The Story of Art [4th ed.]

First published in 1950 by Phaidon, the book is widely regarded both as a seminal work of criticism and as one of the mo

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The Story of Art [4th ed.]

Table of contents :
PREFACE I
introduction: On Art and Artists 5
i. strange beginnings: Prehistoric and Primitive Peoples; Ancient
America 19
2. art for eternity: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete 33
3. the great awakening: Greece, Seventh to Fifth Century B.C. 49
4. the realm of beauty : Greece and the Greek World, Fourth Century
B.C. to First Century a.d. 67
5. world conquerors : Romans, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians, First
to Fourth Century A.D. 79
6. aparting of ways: Romeand Byzantium, Fifth to Thirteenth Century 91
7. looking eastwards: Islam, China, Second to Thirteenth Century 99
8. western art in the melting pot: Europe, Sixth to Eleventh
Century 109
9. the church militant: The Twelfth Century 119
10. the church triumphant: The Thirteenth Century 131
11. courtiers and burghers: The Fourteenth Century 149
12. the conquest of reality: The Early Fifteenth Century 161
13. tradition and innovation : The Later Fifteenth Century in Italy 177
14. tradition and innovation: The Fifteenth Century in the North 195
15. harmony attained: Tuscany and Rome, Early Sixteenth Century 209
16. light and colour : Venice and Northern Italy in the Early Sixteenth
Century 237
17. the new learning spreads: Germany and the Netherlands in the
Early Sixteenth Century 249
18. A crisis of art: Europe, Later Sixteenth Century 265
19. vision and visions: Catholic Europe, First Half of the Seventeenth
Century 287
20. the mirror of nature: Holland in the Seventeenth Century 309
21. power and glory : Italy, Later Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries 325
22. power and glory: France, Germany and Austria, Late Seventeenth
and Early Eighteenth Centuries 335
23. the age of reason: England and France, Eighteenth Century 343
24. the break in tradition: England, America and France, Late
Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries 357
25. revolution in permanence: The Nineteenth Century 377
26. in search of new standards: The Late Nineteenth Century 403
27. experimental art: The Twentieth Century 419
a note on art books 447
list of illustrations and acknowledgements 451
index and glossary 459

Citation preview

T14E

MvJKY OF

ART BYEHGOMBRICH

PHAIDON

Digitized by the Internet Archive in

2010

http://www.archive.org/details/storyofargomtOOgomb

I

III

',

I

'

^Hff

k 52.

Head of the

l

bronze statue of a charioteer. Found in Delphi. Delphi, Museum

Diggings in Olympia have unearthed a good

famous statues mostly in the

many of the

rested, but the statues themselves

£

Made

'

i

.

'%"

about 470 B.C.

pedestals

on which these

have disappeared. They were

made of bronze and were probably melted down when metal became Middle Ages. Only

in

of a charioteer whose head general idea one

may

easily

scarce

Delphi has one of these statues been found, the figure

is

shown

in Fig. 52. It

form of Greek

art

is

amazingly different from the

when one

only looks at copies.

eyes which look often so blank and expressionless in marble statues or are

The

empty

in

— The Great Aicakening

6o

bronze-heads are marked in coloured stones



time.

The

they always were at that

as

which gave an

warmth

richness and

And

eyes and lips were

hair,

slightly gilt

of

effect

whole

face.

yet such a head never looked

gaudy or vulgar. artist

was not out

with

all its

can see that the

to imitate a real face

imperfections but that he

it

human

form.

We do not know whether

the charioteer

probably

We

out of his knowledge of the

shaped

it

it is

good

a

is

no

is

likeness

'likeness' at all in

we understand

the sense in which

word. But a

to the

the

a convincing image of

human being, of wonderful

simplicity

and beauty.

Works

like this

which are not even

mentioned by the writers lost in 53. Discus Throtoer [Discobolos). Roman marble copy, after a bronze statue by Y R o N.

M

About 450

B.C.

same generation which allow us

young

as did Pheidias.

at least to

He

supporting the

Greek

Myron, who probably belonged

Various copies of

a general idea at the

this

of what

it

to the

work have been found

looked

moment when he

just

is

like (Fig. 53).

The

about to hurl the

force.

have taken

it

for a

model and have

tried to learn

from

it

the exact

of throwing the discus. But this has proved less easy than they had

hoped. They had forgotten that Myron's statue

but a Greek work of an. In fact

Myron

'Discus

Thrower' by the Athenian sculptor

down and swung his arm backwards so as to be able to At the next moment he will spin round and let fly, throw with a turn of his body. The attitude looks so convincing that

athletes

style

the most famous of these statues

of athletes such as the

has bent

throw with greater

modern

form

was represented

athlete

heavy discus.

Munich, Glyptothek

Greek

classical

remind us what we must have

if

we

look at

has achieved his astonishing effect of

it

is

not a

more

'still'

carefully

movement

from

we

m ainl y

a sports reel

shall find that

through

a

new

adaptation of very ancient artistic methods. Standing in front of the statue and

thinking only of its outlines

of Egyptian

art.

we become suddenly aware of its relation to the tradition Myron has given us the trunk in front view,

Like the Egyptians,

the legs and arms in side view, like

body out of u

e

most

them he has composed

characteristic views of

its

parts.

his picture of a

But under

his

hands

man's

this old

The Great Awakening

54. Chartoreers. Detail

from the marble

London,

Parthenon. About 440

frieze of the

British

B.C.

Museum

and outworn formula has become something entirely

different. Instead

of

fitting

these views together into an unconvincing likeness of a rigid pose, he asked a real

model

to take

up

a similar attitude

and so adapted

vincing representation of a body in motion. exact

movement most

matters

is

that

suitable for throwing the discus

Myron conquered movement

that

it

it

Whether or not is

could look

this

like a

con-

corresponds to the

hardly relevant.

just as the painters

What

of his time

conquered space.

Of

all

Greek

Parthenon

which have come down to us the sculptures from the new freedom perhaps in the most wonderful way. The Parwas completed some twenty years after the temple of Olympia, and originals

reflect this

thenon (Fig. 45) in that brief

span of time

artists

had acquired an ever greater ease and

solving the problems of convincing representation. tors

were

who made these decorations of the temple,

in the shrine

Figs. 54

it

seems

likely that his

workshop

facility in

We do not know who the sculpbut as Pheidias

made the

statue

also provided the other sculptures.

and 55 show fragments of the long band or

frieze that ran

round the

building under the roof and represented the annual procession on the solemn festival

The Great Awakening

62

W 55. Detail

from the procession of horsemen, the marble frieze of the Parthenon. About 440 London, British Museum

of the goddess. There were always games and sports displays during these

one of which consisted

and

in the

At

first it

may be

festivities,

dangerous feat of driving a chariot and jumping on

off while the four horses galloped along. It

Fig. 54.

B.C.

difficult to find one's

is

such a display that

way about on

that

is

first

shown

in

fragment

The Great Awakening

63

because the relief is very badly

damaged. Not only surface

the

part of

is

broken

off,

the

whole of the colour has gone

which probably made the figures stand out brightly against an intensely coloured

background.

To

and texture of

us the colour

fine

marble

is

something so wonderful that

we would never want it

to cover

with paint, but the Greeks

even

painted

temples

their

with strong contrasting colours

such as red and blue.

however

little

may be

the original work,

it is

But,

left

of

always

worth while with Greek sculptures to try to forget

what

is

not there for the sheer joy of

discovering what

we

first

is

left.

The

see in our fragment

is

the horses, four of them, one

behind the other. Their heads

Tombstone of Hegeso. About 420 Athens, National Museum

56.

and

their legs are sufficiently

B.C.

well preserved to give us an idea of the mastery with

which the

artist

the

same must

also

how

freely they

their bodies stood out. Foreshortening

The arm with

the shield

is

drawn with

perfect ease,

of the helmet and the bulging coat which discoveries

do not 'run away' with the

still fit

lively

and

is

ment which Greek cal patterns

He

and so

is

to the

the fluttering all

these

However much he may have

we do not

spirited the

has retained something of the

art derived

muscles of

clearly the

feel that

he

is

eager to

groups have become, they

well into the arrangement of the solemn procession which

wall of the building.

see that

can imagine from

blown by the wind. But

artist.

enjoyed this conquest of space and movement,

what he can do. However

Soon we

We

no longer presented a great problem

new

off

the structure of the

or dry.

human figures. moved and how

crest

show

stiff

have been true of the

the traces that are left

artist.

show

contrived to

bones and muscles without the whole looking

artistic

moves along the

wisdom of arrange-

from the Egyptians and from the training

in geometri-

which had preceded the Great Awakening. Every Greek work from that

The Great Awakening

64 great periods

show

this

wisdom and

skill in

the distribution of figures, and

it is

this

sense of poise which turns a simple tombstone like Fig. 56 into a great work of art.

The

relief

servant

girl

shows Hegeso, who

is

buried under the stone, as she was in

select a piece

of jewellery.

It is

a quiet scene

which we might compare

to the

Egyptian representation of Tutankhamen on his throne with his wife adjusting collar (page 44, Fig. 39).

but despite the fact that stiff

A

life.

stands in front of her and offers her a chest from which she seems to

The Egyptian

it

work, too,

is

wonderfully clear in

its

dates from an exceptional period of Egyptian art

and unnatural. The Greek

relief has

shed

all

these

awkward

has retained the lucidity and beauty of the arrangement which metrical and angular but free and relaxed.

The way

his

outline,

it is

rather

limitations, but is

it

no longer geo-

the upper half is framed by the

curve of the two women's arms, the way these lines are answered in the curves of the stool, the

simple method by which Hegeso's beautiful hand becomes the centre ot

attention, the flow of the drapery to

round the forms of the body



all this

combines

produce that simple harmony which only came into the world with Greek

of the

fifth

57.

Right

:

century.

Greek Sculptor's Workshop. Left The bronze foundry with sketches on the wall. at work on a headless statue, the head lying on the ground. From a Greek bowl. About 480 B.C. Berlin, Museum :

Man

art

*

hohm .

Wall-painting from Stabiac. First century A.n.

59-

Praxiteles: Head of Hermes. Detail of

Fig. 62

chapter 4



THE REALM OF BEAUTY

Greece and the Greek World, Fourth Century B.C. to First Century

....

A.D.

&

Acropolis, built after 420

THE

great awakening of art to freedom

century, artists had

become

and so had the public. Though

hundred the fifth

fully conscious

artists

were

still

perhaps, despised by the snobs, an increasing

D

in the

Towards the end of

had taken place

years between, roughly, 520 and 420 b.c.

b.i

of their power and mastery,

looked upon as craftsmen and, number of people began to be

The Realm of Beauty work

interested in their

and not only

for

own

its

sake,

for the sake of its religious or

political functions.

People discussed the

merits of the various 'schools' of art; that is

methods,

to say, of the various

and

styles

which distinguished the

traditions

masters in different

cities.

There

no

is

doubt that the comparison and competition

between these schools stimulated the

artists to ever-greater efforts,

to create that variety

Greek

and helped

which we admire

in

In architecture, various styles

art.

The

Par-

thenon had been built in the Doric

style

began to be used side by

side.

of the

(Fig. 45), but in the later buildings

Acropolis the forms of the so-called Ionic style

were introduced.The building which

shows it at its most perfect is the Temple of Poseidon called the Erechtheion (Fig.

The 61.

A

Goddess of Victory.

From the balustrade

round the Temple of Victory Erected in 408

principle of these temples

as that of the

in Athens.

robust and strong.

no longer

They

are like slender shafts,

unadorned cushion, but

a simple

the

60).

same

Doric ones, but the whole

appearance and characterare very different.

B.C.

The columns of the less

is

is

and the

Ionic temple are

much

capital or headpiece

richly decorated with volutes

is

on the

sides, which again seem to express the function of the part which carries the beam on which the roof rests. The whole impression of these buildings with their finely

wrought

details

The same

is

one of

infinite grace

characteristics of grace

and

ease.

and ease

also

mark the sculpture and painting

of this period, which begins with the generation after Pheidias. Athens, during period, was involved in a fearful

this

war with Sparta which ended her prosperity and

that of Greece. In 408 B.C., during a brief spell of peace, a small temple to the

goddess of victory was erected on the Acropolis, and

show the change of taste towards the Ionic style.

The figures have been

to illustrate one of

them

without head or hands

(Fig. 61) to

still is.

its

sculptures and ornaments

delicacy and refinement which

sadly mutilated, but

show how

It is the figure

I

halt

is

portrayed, and

beautiful body!

We

how

softly

and

also reflected in like nevertheless

beautiful even this broken figure

of a

girl,

one of the goddesses of

victory, stooping to fasten a loosened sandal as she walks.

Sudden

is

should

With what charm

this

richly the thin drapery falls over the

can see in these works that the

artist

could do whatever

The Realm of Beauty

He was no

he wanted.

longer

struggling with any difficulty in

movement

representing

or fore-

shortening. This very ease and

made him perhaps

virtuosity

The

self-conscious.

little

of the Parthenon frieze Fig. 54) did not

task

was

an

or what that his

represent as

his

to represent a proces-

and

sion,

(p. 61,

to think

He knew

overmuch about he was doing.

seem

he it

he could.

took

pains

as clearly

He was

great master of

hardly con-

whom

would

alike

to

and well

scious of the fact that he

young

a

artist

was

a

old

and

still

be

talking thousands of years later.

The frieze of the

Victory temple

shows, perhaps, the beginning of a change of attitude. This artist

was proud of his immense

power, as well he might be. so, gradually,

century,

the

changed.

approach to

Pheidias'

Greece

as

The

art

statues

gods had been famous

gods.

And

during the fourth

all

of

over

representations

of

great temple statues

of the fourth century earned their reputation

more by

virtue

of their beauty as works of

art.

Praxiteles: Hermes with young Dionysus. About 350 B.C. Olympia, Museum

People discussed pictures and statues as they discussed their

form and

The

poems and

plays; they praised their beauty or criticized

style.

greatest artist of that century, Praxiteles,

was above

all

famed

for the

charm

of his work and for the sweet and insinuating character of his creations. His most celebrated work,

whose

praise

was sung

in

many poems,

represented the goddess

of Love, the youthful Aphrodite, stepping into her bath. But this work has disap-

peared ; only one original statue by him

is

known, and

it

was by no means so famous

The Realm of Beauty

70

god Hermes holding young Dionysus on

in antiquity. It represents the

and playing with him

we

Fig. 47,

see

years. In the

(Fig. 62,

and

what an enormous distance Greek

work of

Praxiteles

we

p. 66, Fig. 59). If

before us in a relaxed pose which does not impair his dignity. But,

the

way

in

which

we begin

Praxiteles has achieved this effect,

then the lesson of ancient

art

had not been forgotten.

show us

the hinges of the body, to

possible.

But he can now do

all

arm

two hundred

art has travelled in

traces of rigidity have gone.

all

his

look back at page 51,

The god stands if we think about

to realize that even

Praxiteles, too, takes care to

make us understand

its

working

that without keeping his statue stiff

as clearly as

and

lifeless.

He

can show the muscles and bones swelling and moving under the soft skin, and can give the impression of a living

body

in all

grace and beauty. Nevertheless,

its

necessary to understand that Praxiteles and the other Greek

beauty through knowledge. There

and beautiful

as those

did was to look at

is

no

living

body quite

artists

as symmetrical, well-built

of the Greek statues. People often think that what the

many models and

to leave out

it is

achieved this

any feature they did not

artists

like

:

that

they started by carefully copying the appearance of a real man, and then beautified

by omitting any

it

perfect body.

irregularities or traits

They

terms of a photographer a touched-up

which did not conform

to their idea of a

say that Greek artists 'idealized' nature, and they think of it in

who

touches up a portrait by deleting small blemishes. But

photograph and an idealized statue usually lack character and vigour.

So much has been

left

out and deleted, that

little

remains but a pale and insipid

The Greek approach was really exactly the opposite. Through the artists we have been discussing were concerned with infusing

ghost of the model. all

these centuries,

more and more bore

its

of the

life

ripest fruits.

method move and breathe under the hands like real human beings, and yet as

into the ancient husks. In the time of Praxiteles their

The old

skilful sculptor,

types had begun to

and they stand before us

beings from a different, better world.

They are, in fact, beings from a different world,

no reason at

to think they

which the

Many

typical

were

—but because

art at that

and the individual were poised

of the most famous works of



men there is moment had reached a point in a new and delicate balance.

not because the Greeks were healthier or more beautiful than other

classical art

which were admired

in later

times as representing the most perfect types of human beings are copies or variants

of statues which were created in

The Apollo

this period, the

middle of the fourth century

bow

stands before us in his impressive pose, holding up the

and the head turned sideways no

as if he

difficulty in recognizing the faint

of the body was given statues of Venus, the

of Melos)

is

B.C.

Belvedere (Fig. 63) shows the ideal model of a man's body. As he

its

most

perhaps the best

known

extended arm

his eyes,

we have

echo of the ancient scheme in which each part

characteristic view.

Venus of Milo

in the

was following the arrow with

Among

(so called because (Fig. 64).

it

Probably

the famous classical

was found on the island

it

belonged to a group of

The Realm of Beauty

71

64. The Venus of Milo. statue of first century B.C. Probably imitation of a fourthcentury work. Paris, Louvre

63. Apollo Belvedere.

Roman marble copy

(the

hands modern)

Greek

after

a Greek statue probably dating from about 350 B.C. Vatican, iYiuseum

Venus and Cupid which was made

in a

somewhat

achievements and the methods of Praxiteles.

It,

later period,

too,

but which used the

was designed

to

the side (Venus was extending her arms towards Cupid), and again

be seen from

we can admire

the clarity and simplicity with which the artist modelled the beautiful body, the

way he marked

Of figure

main

its

course, this

divisions without ever

method of

more and more

has one drawback.

It

creating beauty

lifelike until the

was possible

becoming harsh or vague.

by making

a general

and schematic

marble's surface seems to live and breathe

to create convincing

human

types by this means,

but would this method ever lead to the representation of real individual beings

we

?

Strange as

it

may sound

human

to us, the idea of a portrait, in the sense in

which

use the word, did not occur to the Greeks until rather late in the fourth century.

True, we hear of portraits made in earlier times

were probably not very good likenesses. a picture of

(p. 59, Fig. 52),

but these statues

A portrait of a general was little more than

any good-looking soldier with

a

helmet and a

staff.

The

artist

never

reproduced the shape of his nose, the furrows of his brow or his individual expression.

The Realm of Beauty It is

a strange fact,

we have

which we have not yet

Greek

discussed, that

a particular expression.

astonishing than

because face it

the works

artists in

seen have avoided giving the faces

we can

This

seems

it

is

at

really

more

first

sight,

hardly scribble any simple

on our blotting-paper without giving

some marked Greek

sion.

(usually a funny) expres-

statues,

of course, are not

expressionless in the sense of looking dull

and blank, but

To do

Greek masters would have had the play of the features, which distorted larity 65.

Head

copy

of Alexander the Great. Probably

after a portrait

by lysippus. About

Istambul,

It

to

that, the

show

to

would have

and destroyed the simple regu-

of the head.

was

in the generation after Praxiteles,

towards the end of the fourth century,

Museum

330

B.C.

By

the time of Alexander the Great, towards the end of the fourth century,

that this further great discovery in art.

seem

their faces never

betray any definite feeling.

the heads of the statues usually look

was made

much more animated and alive than the beautiful

faces of earlier works. Together with this mastery of expression, artists also learned to seize the individual character of a

physiognomy and

make portraits

to

in our sense of

the word. It was in the time of Alexander that people started to discuss this

of portraiture.

new

art

A writer of that period, caricaturing the irritating habits of flatterers

and toadies, mentions that they always burst out in loud praise of the striking likeness of their patron's portrait. Alexander himself preferred to be portrayed by his court sculptor Lysippus, the most celebrated artist of the day,

whose

astonished his contemporaries. His portrait of Alexander

down

to us in a

copy (Fig. 65), and we can see from

it

is

faithfulness to nature

thought to have come

how much

art

had changed

who was Of course, the trouble with all ancient portraits is that we really cannot pronounce on their likeness much less, in fact, than the flatterer in the story. Perhaps if we could see a snapshot of Alexander we should find it quite unlike the bust. We might find that the figure of Lysippus resembles a god much more than it does the real conqueror of Asia. But so much we can say a man such as since the time of the Delphic charioteer, or even since the time of Praxiteles,

only a generation older than Lysippus.



:

Alexander, a restless

have looked

The for

like this

spirit,

immensely gifted but rather spoilt by success, might well

bust with

its

upraised eyebrows and

its

lively expression.

foundation of an empire by Alexander was an enormously important event

Greek

art, for

thereby

it

developed from being the concern of a few small

cities

The Realm of Beauty

73

into the pictorial language of almost half the world. This

We usually refer to this art of the later period not as

character.

its

change was bound to

Hellenistic art, because that

the

is

name

Greek

art,

affect

but as

usually given to the empires founded by

Alexander's successors on eastern soil.The rich capitals of these empires, Alexandria

and Pergamon

in Egypt, Antiochia in Syria

on the

artists

from those

in Asia

Minor, made different demands

which they had been accustomed

to

in Greece.

Even

in

architecture the strong and simple forms of the Doric style and the easy grace of

A new

the Ionic style were not enough.

form of column was preferred, which had

been invented early in the fourth century and which was called

merchant

city

of Corinth (Fig. 66). In the Corinthian

after the

style, foliage

to the

more and

richer

Ionic spiral volutes to decorate the capital, and there are generally

ornaments ings

all

over the building. This luxurious

which were

laid

mode

of them have been preserved, but what remains from pression of great magnificence and splendour. art I

suited the

out on a vast scale in the newly founded

were applied on the

and

scale,

have said that Greek

sumptuous buildof the East.

cities

later periods gives

styles

Few

us an im-

and inventions of Greek

to the traditions, of the Oriental empires.

was bound

art

The

wealthy

was added

period. This change can be noticed in

to

undergo a change

in the Hellenistic

some of the most famous works of that

age.

One of them is an altar from the city of Pergamon which was erected about 170 B.C. (Fig. 67). The sculpture on it represents the struggle between the gods and the Titans. It is a magnificent work, but we look in vain for the harmony and refinement of earlier Greek sculpture. The artist was obviously aiming at strong dramatic effects. The battle rages with terrible violence. The clumsy Titans are overwhelmed by the triumphant gods, and they look up

movement and is

no longer

fluttering drapery.

set flat

in

agony and pain. Everything

To make

on the wall but

is

the effect

still

more

is full

of wild

striking, the relief

composed of almost free-standing

which, in their struggle, seem to overflow on to the steps of the

figures

altar as if

they

hardly troubled about where they belonged. Hellenistic art loved such wild and

vehement works

it

:

wished

to

be impressive, and impressive

Some of the works of classical later times

(Fig. 68)

were created

came

in the Hellenistic period.

to light in

1

:

certainly

When

the group of the

506, artists and art lovers were literally

the effect of this tragic group. in Virgil's Aeneis

it

It

The Trojan

represents the terrible scene which priest

Laocoon has warned

which catch the them.

It is

priest

one of the

against poor mortals

would

like

to

and

Troy thwarted send two his

stories

two unfortunate sons

is

also described

his compatriots against

The gods who

gigantic snakes in their coils

from the sea

and suffocate

of senseless cruelty perpetrated by the Olympians

which are quite frequent

know how

Laocoon

overwhelmed by

accepting the gigantic horse in which Greek soldiers were hiding. see their plans of destroying

is.

sculpture which have enjoyed the greatest fame in

in

Greek and Latin mythologies. One

the story struck the Greek artist

who

conceived this

The Realm of Beauty

74

impressive group. Did he want us to feel the

horror of a scene in which an

innocent victim

is

made

to suffer for

having spoken the truth? mainly want to show off his

Or did he own power

of representing a terrifying and somefight between man and He had every reason to be proud skill. The way in which the

what sensational beast

?

of his

muscles of the trunk and the arms con-

vey the

effort

and the suffering of the

hopeless struggle, the expression of

pain in the face of the priest, the helpless 66. 'Corinthian' Capital.

About 300

B.C.

Found

Epidaurus,

in

Epidaurus

way

Museum

excited admiration ever since. But

I

wriggling of the two boys and the all

this turmoil

and movement

is

frozen into a permanent group have

cannot help suspecting sometimes that

this

was

an art which was meant to appeal to a public which also enjoyed the horrible sights of the gladiatorial is

fights.

probably that by

Perhaps

connexion with magic and their craft for

its

it is

wrong

this time, the period

own

sake,

to

blame the

artist for that.

The

of Hellenism, art had largely lost

religion. Artists

became

and the problem of how

its

fact

old

interested in the problems of to represent

such a dramatic

The Gods fighting the Giants. From the altar of Zeus in Pergamon. Erected about 170 B.C. Berlin, Museum

The Realm of Beauty

68.

Laocoon and

his Sons.

POLYDORosof Rhodes. contest with task

may It

all its

which would

Marble group from the workshop of hagesandros, athenodoros and (The right arms wrongly restored.) Made about 25 B.C. Vatican, Museum

movement, test

an

its

artist's

expression and

metde.

not have occurred to the sculptor at

was

of art, to

in this time,

and

in this

The

its

tension,

rights or

was

just the type

wrongs of Laocoon's

of

fate

all.

atmosphere, that rich people began to collect works

have famous ones copied

if

they could not get hold of originals, and to pay

The Realm of Beauty

69. Head of a Faun. Detail of a wall-painting from Herculaneum. Probably the copy of a Pergamenian painting dating from the second century B.C. Naples, National Museum

fabulous prices for those which they could obtain. Writers began to be interested in art

and wrote about the

artists' lives, collected

anecdotes about their oddities and

ancients were painters rather than sculptors, and

among the we know nothing about their

works except what we find

classical art

composed guide-books

come down

to us.

for tourists.

We know

Many

of the masters most famous

in those extracts

from

that these painters, too,

books which have

were interested

in the special

The Realm of Beauty

im jo. Land.

problems of their

who

of masters

Rome,

iturv a.d.

crafts rather

Vi

than in their art serving a religious purpose.

from everyday

specialized in subjects

shops or scenes from the theatre, but

all

life,

who

these paintings are lost to us.

in

which we can form some idea of the character of ancient painting

at

the decorative wall-paintings and mosaics which have

and elsewhere. Pompeii was

a

summer

come

The only way

pictures it is

and of the

stage.

astonishing to see

unimportant town. resorts

walls, painted

its

These paintings

how much good work

We

Pompeii

villa in that

vistas, imitations

of course, not

are,

by looking

Romans, and was buried

resort for rich

columns and

is

to light in

beneath the ashes of Vesuvius in a.d. 79. Almost every house and

town had paintings on

We hear

painted barber's

all

of framed

masterpieces, though

there was in such a small and rather

should hardly cut so good a figure

if

one of our seaside

were to be excavated by posterity. The painters and interior decorators of

Pompeii obviously drew freely on the stock of inventions made by the great Hellenistic artists.

Among much

exquisite beauty a

blossom

that

and grace

as if in a dance.

is

humdrum we sometimes

as Fig. 58,

Or we

discover a figure of such

which represents one of the Hours, picking

find such details as the

head of

a faun (Fig. 69),

from another painting, which gives us an idea of the mastery and freedom which these artists had acquired in the handling of expression.

Nearly every kind of thing that would go into a picture wall-paintings of Pompeii. Pretty a glass

still lifes,

is

for instance,

to

be found among these

such as two lemons with

of water, and pictures of animals. Even landscape paintings existed there.

This was perhaps the greatest innovation of the Hellenistic period. Ancient Oriental art

had no use for landscapes except

military campaigns.

For Greek

remained the main subject of the

when poets

like

as settings for their scenes

art at the

of human

life

time of Pheidias or Praxiteles,

artist's interest.

or of

man

In the Hellenistic period, the time

Theocritus discovered the charm of the simple

life

among shepherds,

The Realm of Beauty

78

conjure up the pleasures of the countryside for sophisticated

artists also tried to

town-dwellers. These paintings are not actual views of particular country houses or beauty-spots. idyllic scene:

They

tains (Fig. 70).

cattle,

simple shrines and distant

villas

and moun-

Everything was charmingly arranged in these pictures, and

were looking

set-pieces

which makes up an

are rather collections of everything

shepherds and

their best.

We

really feel that

scene. Nevertheless, even these works are

much

we

all

the

are looking at a peaceful

less realistic

than

we might

think

we were to start asking awkward questions, or try to draw a map of the locality, we should soon find out that it could not be done. We do not know how great the distance between the shrine and the villa is supposed to be, nor how near or how far the bridge from the shrine. The fact is that even Hellenistic artists did not know what we call the laws of perspective. The famous avenue of poplars, which recedes to a vanishing point and which we all drew at school, was not then at first glance. If

a standard task. Artists

drew

distant things small,

and near or important things

large,

but the law of regular diminution of objects as they become more distant, the

fixed

framework

antiquity. Indeed,

Thus even least a

which we arrange our pictures, was not known

in it

took more than another thousand years before

the latest, freest and most confident works of ancient art

remnant of the principle which we discussed

painting.

it

Even

counts for as

here,

much

in

to classical

was discovered. still

preserve at

our description of Egyptian

knowledge of the characteristic outline of individual objects

as the actual impression received

recognized that this quality

is

through the eye.

We have long

not a fault in works of art, to be regretted and looked

down upon, but that it is possible to achieve artistic perfection within any style. The Greeks broke through the rigid taboos of early Oriental art, and went out on a voyage of discovery to add more and more features from observation to the traditional

images of the world. But their works never look

odd corner of nature

is

reflected.

They always

like

mirrors in which any

bear the stamp of the intellect which

made them.

71. Greek sculptor at work. Hellenistic gem in the Metropolitan

Museum, New York

chapter

5



WORLD CONQUERORS

Romans, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians, First

72.

WE

A Roman

Amphitheatre: the Colosseum

in

Rome,

have seen that Pompeii, which was a

reflections of Hellenistic art.

while the

Romans conquered

For

art

Roman

collectors

Fourth Century A.D.

built

Roman

about A.D. 80

town, contained

remained more or

artists

who worked

in

many

unchanged

less

the world and founded their

on the ruins of the Hellenistic kingdoms. Most Greeks, and most

to

own empire

Rome were

bought works of the great Greek masters, or

some extent, when Rome became The artists were given new tasks and had to adapt their methods accordingly. The most outstanding achievement of the Romans was probably in civil engineering. We all know about their roads, aqueducts, their public baths. Even the ruins of these buildings still look extremely impressive. One feels almost like an ant when walking in Rome between their enormous pillars. It was, in fact, these ruins which made it impossible for later centuries to forget 'the

copies of them. Nevertheless art did change, to mistress of the world.

grandeur that was Rome'.

The most famous of these Roman as the

Colosseum

(Fig. 72). It

is

buildings

is,

a characteristic

perhaps, the huge arena

Roman

much admiration

in later days.

storeys of arches,

one above the other, to support the

On

the whole

it is

a utilitarian structure,

seats

known

building, which excited

with three

of the vast amphitheatre

World Conquerors

8o

73. Interior of the Pantheon in

Rome,

built

eighteenth-century painter G. P.

inside. But, in front

of these arches, the

of Greek forms. Indeed, he has applied

Greek temples. The ground and triglyphs

floor

is

about a.d. 130. After a painting by the

pannini.

Roman all

a variation

Private Collection

architect has put a kind of screen

the three styles of building used for

on the Doric

are preserved; the second storey has Ionic,

style

—even the metopes

and the third and fourth

Corinthian half-columns. This combination of Roman structures with Greek forms or 'orders' had an enormous influence on later architects. If we look round in our

own towns we may easily see examples of this influence. The feature of the Colosseum which is new is the use of arches in architecture. The Romans, in fact, made ample use of this invention which had played little or no

1

World Conquerors part in

Greek buildings though

8

may

it

have been known to Greek architects.

To

construct an arch out of separate wedge-

formed stones

is

builder can use designs.

quite a difficult feat of

Once

engineering.

this art

it

is

mastered the

for increasingly bold

He can span the pillars of a bridge

or of an aqueduct, or he can even

make use

of this device for constructing a vaulted

Romans became

roof.The

great experts in

the art of vaulting by various technical

The most wonderful of

devices.

buildings

is is

antiquity

which

it

early

is still

a place of worship

was converted into a church Christian era and was

never allowed to (Fig. 73)

is

a

all

the only temple of classical

gods. It



these

the Pantheon or temple of

in the

therefore

into ruin. Its interior

fall

74-

The Emperor Vespasianus. Bust over lifeabout a.d. 70. Naples, Museo Nazionale

size,

huge round hall with a vaulted

roof and a circular opening at the top through which one sees the open sky. There

no other window, but the whole room receives ample and even light from above. know few buildings which convey a similar impression of serene harmony. There is no feeling of heaviness. The enormous dome seems to hover freely over you like a second dome of heaven. is I

It

was

to their

Romans to take from Greek architecture what they liked, own needs. They did the same in all fields. One of their

was

good

typical of the

and to apply

it

principal needs

for

the early religion of the

lifelike portraits.

Romans.

ancestors in funeral processions.

It

Such

There

is

little

had played

portraits

had been customary

to carry

doubt that

this

a part in

wax images of

usage had been

connected with the same belief that the likeness preserves the soul, as in ancient Egypt. Later,

when Rome became an empire, the bust of the emperor was still We know that every Roman had to burn incense in bust in token of his loyalty and allegiance, and we know that the

looked upon with religious awe. front of this

persecution of Christians began because of their refusal to comply with this demand.

The

strange thing

allowed their

is

that, despite this

artists to

solemn significance of portraits, the Romans

make them more

lifelike

and uncomplimentary than anything

the Greeks had attempted. Perhaps they sometimes used death-masks and thus

acquired their astounding knowledge of the structure and features of the head. At any rate,

we know Pompey, Augustus, Nero,

had seen their faces in the newsreel. There

is

no

human we

or Titus, almost as if

flattery in the

bust of Vespasianus

82

World Conquerors

75.

(Fig. 74)

The lower part of Trajan's column. Rome, dedicated

—nothing

to

owner of a shipping traits.

Somehow

Another new

know from

mark him out

line.

as a god.

Nevertheless, there

He might

is

A.D.

114

be any wealthy banker or

nothing petty in these

the artists succeeded in being lifelike without being task

which the Romans

set the artist revived a

Roman

por-

trivial.

custom which we

the ancient Orient (p. 47, Fig. 43). They, too, wanted to proclaim their

n 76. Portrait of a

man. From

a

mummy

H found

lawara Hgypt), painted about A.D. 150. London, National Gallery .11

I

77-

Head

of Buddha.

Found

in

Gandhara (northern India), made about London, Indian Museum

third century A.D.

World Conquerors and

victories

column

to

85

to tell the story of their campaigns. Trajan, for instance, erected a

show

a

whole picture chronicle of

modern Roumania). There we

see the

his

Roman

wars and victories in Dacia (the

legionaries embarking,

75). All the skill

used in these

of war reporting. But the importance which the

to

an accurate rendering of all

the feats of the campaign

encamping

and achievements of centuries of Greek

and fighting (Fig. feats

details,

and

huge

to a clear narrative

Romans

art

were

attached

which would impress

on the stay-at-homes, rather changed the character of art.

The main aim was no longer that of harmony, beauty or dramatic expression. The Romans were a matter-of-fact people, and cared less for fancy goods. Yet their pictorial

methods of telling the deeds of a hero proved of great value

which came into contact with

During the centuries

after Christ, Hellenistic

mummies, but

Roman art completely displaced own strongholds. Egyptians still

and

the arts of the Oriental empires, even in their

buried their dead as

to the religions

their far-flung empire.

instead of adding their likenesses in the

T»*a&

'*

78.

leaving his home. Relief found in Gandhara (northern India) about second century A.r>. Calcutta, Indian Museum

Gautama (Buddha),

World Conquerors

86 Egyptian

style,

they had them painted by an

These

portraiture (Fig. 76).

portraits,

artist

which were

who knew all the tricks of Greek made by humble crafts-

certainly

men at a low price, still astonish us by their vigour and realism. There are few works of ancient art which look so fresh and 'modern' as these.

The

Egyptians were not the only ones to adapt the

religious needs.

Even

in far-distant India, the

was adopted by

glorifying a hero,

artists

who

new methods of art

Roman way set

to their

of telling a story, and of

themselves the task of illustrating

the story of a peaceful conquest, the story of Buddha.

The

art

of sculpture had nourished in India long before

reached the country ; but

Buddha was (Fig. 78).

first

shown

it

was

in the reliefs

We see the young

out into the wilderness. After the prince had

charger Kanthaka

:

in the frontier region of

It is

Prince

this Hellenistic influence

Gandhara

which became the model

Gautama

leaving the

that the figure of

for later

home of his

Buddhist

art

parents to go

the 'Great Renunciation' of which the legend says:

come down from

his palace

he thus addressed his favourite

'My dear Kanthaka, please carry me once more for this one night.

When I shall have become Buddha with your help I shall bring salvation to the world of gods and men.' If Kanthaka had only so

much as neighed or made a sound with the

hoofs the city would have been roused and the prince's departure discovered. So the

gods muffled

79.

Moses

his voice

and placed

their

hands under

his hoofs

wherever he stepped.

from the synagogue in Dura-Europos (Mesopotamia), painted between a.d. 245 and 256

striking water from the rock. Wall-painting

World Conquerors Greek and Roman beautiful

form

statues of

Buddha with

their expression

Gandhara

of deep repose were also

was the Jewish

to represent

religion.

Jewish

garrison in

means, but

One

of these paintings was discovered

Mesopotamia

called

without interest (Fig. 79). it is

of

not so

its

can

still

tribe

Dura-Europos.

fairly

It is

stories

much an

It

Roman

not a great work of art by any

The

very fact

and primitive

not

is

represents Moses, striking water from the rock. But

illustration

tall

from the Old

recendy in a small

that the scene looks rather flat

of the biblical account as an explanation, in pictures,

significance to the Jewish people.

represented as a

this

actually forbade the

an interesting document from the third century A.D.

it is

in

first

for fear of idolatry. Nevertheless, the Jewish colonies in eastern

form seems clumsy and

that the

The made in

sacred stories for the

its

Law

towns took to decorating the walls of their synagogues with Testament.

and heroes

(Fig. 77).

Yet another Oriental religion that learned instruction of believers

making of images

87

to visualize gods

helped the Indians to create an image of their saviour.

also

frontier region of

which had taught man

art

That may be the reason why Moses is Holy Tabernacle in which we

figure standing in front of the

discern the seven-branched candlestick. In order to signify that each

of Israel received

its

share of the miraculous water the artist has

twelve rivulets each flowing to a small figure standing before a tent.

The

shown

artist

was

doubtless not very skilful, and that accounts for some of these features. But perhaps

much

he was not really they were the

concerned with drawing

more they sinned

against the

to

fested His power.

The humble

apostles

it

first

called

shows one of the

earliest representations

Instead of the bearded figure to which

St. lar,

Paul

upon

was again the tradition of Greek

illustrations,

who

we

art

and His

to their aid. Fig.

we have become accustomed through

heavens the sculptor has

made His

is

indicate that Christ

feet rest

one

is

which reminds us how closely such a representation

To

80

of Christ, from the fourth century A.D.

look like dignified Greek philosophers. There

art:

of the

service.

its

to represent the Saviour

which came

is

when

see Christ in youthful beauty, enthroned between St. Peter

methods of pagan Hellenistic

aloft

God had mani-

because similar considerations began to influence art

Christian artists were

lifelike

wall-painting from the Jewish synagogue

Christian religion spread from the East and also took art into

When

The more

forbidding images. His

remind the beholder of the occasions when

main intention was

interest to us,

lifelike figures.

Commandment

is

later

and

detail, in particu-

still

linked with the

throning above the

on the canopy of the firmament, held

by the ancient god of the sky.

The

origins of Christian art

go even farther back than

monuments never show Christ Himself. The Jews of Dura had painted scenes from

this

example, but the

earliest

synagogue, not so

much

to

adorn

it

but rather to

the tell

Old Testament

in

their

the sacred tale in visible

Christ with St. Peter and St. Paul. a.d. 359.

5l.

The Three

Men in

From

the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus of St. Peter

who

died in

Rome, Crypt

the Fiery FHraace.Wall-painting

from the

probably third century a.d.

Priscilla

Catacomb, Rome,



— World Conquerors

The

form.

artists

who were

first

called

upon

to

paint images for Christian places of burial

the the

Roman catacombs same

Men

'Three

—acted

much

very

in

Paintings such as those of the

spirit.

in the Fiery Furnace' (Fig. 81)

probably from the third century that these artists

show

A.D.,

were familiar with the methods

They

of Hellenistic painting used in Pompeii.

were quite capable of conjuring up the idea of a

human

figure with a

brush. But

we

few rough strokes of the

also feel that these effects

and

them very much. The

tricks did not interest

picture no longer existed as a beautiful thing in

its

own

remind the

right.

faithful

main purpose was

Its

We

God's mercy and power. (Daniel

iii.)

to

of one of the examples of read in the Bible

of three high Jewish

officials

King Nebuchadnezzar who refused and worship on a given

signal

under

down

to fall

when

a gigantic

golden image of the King was set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Like so

many Christians of the period when these paintings were

made, they had

their refusal.

furnace

to

pay the penalty for

They were thrown

'in their coats, their

hats'. But, lo, the fire

into a fiery

hosen and their

had no power upon

their

bodies 'nor was an hair of their heads singed,

The Lord

neither were their coats changed'. 'sent

His angel and delivered His servants'.

We need only imagine what the master of the Laocoon

(p. 75, Fig.

68)

would have made of

such a subject to realize the different direction art

was taking.The painter

82. Portrait of

Aphrodisias.

in the

catacombs did

not want to represent a dramatic scene for

an

official

About

Istambul,

A.D.

from 400.

Museum

its

own sake. To present the consoling and inspiring example of fortitude and salvation it was quite a

sufficient if the three

symbol of Divine help

vant was better ideals

left out.

men in

Once more

ideas of clarity

of faithful imitation. Yet there

the artist

made

their Persian dress, the flames

and the dove

—were recognizable. Everything which was not stricdy is

and simplicity began

something touching

to tell his story as clearly

and simply

to

in the very effort

as possible.

rele-

outweigh

which

These three men,

World Conquerors

90

seen from in front, looking at the beholder, their hands raised in prayer, seem to

mankind had begun

that

It is

concern

itself

show

with other things besides earthly beauty.

not only in religious works of the period of the decline and

of the

fall

Roman

we can detect something of that shifting of interest. Few artists seemed much for what had been the glory of Greek art, its refinement and harmony.

Empire to care

to

that

Sculptors no longer had the patience to work marble with a chisel, and to treat

it

with that delicacy and taste which had been the pride of the Greek craftsmen. Like the painter of the catacomb picture, they used

such

as, for instance, a

of a face or a body.

and

It

mechanical

many

secrets of the best period

turmoil of wars, revolts and invasions. But the whole story.

the

mere

more rough-and-ready methods,

with which to mark the principal features

has often been said that ancient art declined in these years,

certainly true that

it is

drill

The point is

we have and

virtuosity of the Hellenistic period,

perhaps most clearly what

it

was these

fifth

artists

lost in the general

seemed no longer

that artists at this time

of the portraits of this period, the fourth and

were

seen that this loss in

tried to achieve

new

skill is

satisfied effects.

centuries A.D., in particular,

aimed

at (Fig. 82).

