But one should not be satisfied with the sight of the fashioning of a bowl or goblet, however interesting the process may be; but entering the gondola again should insist upon visiting both S. Pietro Martire and S. Donato, even if the gondolier, as is most probable, will affirm that both are closed.
The first named is on the left of the canal by which we enter Murano, and which for a while is bordered by glass factories as close together as doctors in Harley Street. The church architecturally is nothing; its value is in its pictures, especially a Bellini and a Basaiti, and its sacristan.
This sacristan has that simple keenness which is a rarity in Venice. He rejoices in his church and in your pleasure in it. He displays first the Bellini—a Madonna with the strong protective Bellini hands about the child, above them bodiless cherubim flying, and on the right a delectable city with square towers. The Basaiti is chiefly notable for what, were it cleaned, would be a lovely landscape. Before both the sacristan is ecstatic, but on his native heath, in the sacristy itself, he is even more contented. It is an odd room, with carvings all around it in which sacred and profane subjects are most curiously mingled: here John the Baptist in the chief scenes of his life, even to imprisonment in a wooden cage, into which the sacristan slips a delighted expository hand, and there Nero, Prometheus, Bacchus, and Seneca without a nose.
Re-entering the gondola, escorted to it by hordes of young Muranese, we move on to the Grand Canal of the island, a noble expanse of water. After turning first to the right and then to the left, and resisting an invitation to enter the glass museum, we disembark, beside a beautiful bridge, at the cathedral, which rises serenely from the soil of its spacious campo.
The exterior of S. Donato is almost more foreign looking than that of S. Mark's, although within S. Mark's is the more exotic. The outside wall of S. Donato's apse, which is the first thing that the traveller sees, is its most beautiful architectural possession and utterly different from anything in Venice: an upper and a lower series of lovely, lonely arches, empty and meaningless in this Saharan campo, the fire of enthusiasm which flamed in their original builders having died away, and this corner of the island being almost depopulated, for Murano gathers now about its glass-works on the other side of its Grand Canal. Hence the impression of desertion is even less complete than at Torcello, where one almost necessarily visits the cathedral in companies twenty to fifty strong.
At the door, to which we are guided by a boy or so who know that cigarettes are thrown away at sacred portals, is the sacristan, an aged gentleman in a velvet cap who has a fuller and truer pride in his fane than any of his brothers in Venice yonder. With reason too, for this basilica is so old as to make many Venetian churches mere mushrooms, and even S. Mark's itself an imitation in the matter of inlaid pavement. Speaking slowly, with the perfection of enunciation, and burgeoning with satisfaction, the old fellow moves about the floor as he has done so many thousand times, pointing out this beauty and that, above and below, without the faintest trace of mechanism. In course of time, when he is fully persuaded that we are not only English but worthy of his secret, it comes out that he had the priceless privilege of knowing Signor "Rooskin" in the flesh, and from his pocket he draws a copy of The Stones of Venice, once the property of one Constance Boyle, but now his own. This he fondles, for though the only words in his own chapters that he can understand are "Murano" and "Donato," yet did not his friend the great Signor Rooskin write it, and what is more, spend many, many days in careful examination of everything here before he wrote it? For that is what most appeals to the old gentleman: the recognition of his S. Donato as being worthy of such a study.
The floor is very beautiful, and there is a faded series of saints by one of the Vivarini of Murano, behind the altar, on which the eye rests very comfortably—chiefly perhaps on the panels which are only painted curtains; but the most memorable feature of the cathedral is the ancient Byzantine mosaic of the Madonna—a Greek Madonna—in the hollow of the apse: a long slender figure in blue against a gold background who holds her hands rather in protest than welcome, and is fascinating rather for the piety which set her there with such care and thought to her glory than for her beauty. Signor Rooskin, it is true, saw her as a symbol of sadness, and some of the most exquisite sentences of "The Stones of Venice" belong to her; but had her robe been of less lovely hues it is possible that he might have written differently.
When the church was built, probably in the tenth century, the Virgin was its patron saint. S. Donato's body being brought hither by Doge Domenico Michiel (1118-1130), the church was known as Santa Maria, or San Donato; and to-day it is called S. Donato. And when the time comes for the old sacristan to die, I hope (no matter what kind of a muddle his life has been) that S. Donato will be at hand, near the gate, to pull him through, for sheer faithfulness to his church.
The gondola returns by the same route, and as we pass the Campo Santo the rays of the afternoon sun seem so to saturate its ruddy walls that they give out light of their own. It is in order to pass slowly beneath these walls and cypresses that I recommend the gondola as the medium for a visit to Murano. But the penny steamers go to a pier close to S. Donato and are frequent.
Murano is within every visitor's range, no matter how brief his stay, but Burano is another matter. The steamer which sails from the pier opposite Danieli's on all fine afternoons except Sundays and holidays requires four hours; but if the day be fine they are four hours not to be forgotten. The way out is round the green island of S. Elena, skirting the Arsenal, the vastness of which is apparent from the water, and under the north wall of Murano, where its pleasant gardens spread, once so gay with the Venetian aristocracy but now the property of market gardeners and lizards. Then through the channels among the shallows, north, towards the two tall minarets in the distance, the one of Burano, the other of Torcello. Far away may be seen the Tyrolean Alps, with, if it is spring, their snow-clad peaks poised in the air; nearer, between us and the islands, is a military or naval station, and here and there yellow and red sail which we are to catch and pass. Venice has nothing more beautiful than her coloured sails, both upon the water and reflected in it.
The entrance to Burano is by a long winding canal, which at the Campo Santo, with its battered campanile and sentinel cypress at the corner, branches to left and right—left to Torcello and right to Burano. Here the steamer is surrounded by boatmen calling seductively in their soft rich voices "Goon-dola! Goon-dola!" their aim, being to take the visitor either to the cypress-covered island of S. Francesco in Deserto where S. Francis is believed to have taken refuge, or to Torcello, to allow of a longer stay there than this steamer permits; and unless one is enamoured of such foul canals and importunate children as Burano possesses it is well to listen to this lure. But Burano has charms, notwithstanding its dirt. Its squalid houses are painted every hue that the prism knows, and through the open doors are such arrays of copper and brass utensils as one associates with Holland. Every husband is a fisherman; every wife a mother and a lace maker, as the doorways bear testimony, for both the pillow and the baby in arms are punctually there for the procession of visitors to witness. Whether they would be there did not the word go round that the steamer approached, I cannot say, but here and there the display seems a thought theatrical. Meanwhile in their boats in the canals, or on the pavement mending nets, are the Burano men.
Everybody is dirty. If Venice is the bride of the Adriatic, Burano is the kitchen slut.
Yet there is an oasis of smiling cleanliness, and that is the chief sight of the place—the Scuola Merletti, under the patronage of Queen Margherita, the centre of the lace-making industry. This building, which is by the church, is, outside, merely one more decayed habitation. You pass within, past the little glass box of the custodian, whose small daughter is steering four inactive snails over the open page of a ledger, and ascend a flight of stairs, and behold you are in the midst of what seem to be thousands of girls in rows, each nursing her baby. On closer inspection the babies are revealed to be pillows held much as babies are held, and every hand is busy with a bobbin (or whatever it is), and every mouth seems to be munching. Passing on, you enter another room—if the first has not abashed you—and here are thousands more. Pretty girls too, some of them, with their black massed hair and olive skins, and all so neat and happy. Specimens of their work, some of it of miraculous delicacy, may be bought and kept as a souvenir of a most delightful experience.
For the rest, the interest of Burano is in Burano itself in the aggregate; for the church is a poor gaudy thing and there is no architecture of mark. And so, fighting one's way through small boys who turn indifferent somersaults, and little girls whose accomplishment is to rattle clogged feet and who equally were born with an extended hand, you rejoin the steamer.
Torcello is of a different quality. Burano is intensely and rather shockingly living; Torcello is nobly dead. It is in fact nothing but market gardens, a few houses where Venetian sportsmen stay when they shoot duck and are royally fed by kitcheners whose brass and copper make the mouth water, and a great forlorn solitary cathedral.
History tells us that in the sixth century, a hundred and more years after the flight of the mainlanders to Rialto and Malamocco, another exodus occurred, under fear of Alboin and the invading Lombards, this time to Torcello. The way was led by the clergy, and quickly a church was built to hearten the emigrants. Of this church there remain the deserted buildings before us, springing from the weeds, but on a scale which makes simple realization of the populousness of the ancient colony.
The charming octagonal little building on the right with its encircling arcade is the church of S. Fosca, now undergoing very thorough repair: in fact everything that a church can ask is being restored to it, save religion. No sea cave could be less human than these deserted temples, given over now to sightseers and to custodians who demand admittance money. The pit railed in on the left before the cathedral's west wall is in the ancient baptistery, where complete immersion was practised. The cathedral within is remarkable chiefly for its marble throne high up in the apse, where the bishop sat with his clergy about him on semi-circular seats gained by steps. Above them are mosaics, the Virgin again, as at S. Donato, in the place of honour, but here she is given her Son and instantly becomes more tender. The twelve apostles attend. On the opposite wall is a quaint mosaic of the Last Judgment with the usual sharp division of parties. The floor is very beautiful in places, and I have a mental picture of an ancient and attractive carved marble pulpit.
The vigorous climb the campanile, from which, as Signor Rooskin says, may be seen Torcello and Venice—"Mother and Daughter ... in their widowhood." Looking down, it is strange indeed to think that here once were populous streets.
On the way to the campanile do not forget to notice the great stone shutters of the windows of the cathedral; which suggest a security impossible to be conveyed by iron. No easy task setting these in their place and hinging them. What purpose the stone arm-chair in the grass between the baptistery and S. Fosca served is not known. One guide will have it the throne of Attila; another, a seat of justice. Be that as it may, tired ladies can find it very consoling in this our twentieth century.
