[Footnote 182: Siena Cathedral, bronze; Berlin Museum, bronze; Frari Church, Venice, wood.]
[Footnote 183: 10, ii. 1423. On 29, iv. 1423, Donatello received 5 lbs. 3 oz. of wax for modelling the figure. Luzi, "Duomo di Orvieto," 1867, p. 406.]
[Footnote 184: Vasari, i. 147.]
[Footnote 185: Che niuno maestro di legname possa fare di pietra. Rules of Sculptors of Sienna, 1441, ch. 39. Milanesi, i. 120.]
[Footnote 186: In Museum. From the Capella Manfredi in San Girolamo degli Osservanza outside the town, suppressed in 1866. Cf. two similar statuettes in terra-cotta, Bargello, Nos. 174 and 175.]
[Footnote 187: Louvre, about 12 inches high, unnumbered. Museo Archeologico, Venice, No. 8. Frau Hainauer's bronze Baptist, signed by Francesco di San Gallo, is interesting in this connection.]
[Footnote 188: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 157, 1894.]
[Footnote 189: Ibid. No. 7605, 1861, terra-cotta. Louvre, No. 465, ditto.]
[Footnote 190: Cf. Herr von Beckerath's in Berlin, and the Verrocchio-school Magdalen in the Berlin Gallery, No. 94.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Altar at Padua.]
Donatello was fifty-seven when he left Florence in 1443 to spend ten eventful years at Padua. There he carried out his masterpieces of bronze for the Cathedral and the equestrian statue of Gattamelata on the Piazza opposite Donatello's little house, which to this day is occupied, appropriately enough, by a carver—Bortolo Slaviero, tagliapietra. It is now established that Donatello was invited to Padua for the Church and that the Gattamelata was not commissioned until later. At this time Padua was a centre of humanistic learning and intellectual activity. There was a hive of antiquarians and collectors, and, according to its lights, a thriving school of painters. The Florentine Palla Strozzi was living there in retirement, and he may have been partly responsible for the invitation to Donatello. But the indigenous art of Padua was dependent on Venice, and needed some fertilising element. Squarcione with his 140 pupils founded his art upon traditional and conventional data: had it not been for Donatello and the radical changes which resulted from his sojourn at Padua, a fossilised school would have become firmly rooted, and would probably have influenced the whole of the Veneto. Mantegna was still young when Donatello arrived, and though there is no reason to suppose that he received work from Donatello as Squarcione did, it is clear that, without this influx of Southern ideas, he would have had some difficulty in shaking off the conventionalisms of his home. But though Donatello's immediate influence on Paduan art was decisive (and its ramifications soon extended to Venice), he was himself influenced by his fresh surroundings, and his native bent towards complexity was increased. He assimilated many of the local likes and dislikes. If Gattamelata had been erected in some Florentine square there would have been less ornament; if Colleone had been commissioned for Siena there would have been less braggadocio. Leonardo never recovered his Tuscan frame of mind after his sojourn in Milan. Donatello himself realised these novelties to the full, and their results upon his art. While he was making the intricate bas-reliefs, the selective genius of Luca della Robbia was composing the Florence Lunettes, monumental in their simplicity. And though Vasari records the enthusiasm with which Donatello's productions were greeted in the North, the sculptor recognised the dangers of unqualified praise, and said he must return home to Florence to receive criticism and censure, the stimulus to better work and greater glory. But the maggiore gloria was not to be attained. He was old when he left Padua, and on his departure he had completed the greatest undertaking of his career—the High Altar of the Santo, with all its marble setting and the bronze figures. A crucifix, the Madonna and Child, six saints, a Pieta, twelve panels of angels, four reliefs of St Anthony's Miracles, the Symbols of the Evangelists, and a large marble Entombment. Donatello's altar was unfortunately dismantled in the seventeenth century, and the statues were dispersed throughout the Church. The altar was reconstructed a few years ago, and the bronzes have suffered during their exile, but they are still in good preservation. The new marble altar is a thoughtful and painstaking construction; its details are derived from Donatellesque motives, and the bronzes are fitted in with skill. It cannot, however, be in any sense a reproduction of the old altar, of which no drawing is preserved. And the earliest description, which has been carefully followed as far as circumstances allow, shows that the existing sculpture is incomplete: at least four marble reliefs have been lost. One may further remark that the twelve angels in high relief, now forming the face of the altar frontal, are so designed, especially as regards their aureoled heads, that one concludes it must have been Donatello's intention for them to have been looked up to rather than looked down upon. The present arrangement of the altar is simple and effective. The frontal itself is composed of children singing and playing music. In the centre is the Pieta, and on either side is an Evangelist's symbol flanked by two saints on the level of the top of the altar. The retable has two miracle reliefs, and between them a small bronze Christ, which has been put there in error. Above the retable is the Madonna with two saints on either side: the crucifix surmounts the whole composition. The back of the altar has the remaining Miracle reliefs and Evangelist symbols, together with the Entombment.