To

a

not

with

Some show

Greek of the

time of Praxiteles these works would have looked crude and barbaric. Indeed, the

heads are not beautiful by any

common

standards.

likenesses of portraits such as that of Vespasian,

poor workmanship.

And

yet, to us, these figures

and a very intense expression w hich 7

is

A Roman,

used to the striking

might have dismissed them

seem

to have a life of their

as

own,

due to the firm marking of the features and

the care bestowed on such traits as the part around the eyes and the furrows of the

brow. They portray the people Christianity,

3.

A

who

witnessed, and finally accepted, the rise of

which meant the end of the ancient world.

painter of 'funeral portraits' in his zcorkshop sitting by his paintbox and easel. From a painted sarcophagus found in the Crimea, about A.D. 100

chapter

6



A PARTING OF WAYS

Rome and Byzantium,

An

.

early Christian Basilica: S. Apollinare in Classe,

WHEN,

in the year a.d. 311, the

Christian itself

there

Fifth to Thirteenth Century

Church

as a

power

The

built

about A.D. 530

Emperor Constantine

in the State, the

Church had become the had

to art

to

be reconsidered.

greatest

The

power

in the realm, its

places of worship could not be

modelled on the ancient temples, for their function was entirely

different.

The

of the temple was usually only a small shrine for the statue of the god. Pro-

cessions and sacrifices took place outside.

read

saw

possibility, of building public places of

spicuous. But once the

find

it

churches and assembly halls that did exist were small and incon-

whole relationship

interior

established the

problems with which

confronted were enormous. During the periods of persecution

had been no need, and indeed no

worship.

Ravenna,

A.D.

room Mass

for the at the

The church, on

the other hand, had to

whole congregation that assembled for service when the high

altar,

or delivered his sermon.

Thus

it

priest

came about

that

churches were not modelled on pagan temples, but on the type of large assembly

A

92 which had been known

halls

which means roughly

Ways

Parting of

under the name of

in classical times

'royal halls'. These buildings

were used

'basilicas',

covered market-halls

as

and public law-courts, and mainly consisted of large oblong

halls

with narrower,

lower compartments on the longer sides, divided from the main hall by rows

of columns. At the far end there was often room for a semicircular dais

where the chairman of the meeting, or the judge, could take

(or apse)

The mother of

seat.

Emperor Constantine erected such

the

a

his

basilica to

serve as a church, and so the term established itself for churches of this type.

The

would be used

semicircular niche or apse

which the eyes of the worshippers were where the

altar stood,

came

to be

known

'ship',

which means

while the lower compartments 'wings'. In

most of the

high

the

altar,

towards

This part of the building,

The main

as the choir.

where the congregation assembled, was known

means

for

directed.

central hall,

the nave, which really

later as

were called

at the side

side-aisles,

nave was simply roofed

basilicas, the lofty

loft were visible. The side-aisles were often The columns that separated the nave from the aisles were often sumptuously decorated. None of the earliest basilicas has remained quite unchanged, but, despite the alterations and renovations made in the course of the 1,500 years since that time, we can still form an idea of what these buildings

with timber, and the beams of the flat-roofed.

generally looked like (Fig. 84).

The

question of

how

up again and caused very

violent disputes.

:

much more

On

in the

difficult

and

use in religion came

its

one thing nearly

all

early Christians

House of God. Statues were too much

graven images and heathen idols that were condemned in the Bible.

place a figure of

God, or of one of His

the question. For

new

a

whole issue of the image and

were agreed there must be no statues like those

was

to decorate these basilicas

serious one, because here the

how would

saw such statues in churches really 'represents'

God,

They might

?

it

Almighty and Invisible God,

who had

To

seemed altogether out of been converted

to the

and the new message,

if they

just

too easily have thought that such a statue

by Pheidias was thought

even more

in

altar

their old beliefs

just as a statue

Thus they might have found

on the

the poor pagans

between

faith grasp the difference

saints,

difficult to

to represent Zeus.

grasp the message of the one

whose semblance we

are

made. But, although

a

;

l

devout Christians objected to large lifelike statues, their ideas about paintings differed a

good

deal.

Some thought them

useful because they helped to

gation of the teachings they had received, and kept the

remind the congre-

memory of

these sacred

episodes alive. This view was mainly taken in the Latin, western part of the

Empire. Pope Gregory the Great, took this

line.

He reminded

who

the people

members of the Church could

lived at the

who were

end of the

against

all

Roman

sixth century a.d.,

paintings that

many

neither read nor write, and that, for the purpose of

teaching them, these images were as useful as the pictures in a picture-book are for

Ss.

Enthroned Madonna and Child. Probably painted in Constantinople about a.d. 1200 Washington, National Gallery of Art, Mellon Collection

86. Christ as Ruler of the Universe, the Virgin and Child, and Saints. Mosaics by Byzantine artists in the apse of the Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, about A.D. 1 190

A

87.

It

Ways

95

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. Mosaic from the Basilica of Ravenna, about A.D. 520

children. 'Painting can read,'

Parting of

he

do for the

illiterate

S.

Apollinare Nuovo,

what writing does

for those

who can

said.

was of immense importance for the history of

had come out

in favour

such a great authority

art that

of painting. His saying was to be quoted again and again

whenever people attacked the use of images

in churches.

But

it is

clear that the type

of art which was thus admitted was of a rather restricted kind. Gregory had, in fact,

the idea about art which, as

we

saw, generally prevailed at that time. If his

purpose was to be served, the story had to be told as clearly and simply as possible,

and anything that might divert attention from be omitted. At developed by

on what was

first, artists still

Roman

art,

this

main and sacred purpose should

used the methods of story-telling that had been

but gradually they came to concentrate more and more

strictly essential. Fig.

87 shows a work in which these principles have

been applied with greatest consistency.

It

comes from

a basilica in

Ravenna, then,

round about

a.d. 500, a great seaport

It illustrates

the story from the Gospels in which Christ fed five thousand people

on

five loaves

and two

to portray a large of these

fishes.

A Hellenistic artist

crowd of people

in a



it is

on

capital city

Italy's east coast.

might have seized the opportunity

gay and dramatic scene. But the master

days chose a very different method. His work

with deft strokes of the brush F

and the

not a painting done

is

a mosaic, laboriously

put together, of stone

A

96

or glass cubes which yield deep,

Parting of

full

Ways

colours and give to the church interior, covered

The way

with such mosaics, an appearance of solemn splendour. is

shows the spectator that something miraculous and sacred

told

background

no natural or

scene

realistic

man

a purple robe,

as

They

for their rulers

We

mony.

To him

it

is

The

Him

on both

in blessing

used to do

at that time.

Indeed, the scene looks

It

in the

a strange miracle

like a

may be

solemn cere-

which had happened

a

few hundred years

was the symbol and token of Christ's abiding power which

Church. That explains, or helps to explain, the way It is

he

whom

glance, such a picture looks rather stiff and rigid.

Roman times. The way may almost remind us of

which the

in

which

Christ will feed.

There

is

nothing of the art,

and which

figures are planted in strict

persisted until

in

frontal view

certain children's drawings.

to

wears

what he represented.

mastery of movement and expression which was the pride of Greek

must have been very well acquainted with Greek

artist

He

where stand

sides,

the bread and fishes in order that the miracle

Christ looks steadfastly at the beholder: first

but the long-

to us,

lived in the imagination of the early Christians.

carry the food with covered hands, as subjects bringing tribute

was not only

was embodied

The

figure of Christ occupies

known

see that the artist attached a deep significance to

before in Palestine.

At

and calm

still

not the bearded Christ

and stretches out His arms

two apostles offering accomplished.

He

enacted.

is

the centre of the picture. It

haired young

happening.

with fragments of golden glass and on this gold background

laid out

is

which the story

in is

art.

He knew

And

yet the

exactly

how

drape a cloak round a body so that the main joints should remain visible through

the folds.

He knew how

to

mix stones of

the colours of flesh or of the sky.

differing shades in his

He marked

mosaic to convey

the shadows on the ground,

and had

no

difficulty in representing foreshortening. If the picture looks rather primitive to

us,

it

must be because the

importance of

artist

wanted

to

be simple.

clarity in the representation

force because of the stress

of

which the Church

all

The Egyptian

objects

on

laid

ideas about the

had returned with great

clarity.

But the forms which

new attempt were not the simple forms of primitive art, but the developed forms of Greek painting. Thus Christian art of the Middle Ages became a curious mixture of primitive and sophisticated methods. The power of

the artists used in this

observation of nature, which to sleep again reality.

how

we saw awakening

They no

longer set out to

lost.

sitting,

story,

Greece about 500

make discoveries about how to

to create the illusion of depth.

never

in

Greek and Roman

bending down or

was put

art

represent a body, or

But the discoveries which had been made were

provided an immense stock of figures standing,

falling. All these types

could prove useful in the telling of a

and so they were assiduously copied and adapted

the purpose for which they were used was

be surprised

B.C.,

about A.D. 500. Artists no longer checked their formulae against

now so

to

ever-new contexts. But

radically different that

that, superficially, the pictures betray little

of their

we cannot

clasiscal origin.

A

Ways

Parting of

This question of the proper purpose of

importance for the whole history of Europe. For

it

was one of the principal issues

on which the Eastern, Greek-speaking parts of the was Byzantium or Constantinople, refused

One

party there was against

all

97 churches proved of immense

art in

Roman

Empire, whose capital

to accept the lead of the Latin Pope.

images of a religious nature. They were called icono-

image smashers. In 745 they gained the upper hand and all religious art was forbidden in the Eastern Church. But their opponents were even less in agreeclasts or

ment with Pope Gregory's holy.

The arguments

by the other party:

subtle as those used

Himself

He

To them

ideas.

images were not just useful, they were

with which they tried to justify this point of view were as

to mortal eyes in the

human

'If

God

His mercy could decide to reveal

in

nature of Christ,' they argued, 'why should ? We do not worship We worship God and the Saints through or

not also be willing to manifest Himself in visible images

these images themselves as the pagans did. across their images.' for the history of art a century

Whatever we may think of the

was tremendous. For when

of repression the paintings

illustrations for the use

of those

in a

who

beautiful painting of a

image or

'icon'

artist to

The

who

as

that could be accepted as the true sacred

this question.

By

on the

asking the

painted sacred images to keep strictly to the ancient models, the Byzan-

Church helped

Holy Virgin

And

mere

Eastern Church, therefore,

to insist almost as strictly as the Egyptians

to preserve the ideas

used for drapery, faces or gestures. If

art.

as

They were looked upon

of the Mother of God, but only types hallowed by an age-old tradition.

Thus, the Byzantines came

tine

importance

follow his fancy in these works. Surely it was not any

mother with her child

observance of traditions. But there were two sides to artist

its

had returned to power after

church could no longer be regarded

could not read.

mysterious reflections of the supernatural world. could no longer allow the

logic of this plea,

this party

like Fig. 85,

yet, the

way

it

may seem

and achievements of Greek

we

art in the types

look at a Byzantine altar-painting of the

very remote from the achievements of Greek

the folds are draped round the

body and

radiate

round the

elbows and knees, the method of modelling the face and hands by marking the shadows, and even the sweep of the Virgin's throne, would have been impossible without the conquests of Greek and Hellenistic painting. Despite a certain rigidity, Byzantine art therefore remained closer to nature than the art of the West in subse-

quent periods.

On

the other hand, the stress on tradition, and the necessity of

keeping to certain permitted ways of representing Christ or the Holy Virgin, it

difficult for

Byzantine

artists to

develop their personal

tivism developed only gradually, and

period had no scope whatever. illustrations

It

it is

wrong

was they,

to

Greek

But

this

imagine that the

in fact,

who

made

conserva-

artists

of the

transformed the simple

of early Christian art into great cycles of large and solemn images that

dominate the interior of Byzantine churches. As we look these

gifts.

artists in the

at the

mosaics done by

Balkans and in Italy in the Middle Ages,

we

see that this

A

98

Ways

Parting of

Oriental empire had in fact succeeded in reviving something of the grandeur and

majesty of ancient Oriental

art,

power. Fig. 86 gives an idea of

and

how

in

using

it

for the glorification

impressive this art could be.

of Christ and His It

shows the apse

of the church of Monrealc, in Sicily, which was decorated by Byzantine craftsmen shortly before 1190. Sicily itself belonged to the

accounts for the fact that

among

find the earliest representation of St.

some twenty

Western or Latin Church, which

the Saints arrayed on each side of the

Thomas

window we

Becket, the news of whose murder

years earlier had resounded throughout Europe. But apart from this

choice of Saints the artists have kept close to their native Byzantine tradition. faithful

The

assembled in the church would find themselves face to face with the

majestic figure of Christ, represented as the Ruler of the Universe, His right hand raised in blessing.

Below

is

the Holy Virgin, enthroned like an Empress, flanked

by two archangels and the solemn row of

Images such

seemed

as these, looking

to be such perfect

no need ever

to depart

down on

us

from the golden, glimmering

from them. Thus they continued

reflect these great creations

The

'

to hold their

sway

in all

holy images or 'icons' of the Russians

of Byzantine

\

artists.

\

Byzantine Iconoclast, whitewashing an image of Christ. From the Chludow Psalter, a Byzantine manuscript painted about a.d. 900. Moscow, Historical Museum

8.

walls,

symbols of the Holy Truth that there appeared to be

countries ruled by the Eastern Church. still

Saints.

chapter

7



LOOKING EASTWARDS

Islam, China, Second to Thirteenth Century

A.D.

f Granada (Spain),

we BEFORE Europe, we must

return to the Western world and take up the story of art in take at least a glance at what

world during these centuries of turmoil.

happened

in other parts

It is interesting to see

other great religions reacted to the question of images, which so engaged the

of the Western world. before

it

in the seventh

The

religion of the

and eighth centuries

of the

how two mind

Middle East, which swept even-thing a.d., the religion

of the

Mohammedan

WM$&& 90.

The Persian Prince

From

Humay

meets the Chinese Princess

the Persian manuscript of a Paris,

Musee

Humayun

Romance, made about

des Arts Decoratifs

in her

A.D.

1450

garden.

Looking Eastwards

1

1

conquerors of Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa and Spain, was even more

The making of images was

rigorous in this matter than Christianity had been.

forbidden. But art as such cannot so easily be suppressed, and the craftsmen of the East,

who were

known

They

harmony

from the objects of the

we admire

among

the

Mohammed who

real

let

their imagination play

the wealth of invention, the

world

dream-world of

to this

Mohammedans were

directed the

less

mind of

their interpretation of the

strict in

The

they had no connexion with religion.

and fables done in India

under

illustrations as long

of romances, histories

illustrating

from the fourteenth century onwards and

in Persia

Mohammedan (Mogul)

rulers,

romance of the

The moonlight

like a

fifteenth century

carpet which has

of reality in

illusion

it

as in

and plants look a

Byzantine

show little

distributed over the page to tration

fits

light

example of this wonderful

of

to the

art.

Perhaps even

There

less.

skill. It

There

to life in a fairy-tale world.

is

is

looks

as litde

no foreshort-

and shade or the structure of the body. The had been cut out of coloured paper and

as if they

make

artists

them

scene in a garden (Fig. 90) from a Persian

a perfect

somehow come

ening, and no attempt to figures

is

later also

shows how much the

these lands had learned from the discipline which had confined

designing of patterns.

away

the artist

and colours. Later

lines

ban on images. They did allow the painting of figures and as

we owe

colour-schemes of Oriental carpets (Fig. 93),

in the

this in the last analysis to

beings,

created the most subtle lacework ornamentation

as arabesques (Fig. 89). If today

balance and

sects

human

not permitted to represent

with patterns and forms.

a perfect pattern. But,

even better into the book than

it

because of that, the

might have done

if the artist

illus-

had wanted

of a real scene. We can read such a page almost as we read a We can look from the hero, as he stands with his arms crossed in the right-hand

to create the illusion text.

corner, to the heroine

who approaches him, and we

can

let

through the moonlit fairy garden without ever getting too

The impact

our imagination wander

much

of religion on art was even stronger in China.

the beginnings of Chinese art, except the fact that the Chinese the art of casting bronze at a very early date, and that

used in the ancient temples go back to the

even

earlier.

Our records of Chinese

first

of

it.

We know

little

had been

some of

about

skilled in

the bronze vessels

millennium before Christ

—some say

painting and sculpture, however, are not so old.

In the centuries immediately before and after Christ, the Chinese adopted burial

customs somewhat reminiscent of the Egyptians, and in the

Egyptian ones, there are

the habits of these long typically

Chinese in

rigid angular

When a out of a

a

number of vivid

bygone days

art

(Fig. 91).

At

in these burial

chambers, as

scenes which reflect the that time,

had already developed. The

much

artists

of what

were

less

life

and

we

call

fond of

forms than the Egyptians had been, and preferred swerving curves.

Chinese

artist

had

to represent a

number of rounded

shapes.

prancing horse, he seemed to

We

fit it

together

can see the same in Chinese sculpture,

Looking Eastwards

91.

A Reception.

Detail of a relief from the

tomb of Wu-liang-tse

in the Province of

Shantung (China),

about A.D. 150

which always seems

and turn without, however, losing

to twist

and

solidity

its

firmness (Fig. 92).

Some of the

great teachers of China appear to have had a similar view of the value

of art to that held by Pope Gregory the Great. They thought of

means of

art as a

reminding people of the great examples of virtue in the golden ages of the of the earliest illustrated Chinese book-scrolls that have been preserved

past.

is

tion of great examples of virtuous ladies, written in the spirit of Confucious. It

go back to the painter

to

illustration (Fig. 95)

dignity and grace

arrangement

as

Ku

shows

a

K'ai-chi

who

one might expect from

lesson. It shows, moreover, that the

art.

a picture

Chinese

and

his wife,

It is as clear in its

which

artist

also

aims

has

it

all

the

home

difficult art

representing movement. There rigid in this early

The

gestures and

at driving

had mastered the

said

is

lived in the fourth century a.d.

husband unjustly accusing

we connect with Chinese

One

a collec-

is

a

of

nothing

Chinese work, because

the predilection for undulating lines imparts a sense of

movement

to the

whole

picture.

But the most important impulse Chinese

art

to

probably came through yet

another religious influence: that of

Buddhism. The monks and Z

Buddha's

•-

Winged Lion, on the road to the tomb of Prince Hsiao Hsiu, near Nanking, made

92.

shortly after a.d. 500

amazingly

more we

circle

ascetics of

were represented

lifelike statues (Fig. 94).

in

Once

see the curved outlines in the

metal threat 93. Persian Silk Prayer Carpet, enriched with E. Paravicini Collection

Mme

94-

Head of a Lohan, from

found in I-chou, China, probably made about Formerly Frankfurt, Fuld Collection

a glazed statue

A.D. iooo.

*

Looking Eastzvards

105

shape of the ears, the lips or the cheeks, but they do not distort the real forms ; they only

We feel

weld them together. in

its

that such a

work

not haphazard, but that everything

is

place and contributes to the effect of the whole.

masks

(Fig. 22) serves

its

turn even in such a convincing representation of a face.

Buddhism influenced Chinese

art

not only by providing the

new approach

introduced an entirely

tasks. It

is

The old principle of the primitive with new

artists

to pictures, a reverence for the artist's

achievement such as did not exist either in ancient Greece or in Europe up to the time of the Renaissance.

making of pictures

The Chinese were

level as the inspired poet.

the

menial task, but

as a rather

The

first

who

people

who

did not think of the

placed the painter on the same

religions of the East taught that nothing

was more

important than the right kind of meditation. Meditation means something

To

deep thought.

many hours on

for

is

end, to

fix

an idea in one's mind and to look

it.

It is a

sides without letting

go of

to think

like

and ponder about the same holy truth

meditate

at

from

it

all

kind of mental exercise for Orientals, to

which they used to attach even greater importance than we attach to physical exercise or to sport. their

Some monks meditated on

minds while they

sat quite still for

which preceded and followed the holy

on water,

for instance,

single words, turning

them over

whole days and listened to the

syllable.

Others meditated on things

and what we can learn from

it,

how humble

it is,

in

stillness

in nature,

how

it

yields

•tfc&fc-

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Husband reproving his wife. Detail of by kv k'ai-chi who died

a silk

scroll,

in A.D. 406.

probably an old copy after

London,

British

*

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.

Museum

Looking Eastwards

106

how

and yet wears away

solid rock,

the thirsting field

or on mountains,

;

it is

clear

how

and cool and soothing and gives

good, for they allow the trees to grow on them. That

China came

to

be employed

artists

in the

Middle Ages

—than

as

how

perhaps,

is,

legends of

less for telling the

teachers, less for the teaching of a particular doctrine

employed

life



to

how

strong and lordly they are, and yet

religious art in

Buddha and

the Chinese

as Christian art

was

to

be

an aid to the practice of meditation. Devout

began to paint water and mountains

in a spirit of reverence, not in order to

teach any particular lesson, nor merely as decorations, but to provide material for

deep thought. Their pictures on

silk scrolls

were kept

in precious containers

and only

unrolled in quiet moments, to be looked at and pondered over as one might open a

book of poetry and read and re-read

a beautiful verse.

That

is

the purpose behind

the greatest of the Chinese landscape paintings of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It

not easy for us to recapture that mood, because

is

Europeans with

little

patience and

little

we

are fidgety

knowledge of the technique of meditation

—no

more,

suppose, than the old

I

Chinese had of the technique of physical training.

But

at a picture

if we

look long and carefully

such as Fig. 96, we

perhaps begin to

which

spirit in

high purpose

it

it

shall

something of the

feel

was painted and of the

was

to serve.

We must not,

of course, expect any portraits of

real

landscapes, picture-postcards of beauty spots.

Chinese

motif,

artists

their art

sit

by a strange method of meditation

and concentration acquired

'how

did not go out into

down in front of some and sketch it. They even learned

the open, to

skill in

in

'how

to paint rocks',

which they

first

to paint pine-trees',

'how to paint clouds',

by studying not nature but the works of

renowned masters. Only when they had thoroughly acquired travel

this

nature so as to capture the landscape.

would then

When

ma yuan:

Landscape

in moonlight.

O&SSSfcfficto

trees, rocks

a poet

did they

moods of the home they

they came

try to recapture these

by putting together 96.

skill

and contemplate the beauty of

moods

their images of pine-

and clouds much

in the

way

might string together a number of

Looking Eastwards

107

images which had come into his mind during a walk. It

was the ambition of these Chinese

masters to acquire such a

facility in

the

handling of brush and ink that they could write tion a

down

was

few

their vision while their inspira-

still

lines

same

the

Often they would write

fresh.

of poetry and paint a picture on

of

scroll

therefore, consider

detailsinpictures

find in

them the

enthusiasm.

It

compare them

to

They want,

visible traces

may

Chinese,

childish to look for

and then

with the real world.

The

silk.

it

rather, to

of the

artist's

not be easy for us to

appreciate the boldest of these works, such Fig. 97,

as

which

consists only of

some

vague forms of mountain peaks emerging out of clouds. But once

we

try to

put our-

selves in the place of the painter, 97.

kao k'o-kung: A.D.

1

2 50-

1

Landscape after n

300. Chinese

have at least get it is

The

felt for

admire the same

and concentration

skill

painting of three fishes in a

pond

to

in

more

art.

we may For us

familiar subjects.

(Fig. 98) gives an idea of the patient

observation that must have gone into the

artist's

of the ease and mastery with which he handled ture.

these majestic peaks,

an inkling of what the Chinese value most highly in

easier to

and

experience something of the awe he must

Government

it

study of his simple subject, and

when he came

to paint this pic-

Again we see how fond the Chinese

were of graceful curves, and how

artists

they could exploit their effects to give the idea of to

movement. The forms do not seem

make any

They

Persian miniature. that

symmetrical pattern.

clear

are not evenly distributed as in the

Nevertheless

the artist has

immense assurance. One can look a picture for a long stretch of

getting bored.

It

is

we

feel

balanced them with at

such

time without

an experiment well

worth trying.

There restraint ,.

.

.

is

something wonderful

of Chinese _

in this

art, in its deliberate ._

limitation to a few Simple motifs of nature.

">* Fishes. Leaf from an album. Probably painted by Liu ts'ai between A.D. 1300 and M0o Pennsylvania Museum of Art .

Looking Eastwards

108 But

it

almost goes without saying that this approach to painting also had

As time went on, nearly every type of brushstroke with which a

rugged rock could be painted was

was the general admiration to rely

on

their

own

for the

inspiration.

laid

down and

labelled

works of the past that

The

a

its

dangers.

stem of bamboo or

by tradition and so great

artists

dared

less

and

less

standards of painting remained very high

throughout the subsequent centuries both in China and in Japan (which adopted the Chinese conceptions) but

game which

has lost

only after a

new

first

got to

artists

how fruitful know them.

shall see

of

became more and more its

interest as so

like a graceful

many of its moves

are

and elaborate

known.

dared to apply the Eastern methods to

these

new experiments

also

became

for the

was

new subjects. West when it

pHMH 99.

It

contact with the achievements of Western art in the eighteenth

century that Japanese

We

art

much

A Japanese boy painting

a branch of bamboo: Coloured woodcut by hidenobu, probably early nineteenth century

chapter

8



WESTERN ART Europe, Sixth

ioo.

A

to

IN

THE MELTING POT

Eleventh Century A.D.

Saxon Tower imitating a timber

structure:

the church of F.arls Barton, Northamptonshire, built about A.D. iooo

WE

have taken the story of Western

and

to the centuries in

which

Pope Gregory the Great the sacred word.

The

after the collapse

of the

title

it

art

was

up

to the period of Constantine,

to adapt itself to the precept of

that images are useful

for teaching

laymen

period which followed this early Christian era, the period

Roman Empire,

of the Dark Ages.We

call

is

generally

known by the uncomplimentary who

these ages dark, partly to convey that the people

lived during these centuries of migrations,

wars and upheavals, were themselves

Western Art

in the

Melting Pot plunged little

and hao

in darkness

knowledge

guide them,

to

but also to imply that we our-

know

selves

rather

about

little

these confused and confusing centuries which followed

upon

the decline of the ancient world

and preceded the emergence of the European countries in the

we

shape, roughly, in which

know them now. There

are, of

course, no fixed limits to the period, but for our purpose

may five

say that

it

we

lasted almost

hundred years

—approxi-

mately from a.d. 500 to A.D. 1000. Five

hundred years

long time, in which

is

much

a

can

happen and much,

in fact, did

happen. But what

is

teresting to us

is

most

in-

that these

years did not see the emergence

A Dragon's Head. Wood carving found at Oseberg (Norway). About a.d. 820. Oslo, University Museum

101.

of any one clear and uniform style,

but rather the conflict of

number of different styles, which only began to come to terms towards the end of that period. To those who know something of the history of the Dark Ages this is a great

hardly surprising.

It

was not only

a dark,

it

was

a

patchy period, with tremendous

among various peoples and classes. Throughout these five centuries there existed men and women, particularly in the monasteries and convents, who loved learning and art, and who had a great admiration for those works of the ancient world differences

which had been preserved

in libraries

and treasure-houses. Sometimes these learned

and educated monks or clergy held positions of power and influence

at the courts ot

the mighty, and tried to revive the arts which they most admired. But frequently their

work came

to

naught because of new wars and invasions by armed raiders from the

north, whose opinions about art were very different indeed. tribes, the

The

various Teutonic

Goths, the Vandals, the Saxons, the Danes and the Vikings,

who swept who

through Europe raiding and pillaging, were considered barbarians by those valued Greek and

Roman achievements

were barbarians, but

this

in literature

and

art.

In a sense they certainly

need not mean that they had no feeling for beauty, no

of their own. They had skilled craftsmen experienced

in finely

art

wrought metal work,

Western Art

in the

and excellent wood-carvers, comparable Fig. 23).

They loved complicated

in

Melting Pot

to those of the

New Zealand

Maoris

(p. 25,

patterns which included the twisted bodies of

dragons, or birds mysteriously interlaced.

We

do not know exactly where these

patterns originated in the seventh century of what they signified, but

it

is

not

unlikely that the ideas of these Teutonic tribes about art resembled the ideas of

primitive tribes elsewhere.

There

are reasons for believing that they, too, thought

of such images as a means of working magic and exorcizing figures of dragons this art (Figs.

from Viking sledges and ships give

101-102).

One

to

among

remove these

spirits

the

evil spirits.

just innocent decorations.

In

fact,

we know that

figures before entering his

home

port, 'so as not to frighten the

of the land'.

The monks and

missionaries of Celtic Ireland and Saxon England tried to apply

amazing monuments

to their success are

famous Lindisfarne Gospel, made the Cross

in

art.

some of the manuscripts made

and Ireland during the seventh and eighth centuries. Fig. 103

A

carved

Norwegian Vikings which required the captain of a ship

the traditions of these northern craftsmen to the tasks of Christian

102.

The

good idea of the character of

can well imagine that these threatening heads of

monsters were something more than there were laws

a

is

The most in

a page

Northumbria shortly before A.D.700.

composed of an incredibly

England

from the It

shows

rich lacework of intertwined dragons or

'Longship' of the Viking type with dragons' heads, as used by the Normans in the Invasion of England, from the Bayeux Tapestry, made about A.D. 1180. Bayeux, Cathedral

Western Art

112

103.

Page of

in the

the Lindisfarne Gospel,

London,

serpents, standing against a It is exciting to try to find

Melting Pot

probably painted shortly before A.D. 700.

British

Museum

background of an even more complicated pattern. one's

way through

this

bewildering maze of twisted

shapes, and to follow the coils of these interwoven bodies. It

ing to see that the result

is

is

even more astonish-

not confusion, but that the various patterns

strictly

correspond to each other and form a complex harmony of design and colour. One can hardly imagine

how anyone

could have thought out such a scheme and had the

patience and perseverance to finish

it.

It

proves,

if

proof were needed, that the

Western Art artists

were

who

Melting Pot

in the

113

took up this native tradition

certainly

not

lacking

in

skill

or

technique.

way

more surprising

the

It is all

the

which human

in

to look at

were

figures

represented by these artists in the illumi-

nated manuscripts of England and Ireland.

They do not

human figures made of One can see that

look quite like

but rather like strange patterns

human forms the artist used in

some example he had found

an old Bible, and transformed

his taste.

to

(Fig. 104).

He changed

something

locks of hair

ears into scrolls,

figures of evangelists

almost as

stiff

They show up

to suit

ribbons, the

like interlacing

and even the

and turned the whole face into

These

it

the folds of the dress

and quaint

a rigid

and

mask.

saints look

as primitive idols.

that the artists

in the traditions of their native art

the

new requirements of

Stiftsbibliothek

found

The

it

influence,

them

Western

art

to bring a

to

new element

adapt themselves to

would be wrong

training of

had received, and which enabled them

the page, helped

difficult to

it

Christian books. Yet

such pictures as being merely childish. artists

St. Luke. From a Gospel manuscript, painted about A.D. 750. St. Gallen,

I04-

who had grown

make

into

upon on

a beautiful pattern

Western

might have developed on similar

to look

hand and eye which the

art.

Without

this

of the art

lines to those

of Byzantium. Thanks to the clash of the two traditions, the classical tradition and the taste of the native artists, something entirely

new began

to

grow up

in

Western

Europe.

For the knowledge of the lost altogether.

of the

Roman Emperors,

The church (Fig. 105)

is

that Charles

achievements of

classical art

was by no means

the tradition of Roman craftsmanship was eagerly revived.

had

a rather close

some three hundred years

We

earlier

At the court of Charlemagne, who regarded himself as the successor

built about a.d.

800

at his

residence in Aix-la-Chapelle

copy of a famous church that had been

built in

have seen before that our modern notion that an

was by no means shared by most peoples of the

past.

An

artist

must be

ways of planning

a

'original'

Egyptian, a Chinese or a

Byzantine master would have been greatly puzzled by such a demand. a medieval artist of

Ravenna

earlier.

Nor would

Western Europe have understood why he should invent new

church, of designing a chalice or of representing the sacred story

where the old ones served their purpose so

well.

The

pious donor

who wanted

to

Western Art

Melting Pot

in the

new

dedicate a

shrine for a holy relic of his

patron saint, not only tried to procure the

most precious material he could

would

also seek to provide the

he

afford,

master with

an old and venerable example of

how

the

legend of the saint should be correcdy represented.

pered by

Nor would

this

the artist feel

ham-

type of commission. There

remained enough scope for him to show

whether he was a master or a bungler. Perhaps we can best understand

this

we think of our own approach music. If we ask a musician to perform a wedding we do not expect him to

attitude if to at

compose something new

for the occasion,

any more than the medieval patron expected a

new

invention

if

he asked for a painting

We

of the Nativity.

indicate the type of

music we want and the

105. Interior of the Minster of Aix-la-Chapellt consecrated in a.d. 805

or choir

we may be

size

of the orchestra

able to afford. It

still

remains up to the musician to produce a wonderful performance of an ancient masterpiece or to

may

make

interpret the

a

mess of things. And

might make very different works of ancient model. Fig.

1

An

art

example should make

Greek and Roman books opening page and

two equally great musicians

Matthew to

this clear: at the

court of Charlemagne.

It

writing the gospel. It had been customary in

have the portrait of the author represented on the

this picture

of the writing evangelist must be an extraordinarily

copy of this type of portrait. The way the

best classical fashion, the

great medieval masters

of the same theme and even of the same

06 shows a page from a Bible produced

represents die figure of St.

faithful

just as

same piece very differendy, so two

way

his

head

is

saint

modelled

colour, convinces us that the medieval artist

in

is

draped

many

in his toga in the

shades of light and

had strained every nerve

to give

an

accurate and worthy rendering of a venerated model.

The before

We

painter of another manuscript of the ninth century (Fig. 107) probably had

him

the same or a very similar ancient example from early Christian times.

can compare the hands, the

lectern, the right

left

hand holding an inkhorn and

hand holding the pen; we can compare the

drapery round the knees. But while the

copy the original

artist

resting

on the

and even the

of Fig. 106 had done his very best to

must have aimed

at a

to represent the evangelist like

any

as faithfully as possible, the artist of Fig. 107

different interpretation. Perhaps he did not

feet

want

Western Art

Matthew. From a Gospel manuscript, probably painted at Aix-la-Chapelle, about a.d. 800. Vienna, Schatzkammer

St.

107. St.

Word

of God.

Matthew. From a Gospel manuscript, at Rheims, about A.D. 830. fipernay, Municipal Library

probably painted

To him

serene old scholar, sitting quietly in his study.

man, writing down the

"5

Melting Pot

in the

It

St.

Matthew was an

inspired

was an immensely important and im-

mensely exciting event in the history of mankind that he wanted to portray, and he succeeded in conveying something of his figure

of a writing man.

It is

own

sense of

awe and excitement

not mere clumsiness and ignorance which

in this

made him

He intended to The very brushwork of the drapery had been done in a mood of intense excitement.

draw the saint with wide open, protruding eyes and enormous hands. give

him

that expression of tense concentration.

and of the background looks as This impression, seized

I

think,

if it

partly

is

on every opportunity

to

due

draw

to the evident

enjoyment with which the

and zigzagging

scrolly lines

folds.

have been something in the original to suggest such a treatment, but appealed to the medieval

and

lines

these

we

artist

because

it

emergence of a new medieval

style

do something that neither ancient Oriental nor had largely drawn what they knew to Ages the

artist also

One cannot do mind. For these

make

exist, the

justice to

beautiful things

most

classical art

art. it

In pictures like

had done the Egyptians :

Greeks what they saw,

in the

Middle

felt.

this

purpose

in

to create a convincing likeness of nature or to

—they wanted

artists

probably

possible for art to

any medieval work of art without keeping

were not out

to

convey

content and the message of the sacred story. successful than

which made

learned to express in his picture what he

artists

it

reminded him of those interlaced ribbons

which had been the greatest achievement of northern see the

artist

There may

of earlier or

to their brothers in the faith the

And

in this they

later times. Fig.

were perhaps more

108 shows part of a bronze

n6

Western Art

108.

Adam and Eve

Fall.

aft.

in the

From

Melting Pot

the bronze doors of Hildesheim Cathedral,

completed in

a.d. 1015

door which was commissioned for the German church of Hildesheim shortly after the year a.d. iooo. It shows the

There

is

nothing

Lord approaching Adam and Eve does not

in this relief that

strictly

after the

concentration on the things which matter makes the figures stand out clearly against the plain

say:

God points

shifting of guilt

that

we soon

Adam, Adam

—and we can almost read

to Eve,

and the origin of evil

is

and Eve

all

the

more

off what their gestures

to the serpent

on the ground. The

expressed with such forcefulness and clarity

forget that the proportions of the figures are perhaps not strictly

and the bodies of Adam and Eve not beautiful by our standards.

correct

We

to

background

fall.

belong to the story. But this

need not imagine, though, that

serve religious ideas.

and the barons and feudal lords

as well,

all

art in this period existed exclusively to

Not only churches were to

built in the

Middle Ages, but

castles

whom the castles belonged also occasion-

employed artists. The reason why we are inclined to forget these works when we speak of the art of the earlier Middle Ages is simple: castles were often destroyed when churches were spared. Religious art was, on the whole, treated with greater ally

respect,

ments. as

and looked

after

more

carefully, than

mere decorations of private apart-

When these became old-fashioned they were removed or thrown away — just

happens nowadays. But, fortunately, one great example of this

has

come down

to us

—and that because

famous Bayeux Tapestry, which

do not know exactly when

it

was preserved

illustrates the story

this tapestry

of the

latter

type of art

in a church. It

is

the

Norman Conquest. We

was made, but most scholars agree

that

it

>

i

109-

acr AMeNTVM' ffcn>" hie hKRoi

rviILeiMODVcr

:

WwK

no. King Harold swears an Oath to Duke William of Normandy, after which he returns From the Bayeux Tapestry, made about A.D. 1080. Bayeux Cathedral

to

England.

Western Art in the Melting Pot

Il8 was within

living

memory of the scenes

it

illustrates

—perhaps round about the year

The tapestry is a picture-chronicle of the kind we know from ancient Oriental and Roman art the story of a campaign and a victory. It tells its story with wonderful liveliness. On Fig. 109 we see, as the inscription tells us, how Harold swears his oath to William and on Fig. no how he returns to England. Nothing could be clearer than the way in which the story is told we see William on his throne 1080.





watching Harold laying his hand on the sacred this oath like the

to

which served William

man on

rather quaint and that are not

as pretext for his claims

the balcony in the next scene,

espy Harold's ship as

arrives

it

all

relics to

from

afar. It

who is

artist

or

Roman

little

it

was

mannikins which

chroniclers.

of this period had no model to copy, he drew rather

means so easy



particularly

holds his hands above his eyes

the figures in the story are strange

easy to smile at him, but by no

I

true that his arms and fingers look

drawn with the assurance of the Assyrian

medieval

swear allegiance

on England.

to

do what he

did.

When

the

like a child. It is

He

tells

the epic

with such an economy of means, and with such concentration on what seemed

important to him, that the of our

own war

reporters

III.

final result is

possibly

more impressive than

and newsreel men.

A Monk

(Prater Rufillus) writing the letter

R

(his table

with colours and his pen-knife beside him). From an early thirteenth-century manuscript. Sigmaringen, Library

the accounts

chapter

9



THE CHURCH MILITANT The Twelfth Century

112.

A

Romanesque Church: Remnants of the Benedictine church of Murbach, Alsace. Built about 1160

DATES

are indispensable pegs

since everybody

peg. period,

No

on which

to

knows the date 1066,

hang the tapestry of history, and,

that

may

serve us as a convenient

complete buildings have survived in England from the Saxon

and there are very few churches of the period before

anywhere

in

Europe. But the Normans

who landed

in

that date

still

existing

England brought with them

The Church Militant

120

a developed style of building, which had taken shape within their generation in

Normandy and

The

elsewhere.

who were

bishops and nobles

new

the

feudal lords

of England soon began to assert their power by founding abbeys and minsters.

The

which these buildings were erected

style in

England, and as the Romanesque

style

known

is

on the Continent.

Norman

as the

flourished for a

It

style in

hundred

and more after the Norman invasion. Today it is not easy to imagine what a church meant to the people of that period. Only in some old villages in the countryside can we still get a glimpse of its importance. The church was often the only stone building anywhere in the neighbour-

years

hood; a

to all who

building with

its

approached from

afar.

town might meet

inhabitants of the

there,

their lives

was

steeple

its

services

all

and the contrast between the

the

lofty

in

in the building

of these churches and took

Even from the economic point of view the building of a must have transformed

minster, which took years,

and transport of stone, the erection of suitable itinerant craftsmen

and

Sundays and during

must have been overwhelming. Small wonder

whole community was interested

pride in their decoration.

On

and carvings and the primitive and humble dwellings

paintings

which these people spent that the

for miles around,

was the only considerable structure

it

landmark

who brought

tales

from

a

whole town. The quarrying

employment

scaffolding, the

distant lands,

all this

was

of

a real event

in these far-off days.

The Dark Ages had by no means

memory of the first churches, Romans had used in their buildings. The

blotted out the

the basilicas, and the forms which the

ground-plan was usually the same

two or four

aisles at the side.

of additions. cross,

The

Some

—a central nave leading

Sometimes

this

architects liked the idea of building churches in the

and they thus added what

general impression

theless very different

is

made by

called a transept

these

Norman

from that of the old

columns carrying

straight 'entablatures'

Norman

we

churches

to an apse or choir,

simple plan was enriched by a

or

basilicas.

and

number

form of a

between the choir and the nave.

Romanesque churches

is

never-

In the earliest basilicas classical

had been used. In Romanesque and

generally find round arches resting

on massive

piers.

whole impression which these churches make, both inside and outside,

is

The

one of

massive strength. There are few decorations, even few windows, but firm unbroken walls

and towers which remind one of medieval fastnesses

and almost warriors

defiant piles of stone erected

who had

These powerful

in lands of peasants

and

only recently been converted from their heathen way of life seem

to express the very idea of the it is

(Fig. 112).

by the Church

the task of the

Church

Church Militant

to fight the

—the

idea, that

powers of darkness

till

is,

that here

on earth

the hour of triumph

dawns on doomsday. There was one problem the

minds of

all

good

in

connexion with the building of churches that engaged

architects.

It

was the task of giving these impressive

»*c*h»jALJ*V m ............

113.

77i

,

^

FtsA vomits our Jonah upon the dry land. Detail of a stained-glass in Cologne Cathedral. About 1280

window

in the nave completed

1

171. tne

The Church Militant stone buildings a worthy roof of stone.

The timber for

which had been usual

roofs

lacked

basilicas

and were

dignity,

dangerous because they easily caught

The Roman

demanded

buildings technical

fire.

of vaulting such large

art

amount of

a great

knowledge and calculation which

had largely been

lost.

Thus

the eleventh

and twelfth centuries became a period of experiment.

ceaseless

was no small

It

matter to span the whole breadth of the

The

simplest solu-

would seem, was

to bridge the

main nave by a tion,

it

vault.

distance as one throws a bridge across a

Tremendous

river.

on both

sides,

girders of those bridges.

came

were

pillars

which were

But

soon be-

it

clear that a vault of this kind

to be very firmly joined if

up

built

to carry the

had

were not

it

To

stones was extremely great.