For antiquaries there is a museum of excavated relics of Torcello; but with time so short it is better to wander a little, seeking for those wild flowers which in England are objects of solicitude to gardeners, or watching butterflies that are seen in our country only when pinned on cork.
The return voyage leaves S. Francesco in Deserto on the right, with the long low Lido straight ahead. Then we turn to the right and the Lido is on the left for most of the way to Venice. After a mile or so the mouth of the Adriatic is passed, where the Doge dropped his ring from the Bucintoro and thus renewed the espousals. On the day which I have in mind two airships were circling the city, and now and then the rays of the sun caught their envelopes and turned them to silver. Beneath, the lagoon was still as a pond; a few fishing boats with yellow sails lay at anchor near the Porto di Lido, like brimstone butterflies on a hot stone; and far away the snow of the Tyrolean alps still hung between heaven and earth.
ON FOOT. I: FROM THE PIAZZA TO S. STEFANO
The Ridotto—The Fenice Theatre—The Goldoni Theatre—Amleto—A star part—S. Zobenigo—S. Stefano—Cloisters—Francesco Morosini—A great soldier—Nicolo Tommaseo—The Campo Morosini—Red hair.
Leaving the Piazza at the corner diagonally opposite the Merceria clock, we come at once into the busy Salizzada S. Moise, where the shops for the more expensive tourists are to be found. A little way on the right is the beginning of the Frezzeria, a Venetian shopping centre second only to the Merceria. A little way on the left is the Calle del Ridotto where, divided now into a cinema theatre, auction rooms, a restaurant, and the Grand Canal Hotel, is the once famous Ridotto of which Casanova has much to tell. Here were held masquerades; here were gambling tables; hither Venice resorted to forget that she had ever been great and to make sure that she should be great no longer. The Austrians suppressed it.
The church of S. Moise, with its very florid facade of statuary, has little of interest in it. Keeping with the stream and passing the Bauer-Gruenwald restaurant on the left, we come in a few minutes to a bridge—the Ponte delle Ostreghe (or Oysters)—over a rio at the end of which, looking to the right, we see the great Venetian theatre, the Fenice.
The Fenice is, I suppose, the most romantic theatre in the world, for the simple reason that the audience, at any rate those who occupy the boxes, all arrive in boats. Before it is a basin for the convenience of navigation, but even with that the confusion on a gala night must be excessive, and a vast space of time must divide the first comers from the last, if the last are to be punctual. And when one translates our own difficulties over cars and cabs at the end of a performance into the terms of gondolas and canals, one can imagine how long it must be before the theatre is emptied.
The Fenice is also remarkable among the world's theatres for its size, holding, as it does, three thousand persons. It is peculiar furthermore in being open only for a few weeks in the spring.
I have not been to the Fenice, but I once attended a performance of Amleto by "G. Shakespeare" in the Goldoni. It is the gayest of theatres, and the most intimate, for all save the floor and a trifling space under the flat ceiling is boxes; one hundred and twenty-three little ones and eight big ones, each packed with Venetians who really do enjoy a play while it is in progress, and really do enjoy every minute of the interval while it is not. When the lights are up they eat and chatter and scrutinize the other boxes; when the lights are down they follow the drama breathlessly and hiss if any one dares to whisper a word to a neighbour.
As for the melancholy Prince of Danimarca, he was not my conception of the part, but he was certainly the Venetians'. Either from a national love of rhetoric, or a personal fancy of the chief actor for the centre of the stage, or from economical reasons, the version of "G. Shakespeare's" meritorious tragedy which was placed before us was almost wholly monologue. Thinking about it now, I can scarcely recall any action on the part of the few other characters, whereas Amleto's millions of rapid words still rain uncomprehended on my ears, and I still see his myriad grimaces and gestures. It was like Hamlet very unintelligently arranged for a very noisy cinema, and watching it I was conscious of what a vast improvement might be effected in many plays if the cinema producer as well as the author attended the rehearsals. But to the Venetians this was as impressive and entertaining a Hamlet as could be wished, and four jolly Jack-tars from one of the men-of-war in the lagoon nearly fell out of their private box in their delight, and after each of the six atti Amleto was called several times through the little door in the curtain. Nor did he fail to respond.
About the staging of the play there was a right Shakespearian parsimony. If all the scenery and costumes cost twenty-five pounds, I am surprised. No attempt was made to invest "lo spettro del padre del Amleto" with supernatural graces. He merely walked on sideways, a burly, very living Italian, and with a nervous quick glance, to see if he was clearing the wing (which he sometimes did not), off again. So far as the Goldoni is concerned, Sir Henry Irving, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Sir Augustus Harris, and Herr Reinhardt have toiled in vain. Amleto's principle, "The play's the thing," was refined down to "Amleto's the thing". Yet no English theatre was ever in better spirits.
Continuing from the Bridge of the Oysters, we come shortly to S. Zobenigo, or S. Maria del Giglio (of the lily), of which the guide-books take very little account, but it is a friendly, cheerful church with a sweet little dark panelled chapel at the side, all black and gold with rich tints in its scriptural frieze. The church is not famous for any picture, but it has a quaint relief of S. Jerome in his cell, with his lion and his books about him, in the entrance hall, and the first altar-piece on the left seemed to me a pleasant soft thing, and over the door are four female saints freely done. On the facade are stone maps of Zara, Candia, Padua, Rome, Corfu, and Spalata, which originally were probably coloured and must then have been very gay, and above are stone representations of five naval engagements.
All that remains of S. Zobenigo's campanile is the isolated structure in the Piazza. It did not fall but was taken down in time.
Still following the stream and maintaining as direct a line as the calli permit, we come, by way of two more bridges, a church (S. Maurizio), and another bridge, to the great Campo Morosoni where S. Stefano is situated.
For sheer comfort and pleasure I think that S. Stefano is the first church in Venice. It is spacious and cheerful, with a charming rosetted ceiling and carved and coloured beams across the nave, and a bland light illumines all. It is remarkable also as being one of the very few Venetian churches with cloisters. Here one may fancy oneself in Florence if one has the mind. The frescoes are by Pordenone, but they have almost perished. By some visitors to Venice, S. Stefano may be esteemed furthermore as offering a harbour of refuge from pictures, for it has nothing that need be too conscientiously scrutinized.
The fine floor tomb with brass ornaments is that of Francesco Morosoni, the heroic defender of Candia against the Turks until, in 1669, further resistance was found to be useless and he made an honourable retreat. Later he was commander of the forces in a new war against the Turks, and in 1686 he was present at the sack of Athens and did what he could (being a lover of the arts as well as a soldier) to check the destroying zeal of his army. It was there that he at last fulfilled his dreams of conquering the Morea. It was while he was conducting this campaign that the Doge Marcantonio Giustinian died, and Morosoni being elected in his place was crowned on his battleship at Porto Porro in Cephalonia. The carousals of the army and navy lasted for three days, at the new Doge's cost, the resources of the fleet having no difficulty in running to every kind of pageantry and pyrotechny. Returning to Venice, after the somewhat inglorious end of his campaign, Morosoni was again crowned.
Although a sick man when a year or so later a strong hand was again needed in the Morea, the Doge once more volunteered and sailed from the Lido with the fleet. But he was too old and too infirm, and he died in Nauplia in 1694. Venice was proud of him, and with reason; for he won back territory for her (although she was not able to keep it), and he loved her with a pure flame. But he was behind his time: he was an iron ruler, and iron rule was out of date. The new way was compromise and pleasure.
The marble lions that now guard the gate of the Arsenal were saved and brought home by Morosoni, as his great fighting ducal predecessor Enrico Dandolo had in his day of triumph brought trophies from Constantinople. The careers of the two men are not dissimilar; but Morosoni was a child beside Dandolo, for at his death he was but seventy-six.
The campo in front of S. Stefano bears Morosoni's name, but the statue in the midst is not that of General Booth, as the English visitor might think, but of Niccolo Tommaseo (1802-1874), patriot and author and the ally of Daniele Manin. This was once a popular arena for bull-fights, but there has not been one in Venice for more than a hundred years.
Morosoni's palace, once famous for its pictures, is the palace on the left (No. 2802) as we leave the church for the Accademia bridge. Opposite is another ancient palace, now a scholastic establishment with a fine Neptune knocker. Farther down on the left is a tiny campo, across which is the vast Palazzo Pisani, a very good example of the decay of Venice, for it is now a thousand offices and a conservatory of music.
Outside S. Vitale I met, in the space of one minute, two red-haired girls, after seeking the type in vain for days; and again I lost it. But certain artists, when painting in Venice, seem to see little else.
And now, being close to the iron bridge which leads to the door of the Accademia, let us see some pictures.
THE ACCADEMIA. I: TITIAN, TINTORETTO, AND PAUL VERONESE
The important rooms—Venetian art in London—The ceiling of the thousand wings—Some early painters—Titian's "Assumption"—Tintoretto's "Miracle of S. Mark"—A triumph of novelty—The Campanile miracle—Altar-pieces—Paul Veronese—Leonardo drawings—Indifferent works—Jesus in the house of Levi—A painter on his trial—Other Tintorettos—Another miracle of S. Mark—Titian's last painting.
The Accademia, which is to Venice what the National Gallery is to London, the Louvre to Paris, and the Uffizi to Florence, is, I may say, at once, as a whole a disappointment; and my advice to visitors is to disregard much of it absolutely.
The reasons why Rooms II, IV, IX, X, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX and XX alone are important are two. One is that so wide a gulf is fixed between the best Venetian painters—Bellini, Titian, Carpaccio, Giorgione (but he is not represented here), Palma, Tintoretto, Veronese, and the next best; and the other, that Venetian painting of the second order is rarely interesting. In the Tuscan school an effort to do something authentic or arresting persists even to the fifth and sixth rank of painter; but not so here.