[Footnote 191: Michael Angelo Gloria; Donatello Fiorentino e le sue opere ... a Padova, 1895, from which the dates are all quoted.]
[Footnote 192: See Kristeller's Mantegna, translated by S.A. Strong, 1901, p. 17.]
[Footnote 193: Over the Sacristy doors in the Cathedral.]
[Footnote 194: Anonimo Morelliano (1520-40). Ed. of Bassano, 1800, p. 3. E da dietro l'altar sotto il scabello il Cristo morto, con le altre figure a circo, e le due figure da man destra con le altre due da man sinistra, pur de basso rilevo, ma de marmo, furono de mano de Donatello.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Large Statues.]
Of the seven large free-standing statues, that of the Madonna and Child worthily occupies the central position. Nobody was more modern than Donatello, nobody less afraid of innovation. But in this Madonna he went back to archaic ideas, and we have a conception analogous to the versions of the two previous centuries: indeed, his idea is still older, for there is something Byzantine in this liturgical Madonna, who gazes straight in front of her, and far down the nave of the Santo—a church with mosque-like domes, like those of the early Eastern architects. The Child is seated in her lap, as in the earliest representation of the subject: here, however, the Christ is a child, with an element of helplessness almost indicated, whereas the primitive idea had been to show the vigour and often the features of a biggish boy. Donatello's version is much more pathetic, as the little Christ raises a tiny hand in benediction. The Virgin herself is of unequalled solemnity, while her young and gracious face, exquisite in expression and contour, is full of queenly beauty. But there is still this atmosphere of mystery, an enigmatic aloofness in spite of the warm human sentiment. The Sphinx's faces, with all their traditions of secrecy, contribute their share to the cryptic environment. Donatello uses them as the supports of the throne on which the Madonna is seated; behind it are Adam and Eve in relief: in front she herself shows the New Adam to the multitude, on whom he confers his blessing. St. Francis of Padua [Transcriber's Note: Should be "Assisi."] stands on the right of the Madonna, as founder of the Order, and taking precedence of St. Anthony, to whom the church is dedicated. He holds the crucifix and the book of rules. He is draped in the ordinary Franciscan habit, which falls round his feet, giving a stiffness to the figure as seen in profile, and making him appear rather short when seen from the front. The workmanship is good, the hands, with lightly shown stigmata, being excellent; but the lack of distinction in the figure makes one look more closely at the head, which is modelled with great power and freedom, showing that Donatello still possessed the vigour and penetration for which the Campanile prophets are notable. The head is full of character; not perhaps what one would expect from the apostle of self-abnegation: but it is determined, strong in the mouth and broad chin. It was, of course, only meant to be seen a few feet from the ground, and the lines do not compare in depth with the Habbakuk or the Zuccone; but there is none the less an analogy in the manner by which Donatello calls in the assistance of light and shade to add tone and finish to the modelling. St. Anthony was a deservedly popular saint in Padua, where he preached and denounced the local tyrant; and he may be accounted the greatest man of Portuguese birth. But Donatello does not seem to have found the subject very inspiring. He has taken his idea from rather an ordinary friar such as he or we might see any day. It is a good homely face, neither worldly nor spiritual, and only redeemed from the commonplace by technical ability. St. Daniel is more interesting; the young deacon is extremely well posed, the plain and massive features being drawn with a firm and confident touch; and the deacon's vestments, which always take an easy and becoming fall, are decorated in a typical way with winged children arbitrarily introduced, and looking more like the detail of some bas-relief than a piece of embroidered ornament. St. Justina wears the coronet as princess, and bears the palm-leaf as martyr. She has no pronounced characteristic, the face being rather unemotional; but the gesture of her outstretched hand is not without an appealing dignity. The hair, like that of the Madonna, is parted in the centre, and stands off from the forehead, and then falls in rich tresses about her shoulders. It has not the soft and silken texture of the Madonna's hair, which is rendered with as great a skill as one sees in the Virgin of the Annunciation. In both these latter cases Donatello succeeds in giving to the hair an indescribable suggestion of something full of elasticity and lustre. But St. Justina's hair at least grows: so many sculptors of ability failed to indicate that needful quality. St. Procdocimus and St. Louis are of subordinate merit, and show the work of assistants in several particulars. The former was first Bishop of Padua and converted the father of St. Justina to Christianity. At first sight the statue is pleasing, but on closer examination the weaknesses, especially in the face, become marked. There is indecision, not in the pose or general idea, but in the details which give character to the whole conception. The features are chiselled by a small mesquin personality, and what might have been a fine statue if carried out by Donatello has been ruined by his assistants. The ewer which the Bishop carries is a later addition, from the design of which one might almost argue that the statue itself is later than the others. The St. Louis, wearing his episcopal