A Norman

115.

to

Interior:

Durham

Cathedral.

Built between 1093 and 1128 (the vault completed later after the original design)

and that the weight of the necessary

crash,

carry this

enormous load the walls and

pillars had to be made even stronger and more Huge masses of stone were needed for these early 'tunnel'-vaults. Norman architects therefore began to try out a different method. They saw that

massive.

it

was not

a

number of

really necessary to

make

the whole roof so heavy.

firm girders spanning the distance and to

lighter material. It

It

fill

was found that the best method of doing

was

sufficient to

have

in the intervals with this

was by spanning

the girders or 'ribs' crosswise between the pillars and then filling in the triangular sections

between them. This

idea,

which was soon to revolutionize building methods,

Norman

can be traced as far back as the

cathedral of

who, soon

after the

(Fig. 115)

was hardly aware of its technical

It

was

in

Conquest, designed the

word

church had

its

'decorate'

at Aries, in

glory,

interior

to

be decorated with sculptures.

and must express

a definite idea

connected with the

is

in the field

one of the most complete examples of

above the



tympanum

this style

—Christ

in

His

surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists. These symbols, the

lion

for St.

H

shows

the architect

mighty

The porch of the late twelfth-century church of St. Trophime

southern France,

(Fig. 116). It

its

rather misleading. Everything that belonged to the

is

definite function

teaching of the Church.

for

possibilities.

France that Romanesque churches began

Actually the

Durham, though

first 'rib-vault'

Mark, the angel

for St.

lintel

called

Matthew, the ox

for St.

Luke and

the eagle for

116-117.

The Facade of

St.

Trophime at Aries (southern France), about 1180

:

The Church Militant St.

125

we

John, were derived from the Bible. In the Old Testament

of Ezekiel (Ez.

read of the vision

4-12), in which he describes the throne of the Lord, carried by

i.

four creatures with the heads of a man, of a lion, an ox and an eagle.

meant the four

Christian theologians thought this passage

was

vision

on Christ's

we

Below,

figures in chains

right

we

—they are

and such

lost souls

marked by

his

left,

a

—while

being dragged off to hell

see the blessed, their faces turned towards

see the rigid figures of saints, each

a

we

the lintel below

and we can discern, on Christ's

see twelve sitting figures, the twelve apostles,

row of naked

evangelists,

On

a fitting subject for the entrance to the church.

Him in eternal bliss. emblem, reminding

who can intercede for them when their souls stand before Thus the teachings of the Church about the final goal of our

the faithful of those

the

ultimate Judge.

fife

here below were embodied in these sculptures on the portal of the church. These

images lived on in the minds of the people even more powerfully than did the words of the preacher's sermon.

A

medieval French poet, Francois Villon, has

late

described this effect in the moving verses he wrote for his mother I

am

a

woman, poor and

Quite ignorant,

I

They showed me by my

A

It

damned

Hell where the gives

me

works.

They

becomes much

church

are

all

souls are boiled,

me

joy, the other frightens

must not expect such sculptures

classical

village

painted Paradise with harps

And One

We

old,

cannot read

.

.

.

to look as natural, graceful

and

light as

more impressive because of their massive solemnity.

the

easier to see at a glance

what

is

represented, and they

fit

in

much

better with the grandeur of the building (Fig. 117).

Every

and

its

detail inside the

church was

the year

mo. The

more

a

round shine

its it

definite

crown

we

is :

(p.

no,

Fig.

ioiandp.

given to these uncanny shapes.

'This bearer of light

man

fit its

more (round

the

knob

purpose

for Gloucester Cathedral about

is

the

it

is

A Latin inscription

work of virtue

should not be darkened by

in the middle) the

formed

112, Fig. 103). But

—with

its

And we not

vice'.

penetrate with our eyes into the jungle of strange creatures

only find once

who

meaning

says roughly

preaches the doctrine, so that

really, as

made

intertwined monsters and dragons of which

remind us of the work of the Dark Ages

now

thought out to

just as carefully

message. Fig. 118 shows a candlestick

symbols of the Evangelists

stand for the doctrine but also naked figures of men. Like Laocoon and his

sons (p. 75, Fig. 68) they are assailed by snakes and monsters; but theirs hopeless struggle. 'The light that shineth in the darkness' can

over the power of

The

is

not a

make them triumph

evil.

font of a church in Liege (Belgium),

made about

n 13,

example of the part taken by the theologians in advising the

provides another

artists (Fig.

119). It

is

"3P E f%

118. Candlestick of gill bell nietal.

Made

for Gloucester Cathedral,

London, Victoria and Albert Museum

between

U04and

1113.

:

The Church Militant

119.

RhiNHR van huy: Brass Font,

made of brass and shows

in the

St.

127

Bartholomew, Liege (Belgium), between 1107 and

middle a

relief

of the baptism of Christ

1 1

18

—the most

appropriate subject for a font. There are Latin inscriptions explaining the meaning

of every figure; for instance,

we

read 'Angelis ministrantes' (ministering angels)

over the two figures waiting at the side of the River Jordan to receive Christ. But is

it

not only these inscriptions that underline the importance attached to the meaning

of every detail. Again, the whole font was given such a meaning. Even the figures of

oxen on which

it

stands are not there merely for the sake of ornament or decoration.

We read in the Bible (2 Chronicles iv.) how King Solomon engaged a cunning workman from Tyre in Phoenicia who was an expert in brass foundry. Among he made for the temple in Jerusalem the Bible describes

the things

'A molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass. ... It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking towards the north and three looking towards the west and three looking towards the south and three looking towards the east: and the sea was set It

was

upon them and

this sacred

foundry, was asked to keep in of Solomon.

all

their hinder parts

model, then, which the

artist

were inward.'

of Liege, another expert

mind two thousand

years or

more

in brass

after the

time

The Church Militant

128

The forms which

the artist uses for his

images of Christ, of the angels and of

St.

John, look more natural and at the same time more calm and majestic than those of

We

Dark Ages.

the

twelfth

century

remember

that the

of the

century

the

is

Crusades.There was naturally more contact than formerly with the art of Byzantium,

and many

artists

to imitate

and emulate the majestic sacred

of the twelfth century tried

images of the Eastern Church.

At no other time,

European

in fact, did

approach the ideals of this kind of East-

art

ern art more closely than at the height of the

Romanesque

rigid 120.

style.

the

Stuttgart, Landesbibliothek

same

spirit in

many

The

Virgin

is

manu-

and motionless

as

an

seen from in front, her hands raised as in astonish-

ment, while the dove of the Holy Spirit descends on her from on high. is

and we see

illuminated

scripts of the twelfth century. Fig. 120, for

instance, represents the Annunciation. It looks almost as stiff relief.

have seen the

tures of Aries (Figs. 116-117),

The Annunciation. From a Swabian Gospel manuscript, about 1150.

Egyptian

We

and solemn arrangement of the sculp-

The Angel

seen half in profile, his right hand extended in a gesture which in medieval art

signifies the act

of speaking.

of a real scene,

we may

that the artist

If,

we

expect a vivid illustration

disappointing. But if

we remember once more

looking at such a page,

well find

it

was not concerned with an imitation of natural forms, but rather with

the arrangement of traditional sacred symbols which were

the mystery of the Annunciation,

we

shall

no longer

all

he needed to

feel the lack

illustrate

of what he never

intended to give us.

For we must artists as

realize

soon as they

how

great the possibilities were that

finally

discarded

all

opened up before the

ambition to represent things as we see

them. Fig. 121 shows a page from a calendar for the use of a German monastery.

marks the principal but, unlike our tions.

own

feasts

calendars,

it

marks them not only

In the middle, under the arches,

with the Bishop's crozier and missionary.

The

It

of saints to be commemorated in the month of October,

a

we

in

words but

also

see St. Willimarus the priest

companion who

by

and

carries the luggage of the

illustraSt.

Gall

wandering

curious pictures on top and below illustrate the story of two

martyrdoms which

are

remembered

in October.

In later times,

when

art

had

returned to the detailed representation of nature, such cruel scenes were often painted with a profusion of horrible detail.

Our

artist

was able to avoid

all this.

To

)®xmm£

121. Saints Gereon, Willimarus, Gall

io.ooo Maidens.

From

a

and

the

Martyrdom

of St. Ursula with her

Calendar manuscript made between 1137 and 1147. Stuttgart, Landesbibliothek

The Church Militant

130 remind us of

St.

Gereon and

into a well, he arranged the

companions whose heads were cut

his

beheaded trunks

in a neat circle

off

and thrown

around the image of

the well. St. Ursula who, according to the legend, had been massacred with her ten

thousand maidens by the heathens, followers.

An

ugly savage with

are placed outside the frame off the

is

seen throning,

bow and

and aiming

at the Saint.

page without being forced to visualize

it.

surrounded by her

literally

arrows and a

man

We

And

brandishing his sword

are able to read the story

as the artist could dispense

with any illusion of space or any dramatic action he could arrange his figures and

forms on purely ornamental

form of writing

in pictures

;

lines.

Painting was indeed on the

sentation gave the artist of the

Middle Ages a new freedom

more complex forms of composition these

way

to

becoming

a

but this return to more simplified methods of repre-

(corn-position

to experiment with

putting together). Without

methods the teachings of the Church could never have been translated

into

visible shapes.

As with forms

so with colours.

As the

artists

no longer

felt

obliged to study and

imitate the real gradations of shades that occur in nature they were free to choose

any colour they liked for their

illustrations.

The

bright gold and luminous blues of

their goldsmiths' works, the intense colours

of their book illuminations, the glowing

red and deep greens of their stained-glass

windows

these masters put their independence of nature to

from the need

to imitate the natural

(p. 121, Fig.

good

use. It

113)

was

show

this

that

freedom

world that was to enable them to convey the

idea of the supernatural.

122. Artists at work at a manuscript

and a

From the pattern book Reun Monastery, made about 1200.

panel painting.

Vienna, Nationalbibliothek

of

chapter io

THE CHURCH TRIUMPHANT



The Thirteenth Century

123.

WE

have

just

A

Gothic cathedral: Notre Dame of Paris. Built from 1163 to 1250

compared the

art

of the Romanesque period with the art

of Byzantium and even of the ancient Orient. But there in

the East these styles lasted for thousands of years,

they should ever change. less,

is

one respect

which Western Europe always differed profoundly from the

groping for

new

East. In

and there seemed no reason why

The West never knew this immobility. It was always restand new ideas. The Romanesque style did not even

solutions

outlast the twelfth century.

Hardly had the

churches and arranging their statues in the

artists

new and

succeeded in vaulting their

majestic manner,

when

a

new

made all these Norman and Romanesque churches look clumsy and obsolete. This new idea was born in northern France. It was the principle of the Gothic style. idea

At

first

more.

one might It

call it

mainly a technical invention, but in

was the discovery that the method of vaulting

crosswise girders could be developed

much more

its

effect

a

consistently

it

became much

church by means of

and

to

much

greater

The Church Triumphant

132 purpose than the

Norman

architects

had dreamt

sufficient to carry the girders of the vaulting

held as mere fluous. It

then

filling,

was possible

all

of.

If

it

was true that

between could be

no need

left

which held the whole Anything

'ribs'.

out without danger of the scaffolding collapsing. There was

heavy stone walls

for

were

the massive walls between the pillars were really super-

to erect a kind of scaffolding of stone

building together. All that was needed were slim pillars and narrow in

pillars

between which the other stones were

—instead one could put in large windows.

the ideal of architects to build churches almost in the

manner

greenhouses. Only they had no steel frames or iron girders

in

It

became

which we build

—they had

to

make them

of stone, and that needed a great amount of careful calculation. Provided, however, that the calculation

was

correct,

it

was possible

to build a

church of an entirely new

kind; a building of stone and glass such as the world had never seen before. This

is

the leading idea of the Gothic cathedrals, which was developed in northern France in the second half of the twelfth century.

Of

course, the principle of crosswise girders alone was not sufficient for this

A number of other technical inventions were

revolutionary style of Gothic building.

make

necessary to for instance, if I

am

is

only one

arch steeper.

is

way of doing

no more and no

height,

fit

The

If

less.

I

it

it.

The

wanted

arches of the

Romanesque is

style,

this:

can be varied at

will,

is

made

vaulting will always reach one particular

to reach higher

best thing, in this case,

two segments together. That

that

The round

were unsuited to the aims of the Gothic builders. The reason

given the task of bridging the gap between two pillars with a semicircular

arch, there

to

the miracle possible.

is

I

should have to make the

not to have a rounded arch

at all,

but

the idea of the pointed arch. Its great advantage

flatter

or

more pointed according

to the require-

ments of the structure.

There was one more thing press not only

to

downwards but

be considered. also sideways,

The heavy stones of the vaulting much like a bow which has been

drawn. Here, too, the pointed arch was an improvement over the round one, but even so

pillars

alone were not sufficient to withstand this outward pressure. Strong

frames were needed to keep the whole structure in shape. In the vaulted side-aisles this did

not prove very

difficult.

be done with the high nave roofs of the aisles.

?

Buttresses could be built outside. But what could

This had to be kept

in

shape from outside, across the

To do that, the builders had to introduce their

which complete the scaffolding of the Gothic vault

(Fig. 124).

'flying buttresses',

A

seems to be suspended between these slender structures of stone wheel between that

makes

more It

it

its

flimsy spokes. In both cases

it is

Gothic church like a bicycle

the even distribution of weight

possible to reduce the material needed for the construction

more and

vithout endangering the firmness of the whole.

would be wrong, however,

engineering.

to look at these churches

mainly

as

feats

of

The artists saw to it that we feel and enjoy the boldness of their design.

The Church Triumphant

124. N,

Dame

of Paris from the

air.

and the

Looking

at a

Doric temple

A

view showing the cross form of the building

'flying buttresses'

(p. 49, Fig.

45)

we

feel the

columns which carry the load of the horizontal cathedral (Fig. 125)

we

are

made

pull that holds the lofty vault in

anywhere.

The whole

interior

to understand the

its

place.

There

are

roof.

function of the

row of

Standing inside a Gothic

complex interplay of thrust and no blank walls or massive

seems to be woven out of thin shafts and

pillars

ribs ; their

network covers the vault, and runs down along the walls of the nave to be gathered

up by the

pillars

are overspread

which are formed by

by these interlacing

a

lines

bundle of stone rods. Even the windows

known

as tracery (Fig. 126).

The Church Triumphant

The

own

great cathedrals, the Bishops'

churches (cathedra

= Bishop's throne),

of

the late twelfth and early thirteenth century

were mostly conceived on such a bold and magnificent scale that few if any were ever

completed exactly

and

after the

as planned.

many

But even

alterations

so,

which they

have undergone in the course of time,

it

remains an unforgettable experience to enter these vast interiors

whose very

di-

mensions seem to dwarf anything that merely

human and

petty.

We

is

can hardly

imagine the impression which these buildings

must have made on those who had

only

known

the heavy and grim structures

of the Romanesque

style.

These older

churches in their strength and power

may

have conveyed something of the 'church

A Gothic interior: the cathedral of Amiens. The nave built by ROBERT de luzarches, 1218-36, the apse completed in 1247

125.

militant' that offered shelter against the

onslaught of evil.

The new

cathedrals gave

the faithful a glimpse of a different world.

They would have heard its

gates of pearl,

its

glass (Revelation xxi).

The

in

sermons and hymns of the Heavenly Jerusalem with

priceless jewels,

Now

its

streets

walls of these buildings were not cold

of stained glass that shone

nated.

The

faithful

beauty could

who

feel that

to earth.

and forbidding. They were formed

like precious stone.

glistening with gold. Everything that

of pure gold and transparent

had descended from heaven

this vision

The

pillars, ribs

was heavy, earthly or

and tracery were

humdrum was

surrendered himself to the contemplation of

elimi-

all

this

he had come nearer to understanding the mysteries of a

realm beyond the reach of matter.

Even

as seen

The

of heaven. all (Fig.

123).

from

afar these miraculous buildings

facade of Notre

So lucid and

Dame

in Paris

effortless is the

is

of stone and the whole structure seems to is

a similar feeling of lightness

flank the porches like heavenly hosts. (p.

1;

Fig. 117)

architt

Gothic

ural t

made his

figures

rise

we

forget the weight of this pile

up before us

and weightlessness

like a mirage.

in the sculptures that

While the Romanesque master of Aries

of saints look

like solid pillars firmly fitted into the

who worked for the northern porch of the 127) made each of his figures come to life. They

framework, the master

hedral of Chartres (Fig.

to proclaim the glories

arrangement of the porches and windows,

so lithe and graceful the tracery of the gallery that

There

seemed

perhaps the most perfect of them

126. Gothic church windows: the choir of Cologne Catliedral, begun in 1248. (The wall-paintings are nineteenth-century restorations)

i

The Church Triumphant

36

127. Melchisedek,

Abraham and Moses. From

the porch of the northern transept

of Chartres Cathedral. Probably begun in 1194

seem

to

move, and look

indicates once

more that

at

each other solemnly, and the flow of their drapery

there

is

a

body underneath. Each of them

and should have been recognizable have no

difficulty in recognizing

to

anyone who knew

his

is

clearly

marked,

Old Testament.

Abraham, the old man with

We

his son Isaac held

The Church Triumphant him ready

before

to

be

sacrificed.

the tablets on which the

We

137

can also recognize Moses, because he holds

Ten Commandments were

inscribed,

and the column with

The man on the King of Salem, of whom we read in

the brazen serpent by which he cured the Israelites.

Abraham

of

is

Melchisedek,

other side the Bible

(Genesis xiv. 18) that he was 'A priest of the most high God' and that he 'brought

and wine'

forth bread

to

welcome Abraham

sacraments, and that this

way

is

why he is marked by a chalice and

nearly every one of the figures that

cathedrals

is

who

administers the

the censer of the priest. In

crowd the porches of the great Gothic

marked by an emblem so

clearly

understood and pondered by the

medieval

after a successful battle. In

theology he was therefore considered the model of the priest

that

its

meaning and message could be

Taken together they form as complete an embodiment of the teachings of the Church as the works discussed in the preceding faithful.

And yet we feel that the Gothic sculptor has approached his task in a new To him these statues are not only sacred symbols, solemn reminders of a

chapter. spirit.

moral truth. Each of them must have been for him

from

its

neighbour in

its

attitude

a figure in its

own right,

different

and type of beauty and each imbued with an

individual dignity.

The

cathedral of Chartres

also in the

land.

largely belonged to the late twelfth century. After

magnificent cathedrals sprang up in France and

neighbouring countries, in England, in Spain and in the

Many

of the masters busy on the

working on the

ments of their Fig. 128,

first

The

new

sites

buildings of this kind, but they

had learned all

tried to

German Rhine-

their craft while

add

to the achieve-

elders.

from the

the entirely Virgin.

still

many new and

the year 1200

early thirteenth-century

new approach of these Gothic

Gothic cathedral of Strasbourg, shows

sculptors. It represents the death of the

twelve apostles surround her bed, St.

her. Christ, in the middle,

is

Mary Magdalene

kneels before

receiving the Virgin's soul into His arms.

We see that

the artist was

still

anxious to preserve something of the solemn symmetry of the

early period.

We

can imagine that he sketched out the group beforehand to

arrange the heads of the apostles around the arch, the two apostles at the bedside

corresponding to each other, and the figure of Christ in the centre. But he was no longer content with a purely symmetrical arrangement such as the twelfth-century

master of p. 129, Fig. 121, preferred.

We

He clearly wanted to breathe life into his figures.

can see the expression of mourning in the beautiful faces of the apostles, with

their raised

eyebrows and their intent look. Three of them

faces in the traditional gesture of grief.

lift

Even more expressive

their

hands to

are the face

and

their

figure

Mary Magdalene, who cowers at the bedside and wrings her hands, and it is how the artist succeeded in contrasting her features with the serene and blissful look on the face of the Virgin. The draperies are no longer the empty husks and purely ornamental scrolls we see on early medieval work. The Gothic artists

of

St.

marvellous

The Church Triumphant

128.

The Death of

the Virgin.

From

the porch of the southern transept

of Strasbourg Cathedral.

wanted

down

to

to

About 1230

understand the ancient formula for draped bodies, which had been handed

them. Perhaps they turned for enlightenment to the remnants of pagan

stonework, in France.

Roman tombstones and triumphal arches, of which several could be seen

Thus

show under the handle this

they regained the lost classical art of letting the structure of the body

Our artist, in fact, is proud of his ability to The way in which the Virgin's feet and hands, and

folds of the drapery.

difficult

technique.

the hand of Christ appear under the cloth,

show

that these Gothic sculptors

were no

longer interested only in what they represented, but also in the problems of how to represent.

Once more,

as in the

to look at nature, not so

much

look convincing. Yet there

between the fifth

art

copy

century were mainly interested in

which was tell it

artist all

its

from

own

how

it

how

between Greek

to build

up

sake, but for the sake of

the dying Virgin was clearly

to

art

make

a figure

and Gothic

The Greek

artists

art,

of the

the image of a beautiful

means

to

an end,

more movingly and more convincingly. He does

edification the faithful could derive

of muscles.

as to learn

these methods and tricks were only a

to tell his sacred story

for

it

a vast difference

is

of the temple and that of the cathedral.

body. To the Gothic

not

time of the great awakening in Greece, they began to

from

it.

its

The

more important

message, and for the solace and attitude of Christ as

He

looks at

to the artist than skilful rendering

— The Church Triumphant

129. Ei iehart

and Uta. From the

choir of

Naumburg

In the course of the thirteenth century,

attempts to

make

the stone

come

representing the founders of the

series of

Cathedral.

some

139

'Founders' in the

About 1260 artists

went even further

in their

The sculptor who was given the task of Naumburg Cathedral in Germany, round about to

life.

1260, almost convinces us that he portrayed actual knights of his time (Fig. 129). It is

not very likely that he really did

and were nothing but have come to

life

a

under

name

his hands.

the true contemporaries of

—these founders had been dead many years,

to him.

But

They

his statues

of

men and women seem

look immensely energetic and vigorous

Simon of Montfort.

to

The Church Triumphant

140

130.

To work

The Entombment of Christ. From a Psalter manuscript from Bonmont. Probably painted between 1250 and 1300. Besancon, Bibliotheque Municipale

for cathedrals

thirteenth century.

was the main task of the northern sculptors of the

The most

frequent task of the northern painters of that time

was the illumination of manuscripts, but the different

spirit

of these illustrations was very

from that of the solemn Romanesque book pages. If we compare the

'Annunciation' from the twelfth century (p. 128, Fig. 120) with a page from a thirteenth-century Psalter (Fig. 130) the

entombment of Christ,

bourg Cathedral artist to

(Fig. 128).

show us the

Christ and embraces

we

Once more we

feeling of his figures. it,

It

shows

from

Stras-

become

to the

gain a measure of this change.

similar in subject

and

see

The

in spirit to the relief

how

important

it

has

Virgin bends over the dead body of

while St. John wrings his hands in grief. As in the

see what nains the artist took to

fit

relief,

we

his scene into a regular pattern: the angels in the

The Church Triumphant

141

top corners coming out of the clouds with censers in their hands, and the servants

—such were worn by the Jews —supporting the body of Christ. This expression of intense

with their strange pointed hats

Ages

as

than any attempt to make his figures

much

does not mind that the servants are

lifelike,

the

He

smaller than the holy personages, and he

happening without any such external indications. Though

we

to represent things as

see

them

We understand

in reality, his

painter of the twelfth-century miniature.

was not the

they took pride in making

told,

knowledge of the human body,

like

was

These thirteenth-century

in

in order to represent

something because

hardly imagine today what this meant.

sketchbook

who sits down and makes

a

We

He

started

it

carrying out his instructions and

Gradually he would learn Virgin.

He would

learn to

into different frames,

how

life

to a master,

filling in relatively

abandon

whenever he

able even to illustrate a scene for

finally

life.

whom he assisted how

to

a

by

draw the Holy

which he knew no pattern. But never

Even when he was asked

was very

at first

unimportant parts of a picture.

acquire enough facility in

would he be faced with the necessity of taking from

We can

feels inclined. artist

copy and rearrange scenes from old books, and

and he would

be

their pattern

interested them.

an apostle, and

to represent

to

think of an artist as a person with a

drawing from

by being apprenticed

to their use.

lifelike.

But we know that the whole training and upbringing of the medieval different.

were no

artists

them

which a sacred story was

in the thirteenth century that artists did occasionally

book altogether,

than that of the

infinitely greater

more moving and more

it

is

aim

it

longer content to copy models from pattern books and adapt

Although they respected the traditional forms

what

artist's

was nevertheless

that of the Strasbourg master,

this

or to represent a real scene.

does not give us any indication of the place or the setting.

It

and

more important to

regular distribution of the figures on the page, were obviously artist

Middle

in the

feeling,

fit

all this

them to

be

in his career

sketchbook and drawing something

to represent a particular person, the ruling king

would not make what we should call a likeness. There were no we understand them in the Middle Ages. All the artists did was to draw

or a bishop, he portraits as

a conventional figure

king, a mitre

and

and crozier

that there could be

to give

no mistake.

to

make such lifelike figures as

it

difficult to

down

in front

make

But the whole idea of

a likeness of a particular person.

that,

on certain occasions,

draw something from

on which they could

life.

a

may seem strange to us that artists who were able Naumburg founders (Fig. 129) should have found

of a person or an object and copying

more remarkable fact

It

the

— crown and sceptre for the — and perhaps write the name underneath so

the insignia of office

it

for the bishop

They

rely. Fig. 131

did

it

artists in

when

alien to

them.

sitting

It is all

the

the thirteenth century did in

they had no conventional pattern

shows such an exception.

elephant drawn by the English historian thirteenth century. This elephant

was

it

Matthew

had been sent by

It is

the picture of an

Paris in the

St.

middle of the

Louis, King of France, to

The Church Triumphant Henry

III in 1255. It

was the

been seen

in

England.

servant by

its

side

likeness,

is

The

that in this case the artist

is.

131. its

MATTHEW keeper.

I

An

saying:

name,

his

interesting

is

is

Between the Latin inscrip-

a

'By the size of the

may imagine

man

the size

elephant and

of the beast represented here'.

Drawn

Corpus

show,

PARIS:

of the elephant there

portrayed here you

had

was very anxious

to get the right proportion.

tion

that

not a very convincing

though we are given

Henricus de Flor. But what

legs

first

figure of the

in 1255. Cambridge, Christi College

elephant

may

look a

little

To

queer, but

us this it

does

think, that medieval artists, at least in the thirteenth century,

were very well

them

so often, they

aware of such things

as proportions,

and

that, if they ignored

did so not out of ignorance but simply because they did not think they mattered.

In the thirteenth century, the time of the great cathedrals, France was the richest

and most important country

in Europe.

The

University of Paris was the intellectual

centre of the Western world. In Italy, which was

methods of the great French cathedral in

Germany and England,

Nicola pisano:

did not at

builders, first

much

disunited, the ideas and

which had been so eagerly imitated

meet with much response.

Annunciation, Nativity and Shepherds. From the marble pulpit of the Baptistery in Pisa. Completed in 1260

The Church Triumphant It

143

was only in the second half of the thirteenth century that an Italian sculptor

began

emulate the example of the French masters and to study the methods of

to

order to represent nature more convincingly. This

classical sculpture in

Nicola Pisano

who worked

shows one of the

artist

was

and trading centre of Pisa. Fig. 132

of a pulpit he completed in 1260. At

reliefs

what subject

to see

in the great seaport

first it is

not quite easy

represented because Pisano followed the medieval practice

is

Thus

of combining various stories within one frame.

the

left

corner of the relief

is

taken up with the group of the Annunciation and the middle with the Birth of Christ.

The

Virgin

is

on a bedstead,

lying

two servants are engaged

herd of sheep, but these really belong to tion to the

St.

Joseph

Shepherds which

Christ-child appears once

is

crouching in a corner, and

They seem

in bathing the Child.

a third

scene

to

be jostled about by a

—the story of the Annuncia-

represented in the right-hand corner where the

is

more

manger. But

in the

if the

scene appears a

crowded and confusing the sculptor has nevertheless contrived proper place and

its

its

vivid details.

One can

how he

see

realizes

how much he owed

worked

a generation before

may have been about ancients to

show

him

head with

its

folds.

Like the

(Fig. 128), or like the

his age, Nicola Pisano

hoof,

had learned the methods of the

body under the drapery and

the forms of the

its

when one master of Strasbourg who master of Naumburg who

to the study of classical sculpture

and

looks at his treatment of garments

little

each episode

enjoyed such touches of

observation as the goat in the right-hand corner scratching

and one

to give

to

make

his figures

look both dignified and convincing. Italian painters

were even slower than

of the Gothic masters. Italian

spirit

the Byzantine

Empire and

to Paris for inspiration

were It

still

cities

Italian sculptors in

such

responding to the

new

Venice were in close contact with

as

Italian craftsmen looked to Constantinople rather than

and guidance. In the thirteenth century

Italian

churches

decorated with solemn mosaics in the 'Greek manner'.

might have seemed

adherence to the conservative

as if this

style

of the East

would prevent all change, and indeed the change was long delayed. But when towards the end of the thirteenth century, tine tradition

which enabled

it

Italian art not

was

this firm

grounding

in the

it

came,

Byzan-

only to catch up with the achievements

of the northern cathedral sculptors but to revolutionize the whole art of painting.

We must not forget that the sculptor who aims at reproducing nature has an easier task than the painter

who

sets

himself

a similar aim.

The

sculptor need not worry

about creating an illusion of depth through foreshortening or through modelling in light

and shade. His statue stands

of Strasbourg or

Naumburg could

in real space

century painting could match. For

up

all

and

in real light.

Thus

the sculptors

reach a degree of lifelikeness which no thirteenth-

we remember

pretence of creating an illusion of

that northern painting

reality. Its principles

of story-telling were governed by quite different aims.

had given

of arrangement and

The Church Triumphant

144 It

was Byzantine

allowed the Italians to leap the barrier that

art that ultimately

separates sculpture from painting. For

more of

writing of the dark ages in the West. We still

all its rigidity

Byzantine

art

had preserved

the discoveries of the Hellenistic painters than had survived the picture-

lay hidden, as

p. 93, Fig. 85

the footstool

it

how

;

the face

show

remember how many of these achievements

were, under the frozen solemnity of a Byzantine painting like is

modelled in

light

and shade and how the throne and

a correct understanding of the principles of foreshortening.

With methods of this kind could venture out into a

a genius who broke the spell of Byzantine conservatism new world and translate the lifelike figures of Gothic

sculpture into painting. This genius Italian art found in the Florentine painter

Giotto di Bondone (I266P-I337).

new chapter with Giotto; the Italians were convinced that an new epoch of art had begun with the appearance of that great painter. We shall see that they were right. But for all that, it may be useful to remember that in real history there are no new chapters and no new beginnings and that it detracts nothing from Giotto's greatness if we realize that his methods owe much to the It is

usual to start a

entirely

Byzantine masters, and his aims and outlook to the great sculptors of the northern cathedrals.

Giotto's

most famous works are wall-paintings or frescoes

must be painted on the wall while the

plaster

is still /res//,

(so called because they

that

is,

wet). In or about

the year 1306 he covered the walls of a small church in Padua in northern Italy with stories

from the

tions of virtues

life

of the Virgin and of Christ. Underneath he painted personifica-

and vices such

as

had sometimes been placed on the porches of

northern cathedrals. Fig. 133

shows Giotto's figure of Faith, a matron with a cross

scroll in the other. It

is

the Gothic sculptors. But this a statue in the round. face this

We

for a

It

is

no

enabled

flat

this discovery

him

to

statue. It

is

a painting

in the flowing folds of the drapery.

representations of the

trick to

Saints,

when

this

it

the

it

like

of creating

its

own

sake.

were

sufficient to look at older

who exhorted

to a

new

the people in their

mind, when reading the Bible and the legends of the

must have looked

Lord was

illusion as if the sacred story

same scene and adapt these time-honoured models

to visualize in their

what

be displayed for

was no longer

rather followed the advice of the friars

sermons

Nothing

art

change the whole conception of painting. Instead of using the

happening before our very eyes. For

He

illusion of

surface.

was not only a

methods of picture writing he could create the

use.

which gives the

thousand years. Giotto had rediscovered the

the illusion of depth on a

For Giotto

one hand, a

see the foreshortening of the arm, the modelling of the

and neck, the deep shadows had been done

in

easy to see the similarity of this noble figure to the works of

like

nailed to the cross.

when

He

a carpenter's family fled to

did not rest

till

he had thought

Egypt or it all

out

133-

Giotto:

Faith. Wall-painting in the Cappella dell'

Probably completed in 1306

Arena

in Padua.

The Church Triumphant Hi

146

giotto: The Mourning

134.

of Christ. Wall-painting in the Cappella dell'

Probably completed

afresh

:

how would

a

man

part in such an event itself to

We

our eyes

?

stand,

how would he

(Fig.

miniature in Fig. 130.

if

we

try to

He

artist

is

how would he move, if he took movement present

a gesture or

The

this revolution if

subject

is

we compare one of

theme

the mourning over the dead body of Christ,

was not interested

last time.

In the miniature, as

in representing the scene as

varied the size of the figures so as to

—with Christ and the Virgin

squeezed together, and

same indifference

how

to the real place

fit

them

it

little

in

between

well into the page, and

—we

realize

St.

is

is

more than

John

how

the artist cared about space.

where the scene

we

might have

in

every-

It is

the

happening which led Nicola

Pisano to represent different episodes within one frame. Giotto's method pletely different. Painting, for him,

Giotto's

in the thirteenth-century

imagine the space between the figures in the foreground and

the background

thing

act,

134) with a similar

with the Virgin embracing her son for the

happened.

in Padua.

?

from Padua

remember, the

Arena

1306

Moreover, how would such

can best gauge the extent of

frescoes

in

is

a substitute for the written

comword.

The Church Triumphant

147

Detail of Fig. 134

We seem to witness the real event as if it were enacted on a stage. ventional gesture of the

mourning

St.

John

in the miniature

Compare

the con-

with the passionate

movement of St. John in Giotto's painting as he bends forward, his arms extended sideways. If we try here to imagine the distance between the cowering figures in the foreground and

St.

new

we immediately

John,

them, and that they can

all

move. These

Giotto's art was in every respect.

We

reverted to the old Oriental idea that to

shown completely, almost

He

as

was done

did not need such simple devices.

reflects the grief

figures

whose

in

hidden from

is

air

and space between

remember

tell

a story clearly every figure

He shows us.

show how

entirely

that early Christian art

had

had

to

be

Egyptian art. Giotto abandoned these ideas.

of the tragic scene that

faces are

feel that there

figures in the foreground

we

us so convincingly

how

each figure

sense the same grief in the cowering

The Church Triumphant

148

Giotto's fame spread far and wide.

They were

interested in his

This, too, was rather a

new

life,

thing.

course, there had been masters

mended from monastery people did not think

it

people of Florence were proud of him.

Nothing quite

who had

to monastery, or

like

it

his wit

and

dexterity.

had happened before. Of

enjoyed general esteem, and been recom-

from bishop

to bishop. But,

on the whole,

necessary to preserve the names of these masters for posterity.

They thought of them as we themselves were not much

think of a good cabinet-maker or

tailor.

Even the artists

interested in acquiring fame or notoriety.

they did not even sign their work.

made

The

and told anecdotes about

We

Very often

do not know the names of the masters who

the sculptures of Chartres, of Strasbourg or

Naumburg. No doubt they were

appreciated in their time, but they gave the honour to the cathedral for which they

worked. In

this respect too, the Florentine painter Giotto begins

chapter in the history of art.

and then

From

in other countries also,

is

his

an entirely new

day onwards the history of art,

the history of the great

first in Italy

artists.

King and his architect (with compass and ruler) visiting the building site of a cathedral (King Offa at St. Albans). From an English manuscript of the Life of St. Alban probably painted by Matthew Paris about 1260. Dublin, Trinity College

136. The

chapter

ii

COURTIERS AND BURGHERS



The Fourteenth Century

137.

THE

The 'decorated'

style: the toest front of

thirteenth century

nearly

all

Exeter Cathedral. About 1350-1400

had been the century of the great cathedrals, in which

branches of art had their share.

prises continued into the fourteenth century

no longer the main focus of art.

We

Work on

was

first

enter-

must remember that the world had changed

great deal during that period. In the middle of the twelfth century, style

immense

these

and even beyond, but they were

developed, Europe was

still

a thinly

when

a

the Gothic

populated continent of peasants

The own was the

with monasteries and barons' castles as the main centres of power and learning.

ambition of the great Bishops' Sees to have mighty cathedrals of their first

indication of an awakening civic pride of the towns. But a

years later these towns had

grown

increasingly independent of the

nobles no longer lived a

life

into teeming centres of trade

hundred and

whose burghers

power of the Church and the feudal

of grim seclusion

in their fortified

lords.

fifty felt

Even the

manors, but moved

Courtiers

150

to the cities with their comfort at the courts

of the mighty.

century was like

and

friars

if

the works of Chaucer, with his knights and squires,

This was no longer the world of the Crusades, and of those

paragons of chivalry, which we remember when looking

burg (Fig. 129).

There

It is

never safe to generalize too

are always exceptions

tion. But,

This

is

much

at the

we may

founders of

Naum-

about periods and

and examples which would not

with that reservation,

was rather

to display their wealth

We can get a very vivid idea of what life in the fourteenth

we remember

artisans.

and Burghers

and fashionable luxury there

fit

styles.

any such generaliza-

say that the taste of the fourteenth century

for the refined than for the grand.

we distinguish known as Early

exemplified in the architecture of the period. In England

between the pure Gothic

style

of the early cathedrals, which

is

known as the Decorated Style. The Gothic builders of the fourteenth

English, and the later development of these forms,

The name

indicates the change of taste.

century were no longer content with the clear majestic outline of the earlier cathe-

They liked to show their skill in decoration and in complicated tracery. The window of Exeter Cathedral is a typical example of this style (Fig. 137).

drals.

west

Churches were no longer the main tasks of the

architects. In the



growing and

many secular buildings had to be designed town halls, guild halls, colleges, palaces, bridges and city gates. One of the most celebrated and characteristic prosperous

cities

138.

The Palace of the Doges of Venice. Begun in 1309

Courtiers buildings of this kind

is

and Burghers

i5i

the Ducal

Palace of Venice (Fig. 138), which

was begun tury,

in the fourteenth cen-

when

the

power and prosper-

ity

of that city were

It

shows

at their height.

that this later develop-

ment of the Gothic its

style, for all

ornament and

delight in

could yet achieve

its

own

tracery, effect

of

grandeur.

The most characteristic works of sculpture in the fourteenth century are perhaps

not those of stone,

which were made

in great

numbers

for the churches of the period, but

rather the smaller works of precious

metal or ivory, in which the crafts-

men of the period excelled. shows a

little

Fig. 139

silver statue

of the

Virgin made by a French goldsmith

Works of

in 1339.

this

kind were

not intended for public worship.

Rather were they to be placed into a palace

They

chapel for private prayer.

are not

meant

to proclaim a

solemn aloofness,

truth in

like the

statues of the great cathedrals, but to excite love

and tenderness. The

Paris goldsmith

was thinking of the

Virgin as of a real mother, and of Christ as a real child, thrusting His

hand

at

His mother's

face.

*\-w

He took

The Virgin. Silver statue dedicated by Joan of Evreux in 1339. Paris, Louvre

139.

care to avoid any impression of rigidity.

That

is

figure the slight

the head

is

why he gave bend

—she

bent towards Him.

curve, very

much

like

her arm on her hip to support the child, while

Thus

the whole

an S, and Gothic

body seems

artists

slightly to

sway

in a gentle

of the period were very fond of this

who made this statue probably did not invent either the Our Lady, or the motif of the child playing with her. In such he was following the general trend of fashion. His own contribution lay in

motif. In fact the artist

peculiar posture of

things

the

rests

Courtiers

152

and Burghers

the exquisite finish of every detail, the beauty of the hands, the

baby's arms, the wonderful surface of silver and enamel, and, exact proportion of the statue, with

body. There

but not

least,

the

small and graceful head on a long and slender

its

nothing haphazard in these works of the great Gothic craftsmen.

is

drapery falling over the right arm show the infinite care the

Such

details as the

artist

has taken to compose

these works justice if

we

as pieces

it

and melodious

into graceful

them by

just pass

than a quick glance to them.

and treasured

creases in the

little

last

in

We

lines.

can never do

our museums, and devote no more

They were made to be appreciated by

real connoisseurs,

worthy of devotion.

The love of fourteenth-century painters

for graceful

and

delicate details

is

seen in

such famous illustrated manuscripts as the English Psalter known as 'Queen Mary's 140 shows Christ in the Temple, conversing with the learned scribes.

Psalter'. Fig.

They have put Him on a high chair, and He is a teacher.

The Jewish scribes

raise their

and so do Christ's parents, who are

just

The method of telling

wonderingly.

hands

artists

in attitudes of awe

coming on

the story

so as to give in

artist to

is still

who was

twelve

rather unreal.

way

is

less

which

drawn according

to

each other

The

artist

Bible

tells us, is

Moreover we can

see that

one simple formula, with the

curved eyebrows, the mouth drawn downwards and the curly hair and beard. the

all

more surprising

to look

down

daily life of the time, the hunting of ducks with a hawk.

the

man and woman on

looked

at real

twelve-year-old boys

Perhaps he had too

at real

much

tion of actual life into

It is a

Much

theme from the

to the delight of

horseback, and of the boy in front of them, the

hold of a duck, while two others are flying away.

undoubtedly looked

it.

It is

the same page and to see that another scene

has been added, which has nothing to do with the sacred text.

just got

has

to stage a scene

no attempt on the part of the

give us any idea of the space between the figures.

more or

in

at the time, as the

comparison with the grown-ups, and there

the faces are

all

Christ,

it life.

and astonishment,

to the scene, looking at

evidently not yet heard of Giotto's discovery of the

minute

some point of doctrine when they wanted to draw

seen explaining

with the characteristic gesture used by medieval

when he

The

artist

may

hawk

has

not have

painted the scene above, but he had

hawks and ducks when he painted the scene below.

reverence for the biblical narrative to bring his observa-

He

preferred to keep the two things apart: the clear

symbolic way of telling a story with easily readable gestures and no distracting details,

and, on the margin of the page, the piece from real

once more that

this

is

Chaucer's century.

century that the two elements of this

It

art,

was only

life,

which reminds us

in the course

of the fourteenth

the graceful narrative and the faithful

observation were gradually fused. Perhaps this would not have happened so soon

without the influence of Italian In

Italy, particularly in

of painting.

The

art.

Florence, the art of Giotto had changed the whole idea

old Byzantine

manner suddenly seemed

stiff

and outmoded.

tntqutmtUwnon cfrnutfa cmttonum

futi

mmzMMi^m

Icalopfpcttrfuvcrftuoeto

minururuitoitftcfttntcatjgme

;

140. Chris! in the Temple; a hawking party.

Page from 'Queen Mary's Psalter'

painted in England about 13 10. London, British

Museum

Courtiers

154 Nevertheless

it

would be wrong

from the remainder of Europe.

and Burghers was suddenly

to imagine that Italian art

On

set apart

the contrary. Giotto's ideas gained influence in

the countries north of the Alps, while the ideals of the Gothic painters of the north also

began to have

their effect

on the southern masters.

another Tuscan town and a great

northern

artists

made

rival

was particularly

It

in Siena,

of Florence, that the taste and fashion of these

a very deep impression.