Were it not for the Accademia's Tintorettos, Carpaccios and Bellinis, our own Venetian collection in Trafalgar Square would be much more interesting; and even as it is we have in "The Origin of the Milky Way" a Tintoretto more fascinating than any here; in "Bacchus and Ariadne" a more brilliant Titian than any here; some Bellinis, such as "The Agony in the Garden," the portrait of Loredano, and "The Death of S. Peter Martyr," that challenge his best here; two Giorgiones and several pictures notably of his school that cannot be matched here; the finest Catena that exists; a more charming Basaiti than any here; a better Antonello da Messina; and, according to some judges, the best Paul Veronese in the world: "The House of Darius"; while when it comes to Carlo Crivelli, he does not exist here at all.
But it has to be remembered that one does not go to Venice to see pictures. One goes to see Venice: that is to say, an unbelievable and wonderful city of spires and palaces, whose streets are water and whose sunsets are liquid gold. Pictures, as we use the word, meaning paintings in frames on the wall, as in the National Gallery or the Louvre, are not among its first treasures. But in painting as decoration of churches and palaces Venice is rich indeed, and by anyone who would study the three great Venetian masters of that art—Tintoretto, Titian and Paul Veronese—it must not only be visited but haunted. Venice alone can prove to the world what giants these men—and especially Tintoretto—could be when given vast spaces to play with; and since they were Venetians it is well that we should be forced to their well-beloved and well-served city to learn it.
Let us walk through the Accademia conscientiously, but let us dwell only in the rooms I have selected. The first room (with a fine ceiling which might be called the ceiling of the thousand wings, around which are portraits of painters ranged like the Doges in the great council halls) belongs to the very early men, of whom Jacobello del Fiore (1400-1439) is the most agreeable. It was he who painted one of the two lions that we saw in the museum of the Doges' Palace, the other and better being Carpaccio's. To him also is given, by some critics, the equestrian S. Chrysogonus, in S. Trovaso. His Accademia picture, on the end wall, is strictly local, representing Justice with her lion and S. Michael and S. Gabriel attending. It is a rich piece of decoration and you will notice that it grows richer on each visit. Two other pictures in this room that I like are No. 33, a "Coronation of the Virgin," painted by Michele Giambono in 1440, making it a very complete ceremony, and No. 24, a good church picture with an entertaining predella, by Michele di Matteo Lambertini (died 1469). The "Madonna and Child" by Bonconsiglio remains gaily in the memory too. No doubt about the Child being the Madonna's own.
Having finished with this room, one ought really to make directly for Room XVII, although it is a long way off, for that room is given to Giovanni Bellini, and Giovanni Bellini was the instructor of Titian, and Tintoretto was the disciple of Titian, and thus, as we are about to see Titian and Tintoretto at their best here, we should get a line of descent. But I reserve the outline of Venetian painting until the Bellinis are normally reached.
The two great pictures of this next room are Titian's "Assumption" and Tintoretto's "Miracle of S. Mark," reproduced opposite page 164, and this one. I need hardly say that it is the Titian which wins the rapture and the applause; but the other gives me personally more pleasure. The Titian is massive and wonderful: perhaps indeed too massive in the conception of the Madonna, for the suggestion of flight is lacking; but it has an earthiness, even a theatricalness, which one cannot forget, superb though that earthiness may be. The cherubs, however, commercial copies of which are always being made by diligent artists, are a joy. The Titians that hang in the gallery of my mind are other than this. A Madonna and Child and a rollicking baby at Vienna: our own "Bacchus and Ariadne"; the Louvre "Man with a Glove": these are among them; but the "Assumption" is not there.
Tintoretto's great picture of the "Miracle of S. Mark" was painted between 1544 and 1548, before he was thirty. The story tells that a pious slave, forbidden by his master to visit and venerate the house of S. Mark, disobeyed the command and went. As a punishment his master ordered him to be blinded and maimed; but the hands of the executioners were miraculously stayed and their weapons refused to act. The master, looking on, was naturally at once converted.
Tintoretto painted his picture of this incident for the Scuola of S. Mark (now a hospital); but when it was delivered, the novelty of its dramatic vigour—a palpitating actuality almost of the cinema—was too much for the authorities. The coolness of their welcome infuriated the painter, conscious as he was that he had done a great thing, and he demanded the work back; but fortunately there were a few good judges to see it first, and their enthusiasm carried the day. Very swiftly the picture became a wonder of the city. Thus has it always been with the great innovators in art, except that Tintoretto's triumph was more speedy: they have almost invariably been condemned first.
An interesting derivative detail of the work is the gateway at the back over which the sculptured figures recline, for these obviously were suggested by casts, which we know Tintoretto to have possessed, of Michael Angelo's tombs in S. Lorenzo's sacristy at Florence. Every individual in the picture is alive and breathing, but none more remarkably so than the woman on the left with a child in her arms and her knee momentarily resting on a slope of the pillar. No doubt some of the crowd are drawn, after the fashion of the time, from public men in Venice; but I know not if they can now be identified.
Another legend of S. Mark which, by the way, should have its Venetian pictorial rendering, tells how a man who was working on the Campanile fell, and as he fell had the presence of mind to cry "S. Mark! S. Mark!" whereupon a branch instantly sprang forth from the masonry below and sustained him until help arrived. Tintoretto, who has other miracles of S. Mark in the Royal Palace here and in the Brera at Milan, would have drawn that falling workman magnificently.
This room also has two of Tintoretto's simpler canvases—an Adam and Eve (with an error in it, for they are clothed before the apple is eaten) and a Cain and Abel. The other pictures are altar-pieces of much sweetness, by Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio, Basaiti and Cima. The Carpaccio is the best known by reason of the little charming celestial orchestra at the foot of it, with, in the middle, the adorable mandolinist who has been reproduced as a detail to gladden so many thousands of walls. All have quiet radiance.
High over the door by which we entered is a masterly aristocratic allegory by Paul Veronese—Venice with Hercules and Ceres—notable for the superb drawing and vivacity of the cupid with the wheat sheaf. I give a reproduction opposite page 102, but the Cupid unfortunately is not distinct enough.
Room III has a Spanish picture by Ribera, interesting so near the Tintorettos, and little else.
I am not sure that I am not happier in Room IV than anywhere else in this gallery, for here are the drawings, and by an odd chance Venice is rich in Leonardos. She is rich too in Raphaels, but that is less important. Among the Leonardos, chiefly from his note books, look at No. 217, a child's leg; No. 257, children; No. 256, a darling little "Virgin adoring"; No. 230, a family group, very charming; No. 270, a smiling woman (but this possibly is by an imitator); No. 233, a dancing figure; No. 231, the head of Christ; and the spirited corner of a cavalry battle. Some of the Raphaels are exquisite, notably No. 23, a Madonna adoring; No. 32, a baby; No. 89, a mother and child; and No. 50, a flying angel.
In Room V are many pictures, few of which are good enough. It belongs to the school of Giovanni Bellini and is conspicuous for the elimination of character. Vacuous bland countenances, indicative merely of pious mildness, surround you, reaching perhaps their highest point of meek ineffectually in Bissolo.
The next room has nothing but dingy northern pictures in a bad light, of which I like best No. 201, a small early unknown French portrait, and No. 198, an old lady, by Mor.
Sala VII is Venetian again, the best picture being Romanino's "Deposition," No. 737. An unknown treatment of Christ in the house of Martha and Mary, No. 152, is quaint and interesting. Mary is very comely, with long fair hair. Martha, not sufficiently resentful, lays the table.
In Room VIII we again go north and again are among pictures that must be cleaned if we are to see them.
And then we come to Room IX and some masterpieces. The largest picture here is Paul Veronese's famous work, "Jesus in the House of Levi," of which I give a reproduction opposite page 176. Veronese is not a great favourite of mine; but there is a blandness and aristocratic ease and mastery here that are irresistible. As an illustration of scripture it is of course absurd; but in Venice (whose Doges, as we have seen, had so little humour that they could commission pictures in which they were represented on intimate terms with the Holy Family) one is accustomed to that. As a fine massive arrangement of men, architecture, and colour, it is superb.
It was for painting this picture as a sacred subject—or rather for subordinating sacred history to splendid mundane effects—that the artist was summoned before the Holy Office in the chapel of S. Theodore on July 8, 1573. At the end of Ruskin's brief Guide to the Principal Pictures in the Academy of Fine Arts at Venice, a translation of the examination is given. Reading it, one feels that Veronese did not come out of it too well. Whistler would have done better. I quote a little.
Question. Do you know the reason why you have been summoned?
Answer. No, my lord.
Q. Can you imagine it?
A. I can imagine it.
Q. Tell us what you imagine.
A. For the reason which the Reverend Prior of SS. Giovanni and Paolo, whose name I know not, told me that he had been here, and that your illustrious lordships had given him orders that I should substitute the figure of the Magdalen for that of a dog; and I replied that I would willingly have done this, or anything else for my own credit and the advantage of the picture, but that I did not think the figure of the Magdalen would be fitting or would look well, for many reasons, which I will always assign whenever the opportunity is given me.
Q. What picture is that which you have named?
A. It is the picture representing the last supper that Jesus took with His disciples in the house of Simon.
Q. Where is this picture?
A. In the refectory of the Friars of SS. Giovanni and Paolo.
Q. In this supper of Our Lord, have you painted any attendants?
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. Say how many attendants, and what each is doing.
A. First, the master of the house, Simon; besides, I have placed below him a server, who I have supposed to have come for his own amusement to see the arrangement of the table. There are besides several others, which, as there are many figures in the picture, I do not recollect.