robes above the Franciscan habit, his mitre decorated with a fleur-de-lys of royal France, is also hammered all over, giving the bronze the appearance of being dotted with little pin-holes. The head is, however, marked by the grave austerity for which the St. Louis in Santa Croce is so remarkable, and which became the typical rendering of the saint in fifteenth-century plastic art. However much Donatello may have allowed a free hand to his assistants in this statue, the fine qualities of the head are attributable to a strict adherence to his own sketch. The last of the great bronze figures is the crucifix above the high altar. It is magnificent, apart from the technical qualities which rival Donatello's most brilliant achievements. All the lines droop together in a wonderful cadenza; the face is transfigured by human pain, but all the superhuman power remains. Donatello combines the literal and symbolical meaning of the Cross; the Godhead is still there. Donatello did not forget that the crucified Christ, when represented by the sculptor, had to preserve all the immortality of the Son of God. His contadino Christ in Florence has its interest in art; this Christ marks the summit of his plastic ability; but it shows that, without any appeal to terror or emotionalism, without, indeed, suppressing the signs of physical pain, Donatello was able to give an overwhelming portrait of Christ's agony. The celestial and the terrestrial are unified and fused into one tremendous concentration of human suffering, tempered by divine power.
[Footnote 195: Cf., for instance, the Madonna over the door of the Pisa Baptistery.]
[Footnote 196: Cf. drawings of ewers in Uffizzi by Giacomone da Faenza, sixteenth century.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Bronze Reliefs.]
The four panels of Miracles take the highest rank among Donatello's bas-reliefs. Their size is considerable, being about four feet long. They have one theme in common, namely, the supernatural gifts of St. Anthony and the veneration of the populace. Donatello's crowds are admirable; they are deep crowds. The people are rather hot and jostling each other: they stand on benches or stairs in order to get a better view of what is proceeding. The edges of the crowds, where the people are too far off to be active spectators, lose interest in the central incident; they gossip as bystanders or sit down: often they are shown actually leaving the place. It is singular how ill-designed many of the classical crowds are, especially the battle-scenes: they are constructed without regard for the human necessity of standing on something; and we have grotesque topsy-turvy compositions, the individual parts of which are unrivalled in technique. Michael Angelo's first and last representation of a crowd in sculpture shows the same fault, which, indeed, was far from uncommon. It arose from a desire to show more of the crowd than could be naturally seen from the eye level, and the whole relief was consequently covered with figures, the background proper being suppressed. In these Paduan reliefs Donatello manages to give ample density and variety, and there is never any doubt as to the ownership of legs or arms. His early relief at Siena, on the other hand, has a group where there is confusion, which is not justified in a quiet gathering of people. Another feature which the four reliefs have in common is Donatello's treatment of narrative. Ghiberti's plan was to put several incidents into one relief, forming a sequence of events leading up to the critical episode, to which he usually gave the best place in the foreground. He consistently followed up his formula in the second gates, and brought the practice to its perfection. Whether suitable or not for gates, it would have been an intelligible treatment of purely decorative reliefs, like those at Padua. Donatello, however, confines his plaques to single incidents: in one case only does he add a second detail, and there only as a corroborative fact. The narrative is shown in the crowd itself. Attitudes and expression are made to reflect the spirit of what has gone before, while the actual occurrence suffices to show the final issue of the story. Thus we have all the ideas of which others would have made a series of subordinate scenes: incredulity, fear, surprise, mockery, apathy and worship. The crowd shows everything which has already passed, and the composition of the bas-reliefs thus secures a striking homogeneity. It is difficult to say which of them is best. The variety in dress, scene and physiognomy is so remarkable; varying, no doubt, according to the tastes of the garzone responsible for finishing it. Probably the miracle of the Speaking Babe is the best known. A nobleman of Ferrara doubted the honour of his wife; St. Anthony conferred the power of speech on her infant child, which proclaimed its mother's innocence. Donatello has put an exquisite little Madonna and Child just above the central figures of the legend. The composition of this group, as in the others, is broken by the architecture, otherwise the length of the bronzes might have tended to a monotonous row of figures. But the projecting background does not make the episode less coherent. The mother is just receiving back her baby from the saint; behind her are women, friends and others; whereas the opposite side of the relief is entirely occupied by men, who are around her husband; and the suggested conflict of the sexes is averted by the miracle. The husband, who wears an odd sort of bonnet tricolore, and several of his comrades are simply dressed in short cloaks open at the sides and ending just below the hip. The legs and arms, and especially the hands, are very well