Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

G. Richmond, R.A.; the late H. W. Phillips, the portrait-painter; the late Henry Danby Seymour; and Sir Francis Scott, an enthusiastic devotee of art, also now deceased. Thus was the society launched. With little public demonstration, but after considerable private exertion, about 500 persons were induced to join it and to give each a guinea a year without conditions, leaving the council to issue any publications they thought proper in return, or even no publications at all if the funds did not permit. The chief difficulties at first were not as regards the class of subjects to be illustrated, but as to the medium by which adequate illustration was to be effected. Chromolithography was then in its infancy; line engraving, as practised in England, was never well adapted to early Italian paintings, and was now less and less cultivated; mezzotint, in which English art a hundred years ago was admirably represented, was virtually extinct; wood-cutting alone seemed able to hold its ground against the formidable rivalry of photography. Both engraving and wood-cutting were resorted to during the early operations of the society; the first for the illustration of Fra Angelico's frescoes in the Vatican, the second in those of Giotto in the Arena Chapel at Padua. It must, however, be confessed that these early works, particularly the second, were by no means generally attractive, and that the success of the society seemed for some time after very doubtful. But succour, effective succour, was at hand. About the year 1852, Mr. (now Sir Henry) Layard, having returned from the exploration of Nineveh, and having no longer any public employment, turned his energies to Italian art. Traversing Central and North Italy, he made tracings in outline with his own hand from the most interesting groups and figures in the frescoes of the masters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. On coming to England he was elected to the Council, and at once proposed that all the society's efforts should be thrown into chromo-lithography. Nor was this all; he determined to make a strong impression by the splendour of the publications, believing that new members would thereby be attracted, additional funds raised, and the society placed in an influential and secure position for the future. Accordingly he volunteered, at his own expense, to add to the one chromolithograph which the Council had agreed on as the annual publication for 1856 a second and no less interesting subject, by obtaining from Signor Marianecci, of Rome, a water-colour copy of Perugino's Martyrdom of St. Sebastian'at Panicale, having this printed in colour by chromo-lithography, with five heads in the fresco engraved in outline from his own tracings, and accompanying it with the memoir of Perugino and of the fresco, which will be more fully referred to hereafter when the literary work of the society is described. Mr. Layard carried his colleagues with him; his public-spirited offer was accepted and was attended with such success that the Council were enabled to act with almost a profuseness of liberality henceforward to their subscribers; all apprehension of collapse being at an end when the society's popularity was thus re-established.

Chromo-lithography was adopted, but unfortunately there was no school of that art in England adequate to the representation of Italian fresco. With much regret, therefore, after more than one failure at home, the Council were constrained to give their commissions to Messrs. Storck and Kramer, of Berlin, and under the guidance of Herr Grüner, to whom the supervision of the work was now entrusted, their productions have given the higbest satisfaction. The Arundel Society may justly claim to be the principal promoter of chromo-lithography in its highest form, by showing through their publications what it is capable of effecting. It is true that a certain want of atinosphere, of a harmonious gradation of tints, and of luminous shadows is almost inseparable from the mechanical process employed. Still, on the whole, it represents very fairly the simple and comparatively flat tones of fresco. It has been also applied by the Society, though sparingly, to the reproduction of oil paintings; but the result has not always been successful. It has thus been described by a most competent judge: “The effect of many pictures on the mind is in chief part owing to the power and play of their light and darker colours given with all the force that oil colour can produce. The vigour of the oil material and the “impasto” inseparably connected with it become lost, and the result verges on the tea-tray style, and is even minus the sort of transparency which that style after a fashion retains. Life and glow depart altogether, and instead of the infinite mystery which is conveyed by the subtle change of tone and tint in the dark and darker shade of the oil colours, you have only a comparatively dull, heavy, and woolly surface. This very true criticism shows the objections which exist to the recommendations made from time to time to the Society that some fine examples of oil painting, not generally known, should be selected for reproduction.

It was on the suggestion of Sir Charles Eastlake that the name of · The Arundel Society' was given to it, after Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, the acquirer of the Arundel Marbles, the father of virtue in England and the Mæcenas of all polite arts. Its expressed object was the preservation of the records and the diffusion of the knowledge of the most important monuments of painting and sculpture remaining from past tidie, especially of such as were either from their locality difficult of general access or from any peculiar causes threatened by violence and decay. The primary subject selected for illustration was to be Italian fresco painting ; a minor though not unimportant attention was to be given to the reproduction of paintings in oils; whilst sculpture, both classical and mediäval, whether in monumental marbles or more portable ivory, was to be treated under a separate system of publication.