The painters

of Siena had not broken

with the earlier Byzantine tradition in such an abrupt and revolutionary manner as Giotto in Florence. Their greatest master of Giotto's generation, Duccio, had tried

—and

tried successfully

discarding

them



to breathe

altogether.

The

new

life

altar panel

into the old Byzantine forms instead of

masters of his school, Simone Martini (1285 ?— 1357 1347?).

It

shows

what an extent the

to

ideals

(died

art.

The

painting represents the

—the moment when the Archangel Gabriel arrives from Heaven to

greet the Virgin,

and we can read

his

words coming out of his mouth: 'Ave Maria,

hand he holds an

left

hand

he were about to speak.

lifted as if

symbol of peace;

olive branch,

grazia plena'. In his is

Memmi

and Lippo

?)

and the general atmosphere of the

fourteenth century had been absorbed by Sienese

Annunciation

made by two younger

of Fig. 141 was

The

his right

Virgin has been reading.

The

appearance of the angel has taken her by surprise. She shrinks away in a movement of awe and humility, while looking back

two there stands

a vase

central pointed arch

with white

we

at the

lilies,

messenger from Heaven. Between the

symbols of

and high up

virginity,

in the

symbol of the Holy Ghost, surrounded

see the dove,

by four-winged cherubim. These masters shared the predilection of the French and

of Figs. 139 and 140 for

English

artists

delicate

forms and a

lyrical

mood. They

enjoyed the gentle curves of the flowing drapery and the subtle grace of slender bodies. like its

The whole

painting, in fact, looks

some precious goldsmith's work, with figures

standing out from a golden

background, so

skilfully

arranged that they

form an admirable pattern. One can never cease to

wonder

figures

are

way

at the

into

fitted

in

the

which these complicated

shape of the panel ; the way in which the angel's wings are

arch to the

left,

framed by the pointed

and the Virgin's

figure

shrinks back into the shelter of the pointed

simone martini and lippo memmi: The Annunciation. Painted in 1333 for an

141.

altar

m Siena Cathedral.

Florence, uffizi

arch to the right, while the empty space ,

.

between them

.

....

,

is filled

11 by the vase and the ,

,

and Burghers

Courtiers

dove over

it.

The

from the medieval medieval

artists

pattern. But things,

155

painters had learned this art of fitting the figures into a pattern tradition.

We

had occasion,

earlier, to

admire the way in which

arranged the symbols of the sacred stories so as to form a satisfying

we know

by ignoring the

that they did so

real

shape and proportion of

and by forgetting about space altogether. That was no longer the way of the

may find their figures a little strange, with their slanting we need only look at some details to see that the achievements of Giotto had by no means been lost on them. The vase is a real vase standing on a real stone floor, and we can tell exactly where it stands in relation to the angel and the Virgin. The bench on which the Virgin sits is a real bench, receding Sienese

artists.

Perhaps we

eyes and curved mouths. But

into the

background, and the book she holds

prayer book with light falling on

real

must have studied from

the artist

it

is

not just the symbol of a book, but a

and with shade between the pages, which

a prayer

book

in his studio.

Giotto was a contemporary of the great Florentine poet Dante,

him

who mentions

Comedy. Simone Martini, the master of Fig. 141, was a friend

in his Divine

of Petrarch, the greatest Italian poet of the next generation. Petrarch's fame today rests

We

mainly on the many love-sonnets he wrote for Laura.

Simone Martini painted

that

may

a portrait

know from them

of Laura which Petrarch treasured.

Now

we remember that portraits in our sense had not existed during the Middle Ages. We remember that artists were content to use any conventional figure of a man or a woman, and to write on it the name of the person it was intended to represent. Unfortunately, Simone Martini's portrait of Laura is lost, and we do not know how far it was a real likeness. We do this

not seem to us a very startling fact unless

know, however, that likenesses

this artist

from nature, and

and other masters

in the fourteenth century painted

that the art of portraiture developed during that period.

Perhaps the way in which Simone Martini looked

had something

do with

to

this, for

nature and observed details

at

the artists of Europe had ample opportunity of

learning from his achievements. Like Petrarch himself, years at the court of the Pope,

France was

in France.

still

great influence everywhere.

had their residence

which was

at that

Simone Martini spent many

time not in

Rome

but

at

Avignon

the centre of Europe, and French ideas and styles had a

Germany was

in Prague.

There

is

ruled by a family from

Luxembourg who

a wonderful series of busts dating

period (between 1379 and 1386) in the cathedral of Prague.

They

from

this

represent

benefactors of the church and thus serve a similar purpose as the figures of the

Naumburg

'Founders'

(p. 139, Fig. 129).

These are

real portraits.

one of the

artist in

first real

For the

But here we need no longer be

series includes busts

charge, Peter Parler the Younger, which

self-portrait of

an

artist

known

K

Its

is

in all probability the

to us (Fig. 142).

Bohemia became one of the centres through which France spread more widely.

in doubt.

of contemporaries including

this influence

from

Italy

and

contacts reached as far as England, where Richard II

V,

m

142.

peter parler the younger:

Self-Portrait in Prague Cathedral.

Between 1379 and 1386

and Burghers

Courtiers

Edward

143. St. John, St.

From

and St. Edmund recommend Richard II About 1400. London, National Gallery

the Confessor

the Wilton Diptych.

to the

married Anne of Bohemia. England traded with Burgundy. Europe, in

Europe of the Latin Church, was

least the

travelled

because

from one centre

it

was

'foreign'.

style

many

is

known among

is

— King Richard

II.

He

is

it,

is

French

interesting

too, records the features of a real

him

to the Christ-child

who is bending forward

surrounded by choirs of angels.

is

and one angel point towards the king,

as if to

Two

custom of 'donors'

which we have found

portraits' to

in the very cradle

of the saints

draw the Virgin's attention

Perhaps something of the ancient magical attitude towards the image

somehow

to-

painted kneeling before the Holy Virgin, with three saints

with a gesture of blessing, and

still

saintly, to

—a

was something of himself

to him.

survives

remind us of the tenacity of these of art.

Who can

tell

know

that in

beliefs

whether the donor did

reassured in the rough and tumble of life, in which his

was perhaps not always very there

ideas

and that of no other than Anne of Bohemia's unlucky husband

interceding for him, and presenting

not feel

or at

and

historians as the 'Inter-

the so-called Wilton diptych (Fig. 143). It

reasons, including the fact that

historical personage,

in the

fact,

A wonderful example of it in England, possibly painted by a

master for an English king, to us for

unit. Artists

which arose out of this mutual give-and-take

wards the end of the fourteenth century national Style'.

one large

and no one thought of rejecting an achievement

to another,

The

still

Virgin.

own

part

seme quiet church or chapel

likeness fixed there

through an

artist's skill,

which always kept company with the saints and angels and never ceased praying

?

i

58

and Burghers

Courtiers

how

easy to see

It is

the Wilton diptych

the works

how

it

we have

shares with

discussed before,

them the

beautiful flowing lines

and

the art of

linked with

is

and

delicate motifs.The

taste for

for dainty

way

in

which

the Virgin touches the foot of the Christ-child,

and the gestures of the

angels with their long and slender

hands, remind us of figures seen before. the artist

Once more we

showed

we have see how

his skill in fore-

shortening, for instance in the posture

of the angel kneeling on the of the panel, and

how he

left

side

enjoys

making use of studies from nature

many

in the

flowers which adorn the

paradise of his imagination.

The

artists

of the International

Style applied the servation, 144.

delicate

PAUL and jean de limbourg: May.

and beautiful things,

in

to their

portrayal of the world around them.

Page from

Duke

same power of ob-

and the same delight

a Book of Hours painted for the of Berry about 1410. Chantilly,

It

Musee Conde

had been customary

Ages

in the

Middle

to illustrate calendars with pic-

tures of the changing occupations of the months, of sowing, hunting, harvesting.

A

calendar attached to a prayer book which a rich Burgundian duke had ordered

from the workshop of the brothers Limbourg from

real life

Queen Mary's

had gained

in liveliness

(Fig. 144)

shows how these pictures

and observation, even since the time of

The miniature represents the annual spring They are riding through a wood in gay attire, wreathed with leaves and flowers. We can see how the painter enjoyed the spectacle of the pretty girls in their fashionable dresses, and how he took pleasure in bringing the whole colourful pageantry on to his page. Once more we may think of Chaucer and his festival

pilgrims that

Psalter of Fig. 140.

of the courtiers.

;

for

our

artist, too,

we almost seem

took pains to distinguish the different types, so skilfully

to hear

with a magnifying glass, and

them it

talking.

Such

a picture

was probably painted

should be studied with the same loving attention. All

the choice details which the artist has

crowded on

to his page

combine

to build

up

a picture

which looks nearly

when we

notice that the artist has closed the background with a kind of curtain of

like a

scene from real

life.

Nearly, but not quite; for

Courtiers

pisanello: Monkey. Leaf from

145.

trees,

and Burehers

a sketch-book.

beyond which we see the roof-tops of

gives us

is

159

About

a vast castle,

1430. Paris,

we

Louvre

symbolic way of telling a story which earlier painters had used, that effort to realize that

trees,

it

needs an

even he cannot represent the space in which his figures move,

and that he achieves the illusion of detail.

what he

realize that

not an actual scene from nature. His art seems so far removed from the

reality

mainly through his close attention to

His trees are not real trees painted from nature, but rather a row of symbolic

one beside the other, and even

his

human faces are still developed more or less

out of one charming formula. Nevertheless, his interest in gaiety of the real life

around him shows that

were very different from those of the

artists

his ideas

all

the splendour and

about the aims of painting

of the early Middle Ages.

had gradually shifted, from the best way of

The

interest

telling a sacred story as clearly

and

impressively as possible, to the methods of representing a piece of nature in the most faithful

way.

We

have seen that the two ideals do not necessarily clash.

certainly possible to place this

of religious

art, as

newly acquired knowledge of nature

It

was

at the service

the masters of the fourteenth century had done, and as other

160

Courtiers

and Burghers

masters were to do after them but, for the ;

Formerly

it

was

artist,

the task had nevertheless changed.

sufficient training to learn the ancient

and

formulae for representing the

knowledge

main

figures of the sacred story

tions.

Now the artist's job included a different skill. He had to be able to make studies

from nature and to lay

up

a store

to transfer

them to

to apply this

his pictures.

in

ever-new combina-

He began to use a sketch-book, and What had been

of sketches of rare and beautiful plants and animals.

an exception in the case of Matthew Paris

A drawing such as Fig.

131) was soon to be the rule.

(p. 142, Fig.

made by the North Italian artist Pisanello (1397 ?-i45o) only some twenty years after the Limbourg miniature shows how this habit led artists to study a live animal with loving interest. The public which looked at the artist's

145,

works began to judge them by the

and by the wealth of pictures.

The

tent with the

artists,

attractive details

artist

newly acquired mastery of painting such

;

it

Greeks had done. Once their interest took

come

managed

to bring into his

details as flowers or animals

to explore the laws of vision,

knowledge of the human body to build

We

with which nature was portrayed,

however, wanted to go one better. They were no longer con-

from nature they wanted

end.

skill

which the

to the period usually

146.

A

up

this turn,

known

to acquire sufficient

medieval

and pictures art

as the Renaissance.

Sculptor at Work.

ANDREA pisano's

and

in their statues

reliefs

One

About 1340

of

on the

Florentine Campanile.

was

as the

really at

an

chapter

12



THE CONQUEST OF REALITY

The Early Fifteenth Century

147.

TH

E word

rebirth

An

Early Renaissance Church: the Cappclla Pa::i, Florence. Designed by brunelleschi about 1430

Renaissance means rebirth or revival, and the idea of such a

had gained ground

in Italy ever since the time of Giotto.

people of the period wanted to praise a poet or an

work was master

good

as

good

who had

as that

as that of the ancients. Giotto

led to a true revival of art;

Roman

The

Italians

with

Rome

had been exalted

this,

When

they said that his in this

way

as a

people meant that his art was as

of the famous masters whose work they found praised in the classical

Greek and Italy.

by

artist,

writers. It

is

not surprising that this idea became popular in

were very much aware of the

fact that in the distant past Italy,

her capital, had been the centre of the civilized world, and that her

power and glory had waned since the Germanic invaded the country and broken up the

tribes,

Goths and Vandals, had

Roman Empire. The

idea of a revival was

with the idea of a rebirth of 'the

closely connected in the

minds of the

grandeur that was Rome'.

The period between the classical age, to which they looked

back with pride, and the

new

Italians

era of rebirth for

which they hoped, was merely a

1

The Conquest of Reality

62

Time

sad interlude, 'The

Thus

Between'.

the idea of a rebirth or renaissance was

Age

responsible for the idea that the intervening period was a Middle

—and we

still

use this terminology. As the Italians blamed the Goths for the downfall of the

Roman Empire,

they began to speak of the art of this intervening period as Gothic,

by which they meant barbaric

—much

as

we

speak of vandalism

still

when we

refer

to the useless destruction of beautiful things.

We now know that

these ideas of the Italians had

much simplified

at best, a

crude and

seen that

some seven hundred

we now

call

We

Gothic.

also

years separated the

know

Goths from the

rise

were

Italians

less

We

that the

teenth century believed that

tur-

saw

this

why

the

barbarians and that

it

art.

to

them

The

as a

tremendous

Italians

of the four-

science and scholarship had flourished in the

art,

had been almost destroyed by the northern

classical period, that all these things

new

the reason

and

have seen that they lagged behind during part of the

new achievements of Giotto came

innovation, a rebirth of all that was noble and great in

about a

itself

aware of this gradual growth and unfolding of art than the people

living farther north.

Middle Ages, so

we can understand

Possibly

its full stride.

were,

We have

of the art that

that the revival of art, after the shock

moil of the Dark Ages, came gradually and that the Gothic period revival getting into

They

basis in fact.

little

picture of the actual course of events.

was for them

to help to revive the glorious past

and thus bring

era.

In no city was this feeling of confidence and hope

wealthy merchant city of Florence.

It

was

more

intense than in the

there, in the first decades of the fifteenth

century, that a group of artists deliberately set out to create a

new

art

and

to break

with the ideas of the past.

The

leader of this group of

young Florentine

artists

was an

architect, Filippo

Brunelleschi (1377-1446). Brunelleschi was employed on the completion of the

Cathedral of Florence.

It

was

a

Gothic cathedral, and Brunelleschi had

fully

mastered the technical inventions which formed part of the Gothic tradition. His fame, in

fact, rests partly

on an achievement

would not have been possible without

The

vaulting.

and design which

Florentines wished to have their cathedral crowned by a mighty

immense space between

cupola, but no artist was able to span the

which the cupola was this.

in construction

knowledge of the Gothic methods of

his

to rest,

till

Brunelleschi devised a

When Brunelleschi was called upon to

design

the pillars on

method of accomplishing

new churches

or other buildings,

he decided to discard the traditional style altogether, and to adopt the programme of those

who longed

Rome and measured

for a revival of

Roman

grandeur.

It is said that

the ruins of temples and palaces, and

forms and ornaments.

It

was never

his intention to

made

he travelled to

sketches of their

copy these ancient buildings

They could hardly have been adapted to the needs of fifteenth-century Florence. What he aimed at was the creation of a new way of building, in which the

outright.

The Conquest of Reality forms of

were

classical architecture

freely

used to create new modes of harmony and beauty.

What

remains

Brunelleschi's

most

astonishing

achievement

hundred years the

For nearly

true.

Wherever we go

steps.

we

villages

in

find buildings in

his five

of Europe

architects

and America have followed

in fact

making

that he actually succeeded in

programme come

the

is

his foot-

in

our

cities

which

and

classical

forms, such as columns or pediments are used. It was only a generation ago that

some

architects

began to question Brunel-

programme and

leschi's

to revolt against

the Renaissance tradition in building, just as

148. Interior of the Cappclla Pazzi.

he had revolted against the Gothic tradi-

Designed by

brunelleschi

about 1430

But most of the houses which are being

tion.

built

now, even those which have no columns or similar trimmings,

remnants of classical form or in the

still

preserve

shape of mouldings on doors and window-frames,

in the

measurements and proportions of the building. If Brunelleschi wanted

create the architecture of a Fig. 147

new

era,

shows the facade of a

to

he certainly succeeded.

little

powerful family of the Pazzi in Florence.

church which Brunelleschi

We see at once that

it

has

built for the

little

in

common

with any classical temple, but even less with the forms used by Gothic builders. Brunelleschi has

combined columns,

pilasters

an effect of lightness and grace which

is

and arches

different

before. Details such as the framing of the door, with

show how

more

carefully Brunelleschi

clearly as

we

in his

own way

to achieve

from anything that has gone its

classical gable or

had studied the ancient

ruins.

We

pediment,

see this even

enter the church (Fig. 148). Nothing in this bright and well-

proportioned interior has any of the features which Gothic architects valued so highly. is

There are no high windows, no slim

subdivided by grey pilasters

classical 'order',

(flat

pillars. Instead, the

blank white wall

half-columns) which convey the idea of a

although they serve no real function in the construction of the

building. Brunelleschi only put

them

there to emphasize the shape and proportion

of the interior. Brunelleschi was not only the initiator of Renaissance architecture.

seems,

is

due another momentous discovery

the art of subsequent centuries

Greeks,

who understood

in the field of art,

which

also

To

him,

it

dominated

—that of perspective. We have seen that even the

foreshortening, and the Hellenistic painters

who were

149-

MASACCio: The Holy

Trinity, the Virgin, St.

John mid Donors.

Wall-painting in Sta Maria Novella, Florence. Painted about 1427

The Conquest of Reality of depth

skilled in creating the illusion

165

know

did not

(p. 77, Fig. 70),

the mathe-

matical laws by which objects diminish in size as they recede into the background.

We

remember

no

that

classical artist

leading back into the picture until

who gave

vanishes on the horizon.

the artists the mathematical

excitement which this caused 149 shows one of the

Fig.

could have drawn the famous avenue of trees

it

mathematic

rules. It

among

first

means of solving

problem; and the

must have been immense.

his painter-friends

made according

paintings which were

Holy Trinity with the Virgin and

John under the

St.

—kneeling outside. The

cross,

to these

and represents the

a wall-painting in a Florentine church,

is

was Brunelleschi

It

this

and the donors

—an

who painted this was called Masaccio (1401-28), which means 'clumsy Thomas'. He must have been an extraordinary genius, for we know that he died when hardly twenty-eight years of elderly

age,

merchant and

his wife

artist

and that by that time he had already brought about

a

complete revolution in

painting. This revolution did not consist only in the technical trick of perspective

painting,

We

though that

can imagine

in itself

how amazed

painting was unveiled and

they could look into a

new

were even more amazed

framed by

new

this

must have been the Florentines

seemed

to

startling

enough when

it

must have been when

was new. this wall-

have made a hole in the wall through which

modern

chapel in Brunelleschi's

at the simplicity

style.

and grandeur of the

architecture. If the Florentines

But perhaps they

figures

which were

had expected something

in the

vein of the International Style which was as fashionable in Florence as elsewhere in

Europe, they must have been disappointed. Instead of delicate grace, they saw massive heavy figures ; instead of easy-flowing curves, solid angular forms ; and, instead of dainty details such as flowers

and precious stones, there was nothing but

austere majestic architecture. But if Masaccio's art

the paintings they

We can

had been accustomed

see that Masaccio

not imitate him. crucified son

is

The

else, that

new

their

was

was all

less pleasing to the

the

more

sincere

eye than

and moving.

admired the dramatic grandeur of Giotto, though he did

so eloquent and impressive because

he placed his figures.

them and

it

simple gesture with which the Holy Virgin points to her

whole solemn painting. than anything

to,

Its figures, in fact,

it is

the only

look like statues. It

movement

is

Masaccio has heightened by the perspective frame

We

feel

we can almost touch them, and

message nearer to

us.

To

in the

more

this effect, in

which

this feeling brings

the great masters of the Renaissance, the

devices and discoveries of art were never an end in themselves.

used them to bring the meaning of their subject

still

They always

nearer to our minds.

The greatest sculptor of Brunelleschi's circle was the Florentine master Donatello He was older than Masaccio by many years, but he lived much longer.

(1386 P-I466). Fig.

1

50 shows a work of his youth.

armourers whose patron

saint, St.

It

was commissioned by the guild of the

George,

it

represents,

and was destined

niche on the outside of a Florentine church (Or San Michele). If

we

for a

think back to

The Conquest of Reality

1 66

the Gothic statues outside the great cathedrals (p.

how

realize

Fig.

136,

we

127),

completely Donatello

broke with the past. These Gothic

hovered

statues

at the side

of the

porches in calm and solemn rows looking like beings from a different

world. Donatello's St. George stands firmly on the ground, his feet planted resolutely

as

if

on the earth

he were determined not to

yield an inch. His face has

medieval saints



concentration.

He seems

take

The

to

watch

enemy and

to

measure, his hands resting

its

his

tense

energy and

it is all

the approach of the

on

none of

vague and serene beauty of

the

shield,

his

whole attitude

with defiant determination. statue has remained

famous

as

an unrivalled picture of youthful dash and courage. But

it is

not only

Donatello's imagination which '

must admire,

his faculty

we

of visualiz-

ing the knightly saint in such a fresh

and convincing manner; approach to the

art

his

whole

of sculpture

shows a completely new conception. Despite the impression of

movement which it

and

remains clear in outline and solid

as a rock. it

life

the statue conveys

Like Masaccio's paintings,

shows us that Donatello wanted

to replace the gentle refinement of his predecessors

by

a

new and

vig-

orous observation of nature. Such details as the

the saint 150.

donatello: the

St. George.

Marble

statue

Church of Or San Michele, Florence. About 1416. Florence, Bargello

from

hands or the brows of

show

a complete indepen-

dence from the traditional models.

They prove

a

new and independent

The Conquest of Reality

151.

donatello:

167

Herod's Feast. Gilt bronze relief from a font in Completed in 1427

human

study of the real features of the

S.

Giovanni, Siena.

body. For these Florentine masters of the

beginning of the fifteenth century were no longer content to repeat the old formulae

handed down by medieval they began to study the

artists.

or fellow-artists to pose for this

new

interest

Like the Greeks and Romans,

human body in them

their studios

whom they admired,

and workshops by asking models

in the required attitudes. It

this

is

new method and

which makes Donatello's work look so fresh and so

real.

Donatello acquired great fame in his lifetime. Like Giotto, a century earlier, he

was frequently called to other Fig. 151 St.

shows

a

bronze

relief

Italian cities to

he

made

add

to their beauty

George, in 1427. Like the medieval font of p. 127, Fig.

from the princess

life

of

St.

John the

Baptist. It

Salome had asked King Herod

her dancing, and got

it.

We look

and

glory.

for the font of Siena ten years after the 1

19,

it

illustrates a

scene

shows the gruesome moment when the

for the

head of

St.

John

into the royal banqueting hall,

as a

reward for

and beyond

it

to the

1

The Conquest of Reality

68

musicians' gallery and a flight of rooms and stairs behind.

entered and knelt

The

down

The

executioner has just

before the king carrying the head of the saint on a charger.

king shrinks back and raises his hands in horror, children cry and run away,

Salome's mother,

who

instigated the crime,

explain the deed. There

is

a great void

seen talking to the king, trying to

is

around her

One need not work of Donatello's. They all

One

as the guests recoil.

covers his eyes with his hand, others crowd round Salome

who seems

stopped in her dance.

explain at length what features were

such a

were.

To

graceful narratives of Gothic art, Donatello's as a shock.

to

Here there was no need

produce the

effect

to

form

of them

have

just to

new

way of telling

a story

must have come

neat and pleasing pattern, but rather

a

of sudden chaos. Like Masaccio's figures, Donatello's are

harsh and angular in their movements. Their gestures are violent, and there

attempt to mitigate the horror of the story.

have looked almost uncannily

The new

art

To

his contemporaries, the scene

of the saint was brought into the hall palace, such as the one in

?'

He

it

have been

which the event might have taken

types for the figures in the background.

We

The

when

Greek and Roman

position was rather the other

place,

the head

Roman

and he chose

can see clearly, in

had begun

remains to help him bring about the rebirth of art.

ever, to imagine that this study of

'Renaissance'.

no

Donatello

reality.

like

did his best to represent a

that time Donatello, like his friend Brunelleschi,

Roman

is

must

alive.

of perspective further increases the illusion of

must have begun by asking himself: 'What must

Roman

in

people accustomed to the clear and

fact, that at

a systematic study of

It is

quite wrong,

how-

art caused the rebirth or

way round. The

artists

round

Brunelleschi longed so passionately for a revival of art that they turned to nature, to science and to the remains of antiquity to realize their

The mastery of science and

time the exclusive possession of the Italian passionate will to create a

new

aims.

of the knowledge of classical art remained for some

new

art,

artists

of the Renaissance. But the

which should be more

faithful to nature than

anything that had ever been seen before, also inspired the

artists

of the same

generation in the north. Just as Donatello's generation in Florence

became

tired of the subtleties

refinements of the International Gothic style and longed to create austere figures, so a sculptor

beyond the Alps strove

for an art

more

and

vigorous,

more lifelike and more

forthright than the delicate works of his predecessors. This sculptor

was Claus

who worked from about 1380-1400 at Dijon, at that time the capital of the and prosperous Duchy of Burgundy. His most famous work is a group of

Sluter rich

prophets which once formed the base of a large crucifix marking the fountain of a

famous place of pilgrimage

(Fig. 152).

They

are the

men whose words were

inter-

preted as the prediction of the Passion. Each of them holds in his hand a large book or scroll on which these words were inscribed and seems to be meditating on this

The Conquest of Reality

152.

CLAUS SLUTER: The

coming tragedy. These

Prophets Daniel and Isaiah. From the Moses Fountain near Dijon, erected between 1393 and 1402

are

no longer the solemn and

porches of Gothic cathedrals

works

just as

much

as

(p.

rigid figures that flanked the

They differ from these earlier George. The man with the turban is

136, Fig. 127).

does Donatello's

St.

Daniel, the bareheaded old prophet, Isaiah.

As they stand before

us, larger than life,

1

70

still

The Conquest of Reality resplendent with gold and colour, they look

less like statues

than

like

impressive

characters from one of the medieval mystery plays just about to recite their part.

But with

all this

striking illusion of lifelikeness

we should not

forget the artistic

sense with which Sluter has created these massive figures with the sweep of their

drapery and the dignity of their bearing.

Yet

was not a sculptor who carried out the

it

For the

artist

whose revolutionary

represent something entirely

final

conquest of reality in the north.

discoveries were felt

new was

from the beginning

to

the painter Jan van Eyck (1390 ?-i44i). Like

Sluter,

he was connected with the court of the Dukes of Burgundy, but he mostly

worked

in the part of the Netherlands that

work

a

is

huge

altar-piece with

many

is

now

been begun by Jan's elder brother Hubert, of whom pleted by Jan in 1432, during the

same decade

as

little is

At

altar that

first sight, this

shows

the part of this

is

saints or pilgrims flocking to the adoration

gay picture

may

have

saw the completion of the great of the Lamb.

not look very different from the miniatures

painted for the Burgundian court about a generation earlier

Indeed,

It is said to

known, and was com-

works by Masaccio and Donatello already described. Fig. 153 wonderful

most famous

called Belgium. His

scenes in the city of Ghent.

(p.

158, Fig. 144).

we look at the May festival as the brothers Limbourg painted it, we cermany striking similarities. Unlike the Florentine artists of his generation,

if

tainly see

Jan van Eyck did not break outright with the traditions of the International Style.

He

rather pursued the

methods of the brothers Limbourg, and brought them

such a pitch of perfection that he

left

to

the ideas of medieval art behind. They, like

other Gothic masters of their period, had enjoyed crowding their pictures with

charming and

delicate details taken

their skill in painting flowers

and

jewellery,

from observation. They were proud

to

show

and animals, buildings, gorgeous costumes and

to present a veritable feast to the eye.

We

have seen that they

did not concern themselves overmuch with the appearance of the figures and landscapes, and that their drawing and perspective were therefore not very convincing.

nature

is

One cannot

and the building

Limbourg

in the

brothers, as

landscape looked is

say the

same thing of Van Eyck's

even more patient, his knowledge of

we remember, were

like a

quite different in

background show

Van

details

pictures.

His observation of

even more exact.

this difference clearly.

rather schematic

The

The

trees

trees of the

and conventional. This

back-cloth or a tapestry rather than actual scenery. All this

Eyck's picture. Here

we have real trees and a real landscape The infinite patience with which

leading back to the city and castle on the horizon.

the grass on the rocks, and the flowers growing in the crags, are painted bears no

comparison with the ornamental undergrowth on the Limbourg miniature. What

is

Van Eyck seems to have been so intent on reproducing every minute detail on his picture that we almost seem able to count the hairs of the horses' manes, or on the fur trimmings of the riders' costumes. The true of the landscape

is

true of the figures.

153-

JAN van eyck: The Righteous Judges and the Knights of Christ. Wings from the Ghent Completed in 1432. Ghent, St. Bavo

altar,

The Conquest of Reality

17 2

white horse on the Limbourg miniature looks a

little like

horse

it is

is

very similar in shape and posture, but

and the creases in

eye,

its

a rocking-horse. Van Eyck's

alive.

We can see the light

skin, and, while the earlier horse looks almost

in its

flat,

Van

Eyck's horse has rounded limbs which are modelled in light and shade.

may seem petty

It

to look out for

wrong

to understand the

this infinite care

these small details and to praise a great artist

way

it

in

It

work of the brothers Limbourg

to think less highly of the

of any other painting, because

want

all

which he observed and copied nature.

for the patience with

certainly be

or, for that matter,

lacked this faithful imitation of nature. But if we

which northern

art

of Brunelleschi's

which nature could be represented

we must

developed

and patience of Jan van Eyck. The southern

tion, the Florentine masters

would

circle,

artists

appreciate

of his genera-

had developed a method by

They

in a picture with almost scientific accuracy.

began with the framework of perspective

lines,

and they

built

up the human body

through their knowledge of anatomy and of the laws of foreshortening. Van Eyck took the opposite way.

upon

detail

difference It is a fair

till

his

He

achieved the illusion of nature by patiently adding detail

whole picture became

between northern and

like a

Italian art

mirror of the visible world. This

remained important for many

beautiful surface of things, of flowers, jewels or fabric, will be

most probably by an

artist,

artist

from the Netherlands; while

by

be

To

painting.

to

up the mirror

improve the technique of painting.

to reality in all

He was

its

details,

the inventor of oil-

There has been much discussion about the exact meaning and truth of this

assertion, but the details matter comparatively little. His

that of perspective,

which constituted something

was a new prescription

to prepare their

was not a discovery

entirely

new.

What he

for the preparation of paints before they

panel. Painters at that time did not

own

buy ready-made colours

like

achieved

were put on the

in tubes or boxes.

They

pigments, mostly from coloured plants and minerals.

apprentice grind to powder between two stones — or —and, before use, they added some liquid to bind the powder into kind of

These they ground

them

with

human body,

Italian.

carry out his intention of holding

Van Eyck had

had

a northern

a painting

bold outlines, clear perspective and a sure mastery of the beautiful will

years.

guess to say that any work which excels in the representation of the

paste.

let their

a

There were various methods of doing

that, but, all

through the Middle

made of an egg, which was quite The method of painting with this type

Ages, the main ingredient of the liquid had been suitable except that

it

dried rather quickly.

of colour-preparation was called tempera. fied

by

with the formula, because letting the colours

he could work

it

It

seems that Jan van Eyck was

shade off into each other. If he used

much more

which could be applied

dissatis-

did not allow him to achieve smooth transitions

slowly and accurately.

He

oil

instead of egg,

could make glossy colours

in transparent layers, or 'glazes'

he could put on the

The Conquest of Reality

154.

JAN van EYCK: The Betrothal of the Arnolfini. Painted London, National Gallery

glittering high-lights

which astonished

*73

in 1434.

with a pointed brush, and achieve these miracles of accuracy

his contemporaries

painting as the most suitable

and soon led

to a general acceptance of oil-

medium.

Van Eyck's art reached perhaps its greatest triumph in the painting of portraits. One of his most famous portraits is Fig. 154, which represents an Italian merchant, Giovanni Arnolfini,

who had come to the Netherlands on business, with his bride its own way it was as new and as revolutionary as Donatello's

Jeanne de Chenany. In or Masaccio's fixed

on

work

in Italy.

to a panel as

A

simple corner of the real world had suddenly been

by magic. Here

it all

was

—the carpet and the

slippers, the

The Conquest of Reality

174 rosary on the wall, the sill.

It is as if

little

brush beside the bed, and the

we could pay

fruit

on the window

a visit to the Arnolfini in their house.

probably represents a solemn

moment

in their lives

—their betrothal.

The picture The young

woman has just put her right hand into Arnolfini's left and he is about to put his own right hand into hers as a solemn token of their union. Probably the painter was asked to record this important moment as a witness, just as a notary might be asked to declare that he has been present at a similar solemn act. This would explain why the master has put his

name

words 'Johannes de eyck the back of the

seems, it

we

was the

this use

room we

also see the

in a

fuit hie'

prominent position on the picture with the Latin

—(Jan van

Eyck was

see the whole scene reflected

present). In the mirror at

from behind, and

image of the painter and witness.

We

there, so

it

do not know whether

merchant or the northern artist who conceived the idea of making new kind of painting, which may be compared to the legal use of a

Italian

of the

photograph, properly endorsed by a witness. But whoever

155. Detail of Fig. 154

it

was that originated

The Conquest of Reality

175

I

From an

.

this idea,

he had certainly been quick

which lay

in

to

the

in the truest sense

In this attempt to render reality as

it

painted in 1444.

understand the tremendous

Van Eyck's new way of painting. For

became the perfect eye-witness

altar

first

possibilities

time in history the

artist

of the term.

appeared to the eye, Van Eyck,

like

Masaccio,

had to give up the pleasing patterns and flowing curves of the International Gothic style.

To

some,

may even

his figures

look

stiff

and clumsy compared with the

exquisite grace of such paintings as the Wilton diptych (p. 157, Fig. 143).

everywhere in Europe

artists

truth, defied the older ideas

of beauty and probably shocked

One of the most

radical of these innovators

(1400 P-I446

Fig. 156

set

?).

is

But

of that generation, in their passionate search for

from an

altar

was

many

elderly people.

a Swiss painter called

Conrad Witz

he painted for Geneva in 1444. Witz had

himself the task of representing the episode of Christ walking over the waters of

Lake Genesareth.

A medieval painter would have been satisfied with a conventional

image of waves to mark the of Geneva what

it

lake.

But Witz desired to bring home

must have looked

like

when

painted not just any /ake but a lake they

massive

Mont

all

Saleve rising in the background.

to the

Christ stood on the waters.

burghers

Thus he

knew, the lake of Geneva with the It is a real

landscape which everyone

The Conquest of Reality still looks very much

176

could see, which exists today, and

perhaps the

It is

attempted.

On

exact representation, the

first

this real lake,

Witz painted

of older pictures, but uncouth

men

as

it

does in the painting.

first 'portrait'

of a

and

so, surely,

somewhat help-

he ought. Only Christ Himself is standing quietly

and firmly on the waves, wrapped ment. His solid figure

view ever

of the people, busy with their fishing tackle and

struggling rather clumsily to keep the barge steady. St. Peter looks less in the water,

real

real fishermen; not the dignified apostles

in his coat,

recalls those

calm

in the

on Masaccio's great

midst of

all

the excite-

fresco (Fig. 149). It

have been a moving experience for the worshippers in Geneva when they saw the

first

own

time,

lake,

afraid'

when

with Christ walking on

(Matthew

its

men

like

familiar waters

it

and

sculptors at

the base of a group by

and exhorting them 'Be not

work on bricklaying, drilling, measuring and sculpting. di banco. About 1408. Florence, Or San Michele

nanni

for

themselves, fishing on their

xiv. 27).

157. Stonemasons

From

they saw the apostles as

must

chapter

13



TRADITION AND INNOVATION:

The Later Fifteenth Century

158.

A

THE

Renaissance Church:

new

6'.

Andrea

in

in Italy

Mantua. Designed by alberti about 1460

which had been made by the

discoveries

I

artists

of Italy and

Flanders at the beginning of the fifteenth century had created a

stir all

over Europe. Painters and patrons alike were lascinated by the idea that art

could not only be used to

to mirror a

fragment of the

tell

the sacred story in a

real world.

moving way, but might serve

Perhaps the most immediate result of

this

178

Tradition

and Innovation:

Italy

great revolution in art was that artists everywhere began to experiment and to

search for

new and

There

one

is

startling effects

This

.

of adventure which took hold of art

spirit

century marks the real break with the Middle Ages.

in the fifteenth

of this break which

effect

we must

consider

Until round about

first.

We

1400, art in different parts of Europe had developed on similar fines.

remember that

the style of the Gothic painters and sculptors of that period

as the International Style Italy, in

all

between France and

very similar.

all

through the Middle Ages

Italy

re-

known

because the aims of the leading masters in France and

Germany and Burgundy, were

ences had existed

is

—we

Of course,

national differ-

remember

the differences

during the thirteenth century

were not very important. This applies not world of learning and even to

politics.

to the field

—but on the whole these

of

art alone,

but also to the

The learned men of the Middle Ages all spoke

and wrote Latin and did not much mind whether they taught

at

the University of

Padua or Prague.

Paris or that of

The noblemen of the

period shared the ideals of chivalry ; their loyalty to their

king or their feudal overlord did not imply that they considered themselves the

champions of any particular people or nation. All

became

more important than

increasingly

had gradually changed

this

wards the end of the Middle Ages, when the cities with

their burghers

to-

and merchants

the castles of the barons.

The mer-

chants spoke their native tongue and stood together against any foreign com-

Each

petitor or intruder.

privileges in trade

from building to another,

city

was proud and jealous of

and industry. In the Middle Ages

site to

building

site,

and few would trouble

ized into guilds.

These guilds were

their task to

to ask

what

in

show

of his

that he

craft.

to accept

was able

He was

many

To

position and

his nationality was.

artisans

But

soon

as

as

respects similar to our trade unions. It

to reach certain standards, that

work of the

their

members and

he was, in

artist

fact, a

to

had

master

portraits,

painted chests, flags and

kind.

and corporations were usually wealthy companies who had

the government of the city and

did their best to

travel

and craftsmen, were organ-

be admitted into the guild the

commissions for altar-paintings,

guilds

own

then allowed to open a workshop, to employ apprentices, and

standards, or any other

The

all

watch over the rights and privileges of

ensure a safe market for their produce. to

its

good master might

he might be recommended from one monastery

the cities gained in importance, artists, like

was

a

make

it

who

not only helped to make

beautiful. In Florence

it

a say in

prosperous, but also

and elsewhere the

guilds, the gold-

smiths, the wool-workers, the leather-workers and others, devoted part of their funds to the foundation of churches, the building of guild halls

and the dedication of altars

much for art. On the other hand they watched anxiously over the interests of their own members, and therefore made it difficult for any foreign artist to get employment or to settie among them. Only the most famous and chapels. In

this respect they did

— Tradition of as

artists

sometimes managed

had been possible

at the

All this has a bearing cities,

and Innovation:

period

of painting'. 'School' schools where

become

town

up

growth of the

number of

young students attended

He usually lived

classes. If a

in,

in every possible

him

at

flagstaff.

on the canvas,

like

One of his

first

tasks

wooden panels

might be

to grind

or the canvas which

some minor piece of work

Then, one day when the master was busy, he might

spicuous part of a major work

talent

'school

boy decided that he would

ask the apprentice to help with the completion of

showed

own

an early age to one of the leading

the master wanted to use. Gradually he might be given

traced out

its

ran errands for the master's family, and had

way.

the colours, or to assist in the preparation of the

the painting of a

different 'schools'

and Germany had

rather a misleading word. In those days there were no art

is

make himself useful

into a

in Italy, Flanders

a painter, his father apprenticed

masters of the town.

like

to the

the International Style was perhaps the last international style Europe has

nearly every city or small

to

179

on the history of art, because, thanks

seen. In the fifteenth century art broke

to

Italy

down this resistance and to travel as freely when the great cathedrals were being built.

to break

—to paint the

to finish the

some unimportant or incon-

background which the master had

costume of the bystanders

and knew how to imitate

his master's

manner

youth would gradually be given more important things to do

in a scene. If

he

to perfection, the

—perhaps

paint a

whole picture from the master's sketch and under his supervision. These, then, were the 'schools of painting' of the fifteenth century. They were indeed excellent

many painters nowadays who wish they had received so The manner in which the masters of a town handed down their skill and experience to the young generation also explains why the 'schools of painting' in these towns developed such a clear individuality of their own. One can

schools and there are

thorough a training.

recognize whether a fifteenth-century picture comes from Florence or Siena, Ferrara,

To

Nuremberg, Cologne or Vienna.

we can survey this immense variety of we had best return to Florence where the great fascinating to watch how the second generation,

gain a vantage point from which

masters, 'schools' and experiments, revolution in art had begun. It

is

which followed Brunclleschi, Donatello and Masaccio, discoveries,

and apply them

to all the tasks

tried to

make use of

was not always easy. The main tasks which the patrons commissioned had, remained fundamentally unchanged since the tionary

methods sometimes seemed

the case of architecture classical buildings, the

Roman

ruins.

He had

emulate him in

Leone

:

to clash

their

with which they were confronted. That

earlier period.

after

The new and

all,

revolu-

with the traditional commissions. Take

Brunelleschi's idea had been to introduce the forms of

columns, pediments and cornices which he had copied from

used these forms in his churches. His successors were eager to

this. Fig.

158 shows a church planned by the Florentine architect

Battista Alberti (1404-72),

who

conceived

its

facade as a gigantic triumphal

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

180

arch in the

Roman manner. But how was

new programme

this

to

be applied to an

ordinary dwelling house in a city street? Traditional houses and palaces could not

No

be built in the manner of temples. private houses had survived

from Roman

times, and even if they had, needs and

customs had changed so

might have offered

much

that they

guidance.

little

The

problem, then, was to find a compromise

between the traditional house, with walls

and windows, and the

classical

form which

Brunelleschi had taught the architects to use. It

was again Alberti who found the

solution that remained influential

own 159' Palazzo Ruccllai, Florence Designed by alberti about 1460

days.

rich Florentine

ruin.