modelled. In this relief the actors are quiet and decorous, and where not motionless are moving slowly. The miracle of the Miser's Heart is more emotional: "where thy heart is there shall thy treasure be also." The miser having died, St. Anthony said that his heart would be found in his strong box: this was proved to be the case, and then when the body was opened it was found that his heart was absent. The scene is nominally inside a church: in the background is a procession of clergy and choristers with their cross and candles. In the centre is the bier with the corpse lying on it. The body is opened and the crowd looks on in feverish though suppressed excitement. St. Anthony is pointing towards the dead man: and the crowd realises that the heart is absent—ubi thesaurus ibi cor. Numbers of people have dropped on to their knees, others kiss the ground where the saint stands. There are signs of distress and apprehension on all sides. Some children scuttle back to their parents; one of the mothers bends down to catch her child just as it is going to fall. Two boys have climbed on to an altar or pedestal to get a better view: one of them wears the peaked cap still worn by the undergraduates of Padova la dotta. The whole scene is immensely dramatic and grim, without any frenzy or excess; and its solemn effect is enhanced by the reserve of the people in spite of their excitement. The background is full of detail, largely obtained by the chisel: one part of it, with the stairs, ladders and upper storey, resembles the Lille relief. There are two important inscriptions, cut into the metal, to which reference will be made later. The subject of the third relief (now placed on the retable and already getting dimmed by candle-grease) is the healing of the youth Leonardo, who kicked his mother and confessed to St. Anthony, who properly observed that so sinful a foot should be cut off. The injunction was taken too literally, and the saint's miraculous power replaced the severed limb. Strictly speaking, this miracle takes place in the open air, for Donatello has introduced a rudimentary sun with most symmetrical rays, and half a dozen clouds which look like faults in the casting. But the whole relief is framed by an architectural structure, some amphitheatre with the seats ranged like steps. A balustrade runs all round the huge building, and a number of idlers standing about at the far end are reduced to insignificant proportions, thus giving distance and depth to the scene. Leonardo lies on the ground in sad pain, and Anthony has just restored the foot. The central group is not much animated, but two or three of the men's heads are telling character-studies. Donatello has concentrated his crowd into the centre: at the sides the miracle passes unheeded. A fat man is soliloquising with his hand reposing on an ample stomach: a boy with a long stick and something like a knapsack on his back is attracting the attention of a young woman, who seems absorbed in watching the miracle: her child tries to pull her along to go closer. In the corner are some strange recumbent figures, almost classical in idea; and a tall woman completely veiled, with her face buried in her hands. The last of the reliefs illustrates St. Anthony's power over animals. One Bovidilla, a sceptic, possessed a mule; the saint offered the consecrated wafer to the animal when starving, and Bovidilla was converted by the refusal of the animal to eat it. The scene takes place within a church, which, so far as we see the apse and choir, is composed of three symmetrical chapels with vaulted and coffered roofs. There is plenty of classical detail, but still more of the Renaissance; there is no occasion to assume the design to have been copied from the Tempio di Pace or the Caracalla baths. St. Anthony occupies the centre, and the kneeling mule is on the right, his master close at hand. The church is crowded with people, who, on the whole, show more curiosity than reverence. Several garrulous boys by the door are amused; an old beggar hobbles in; a mother tries to keep a child quiet. Others take any post they can secure, and a good many are crouching on the ground in all sorts of postures, making a variety which amounts to unevenness. In all these panels the head of St. Anthony is of a finer type than that shown in the other version on the altar. The features are clear cut, and there is an air of earnest distinction which is not observed on the large statue. Speaking generally, one notices that while ample scope is allowed to the fancies of picturesque architecture in all these reliefs, Donatello always keeps it within proper bounds. Donatello was not tempted into the interacting problems of perspective and intarsia, which caused so many Paduan artists to lose grasp of the wider aspects of their calling. Then we notice how the crowd qua crowd plays its proper part: out of some two hundred faces in these panels not more than two or three look out to the spectator—a quality inherited by Mantegna. The reliefs are essentially local pictures of local significance; not only the costume, but the types are Paduan, such as we find in the local school of painting: but we find nothing of the kind in Donatello before the journey to the north, and the types scarcely reappear on the altar of San Lorenzo. But, in spite of this, the reliefs have a catholicity which extends their influence far beyond the limits within which Donatello confined his work. Finally, the wealth of local colouring and animation makes these reliefs among the earliest in which "genre" or "conversation" has prominence. They offer a most striking contrast to the sedate Florentine crowds painted in the Brancacci chapel by Masaccio.