Q. What is the meaning of those men dressed in the German fashion each with a halbert in his hand?
A. It is now necessary that I should say a few words.
The Court. Say on.
A. We painters take the same license that is permitted to poets and jesters. I have placed these two halberdiers—the one eating, the other drinking—by the staircase, to be supposed ready to perform any duty that may be required of them; it appearing to me quite fitting that the master of such a house, who was rich and great (as I have been told), should have such attendants.
Q. That fellow dressed like a buffoon, with the parrot on his wrist,—for what purpose is he introduced into the canvas?
A. For ornament, as is usually done.
Q. At the table of the Lord whom have you placed?
A. The twelve Apostles.
Q. What is St. Peter doing, who is the first?
A. He is cutting up a lamb, to send to the other end of the table.
Q. What is he doing who is next to him?
A. He is holding a plate to receive what St. Peter will give him.
Q. Tell us what he is doing who is next to this last?
A. He is using a fork as a tooth-pick.
Q. Who do you really think were present at that supper?
A. I believe Christ and His Apostles were present; but in the foreground of the picture I have placed figures for ornament, of my own invention.
Q. Were you commissioned by any person to paint Germans and buffoons, and such-like things in this picture?
A. No, my lord; my commission was to ornament the picture as I judged best, which, being large, requires many figures, as it appears to me.
Q. Are the ornaments that the painter is in the habit of introducing in his frescoes and pictures suited and fitting to the subject and to the principal persons represented, or does he really paint such as strike his own fancy without exercising his judgment or his discretion?
A. I design my pictures with all due consideration as to what is fitting, and to the best of my judgment.
Q. Does it appear to you fitting that at our Lord's last supper you should paint buffoons, drunkards, Germans, dwarfs, and similar indecencies?
A. No, my lord.
Q. Why, then, have you painted them?
A. I have done it because I supposed that these were not in the place where the supper was served....
Q. And have your predecessors, then, done such things?
A. Michel-Angelo, in the Papal Chapel in Rome, has painted our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother, St. John and St. Peter, and all the Court of Heaven, from the Virgin Mary downwards, all naked, and in various attitudes, with little reverence.
Q. Do you not know that in a painting like the Last Judgment, where drapery is not supposed, dresses are not required, and that disembodied spirits only are represented; but there are neither buffoons, nor dogs, nor armour, nor any other absurdity? And does it not appear to you that neither by this nor any other example you have done right in painting the picture in this manner, and that it can be proved right and decent?
A. Illustrious lord, I do not defend it; but I thought I was doing right....
The result was that the painter was ordered to amend the picture, within the month, at his own expense; but he does not seem to have done so. There are two dogs and no Magdalen. The dwarf and the parrot are there still. Under the table is a cat.
Veronese has in this room also an "Annunciation," No. 260, in which the Virgin is very mature and solid and the details are depressingly dull. The worst Tuscan "Annunciation" is, one feels, better than this. The picture of S. Mark and his lion, No. 261, is better, and in 261a we find a good vivid angel, but she has a terrific leg. The Tintorettos include the beautiful grave picture of the Madonna and Child giving a reception to Venetian Senators who were pleased to represent the Magi; the "Purification of the Virgin," a nice scene with one of his vividly natural children in it; a "Deposition," rich and glowing and very like Rubens; and the "Crucifixion," painted as an altar-piece for SS. Giovanni e Paolo before his sublime picture of the same subject—his masterpiece—was begun for the Scuola of S. Rocco. If one see this, the earlier version, first, one is the more impressed; to come to it after that other is to be too conscious of a huddle. But it has most of the great painter's virtues, and the soldiers throwing dice are peculiarly his own.
Room X is notable for a fine Giorgionesque Palma Vecchio: a Holy family, rich and strong and sweet; but the favourite work is Paris Bordone's representation of the famous story of the Fisherman and the Doge, full of gracious light and animation. It seems that on a night in 1340 so violent a storm broke that even the inner waters of the lagoon were perilously rough. A fisherman chanced to be anchoring his boat off the Riva when a man appeared and bade him row him to the island of S. Giorgio Maggiore. Very unwillingly he did so, and there they took on board another man who was in armour, and orders were given to proceed to S. Niccolo on the Lido. There a third man joined them, and the fisherman was told to put out to sea. They had not gone far when they met a ship laden with devils which was on her way to unload this cargo at Venice and overwhelm the city. But on the three men rising and making the sign of the cross, the vessel instantly vanished. The fisherman thus knew that his passengers were S. Mark, S. George, and S. Nicholas. S. Mark gave him a ring in token of their sanctity and the deliverance of Venice, and this, in the picture, he is handing to the Doge.
Here, too, is the last picture that Titian painted—a "Deposition". It was intended for the aged artist's tomb in the Frari, but that purpose was not fulfilled. Palma the younger finished it. With what feelings, one wonders, did Titian approach what he knew was his last work? He painted it in 1576, when he was either ninety-nine or eighty-nine; he died in the same year. To me it is one of his most beautiful things: not perhaps at first, but after one has returned to it again and again, and then for ever. It has a quality that his earlier works lack, both of simplicity and pathos. The very weakness of the picture engages and convinces.
THE ACCADEMIA. II: THE SANTA CROCE MIRACLES AND CARPACCIO
The Holy Cross—Gentile Bellini's Venice—The empty windows—Carpaccio's Venice—The story of S. Ursula—Gay pageantry—A famous bedroom—Carpaccio's life—Ruskin's eulogy.
In Room XV are the Santa Croce miracles. The Holy Cross was brought by Filippo da Massaro and presented to the Scuola di S. Giovanni Evangelista. Every year it was carried in solemn procession through Venice and something remarkable was expected of it.
The great picture by Gentile Bellini, which shows the progress of the Holy Cross procession across the Piazza in 1496, is historically of much interest. One sees many changes and much that is still familiar. The only mosaic on the facade of S. Mark's which still remains is that in the arch over the left door; and that also is the only arch which has been left concave. The three flagstaffs are there, but they have wooden pediments and no lions on the top, as now. The Merceria clock tower is not yet, and the south arcade comes flush with the campanile's north wall; but I doubt if that was so. The miracle of that year was the healing of a youth who had been fatally injured in the head; his father may be seen kneeling just behind the relic.
The next most noticeable picture, also Gentile Bellini's, records a miracle of 1500. The procession was on its way to S. Lorenzo, near the Arsenal, from the Piazza, when the sacred emblem fell into the canal. Straightway in jumped Andrea Vendramin, the chief of the Scuola, to save it, and was supernaturally buoyed up by his sanctified burden. The picture has a religious basis, but heaven is not likely, I think, to be seriously affronted if one smiles a little at these aquatic sports. Legend has it that the little kneeling group on the right is Gentile's own family, and the kneeling lady on the left, with a nun behind her, is Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus.
Bellini has made the scene vivid, but it is odd that he should have put not a soul at a window. When we turn to Carpaccio's "Miracle" of 1494, representing the healing of a man possessed of a devil, who may be seen in the loggia at the left, we find a slightly richer sense of history, for three or four women look from the windows; but Mansueti, although a far inferior artist, is the only one to be really thorough and Venetian in this respect.
One very interesting detail of Carpaccio's "Miracle" picture is the Rialto bridge of his time. It was of wood, on piles, and a portion in the centre could be drawn up either to let tall masts through or to stop the thoroughfare to pursuers. It is valuable, too, for its costumes and architecture. In a gondola is a dog, since one of those animals finds its way into most of his works. This time it is S. Jerome's dog from the picture at S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni. An English translation of the Santa Croce story might well be placed in this room.
Before leaving this room one should look again at the haunting portrait of S. Lorenzo Giustiniani, No. 570, by Gentile Bellini, which has faded and stained so graciously into a quiet and beautiful decoration.
It is the S. Ursula pictures in Room XVI for which, after Titian's "Assumption," most visitors to Venice esteem the Accademia; but to my mind the charm of Carpaccio is not displayed here so fully as in his decorations at S. Giorgio. The Ursula pictures are, however, of deep interest and are unforgettable.
But first for the story. As The Golden Legend tells it, it runs thus. Ursula was the daughter of a Christian king in Britain named Notus or Maurus, and the fame of her beauty and wisdom spread afar, so that the King of England, who was a heathen himself, heard of it and wished her for his son's wife. His son, too, longed for the match, but the paganism of his family was against it. Ursula therefore stipulated that before the marriage could be solemnized the King of England should send to her ten virgins as companions, and each of these virgins and herself, making eleven, should have a retinue of a thousand other virgins, making eleven thousand in all (or to be precise, eleven thousand and eleven) for prayer and consecration; and that the prince moreover should be baptised; and then at the end of three years she would marry him. The conditions were agreed to, and the virgins collected, and all, after some time spent in games and jousting, with noblemen and bishops among the spectators, joined Ursula, who converted them. Being converted, they set sail from Britain for Rome. There they met the pope, who, having a prevision of their subsequent martyrdom, resigned the papacy, much against the will of the Church and for reasons which are not too clear. In Rome they were seen also by two fellow-princes named Maximus and Africanus, who, disliking them for their Christianity, arranged with one Julian, a prince of the Huns, that on their arrival at Cologne, on their return journey, he should behead the whole company, and thus prevent them from further mischief. Meanwhile Ursula's betrothed went to Cologne to meet his bride. With the eleven thousand were many of the most eminent bishops and other men of mark, and directly they arrived at Cologne the Huns fell on them and killed every one except Ursula and another named Cordula. Julian offered to make Ursula his wife, but on her repudiation of the suggestion he shot her through the body with his bow and arrow. Cordula hid in a ship, but the next day suffered death by her own free will and earned a martyr's crown. All this happened in the year A.D. 238.