It is now high time to turn to the work executed by the Society. It has already been mentioned that during the first three years its labours were mainly directed to the frescoes of Fra Angelico in the chapel of Nicholas the Fifth in the Vatican, and to the illustrated edition of the painter's life. The four following years were occupied with the works of Giotto in the Arena Chapel, Padua. Then came the adoption of chromo-lithography, the representation by this medium of the interior of the Arena Chapel, as the complement of the wood engravings illustrating its frescoes, and the publication, by the generous assistance of Sir Henry Layard, of Perugino's fresco at Panicale, illustrated at once by chromo-lithography, engraving, and biographical memoir. From the year 1856, which witnessed this extraordinary return for the subscription of a guinea, the new life of the Society may be dated. Without enumerating separately the production of each successive year, the magnitude of the contribution made by their means to the illustration of early Italian art may be sufficiently gathered from the names of the painters whose works bave formed the subjects of the annual publications. Before entering on this list, however, it is right to quote from the Quarterly Review the description given by Sir Henry Layard himself of the state in which the frescoes of the golden age of Italian art then generally were. He writes thus :

Covering as they did in rich profusion the sides within and without of town halls, cathedrals, chapels, and convents, they were exposed to every kind of destruction. The suppression of religious orders and of ancient municipal corporations during periods of revolution and conquest led to the destruction, the abandonment, and frequently to the pulling down of these buildings. Such has been the fate of many of those public palaces, the palaces of the people, glorious monuments of Italian liberty, throwing heavenwards their machicolated towers amid the rinetangled valleys or from the olive-clad hills their massive architecture casting its cool dark shade over the narrow streets beneath. Stately and stern without, yet within all glowing with the fairest treasures of art, fit emblems of those who had raised them when Italy was still their own and the Italian mind was as yet free!

Sir Henry then proceeds to describe the various stages of their degradation :

When the deep religious feeling of the Middle Ages, that union of childlike faith with an earnest impatience of the vices and power of the priesthood, the Dantesque spirit of Catholicism, gave way to an uninquiring pietism and a cowardly resignation to priestly authority, the nimble brush of the Academies swept over the solemn, heartfelt outpourings of the early masters, leaving in their stead theatrical groups of muscular apostles and anatomic saints, happily for the most part invisible in whitewash and chiaroscuro. Next succeeded the age of whitewash, when a large portion of mankind seem suddenly to have been seized with the idea that all that is not white is dirt. Then the operaio' of the South, like his fellow the churchwarden of the North, with the lime pail in one hand and the broom in the other, restored the walls disfigured by old pictures and roba di Giotto,' in which popes, monks, and kings were not always treated with the greatest respect, to a virgin purity more befitting the taste of the time. Lastly, the foreign invader and occupier of Italy still quarters his soldiers and stables his horses in the desecrated church and convent [this was written in 1858, during Austrian occupation] VOL. XV.-No. 86.

SS

wantoning in the destruction of what little may remain of their priceless monuments. A few noble old frescoes that by their almost divine beauty may have stayed the hand of even the Italian destroyer, gradually yielded to the ladder and nails of the sacristan and carpenter. Who that has wandered in the highways and byways of Italy bas not watched the preparation for a “festa '? Garlands of flowers and green boughs stretching across the street, and the perfume of bay leaves trampled under the feet of a listless crowd, invite you through the curtained door of a neighbouring church. The solemn chanting of vespers rising from the dark choir behind the high altar is well nigh lost in the clatter of the hammer. The rays of the falling sun stream through the jewelled windows upon the gorgeous hangings of crimson silk embroidered with gold trailing upon the filthy pavement. Ponderous ladders are reared against the painted aisles, and large nails are driven in with remorseless hands. Flakes of yielding plaster fall in showers to the ground, and things that have cost years of earnest thought and loving labour are gone for

On the following days the fumes of incense and the smoke of a thousand tapers roll up from the altars, and, uniting with the fetid exhalations of an Italian crowd, curdle over the walls. Talk of London smoke, why, Italian neglect, indifference, and ignorance have done more to deprive the world of some of its noblest and most precious monuments of art than could be accomplished by the atmosphere of ten Londons.3

ever.