[Footnote 197: Cf. Battle of Romans and Barbarians, No. 12. Museo Nazionale, Rome.]
[Footnote 198: Battle, Casa Buonarroti, Florence.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Symbols of the Evangelists.]
There are four other bronze reliefs, the Symbols of the Evangelists. Donatello has contrived to invest these somewhat awkward themes with alternate drama and poetry. The emblems of Ezekiel's vision were too intricate for Western art, and long before the fifteenth century they had been reduced to the simple forms of the lion, ox, eagle and angel, with no attribute except wings. All four reliefs are rectangular, about eighteen inches square. The ox is, of course, the least inspiring, and here as elsewhere is treated in a dry perfunctory manner. The oxen on the facade of Laon Cathedral offered some scope to the sculptor, being life-sized; but in a small relief the subject was not attractive. The lion is more vigorously treated. As a work of natural history he is better than the Marzocco, and he has a certain heraldic extravagance as well. The limbs have tension, the muscles are made of steel, and there is strength and watchfulness, attributes which led the early architects to rest the pilasters of the pulpit and portal upon lions' backs. But the eagle of St. John is superb, even grander than the famous classical marble of the same subject. It has the broad expanse of wings, vibrating as though the bird were about to take flight: the long lithe body with its soft pectoral feathers, the striking claws, and the flattened head with cruel gleaming eye, all combine to give a terribilita which is, perhaps, unsurpassed in all the countless versions of the symbol. But the drama of the eagle is eclipsed by the quiet unostentatious poetry of the angel of St. Matthew. We see a girl of intense grace and refinement, winged as an angel and looking modestly downwards to the open gospel in her hands. Delicacy is the keynote pervading every detail of the relief: in her hands, arms and throat, in the soft curves of the young frame, and in the drapery itself, which suggests all that is dainty and pure—everywhere, in fact, we find charm and tenderness, rare even in a man like Ghiberti, almost unique in Donatello.
[Footnote 199: The Walpole Eagle from the Tiber, belonging to the Earl of Wemyss.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Choir of Angels.]
In the original contract with Donatello, ten angels were commissioned, and were exhibited on the provisional wooden altar (13, vi. '48). It appears, however, that they were insufficient, and two more panels were ordered. These may possibly be the reliefs in each of which a couple of angels are represented singing, certainly the most successful of all. There is a palpable inequality in the remainder. They not only show differences of treatment in the details of drapery, chiselling and general decoration, but there is a substantial lack of harmony in their broad conception. It is impossible to believe that the two angels leaning inwards against the edge of the relief (the fourth respectively from either end of the altar) could have been modelled by Donatello. Not only are they vulgar and commonplace, but they are malformed: well might Donatello long for criticism and censure if these two stupid little urchins were standards of his production. Next to one of these pipers is a child playing the lute, delicious in every respect: he is made by the genius, the other by the hack. They contrast in every particular—drapery, anatomy, face and technique. The lutist is admirable as he looks down at his instrument to catch the note; capital also is the boy playing the double pipe, with the close drapery swirling about his plump limbs, as one sees in San Francesco of Rimini, that temple dedicated to Isotta and to Childhood. The head of the boy playing the harp shows the best characteristics of this group. The hair is relatively short, and falls in thick glossy ringlets over his ears; it is bound by a heavy chaplet of leaves and rosettes; above this wreath the hair is smooth and orderly. There was no occasion to exclude the pleasing little touches, as in the case of the Cantoria children, where deep holes penetrate the children's hair, so that the "distance should not consume the diligence." At Padua, where the choristers were to be seen a few feet only from the ground, the sculptor's efforts to show the warm shades and recesses of the hair were amply repaid. The boys singing the duets differ from the remainder: they are busily occupied with their music, carefully following the score. The disposition of two children in a panel only large enough for one has not been so successfully met as when Abraham and Isaac were fitted into the narrow niche on the Campanile; but the affectionate attitude of these boys and their sincerity make one overlook a slight technical shortcoming. The two heads in close proximity give a certain sense of atmosphere between them, not easily rendered when one of them had to be modelled in comparatively high-relief.