Carpaccio, it will be quickly seen, disregards certain details of this version. For example, he makes Ursula's father a King of the Moors, although there is nothing Moorish about either that monarch, his daughter, or his city. The first picture, which has the best light in it, shows the ambassadors from England craving the hand of the princess. At the back is one of those octagonal buildings so dear to this painter, also in the city. His affection for dogs, always noticeable, is to be seen here again, for he has placed three hounds on the quay. A clock somewhat like that of the Merceria is on the little tower. The English ship has a red flag. On the right is the King pondering with Ursula over his reply. In the next picture, No. 573, the ambassadors receive this reply. In the next the ambassadors depart, with the condition that a term of three years must first pass. They return to a strangely unfamiliar England: an England in which Carpaccio himself must have been living for some time in the role of architect. This—No. 574—is a delightful and richly mellow scene of activity, and not the least attractive feature of it is the little fiddling boy on the left. Carpaccio has so enjoyed the pageantry and detail, even to frescoes on the house, crowded bridges, and so forth, that his duty as a story-teller has suffered. In the next picture, No. 575, which is really two, divided by the flagstaff, we have on the left the departure of the English prince from an English seaport (of a kind which alas! has disappeared for ever) to join in his lady-love's pilgrimage to Rome. He bids his father farewell. Nothing could be more fascinating than the mountain town and its battlements, and every inch of the picture is amusing and alive. Crowds of gay people assemble and a ship has run on the rocks. On the right, the prince meets Ursula, who also has found a very delectable embarking place. Here are more gay crowds and sumptuous dresses, of which the King's flowered robe is not the least. Farther still to the right the young couple kneel before the monarch. I reproduce this.
The apotheosis of S. Ursula, No. 576, is here interposed, very inappropriately, for she is not yet dead or a saint, merely a pious princess.
The story is then resumed—in No. 577—with a scene at Rome, as we know it to be by the castle of S. Angelo, in which Ursula and her prince are being blessed by the Pope Cyriacus, while an unending file of virgins extends into the distance.
In the next picture, reproduced opposite page 120, Ursula, in her nice great bed, in what is perhaps the best-known bedroom in the world, dreams of her martyrdom and sees an angel bringing her the rewards of fortitude. The picture has pretty thoughts but poor colour. Where the room is meant to be, I am not sure; but it is a very charming one. Note her little library of big books, her writing desk and hour-glass, her pen and ink. Carpaccio of course gives her a dog. Her slippers are beside the bed and her little feet make a tiny hillock in the bedclothes: Carpaccio was the man to think of that! The windows are open and she has no mosquito net. Her princess's crown is at the foot of the bed, or is it perchance her crown of glory?
We next see the shipload of bishops and virgins arriving at Cologne. There are fewer Carpaccio touches here, but he has characteristically put a mischievous youth at the end of a boom. There is also a dog on the landing-stage and a bird in the tree. A comely tower is behind with flags bearing three crowns. The next picture shows us, on the left, the horrid massacre of all these nice young women by a brutal German soldiery. Ursula herself is being shot by Julian, who is not more than six feet distant; but she meets her fate with a composure as perfect as if instead of the impending arrow it was a benediction. On the right is her bier, under a very pretty canopy. Wild flowers spring from the earth.
Now should come the apotheosis.
Carpaccio was not exactly a great painter, but he was human and ingratiating beyond any other that Venice can show, and his pictures here and at S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni make the city a sweeter and more lovable place, Vasari is very brief with Vittore Scarpaccia, as he calls him, and there are few known facts. Research has placed his birth at Capo d'Istria about 1450. His earliest picture is dated 1490: his last 1521 or 1522. Gentile Bellini was his master.
Ruskin found Carpaccio by far the most sympathetic Venetian painter. Everything that he painted, even, as I point out later, the Museo Civico picture of the two ladies, he exults in, here, there, and everywhere. In his little guide to the Accademia, published in 1877, he roundly calls Carpaccio's "Presentation of the Virgin" the "best picture" in the gallery. In one of the letters written from Venice in Fors Clavigera—and these were, I imagine, subjected to less critical examination by their author before they saw the light than any of his writings—is the following summary, which it may be interesting to read here. "This, then, is the truth which Carpaccio knows, and would teach: That the world is divided into two groups of men; the first, those whose God is their God, and whose glory is their glory, who mind heavenly things; and the second, men whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. That is just as demonstrable a scientific fact as the separation of land from water. There may be any quantity of intermediate mind, in various conditions of bog; some, wholesome Scotch peat,—some, Pontine marsh,—some, sulphurous slime, like what people call water in English manufacturing towns; but the elements of Croyance and Mescroyance are always chemically separable out of the putrescent mess: by the faith that is in it, what life or good it can still keep, or do, is possible; by the miscreance in it, what mischief it can do, or annihilation it can suffer, is appointed for its work and fate. All strong character curdles itself out of the scum into its own place and power, or impotence: and they that sow to the Flesh, do of the Flesh reap corruption; and they that sow to the Spirit, do of the Spirit reap Life.
"I pause, without writing 'everlasting,' as perhaps you expected. Neither Carpaccio nor I know anything about duration of life, or what the word translated 'everlasting' means. Nay, the first sign of noble trust in God and man, is to be able to act without any such hope. All the heroic deeds, all the purely unselfish passions of our existence, depend on our being able to live, if need be, through the Shadow of Death: and the daily heroism of simply brave men consists in fronting and accepting Death as such, trusting that what their Maker decrees for them shall be well.
"But what Carpaccio knows, and what I know, also, are precisely the things which your wiseacre apothecaries, and their apprentices, and too often your wiseacre rectors and vicars, and their apprentices, tell you that you can't know, because 'eye hath not seen nor ear heard them,' the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them to us—to Carpaccio, and Angelico, and Dante, and Giotto, and Filippo Lippi, and Sandro Botticelli, and me, and to every child that has been taught to know its Father in heaven,—by the Spirit: because we have minded, or do mind, the things of the Spirit in some measure, and in such measure, have entered into our rest."
Let me only dare to add that it is quite possible to extract enormous pleasure from the study of Carpaccio's works without agreeing with any of the foregoing criticism.
THE ACCADEMIA. III: GIOVANNI BELLINI AND THE LATER PAINTERS
Pietro Longhi—Hogarth—Tiepolo—A gambling wife—Canaletto—Guardi—The Vivarini—Boccaccini—Venetian art and its beginnings—The three Bellinis—Giovanni Bellini—A beautiful room—Titian's "Presentation"—The busy Evangelists—A lovely ceiling.
A number of small rooms which are mostly negligible now occur. Longhi is here, with his little society scenes; Tiepolo, with some masterly swaggering designs; Giambettino Cignaroli, whom I mention only because his "Death of Rachel" is on Sundays the most popular picture in the whole gallery; and Canaletto and Guardi, with Venetian canals and palaces and churches. For Tiepolo at his best the Labia Palace must be visited, and Longhi is more numerously represented at the Museo Civico than here. Both Canaletto and Guardi can be better studied in London, at the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection. There are indeed no works by either man to compare with the best of ours. No. 494 at Hertford House, a glittering view of the Dogana, is perhaps Guardi's masterpiece in England; No. 135 in the National Gallery, Canaletto's.
Pietro Longhi was born in Venice in 1702, five years after Hogarth was born in London. He died in 1762, two years before Hogarth in Chiswick. I mention the English painter because Longhi is often referred to as the Venetian Hogarth. We have a picture or two by him in the National Gallery. To see him once is to see all his pictures so far as technique goes, but a complete set would form an excellent microcosm of fashionable and frivolous Venice of his day. Hogarth, who no doubt approximates more to the Venetian style of painting than to any other, probably found that influence in the work of Sebastiano Ricci, a Venetian who taught in St. Martin's Lane.
The brave Tiepolo—Giovanni Battista or Giambattista, as the contraction has it—was born in Venice in 1696, the son of a wealthy merchant and shipowner. In 1721 he married a sister of Guardi, settled down in a house near the bridge of S. Francesco della Vigna, and had nine children. His chief artistic education came from the study of Titian and Paul Veronese, and he quickly became known as the most rapid and intrepid ceiling painter of the time. He worked with tremendous spirit, as one deduces from the the examination of his many frescoes. Tiepolo drew with masterly precision and brio, and his colour can be very sprightly: but one always has the feeling that he had no right to be in a church at all, except possibly to confess.
At the National Gallery we have some small examples of Tiepolo's work, which, if greatly magnified, would convey an excellent impression of his mural manner. Tiepolo went to Spain in his old age to work for Charles III, and died there in 1770. His widow survived him by nine years, dying in 1779. She seems to have been a gambler, and there is a story of her staking all her losses one evening against her husband's sketches. Losing, she staked his villa, containing many of his frescoes, and lost again.
Antonio Canal, called Canaletto, was born in Venice in 1697, the son of a scene-painter. At first he too painted scenery, but visiting Rome he was fascinated by its architecture and made many studies of it. On returning to Venice he settled down as a topographical painter and practically reproduced his native city on canvas. He died in 1768. Venice possesses only inferior works from his hands; but No. 474 here—the view of the Scuola of S. Marco—is very fine.
Canaletto had a nephew named Bernardo Bellotto, who to much of his uncle's skill brought a mellow richness all his own, and since he also took the name of Canaletto, confusion has resulted. He is represented in the Accademia; but Vienna is richest in his work.
The great Canaletto has a special interest for us in that in later life he lived for a while in England and painted here. The National Gallery has views of Eton College and of Ranelagh seen through his Venetian eyes. In Venice Tiepolo often added the figures for him.