And

similarity

is little

yet Alberti stuck to Brunelleschi's

between

to

our

merchant family Rucellai

this

ordinary

facade and any classical

programme and used

for the decoration of the facade. Instead of building

up

he built a palace for the

159), he designed an

(Fig.

three-storeyed building.There

When

classical

forms

columns or half-columns, he

covered the house with a network of flat pilasters and entablatures which suggested a classical order without changing the structure of the building. It

where Alberti had learned (p. 79, Fig. 72) in

this principle.

which various Greek

Here, too, the lowest storey

is

We

'orders'

remember

is

easy to see

Roman Colosseum

the

were applied to the various

storeys.

an adaptation of the Doric order, and here, too, there

are arches between the pilasters. But, despite the similarity,

we

see

how

successful

Alberti has been in adapting this general scheme to a very different task.

given the old type of city palace a

new and 'modern' appearance without

inmates to change their habits of

This achievement of Alberti

is

He

had

forcing the

life.

typical. Painters

and sculptors

in fifteenth-century

Florence also often found themselves in a situation in which they had to adapt the

new programme

to an old tradition.

Gothic traditions and modern forms,

The mixture between new and old, between is characteristic of many of the masters of the

middle of the century.

The

greatest of these Florentine masters

who succeeded

in reconciling the

new

achievements with the old tradition was a sculptor of Donatello's generation,

Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455). in Siena for

Of

Fig. 160

shows one of his

reliefs for

which Donatello made the 'Dance of Salome'

Donatello's

work we could say

that everything

(p.

the same font

167, Fig. 151).

was new. Ghiberti's looks

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

much

i8i

We

less startling at first sight.

notice that the arrangement of the

scene

not so

is

ve-ry different

from

the one used by the famous brass-

founder of Liege in the twelfth cen127, Fig.

tury (p.

119): Christ in

the centre, flanked by St. John the

and the ministering angels

Baptist

God

with

the Father and the

Dove

appearing up in Heaven. Even in the treatment of details Ghiberti's work recalls

that of his medieval fore-

runners

—the loving care with which

he arranges the folds of the drapery

may remind

160.

us of such fourteenth-

ghiberti: Baptism of Christ. Gilt bronze relief from a font. Completed in 1427

century goldsmith's work as the Holy

Siena, S. Giovanni

And yet own way as vigorous and

Virgin on p. 151, Fig. 139. Ghiberti's relief is in

its

as

convincing as Donatello's com-

panion piece. He, too, has learned to characterize each figure and to make us understand the part each plays the beauty and humility of Christ, the :

solemn and energetic gesture of ness,

St.

and the heavenly hosts of the angels who

wonder.

And

while Donatello's

somewhat upset the

clear

Lamb of God,

silently look at

each other in joy and

new dramatic way of representing

which Donatello was aiming.

He

He

prefers to give us only a hint of depth

space

and

to let his principal figures stand out clearly against a neutral

Just as Ghiberti remained faithful to

make use of

the

new

earlier days,

does not give us the idea of

real

refusing to

the sacred scene

arrangement which had been the pride of

Ghiberti took care to remain lucid and restrained. at

the

John, the emaciated prophet from the wilder-

some of

background.

the ideas of Gothic art, without

discoveries of his century, the great painter Fra

Angelico (Brother Angelico) of Fiesole near Florence (1387-1455) applied the

new methods of Masaccio mainly in order to express art.

Fra Angelico was a

friar

the traditional ideas of religious

of the Dominican order and the frescoes he painted in

monastery of San Marco round about 1440 are among

his Florentine

beautiful works.

He

painted a sacred scene in each monk's

cell

and

his

at the

most

end of

every corridor, and as one walks from one to the other in the stillness of the old building one feels something of the spirit in which these works were conceived. Fig. 161

shows

a picture

of the Annunciation which he painted in one of the

cells.

We see at once that the art of perspective presented no difficulty to him.The cloister where the Virgin kneels

famous fresco

is

(p. 164, Fig.

represented as convincingly as the vault in Masaccio's i49).Yet

it

was

clearly not

Fra Angelico's main intention

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

182

'break

to

hole into the wall'.

a

Simone Martini 154, Fig.

(p.

141),

he only wanted to

represent the sacred story in

and

simplicity.

Like

in the fourteenth century

There

is

all its

beauty

hardly any move-

ment in Fra Angelico's painting and hardly any suggestion of real solid bodies. But think its

it is

all

the

humility, which

who

I

more moving because of

deliberately

is

that of a great artist

renounced

any

dis-

play of modernity despite his profound

understanding of the problems which Brunelleschi

duced

We l6l.

and Masaccio had

can study the fascination of these

FRA ANGELICO DA FIESOLE:

problems and

The Annunciation. Wall-painting in the Monastery of S. Marco, Florence. About 1440

is

also their difficulty in the

work of another Florentine, the painter Paolo Uccello

preserved work

(1

397-1475), whose best-

the batde scene in the National Gallery (Fig.

picture was probably intended to be placed over the door of a private

of the Florentine city palaces. topical

intro-

into art.

when

It

one

represents an episode from Florentine history,

still

the picture was painted, the rout of San

factions. Superficially the picture

uccello: The Rout

The

in

Florentine troops beat their rivals in one of the

162.

162).

room

may

many

Romano battles

in

1432 when the

between the

Italian

look medieval enough. These knights in

A

painted panel probably from a of Sari Romano. the Medici Palace. About 1450. London, National Gallery

room

in

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

armour with

their long

and heavy

way

us of Froissart's Chronicles; nor does the

if

we

ask ourselves

why

look a

that these horses look

is

it

horses and the whole scene reminds us a a curious discovery. It

new

men

possibilities

little

were carved and not painted.

him

up when

was so engrossed

that he

tell

his wife called

thing perspective

of war.

rocking-

like

we

make

shall

was so fascinated by the

It

was said of Uccello that the

is!'

We

him

for a meal,

and days draw-

that he spent nights

ing objects in foreshortening, and setting himself ever

used to

represented

reality

somewhat

of a puppet-show,

precisely because the painter

is

discovery of perspective had so impressed

look

is

wooden, almost

of his art that he did everything to make his figures stand out

in space as if they

artists

little

and the whole gay picture seems very remote from the

like toys,

But

which the scene

in

very modern. Both horses and

strike us at first as

183

may remind

lances, riding as if to a tournament,

new problems. His

in these studies that

and would

can see something of

fellow

he would hardly

'What

just exclaim:

sweet

a

this fascination in the painting.

Uccello obviously took great pains to represent the various pieces of armour, which fitter

the ground, in correct foreshortening. His greatest pride was probably the

figure of the fallen warrior lying

of which must have been most and, though

what a

it

stir it

on the ground, the foreshortened representation

difficult.

No

such figure had been painted before

looks rather too small in relation to the other figures,

We

must have caused.

which Uccello took

in perspective

find traces

and of the

all

spell

we can imagine

over the picture of the interest it

Even

exerted over his mind.

the broken lances lying on the ground are so arranged that they point towards their

common

'vanishing point'.

responsible for the take place. If

we

It is this

artificial

turn back from this pageant of chivalry to

knights (p. 171, Fig. 153) and the

compared with tion,

it,

neat mathematical arrangement which

we may

is

partly

appearance of the stage on which the battle seems to

Limbourg miniatures

more

see

and how he transformed

it.

clearly

Van

what Uccello owed

Van Eyck,

Eyck's picture of

(p. 158, Fig.

in the north,

144) which

to the

we

Gothic tradi-

had changed the forms

of the International Style by adding more and more details from observation and

down to the minutest shade. Uccello rather By means of his beloved art of perspective, he tried

trying to copy the surfaces of things

chose the opposite approach.

to construct a convincing stage

on which

Solid they undoubtedly look, but the effect

pictures

which one looks

to use the effects of light

at

we do not

a

if

feel that

we

artists

air to

a

little

lens.

would appear

solid

and

real.

reminiscent of the stereoscopic

Uccello had not yet learned how

mellow the harsh outlines of a

strictly

stand in front of the actual painting in the National

anything

applied geometry, Uccello was a real

While

is

double

and shade and

perspective rendering. But Gallery,

through

his figures

is

amiss, for, despite his preoccupation with

artist.

such as Fra Angelico could make use of the new without changing

the spirit of the old, while Uccello in his turn

was completely captivated by the

163. benozzo gozzoli: The Journey of the Magi to Bethlehem. Detail of a wall-painting from the chapel in the Medici Palace. Between 1459 and 1463. Florence, Palazzo Medici- Riccardi

problems of the new, gaily without

these masters

less

devout and

less

applied the new methods The public probably liked of both worlds. Thus the commission

ambitious

worrying overmuch about their

who gave them

the best

artists

difficulty.

for painting the walls of the private chapel in the city palace of the Medici, the

most powerful and wealthy of the Florentine merchant

families,

went

to

Benozzo

Tradition and Innovation: Italy Gozzoli (1420-97), outlook.

three

The

He

travel in truly royal state

gorgeous costumes, a fairy world of charm and gaiety. for representing the pageantry of noble pastimes

Fig. 144) with

upon showing

quarrel with

him

The

for that.

we must be

Meanwhile, other painters

new by

to profit

art

minor masters who preserved

who

a record

goes to Florence should miss the

which something of the

zest

and savour of

a

in the cities

north and south of Florence had absorbed

of Donatello and Masaccio, and were perhaps even than the Florentines themselves. There was Andrea

it

Mantegna (1431-1506) who worked and then

these gay

We have no reason to

to linger (Fig. 163).

still

the message of the

make

to

(p. 158,

Gozzoli seems

of the period was indeed so picturesque and

life

grateful to those

joy of a visit to this small chapel in

seems

relations.

even more vivid and enjoyable.

of these delights in their works, and no one

more eager

We have seen how this taste

new achievements can be used

that the life

a smiling landscape.

developed in Burgundy

which the Medici entertained close trade

pictures of contemporary

colourful that

through

the opportunity of displaying beautiful finery and

him

biblical episode gives

festive life

of very different

covered the walls of the chapel with a picture of the cavalcade of the

Magi and made them

intent

185

man

pupil of Fra Angelico, but apparently a

a

at first in the

famous University town of Padua,

of the lords of Mantua, both in northern

at the court

Italy.

In a Paduan

church, quite near the chapel where Giotto had painted his famous frescoes,

Mantegna painted

The church was

a series

heavily

of wall-paintings illustrating the legend of

damaged by bombing during the

these wonderful paintings by

Mantegna were destroyed.

It is a

they surely belonged to the greatest works of art of all times.

showed

Donatello,

looked

James being escorted

St.

Mantegna

like in reality,

much more

tried to

to

St.

James.

war, and most of

sad loss, because

One of them

(Fig. 164)

the place of execution. Like Giotto or

imagine quite clearly what the scene must have

but the standards of what he called reality had become

exacting since Giotto's day.

meaning of the story

last

What had mattered

to Giotto

was the inner

—how men and women would move and behave

in a given

He knew Roman Emperors, and he was anxious to reconstruct the scene just as it might have actually happened. He had made a special study of classical monuments for this purpose. The city gate through which St. James has just been led is a Roman triumphal arch, and the soldiers of the escort all wear the dress and armour of Roman legionaries as we see them represented on situation.

that St.

Mantegna was

James had

authentic classical

ment

also interested in the

outward circumstances.

lived in the period of the

monuments.

It is

not only in these details of costume and orna-

that the painting reminds us of ancient sculpture.

the spirit of

Roman

art in its

The whole

harsh simplicity and austere grandeur.

scene breathes

The

difference,

indeed, between the Florentine frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli and Mantegna's works

which were painted approximately during the same years, could hardly be more

1

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

86

164.

mantegna:

St. James on the zoay to his execution. From a wall-painting formerly in the Eremitani Church, Padua. Completed in 1455

pronounced. In Gozzoli's gay pageantry we recognized a return to the

taste of

the Gothic International Style. Mantegna, on the other hand, carries on where

Masaccio had

left off.

His figures are as statuesque and impressive as Masaccio's.

Like Masaccio, he uses the new art of perspective with eagerness, but he does not exploit

it

means of which

them

as Uccello did to this magic.

his figures

seem

to stand

as a skilled theatrical

cance of the

show

Mantegna

moment and

off the

new

effect

which could be achieved by

rather uses perspective to create the stage on

and move

like solid tangible beings.

He distributes

producer might have done, so as to convey the

the course of the episode.

We can see what is

signifi-

happening:

mm iiapa2toirillTiU10,ftiIWWItncimmiama

cttrttnmtafMJ

lr*1 ItD'TCflpetitmtitua;

^1

V,

i

;]pzuft»lfemat>mntt«^am

Ji

Si, nderalrfcm ncm

165.

irrtbeami

W

4aB-tfmiKtifco ixce? rims

francf.sco d'antonio del CKERico: The Annunciation and Scenes from Dante's Divine Comedy. Page from a liturgical book, painted about 1485. Rome, Vatican

166.

piero della francesca: Constantine' s Dream. Wall-painting the Church of S. Francesco, Arezzo. Painted about 1460

in

— and Innovation:

Tradition the procession escorting St.

James has halted

for a

Italy

189

moment

because one of the

persecutors has repented and has thrown himself at the feet of the saint, to receive his blessing.

The

soldiers stand

round calmly

saint has turned

man, while the Roman

to bless the

by and watch, one of them impassively, the other

an expressive gesture which seems to convey that he, too, the arch frames this scene

and separates

it

hand

lifting his

in

moved. The round of

is

from the turmoil of the watching crowds

pushed back by the guards.

While Mantegna was thus applying the new methods of

northern

art in

Italy,

another great painter, Piero della Francesca (1416 ?-92), did the same in the region south of Florence, in the towns of Arezzo and Urbino. Like Gozzoli's and Mantegna's frescoes, Piero della Francesca's were painted shortly after the middle of the fifteenth century, that

is

about a generation after Masaccio.

The episode

in Fig. 166

shows the famous legend of the dream which made the Emperor Constantine accept the Christian faith. Before a crucial battle with his rival, he dreamt that an

him

angel showed

the Cross

and

'Under

said:

Piero's fresco represents the scene at night in the

We

Emperor

look into the open tent where the

bodyguard

sits

night scene

is

by

his side, while

two

you

this sign

be victorious'.

will

Emperor's camp before the lies

asleep on his

camp

soldiers are also keeping guard.

suddenly illuminated by a flash of light

as

an angel rushes

battle.

bed. His

This quiet

down from

high Heaven holding the symbol of the Cross in his outstretched hand. As with

Mantegna, we are somewhat reminded of a scene clearly

marked, and there

is

Like Mantegna, Piero has taken pains over the dress of his like

is

a stage quite

Roman

legionaries and,

him, he has avoided the gay and colourful details which Gozzoli crowded into

had mastered the

his scenes. Piero, too, in

There

in a play.

nothing to divert our attention from the essential action.

which he shows the

art

of perspective completely, and the way

figure of the angel in foreshortening

so bold as to be almost

is

confusing, especially in a small reproduction. But to these geometrical devices of

suggesting the space of the stage, he has added a

new one of

equal importance:

the treatment of light. Medieval artists had taken hardly any notice at

Their

flat

figures cast

no shadow. Masaccio had

also

been a pioneer in

all

of

light.

this respect

the round and solid figures of his paintings were forcefully modelled in light

shade

more clearly than Piero

But no one had seen the immense new

of this

della Francesca. In his picture, light not only helps to

model

the forms of the figures, but

of depth.

illusion

brightly soldiers

lit

The

and

possibilities

(p. 164, Fig. 149).

is

equal in importance to perspective in creating the

soldier in front stands like a dark silhouette before the

opening of the

tent.

We

thus feel the distance which separates the

from the steps on which the bodyguard

is

sitting,

whose

figure, in turn,

stands out in the flash of light that emanates from the angel.

We are made to feel the

roundness of the tent, and the hollow

much by means

light as

M*

it

encloses, just as

by foreshortening and perspective. But Piero

lets light

of this

and shade perform an

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

190

even greater miracle. They help him to create the mysterious atmosphere of the scene in the depth of night

when

the

Emperor had

a vision

the course of history. This impressive simplicity and calm

which was

make

to

change

Piero perhaps the

greatest heir of Masaccio.

While these and other of Florentine masters,

artists

were applying the inventions of the great generation

artists in

Florence became increasingly aware of the

problems that these inventions had created. In the

first

flush of triumph, they

new may

have thought that the discovery of perspective and the study of nature could solve all difficulties

from

different

but art

itself

which

art presented.

science.

The

artist's

But we must not forget that

art

altogether

is

means, his technical devices, can be developed,

can hardly be said to progress in the way in which science progresses.

Each discovery

in

one direction creates

a

new

difficulty

somewhere

We remem-

else.

ber that medieval painters were unaware of the rules of correct draughtsmanship

but that this very shortcoming enabled them to distribute their figures over the picture in any

way they

liked in order to create the perfect pattern.

century illustrated calendar

'Death of the Virgin'

(p. 129, Fig. 121),

(p. 138, Fig. 128), are

century painters like Simone Martini their figures so that they

formed

a lucid

The

twelfth-

or the thirteenth-century relief of the

examples of this

(p. 154, Fig. 141)

skill.

were

Even fourteenth-

still

able to arrange

design on the ground of gold. As soon as the

new concept of making the picture a mirror of reality was adopted, this question of how to arrange the figures was no longer so easy to solve. In reality figures do not group themselves harmoniously, nor do they stand out

clearly against a neutral

background. In other words, there was a danger that the new power of the

would ruin

his

most precious

gift

of creating a pleasing and satisfying whole.

problem was particularly serious where big altar-paintings and similar fronted the

artist.

architectural

These paintings had

to be seen

from

afar

and had

to

artist

The

tasks confit

into the

framework of the whole church. Moreover, they should present the

sacred story to the worshippers in a clear and impressive outline. Fig. 167 shows the

way

in

which

a Florentine artist of the

Antonio Pollaiuolo (1429-98),

second half of the fifteenth century,

tried to solve this

new problem of making

both accurate in draughtsmanship and harmonious in composition. first

a picture

one of the

attempts of its kind to solve this question, not by tact and instinct alone, but by

the application of definite rules. is it

It is

It

a very attractive picture, but

artists set

about

it.

The

may it

not be an altogether successful attempt, nor

clearly

shows how deliberately the Florentine

picture represents the

tied to a stake while six executioners are

martyrdom of

St.

Sebastian

who

is

grouped around him. This group forms a

very regular pattern in the form of a steep triangle. Each executioner on one side is

matched by

a similar figure

on the other

side.

The arrangement, in fact, is so clear and symmetrical as to be almost too rigid. The painter was obviously aware of this drawback and tried to introduce some

— Tradition and Innovation: Italy

191

One of the executioners benddown to adjust his crossbow is seen

variety.

ing

from in front, the corresponding figure from behind, and the same with the shooting figures. In this simple way, the painter has endeavoured to relieve

the rigid

and

symmetry of the composition

to introduce a sense of movement

and counter-movement very much in a piece

picture this device

is still

used rather

self-consciously

and

his

somewhat

like

an exercise.

looks

as

of music. In Pollaiuolo's

composition

We

can imagine that he used the same

model, seen from different

sides, for

the corresponding figures, and

we

feel

that his pride in his mastery of muscles

and movements has almost made him forget the true subject of his picture.

Moreover, Pollaiuolo was hardly quite successful in is

what he

set

out to do.

true that he applied the

new

art

167.

It

ANTONIO POLLAIUOLO: St.

London, National Gallery

of

perspective to a wonderful picture of the

Tuscan landscape

in the

but the main theme and the background do not really blend. There the

hill in

the foreground on which the

One almost wonders whether realizes that this

martyrdom

Pollaiuolo

composition against something

The Martyrdom of

Sebastian. Altar-painting, 1475.

is

background,

no path from

enacted to the scenery behind.

would not have done

like a neutral or

is

better to place his

golden background, but one soon

expedient was barred to him. Such vigorous and

would look out of place on a golden background. Once

art

lifelike figures

had chosen the path of

vying with nature, there was no turning back. Pollaiuolo's picture shows the kind of

problem that

artists

of the fifteenth century must have discussed in their studios.

was by finding a solution

to this

problem

that Italian art reached

its

It

greatest heights

a generation later.

Among the Florentine artists of the second half of the fifteenth century who strove for a solution of this question

was the painter Sandro

Botticelli (1446-1510).

of his most famous pictures represents not a Christian legend but a

'The Birth of Venus' the

(Fig. 168).

Middle Ages, but only

at the

The

classical poets

classical

had been known

time of the 'Renaissance',

when

all

One

myth through

the Italians tried

Rome, did the classical myths become popular among educated laymen. To these men, the mythology of the

so passionately to recapture the former glory of

192

and Innovation:

Tradition

168.

Italy

Botticelli: The

Birth of Venus. Painted for the Villa of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, about 1485. Florence, Uffizi

admired Greeks and Romans represented something more than gay and pretty tales.

They were

lieved these classical legends

patron

wisdom of the

so convinced of the superior

who commissioned

fairy-

ancients that they be-

must contain some profound and mysterious truth. The

the Botticelli painting for his country villa was a

member

of the rich and powerful family of the Medici. Either he himself, or one of his learned friends, probably explained to the painter

had represented Venus

rising

from the

what was known of the way the ancients

sea.

To

these scholars the story of her birth

was the symbol of the mystery through which the divine message of beauty came into the world. this

myth

in a

One can imagine

Venus has emerged from the wind-gods amidst the

that the painter set to

a

sea

on

a shell

shower of roses. As she

Hours or Nymphs

where Pollaiuolo

failed.

which is

His picture forms, in Botticelli

are not so correctly

drawn

lines

fact, a perfectly

had done so by

(p. 151, Fig. 139), at fall

harmonious pattern.

sacrificing

some of the

Botticelli's figures look less solid.

as Pollaiuolo's or Masaccio's.

Simone Martini's 'Annunciation' the exquisite

driven to the shore by flying

The

graceful

move-

of his composition recall the Gothic tradition of Ghiberti

and Fra Angelico, perhaps even the

work

to represent

quickly understood.

about to step on to the land, one of

achievements he had tried so hard to preserve.

ments and melodious

is

is

receives her with a purple cloak. Botticelli has succeeded

But Pollaiuolo might have said that

They

work reverently

worthy manner. The action of the picture

art

(p.

of the fourteenth century

154, Fig. 141) or the

—works such

as

French goldsmith's

which we remarked on the gentle sway of the body and

of the drapery.

Botticelli's

Venus

notice the unnatural length of her neck, the steep

is

so beautiful that

fall

we do

not

of her shoulders and the

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

169.

queer way her liberties

to the

which

left

BOTTiChLLi: Head of

arm

is

193

Venus. Detail of Fig. 168

hinged to the body. Or, rather, we should say that these

Botticelli took

with nature in order to achieve a graceful outline add

beauty and harmony of the design because they enhance the impression of an

infinitely

tender and delicate being, wafted to our shores as a

gift

from Heaven.

Tradition and Innovation: Italy

194

The

rich

merchant who commissioned

this picture

from

to give his

name

to a continent. It

New

Vespucci sailed to the torians selected as the art there

new

age

'official'

was in the service of

We

World.

Lorenzo

Botticelli,

Pierfrancesco de' Medici, was also the employer of a Florentine

who was

his firm that

have reached the period which

end of the Middle Ages.

Amerigo later his-

We remember that in

were various turning points that might be described

as the

di

destined

Italian

beginning of a

—the discoveries of Giotto round about 1300, those of Brunelleschi round

about 1400. But even more important, perhaps, than these revolutions in method

was a gradual change that had come over is

a

change that

is

more

easily sensed

book illuminations discussed of that art in

made about 1485

which the same

art

art in the course

than described.

of these two centuries.

in the preceding chapters with a Florentine (Fig. 165)

can be employed.

him

to think of

it

spirit

not that the Florentine master lacked

reverence or devotion. But the very powers his art had gained for

specimen

might give an idea of the different It is

It

A comparison of the medieval

made

it

impossible

only as a means to convey the meaning of the sacred story.

Rather did he want to use

this

power to turn the page

luxury. This function of art, to

add

entirely forgotten. In the period

we

to the beauty call

into a gay display of wealth

the Italian Renaissance

to the fore.

170. Fresco painting

and

and graces of fife, had never been

and colour grinding.

From

a Florentine print showing the occupation of people born under

Mercury. About 1465

it

came

increasingly

chapter

14



TRADITION AND INNOVATION: The Fifteenth Century

171.

WE

in the

North

The 'flamboyant' Gothic

style: the Court of the Palace of Justice (formerly Treasury). Rouen, 1482

have seen that the fifteenth century brought

history of art because the discoveries

generation in Florence had lifted

had separated

it

II

the northern artists

change in the

Italian art

on

to a

new

plane, and

The aims ot of the fifteenth century did not, perhaps, differ so much from fellow-artists as did their means and methods. The difference

from the development of

those of the Italian

a decisive

and innovations of Brunelleschi's

between the north and

Italy

is

art in the rest

of Europe.

perhaps most clearly marked in architecture.

Brunelleschi had put an end to the Gothic style in Florence by introducing the

Renaissance method of using classical motifs for his buildings. century before the

artists

It

was nearly

a

outside Italy followed his example. All through the

fifteenth century they continued

developing the Gothic style of the preceding

century. But though the forms of these buildings

still

contained such typical

elements of Gothic architecture as the pointed arch or the flying buttress, the taste

of the times had greatly changed.

We

architects liked to use graceful lacework

Decorated Style

in

remember and

that in the fourteenth century

rich ornamentation.

which Exeter Cathedral was

We remember the

built (p. 149, Fig. 137). In the

;

Tradition

and Innovation:

North

the

fifteenth centu r y this taste for

tracery

and

fantastic

complicated

ornament went even

farther. Fig. 171, the Palace

of Justice

Rouen,

last

is

an example of this

in

phase of

French Gothic which is sometimes referred

Flamboyant

to as the

Style.

We see how

the designers covered the whole building

with an infinite variety of decorations, not, apparently, considering

performed any function

Some of these

buildings have a fairy-tale

and invention

quality of infinite wealth

but one

whether they

in the structure.

feels that in

them the designers

had exhausted the last possibility of Gothic building, and that a reaction was set in

sooner or

later.

There

bound to

are, in fact,

indications that even without the direct 172.

'Perpendicular' style:

influence of Italy the architects of the

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

Begun

in

1446

north would have evolved a

new

style

of greater simplicity. It is particularly in

England that we can see these tendencies

phase of the Gothic style which

is

known

at

as the Perpendicular.

work

in the last

This name was

invented to convey the character of late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century buildings in

England

in

whose decorations

and arches of the style is the

begun

more frequent than

the curves

The most famous example of

this

wonderful chapel of King's College in Cambridge (Fig. 172) which was

in 1446.

The shape of this church

Gothic interiors arches.

straight lines are

earlier 'decorated' tracery.

—there are no

The whole makes

much more

is

side-aisles,

simple than those of earlier

and therefore no

pillars

and no steep

the impression of a lofty hall rather than of a medieval

church. But while the general structure

is

thus

more sober and perhaps more

worldly than that of the great cathedrals, the imagination of the Gothic craftsmen is

given free reign in the details, particularly in the form of the vault ('fanvault')

whose

fantastic lacework of curves

Northumbrian manuscripts

The development

and

lines recalls the miracles

of Celtic and

(p. 112, Fig. 103).

of painting and sculpture in the countries outside Italy runs

to a certain extent parallel with this

development of architecture. In other words,

while the Renaissance had been victorious in Italy along the whole front, the north in the fifteenth century

remained

great innovations of the brothers

still

faithful to the

Van Eyck,

Gothic tradition. Despite the

the practice of art continued to be a

matter of custom and usage rather than of science.

The mathematical

rules of

Tradition

and Innovation:

North

the

197

Roman monuments did masters. For this reason we may

perspective, the secrets of scientific anatomy, the study of

not yet trouble the peace of say that they were

mind of the northern

'medieval

still

while their colleagues across the Alps

artists',

already belonged to the 'modern era'. But the problems facing the artists on both sides of the Alps

how

to

make

until the

were nevertheless strikingly

Van Eyck had taught them upon detail

similar.

the picture a mirror of nature by carefully adding detail

whole frame was

p. 173, Fig. 154).

But

with painstaking observation

filled

just as

Fig. 161; p. 184, Fig. 163)

had used Masaccio's innovations

who

fourteenth century, so there were artists in the north

more

discoveries to

traditional themes.

who worked

(i4io?-5i), for instance, century, was

somewhat

like a

in

The German Cologne

aware of the new methods of Jan van Eyck,

century Wilton diptych

little

later

Van Eyck's

middle of the

(p. 157, Fig.

is

143) than

angels

who make

music,

shows that the master was

nearer in spirit to the fourteenth-

Jan van Eyck.

to

it is

It

may be

inter-

We

see at

example and compare the two works.

master had learned one thing which had presented

to the earlier painter.

fifteenth

Fra Angelico was aware of the

just as

yet his picture

esting to look back at the earlier

once that the

in the spirit of the

applied

painter Stefan Lochner

in the

scatter flowers, or offer fruit to the little Christ-child,

And

153;

(p. 182,

northern Fra Angelico. His charming picture of the

Virgin in a rose-bower (Fig. 180), surrounded by

discoveries of Masaccio.

(p, 171, Fig.

Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli in the south

Lochner could suggest the space

in

difficulties

which the Virgin

is

enthroned on the grass bank. Compared with his figures, those of the Wilton diptych look a

little flat.

of gold, but in front of

Lochner's Holy Virgin

it

there

is

angels holding back the curtain,

paintings like those

stands before a background

still

a real stage.

He

which seems

to

has even added two charming

hang from the frame.

by Lochner and Fra Angelico which

tion of the romantic critics of the nineteenth century,

first

men

It

was

captured the imagina-

such as Ruskin, and the

They saw in them all the charm of simple way they were right. These works are perhaps

painters of the Pre-Raphaelite school.

devotion and a child-like heart. In a

so fascinating because for us, used to real space in pictures,

and more or

less correct

drawing, they are easier to understand than the works of the earlier medieval masters whose spirit they nevertheless preserved.

Other painters in the

in the

north correspond rather to Benozzo Gozzoli, whose frescoes

Medici Palace in Florence

reflect the

gay pageantry of the elegant world, in

the traditional spirit of the International Style. This applies particularly to the painters

who

manuscripts.

designed tapestries, and those

The page

who

illustrated in Fig. 173

decorated the pages of precious

was painted towards the middle of

the fifteenth century, as were Gozzoli's frescoes. In the

background

is

the traditional

scene showing the author handing the finished book to his noble patron

ordered

it.

But the painter found

this

theme rather

dull

by

itself.

He

who had

therefore gave

Tradition and Innovation: the North

198

^sfe# $-

173.

tavernier:

there

is

around

city gate there

is

showed us the happenings

a party apparently

one rather dandyish figure carrying like

I

n

"

Dedication page to The Conquests of Charlemagne'. 1460. Brussels, Bibliothcque Royale

the setting of a kind of entrance hall, and

Behind the

l">

*

'

About

it

^i

r

'';JL '

pompous burghers.

We

making ready

a falcon

on

his

all

for the chase

fist,



round. at least

while others stand

see the stalls and booths inside

and

in front of

the city gate, with the merchants displaying their goods and the buyers inspecting

them.

It is a lifelike

been done

a

picture of a medieval city of the time. Nothing like

hundred years

earlier, or, indeed, at

any

earlier time.

it

could have

We

have to go

back to ancient Egyptian art to find pictures which portray the daily

life

of the

Tradition people

faithfully

as

and Innovation: own

the Egyptians did not look at their

much

world with so It

is

accuracy and humour.

the spirit of the drollery of which

we saw an example

in

Psalter' (p.

140) that

153, Fig.

Northern

life.

'Queen Mary's

came

to

charming portrayals of

fruition in these

daily

North

the

and even

that;

as

which was

art,

less

preoccupied with attaining ideal harmony

and beauty than this

was

Italian art,

to favour

type of representation to an increasing

extent.

Nothing,

to

Of

partments.

more

be

imagine that these two

developed

'schools'

would

however,

wrong than

174-

fouquet: Estienne Chevalier, treasure VII of France, with St. Stephen. Part of an altar painted about 1450. Berlin, Kaiser-Friedrich Museum

of Charles

com-

watertight

in

the leading French artist

of the period, Jean Fouquet (1420 ?-8o?)

we know

he visited

in fact that

where he painted the Pope he probably

made

(p. 157, Fig. 143),

few years

a

Italy in his youth.

in 1447. Fig.

his

after

is

his patron, St. Stephen,

He

deacon's robe.

carries a

the Bible, St. Stephen

who,

return.

book and on

The

is

As

in

the

Wilton diptych

old French for Stephen), the saint by

as the first it is

saints

deacon of the Church, wears a

a large sharp stone, for, according to

was stoned. If we look back

once more what strides had been made by than a century.

Rome

gone to

the saint protects the kneeling and praying figure of the donor.

As the donor's name was Estienne (which his side

He had

174 shows a donor's portrait which

Wilton diptych, we see

to the

art in the representation

and donor of the Wilton diptych look

of nature in as

less

though they

were cut out of paper and placed upon the picture. Those of Jean Fouquet look as if they

had been modelled. In the

earlier picture there

is

no trace of

light

and

shade. Fouquet uses light almost as Piero della Francesca had done (p. 188, Fig. 166).

The way that

in

which these calm and statuesque

figures stand as in a real space

Fouquet had been deeply impressed by what he had seen

manner of painting texture

is

different

and surface of things

that his art

Italians.

The

fur, the stone, the cloth

interest

And

shows

yet, his

he takes in the

and the marble

—shows

remains indebted to the northern tradition of Jan van Eyck.

Another great northern Rogier van der

Weyden

that he enjoyed great

Eyck had

from that of the

—the

in Italy.

also

artist

who went

(1400 ?-64). Very

fame and

to

Rome

little is

(for a pilgrimage in 1450)

known about

this

lived in the southern Netherlands

was

master except

where Jan van

worked. Fig. 175 shows a large altar-painting which represents the

descent from the Cross.

We

see that Rogier, like Jan van Eyck, could faithfully

Tradition and Innovation: the North

200

ROGIER van DER weyden: The Descent fro, About 1435. Escorial

175.

reproduce every

detail,

every hair and every

He

not represent a real scene.

we can

appreciate the

wisdom of

altar-painting to be seen ful in the

picture

church.

fulfils

Pollaiuolo's.

It

had

from to

Nevertheless, his picture does

has placed his figures on a kind of shallow stage

Remembering

against a neutral background.

stitch.

Altar-painting.

Pollaiuolo's

problems

(p. 191, Fig. 167)

Rogier's decision. He, too, had to

and had

afar,

to display the sacred

make

theme

a large

to the faith-

be clear in outline, and satisfying as a pattern. Rogier's

these requirements without looking forced and self-conscious as does

The body of

Christ,

which

is

turned full-face towards the beholder,

The weeping women frame it on both sides. Mary Magdalen on the other side, tries in vain

forms the centre of the composition. St.

John, bending forward,

like St.

to support the fainting Virgin,

descending body.

The calm

whose movement corresponds

bearing of the old

men forms an

to that of Christ's effective foil to the

expressive gestures of the principal actors. For they really seem like actors in a

mystery play or in a tableau vivant grouped or posed by an inspired producer

had studied the great works of the medieval past and wanted

own medium. new,

to imitate

them

who

in his

In this way, by translating the main ideas of Gothic painting into the

life-like style,

Rogier did a great service to northern

tradition of lucid design that

might otherwise have been

Jan van Eyck's discoveries. Henceforward northern

art.

He

lost

saved

much of the

under the impact of

artists tried,

each in his

own

Tradition and Innovation : the North

201

way, to reconcile the new demands on art

with

old religious purpose.

its

We can study

work

these efforts in a

of one of the greatest Flemish

artists

of

the second half of the fifteenth century, the painter

Hugo van

der Goes.

He

is

one of the few northern masters of this early period of

whom we know some

personal details.

We hear that he spent

the last years of his

life in

voluntary

retirement in a monastery and that he

was haunted by feelings of attacks of melancholy.

makes

in his art

very different from the

it

placid

moods of Jan van Eyck.

shows

his painting of the

Virgin'.

indeed

is

something tense and serious that

and

guilt

There

What

Fig. 176

'Death of the 176.

us

strikes

first

admirable way in which the

the

is

HUGO van der goes: Virgin. Altar-painting.

Bruges,

has

artist

The Death of the

About

1480.

Museum

represented the varying reaction of the

twelve apostles to the event they are witnessing quiet brooding to passionate

gain a measure of

Van

—the

sympathy and almost

der Goes's achievement

if

range of expression from

indiscreet gaping.

we

of the same scene over the porch of Strasbourg Cathedral

Compared

much

to the painter's

alike.

many

to conjure

(p.

138, Fig.

And how easy it was for the earlier artist to arrange He did not have to wrestle with foreshortening and

surface

up

der Goes.

show most

somewhat contorted

us.

also

But

Son who

is

can

feel the efforts

to leave

his figures

the illusion

of the painter

no part of the panel's

apostles in the foreground

how he

and the

strove to spread his figures out

this visible strain

which makes the movements

who, alone

in the

crowded room,

is

granted the

opening His arms to receive her.

For the sculptors and woodcarvers the survival of Gothic tradition form which Rogier had given to a carved altar

128).

adds to the feeling of tense excitement that surrounds

the calm figure of the dying Virgin vision of her

clearly

We

and yet

empty and meaningless. The two

and display them before look

Van

a real scene before our eyes

apparition over the bed

best

types, the apostles of the sculpture look very

in a clear design!

of a space as was expected of

We

turn back to the illustration

it

in the

new

proved of particular importance. Fig. 177 shows

which was commissioned for the Polish

city

of Cracow in 1477 (two

years after Pollaiuolo's altar-painting of p. 191, Fig. 167). Its master was Veit Stoss,

who

lived for the greater part of his life in

Nuremberg

in

Germany and

died there

Tradition and Innovation: the North

202

177.

at a

veit stoss: Altar of

Church of Our Lady, Cracow. 1477

we can see the value who stood far away without difficulty. The group

very advanced age in 1533. Even on the small illustration

of a lucid design. For

we

the

like the

are able to read off the

members of

the congregation

meaning of the main scenes

of the shrine in the centre shows again the death of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by the twelve aposries, though this time she

kneeling in prayer. Farther up

by

Christ,

we

is

not represented lying on a bed but

see her soul being received into a radiant

Heaven

and quite on top we watch her being crowned by God the Father and His

and Innovation:

Tradition

the

North

Son. All the wings of the altar represent important

moments

which (together with her crowning) were known

as the

cycle begins

on the

left

top square with the Annunciation

On

with the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi. the remaining three joyous

after so

it

down we find

continues further

the right-hand wing

much sorrow

—the Resurrection of at

Whitsun. All these

contemplate when they were assembled in church on a

stories the faithful could

Feast

moments

of the Virgin,

Seven Joys of Mary. The ;

and the Outpouring of the Holy Ghost

Christ, His Ascension

203

in the life

Day of the

Virgin (the other sides of the wings were adapted to other feast

But only

they could approach close to the shrine could they admire the

days).

if

truthfulness and expressiveness of Veit Stoss's art in the wonderful heads

and hands

of his apostles (Fig. 179). In the middle of the fifteenth century a very decisive technical invention had been

made

in

Germany, which had

and not of

art alone

tremendous

a

effect

on the future development of art,

—the invention of printing. The printing of pictures had pre-

ceded the printing of books by several decades. Small

and the

text of prayers,

private devotion.

the

same

was

as

had been printed

The method

later

and cut away with

leaflets,

for distribution

with images of saints

among

pilgrims and for

of printing these images was simple enough.

developed for the printing of

a knife everything that

letters.

You

It

was

took a wood-block

should not appear on the print. In other

words, everything that was to look white in the

final

product was to be

cut hollow and everything that was to look black was

The

ridges.

left

standing in narrow

looked

result

any

like

rubber stamp we use today, and the principle of printing practically the

on

it

to

made of

surface with printer's ink

and soot and pressed

You out.

it

on

could make a good

sions

paper was

same: you covered the oil

to the leaflet.

many impres-

from one block before

it

wore

This simple technique of printing

pictures

is

called woodcut.

It

was

a

very cheap method and soon became popular. Several wood-blocks together

could be used for a tures

little series

bound together

as a

of pic-

book; these

books printed from whole blocks were called

block-books.

Woodcuts and

178.

Woodcut

block-books

were

soon

on

sale

at

The good man on printed in

Ulm

his death-bed.

Art of Dying Well about 1470

illustration for the

:

204

Tradition

popular

playing-cards were

fairs;

and prints

and Innovation: made

in this

shows

for devotional use. Fig. 178

a

North

the

way; there were humorous pictures page from one of these early block-

books, which was used by the Church as a picture-sermon.

remind the art

of dying well'.

monk by

of the hour of death and to teach them

faithful

The woodcut shows

come out of his mouth

background we see Christ and His his

— 'The

man on his death-bed with the his hand. An angel is receiving his

in the

saints,

shape of a

towards

little

praying figure. In the

whom the dying man should turn

mind. In the foreground we see a host of devils in the most ugly and fantastic

shapes, and the inscriptions which 'I

purpose was to

Its

as the title says

the pious

his side putting a lighted candle into

soul which has



am

raging',

'We have

'We

come out of their mouths

are disgraced',

'I

am dumbfounded',

Their grotesque antics are in vain.

lost this soul'.

tell

us what they say

'This

is

no comfort',

The man who

possesses

the art of dying well need not fear the powers of hell.

When Gutenberg made

his great invention of using

movable

letters

held together

by a frame, instead of whole wood-blocks, such block-books became

obsolete. But

methods were soon found of combining tration,

and many books of the

a printed text

later half

with a wood-block for

illus-

of the fifteenth century were illustrated

with woodcuts.

For

all its

pictures. It

usefulness, however, the

woodcut was

true that this crudeness itself

is

these popular prints of the late

is

a rather

sometimes

crude way of printing

effective.

The

quality of

Middle Ages reminds one sometimes of our best

posters

—they are simple

artists

of the period had rather different ambitions. They wanted to show their

in outline

and economical

in their

mastery of detail and their powers of observation, and for suitable. effects.

These masters,

is

this the

woodcut was not

medium which gave more subtle The principle of the copperplate

therefore, chose another

Instead of wood, they used copper.

engraving

means. But the great

from the woodcut. In the woodcut you cut away every-

a little different

thing except the lines you want to show. In the engraving you take a special tool, called a burin,

and press

it

into the copperplate.

The

line

which you thus engrave

into the surface of the metal will hold any colour or printer's ink

the surface. printer's ink

What you and then

do, therefore, to

is

wipe the blank metal clean. If then you press the

plate very hard against a piece of paper, the ink

cut by the burin

is

you spread over

to cover your engraved copperplate with

which had remained

squeezed on to the paper, and the print

is

in the lines

ready. In other

is really a negative of the woodcut. The woodcut is made by leaving the lines standing, the engraving by cutting them into the plate. Now, however hard it may be to handle the burin firmly and to control the depth

words, the copper-engraving

and strength of your can obtain

lines,

much more

it is

detail

clear that,

once you have mastered

and much more subtle

than you can from a woodcut.

One

effect

from

this craft,

you

a copper-engraving

of the greatest and most famous masters of

179-

veit stoss: Head of an

Apostle. Detail of Fig. 177

l8o.

Stefan lochxer: The

Virgin

m

l

Painted about 1440.

Cologne, WjllrLif-Richartz-Museum

-

Tradition an J Innovation: the North engraving in the fifteenth century was

Martin Schongauer ,1453

on the Upper Rhine

at

in the pre-

shows Schongauer's

sent Alsace. Fig. 1S1

engraving of the Holy Night. is

who lived

?-9l),

Colmar,

The

scene

interpreted in the spirit of the great

masters of the Netherlands. Like them.