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Pieta and the Entombment.]
The remaining work for the high altar consists of a marble Entombment and a bronze relief of Christ mourned by Angels, treated as a Pieta. The tabernacle door, which occupies the centre of the high altar, differs in shape, quality and design from everything else, and is wholly unworthy of its prominent position. The lower relief is, however, a work of exceptional interest. It is placed in the centre of the frontal with the reliefs of choristers on either side of it, a tragic culmination to all the happy children around it. The Christ is resting upright in the tomb, half of the figure only being visible. The head is bowed and the hands crossed: the face is wan and haggard. The body is modelled to emphasise the pronounced lines of the big curve formed by the ribs from which the lower part of the body is fast sinking: Donatello did the same thing with the crucifix. An angel stands at each side of the Christ, holding up a curtain or pall behind the figure. Each of these boys has a hand pressed against his cheek, the picture of tragedy: they weep over the dead Saviour, their anguish is indescribable. In the marble version of the same subject in London, the angels are actually supporting the Christ, who, without their maintenance, would fall down. His head is resting against one of the children's hands: one of the arms has slipped down inanimate, while the other hangs over the shoulder of the second angel, a consummate rendering of what is dead: the veins are tumified, the skin is shrinking, and the muscles are uncontrolled. This Christ is in some ways the more remarkable plastic achievement, though it is not so characteristic as the Paduan version. The two reliefs are probably coeval, though that in London, with its attendant angels, has indications of being rather earlier in date, and almost shows the hand of Michelozzo in one or two details. But the head of Christ, with its short thin beard, and the hair held back by a corded fillet, is similar to much that is exclusively Paduan. The Entombment, a very large marble relief, consists of eight life-sized figures, four of whom are lowering the body into the sepulchre. Here for the first time we have that frenzied and impassioned scene which became so common in Northern Italy. The Entombment on the St. Peter's Tabernacle is insipid by the side of this, where grief leads the Magdalen to tear out thick handfuls of her hair; others throw up their hands as they abandon themselves, as they scream in ungovernable sorrow. It is a riot of woe, and the more solemn figures who are engaged with the dead body have grown grey with care. This relief dates a new departure: the Entombment and other episodes of the Passion henceforward lose their calm emblematic character, and are fraught with tragedy and gloom. Donatello's relief became the prototype for the Bellini, for Mantegna, and a host of artists who, without, perhaps, having seen the original, drew their inspiration from what it had already inspired. For a while this intensification of the last scenes of Christ's life bore good fruit for art, especially in the northern provinces: but after a certain point nervous exhaustion ensued and produced a kind of hysteria, where the Magdalen's tears must end in convulsive laughter, and where the tragedy is so demonstrative that the solemn element is utterly lost. The profound pathos and teaching of the earlier scenes were exchanged for what was theatrical. But Tragedy always held a place in Italian, or rather in Christian art: it was out of place in antiquity. The smiling and perennial youth of the gods, their happinesses, loves, and adventures, gave relatively small scope for the personal aspects of tragedy. There was no need for vicarious or redemptive suffering: what pain existed, and they rarely expressed it in marble, was human in its origin and punitive in effect: Icarus, Niobe, Laocoon, Prometheus; and even here the proprieties of good taste imposed strict limits, beyond which the portrayal of tragedy could not go without violating unwritten laws. It had to occupy a secondary place in their art: the dying gladiator was merely a broken toy tossed aside. Their tragedies were largely limited to Nemesis, the Moirai, the Erinnydes, and lower forms, such as harpies. But occasionally one gets a breath of mediaevalism and its haunting mysteries. The Sleeping Fury at Rome, for instance, where sleep steals in during a moment of respite from torture, is superb, and, moreover, stands almost alone in its presentment of a certain impelling tragedy, which, with the advent of Christianity, became an integral and dominating feature of its art.