Francesco Guardi was born in Venice in 1712 and died there in 1793, and all his life he was translating the sparkling charm of his watery city into paint. His master was Canaletto, whom he surpassed in charm but never equalled in foot-rule accuracy or in that gravity which makes a really fine picture by the older man so distinguished a thing. Very little is known of Guardi's life. That he married is certain, and he had a daughter who eloped with an Irishman. We are told also that he was very indolent, and late in life came upon such evil days that he established himself at a corner of the Piazza, where Rosen's book-shop now is, and sold sketches to whomever would buy for whatever they would fetch; which is only one remove from a London screever. Guardi's picture of S. Giorgio Maggiore in the Accademia, No. 707, shows us that the earlier campanile, which fell in 1774, was higher and slenderer than the present one.
We now come to Room XVII, which has a number of small interesting works, some by great masters. Mantegna is here with a S. George, which I reproduce on the opposite page. Very beautiful it is, both in feeling and colour. It is painted on wood and the dragon is extremely dead. Here too is Piero della Francesca, that rare spirit, but his picture, No. 47, has almost perished. The mild Basaiti and milder Catena are here; a pretty little Caravaggio; two good Cimas, No. 611, sweet and translucent, and No. 592, a Tobias; and excellent examples of both Alvise and Bartolommeo Vivarini, those pioneer brothers, a blue and green dress of the Virgin in No. 615 by Bartolommeo being exquisite. Here too is a Cosimo Tura, No. 628, poor in colour but fine in the drawing of the baby Christ; and a rich unknown Lombardian version of Christ washing His disciples' feet, No. 599, which is not strong in psychology but has noticeable quality.
The most purely charming work in the room is a Boccaccio Boccaccini, No. 600, full of sweetness and pretty thoughts. The Madonna is surrounded by saints, the figure in the centre having the true Boccaccini face. The whole picture is a delight, whether as a group of nice holy people, a landscape, or a fantasy of embroidery. The condition of the picture is perfect too. The flight into Egypt, in two phases, goes on in the background. I reproduce it opposite page 266.
And then we move to the room devoted to Giovanni Bellini, performing as we do so an act of sacrilege, for one cannot pass through the pretty blue and gold door without interrupting an Annunciation, the angel having been placed on one side of it and the Virgin on the other.
Giovanni Bellini was born in 1426, nearly a century after Giotto died. His father and teacher was Jacopo Bellini, who had a school of painting in Padua and was the rival in that city of Squarcione, a scientific instructor who depended largely on casts from the antique to point his lessons. Squarcione's most famous pupil was Andrea Mantegna, who subsequently married Giovanni Bellini's sister and alienated his master.
According to Vasari, oil-painting reached Venice through Antonello da Messina, who had learned the art in the Netherlands. But that cannot be true. It came to Venice from Verona or Padua long after Florence could boast many fine masters, the delay being due to the circumstance that the Venetians thought more of architecture than the sister art. The first painters to make any success in Venice were the Vivarini of Murano. The next were Giovanni Bellini and Gentile his brother, who arrived from Padua about 1460, the one to paint altar-pieces in the Tuscan manner (for there is little doubt that the sweet simplicity and gentle radiance of the Giotto frescoes in the chapel of the Madonna dell'Arena, which the Paduans had the privilege of seeing for two or three generations before Squarcione was born, had greater influence than either Jacopo Bellini or Mantegna); and the other to paint church pageants, such as we saw in an earlier room.
Giovanni remained in Venice till his death, in 1516, at the ripe age of ninety, and nearly to the end was he both a busy painter and an interested and impressionable investigator of art, open to the influence of his own pupil Giorgione, and, when eighty, being the only painter in Venice to recognize the genius of Duerer, who was then on a visit to the city. Duerer, writing home, says that Bellini had implored him for a work and wanted to pay for it. "Every one gives him such a good character that I feel an affection for him. He is very old and is yet the best in painting."
In his long life Bellini saw all the changes and helped in their making. He is the most varied and flexible painter of his time, both in manner and matter. None could be more deeply religious than he, none more tender, none more simple, none more happy. In manner he was equally diverse, and could paint like a Paduan, a Tuscan, a Fleming, a Venetian, and a modern Frenchman. I doubt if he ever was really great as we use the word of Leonardo, Titian, Tintoretto, Mantegna; but he was everything else. And he was Titian's master.
The National Gallery is rich indeed in Bellini's work. We have no fewer than ten pictures that are certainly his, and others that might be; and practically the whole range of his gifts is illustrated among them. There may not be anything as fine as the S. Zaccaria or Frari altar-pieces, or anything as exquisite as the Allegories in the Accademia and the Uffizi; but after that our collection is unexcelled in its examples.
In this little precious room of the Accademia are thirteen Bellinis, each in its way a gem: enough to prove that variousness of which I spoke. The "Madonna degli Alberetti," for example, with its unexpected apple-green screen, almost Bougereau carried out to the highest power, would, if hung in any exhibition to-day, be remarkable but not anachronistic. And then one thinks of the Gethsemane picture in our National Gallery, and of the Christ recently acquired by the Louvre, and marvels. For sheer delight of fancy, colour, and design the five scenes of Allegory are the flower of the room; and here again our thoughts leap forward as we look, for is not the second of the series, "Venus the Ruler of the World," sheer Burne-Jones? The pictures run thus: (1) "Bacchus tempting Endeavour," (2) either Venus, with the sporting babies, or as some think, Science (see the reproduction opposite page 158), (3) with its lovely river landscape, "Blind Chance," (4) the Naked Truth, and (5) Slander. Of the other pictures I like best No. 613, reproduced opposite page 260, with the Leonardesque saint on the right; and No. 610, with its fine blues, light and dark, and the very Venetian Madonna; and the Madonna with the Child stretched across her knees, reproduced opposite page 144.
Giovanni Bellini did not often paint anything that can be described as essentially Venetian. He is called the father of Venetian painting, but his child only faintly resembles him, if at all. That curious change of which one is conscious at the National Gallery in passing from Rooms I and VI to Room VII, from Tuscany and Umbria to Venice, is due less to the Bellinis in Room VII than to any painter there. The Bellinis could be hung in Rooms I and VI without violence; the Giorgiones and Titians and Tintorettos would conflict. Bellini's simplicity allies him to Giotto traditions; but there was no simplicity about Giorgione, Titian, and Tintoretto. They were sophisticated, and the two last were also the painters of a wealthy and commanding Republic. One can believe that Bellini, wherever he was, even in the Doges' Palace, carried a little enclosed portion of the Kingdom of God within him: but one does not think of those others in that way. He makes his Madonnas so much more real and protective too. Note the strong large hands which hold the Child in his every picture.
Titian's fine martial challenging John the Baptist is the great picture of the next room, No. XIX. Here also are good but not transcendent portraits by Titian, Tintoretto, and Lotto, and the Battle of Lepanto, with heavenly interference, by Veronese.
Finally, we come to the room set apart for Titian's charming conception of "The Presentation of the Virgin," which fills all one wall of it. I give a reproduction opposite page 36. The radiant figure of the thick-set little brave girl in blue, marching so steadily away from her parents to the awe-inspiring but kindly priests at the head of the steps, is unforgettable. Notice the baby in the arms of a woman among the crowd. The picture as a whole is disappointing in colour, and I cherish the belief that if Tintoretto's beautiful variant at the Madonna dell'Orto (see opposite page 282) could be cleaned and set up in a good light it might conquer.
Before leaving this room one should give the ceiling a little attention, for it is splendid in its lovely blue and gold, and its coloured carvings are amusing. The four Evangelists have each a medallion. All are studious. S. Matthew, on the upper left as one stands with one's back to the Titian, has an open-air study, and he makes notes as he reads. His eagle is in attendance. S. Mark, with his lion at ease under his chair, has also his open-air desk, and as he reads he thinks. S. John is indoors, reading intently, with a box full of books to fall back on, and a little angel peeping at him from behind his chair. Finally S. Luke, also indoors, writing at a nice blue desk. He holds his pen very daintily and seems to be working against time, for an hour-glass is before him. His bull is also present. Among the many good ceilings of Venice, this is at once the most sumptuous and most charming.
THE CANALE DI S. MARCO AND S. GIORGIO MAGGIORE
Busy water—The lantern concerts—Venice and modern inventions—Fireworks in perfection—S. Giorgio Maggiore—Palladian architecture—Two Tintorettos—The Life of S. Benedict—Realistic wood-carving—A Giudecca garden—The Redentore—A bridge of boats—A regatta—The view from the Giudecca—House-hunting in Venice.
Strictly speaking, the Grand Canal and the Canal of the Guidecca unite in the lagoon; but the stretch of water between the Molo and S. Giorgio is called the Canale di San Marco. It is the busiest water of all. Every little steamer crosses it; motor-boats here are always at full speed; most of the gondolas which are hired start from here; the great mercantile boats cross it on their way in and out of harbours; and the daily invaders from Trieste disembark and embark again in the very middle. Hence it is always a scene of gay and sparkling movement and always more like a Guardi than any other spot in Venice.
It is just off the Custom House point, at night, that in the summer the concert barges are moored, each with its little party of musicians, its cluster of Venetian lanterns, arranged rather like paper travesties of the golden balls over S. Mark's domes, and its crowded circle of gondolas, each like a dark private box for two. Now what more can honeymooners ask? For it is chiefly for honeymooners that this is done, since Venetians do not spend money to sit in stationary boats. These concerts are popular, but they are too self-conscious. Moreover, the songs are from all countries, even America; whereas purely Venetian, or at any rate Italian, operatic music should, I think, be given. The stray snatches of song which one hears at night from the hotel window; gondoliers trolling out folk choruses; the notes of a distant mandolin, brought down on the water—these make the true music of Venice.