Schongauer was anxious

to

convey every

of the scene, and to

little

homely

make

us feel the very texture and surfaces

detail

of the objects he represents. That he should have succeeded in doing so without the help of brush and colour, and

without the

medium of oil, borders on One can look at his en-

the miraculous.

gravings through a magnifying glass and

study the way he characterizes the broken stones

and

bricks, the flowers in the crags,

the \y\ creeping along the vault, the fur

SCHONGAUER:

of the animals and the stubbly chins of the shepherds.

But

it

we must

patience and craftsmanship

without any knowledge of the

admire.

difficulties

We

coat;

and

St.

expression.

whom

can enjoy his tale of Christmas

of working with the burin. There

the Virgin kneeling in the ruined chapel which in adoration of the Child

/:

About 1475

not only his

is

is

used as a

stable.

is

She kneels

she has carefully placed on the corner of her

Joseph, lantern in hand, looks at her with a worried and fatherly

The ox and

the ass are worshipping with her.

The humble shepherds

are just about to cross the threshold ; one of them, in the background, receives

Up

the message from the angel.

in the right-hand corner

we have

a glimpse

of the heavenly chorus singing 'Peace on Earth'. In themselves, these motifs are

all

deeply rooted in the tradition of Christian

art,

but the way in which

they are combined and distributed over the page was Schongauer's own.

The

problems of composition for the printed page and for the altar-picture are in some respects similar. In both cases, the suggestion of space and the faithful imitation

of reality must not be allowed to destroy the balance of the composition. if

we

:hink of this problem that

We now

understand

why he

we can

fully appreciate

has chosen a ruin as setting

the scene solidly with the pieces of broken

which we to leave

N

look. It enabled

him

masonry

to place a black foil

It is

only

Schongauer's achievement.

that



it

allowed him to frame

form the opening through

behind the principal figures and

no part of the engraving empty or without

interest.

We

can see

how

Tradition and Innovation: the North

208

carefully he planned his composition if

meet

at the

The

art

head of the Virgin, which

we

is

lay

two diagonals across the page they :

the true centre of the print.

of the woodcut and of engraving soon spread

all

engravings in the manner of Mantegna and Botticelli in

over Europe. There are

Italy,

and others from the

Netherlands and France. These prints became yet another means through which the artists of

Europe learned of each

other's ideas.

At that time

it

was not yet consi-

dered dishonourable to take over an idea or a composition from another

many of the humbler

masters

made use of engravings

as pattern

artist,

and

books from which

they borrowed. Just as the invention of printing hastened the exchange of ideas

without which the Reformation might never have come about, so the printing of

images ensured the triumph of the

Europe.

It

art

of the Italian Renaissance in the rest of

was one of the forces which put an end

and brought about a

crisis in

to the

medieval

art

of the north,

the art of these countries which only the greatest

masters could overcome.

182. Stone-masons

and

the King.

From an

About

illumination of the story of 1464. Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett

Troy by jean colombe.

chapter

15



HARMONY ATTAINED

Tuscany and Rome, Early Sixteenth Century

183.

WE

A

left

Chapel of the High Renaissance: the Tempietto, Rome, S. Pictr Montorio. Designed by br am ante, 1502

Italian art at the

fifteenth century, call

time of

which the

the Quattrocento, that

is

Botticelli, that is, at the

Italians

by an awkward

trick

to say, the 'four hundreds'.

of the sixteenth century, the Cinquecento,

is

end of the of language

The beginning

the most famous period of Italian art,

one of the greatest periods of all time. This was the time of Leonardo da Vinci and

Harmony Attained

210

Michelangelo, of Raphael and Titian, of Correggio and Giorgione, of Diirer and

Holbein

in the

was that

all

more

are

North, and of many other famous masters.

these great masters were born in the

easily asked

than answered.

enjoy

What we have

It is better to

it.

tion of the great period

which

is

One cannot

called the

that the

be a

it

explana-

full

High Renaissance, but we can

try to see

sudden efflorescence of genius possible.

this

have seen the beginning of these conditions

whose fame was so great

why

well ask

explain the existence of genius.

to say, therefore, can never

what the conditions were which made

We

One may

same period, but such questions

Commune

far

back in the time of Giotto,

of Florence was proud of him and

anxious to have the steeple of their cathedral designed by that widely renowned master. This pride of the

of the greatest

artists to

was a great incentive

cities,

which vied with each other

in securing the services

beautify their buildings and to create works of lasting fame,

outdo each other

to the masters to

—an incentive which did

not exist to the same extent in the feudal countries of the north, whose

much

coveries,

and the

to

independence and

less

when

Italian artists

anatomy

artist's

local pride.

Then came

turned to mathematics to study the laws of perspective,

to study the build of the

horizon widened.

He was no

human

body. Through these discoveries,

longer a craftsman

among

craftsmen, ready

to carry out commissions for shoes, or cupboards, or paintings as the case

He was

a master in his

had

cities

the period of the great dis-

own

who

right,

may

be.

could not achieve fame and glory without

exploring the mysteries of nature and probing into the secret laws of the universe. It

was natural that the leading

their social status.

This was

artists

still

who had

the same as

it

these ambitions felt aggrieved at

had been

at the

time of ancient

when the snobs might have accepted a poet who worked with his brain, but never an artist who worked with his hands. Here was another challenge for the Greece,

artists to

that

meet, another spur which urged them on towards yet greater achievements

would compel the surrounding world

heads of prosperous workshops, but as difficult

struggle,

to accept them, not only as respectable

men

of unique and precious

which was not immediately

successful.

was a

gifts. It

Social snobbery

and

many who would gladly have invited to and knew the right turn of phrase for every

prejudice were strong forces, and there were their tables a scholar

occasion, but sculptor. It artists to

who

spoke Latin,

would have hesitated

to

extend a similar privilege to a painter or a

was again the love of fame on the part of the patrons which helped the

break

down such

prejudices.

were badly in need of honour and

There were many small courts

prestige.

To

in Italy

which

erect magnificent buildings, to

com-

mission splendid tombs, to order great cycles of frescoes, or dedicate a painting for the high altar of a famous church, was considered a sure way of perpetuating one's name and securing a worthy monument to one's earthly existence. As there were many centres competing for the services of the most renowned masters, the masters in turn could dictate their terms. In earlier times it was the prince who bestowed

1

Harmony Attained his favours on the

and that the

Now

artist.

artist

granted a favour to a rich prince or potentate by accepting a

commission from him. Thus

it

came about

the kind of commission

which they

accommodate

to the

their

works

decide. But at

any

first, at

that the artists could frequently choose

liked,

whims and

new power was an unmixed

not this

rate,

it

and

He had

to

know

is

difficult to

the artist was free.

last,

marked

had

(p. 162) the architect

to

Whether or

of a liberation which released a

effect

In no sphere was the effect of this change so

time of Brunelleschi

no longer needed

that they

fancies of their employers.

blessing for art in the long run

had the

tremendous amount of pent-up energy. At

a classical scholar.

21

almost came to pass that the roles were reversed,

it

Since the

as in architecture.

have some of the knowledge of

to

the rules of the ancient 'orders', of the right

proportions and measurements of the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns and entablatures.

He had

of classical writers

and

Roman

Vitruvius

architects,

who had

codified the conventions of the

and whose works contained many

was the

conflict

What

more apparent than

really

longed to do was to build temples and triumphal arches

in this field of architecture.

We

asked to do was to build city palaces and churches.

promise was reached in Fig.

159)

who wedded

this

fundamental conflict by

was

tive

of

its

use; simply for the beauty of

and the imposing grandeur of

interior

symmetry and

its

of the

—what they were how

such as Alberti

modern

city palace.

a

com-

(p. 180,

But the

to design a building irrespec-

still

proportions, the spaciousness of

ensemble.

its

ideals

these learned masters

have seen

artists

the ancient 'orders' to the

true aspiration of the Renaissance architect

no other

scholars. In

between the requirements of the patrons and the

artists

Greek

and obscure

difficult

which challenged the ingenuity of Renaissance

passages, field

measure ancient ruins, and pore over the manuscripts

to

like

They craved

regularity such as they could not achieve while concentrating

the practical requirements of an ordinary building. It

when one of them found

a

mighty patron willing

was

a

its

for a perfect

on

memorable moment

to sacrifice tradition

and expe-

diency for the sake of the fame he would acquire by erecting a stately structure that

would outshine the seven wonders of the world. Only the decision of

Pope

Julius II in 1506 to pull

way can we understand

in this

down

the venerable Basilica of St.

Peter which stood at the place where, according to the legend, St. Peter lay buried

and

to

have

it

built

anew

in a

manner which

church building and the usages of Divine service. this task

defied the age-old traditions of

The man

One of the few of his

whom

buildings which have survived intact shows

had gone in absorbing the ideas and standards of

becoming it,

to

he entrusted

was Donato Bramante (1444-15 14), an ardent champion of the new

a slavish imitator (Fig. 183). It

is

which should have been surrounded by

pavilion, a

round building on

steps,

far

'little

a cloister in the

a cupola

style.

Bramante

classical architecture

a chapel, or

crowned by

how

without

temple' as he called

same

style. It is a little

and ringed round by

a

212

Harmony Attained

colonnade of the Doric order.

The

balustrade on top of the cornice adds a light and

graceful touch to the whole building, and the small structure of the actual chapel and

harmony

the decorative colonnade are held in a

any temple of

as perfect as that in

classical antiquity.

To

Pope had given the

this master, then, the

St. Peter,

and

it

was understood that

dom. Bramante was determined years, according to

which

this

Western

to disregard the

church of

a

new church of

task to design the

should become a true marvel of Christen-

this

tradition of a thousand

kind should be an oblong hall with the

worshippers looking eastwards towards the main

altar

where Mass

read.

is

In his craving for that regularity and harmony that alone could be worthy of the place, he designed a square church with chapels symmetrically arranged

gigantic cross-shaped hall. This hall was to be colossal arches.

Bramante hoped,

it

was

ancient building, whose towering ruins

of the Pantheon

(p. 80, Fig. 73).

crowned by

said, to

still

a

combine the

impressed the

round

a

huge cupola resting on effects

visitor to

of the largest

Rome, with

For one brief moment, admiration

that

for the art of

the ancients and ambition to create something unheard of overruled considerations

of expediency and time-honoured traditions. But Bramante's plan for

was not destined

money

to

The enormous

be carried out.

that, in trying to raise sufficient funds, the

led to the Reformation. It

church that led Luther

in

Even within the Catholic Church, opposition

and by the time the building had progressed church was abandoned.

St. Peter's, as

the original plan, except

The spirit is

Pope precipitated the

much which

we know

Germany

to his first public

to Bramante's plan increased,

sufficiently, the idea it

today, has

little

of a circular

common

in

with

gigantic dimensions.

its

of bold enterprise which

characteristic of the period of the

made Bramante's plan

that

may be

apparently impossible. Once more,

for St. Peter's possible

High Renaissance, the period round about 1500

which produced so many of the world's

seemed impossible, and

crisis

was the practice of selling indulgences against contribu-

tions for the building of that protest.

St. Peter's

building swallowed up so

greatest artists.

the reason

it

why they

To

men

these

nothing

did sometimes achieve the

was Florence which gave birth

to

some of the

leading minds of that great epoch. Since the days of Giotto round about 1300, and of

Masaccio round about 1400, Florentine pride,

and

nearly

all

that

why we should

is

their excellence

artists cultivated their tradition

was recognized by

all

people of

taste.

We

with special

shall see that

the greatest artists grew out of such a firmly established tradition, and

not forget the humbler masters in whose workshops they

learned the elements of their craft.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-15 19), the a

Tuscan

village.

He was

oldest of these

famous masters, was born

in

apprenticed to a leading Florentine workshop, that of the

painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-88). Verrocchio's fame was

very great, so great indeed that the city of Venice commissioned from

him

the

Harmony Attained monument

to

their generals to

whom they owed gratitude

number of

for a

rather

charities

The

military prowess.

was

Donatello. the

he had founded

than for any particular deed of equestrian statue

which Verrocchio made that he

2I 3

Bartolomeo Colleoni, one of

a

(Fig. 184)

worthy heir

shows

to the tradition of

We see how minutely he studied

anatomy of the horse, and how

clearly

P

he observed the position of the muscles and veins.

But most admirable of

posture of the horseman,

all

the

is

who seems

to

be

riding ahead of his troops with an expression

of bold defiance. Later times have

made

us

so familiar with these riders of bronze that

have come to people our towns and representing

kings, princes

us

cities,

more or less worthy emperors, and generals, that

some time

it

may take

to realize the greatness

and

simplicity of Verrocchio's work. It lies in

the clear outline which his group presents

from nearly

all

trated energy

man

in

and

aspects,

which seems

armour and

his

in the

to

concen-

animate the

mount.

In a workshop capable of producing such masterpieces, the certainly learn

young Leonardo could

many

things.

He would

be

introduced into the technical secrets of

verrocchio: Monument

foundry-work and other metalwork, he

would learn carefully

to prepare pictures

Venice.

Begun

and statues

by making studies from the nude and from draped models.

learn to study plants

to Colleoni,

in 1479

and curious animals

would receive a thorough grounding

He would

for inclusion in his pictures,

in the optics of perspective,

and

and he

in the use

of colours. In the case of any other gifted boy, this training would have been cient to

make

a respectable artist,

and many good painters and sculptors did

suffi-

in fact

emerge from Verrocchio's prosperous workshop. But Leonardo was more than a gifted boy.

He was

a genius

wonder and admiration

whose powerful mind

to ordinary mortals.

productivity of Leonardo's

mind because

We

will

always remain an object of

know something of the range and

his pupils

and admirers carefully pre-

served for us his sketches and notebooks, thousands of pages covered with writings

Harmony Attained and drawings, with excerpts from books

Leonardo

and

read,

intended to write.

books he

drafts for

The more one

reads of

these papers, the less can one understand

how one human

being could have excelled

in all these different fields

made important

of research and

contributions to nearly

of them. Perhaps one of the reasons

Leonardo was

a Florentine artist

trained scholar.

is

all

that

and not

a

He thought that the artist's

business was to explore the visible world

had done, only more

just as his predecessors

thoroughly and with greater intensity and

He was

accuracy.

not interested in the

bookish knowledge of the scholars. Like Shakespeare, he probably had

and

less

men 185.

Leonardo DA Vinci: Anatomical

{larynx and

leg).

1510.

Windsor

at

Greek'. At a time

the

'little

when

universities

Latin

the learned

relied

on the

Studie

authority of the admired ancient writers,

Castle,

Royal Library

Leonardo, the painter, would trust nothing but his

own

Whenever he came

eyes.

across a problem, he did not consult the authorities but tried an experiment to solve it.

There was nothing

his ingenuity.

He

in nature

which did not arouse

explored the secrets of the

his curiosity

human body by

and challenge

dissecting

more than

He was one of the first to probe into the mysteries of the the womb; he investigated the laws of waves and currents; he

thirty corpses (Fig. 185).

growth of the child

in

spent years in observing and analysing the flight of insects and birds, which was to help

him to devise a flying machine which he was sure would one day become a reality.

The forms

of rocks and clouds, the effect of the atmosphere on the colour of distant

objects, the laws governing the all

growth of trees and

plants, the

harmony of sounds,

these were the objects of his ceaseless research, which was to be the foundation

of his

art.

His contemporaries looked upon Leonardo as a strange and rather un-

canny being. Princes and generals wanted to use

this astonishing

wizard as a military

engineer for the building of fortifications and canals, of novel weapons and devices. In times of peace, he would entertain tion,

and with the designing of new

He was admired all

that,

as a great artist,

them with mechanical

effects for stage

and sought

toys of his

The

reason

is

that

inven-

after as a splendid musician, but, for

few people can have had an inkling of the importance of

extent of his knowledge.

own

performances and pageantries.

his ideas or the

Leonardo never published

and that very few can even have known of their existence.

He was

his writings,

left-handed, and

Harmony Attained had taken to writing from right to It is

left

215

so that his notes can only be read in a mirror.

possible that he was afraid of divulging his discoveries for fear that his opinions

would be found

heretical.

Thus we

find in his writings the five

words 'The sun does

not move', which show that Leonardo anticipated the theories of Copernicus

which were

later to

bring Galileo into trouble. But

it is

also possible that

he under-

took his researches and experiments simply because of his insatiable curiosity, and

once he had solved a problem for himself, he was apt to lose interest because

that,

there were so

many

other mysteries

Leonardo himself had no ambition of nature was to him

first

to

still

to

and foremost

world, such as he would need for his

be explored. Most of all,

be considered a a

art.

it is

likely that

scientist. All this exploration

means of gaining knowledge of the

He

thought that by placing

on

it

visible

scientific

foundations he could transform his beloved art of painting from a humble craft into

an honoured and gentlemanly pursuit.

To us, this preoccupation with the social

rank

may be difficult to understand, but we have seen what importance it had for the men of the period. Perhaps if we remember Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream and the roles he assigns to Snug the joiner, Bottom the weaver, and Snout the tinker, we can understand the background of this struggle. Aristotle had of artists

between certain

codified the snobbishness of classical antiquity in distinguishing arts that

were compatible with

as rhetorics,

such

a 'liberal education' (the so-called Liberal Arts

grammar, philosophy and

dialectic)

and pursuits that involved working

with the hands, which were 'manual' and therefore 'menial', and thus below the dignity of a gentleman. It was the ambition of such

men

as

Leonardo

painting was a Liberal Art, and that the manual labour involved in essential than

was the labour of writing

it

to

rate,

we know

start

on

that

Leonardo often

and leave

a painting

it

failed to carry out his

to

it.

to

be

At any

a picture.

commissions.

it

was he himself who had

be considered finished, and he refused to

unless he was satisfied with

want

He would

unfinished, despite the urgent requests of the patron.

Moreover, he obviously insisted that

work of his was

that

view often

in poetry. It is possible that this

affected Leonardo's relationship with his patrons. Perhaps he did not

considered the owner of a shop where anyone could commission

show

was no more

It is

let

it

to decide

when

a

go out of his hands

not surprising, therefore, that few of Leonardo's

works were ever completed, and that his contemporaries regretted the way in which this

outstanding genius seemed to

fritter

away

his time,

moving

restlessly

from

Florence to Milan, from Milan to Florence and to the service of the notorious

adventurer Cesare Borgia, then to Rome, and France, where he died in the year 15 19,

in

By

a singular misfortune, the

court of King Francis

few works which Leonardo did complete

mature years have come down to us

we

finally to the

I

more admired than understood.

in a very

bad

state

in his

of preservation. Thus

when

look at what remains of Leonardo's famous wall-painting of the 'Last Supper'

(Fig. 186)

we must

try to

imagine

how it may have appeared

to the

monks

for

whom

Harmony Attained

2l6

Leonardo da vinci

The Last Supper. Wall-painting in the Refectory of the Monastery of Sta Maria delle Grazie, Milan. Between 1495 and 1498

it

:

was painted. The painting covers one wall of an oblong

hall that

dining-room by the monks of the monastery of Santa Maria

One must

what

visualize

by side with the long

and

his apostles.

was

lifelike. It

was

it

side

added roundness and

table-cloth,

when

the painting was uncovered, and when,

with which

all

illusion

of

first

first

it

struck

were portrayed, the dishes on the

Then,

as

judged by laymen according to their degree of

have been the

and so

and how

to the table,

Perhaps the monks were

details

folds of the draperies.

on

close

which the Last Supper

to theirs, in

clear the light fell

solidity to the figures.

to nature

and the

had been added

How

as a

monks, there appeared the table of Christ

Never before had the sacred episode appeared so

as if another hall

had assumed tangible form. by the truth

like

tables of the

was used

delle Grazie in Milan.

now, works of

lifelikness.

art

were often

But that can only

Once they had sufficiently admired this extraordinary monks would turn to the way in which Leonardo had pre-

reaction.

reality, the

sented the biblical story. There was nothing in this work that resembled older representations of the same theme. In these traditional versions, the apostles were

—only Judas being segregated from the —while Christ was calmly dispensing the Sacrament. The new picture was very

seen sitting quietly at the table in a row rest

different

from any of these

Leonardo,

had

like

paintings.

There was drama

striven to visualize

what

unto you, that one of you

it

must have been

shall betray

it,

and excitement.

like

gospel of St. John adds that

when

Christ said,

'

"Verily

I

say

me", and they were exceeding sorrowful and

began every one of them to say unto him "Lord,

The

in

Giotto before him, had gone back to the text of the Scriptures, and

'Now

is it I

?"

'

(Matthew

there was leaning on Jesus'

xxvi. 21-2).

bosom one of

7

Harmony Attained his disciples,

whom

who

should ask

Simon Peter

Jesus loved.

should be of

it

whom

questioning and beckoning that brings

21

he spake' (John

movement

xiii.

Some seem

dispute

whom

23-4). It

ear,

who

John,

isolated.

ward and looks up sitting

ment was

into St. John's

is

not segregated from the

not gesticulate and question.

is

consummate

art

controlled. Despite the excitement

so

much

The

One wonders how long it took

by which

order in this variety, and so

composition

if

we

twelve apostles seem to

much

fully appreciate

think back to the problem

Pollaiuolo's 'St. Sebastian' (p. 191, Fig. 167).

generation had struggled to combine the

dramatic move-

all this

which Christ's words have caused,

we

fall

quite

by gestures and movements.

variety in this order, that

can never quite exhaust the harmonious interplay of

movement. Perhaps we can only

rest,

He bends for-

dramatic contrast to the figure of Christ

naturally into four groups of three, linked to each other

There

to

an

rushes towards

nothing chaotic in the picture.

is

for

all,

this surging turmoil.

spectators to realize the

Him

As he whispers something

in suspicion or anger, a

calm and resigned amidst

first

there

He alone does

they hear the

as

to look to

has said. St. Peter, most impetuous of

the right of Jesus.

he inadvertently pushes Judas forward. Judas

and yet he seems

the

He

sits to

this

is

and innocence, others gravely

Lord may have meant, others again seem

the

explanation of what St.

to protest their love

that he

into the scene. Christ has just

spoken the tragic words, and those on his side shrink back in terror revelation.

him

therefore beckoned to

one

movement and answering

Leonardo's achievement in

this

discussed in the description of

We remember how the artists

demands of realism with

of that

that of design.

We remember how rigid and artificial Pollaiuolo's solution of this problem looked to us.

Leonardo,

who was

younger than Pollaiuolo, had solved

little

it

with apparent

moment what the scene represents, one can still enjoy the beautiful pattern formed by the figures. The composition seems to have that effortless ease. If

one forgets for

balance and

van der

a

harmony which

Weyden and

it

had

Botticelli,

But Leonardo did not find racy of observation, to the

it

in

Gothic paintings, and which

each in his

own way, had

artists like

Rogier

tried to recapture for art.

necessary to sacrifice correctness of drawing, or accu-

demands of a satisfying outline.

If one forgets the beauty of

the composition, one suddenly feels confronted with a piece of reality as convincing

and striking

as

any we saw

in the

works of Masaccio or Donatello. And even

this

achievement hardly touches upon the true greatness of the work. For, beyond such technical matters as composition

and draughtsmanship, we must admire Leonardo's

deep insight into the behaviour and reactions of men, and the power of imagination

which enabled him to put the scene before our often saw

Leonardo

at

eyes.

An

eye-witness

work on the 'Last Supper'. He would

get

on

tells

us that he

to the scaffolding

and stand there for a whole day, just thinking, without painting a single stroke. the result of this thought that he has bequeathed to us, and, even in

its

ruined

It is

state,

'The Last Supper' remains one of the great miracles wrought by human genius.

Harmony Attained

218

Leonardo da vinci: Mona

There

is

another work of Leonardo's which

'The Last Supper'.

'Mona

Lisa.

Lisa' (Fig.

It is

is

fame

art.

We

picture postcards, and even advertisements, that fresh eyes as the painting of a real

worth while

But

it is

to look at

it

to forget

as if we

man

Louvre

perhaps even more famous than

as great as that of

not an unmixed blessing for a work of

and

1502. Paris,

whose name was

the portrait of a Florentine lady

A

187).

About

become

we

find

so used to seeing it

difficult to see

first

it

it

is

on

with

portraying a real person of flesh and blood.

what we know, or believe we know, about the

were the

Lisa,

Leonardo's 'Mona Lisa'

people ever to set eyes on

it.

What

picture,

strikes us

first is

the amazing degree to which Lisa looks alive. She really seems to look at us

and

have a mind of her own. Like a living being, she seems to change before our

to

eyes and to look a

little

different every time

we come back to her. Even in photographs

Harmony Attained we

of the picture the Paris

Louvre

experience this strange

but in front of the original

effect,

mock

almost uncanny. Sometimes she seems to

it is

we seem

then again

rather mysterious,

219

something

to catch

and so

it is

;

that

is

like

at us,

in

and

sadness in her smile. All this sounds

work of art. Neverthe-

the effect of every great

knew how he achieved this effect, and by what means. That great observer of nature knew more about the way we use our eyes than anybody who had ever lived before him. He had clearly seen a problem which the less,

Leonardo

certainly

conquest of nature had posed to the

artists



problem no

a

less intricate

of the Italian Quattrocento masters

one thing

The is

common:

in

strange thing

is

that

clearly

it

responsible for this effect.

than

Van Eyck

who

their figures look is

followed the lead given by Masaccio have

somewhat hard and harsh, almost wooden.

not lack of patience or lack of knowledge that

No one could

(p. 173, Fig. 154);

and perspective than Mantegna

than the

The great works

one of combining correct drawing with a harmonious composition.

be more patient in his imitation of nature

no one could know more about correct drawing

(p. 186, Fig. 164).

And

yet, for all the

grandeur and

impressiveness of their representations of nature, their figures look more like statues

than living beings.

by

figure line

moved and forced Artists

it

line

The and

breathed.

reason

detail

It

looks as

to stand stock-still for

had

Fig. 168),

tried various

had

tried to

may be

by

if

more

that the

conscientiously

we can imagine

detail, the less

that

it

we copy

the painter had suddenly cast a spell over

evermore,

ways out of this

difficulty. Botticelli, for instance (p. 192,

less rigid in outline.

The

painter

But only Leonardo

must leave the beholder some-

thing to guess. If the outlines are not quite so firmly drawn, if the form

is left

a

vague, as though disappearing into a shadow, this impression of dryness and

Leonardo's famous invention which the Italians

stiffness will

be avoided. This

call 'sfumato'

—the blurred outline and

is

mellowed colours that allow one form

merge with another and always leave something return to the

'Mona

Lisa',

to

our imagination. If

Everyone who has ever

'sfumato' with the

draw or scribble

tried to

a face

knows

to

we now

we may understand something of its mysterious

We see that Leonardo has used the means of his its

and

emphasize in his pictures the waving hair and the fluttering

found the true solution to the problem.

tion.

it,

people in 'The Sleeping Beauty'.

like the

garments of his figures, to make them look

little

a

ever really

effect.

utmost deliberathat

what we

call

expression rests mainly in two features the corners of the mouth, and the corners :

of the eyes. indistinct,

Now

by

it is

letting

quite certain in

precisely these parts

them merge

what mood

seems

just to

elude us.

effect.

There

is

Mona

It is

Lisa

which perhaps only a painter of

we

is

That

really looking at us.

is

left

deliberately

why we

are never

Her expression always

net only vagueness, of course, which produces this

much more behind

carefully at the picture,

which Leonardo has

into a soft shadow.

his

it.

Leonardo has done

a very daring thing,

consummate mastership could

see that the

two

sides

risk. If

do not quite match. This

we look is

most

Harmony Attained

220

dream landscape

in the background. The horizon on the left much lower than the one on the right. Consequently, when we focus the left side of the picture, the woman looks somehow taller or more erect than if we focus the right side. And her face, too, seems to change with this change of position,

obvious in the fantastic side

seems to

lie

because, even here, the two sides do not quite match. But with

Leonardo might have produced

tricks,

these sophisticated

all

a clever piece of jugglery rather than a great

work of art, had he not known exactly how

far

he could go, and had he not counter-

balanced his daring deviation from nature by an almost miraculous rendering of the living flesh.

minute

Look

at the

way

in

Long

as painstaking as

cause they had thought that in preserving the likeness the

made some of the dreams and which would infuse

The second century

faithful servant of

ago, in the distant past, people had looked at portraits with awe, be-

preserve the soul of the person he portrayed.

the spell

sleeves with their

any of his forerunners in the

Only he was no longer merely the

patient observation of nature.

nature.

which he modelled the hand, or the

Leonardo could be

folds.

fears

first

somehow

could

image-makers come

whose work makes

great Florentine

(Cinquecento)

of these

by

into the colours spread

fife

artist

Now the great scientist, Leonardo, had his

true.

He knew

magic brush. of the sixteenth

Italian art

famous was Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564).

so

Michelangelo was twenty-three years younger than Leonardo and survived him by forty-five years. In his long lifetime

of the

artist.

To some

degree

he witnessed a complete change in the position

was he himself who brought about

it

change.

this

In his youth Michelangelo was trained like any other craftsman. As a boy of thirteen

he was apprenticed for three years to the busy workshop of one of the leading masters of late Quattrocento Florence, the painter Domenico Ghirlandajo (1449-94).

Ghirlandajo was one of those masters whose works

which they mirror the colourful

He knew how

merit.

among

to

tell

life

enjoy rather for the

the sacred story pleasantly, as if

the rich Florentine citizens of the Medici circle

Fig. 188 represents the birth of the Virgin

mother,

we

of the period than for any outstanding

St.

Anne, coming

apartment of the

to visit

of society. Ghirlandajo proved that he knew

tively

and how

contemporaries for the themes of ancient

dancing children, in the

classical

her.

how

in

relatives

of her

visit

of well-to-do

groups effec-

shared the taste of his

he took care to depict a

relief

of

manner, in the background of the room.

In his workshop the young Michelangelo could certainly learn tricks

happened

his patrons.

to arrange his

He showed that he art, for

just

in

We look into a fashionable

and witness the formal

ladies

to give pleasure to the eye.

had

Mary, and we see the

and congratulate

late fifteenth century,

it

who were

way

artistic

all

the technical

of the trade, a solid technique of painting frescoes, and a thorough grounding

draughtsmanship. But, as far as we know, Michelangelo did not enjoy his days

in this successful painter's firm.

acquiring the facile

His ideas about

art

were

manner of Ghirlandajo, he went out

different. Instead

to study the

of

work of the

Harmony Attained

ghirlandajo:

188.

221

Birth of the Virgin. Wall-painting in the church of Sta Maria Novella, Florence. Completed in 1491

great masters of the past, of Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello,

Roman

sculptors

whose works he could

penetrate into the secrets of the ancient sculptors, beautiful

human body

motion, with

in

and of the Greek and

see in the Medici collection.

all its

who knew how

He

tried to

to represent the

muscles and sinews. Like Leonardo, he

was not content with learning the laws of anatomy secondhand, as

it

were, from

He made his own research into human anatomy, dissected bodies, and drew from models, till the human figure did not seem to hold any secrets for him. But, unlike Leonardo, for whom man was only one of the many fascinating antique sculpture.

riddles of nature,

Michelangelo strove with an incredible singleness of purpose to

master this one problem, but to master

it

fully.

His power of concentration and his

memory must have been so outstanding that soon there was no posture and no movement which he found difficult to draw. In fact, difficulties only seemed to attract him. Attitudes and angles which many a great Quattrocento artist might retentive

have hesitated to introduce into his pictures, for fear of

failing to represent

convincingly, only stimulated his artistic ambition, and soon this

young

artist

Today, when young

artists

schools studying anatomy, the nude, perspective,

manship, when

them

was rumoured

that

not only equalled the renowned masters of classical antiquity but

actually surpassed them.

acquired

it

and

spend several years all

at art

the tricks of draughts-

many an unambitious sports-reporter or poster-artist may have drawing human figures from all angles, it may not be easy for

facility in

us to grasp the tremendous admiration which Michelangelo's sheer

ledge aroused in his day.

By

skill

and know-

the time he was thirty, he was generally acknowledged

Harmony Attained

222 to

be one of the outstanding masters of the age, equal in his way to the genius of

Leonardo.

The city of Florence honoured him by commissioning him and Leonardo

each to paint an episode from Florentine history on a wall of the major council

chamber of the Town

was a dramatic moment

Hall. It

these two giants competed for the palm, and

in the history

when

of art

Florence watched with excitement

all

the progress of their sketches and preparations. Unfortunately, the works were

never completed. Michelangelo received a

even more. Pope Julius that should be

II

wanted

call

which kindled

Rome

his presence in

his

to erect a

worthy of the overlord of Christendom.

We

enthusiasm

tomb

ambitious plans of this great-minded but ruthless ruler of the Church, and difficult to

who

imagine

how

fascinated Michelangelo

him

for

have heard of the

must have been

to

work

it is

for a

not

man

possessed the means and the will to carry out the boldest plans. With the

Pope's permission, he immediately travelled to the famous marble quarries at Carrara, there to select the blocks from which to carve a gigantic mausoleum.

young to

artist

be waiting for his chisel to turn them into statues such as the world had never

seen.

He

ing, his in

The

was overwhelmed by the sight of all these marble rocks, which seemed

stayed

mind

more than

six

months

seething with images.

at the quarries,

He wanted to

buying, selecting and reject-

release the figures

which they were slumbering. But when he returned and started

from the stones

to work, he

soon

discovered that the Pope's enthusiasm for the great enterprise had markedly cooled.

We

know, today, that one of the main reasons

that his plan for a

tomb had come

even dearer to his heart: the plan for a new

been destined

to stand in the old building,

was the mausoleum

to

be housed

suspected different reasons. all

He

?

saying that

if

left

Rome

embarrassment was

St. Peter's.

and

if that

which was

For the tomb had

was

to

originally

be pulled down, where

Michelangelo, in his boundless disappointment,

smelt intrigue, and even feared that his

Bramante, the architect of the new

of fear and fury he

for the Pope's

into conflict with another plan of his

wanted

St. Peter's,

for Florence,

and wrote

above

rivals,

to poison him. In a

a rude letter to the

fit

Pope

he wanted him, he could go and look for him.

What was so remarkable in this

incident was that the

Pope did not

lose his temper,

but started formal negotiations with the head of the city of Florence to persuade the

young sculptor

to return. All

concerned seemed to agree that the movements and

plans of this young artist were as important as any delicate matter of State. Florentines even feared that the to give

him

shelter.

Pope might turn

The head of the

said that his art

the world, and that

amaze the whole

if only

them

city of Florence therefore

angelo to return to the service of Julius

w hich he

against

1 1,

if

The

they continued

persuaded Michel-

and gave him a letter of recommendation in

was unequalled throughout

Italy,

perhaps even throughout

he met with kindness 'he would achieve things which would

world'. For once a diplomatic note had uttered the truth.

When

Michelangelo returned to Rome, the -Pope made him accept another commission.

Harmony Attained There was

and was therefore called the

223

which had been

a chapel in the Vatican

Sistine Chapel.

The

by Pope Sixtus IV,

built

walls of this chapel

had been

decorated by the most famous painters of the former generation, by Botticelli,

Ghirlandajo and others. But the vault was

Michelangelo should paint

He

mission.

was not

said that he

that this thankless

of his enemies.

When

the

scheme of twelve apostles

him with the

Pope remained

in niches,

'amaze the whole world' from the very

difficult for

He was

him through

off on to

convinced

the intrigues

work out

firm, he started to

modest

a

engage assistants from Florence

to

work alone on

started to

suggested that

he could to evade this com-

painting. But suddenly he shut himself

come near him, and

It is

and

all

but a sculptor.

really a painter,

commission had been palmed

The Pope

blank.

still

Michelangelo did

it.

moment

a plan

it

up

in the chapel, let

to help

no one

which has indeed continued

to

was revealed.

how

any ordinary mortal to imagine

it

could be possible for

one human being to achieve what Michelangelo achieved in four years of lonely

work on the this

on

hold

tual

to the wall,

is

The mere physical exertion of painting of preparing and sketching the scenes fantastic enough.

back and paint looking upwards. In

his

cramped position

that even

when he

man

and

The

achievement.

mastery of execution in every

is

it.

new

One often at

idea of the

But the physical performance

as nothing

compared

to the intellec-

wealth of ever-new inventions, the unfailing

detail,

and, above

which Michelangelo revealed to those who came quite a

all,

the grandeur of the visions

after

him, have given mankind

power of genius.

sees illustrations of details of this gigantic work,

and one can never look

them enough. But the impression given by the whole, when one

chapel,

The

is still

very different from the

sum of all

the photographs one

chapel resembles a very large and high assembly

High up on the

walls,

in the traditional

we seem to

this

received a letter during that period he had to

covering this vast space unaided

artistic

Michelangelo had to

he became so used to

fact,

over his head and bend backwards to read

it

of one

ceiling of the chapel,

and transferring them

in detail lie

scaffoldings of the papal chapel.

huge fresco on the

we

see a

row of paintings of the

hall,

stories

It is

may

ever see.

with a shallow vault.

of Moses and of Christ

manner of Michelangelo's forerunners. But,

look into a different world.

steps into the

we look upwards, human dimensions.

as

a world of more than

In the vaultings that rise between the five windows on either side of the chapel,

Michelangelo placed gigantic images of the Old Testament prophets the Jews of the

coming Messiah, alternating with images of

to an old tradition, predicted the as

mighty

men and women,

though they were listening figures,

as

O

on the

though

this

coming of Christ

sitting

to

deep

Sibyls,

to the pagans.

task

He

painted them

an inner voice. Between these rows of over

had not

to

in thought, reading, writing, arguing, or as

ceiling proper, he painted the story of the Creation

immense

who spoke

who, according

satisfied his

life-size

and of Noah. But,

urge for creating ever-new images,



!

Harmony Attained

224 he

filled

the framework between these pictures with an overwhelming host of figures,

some of them

piece.

Beyond

youths of supernatural beauty, holding

like statues, others like living

festoons and medallions with yet

more

stories.

and

directly

that, in the vaultings

succession of men and

women

And even

this is

only the centre-

below them, he painted an endless

in infinite variation

—the ancestors of Christ

as they

are enumerated in the Gospels.

When we

see

all this

wealth of figures in a photographic reproduction,

suspect that the whole ceiling

may

look crowded and unbalanced.

great surprises,

when one comes

harmonious the

ceiling looks if we regard

into the Sistine Chapel, to find it

how

we may

one of the

It is

simple and

merely as a piece of superb decoration

how mellow and restrained are its colour schemes, and how clear the whole arrangement. What is shown on Fig. 189 is only a small fraction of the whole work, one sector, as

it

were, vaulting across the ceiling.

Daniel holding a huge volume, which a

little

aside to take a note of what he has read. Sibyl, an old

On

On

the opposite side there

texts.

are adorned with statues of playing children,

are

the prophet

is

his knees, is

and turning

the 'Persian'

woman in Oriental costume, holding the book close to her eyes

engrossed in her researches into the sacred sit

the one side there

boy supports on

two of the nudes

gaily

about to

tie

They

—equally

on which they

seats

and above them, one on each

side,

the medallion to the ceiling.These astonishing

figures display all Michelangelo's mastery in

position and from any angle.

The marble

drawing the human body in any

young

are

athletes with

wonderful muscles,

twisting and turning in every conceivable direction, but always contriving to remain graceful.

There

are

masterly than the to

have come to

no fewer than twenty of them on the

last,

life

each one more

ceiling,

doubt that many of the ideas which were

is little

now crowded upon Michelangelo's One can feel how he enjoyed his stupen-

out of the marbles of Carrara

mind when he painted dous mastery and

and there

how

the Sistine ceiling. his

disappointment and his wrath

at

being prevented from

continuing to work in the material he preferred spurred him on even more to show his enemies, real or suspected, that, if they forced

him

to paint



well,

he would

show them

We know how minutely

Michelangelo studied each

detail,

and how

carefully he

prepared each figure in the drawings. Fig. 190 shows a leaf from his sketch-book on

which he studied the forms of a model

for

one of the Sibyls.

muscles as no one had observed and portrayed

proved himself an unsurpassed virtuoso infinitely

more than that in

of the composition. There

we

God

after generation, not only

since the

in these

We see the interplay of

Greek masters. But,

famous 'nudes', he proved

the illustrations of biblical themes which

if he

to

be

form the centre

see the Lord, calling forth, with powerful gestures,

the plants, the heavenly bodies, animal say that the picture of

it

the Father

life,



as

and man. it

It is

hardly an exaggeration to

has lived in the minds of generation

of artists but of humble people,

who perhaps have

never



„.-*-

;>,^

-

'•^aa*i 189.

Michelangelo: A

Section of the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican. Painted between 1508 and 15 12

Harmony Attained

226

190.

Michelangelo: Study for

Sistine Ceiling.

New

heard the name of Michelangelo

— was shaped and moulded through the direct and

indirect influence of these great visions in creation. Perhaps the

one of the Sibyls on the Museum of Art

York, Metropolitan

which Michelangelo

most famous and most

striking of

illustrated the act of

them

is

the creation of

Adam on one of the large fields (Fig. 191). Artists before Michelangelo had already painted Adam lying on the ground and being called to life by a mere touch of the hand of God, but none of them had even come near

to expressing the greatness of

the mystery of creation with such simplicity and force. There

is

nothing in the

Adam is lying on the ground in all first man; from the other side God the Father

picture to divert attention from the main subject.

the vigour and beauty that befits the is

approaching, carried and supported by His angels, wrapped in a wide and majestic

mantle blown out by the wind

which He

Adam's

floats

finger,

and suggesting the ease and speed with

like a sail,

He stretches out His hand, not even touching first man waking, as from a profound sleep, and

through the void. As

we almost

see the

gazing into the fatherly face of his Maker.

how Michelangelo

has contrived thus to

It is

make

one of the greatest miracles the touch of the Divine

in art

hand

the

Harmony Attained k



227

:

^p I

^'

y

'

r'^^^* 191.

Michelangelo:

The Creation of Adam. Detail of Fig.

centre and focus of the picture, and

by the ease and power of

how he has made us

this gesture

t

iS

see the idea of omnipotence

of creation.

Michelangelo had hardly finished his great work on the Sistine ceiling, in 1512,

when he

eagerly returned to his marble blocks to go on with the

He had

intended to adorn

seen on

Roman monuments One

a

it

symbolical meaning. If

with a

—although of these

anyone had thought that

angelo's imagination to his

is

it is

likely

he planned to give to these figures

after the

tremendous exertion

moment when

and the body was giving way

able beauty in this last this gesture

life

to the laws of

moment of final

Michel-

entered the beautiful body of a

lifeless stone, as

we

It is difficult to

stand before

seems to move before our eyes, and yet to remain Michelangelo aimed

ever since, that, however in violent

movement,

reason for this

is

at. It is

lets

it

life is

was

just

unspeak-

from the struggle of think of this work as

in the

at rest.

one of the secrets of his

much he

This

Louvre

art that has

in Paris.

probably the

is

been admired

the bodies of his figures twist and turn

their outline always

that,

moment when

dead matter. There

relaxation and release

of lassitude and resignation.

being a statue of cold and

effect

in the chapel

beloved material, his powers seemed greater than ever. While in the 'Adam'

fading,

It

II.

he had

the 'Dying Slave' on Fig. 192.

vigorous youth, he now, in the 'Dying Slave', chose the



as

had run dry, he was soon proved wrong. For when he returned

Michelangelo had depicted the

life

tomb of Julius

number of statues of prisoners, such

remains firm, simple and

restful.

from the very beginning, Michelangelo always

The

tried to

conceive his figures as lying hidden in the block of marble on which he was

working; the task he set himself as a sculptor was merely to remove the stone which covered them.