[Footnote 200: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 7577, 1861. M.G. Dreyfus has a fine plaquette analogous to these large reliefs.]
[Footnote 201: Cf., for instance, Madame Andre's Pieta lunette, or the stone "Lamentation" in Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 314, 1878, almost German in its harsh realism. This came from the Palazzo Lazzara at Padua.]
[Footnote 202: In Ludovisi Buoncompagni Collection, Museo Nazionale, marble. Cf. also the bust of Minatia Polla, so called, which might be by Verrocchio.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Donatello's Assistants.]
The variety of workmanship at Padua would be an infallible proof that Donatello had the assistance of a number of disciples, even if we had no documentary evidence on the point. Bandinelli refers to their numbers: when needing help he wrote to the Grand Duke saying that Donatello always had eighteen or twenty assistants, without whose aid it would have been impossible for him to have made the Paduan altar. But we also possess bills, contracts, and schedules, in which we can find the names of Donatello's garzoni. The work, it must be remembered, was not wholly confined to sculpture: among the earliest recorded payment to Donatello is that for structural work on the Loggia (30, iii. 1444). Giovanni Nani of Florence was already engaged there (3, iii. 43) as a sort of master mason on Donatello's arrival: he made the marble pedestal for the crucifix (19, vi. 47), and several others are mentioned in a subordinate capacity, such as Niccolo Cocaro (23, iv. 49), Meo and Pipo of Florence (30, iv. 49), Antonio of Lugano, taia pria (12, v. 49); Bartolomeo of Ferrara went to Valstagna to open up the quarry—una montagna de lo alabastro (13, viii. 46). Employment was also given to Jacomo, a goldsmith (9, v. 48), to Squarcione the painter (21, xi. 47), to Moscatelo, the maker of majolica (v. 49), and to Giovanni da Becato, who made a metal grille behind the altar. Francesco del Mayo and Andrea delle Caldiere were the chief bronze casters; a dozen or fifteen other names are recorded. None of these can have had much influence on the sculpture itself; but there were men of greater calibre, Giovanni da Pisa, Urbano da Cortona, Antonio Celino of Pisa, and Francesco Valente of Florence. Though called garzoni and disipoli of Donatello (June and Sept. 47), they soon became men of trained capacity, and were specifically mentioned in some of the contracts. Thus it appears that each was entrusted with one of the evangelist's symbols; they were also largely responsible for the bronze choristers (27, iv. 46). Their whims and idiosyncrasies are visible in many particulars: in the halos for instance. The gospel emblems all have halos, likewise most of the singing children, whereas there are none on the Madonna and the great statues of canonised saints on the altar. But it is impossible here to enter upon the most interesting problem of their respective shares on the altar sculpture, and how far they were independent of Donatello beyond the chiselling and polishing of the bronze; the subject would need discussion at too great length. It is, however, worth while to refer to some of their work, for which they were exclusively responsible. Thus the Fulgosio tomb in the Santo, and the superaltar in the Eremitani at Padua (though much disfigured by paint), show that Giovanni da Pisa was influenced by Donatello to a remarkable degree. The composition of the altar consists of a broad relief of the Madonna with three saints on either side of her: below it is a predella divided into three panels; above, a frieze of dancing children similar to those on the pulpits of San Lorenzo. The composition is crowned by a tympanum and putti suggested by Donatello's Annunciation. Several of the larger figures might almost be the work of Donatello, though the personality of Giovanni makes itself felt throughout. Urbano of Cortona was another interesting man. He received a commission to decorate the chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie in the Sienese Cathedral, and he had to make the Symbols of the Evangelists: nel fregio ... si debi fare IIII. evangelisti in forma d'animali. Donatello himself, excellentissimus sculptor, seu magister sculture, was commissioned later on to work in this chapel; but there can be no doubt that the angel of St. Matthew, now preserved in the Opera del Duomo, is the work of Urbano. It is the identical design of the emblem on the Paduan altar, pleasant in its way, but differing in all the material elements of charm; but it is an important document in that it shows a further stage in the evolution of Donatello through the hand of a painstaking pupil. Of Celino and Valente our knowledge is less—perhaps because there was never any friction between the master and his assistants, which gives so unenviable a record to the relation of Michael Angelo with his pupils. The two inscriptions on the background of the Miracle of the Miser's Heart, read as follows: "S. ANT. DI GIOV DE SE E SUORŪ": and "S DI PIERO E BARTOLOMEO E SUŌ." They have been variously interpreted. Some have suggested that they indicate the names of donors, or that the letter s means sepulchrum, and that they are in the nature of epitaphs. It would seem more probable that they are signatures of those who were occupied in giving final touches to the chiselling of the background.