But just as the motor-launch has invaded the lagoon, so has other machinery forced its way into this city—peculiarly the one place in the world which ought to have been meticulously safeguarded against every mechanical invention. When I was living near S. Sebastiano, on my way home at night the gondolier used to take me up the Grand Canal as far as the Foscari lantern and then to the left. In time we came to the campo of S. Pantaleone, where, outside a cafe, a little group was always seated, over its wine and beer, listening raptly to the music of—what? A gramophone. This means that while the motor is ousting the gondolier, the Venetian minstrel is also under death sentence.
It was the same if I chose to walk part of the way, for then I took the steamer to S. Toma and passed through the campo of S. Margherita, which does for the poor of its neighbourhood very much what the Piazza of S. Mark does for the centre of the city and the elite of the world. This campo is one of the largest in Venice, and at night it is very gay. There is a church at one end which, having lost its sanctity, is now a cinema theatre, with luridities pasted on the walls. There is another ancient building converted into a cinema at the opposite end. Between these alluring extremities are various cafes, each with its chairs and tables, and each with a gramophone that pours its notes into the night. The panting of Caruso mingles with Tetrazzini's shrill exultation.
In summer there are occasional firework displays on the water between S. Giorgio and the Riva, supplied by the Municipality. The Riva is then crowded, while gondolas put out in great numbers, and myriad overloaded crafts full of poorer sightseers enter the lagoon by all the small canals. Having seen Venetian pyrotechny, one realizes that all fireworks should be ignited over water. It is the only way. A rocket can climb as fiercely and dazzlingly into any sky, no doubt, but over land the falling stars and sparks have but one existence; over water, like the swan "on St. Mary's lake," they have two. The displays last for nearly an hour, and consist almost entirely of rockets. Every kind of rocket is there: rockets which simply soar with a rush, burst into stars and fall; rockets which when they reach the highest point of their trajectory explode with a report that shakes the city and must make some of the campanili very nervous; rockets which burst into a million sparks; rockets which burst into a thousand streamers; rockets whose stars change colour as they fall; rockets whose stars do not fall at once but hang and hover in the air. All Venice is watching, either from the land or the water, and the band plays to a deserted Piazza, but directly the display is over every one hastens back to hear its strains.
To get to the beautiful island of S. Giorgio it is almost necessary to take a gondola; for although there is the Giudecca steamer every half hour, it is an erratic boat, and you may be left stranded too long waiting to return. The island is military, save for the church, and that is chiefly a show-place to-day. It is large and light, but it has no charm, for that was not Palladio's gift. That he was a great man, every visitor to Vicenza knows; but it is both easy and permissible to dislike the architecture to which he gives his name. Not that any fault can be found with S. Giorgio Maggiore as a detail in the landscape: to me it will always be the perfect disposition of buildings in the perfect place; but then, on the other hand, the campanile was not Palladio's, nor was the facade, while the principal attraction of his dome is its green copper. The church of the Redentore, on the Giudecca, is much more thoroughly Palladian.
Andrea Palladio was born in Vicenza in 1518. In Venice he built S. Giorgio Maggiore (all but the facade), the facade of S. Francesco della Vigna, the Redentore, Le Zitelle and S. Lucia. Such was Palladio's influence that for centuries he practically governed European architecture. Our own St. Paul's would be very different but for him. He died in 1580 and was buried at Vicenza. By the merest chance, but very fortunately, he was prevented from bedevilling the Ducal Palace after the fire in 1576. He had the plans all ready, but a wiser than he, one Da Ponte, undertook to make the structure good without rebuilding, and carried out his word. Terrible to think of what the Vicenza classicist would have done with that gentle, gay, and human facade!
S. Giorgio has a few pictures, chief of which are the two great Tintorettos in the choir. These are, however, very difficult to see. My own efforts once led me myself to open the gates and enter, so that I might be nearer and in better light: a proceeding which turned the sacristan from a servant of God into an ugly brawler. A gift of money, however, returned him to his rightful status; but he is a churlish fellow. I mention the circumstance because it is isolated in my Venetian wanderings. No other sacristan ever suggested that the whole church was not equally free or resented any unaccompanied exploration.
The Tintorettos belong to his most spacious and dramatic style. One, "The Last Supper," is a busy scene of conviviality. The company is all at one side of the table and the two ends, except the wretched foredoomed Judas. There is plenty to eat. Attendants bustle about bringing more food. A girl, superbly drawn and painted, washes plates, with a cat beside her. A dog steals a bone. The disciples seem restless and the air is filled with angels. Compared with the intensity and single-mindedness of Leonardo, this is a commonplace rendering; but as an illustration to the Venetian Bible, it is fine; and as a work of art by a mighty and original genius glorying in difficulties of light and shade, it is tremendous. Opposite is a quieter representation of the miracle of the manna, which has very charming details of a domestic character in it, the women who wash and sew and carry on other employments being done with splendid ease and naturalness. The manna lies about like little buttons; Moses discourses in the foreground; in the distance is the Israelite host. All that the picture lacks is light: a double portion: light to fall on it, and its own light to be allowed to shine through the grime of ages.
Tintoretto also has two altar-pieces here, one an "Entombment," in the Mortuary Chapel—very rich and grave and painful, in which Christ's mother is seen swooning in the background; and the other a death of S. Stephen, a subject rare with the Old Masters, but one which, were there occasion to paint it, they must have enjoyed. Tintoretto has covered the ground with stones.
The choir is famous for its series of forty-six carved panels, representing scenes in the life of S. Benedict; but some vandal having recently injured one or two, the visitor is no longer allowed to approach near enough to examine them with the thoroughness that they demand and deserve. They are the work of a carver named Albert de Brule, of whose life I have been able to discover nothing. Since before studying them it is well to know something of the Saint's career, I tell the story here, from The Golden Legend, but not all the incidents which the artist fixed upon are to be found in that biography.
Benedict as a child was sent to Rome to be educated, but he preferred the desert. Hither his nurse accompanied him, and his first token of signal holiness was his answered prayer that a pitcher which she had broken might be made whole again. Leaving his nurse, he associated with a hermit who lived in a pit to which food was lowered by a rope. Near by dwelt a priest, who one day made a great meal for himself, but before he could eat it he received a supernatural intimation that Benedict was hungry in a pit, and he therefore took his dinner to him and they ate it together. A blackbird once assailing Benedict's face was repelled by the sign of the cross. Being tempted by a woman, Benedict crawled about among briars and nettles to maintain his Spartan spirit. He now became the abbot of a monastery, but the monks were so worldly that he had to correct them. In retaliation they poisoned his wine, but the saint making the sign of the cross over it, the glass broke in pieces and the wine was innocuously spilt. Thereupon Benedict left the monastery and returned to the desert, where he founded two abbeys and drove the devil out of a monk who could not endure long prayers, his method being to beat the monk. Here also, and in the other abbeys which he founded, he worked many miracles: making iron swim, restoring life to the dead, and so forth. Another attempt to poison him, this time with bread, was made, but the deadly stuff was carried away from him by a pet raven. For the rest of the saint's many wonderful deeds of piety you must seek The Golden Legend: an agreeable task. He died in the year 518.
The best or most entertaining panels seem to me the first, in which the little bald baby saint is being washed and his mother is being coaxed to eat something; the fourth, where we see the saint, now a youth, on his knees; the sixth, where he occupies the hermit's cell and the hermit lets down food; the seventh, where the hermit and Benedict occupy the cell together and a huntsman and dog pursue their game above; the tenth, in the monastery; the twelfth, where the whip is being laid on; the fourteenth, with an especially good figure of Benedict; the sixteenth, where the meal is spread; the twentieth, with the devil on the tree trunk; the twenty-first, when the fire is being extinguished; the twenty-fifth, with soldiers in the distance; the twenty-seventh, with a fine cloaked figure; the twenty-eighth, where there is a struggle for a staff; the thirtieth, showing the dormitory and a cat and mouse; the thirty-second, a burial scene; the thirty-third, with its monsters; the thirty-sixth, in which the beggar is very good; the thirty-ninth, where the soldiers kiss the saint's feet; and the forty-fourth, showing the service in the church and the soldiers' arms piled up.
One would like to know more of this Albert de Brule and his work: how long it took; why he did it; how it came to Venice; and so forth. The date, which applies, I suppose, to the installation of the carvings, is 1598.
The other carvings are by other hands: the S. George and dragon on the lectern in the choir, and the little courageous boys driving Behemoths on the stalls.
As one leaves the church by the central aisle the Dogana is seen framed by the doorway. With each step more of Venice comes into view. The Campanile is worth climbing for its lovely prospect.
From the little island of S. Giorgio it is but a stone's throw to the larger island of the Giudecca, with its factories and warehouses and stevedores, and tiny cafes each with a bowling alley at the back. The Giudecca, which looks so populous, is however only skin deep; almost immediately behind the long busy facade of the island are gardens, and then the shallow lagoon stretching for miles, where fishermen are mysteriously employed, day and night. The gardens are restful rather than beautiful—at least that one, open to visitors, on the Rio della Croce, may be thus described, for it is formal in its parallelograms divided by gritty paths, and its flowers are crudely coloured. But it has fine old twisted mulberry trees, and a long walk beside the water, where lizards dart among the stones on the land side and on the other crabs may be seen creeping.
On the way to this garden I stopped to watch a family of gossiping bead-workers. The old woman who sat in the door did not thread the beads as the girl does in one of Whistler's Venetian etchings, but stabbed a basketful with a wire, each time gathering a few more.
The great outstanding buildings of the Giudecca are Palladio's massive Redentore and S. Eufemia, and at the west end the modern Gothic polenta mill of Signor or Herr Stucky, beyond which is the lagoon once more. In Turner's picture in the National Gallery entitled "San Benedetto, looking towards Fusina" there is a ruined tower where Stucky's mill now stands.