We may now enumerate the masters whose frescoes have been published in colour by the Society : Giotto, two frescoes from the Upper Church at Assisi, and the head of Dante from the Bargello at Florence, happily recovered from its covering of whitewash by the exertions of Mr. Kirkup and Signor Bezzi; Fra Angelico's frescoes in the Vatican, already mentioned, and several of those painted by him in the cells of the Convent of St. Mark, Florence; Ottaviano Nelli's fresco at S. Maria Nuova, Gubbio; two of Andrea Mantegna’s at the Eremitani Church, Padua ; another by Jacopo d'Avanzo, in S. Antonio, in the same city; Fra Bartolommeo's at the Convent of San Marco, and at the Villa of the Frati di San Marco, Florence—the latter greatly injured by the dampness of the walls; Bazzi at S. Domenico, and at Sta. Anna at Siena, and also at Monte Oliveto; Pacchiarotto's at the Oratory of S. Catherine of Siena; Pietro Lorenzetti's at Assisi; Cavallini's, also at Assisi ; Piero della Francesca's at Borgo S. Sepolcro; Bartolommeo Montagna's at the Church of SS. Nazzaro and Celso, Verona, Perugino's at Panicale, at the Convent of S. M. Maddalena de' Pazzi, Florence; at S. Francesco del Monte, Perugia ; at S. Maria de' Bianchi at Città della Pieve, and in the Sistine Chapel at Rome; Pinturicchio's at Spello, which from neglect are rapidly disappearing ; also by the same painter, scenes in the life of Pope Enea Silvio Piccolomini in the Library of Siena, and a fresco at Monte Oliveto, near S. Gimignano; of Luini, the beautiful burial of S. Catherine, now at the Brera, Milan, and all his frescoes at Saronno; of Giovanni Sanzio, a fresco at S. Domenico, Cagli; and of his more illustrious son Raffaelle, five in the Vatican Stanze and one in the Church of S. Maria della Pace, Rome; of Signorelli,

3 Quarterly Rcriere, October, 1858.

one, and of Michel Angelo three from the Sistine Chapel; of Melozzo da Forli, the famous fresco of Pope Sixtus IV. giving audience, and another fresco of the heads of two angels in the Sacristy of St. Peter's, Rome; of Titian, one at the Scuola del Santo, Padua; of Leonardo da Vinci, one at San Onofrio, Rome; of Domenico Ghirlandajo, four frescoes at S. Trinità, S. Maria Novella, and the Ognissanti, Florence; of Masolino and Masaccio, several in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence; of Filippino Lippi, some in the same chapel, and another in the Badia at Florence; of Francesco Francia, two at S. Cecilia, Bologna; of Andrea del Sarto, four frescoes in the Convent of the Annunziata at Florence; of Benozzo Gozzoli, one at S. Gimignano, one at Montefalco, and two of his beautiful frescoes in the Riccardi Chapel, Florence, now being reproduced from drawings by Herr Kaiser.

But while directing their resources mainly to the publication of frescoes, the Council have not thought it right to exclude altogether important examples of panel painting, whether in tempera or oil. Thus they have brought out chromo-lithographs from pictures by Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Albertinelli, Giorgione, Girolamo dei Libri; and are now preparing for publication subjects from pictures by Simone Memmi and Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. They have even included, to make the field of illustration as comprehensive as possible, a few of the earliest and finest examples of the Flemish and German schools, such as the great altar-piece of the Adoration of the Lamb at Ghent, by the brothers Van Eyck; a triptych at Bruges, and an altar-piece in the Cathedral at Lübeck by Memling, a small picture by Meister Wilhelm, and the Dombild, or great altar-piece of the Cathedral, by Meister Stephan, both at Cologne; the two pictures of the Four Apostles at Munich, and the Adoration of the Trinity at Vienna, by Albert Dürer; the family group at Darmstadt by Holbein of the Burgomaster Mayer in presence of the Madonna; and a portrait of Queen Mary of England at Madrid, by Antonio More.

Nor have the remains of ancient classic fresco been thought inadmissible. When the excavations in the grounds of the Farnesina Palace were made four years ago, some wall decorations of the best period of Roman art were disclosed. The writer well remembers his amazement at their brilliancy, and gaiety, and grace, on the second day after their discovery, when the water of the Tiber was still trickling from them. Alas! most of these speedily faded; but the Society has been able to secure the reproduction of one, supposed to represent “The Nursing of the Infant Bacchus, which it is hoped will shortly be brought out in chromo-lithography. As a contribution, also, to historical no less than artistic lore, the very remarkable diptych of Richard the Second before the Madonna and attendant saints, preserved at Wilton House, has, by permission of Lord Pembroke, been copied and published. This somewhat mysterious picture

« PredošláPokračovať »