preference on the part of the Venetian masters, who seemed to think the principle of design of much inferior value, are suggested by Mr. Phillips as capable of being found in the circumstance of the great influx of wealth into Venice between the ninth and sixteenth centuries. Engaged, observes Mr. Phillips, in vast mercantile and warlike enterprises, that city became, by conquest; and by purchase, the depot of immense treasures in wrought and costly marbles, and other works of art; though, excepting the renowned horses, and they are not of the finest quality, they were generally of the lower degraded periods. 1. The spoils of Constantinople furnished sufficient to enrich, and even overload, the rude but imposing architecture of the principal church, St. Mark's; in which the love of richness and costliness, in lieu of good taste, is rendered visible, not only by the variety of its splendid display of ancient columns and its windows of painted glass; but also, by the multitude of mosaics with gilded grounds, which almost en tirely cover its walls. It is not unreasonable to suppose, that the splendour of effect obtained by those rich materials, the gold, the coloured glass and marbles, and the semivitrified colours, of which those mosaics are composed, became an object of emulation to the painters of Venice: an effect in perfect consonance with the false taste and the love of show, generated by the influence of the luxury attendant on wealth.
We are unable to follow Mr. Phillips through the details which he pursues of the history of the Venetian and Lombardian schools; it will be sufficient for us to mention that in these three great schools, joining the Florentine with the other two, we find the three grand principles of painting separately cultivated and brought as near perfection as probably the hands of man may ever conduct them.
The fourth lecture commences with the history of the Dutch and Flemish schools, and we regret that the masterly commentaries of Mr. Phillips on the works of Rubens, Vandyke, Rembrandt, and the rest of the glorious throng, must be passed over in silence by us. The course of these annals leads naturally to the consideration of the state of painting in England at the ear
It appears that up to the time of Charles I. the history of the art of painting in this country is destitute of every feature of interest, with the exception, however, of all that is recorded respecting the productions of Holbein and Sir Antonio More, who flourished during the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. It is very probable that had England been saved that melancholy check in her political career which she received from the Interregnum, and had Charles continued on the throne, this country would have been far more advanced than she is at this day in the cultivation of the art. Charles began upon a splendid and secure principle to establish a taste, at least amongst the higher orders of his subjects, by making a large collection of pictures, by inviting Titian to England, and employing both Rubens and Vandyke. From the period of the barbarous destruction of the paintings by the Puritans, the history of British painting is a dead letter up to the reign of George II., when it was recovered in some degree from degradation by Sir J. Thornbill, Ramsay, Hudson, but especially by Hogarth. Sir Joshua Reynolds shortly after,