The steps of the Redentore are noble, but within it is vast and cold and inhuman, and the statues in its niches are painted on the flat. Tintoretto's "Descent from the Cross" in the church proper is very vivid. In the sacristy, however, the chilled visitor will be restored to life by a truly delightful Madonna and Child, with two little celestial musicians playing a lullaby, said to be by Bellini, but more probably by Alvise Vivarini, and two companion pictures of much charm. Like the Salute, the Redentore was a votive offering to heaven for stopping a plague. Every year, on the third Sunday in July, a bridge of boats crosses the Grand Canal at the Campo S. Zobenigo, and then from the Zattere it crosses the Giudecca canal to this church. That day and night the island is en fete. Originally these bridges were constructed in order that the Doges might attend a solemn service; but to-day the occasion is chiefly one of high spirits. In the gallery of the Palazzo Pesaro is a painting representing the event at a recent date; in the Querini Stampalia gallery a more ancient procession may be seen.
There, too, are many views of regattas which of old were held on the Grand Canal but now belong to the canal of the Giudecca. The Venetians, who love these races, assemble in great numbers, both on the water, in every variety of craft, and on the quay. The winning-post is off the end of the island of S. Giorgio; the races start from varying points towards the harbour. In April I saw races for six oars, four oars, two oars, and men-of-war's boats. The ordinary rowers were dull, but the powerful bending gondoliers urging their frail craft along with tremendous strokes in unison were a magnificent spectacle. The excitement was intense towards the end, but there was no close finish. Between the races the exchange of chaff among the spectators was continuous.
The question of where to live in Venice must, I think, be a difficult one to solve. I mean by live, to make one's home, as so many English and Americans have done. At the first blush, of course, one would say on the Grand Canal; but there are objections to this. It is noisy with steamboat whistles and motor horns, and will become noisier every day and night, as the motor gains increasing popularity. On the other hand, one must not forget that so fine a Venetian taster as Mr. Howells has written, "for myself I must count as half lost the year spent in Venice before I took a house upon the Grand Canal."
Personally, I think, I should seek my home elsewhere. There is a house on this Giudecca—a little way along from the S. Giorgio end—which should make a charming abode; for it has good windows over the water, immediately facing, first, the little forest of masts by the Custom House, and then the Molo and the Ducal Palace, and upon it in the evening would fall the sinking sun, while behind it is a pleasant garden. The drawbacks are the blasts of the big steamers entering and leaving the harbour, the contiguity of some rather noisy works, and the infrequency of steamboats to the mainland.
Ruskin was fond of this view. Writing to old Samuel Rogers, he said: "There was only one place in Venice which I never lost the feeling of joy in—at least the pleasure which is better than joy; and that was just half way between the end of the Giudecca and St. George of the Seaweed, at sunset. If you tie your boat to one of the posts there you can see the Euganeans where the sun goes down, and all the Alps and Venice behind you by the rosy sunlight: there is no other spot so beautiful. Near the Armenian convent is, however, very good too also; the city is handsomer, but the place is not so simple and lovely. I have got all the right feeling back now, however; and hope to write a word or two about Venice yet, when I have got the mouldings well out of my head—and the mud. For the fact is, with reverence be it spoken, that whereas Rogers says: 'There is a glorious city in the Sea,' a truthful person must say, 'There is a glorious city in the mud'. It is startling at first to say so, but it goes well enough with marble. 'Oh, Queen of Marble and of Mud.'"
Another delectable house is that one, on the island of S. Giorgio Maggiore; which looks right up the Giudecca canal and in the late afternoon flings back the sun's rays. But that is the property of the army. Another is at the corner of the Rio di S. Trovaso and the Fondamenta delle Zaterre, with wistaria on it, looking over to the Redentore; but every one, I find, wants this.
ON FOOT. II: THREE CHURCHES AND CARPACCIO AGAIN
The Ponte di Paglia—A gondolier's shrine—The modern prison—Danieli's—A Canaletto—S. Zaccaria—A good Bellini—A funeral service—Alessandro Vittorio—S. Giovanni in Bragora—A good Cima—The best little room—A seamen's institute—Carpaccio at his best—The story of the dragon—The saint triumphant—The story of S. George—S. Jerome and the lion—S. Jerome and the dog—S. Tryphonius and the basilisk—S. Francesco della Vigna—Brother Antonio's picture—The Giustiniani reliefs—Cloisters—A Veronese—Doge Andrea Gritti—Doge Niccolo Sagredo.
I propose that we should walk from the Molo to S. Francesco della Vigna.
Our first bridge is the Ponte di Paglia (or straw), the wide and easy glistening bridge which spans the Rio del Palazzo at the Noah corner of the Doges' Palace. Next to the Rialto, this is the busiest bridge in the city. Beautiful in itself, it commands great beauty too, for on the north side you see the Bridge of Sighs and on the south the lagoon. On its lagoon facade is a relief of a primitive gondola and the Madonna and Child, but I have never seen a gondolier recognizing the existence of this symbol of celestial interest in his calling.
The stern building at the corner of this bridge is the prison, with accommodation for over two hundred prisoners. Leaning one day over the Ponte di Paglia I saw one being brought in, in a barca with a green box—as we should say, a Black and Green Maria. I cannot resist quoting Coryat's lyrical passage in praise of what to most of us is as sinister a building as could be imagined. "There is near unto the Dukes Palace a very faire prison, the fairest absolutely that ever I saw, being divided from the Palace by a little channell of water, and againe joyned unto it by a merveilous faire little gallery that is inserted aloft into the middest of the Palace wall East-ward. [He means the Bridge of Sighs.] I thinke there is not a fairer prison in all Christendome: it is built with very faire white ashler stone, having a little walke without the roomes of the prison which is forty paces long and seven broad.... It is altogether impossible for the prisoners to get forth."
The next important building is the famous hotel known as Danieli's, once a palace, which has its place in literature as having afforded a shelter to those feverish and capricious lovers, George Sand and Alfred de Musset. Every one else has stayed there too, but these are the classic guests. If you want to see what Danieli's was like before it became a hotel you have only to look at No. 940 in the National Gallery by Canaletto. This picture tells us also that the arches of the Doges' Palace on the canal side were used by stall-holders. To-day they are merely a shelter from sun or rain and a resting-place, and often you may see a gondolier eating his lunch there. In this picture of Canaletto's, by the way, the loafers have gathered at the foot of the Lion's column exactly as now they do, while the balcony of the great south window of the palace has just such a little knot of people enjoying the prospect; but whether they were there naturally or at the invitation of a custodian eager for a tip (as now) we shall not know.
The first calle after Danieli's brings us to S. Zaccaria, one of the few Venetian churches with any marble on its facade. S. Zaccaria has no longer the importance it had when the Doge visited it in state every Easter. It is now chiefly famous for its very beautiful Bellini altar-piece, of which I give a reproduction on the opposite page. The picture in its grouping is typical of its painter, and nothing from his hand has a more pervading sweetness. The musical angel at the foot of the throne is among his best and the bland old men are more righteous than rectitude itself. To see this altar-piece aright one must go in the early morning: as I did on my first visit, only to find the central aisle given up to a funeral mass.
The coffin was in the midst, and about it, on their knees, were the family, a typical gondolier all in black being the chief mourner. Such prayers as he might have been uttering were constantly broken into by the repeated calls of an attendant with a box for alms, and it was interesting to watch the struggle going on in the simple fellow's mind between native prudence and good form. How much he ought to give? Whether it was quite the thing to bring the box so often and at such a season? Whether shaking it so noisily was not peculiarly tactless? What the spectators and church officials would think if he refused? Could he refuse? and, However much were these obsequies going to cost?—these questions one could discern revolving almost visibly beneath his short-haired scalp. At last the priests left the high altar and came down to the coffin, to sprinkle it and do whatever was now possible for its occupant; and in a few minutes the church was empty save for the undertaker's men, myself, and the Bellini. It is truly a lovely picture, although perhaps a thought too mild, and one should go often to see it.
The sculptor Alessandro Vittoria, who did so much to perpetuate the features of great Venetians and was the friend of so many artists, including Tintoretto and Paul Veronese, is buried here. The floor slabs of red stone with beautiful lettering should be noticed; but all over Venice such memorials have a noble dignity and simplicity.
It will be remembered that the site of this church was determined by the vision of Bishop Magnus, S. John appearing to him and commanding it to be built in honour of his father. The first structure probably dates from the seventh century; the present is fifteenth century, and beneath it is the ancient crypt adjoining the chapel of S. Tarasio, where in the twelfth century a hundred nuns seeking refuge from a fire were suffocated. In the chapel are ecclesiastical paintings, but no proper provision is made for seeing them. Eight Doges lie in S. Zaccaria.
Outside I found a great crowd to see the embarcation of the corpse for its last home, the Campo Santo. This, I may say, was rather a late funeral. Most of them are at eight or even earlier.
It is best now to return to the Riva by the calle which comes out beside Danieli's and then walk Lido-wards over two bridges and take the first calle after them. This brings us to S. Giovanni in Bragora, S. John's own church, built according to his instructions to Bishop Magnus, and it has one of the keenest little sacristans in Venice. From altar to altar he bustles, fixing you in the best positions for light. The great picture here is the Cima behind the high altar, of which I give a reproduction opposite page 136. A little perch has been made, the better to see it. It represents "The Baptism of Christ," and must in its heyday have been very beautiful. Christ stands at the edge of the water and the Baptist holds a little bowl—very different scene from that mosaic version in S. Mark's where Christ is half submerged. It has a sky full of cherubs, delectable mountains and towns in the distance, and all Cima's sweetness; and when the picture cleaning millionaire, of whom I speak elsewhere, has done his work it will be a joy. There is also a fine Bartolommeo Vivarini here, and the sacristan insists on your admiring a very ornate font which he says is by Sansovino.