Thus

outline of the statues,

movement

the simple shape of a block was always reflected in the

and held

there was in the body.

it

together in one lucid design, however

much

Harmony Attained If Michelangelo

had been famous

when Julius II called him to Rome, his fame

completion of these

after the

works was something no artist had ever enjoyed before. But this tremendous

fame began to be something like a curse to him for he was never allowed :

—the tomb

of Julius

II.

his time,

youth Julius

required the

died, another pope services of the

his

When

dream of

to complete the

most famous

artist

of

and each successive pope

seemed more eager than decessor to have his

his

name

prelinked

with that of Michelangelo. Yet, while princes and popes were outbidding each other to secure the services of the ageing master, he seemed to retire

more and more into himself and to become more exacting in his standards. The poems he wrote show that he was troubled by doubts as to whether his art

had been

sinful,

while his

letters

make it clear that the higher he rose in the esteem of the world, the more bitter

and

he became.

difficult

He was

not only admired, but feared for his temper, and he spared neither high

nor low. There

is

no doubt he was

very conscious of his social position, which was so different from anything

he remembered from the days of his youth. Indeed,

when he was

seventy-

seven, he once rebuffed a compatriot 'the for having addressed a letter to

Sculptor Michelangelo'. 'Tell him',

he wrote, 'not to address his

letters to

the sculptor Michelangelo, for here dying Slave. Marble i 9 2. MICHELANGELO: The Julius II. statue destined for the tomb of Pope About 1516. Paris, Louvre

I

am known

Buonarroti

only as Michelangelo

...

I

have never been

Harmony Attained

229

painter or sculptor, in the sense of having kept a shop

the popes; but this

How age

:

.

.

although

.

I

have served

did under compulsion.'

was

sincere he

fact that

I

in this feeling

he refused payment for his

the completion of the

work of

of proud independence

is

best

last

great work, which occupied

his

one-time enemy Bramante

shown by

him

the

in his old

—the crowning

cupola of St. Peter's. This work on the principal church of Christendom the aged

master regarded as a service to the greater glory of God, which should not be sullied

by worldly

profit.

As

it

rises

over the city of Rome, supported,

of twin columns and soaring up with

monument

its

clean majestic outline,

whom

to the spirit of this singular artist

seems, by a ring

it it

serves as a fitting

his contemporaries called

'divine'.

At the time when Michelangelo and Leonardo were competing with each other in

Florence in 1504, a young painter arrived there from the small city of Urbino, in

the province of sing

work

Umbria. He was Raphael Santi (1483-1520), who had done promiworkshops of the leader of the 'Umbrian' school, Pietro Perugino

in the

(1446-1523). Like Michelangelo's master, Ghirlandajo, and Leonardo's master, Verrocchio, Raphael's teacher, Perugino, belonged to the generation of highly

who needed a large staff of skilled apprentices to help them carry many commissions they received. Perugino was one of those masters whose sweet and devout manner in painting altar-pieces commanded general respect. The

successful artists

out the

problems with which longer presented

show

rate,

that he

had wrestled with such

earlier Quattrocento artists

much

him.

difficulty to

knew how

Some of his most

to achieve a sense of

zeal

no

successful works, at any

depth without upsetting the

balance of the design, and that he had learned to handle Leonardo's 'sfitmato' so as to avoid giving his figures a harsh

and

rigid appearance. Fig. 193

is

an

altar-

The saint looks up from his book to see the Holy Virgin standing in front of him. The arrangement could hardly be simpler and yet there is nothing stiff or forced in this almost symmetrical lay-out. The figures are painting dedicated to St. Bernard.



distributed to

and

ease. It

form

is

a

harmonious composition, and each of them moves with calm

quite true that Perugino achieved this beautiful

expense of something

else.

He

great masters of the Quattrocento If

we

look at Perugino's angels,

type. It in

is

a type of beauty

ever-new variations.

Taken

serene and It

was

tered

singly,

had striven

we

for with

see that they

all

When we

see too

much

were not meant

some of his

to

at the

which the

such passionate devotion.

follow,

more

or less, the

which Perugino invented and applied

devices, but then his paintings galleries.

harmony

sacrificed the faithful portrayal of nature

of his work,

same

in his pictures

we may

tire

of his

be seen, side by side, in picture

best works give us a glimpse into a world

more

more harmonious than our own.

in this

atmosphere that the young Raphael grew up, and he had soon mas-

and absorbed the manner of his teacher.

When

he arrived

in

Florence he was

Harmony Attained

230

193.

PERUGINO: The

Virgin appearing to St. Bernard. Altar-pamting

About 1490. Munich, Alte Pinakothek

confronted with a stirring challenge. Leonardo and Michelangelo, the one his senior

by thirty-one years, the other by eight art

years,

were setting up new standards

of which nobody had ever dreamed. Other young

discouraged by the reputations of these giants. Not so Raphael. to learn.

He must

have known that he was

at a

in

might have become

artists

He was

determined

disadvantage in some respects.

He

had neither the immense range of knowledge of Leonardo, nor the power of Michelangelo. But while these two geniuses were dictable

and elusive

to ordinary mortals,

which would commend him

work he would

until he

difficult to get

Raphael was of

to influential patrons.

on with, unpre-

a sweetness of

temper

Moreover he could work, and

had caught up with the older masters.

Raphael's greatest paintings seem so effortless that one does not usually connect

them with the

idea of hard and relentless work.

To many

he

is

simply the painter

of sweet Madonnas which have become so well known as hardly to be appreciated as paintings

any more. For Raphael's vision of the Holy Virgin has been adopted by

subsequent generations in the same way as Michelangelo's conception of

God

the

.

194- K A

i>

HA

E

L

:

Pope Leo

X

Media tmlh two Cardinals. Probably painted in 1518. Florence, Palazzo Pitti

195-

RAPHAEL: Head

of the

nymph Galatea.

Detail of Fig. 197

Harmony Attained Father.

works

We see cheap reproductions of these

in

humble rooms, and we

are apt to

conclude that paintings with such a general appeal must surely be a fact, their

'obvious'. In

little

apparent simplicity

the fruit of

is

deep thought, careful planning and immense artistic

A

wisdom.

'Madonna

del

(Fig. 196)

the sense that

'classical' in

countless

painting like Raphael's

Granduca'

generations

perfection in the

as

truly

standard

a

same way

is

has served

it

of

work of

as the

Pheidias and Praxiteles has. It needs no explanation. In this respect

it

we compare

'obvious'. But, if

countless representations of the

which preceded

it,

we

feel that

indeed

is

with the

it

same theme

they have

all

been groping for the very simplicity that

We

Raphael has attained.

can see what

Raphael did owe to the calm beauty of

196.

Perugino's types, but what a difference there

is

Raphael: The Madonna del Granduca. About 1505. Florence, Palazzo Pitti

between the rather empty regularity

of the master and the fullness of

life in

the pupil

!

The way

the Virgin's face

modelled and recedes into the shade, the way Raphael makes us the

body wrapt

in the freely flowing mantle, the firm

holds and supports the Christ-child poise.

We

Yet there

feel that to is

change the

After

all this

and tender way

slightest detail

some years

1508 at the time

Julius II soon

in Florence,

it

had

Raphael went

found work for

this

which she

would upset the whole harmony.

so existed

when Michelangelo was

in

is

volume of

contributes to the effect of perfect

nothing strained or sophisticated in the composition.

could not be otherwise, and as if

in



feel the

to

It

looks as if

it

from the beginning of time.

Rome. He

just starting

young and amiable

arrived there probably

work on the

artist also.

decorate the walls of various rooms in the Vatican which have

Sistine ceiling.

He

come

asked him to to be

known

by the name of the Stanze (rooms). Raphael proved his mastery of perfect design and balanced composition in a series of frescoes on the walls and ceilings

of these rooms.

time

in the

To

movement answers and reduced in

Conversely,

to

feel the

harmony and

movement, and form

size they

before us life-size

P*

appreciate the full beauty of these works, one

rooms and

tend to look

when we

diversity of the to form.

must spend some

whole scheme

Removed from

frigid, for the individual figures,

face the frescoes, are too readily absorbed

when taken out of their

in

which

their setting

which stand

by the groups.

context as illustrations of 'detail', these figures

Harmony Attained

234 lose

one of their principal functions

—that of forming part of the graceful melody of

the whole design.

This applies

smaller fresco (Fig. 197) which Raphael painted in the villa

less to a

of a rich banker, Agostino Chigi (now called the Farnesina). As subject he chose a verse from a

poem by

the Florentine Angelo Poliziano which had also helped to

These verses describe how the clumsy giant

inspire Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus'.

Polyphemus sings a love song to the

fair

sea-nymph Galatea and how she

rides across

the waves in a chariot drawn by two dolphins, laughing at his uncouth song, while

company of other sea-gods and nymphs

the gay

appear elsewhere in the

one

picture,

milling round her. Raphael's

counter-movement.

who aim other's

hall.

However long one

looks at this lovely and cheerful

new beauties in its rich and intricate composition. correspond to some other figure, every movement to answer

will always discover

Every figure seems to a

is

shows Galatea with her gay companions. The picture of the giant was to

fresco

at the heart

To

start

of the

with the small boys with Cupid's bows and arrows

nymph

not only do those to right and

:

echo each

left

movements, but the boy swimming beside the chariot corresponds

one flying

at the

top of the picture.

to the

same with the group of sea-gods which

the

It is

seems to be 'wheeling' round the nymph. There are two on the margins who blow

on

their sea-shells,

other.

But what

and the pairs

left

and behind who are making love

in front

more admirable

and taken up

reflected

from

is

is

that

all

these diverse

in the figure of Galatea herself.

Her

movements

are

to each

somehow

had been driving

chariot

to right with her veil blowing backwards, but, hearing the strange love

song, she turns round and smiles, and

all

from the love-gods'

the lines in the picture,

arrows to the reins she holds, converge on her beautiful face in the very centre of the picture (Fig. 195).

movement throughout It is

for this

By

these artistic

supreme mastery of arranging

composition that

artists

it

become restless or unbalanced.

to have accomplished

in the

There was another quality

in Raphael's

and by subsequent generations

work

that

he had found a model of such beauty.

model but rather followed

'a

He

striven so hard to

moving

figures.

was admired by

—the sheer beauty of

had finished the 'Galatea', Raphael was asked by

where

a courtier

his

his figures.

contem-

When

in all the

he

world

replied that he did not copy any specific

certain idea' he

had formed

extent, then, Raphael, like his teacher Perugino, trayal of nature

skill in

human body, Raphael

mastery of the

what the older generation had

achieve: the perfect and harmonious composition of freely

poraries

consummate

his figures, this

have ever since admired Raphael. Just as Michelangelo was

found to have reached the highest peak

was seen

means Raphael has achieved constant

the picture, without letting

in his

mind.

had abandoned the

which had been the ambition of so many Quattrocento

we we remember how what we

To some

faithful porartists.

He

deliberately used an imagined type of regular beauty. If

look back to the time

of Praxiteles (p. 69, Fig. 62)

call

an

'ideal'

beauty

Harmony Attained

197.

Raphael: The Nymph Galatea. Wall-painting

grew out of

a

in the Villa Farnesina,

slow approximation of schematic forms to nature.

was reversed. Artists

tried to

formed when looking tendency not without

Now

the process

approximate nature to the idea of beauty they had

at classical statues its

Rome. About 1514

dangers, for,

—they

if

'idealized' the

model.

It

was a

the artist deliberately 'improves on'

:

Harmony Attained

236 nature, his

work may

we

Raphael's work, vitality

and

world of the

When and

She

classics as

it

Raphael died on

crammed

interests.

insipid.

But

if

we

look once

more

at

is

There

is

nothing schematic or calculated in

an inmate of a brighter world of love and beauty

appeared to

its

admirers in sixteenth-century

his thirty-seventh birthday, almost as

young

—the

Italy.

as

Mozart,

into his brief life an astonishing diversity of artistic achievements

Like Michelangelo, he designed buildings and studied the ruins

He was

of Rome.

mannered or

see that he, at any rate, could idealize without any loss of

sincerity in the result.

Galatea's loveliness.

he had

easily look

as great a portrait painter (Fig. 194) as a painter of large murals,

and, since he was a sociable man, the high dignitaries of the papal court and the scholars

made him

Cardinal.

their

companion. There was even

talk

of his being made a

When he died in the spring of 1520 and left his busy workshop orphaned,

one of the most famous scholars of his age, Cardinal Bembo, wrote the epitaph his

tomb

in the

This

is

Pantheon of

Rome

Raphael's tomb, while he lived he

made Mother Nature

Fear to be vanquished by him and, as he died, to die too.

198.

Members

of Raphael's workshop plastering, painting and decorating the Loggie. relief in the Vatican Loggie made about 1518

Stucco

for

chapter Venice

A

LIGHT AND COLOUR



and Northern

199.

WE

16

Italy in the Early Sixteenth Century

High Renaissance: the Librar Designed by Jacopo Sansovino. 1536

building of the

must now turn

to

another great centre of Italian

art,

second

in

importance only to Florence itself—the proud and prosperous city of Venice. Venice, whose trade linked

it

closely with the East,

had been

slower than other Italian cities in accepting the style of the Renaissance, Brunelleschi's application

acquired a

new

of classical form to buildings. But

gaiety, splendour

than any other building in

modern

is

the Library of San

Marco

and manner

reflected

to the genius

did, the style there

of the place, the

by the lagoons, and dazzles the eyes by

One of the most

help us to see

was a

had completely adapted

brilliant light its

characteristic

splendour.

his

of Venice which It

may seem

pedantic to anatomize such a festive and simple building, but to look at

may

closely

(Fig. 199). Its architect

Florentine, Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570), but he style

it

times, the grandeur of the great merchant cities

of the Hellenistic period, of Alexandria or Antiochia. buildings of this style

when

and warmth which evoke perhaps more

a

is

little

it

carefully

how skilled these masters were in weaving a few simple

elements

Light and Colour

238

ever-new patterns. The lower storey, then, with

into

columns,

is

in the

most orthodox

its

vigorous Doric order of

manner. Sansovino has closely followed

classical

the rules of building which the Colosseum (p. 79, Fig. 72) exemplified.

same

to the

tradition

carrying a so-called

when he arranged

'attic'

crowned with

statues. But, instead of letting the

orders.

adhered

a balustrade

and topped by a row of

arched openings between the orders

rest

on

had been the case on the Colosseum, Sansovino supported them by

pillars, as

another

He

the upper storey in the Ionic order,

set

of smaller Ionic columns, and thus achieved a rich

With

his balustrades, garlands

effect

of interlocked

and sculptures he gave the building some-

thing of the appearance of tracery such as had been used on the Gothic facades of

Venice

(p. 150, Fig. 138).

This building

is

characteristic of the taste for

which Venetian

art in the

became famous. The atmosphere of the lagoons, which seems

cento

sharp outlines of objects and to blend their colours in a radiant

Cinque-

to blur the

light,

may have

taught the painters of this city to use colour in a more deliberate and observant

than other painters in Italy had done so

far. It is difficult to talk

way

or write about

colours, and coloured illustrations are rarely sufficiently accurate to give a clear

idea of what a painting

is

really like.

But so much seems to be

of the Middle Ages were no more concerned about the

'real'

clear: the painters

colours of things than

they were about their real shapes. In their miniatures, enamel work and panel paintings, they loved to spread out the purest

get

and most precious colours they could

—with shining gold and flawless ultramarine blue

The

as a favourite combination.

great reformers of Florence were less interested in colour than in drawing.

That does not mean, of course, contrary

is

true

that their pictures

were not exquisite

—but few of them regarded colour

as

in colour

—the

one of the principal means

of welding the various figures and forms of a picture into one unified pattern. They preferred to do this by means of perspective and composition before they even

dipped their brushes into paint. The Venetian painters, colour as an additional adornment for the picture after panel.

When one enters the little church of San

seems, did not think of

it it

had been drawn on the

Zaccaria in Venice and stands before

the picture (Fig. 201) which the great Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini (143 1 ?-i 5 16)

had painted over the

altar there in

that his approach to colour

bright or shining. It

is

1505

was very



in his old age

different.

Not

rather the mellowness

impress one before one even begins to look

at

His

fills

little

the niche in which the Virgin

hand

sits

what the picture

particularly

warm and

represents.

An

I

that

think

gilded atmosphere

enthroned, with the infant Jesus

to bless the worshippers before the altar.

altar softly plays the violin,

is

and richness of the colours

that even the photograph conveys something of the

which

—one immediately notices

that the picture

lifting

angel at the foot of the

while the saints stand quietly at either side of the

throne: St. Peter with his key and book, St. Catherine with the palm of martyrdom

Light and Colour and the broken wheel,

St.

the Bible into Latin, and

Many Madonnas

Apollonia and

whom

239

Jerome, the scholar

St.

who

translated

Bellini therefore represented as reading in a book.

with saints have been painted before and

after, in Italy

and

else-

where, but few were ever conceived with such a dignity and repose. In the earlier days, the picture of the Virgin used to be rigidly flanked by the traditional images of the saints. Bellini

knew how

without upsetting

its

order.

to bring life into a simple

He

also

knew how

symmetrical arrangement

to turn the traditional figures of the

Virgin and saints into real and living beings without divesting character and dignity.



life

as

own

ways, although they, too, no

long to another

more serene and

and supernatural

(p. 230, Fig. 193). St.

Jerome, the old scholar engrossed in

St.

them of

their old

did not even sacrifice the variety and individuality of real

Perugino had done to some extent

dreamy smile, and in their

He

light that

fills

less

his

Catherine with her

book, are real enough

than Perugino's figures, seem to be-

beautiful world, a world transfused with that

warm

the picture.

Giovanni Bellini belonged to the same generation as Verrocchio, Ghirlandajo and Perugino

—the generation whose pupils and followers were the famous Cinqnecento

masters. He, too, was the head of an exceedingly busy there

workshop out of whose

orbit

emerged the famous painters of the Venetian Cinquecento, Giorgione and

Titian. If the classical painters of central Italy

had achieved the new complete

harmony within their pictures by means of perfect design and balanced arrangement, it

was only natural that the painters of Venice should follow the lead of Giovanni

Bellini

was

It

who had made such happy in

this

most revolutionary five

use of colour schemes to unify his pictures.

sphere that the painter Giorgione (i478?-i5io) achieved the

Very

results.

little

him

sufficed to secure

a

fame nearly

as great as that

Movement. Strangely enough, even these

We

this artist;

not more than

;

it

For Venetian

New

(Fig. 200),

may be a scene from some classical writer or an imitator of the classics. artists

of the period had awakened to the charm of the Greek poets and

what they stood for.They liked to portray the beauty of

may be

of the great leaders of the

pictures contain something of a puzzle.

what the most accomplished one, 'The Tempest'

are not quite sure

represents

cast

known of

is

paintings can be ascribed with absolute certainty to his hand. Yet these

identified

illustrate the idyllic stories

of pastoral love and to

Venus and the nymphs. One day the episode here

illustrated

— the story, perhaps, of a mother of some future hero, who was

out of the city into the wilderness with her child and was there discovered by a

friendly

young shepherd. For

But

it is

not due to

art.

That

this

is

its

so

this,

it

seems,

is

content that the picture

may be

what Giorgione wanted is

to represent.

one of the most wonderful things

difficult to see in a small-scale illustration,

such an illustration conveys a shadow,

at least,

in

but even

of his revolutionary achievement.

Though the figures are not particularly carefully drawn, and though the composition is

somewhat

ardess, the picture

is

clearly

blended into a whole simply by the light

— Light and Colour

240 and

air that

permeates

it all.

the weird light of a thunderstorm and for the

It is

seems, the landscape before which the actors of the picture

time,

it

just a

background.

by

It is there,

its

own

right, as the real subject

We look from the figures to the scenery which and then back

and we

again,

somehow

feel

fills

move

first

not

is

of the painting.

the major part of the small panel,

that unlike his predecessors

and con-

temporaries, Giorgione has not drawn things and persons to arrange them afterwards

and

in space, but that he really thought of nature, the earth, the trees, the light, air

human

clouds and the

was almost

beings with their

as big a step

cities

and bridges

art

with

its

own

secret laws

and

all

all

he died of the plague. During his long

We may

and

life

believed to have

was

—Titian (1477 ?— 1576).

said to have

Titian

been ninety-nine when

tell

us with awe that even the great

if

realize that the greatest

we

a

brush he had dropped.

consider the strict rules of the

embodiment of worldly power was

humbled himself symbolically before the majesty of genius. Seen in

this light, the little anecdote,

for art. All the

is

had done him honour by picking up

we

It

he rose to a fame which nearly matched

not find this very remarkable, but

court of those times,

drawing plus colouring.

the fruits of this great discovery. This was

that of Michelangelo. His early biographers

V

a

Venetian painters

in Cadore, in the southern Alps,

Emperor Charles

this

devices.

Giorgione died too young to gather

done by the most famous of was born

way,

forward into a new realm as the invention of perspective

had been. From now on, painting was more than an

as one. In a

whether true or not, represented

to later ages a

triumph

more so since Titian was neither such a universal scholar as Leonardo,

nor such an outstanding personality as Michelangelo, nor such a versatile and attractive

man as Raphael. He was principally and first of all a painter, but a painter whose

handling of paint equalled Michelangelo's mastery of draughtsmanship. This

supreme and

skill

to rely

but look

enabled him to disregard

on colour

at Fig.

Bellini's painting

all

the time-honoured rules of composition,

which he apparently broke up.

to restore the unity

202 (which was begun only some

'Madonna with

have had on contemporaries.

It

fifteen years after

Saints'), to realize the effect

which

is

need

his art

must

was almost unheard of to move the Holy Virgin out

of the centre of the picture, and to place the two administering saints

who

We

Giovanni

recognizable by the Stigmata (the

wounds of the



St. Francis,

Cross), and St. Peter,

who

has deposited the key (emblem of his dignity) on the steps of the Virgin's throne

not symmetrically on each side, as Giovanni Bellini had done, but as active participants of a scene. In this altar-piece, Titian had to revive the tradition of donors' portraits (p. 157, Fig. 143), but did

it

in

an entirely novel way.

The

picture was

intended as a token of thanksgiving for a victory over the Turks by the Venetian

nobleman Jacopo Pesaro, and Tidan portrayed him kneeling before the Virgin while an armoured standard-bearer drags a Turkish prisoner behind him. the Virgin look

down on him benignly while

St. Francis,

St.

Peter and

on the other side, draws the

200.

giorgione: The

Tempest.

About

1508. Venice,

Accademia

201.

Giovanni bellini: Madonna

with Saints. Altar-painting in S. Zaccaria, Venice.

Completed

in 1505

Light and Colour

202.

Titian: Madonna with Saints and members of the Pesaro family. Begun completed in 1528. Venice, Church of Sta Maria dei Frari

in 1519,

members of the Pesaro family who are The whole scene seems to take place in an

attention of the Christ-child to the other

kneeling in the corners of the picture.

open courtyard, with two giant columns which

rise into the

clouds where two litde

angels are engaged in playfully raising the Cross. Titian's contemporaries

have been amazed

at the

lished rules of composition.

Q

may

well

audacity with which he had dared to upset the old-estab-

They must have expected,

at first, to find

such a picture

203.

Titian: Madonna and

Child. Detail of Fig. 202

Light and Colour lopsided and unbalanced. Actually

it is

the

very opposite. The unexpected composition

only serves to make it gay and lively without

harmony of it

upsetting the

reason

is

the

way

to let light, air

The

in

The main

all.

which Titian contrived

and colours unify the scene.

mere

idea of letting a

counter-

flag

balance the figure of the Holy Virgin would

probably have shocked an earlier generation, is

but this

warm

flag, in its rich

colour,

such a stupendous piece of painting that

the venture was a complete success. Titian's greatest poraries rested

on

fame with

his

contem-

We need only

portraits.

look at a head like Fig. 204, usually called a

'Young Englishman',

this fascination.

We

wherein

analyse

to

try in vain to

all

it

Compared

looks so simple and effortless.

minute modelling of Leonardo's 'Mona Lisa'

man

seems

TITIAN: Portrait of a man (so-called 'Young Englishman'). About 1540. Florence, Palazzo Pitti

might

consists.

it

with earlier portraits

204.

understand

as mysteriously alive as she does.

intense and soulful look that

in

it

There

—and yet

He seems

this

is

nothing of the

unknown young

to gaze at us with such an

almost impossible to believe that these dreamy

it is

eyes are only a bit of coloured earth spread on a rough piece of canvas (Fig. 205). It

was not only

in the great centres like

discovery of new possibilities and

by

later

Venice that

new methods. The

artists

painter

advanced

who was

to the

looked upon

generations as the most 'progressive' and most daring innovator of the

whole period led

was Antonio

a lonely life in the small

Allegri, called

northern Italian town of Parma. His

name

Correggio (1489 ?— 1534). Leonardo and Raphael had

when Correggio painted his more imknow how much he knew of the art of his time. He

died and Titian had already risen to fame portant works, but

we do

not

probably had an opportunity in the neighbouring

cities

of northern Italy to study

the works of some of Leonardo's pupils and to learn about his treatment of light and

shade. It was in this field that he

worked out

entirely

influenced later schools of painters. Fig.

206 shows one of his most famous paintings

shepherd has

just

new

effects

which greatly

— 'The Holy Night'. The

had the vision of the open heavens

in

which the angels sing

'Glory to

God on High

down on

the scene to which the shepherd has rushed with his long

'

;

we

see

them whirling

dark ruins of the stable he sees the miracle ill

gaily about in the cloud

and looking staff.

In the

—the new-born Child that radiates

round, lighting up the beautiful face of the happy mother.

tall

their

The shepherd

light

arrests

Light and Colour

205.

his

titian:

movement and fumbles

two servant girls— one

is

Portrait of a

Man.

Detail of Fig. 204

for his cap, ready to kneel

down and

worship. There are

dazzled by the light from the manger, one looks happily at

the shepherd. St. Joseph in the

murky dark

outside busies himself with the

ass.

Light and Colour

CORREGGIO: The Holy Night

206.

Altar-painting.

correggio:

207.

About 1530.

247

Study

At

first

on the It is

sight the

Baptist.

1526.

arrangement looks quite

and

artless

casual.

The crowded

scene

does not seem to be balanced by any corresponding group on the right.

left

only balanced through the emphasis which the light gives to the group of the

and

that colour

certain lines. It

what he

Gospel of

There

light is

sees

St.

is

more than Titian exploited the discovery

can be used to balance forms and to direct our eyes along

we who rush

ceiling

to the scene with the

shepherd and

who

are

made

to

—the miracle of the Light that shone in darkness of which the

John speaks.

one feature of Correggio's works which was imitated throughout the

subsequent centuries; of churches.

He

it

is

the

tried to give the

way

in

which he painted the

ceilings

and cupolas

worshippers in the nave below the illusion that the

had opened and that they were looking

mastery of light effects enabled him to

fill

right into the glory of

Heaven. His

the ceiling with sunlit clouds between

which the heavenly hosts seem to hover with their

may

tlu-

About

Vienna, Albertina

Virgin and the Child. Correggio even

see

St. Jolin

for a wall-painting.

Dresden, Gallery

legs dangling

downwards. This

who when you stand in the dark and gloomy medieval cathedral of Parma up towards its dome the impression is nevertheless very great. Unfortu-

not sound very dignified and actually there were people at the time

objected, but

and look

nately this type of effect cannot be reproduced in an illustration, the less so as these frescoes have suffered a

good deal

in the

course of time. Perhaps one of Correggio's

Light and Colour

248

preparatory drawings for a spandrel under the cupola (Fig. 207) can give a better idea of his intentions. It represents St. is

his

emblem),

sitting

John the Baptist hugging the lamb (which

on a cloud supported by angels and looking, enraptured,

into the stream of light that pours

down from

simple drawing gives an idea of Correggio's

whelming radiance. Somehow the conveying light even with

a

the open heavens above him. This

skill in

creating the illusion of over-

greatest masters of colour learned the secret of

few touches of black.

208. An Orchestra of Venetian Painters: Titian (with double-bass), Tintoretto (with vio Jacopo Bassano (with flute), and Paolo Veronese (with violoncello). From the painting The Marriage at Cana by paolo Veronese. 1563. Paris, Louvre

chapter 17

:

THE NEW LEARNING SPREADS

Germany and the Netherlands in the Early

Sixteenth Century

209. Northern Renaissance: The old Chancellery in Bruges ('La Grcffc').

Designed by jan

THE

great

wallot

achievements and

and christian sixdeniers. 1535-7

inventions

of the Italian masters of the

made a deep impression on the peoples north of the Alps. Everyone who was interested in the revival of learning had become accustomed to looking towards Italy, where the wisdom and the treasures of Renaissance

classical

antiquity were being discovered.

We know

very well that in art

we

The

250

New

Learning Spreads

cannot speak of progress in the sense in which

A Gothic work of art may it is

perhaps natural that

be

just as great as a

to the

people

masterpieces from the south, their

and out of

we speak of

at that time,

own

progress in learning.

work of the Renaissance. Nevertheless,

who came

seemed suddenly

art

into contact with the to be old-fashioned

There were three tangible achievements of the

date.

Italian masters to

which they could point. One was the discovery of scientific perspective, the second

anatomy— and with the perfect —and thirdly the knowledge of the

the knowledge of

human body seemed

it

to the period to stand for everything that

It is a fascinating spectacle to

to the

rendering of the beautiful

classical

forms of building which

was dignified and

watch the reactions of various

impact of this new knowledge, and to see

sometimes happened, how they succumbed

how

beautiful.

artists

and

traditions

they asserted themselves or, as

—according

of their

to the strength

character and the breadth of their vision. Architects were perhaps in the most difficult position.

new

Both the Gothic system,

to

which they were accustomed, and the

revival of ancient buildings are, at least in theory, utterly logical

but as different from each other in aim and took a long time, therefore, before the

of the Alps.

spirit as

new

two

styles

and consistent,

could possibly be.

It

fashion in building was adopted north

When this did come about, it was frequently on the insistence of princes

and noblemen who had

visited Italy

and wanted

to

be up to date. Even

often complied only very superficially with the requirements of the

so, architects

new

style.

They

demonstrated their acquaintance with the new ideas by putting a column here and a frieze there



in other

words, by adding some of the

v up the works half of his

landscap:.

to the spirit

'specialist', the

painter Jacob van Ruisdael (1628 ?-82). Ruisdael was about the

268.

mood of gaiety and

find in Jan Steen's pictures, but there are other artists in Holland

represent a very different

of Rembrandt.

with which the

in the foreground,

wonderful piece of painting whose gay colours have a warmth

and mellowness one does not

One

skill

The figure

has blended the various incidents into a picture.

artist

who

and

we should

Dutch

painters.

of Jan van Goyen and even of Rembrandt were already

to influence his taste

and choice of themes. During the

he lived in the beautiful town of Haarlem, which

is

first

separated from

the sea by a range of wooded dunes. He loved to study the effect of light and shade on the gnarly weatherbeaten trees of these tracts and specialized more and more in

picturesque forest scenes (Fig. 268).

and sombre clouds, of evening rushing brooks; in short scape

much

as

it

He became

a master in the painting of dark

when the shadows grow, of ruined castles and was he who discovered the poetry of the northern landlight

Claude had discovered the poetry of

Italian scenery.

Perhaps no

1 i3l

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.

269.

Rembrandt: The

Reconciliation of

David and Absalom. 1642. Leningrad, Hermitage

.,1

270.

vermeer van delft:

The Cook. Painted about 1660. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

The Mirror of Nature before

artist

him had contrived

much

to express so

323

of his

own

feelings

and moods

through their reflection in nature. If that

I

have called

Dutch

art

this

chapter 'The Mirror of Nature',

had learned

I

did not only want to say

to reproduce nature as faithfully as a mirror. Neither art

nor nature are ever as smooth and cold as a glass. Nature reflected in art always

own mind,

reflects the artist's

moods.

It is this fact

above

all

his predilections, his

enjoyments and therefore his

which renders the most

painting so interesting, the branch of still beautiful vessels filled with wine

life

'specialized'

painting.

and appetizing

These

fruit,

branch of Dutch

still lifes

show

usually

or other dainties invitingly

arranged on lovely china. These were pictures which would go well into a dining-

room and would be sure

to find a buyer.

of the joys of the table. In such liked to paint,

and arrange them on the table

wonderful

( 1

622-93), for instance, liked to study the

and

field

glass.

could freely pick on any objects they

Thus they became

to suit their fancy.

of experiment for the painters' special problems. Willem Kalf

a

by coloured

But they are more than mere reminders

still lifes, artists

He

tried to achieve

way

in

which

light

is

reflected

ever-new harmonies between rich Persian carpets, bright blue

china and brilliantly coloured fruit (Fig. 271). Without knowing

important than might have been thought. Just as for a beautiful song, so trivial objects

may seem

a strange

remark

to

trivial

much

less

words may provide the

text

A

composer who

is

can make a perfect picture.

make

sets to

have just laid on the

after the stress I

subject-matter of Rembrandt's painting. But actually contradiction.

themselves,

it

these specialists began to demonstrate that the subject of a painting

This

and broken

studied the contrasts and harmonies of colours and textures,

music not

I

do not think that there

a trivial text

but a great

is

a

poem

wants us to understand the poem, so that

we may tation.

appreciate his musical interpre-

In the same way, a painter painting

a biblical

1

scene wants us to understand

the scene to appreciate his conception.

But

just as there is great

words, so there

is

music without

great painting without

an important subject-matter.

It

was

this

discovery towards which the seventeenth-

century artists had been groping

when

they discovered the sheer beauty of the visible world.

who

And

the

Dutch

specialists

spent their lives painting the same

kind of subject-matter ended by proving that the subject-matter

importance. x

was of secondary

271.

willem kalf:

Still Life.

Berlin, Kaiscr-Friednch

About 1660.

Museum

The Mirror of Nature

324

The

greatest of these masters

was born

a generation after

Rembrandt.

He was

Jan Vermeer van Delft (1632-75). Vermeer seems to have been a slow and a careful worker.

He

did not paint very

many

pictures in his

life.

Few of them

represent any

important scenes. Most of them show simple figures standing in a room of a typically task,

Dutch house. Some show nothing but

such as a

has lost the

woman

last trace

human beings.

It is

a single figure engaged in a simple

pouring out milk (Fig. 270). With Vermeer genre painting

of humorous

illustration.

His paintings are really

ing picture one of the greatest masterpieces of all time. But few

enough

still lifes

to see the original will disagree with

who have been

lucky

me that it is something of a miracle. One

of its miraculous features can perhaps be described, though hardly explained. the

way

in

with

hard to argue the reasons that make such a simple and unassum-

which Vermeer achieves complete and painstaking precision

It is

in the ren-

dering of textures, colours and forms without the picture ever looking laboured or harsh. Like a photographer

who

ture without blurring the forms, effect

of solidity and firmness.

deliberately softens the strong contrasts of the pic-

Vermeer mellowed the

It is this

outlines

and yet retained the

strange and unique combination of mellow-

ness and precision which makes his best paintings so unforgettable. see the quiet beauty of a simple scene with fresh eyes artist felt

when he watched

the light flooding through the

The poor Painter shivering

us

window and heightening

the colour of a piece of cloth.

272.

They make

and give us an idea of what the

in his Garret.

Drawing by pieter bloot. About London, British Museum

1640.

chapter 21



POWER AND GLORY:

Italy, Later Seventeenth

273.

A

and Eighteenth Centuries

Church of the Roman 'High Baroque' : Sta Agnese in Piazza Navona, Rome. Designed by borromini and rainaldi in 1653

WE

remember

works of

Order

late

(p.

the beginning of the Baroque

Fig. 243).

287,

effects are

it

must keep

considered important, each subsequent

more complex decorations and more astounding ideas so During the

artist

as to

to

such

effects. It is it.

If variety

has to produce

remain impressive.

half of the seventeenth century, this process of piling

first

in

Porta disregarded the so-called rules of

of greater variety and more imposing

nature of things that once art has taken this road

and striking

manner of building

sixteenth-century art as della Porta's church of the Jesuit

classical architecture for the sake in the

I

up more

and more dazzling new ideas for buildings and their decorations had gone on in Italy,

was

and by the middle of the seventeenth century the

style

we

call

Baroque

fully developed.

Fig. 273

Borromini

shows

a typical

(1 599-1 667)

Baroque church

and

built

his assistants. It

is

by the famous architect Francesco

easy to see that even the forms which

Borromini applied are really Renaissance forms. Like della Porta, he used the form of a temple front to frame the central entrance and, like him, he doubled the pilasters

on the

side to gain a richer effect.

But by comparison with Borromini's

326

Pczcer

Pom's

facade, della

and Glory:

Italy

looks almost severe and restrained. Borromini was no longer

content with decorating a wall with the orders taken from classical architecture.

composed

his

church by a grouping of different forms

towers and the facade. If we look at the detail

towers is

is

He

—the vast cupola, the flanking

And this facade is curved as if it had been modelled in clay. we find even more surprising effects. The first storey of the

square, but the second

is

round, and the relation between the two storeys

brought about by a strangely broken entablature which would have horrified every

orthodox teacher of architecture, but which does the job assigned to

it

extremely

The frames of the doors flanking the main porch are even more astonishing. The way in which the pediment over the entrance is made to frame an oval window well.

has no parallel in any earlier building.

had come

to

been said of Baroque buildings theatrical.

a

the

and curves of the Baroque

scrolls

like

and

festive

aim of the theatre

to

style

details. It has

those of Borromini that they are over-ornate and

Borromini himself would hardly have understood

church to look

it is

The

dominate both the general lay-out and the decorative

be a building

full

He wanted

this charge.

of splendour and movement. If

to delight us with a vision of a fairy

world of

light

and

why should not the artist designing a church have a right to give us an idea of even greater pomp and glory to remind us of Heaven ? When we enter these churches we understand even better how the pomp and dispageantry,

play of precious stones, of gold and stucco, were used deliberately to conjure up a vision of heavenly glory

much more

concrete than the medieval cathedrals. Fig.

274 shows the interior of Borromini's church.

To

those of us

who are used to may well look

the church interiors of northern countries, this dazzling pageantry

too worldly for our taste. But the Catholic

The more

Church of the period thought

show

the Protestants preached against outward

more eager did the Roman Church become the Reformation

and the whole vexed

had influenced the course of

to enlist the

issue of images

power of the and

art so often in the past, also

differendy.

in the churches, the

their

had an indirect

on the development of Baroque. The Catholic world had discovered that

art

serve religion in ways that went beyond the simple task assigned to

it

early It

Middle Ages

could help to persuade and convert those

and sculptors were

who

called

whole.

much

we have

th;

read.

to transform churches into feet. It

the details that matter in these interiors as the general effect of the

We cannot hope to understand them, or

visualize

in

had, perhaps, read too much.

upon

grand show-pieces whose splendour and vision nearly swept you off your not so

effect

could

—the task of teaching the Doctrine to people who could not

Architects, painters

is

Thus

artist.

worship which

them as the framework for the splendid

fills

the nave,

ritual

them correcdy, unless we

of the

Roman Church, unless

when die candles are alight on the altar, when and when the sound of the organ and the choir

seen them during High Mass

the smell of incense

to judge

transports us into a different world.

Pozver and Glory: Italy

274. Inte

This supreme artist,

of Sta Agnese in 1'iazza

art

Navona

(see Fig. 273).

Completed about 1663

of theatrical decoration had mainly been developed by one

Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). Bernini belonged

to the

same generation

Borromini.

He was one

older than

Rembrandt. Like these masters, he was a consummate

Fig.

as

year older than Vandyke and Velazquez, and eight years

275 shows his portrait bust of a young

unconventionality of Bernini's best work.

portraitist.

woman which has all the freshness and When I saw it last in the museum in

Florence, a ray of sunlight was playing on the bust and the whole figure seemed to

Pozver and Glory: Italy

328

come

breathe and

to

Bernini has

life.

caught a transient expression which we are sure

must have been most

of his

tic

sitter.

characteris-

In the rendering of facial

expression, Bernini was perhaps unsur-

He

passed. his

used

as

it,

Rembrandt used

profound knowledge of human be-

haviour, to give visual form to his religious experience. Fig.

276 shows an

of Bernini's for

altar

a side chapel in a small

Roman

church.

It

is

dedicated to the Spanish saint Theresa,

a

nun of

the sixteenth century

who had

described her mystic visions in a famous book. In

it

she tells of a moment of heaven-

ly rapture,

when an

angel of the Lord

pierced her heart with a golden flaming

bernini: About

275-

Portrait of Constanza Buonarelli 1630. Florence, Bargello

Bernini has dared to represent.

We

down from above and the

see the angel gently approaching her,

group

is

so placed that

provided by the northern visitor

altar,

it

filling

her with pain and yet with

immeasurable

bliss. It is this vision that

see the saint carried

towards streams of light which pour

We

arrow,

Heavenwards on

in the

swooning

saint

in ecstasy.

and

to receive

its

light

may be inclined, at first, to

and upbringing about which

of religious art

like Bernini's altar

it is

from an

find the

He

we must admit

may

invisible

window above.

artists

had so

far

A

But

if

we

is

a matter of

grant that a work

legitimately be used to arouse the feelings at

which the

that Bernini has achieved this

has deliberately cast aside

which

The

whole arrangement too reminis-

useless to argue.

of fervid exultation and mystic transport aiming,

rays.

seems to hover without support in the magnificent frame

cent of stage effects, and the group over-emotional. This, of course, taste

a cloud,

form of golden

all restraint,

artists

aim

and carried us

of the Baroque were

in a masterly fashion. to a pitch of

emotion

shunned. If we compare the face of his swooning saint

with any work done in previous centuries, we find that he achieved an intensity of facial expression which until then was never attempted in Fig.

277 to the head of Laocoon

Slave' (p. 228, Fig. 192),

we

(p. 75, Fig. 68),

realize the difference.

Even

to

add

approved

classical

to the effect of excitement

imitated

all

over Europe.

Looking from

Bernini's handling of

draperies was at the time completely new. Instead of letting nified folds in the

art.

or of Michelangelo's 'Dying

them

fall

in dig-

manner, he made them writhe and whirl

and movement. In

all

these effects he was soon

Power and Glory:

276.

bernini: The

Italy

Vision of St. Theresa. Altar in Sta

Maria

della Victoria,

Rome.

Erected between 1644 and 1647

If it

is

true of sculptures like Bernini's 'St. Theresa' that they can only be judged

in the setting for

which they were made, the same applies even more

to the painted

decorations of Baroque churches. Fig. 278 shows the decoration of the ceiling of the Jesuit

church

in

Rome by

a painter

of Bernini's following, Giovanni Battista Gaulli

Power and Glory: Italy

277.

(1639-1709).

BERNINI:

The artist wants

St. Theresa. Detail of Fig.

276

to give us the illusion that the vault of the

church has

opened, and that we look straight into the glories of Heaven. Correggio before him

had the idea of painting the heavens on the effects are

incomparably more

Name of Jesus, which is surrounded by

infinite

theatrical.

ceiling (p. 247, Fig. 207), but Gaulli's

The theme

is

the worship of the Holy

inscribed in radiant letters in the centre of his church.

It is

multitudes of cherubs, angels, and saints, each gazing in

rapture into the light, while whole legions of demons or fallen angels are driven out

of the heavenly regions, with gestures of despair.

The crowded scene seems

to burst

the frame of the ceiling, which brims over with clouds carrying saints and sinners right

down

into the church. In letting the picture thus break the frame the artist

wants to confuse and overwhelm us, so that

what

illusion.

A

we no

longer

know what

is

real

and

painting like this has no meaning outside the place for which

was made. Perhaps

it is

no coincidence, therefore,

that, after the

it

development of the

Pozver and Glory: Italy

278.

of the Holy Name of Jesus. Ceiling of the Jesuit church Gesii in Rome. Between 1670 and 1683

GAULLl: The Worship II

full

331

Baroque

style in

which

all artists

collaborated in the achievement of one effect,

painting and sculpture as independent arts declined in Italy and throughout

Catholic Europe. In the eighteenth century Italian artists were mainly superb internal decorators

who were famous throughout Europe frescoes

which could transform any

pageantry. Battista

One of

for their skill in stucco

hall

work and

their great

of a castle or monastery into a setting for a

the most famous of these masters was the Venetian Giovanni

Tiepolo (1696-1770),

who worked

not only in Italy but also in

Germany

Power and Glory:

332

279.

Giovanni battista tiepolo:

Italy

Cleopatra's Banquet. Fresco in the

Palazzo Labia, Venice. 1757

and Spain.

Fig. 279

shows part of

his decoration of a Venetian palace, painted in

1757. It represents a subject which gave Tiepolo every opportunity to display gay

colours and sumptuous costumes

Mark Antony gave

a feast in

nonplus ultra of luxury. succession.

:

The Banquet of Cleopatra. The

story goes that

honour of the Eygptian queen which was

The most costly

to

The queen was not impressed. She wagered her proud host a dish much more cosdy than anything he had offered yet

would produce

be the

dishes followed each other in sheer endless that she

—she took

Pozver and Glory: Italy

280.

a

GUARD

I

:

View of S. Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. About 1770. London, Wallace Collection

famous pearl from her earring, dissolved

Tiepolo's fresco

we

333

see her

it

in vinegar

On

and drank the brew.

showing Mark Antony the pearl while

a black servant

offers her a glass.

Frescoes like these must have been fun to paint and they are a pleasure to look

And

yet

we may

The great

sober creations of earlier periods.

Only

in

one specialized branch did

at.

of less permanent value than the more

feel that these fireworks are

age of Italian art was ending.

Italian art create

new

ideas in the early

eighteenth century. That was, characteristically enough, the painting and engraving

of views.

The

travellers

who came

glories of her past greatness often in particular,

of painters

whose scenery

who

is

to Italy

wanted

from

all

over Europe to admire the

to take souvenirs with them. In Venice,

so fascinating to the artist, there developed a school

catered for this demand. Fig. 280 shows a view of Venice by one

of these painters, Francesco Guardi (1712-93). Like Tiepolo's fresco,

Venetian ing to

art

had not

Simon Vlieger

that the spirit itself

we

of pageantry, of light and of colour.

it

shows that

It is interest-

compare GuardFs views of the Venetian lagoon with the sober and

seascapes of

that

lost its sense

(p. 312, Fig.

261) painted a century earlier.

of Baroque, the taste for movement and bold

even in a simple view of a

city.

effects,

We

are given the general impression of a scene,

we

He

realize

can express

Guardi has completely mastered the

had been studied by seventeenth-century painters.

faithful

effects

has learned that once

are quite ready to supply

and

Power and Glory:

334 supplement the

to our surprise, that they are

patches tion of

—yet

if

we

step back the illusion

Baroque discoveries which lived

new importance

in

Italy

we look closely made up simply of

details ourselves. If

at his

gondoliers

we

discover,

a few deftly placed coloured

becomes completely

effective.

in these late fruits of Italian art

The was

subsequent periods.

f7h

'\

281. 'Connoisseurs' and Antiquaries assembled in Rome. Caricature by P. L. About 1710. Vienna, Albertina

f

tradi-

to gain

M

GHEZZI.

POWER AND GLORY:

chapter 22

France,

II

Germany and Austria

Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries

M

Wl

-ft

282.

r/;e

Baroque Castle: J.

Versailles,

garden front. Built by LOUIS 1655 to 1682

was not only the Roman Church

ITimpress and overwhelm. The were equally anxious the

the

that

too,

by Divine right above the

most powerful ruler of the

had discovered the power of

art to

kings and princes of seventeenth-century Europe

might and thus to increase their hold on

to display their

minds of the people. They,

lifted

levau and

HARDOUIN MANSARD from

wanted

common

latter part

to appear as beings of a different kind,

run of men. This applies particularly to of the seventeenth century, Louis

XIV

of France, in whose political programme the display and splendour of royalty

was deliberately used.

It is surely

no accident that Louis

XIV

invited

Lorenzo

Bernini to Paris to help with the designing of his palace. This grandiose project

never materialized, but another of Louis XIV's palaces became the very symbol of his immense power. This was the Palace of Versailles, which was built round

about 1660-80. Versailles of

size

is

so huge that no photograph can give an adequate idea

appearance. Fig. 283 gives an aerial view which

may convey some

idea of

its

and lay-out. There are no fewer than 123 windows looking towards the park

in

its

each storey.

The

park

itself,

with

its

clipped trees, terraces and ponds, extends over

miles of country. It is in its

immensity rather than in

(Fig. 282). Its architects

its

decorative detail that Versailles

the building into clearly distinct wings, and giving each nobility

is

Baroque

were mainly intent on grouping the enormous masses of

wing the appearance of

and gradeur. They accentuated the middle of the main storey by

Ionic columns carrying an entablature with rows of statues

on

top,

a

row of

and flanked

this

Power and Glory:

336

the Catholic

North

effective centre-piece with decorations of a similar kind.

With

a simple

combination

of pure Renaissance forms, they would hardly have succeeded in breaking the

monotony of so produced

vast a facade, but with the help of statues, urns

a certain

amount of

variety. It

is

and trophies they

in buildings like these, therefore, that

one can best appreciate the true function and purpose of Baroque forms. designers of Versailles been a

little

Had

the

more daring than they were, and used more

unorthodox means of articulating and grouping the enormous building, they might have been even more successful. It

was only

in the next generation that this lesson

the architects of the period. For the

Baroque

style fired the imagination

Versailles

283.

Germany wanted

to

Roman

was completely absorbed by

churches and French castles of the

of the age. Every minor princeling in southern

from

the air. (See Fig. 282)

have his Versailles; every small monastery in Austria or in

Spain wanted to compete with the impressive splendour of Bernini's designs. period round about 1700 architecture alone.



all

These

is

castles

and churches were not simply planned

the arts had to contribute to the effect of a fantastic and

towns were used

The

one of the greatest periods of architecture; and not of

like stage settings, stretches

artificial

as buildings

world.

Whole

of country transformed into gardens,

brooks into cascades. Artists were given free rein to plan to their hearts' content,

and

to translate their

money

most unlikely visions

into stone

and

gilt stucco.

Often the

ran out before their plans became reality, but what was completed of this

outburst of extravagant creation transformed the face of many a town and landscape

of Catholic Europe.

It

was

particularly in Austria,

that the ideas of the Italian

most consistent

style.

Bohemia and southern Germany into the boldest and

and French Baroque were fused

Fig. 284

shows the

castle

which the Austrian

architect,

Pozver and Glory: the Catholic North

284.

The Belvedere

in

Vienna. Designed by

Lucas von Hildebrandt (1668-1745),

Eugene of Savoy. The

castle stands

terraced garden with fountains

hildebrandt between

built in

on

337

Vienna

a hill,

for

Marlborough's

and seems

to

,1,

itn

285.

Grca/ter

Prince

and clipped hedges. Hildebrandt has grouped

Odllofi our,-//,// .11.111, 1

ally,

hover lighdy over a

clearly into seven different parts, reminiscent of garden pavilions

Y%eiu

1720 and 1724

j^frour H>aoi

;

it

a five-windowed

i\cai-n IVi- JtSnKjii

Qrcyycn

aitBiTfrlji'ii

The Entrance Hal! and Staircase of the Vienna Belvedere. Designed by After an eighteenth-century engraving

hildebrandt.

1724.

Power and Glory:

33 8

286.

by

The

North

the Catholic

(Germany). Designed 1713-14, built by DIETZENHOFER

staircase of Pommersfeldeti

HILDEBRANDT

centre-piece bulging forward, flanked by two wings of only slightly lesser height,

and

this

group in turn flanked by

a

lower part and four turret-like corner pavilions

which frame the whole building. The centre pavilion and the corner pieces are the

most

richly decorated parts,

and the building forms an

nevertheless completely clear and lucid in

its

outline.

intricate pattern

This lucidity

is

which

not at

all

is

dis-

turbed by the freakish and grotesque ornament that Hildebrandt employed in the details

of the decoration, the pilasters tapering off downwards, the broken and

scrolly

pediments over the windows, and the statues and trophies lining the

It is

style

only

when we

enter the building that

we

feel the full

roof.

impact of this fantastic

of decoration. Fig. 285 shows the entrance hall of Prince Eugene's palace, and

Fig. 286 a staircase of a

German we

justice to these interiors unless

was giving

women

casrie

a feast or holding a reception,

in the gay

and

stately fashions

We

designed by Hildebrandt.

visualize

—on

in use

when

the lamps were

a

cannot do

day when the owner

them

lit

and men and

of the time arrived to mount these

such a moment, the contrast between the dark and unlit

streets

stairs.

At

of the time, reeking

Power and Glow:

287.

The

Mc

srery of

the Catholic

Melk on

the

PRANDTAUER

North

339

Danube. Designed by

in I7O2

of dirt and squalor, and the radiant fairy world of the nobleman's dwelling must

have been overwhelming.

The

buildings of the

Church made use of similar

the Austrian monastery of Melk,

monastery, with

some unreal

its

cupola and

apparition. It

its

was

by

and decorated by some of the

ready with

new

well these a

humble

a local builder called

Italian travelling virtuosi

who were

and designs from the vast store of Baroque patterns.

artists

had

learnt the difficult art of

also careful to graduate the decoration,

throw into

all

the

hill like

Jakob Prandtauer

more

and

to use the

effectively, in the parts

ever

How

grouping and organizing

building to give the appearance of stateliness without monotony!

sparingly, but

287 shows

this river, the

strangely shaped towers, stands on the

built

(died 1726)

ideas

striking effects. Fig.

on the Danube. As one comes down

They were

more extravagant forms

of the building they wanted to

relief.

In the interior, however, they cast off all restraint. Even Bernini or Borromini in their

most exuberant moods would never have gone quite so

must imagine what

Y

it

meant

far.

Once more we

for a simple Austrian peasant to leave his

farmhouse

Power and Glory:

340

of the Church of

the Catholic

North

Melk Monastery. Completed about 1738,

after designs of

PRANDTAUER, BEDUZZI and MUNGGENAST

and enter

wonderland. There are clouds everywhere, with angels

this strange

making music and

gesticulating in the bliss of Paradise.

pulpit, others are balancing

move and dance the

rhythm of

all it

it is

scrolls

Nothing

Some have

settled

still,

but seem to sway to and fro in

'natural' or 'normal' in such a

is

on the

of the organ gallery; everything seems to

—even the walls cannot stand

jubilation.

not meant to be.

Perhaps

on the

church



it is

intended to give us a foretaste of the glory of Paradise.

It is

when you are You feel you are

not everybody's idea of Paradise, but

envelops you and stops

all

questionings.

in the midst of in a

it

world where

our rules and standards simply do not apply.

One can understand arts

were swept into

that north of the Alps,

this

no

less

orgy of decoration and

lost

than in

much

Italy, the individual

of their independent

importance. There were, of course, painters and sculptors of distinction in the period

round about 1700, but perhaps there was only one master whose the great leading painters of the

first

art

was Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Watteau came from Belgium, but where he died

at the

compares with

half of the seventeenth century. This master settled in Paris

age of thirty-seven. He, too, designed interior decorations for

the castles of the nobility, to provide the appropriate background for the festivals

and pageantries of court satisfied the

divorced from

where

it

society.

imagination of the all

hardship and

But

it

artist.

would seem

He began

triviality, a

as if the actual festivities

to paint his

own

had not

visions of a

life

dream-life of gay picnics in fairy parks

never rains, of musical parties where

all

ladies are beautiful

and

all

lovers

;

Power and Glory:

watteau:

3.

graceful, a society in

and where the of minuets.

Watteau

is

Fete

which

in

all

a

P

North

the Catholic

About

17 18.

Lone

341

Wallace Collection

are dressed in sparkling silk without looking showy,

of the shepherds and shepherdesses seems to be a succession

life

From such

a description

over-precious and

one might get the impression that the

artificial.

For many,

it

which

the French aristocracy of the early eighteenth century the fashion for dainty colours

and

come

has

delicate decoration

of

art

to reflect the taste of is

known

as

Rococo

which succeeded the more

robust taste of the Baroque period, and which expressed itself in gay frivolity. But

Watteau was Rather

it

far too great

an

artist to

be a mere exponent of the fashions of his time.

was he whose dreams and

ideals

helped to mould the fashion

we

Rococo. Just as Vandyke had helped to create the idea of the gentlemanly ease associate with the Cavaliers (p. 304, Fig. 254), so

Watteau has enriched our

call

we

store

of imagination by his vision of graceful gallantry. Fig. 289

shows

his picture

of a picnic in a park. There

nothing of the noisy

is

gaiety of Jan Steen's revelries (p. 319, Fig. 267) in this scene; a sweet

melancholy calm prevails. These young light plays

paradise.

on

The

their

shimmering

qualities

dresses,

of Watteau's

men and women

the delicacy of his

original.

sensitive paintings

Like Rubens,

whom

and drawings must

come out really

and almost

and dream. The

and transfigures the copse

art,

refinement of his colour harmonies do not easily

immensely

just sit

into an earthly

brushwork and the

in reproductions.

he admired, Watteau could convey the impression

of living, palpitating flesh through a mere whiff of chalk or colour. But the his studies is as different is

His

be seen and enjoyed in the

from Rubens's

as his paintings are

a touch of sadness in these visions of beauty

which

is

mood

of

from Jan Steen's. There

difficult to describe or define,

Power and Glory:

34 2 but which

lifts

Watteau was a his

Watteau's sick

art

the Catholic

North

beyond the sphere of mere

man, who died of consumption

at

skill

and

prettiness.

an early age. Perhaps

awareness of the transience of beauty which gave to his

art that intensity

it

was

which

none of his many admirers and imitators could equal.

290. Art under Royal patronage. In 1667 Louis XIV, accompanied by his Minister, Colbert, paid a visit to the Royal Gobelin Manufacture to manifest his interest in what would now be called 'the standard of French design' which formed an important 'asset' in Colbert's

'export drive'.

The

tapestry

was commissioned

to

commemorate

the occasion

chapter 23



THE AGE OF REASON

England and France, Eighteenth Century

291. A seventeenth-century Cathedral: St. Paul's, London. Built by sir Christopher wren from 1675 to 1710

THE

period round about 1700 had seen the culmination of the Baroque

movement

in Catholic Europe.

The

Protestant countries could not help

being impressed by this all-pervading fashion but, nevertheless, they did not actually adopt

when

it.

This even applies

to

England during the Restoration period,

the Stuart court looked towards France and abhorred the taste

and outlook

The Age of Reason

344 of the Puritans.

was during

It

architect, Sir Christopher

London's churches

Wren

England produced her greatest

this period that

(1632-1723),

after the fire of 1666. It

is

who was

given the task of rebuilding

interesting to

compare

his St. Paul's

Roman Baroque, built only some twenty that Wren was definitely influenced by the

Cathedral (Fig. 291) with a church of the

We

years earlier (p. 325, Fig. 273).

see

groupings and effects of the Baroque architect, although he himself had never been in

Rome. Like Borromini's church, Wren's

cathedral,

consists of a central cupola, flanking towers, to

frame the main entrance. There

is

The way

is

very different.

St.

at the details,

Baroque. There

forms adhere

is

scale,

we may even wonder whether

Roman

or not to call

not

is

stability.

and nobility

to give stateliness

to the facade recalls Versailles (p. 335, Fig. 282) rather than the

Looking

Paul's

no suggestion of movement, rather of strength and

which the paired columns are used

in

much larger in

second storey. Nevertheless,

in the

the general impression of the two facades is

is

even a definite similarity between Borromini's

Baroque towers and Wren's, particularly

curved. There

which

and the suggestion of a temple facade

Baroque.

Wren's

style

nothing of the freakish or fantastic in his decoration. All his

strictly to the best

models of the

and each part of the building can be viewed by

Italian Renaissance. itself

without losing

Each form its

intrinsic

meaning. Compared with the exuberance of Borromini, or of the architect of

Melk,

Wren

impresses us as being restrained and sober.

The

contrast between Protestant and

Catholic architecture

when we churches in



London meet

even more marked

for instance that of St.

for

Stephen

A church like this is

(Fig. 292).

designed mainly as a ful

is

consider the interior of Wren's

hall

common

where the

worship.

Its

faith-

aim

is

not to conjure up a vision of another world, but rather to allow us to collect

many churches he Wren endeavoured to give ever-

our thoughts. In the designed,

new variations on the theme of such a hall, which would be both dignified and simple.

As with churches,

so with castles.

No

king of England could have raised the prodigious sums to build a Versailles, and

,





,

, 292. Interior of St. Stephen

„.,

,

s,

li

,,

,

albrook.

Designed by sir Christopher wren. 1672

no English peer would have cared

to

compete with the German princelings

in

It is true that luxurv and extravagance. ° the building craze reached England.

The Age of Reason

345

293. Chiszi-ick House, London. Designed by lord Burlington and about 1725, enlarged by James Wyatt in 1788

Marlborough's Blenheim Palace

is

even larger in scale than Prince Eugene's

Belvedere. But these were exceptions.

was not the

The

castle

William kent

The

ideal of the English eighteenth century

but the country house.

architects of these country houses usually rejected the extravagances of the

Baroque

style. It

was

their ambition not to infringe

any rule of what they considered

'good taste', and so they were anxious to keep as closely as possible to the real or

pretended laws of

classical architecture. Architects

of the Italian Renaissance

had studied and measured the ruins of antique buildings with lished their findings in text-books to provide builders

The most famous of

to

last

word

Chiswick House near London.

the great leader of taste and fashion,

by

his friend,

Villa

Rotonda

later in the

(p. 265, Fig. 223).

To

all

rules of taste

build one's villa in the 'Palladian

in fashion. Fig.

Its centre-piece,

293 shows such a Palladian designed for his

own

use by

Lord Burlington (1695-1753), and decorated

William Kent (1685-1748),

is

indeed a close imitation of Palladio's

True, the whole facade, which was completed

eighteenth century, shows that the Baroque taste for impressive display

was not altogether rejected it is

and craftsmen with patterns.

be considered the ultimate authority on

eighteenth-century England.

manner' was considered the villa,

who

had pub-

these books was written by Andrea Palladio (p. 266). This

book of Palladio 's came in architecture in

scientific care

in

England. Like

many country-houses of

the period

broken up into different 'wings' and 'pavilions', whose effective grouping

may be compared

to that of Hildebrandt's Belvedere (p. 337, Fig. 284).

But

this surprising similarity in the general outline also brings out the difference in detail, for unlike

Hildebrandt and the other architects of Catholic Europe the

designers of the British villa nowhere offend against the strict rules of the classical

The Age of Reason

346 style.

The

The

the Corinthian order (p. 74).

no curves and volutes, no statues

For the

rule of taste in the

Baroque designs, and emotions.

The

to

to

crown the

roof,

front, built in

simple and plain, there are

is

and no grotesque decorations. also the rule of

the country was opposed to the flights of fancy of

an art that aimed

at

impressing and overwhelming the

formal parks of the style of Versailles, whose endless clipped hedges

and alleyways had extended the into the

wall of the building

England of Burlington and Pope was

The whole temper of

reason.

form of an antique temple

stately portico has the correct

beyond the

architects' design

park should reflect the beauties of nature,

such as might charm the painter's eye.

It

it

actual building far

artificial.

A garden or

should be a collection of

fine scenery

surrounding country, were condemned as absurd and

was men such

as

Kent who invented the

English 'landscape garden' as the ideal surroundings of their Palladian

had appealed

as they

and

taste in building, so they

turned to a southern painter for a standard of beauty

Their idea of what nature should look

in scenery.

paintings of Claude Lorrain (p. 295, Fig. 248), and

came

visions thus

The

to

Just

villas.

to the authority of an Italian architect for the rules of reason

mould

like

was largely derived from the

we have seen

that these painters'

large tracts of the English countryside.

position of painters and sculptors under the rule of taste and reason was not

We

too enviable.

have seen that the victory of Protestantism in England, and the

Puritan hostility to images and to luxury, had dealt the tradition of art in England a severe blow.

Almost the only purpose

that of supplying likenesses, artists

such as Holbein

after they

The

(p.

had established

and even

with native

wanted

which painting was had

largely

still

in

demand was

been met by foreign

who were

called to

England

Lord Burlington's day had no objection

to paint-

274) and Vandyke

(p. 302),

their reputations abroad.

fashionable gentlemen of

ings or sculptures

for

this function

on puritan grounds, but they were not eager to place commissions

artists

who had

not yet

made

a painting for their villas, they

a

name

in the outside world. If they

would much rather buy one which bore the

name of some famous Italian master. They prided themselves on being connoisseurs, and some of them assembled the most admirable collections of old masters, without,

much employment

however, giving

This

state

his living felt

for

of

by

that he

to the painters of their time.

young English engraver who had

affairs greatly irritated a

illustrating books.

had

it

in

him

to

art in

England.

He

therefore set out deliberately to create a

of painting which should appeal to his countrymen. to ask

'What

is

make

He

be as good a painter as those whose works were bought

hundreds of pounds from abroad, but he knew that there was no public

temporary

to

His name was William Hogarth (1697-1764).

the use of a painting

? '

He knew

and he decided that

that they

for con-

new

were

type

likely

in order to impress

people brought up in the puritan tradition, art must have an obvious use. Accordingly,

he planned a number of paintings which should teach the people the rewards

The Age of Reason of virtue and the wages of sin.

He would show

347 from profligacy

a 'Rake's Progress'

and idleness to crime and death, or 'The Four Stages of Cruelty from '

warning examples in such understand

a

way

that

the incidents and the lessons they taught. His paintings, in fact,

all

should resemble a kind of

dumb show

appointed task and make

meaning

its

Hogarth himself compared

properties.

which

in

his

new type of

He

rather, like a as

sermon. In

and

this tradition

through his face but also through his

his picture sequences can

all

be read

like a story or,

of art was not perhaps quite

this respect, this type

We know that

Hogarth thought.

painting to the art of the

did everything to bring out what he

called the 'character' of each figure, not only

and behaviour. Each of

the characters have their

all

through gestures and the use of stage

clear

playwright and the theatrical producer.

dress

boy teasing

a

He would paint these edifying stories and anyone who saw the series of pictures would

grown-up's brutal murder.

a cat to a

as

new

medieval art used images to impart a lesson,

of the picture sermon had lived on in popular art up to the time

of Hogarth. Crude woodcuts had been sold at fairs to

show

the fate of the drunkard

or the perils of gambling, and the ballad-mongers sold pamphlets with similar tales.

Hogarth, however, was no popular

artist in this sense.

of the masters of the past and of their the

Dutch masters, such

episodes from the

life

expression of a type

as

He had made

way of achieving

who

Jan Steen,

filled their

had taught him the

He knew humorous

pictures with

of the people and excelled in bringing out the characteristic

(p.

He

319, Fig. 269).

knew

also

the methods of the Italian

of his time, of Venetian painters of the type of Guardi

artists

a careful study

pictorial effects.

trick

(p. 333, Fig. 280),

who

of conjuring up the idea of a figure with a few spirited

touches of the brush. Fig.

294 shows an episode from the 'Rake's Progress'

become

a raving

horror with

maniac and has

types of

all

to

madmen

in

which the poor rake has

be put in irons in Bedlam.

represented

:

It is a

crude scene of

the religious fanatic in the

first cell

writhing on his bed of straw like the parody of a Baroque picture of a saint, the

megalomaniac with

his royal

picture of the world

on to the wall of Bedlam, the blind man with

the grotesque trio

grouped round the

crown seen

and the touching figure of the apathetic

finally,

the

him

more

tragic

Each

of the

figure

who had known

and each episode

strait-jacket. It

Hogarth

remained

is

a painter,

just sits

it,

is

and a

stares; and,

woman

a tragic scene,

putting

made even

and by the contrast with the two

the rake in the days of his prosperity. in the picture has

but that alone would not suffice to make

able in

man who

mad, with two men and

by the grotesque dwarf who mocks

elegant visitors

tells,

rake, raving

in irons, the cruel equivalent

scrawls the

paper telescope,

his

staircase, the grinning fiddler, the foolish

singer,

main group of the

who

in the next cell, the idiot

that, for all his

not only in the

it

a

its

place in the story Hogarth

good painting. What

is

remark-

preoccupation with his subject-matter, he

way he used

his

brush and distributed

light

still

and

The Age of Reason

34 8

hogarth: The Rake

294.

in

Bedlam.

From 'The

London, Soane

colour, but also in the considerable

group round the rake, for

all its

skill

understanding of this tradition.

governed beauty.

main point

He

that

is

he showed in arranging his groups.

grotesque horror,

Italian painting of the classical tradition.

He was

Rake's Progress'. 1735.

Museum

is

as carefully

Hogarth, in

fact,

composed

The

as

was very proud of

any his

sure that he had found the law which

wrote a book, which he called The Analysis of Beauty, whose

an undulating

line

would always be more beautiful than an

angular one. Hogarth, too, belonged to the age of reason and believed in teachable rules of taste, but

he did not succeed in converting his compatriots from their bias

for the old masters. It

considerable

is

than to reproductions he public.

As

made of them

a painter, the connoisseurs

throughout his It

true that his picture-series earned

him

fame and

great

a

amount of money, but this reputation was due less to the actual painting

was only

life,

in engravings

which were bought by an eager

of the period did not take him seriously and,

he waged a grim campaign against the fashionable

a generation later that

an English painter was born whose

the elegant society of eighteenth-century England

Unlike Hogarth, Reynolds had been to

Italy



Sir Joshua

and had come

taste.

art satisfied

Reynolds (1723-92).

to agree with the con-

— Raphael, —were the unrivalled exemplars of true He

noisseurs of his time that the great masters of the Italian Renaissance

Michelangelo, Correggio and Titian

art.

The Age of Reason had absorbed the teaching attributed

hope

an

for

the careful study and imitation of what were called the

artist lay in

excellencies of the ancient masters

of Titian. Later in his

and had become the

expounded

this

—the draughtsmanship of Raphael, the colouring

when Reynolds had made

life,

first

a career as an artist in

They show

that Reynolds, like his contemporaries, believed in

the rules of taste and the importance of authority in art. art could, to a large extent,

procedure in

England

Academy of Art, he of discourses, which still make

president of the newly founded Royal

'academic' doctrine in a series

interesting reading.

349

to the Carracci (p. 290, Fig. 244), that the only

be taught,

if

He

believed that the right

students were given

for studying the recognized masterpieces of Italian painting.

facilities

His lectures are

full

of

exhortations to strive after lofty and dignified subjects, because Reynolds believed

grand and impressive was worthy of the name of Great Art.

that only the

From such a

description

and boring, but of this prejudice. in the writings

it

might

easily

appear that Reynolds was rather pompous

we read his discourses and look at his pictures, we soon get rid The fact is that he accepted the opinions about art which he found

if

of the influential

critics

of the seventeenth century,

all

of whom were

much concerned with the dignity of what was called 'history painting'. We have seen how hard artists had to struggle against social snobbery which made people look down on painters and sculptors because they worked with their hands (p. 210). We know how artists had to insist that their real work was not handiwork but brain work, and that they were no scholars. It

ance of poetic invention in their

less

fit

to

be received in polite society than poets or

was through these discussions that art,

and

to

artists

were led

to stress the import-

emphasize the elevated subjects with which

minds were concerned. 'Granted', they argued,

'that there

may be something

menial in painting a portrait or a landscape from nature where the hand merely

what the eye

copies

requires erudition

sees,

Fig. 246) or Poussin's that there in

is

but surely

and imagination

"Et

argument.

any kind of handiwork and

hand

a sure

to paint a

good

that,

(p.

moreover,

take as

much

it

portrait or landscape

own

for granted as

hearts

;

demand all

in

We

needs more than a good eye and

down

this particular prejudice in art.

We

Reynolds did the superiority of 'history paintings '. in his theories, his actual still

work consisted

the only kind of painting in

England. Vandyke had established a standard of society portraits

fashionable painters of subsequent generations tried to reach.

works that hung

know today

nothing undignified

but we have no right to look

mainly in the painting of portraits because this was

which

is

it

(p. 293.

and see whether there are not things which we

Although Reynolds sincerely believed

great

"Aurora"

294, Fig. 247) ?'

We know that there

on Reynolds because he had not seen through should rather search our

more than mere craftsmanship:

requires

Arcadian ego"

in

a fallacy in this

it

to paint a subject like Reni's

in the

Those of his

country houses and city palaces of the nobility

patrons expect that a good portrait should be flattering.

They expected

to

made

the

be shown

The Age of Reason

350

295.

Reynolds:

Portrait of Miss Bowles with her Dog. 1775.

London, Wallace Collection at their best,

and

interesting to see traits

to

be turned into models of elegance and gracefulness.

how Reynolds

with those of his greatest

who was

dealt with this tradition,

rival in the field,

child,

compare

Thomas Gainsborough

As might have been expected, Reynolds usually

sitter

sitter's

to

is

(1727-88),

show

that he

tries to give his portraits

was not merely copying the

but contributed some invention of his

face

own which should bring Even when he had to

Reynolds tried to make the picture into more than it

into a

little

portrait of a 'Miss

mere

portrait

out the paint a

by trans-

scene which appeals to our imagination. Fig. 295 shows his

Bowles with her dog'.

painted the portrait of a child and dog interested in the texture

touching love of the

a

an

and costume

character and add interest to the painting.

forming

It

his por-

only four years his junior.

additional interest, to

of his

and

We

remember

(p. 307, Fig. 257).

that Velazquez, too,

and colour of what he saw. Reynolds wants

little girl

for her pet.

The way

in

had

But Velazquez had been to

show us

the

which he made them pose

The Age of Reason

296.

Gainsborough:

351

About

Portrait of Miss Haverfield.

1780.

London, Wallace Collection

before the canvas

is

much more

self-conscious,

and much more thought

out, than

Velazquez's straightforward arrangement. But Reynolds thought to a purpose.

He

not only gives us a touching subject, but he manages to arrange the group so skilfully that

it

that, if

makes

a well-balanced

we compare

and interesting picture on

the fluffy fur with that of Velazquez,

would hardly be wanted and

its

fair to

we may

own

merits. It

is

true

Reynolds disappointing. But

find

expect of him an effect

at

live for us.

it

which he was not aiming. He

to bring out the character of the sweet child,

charm

its

handling of paint and his treatment of the living skin and

his

and

to

make

its

tenderness

Today, when photographers have so accustomed us

to the

we may find it difficult fully to appreciate the originality of Reynolds's treatment. We may even be tempted to find it a little trite or cheap. But we must not blame a master for the imitations which trick

of observing a child in a similar situation,

have spoilt his upset the

effects.

harmony of

Reynolds never allowed the

interest

the painting. His portraits are

all

of the subject-matter to of one piece, not mere

— T

Villustrations

:

Ac-.

:c

-

of a pretty or sentimental situation as those of his

later imitators

s

nu

-

times were; they are real paintings in which a master tried to apply his knowledge

of the great art of the past to a new

task.

In the Wallace Collection in London, where Reynolds's portrait of Miss Bowles hangs, there

is

of a

also the portrait

girl

of roughly the same age by Gainsborough

the portrait of Miss Haverfield Fig. 296". Gainsborough painted the she was tying the

bow of her cape. There

ing in her action. She

knew how it

is

is

we fancy, go for a walk. But Gainsborough movement with such grace and charm that we find

just dressing,

to invest the simple

:

as satisfying a> Reynolds's invention of the girl

was much Suffolk, -

I

tod;

less interested in

had a natural

hugging her

and never found

it

pet.

Gainsborough

He was born

'invention' than Reynolds.

gift for painting,

the great masters, [n

lady as

little

nothing particularly moving or interest-

in rural

necessary to go to Italy

comparison with Reynolds and

all

his theories

about

the importance of tradition. Gainsborough was almost a self-made man. There

something in the relationship of the two which

recalls the contrast

is

between the

who wanted to revive the manner of Raphael, and the who wanted to acknowledge no teacher except nature. at any rate, saw Gainsborough somewhat in this light, as a genius who copy the masters, and, much as he admired his rivals skill, he felt bound

learned Annibale Carracd. revolutionary CaravaggiO;

Reynolds, refused to to

warn

his students against his principles.

centuries, the

two masters do not seem

Today,

after the passage

of almc

to us so very different. VTe realize, perhaps

how much they both owed to the tradition of Vandyke, if we return to the portrait of Miss Haverfield with this contrast in mind, we understand the particular qualities which distinguish more

clearly than they did,

and to the fashion of their time. But,

Gainsborough' s fresh and unsophisticated approach from Reynolds "s more laboured

Gainsborou;

style.

...

......

intention of being 'highbrow'; he

r

wanted

to paint straightforward unconventional portraits in which he could display his brilliant brusliwark

and

his sure eye.

And

so he succeeds best where Reynolds

disappointed us. His rendering of the fresh complexion of the child and the shining material of the cape, his treatment of the his

consummate

skill

frills

in rendering the texture

and ribbons of the

hat, all this

and surfaces of visible

shows

objects.

The

rapid and impatient strokes of the brush almost remind us of the work of Frans Hals p. 31I3

Fig

260).

But Gainsborour

.

-

robust artist than Hals. There are,

in many of his portraits, a delicacy of shades and a refinement of touch which rather recall the visions

of Watteau p.

_:_:.

F%. 2S9).

Both Reynolds znd Gainsborough were rather unhappy

to

be smothered with

commissions for portraits when they wanted to paint other things. But while Ids

longed for time and leisure to paint ambitious mythological scenes or

episodes from ancient history, Gainsborough wanted to paint the very sub

which

his rival despised.

He wanted to paint landscapes.

For, unlike Reynolds

sets

who

The Age of Reason

trough: Rural

Scene.

Drawing

Victoria and Albert

was

a

man

353

1786.

ab>

London,

Museum

about town, a friend of Dr. Johnson, and a frequenter of society,

Gainsborough loved the quiet countryside, and the only entertainment he

really

enjoyed was chamber music. Unfortunately Gainsborough could find but few buyers for his landscapes,

own enjoyment

and so most of his pictures remained mere sketches done

(Fig. 297). In these

he arranged the trees and

hills

for his

of the English

countryside into picturesque scenes which remind us that this was the age of the

landscape gardener. For Gainsborough's sketches are no views drawn direct from nature.

They

are landscape 'compositions', designed to evoke

and

reflect a

In the eighteenth century English institutions and English taste

admired models for

England

The

art

all

people in Europe

had not been used

to

for the rule of reason.

enhance the power and glory of god-like

public for which Hogarth catered, even the people

and Gainsborough's too, the

portraits,

were ordinary mortals.

Rococo

who posed

For

in

rulers.

for Reynolds's

We remember that in France,

heavy Baroque grandeur of Versailles had gone out of fashion in the early

eighteenth century in favour of the (p.

341, Fig. 289).

cede. Painters to

who longed

mood.

became the

Now

began to look

more

this

delicate

whole

at the life

and intimate

aristocratic

of Watteau's to re-

men and women of their time, be spun out into a story. The

of the ordinary

draw moving or amusing episodes which could

greatest of these

effects

dream-world began

was Jean Simeon Chardin (1699-1779),

a painter

than Hogarth. Fig. 298 shows one of his charming paintings

two years younger

—a simple room with a

The Age of Reason

354

chardin: Saying Grace

298.

Paris,

woman setting

{Le Benedicite). 1739.

Louvre

dinner on to the table, and asking two children to say grace. Chardin

He

liked these quiet glimpses of the life of ordinary people.

Vermeer a

(p.

322, Fig. 270) in the

way

in

which he

domestic scene, without looking for striking

colour

is

effects or

we soon

may seem

discover in

to lack brilliance.

resembles the Dutch

and preserves the poetry of pointed allusions. Even his

calm and restrained and, by comparison with the

of Watteau, his works original,

feels

But

if

them an unobtrusive mastery

scintillating paintings

we study them

in the

in the subtle gradation of

tones and the seemingly artless arrangement of the scene, that makes

him one of

the most lovable painters of the eighteenth century.

In France, as in England, the new interest for ordinary for the trappings of

power benefited the

art

of the French portraitists was not a painter but In his wonderful portrait busts, started

by Bernini more than

shows Houdon's bust of

champion of reason the

a

Houdon

carried

hundred years

Voltaire,

human beings

a sculptor,

on the

Houdon

tradition

(1741-1828).

which had been

earlier (p. 328, Fig. 275). Fig.

and allows us

299

to see in the face of this great

biting wit, the penetrating intelligence,

compassion of a great mind.

rather than

of portraiture. Perhaps the greatest

and

also the

deep

houdon:

Portrait of Voltaire. 1778.

London, Victoria and Albert

Museum

The Age of Reason

356

m

*$ ,m r

jSB /If

rf5|

ISJkj^? 300.

fragonard: The Park

d'Este in Tivoli. Drawing.

BesarKon,

The

~ '

^^E^f

of the Villa 1760.

About

Museum

taste for the 'picturesque' aspects of nature, finally,

borough's sketches in England Fig. 300

shows

a

drawing by

J.

is

which inspired Gains-

also represented in eighteenth-century France.

H. Fragonard

(1

732-1 806)

who belonged

to the

generation of Gainsborough. Fragonard, too, was a painter of great charm

followed the tradition of Watteau in his themes from high

drawings he was a master of striking Tivoli near

Rome

proves

how he

effects.

life.

The view from

who

In his landscape

the Villa d'Este in

could find grandeur and charm in a piece of

actual scenery.

301. The Life School at the Royjl Academy with portraits of leading artist* includir. (with the ear-trumpet). Painting by zoffany. 1771. Windsor Castle

chapter 24



THE BREAK

IN

TRADITION

England, America and France

Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

L^*

Quattrocento, 209

Index and Glossary

462

Trajan, 82, 85 Transept, 120 Rainaldi, 325 Raphael, 15-16, 229-36, 254, 265, 290, 293, 348, 381, 384,

427

Salon, 387, 391, 400

Triglyph, 51

Sansovino, 237-8 Santi (see Raphael) Saxony, 261

Tunnel vault, 123 Turner, 369, 372-5, 393

Ratisbon, 261

Saxon period,

Ravenna, 91, 113 Realism, 383-4 Red Indians, 28-9 Reformation, 212, 251, 274, 277, 279, 288, 326 Regency style, 359 Rembrandt, 8-9, 18, 313-19, 380 Renaissance, 160-1, 287 High, 210, 212

Schongauer, 207-8, 251

Renaissance

art,

160-8, 177-94,

209-83 Reni, 6-7, 293-4, 35 8 Renoir, 393-4 Reynolds, 17, 348-53,

358,

361, 373,448 Ribs, 123, 132

Richard

II, 157 Robespierre, 364 Robusti (see Tintoretto) Rococo, 341, 353, 359

Rodin, 399-400

RogiervanderWeyden, 199-200

Roman

art,

79-85

[see

also

Classical art)

Romanesque, 120

Romanesque art, 119-30 Romantic movement, 364,

369,

373. 375. 381-2, 442

Rome,

79-80, 89, 162, 199, 215, 222, 233, 288-9, 290-2, 293. 294, 295, 296, 3°6, 325. 12,

329 Colosseum, 79, 180 Farnesina, 234-5 Gesii, 287-9 Pantheon, 80-1, 212, 236 Priscilla Catacomb, 88 Sistine Chapel, 223-7 St. Peter's, 212 Sta Agnese, 325-7 Sta Maria della Vittoria, 329 Trajan's column, 82 Rossetti, 384-5 Rouen, 196 Rousseau, 440 Rubens, 5, 296-303, 306, 341 Rufillus, 118

Ruisdael, 320, 323 Ruskin, 197, 401-2, 403-4,448 Russia, 98, 428, 440, 441

Russian icons, 98

1

19

Schools of art, 68, 179 Schubert, 375 Seurat, 430 Sfumato, 219, 394 Shakespeare, 215, 279, 280,

Tuscan master, 7 Tutankhamen, 42 Twickenham, Strawberry

Hill

358

u

.363

92 Sidney, 279

Uccello, 182-4

Siena, 154-5, 167 Simone Martini, 154-5 Sixdeniers, 249 Sixtus IV, 223 Sluter, 168-70

Urbino, 229 Utamaro, 396-7

Side-aisles,

Ur,45

Soane, 359 Sohier, 250 Solomon, 127 Spain, 23, 101, 137, 272, 300, 305> 331, 336,432, 442 Spanish art, 272-4, 305-8, 3658, 432. 442 Spartans, 50 Steen, 319-20 Still Life painting, 77, 323, 409 Stoss, Veit, 201-3, 205 Strasbourg, 137-8 Stuart court, 343

Sumeria, 45-7

Sunday

painters, 441 Surrealism, 441-3 Susa, 46 Switzerland, 251, 274 Swiss art, 175, 430, 436, 439

Vandyke, 302-5, 352

Van Eyck, 170-5 Van Gogh, 411-15,

418, 422-3 Vaulting, 81, 123, 132, 162, 196 Vasari, 272, 448 Velazquez, 306-8, 388 Venice, 143, 151, 212, 237-45, 256, 270-2, 290, 331-4 Library, 237

Vermeer, 322-4, 380 Veronese, 248 Versailles, 335-6 Vienna Belvedere, 337-8 Vikings, 110-11 Vheger, 312,333

w Wallot, 249 Tahiti, 26, 416-17

Tavernier, 198 Tempera, 172

Theocritus, 77

Whistler, 400-2, 430, 435, Wilton diptych, 157-8

Theotocopoulos (see El Greco) Tiepolo, 331-3 Tintoretto, 270-2

Witz, 175-6 Woodcut, 203 Wright, 404, 448

Teutonic

tribes,

110-11

Walpole, 358 Washington, 359 Watteau, 340-2

Titian, 240-5, 248, 265, 270, 306, 348

Toledo, 272 Totem, 23, 29 Toulouse-Lautrec, 430 Tournai Cathedral, 122 Tracery, 133

Zoffany, 356 Zuccari, 266, 284

1:

n-

W\6-'

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