[Footnote 203: 7, xii. 1549. Printed in Bottari, ii. 70.]
[Footnote 204: 19, x. 1451. Milanesi, ii. 271.]
[Footnote 205: 17. x. 1457; ibid. 295.]
[Footnote 206: Marble, No. 149.]
[Footnote 207: The rules of the Sienese guild of painters provided against strife within their own circles by imposing a fine upon whoever dicesse vilania o parole ingiuriose al retore: Art. 55. Milanesi, i. 25.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Bellano and the Gattamelata Tombs.]
One other sculptor, Bellano, is said by Vasari to have been so much affected by Donatello's influence that the work of the two men was often indistinguishable. This places Bellano too high. Scardeone, it is true, says he was mirus coelatura; but Gauricus is more accurate in calling him ineptus artifex. He was really a lugubrious person, though on rare occasions he made a good thing, such, for instance, as the statuette of St. Jerome, belonging to M. Gustave Dreyfus. But his large bas-relief of St. Anthony and the Mule is stiff and laboured. The tomb of Roycelli, the monarcha sapientie in the Santo, with its wealth of poverty-stricken decoration, shows that Bellano was a man who could work on a large scale, but whose sense of fitness and harmony was weak. So also the Roccabonella fragments, in spite of a rugged, rough-hewn appearance, show an absence of ethical and intellectual qualities; while the fussy and breathless reliefs round the choir of the Santo are farcical in several respects. There was another man influenced by Donatello, who must be nameless pending further investigation: his style cannot be identified with anything on the great altar, but he was a sculptor of immense power. He made the so-called shrine of Santa Giustina in London, and the two Gattamelata monuments in the Santo. These tombs are very simple, consisting of the effigies of the two Condottieri, fully armed, but with bared heads. Below is a broad stone relief of children holding the scroll between them, as on the Coscia tomb in Florence. Above is a lunette containing painting, the whole composition being framed by a severe moulding, and surmounted by the family crest and badge. They are most remarkable. The two recumbent figures lie calm and peaceful: they show the ennobling aspect of death, the belief in a further existence. This sculptor with his sensitive touch makes us realise the migration. To "make the good end" was, indeed, a product of Christianity: antiquity was content if a man parted from life "handsomely." Greek art can, of course, show no sign of the Christian virtues of death. Like the Egyptians, their object was to present the dead as still alive, even where the aid of fiction had to be invoked. To them sleep and death are often indistinguishable; often again one is left in doubt as to which of the figures on a funeral relief represents the departed. With death the human body, having ceased to be the home of life, ceased also to be a welcome theme of art. These two Gattamelatas, father and son, have fought the good fight, and in the carved effigy acquire a statuesque repose which is full of dignity and pathos. The famous warrior of Ravenna, Guido Guidarelli as he is called, though of a later date, is fashioned in the same spirit; showing, moreover, certain peculiarities in the armour which one notices in the tombs at Padua. The d'Alagni monument in S. Domenico at Naples, and a tomb in the Carmine of Pisa, are similar in respect of sentiment. So, too, is the shrine of Santa Giustina in London, of which the details as well as the organic treatment leave no doubt as to its authorship, so closely does it resemble the tomb of Giovanni Gattamelata. It is a work of singular refinement and beauty. We see the recumbent figure of the saint on the facade of a sarcophagus, at either side of which are little angels made by the same hand and at the same date as those on Giovanni's tomb. Santa Giustina is modelled in low-relief; the sculptor seems to draw in the stone, and the drapery is like linen: not a blanket or counterpane, but some thin clinging material which is moulded to the form below. In some ways this precious work is analogous to the more famous bas-relief belonging to the Earl of Wemyss, the St. Cecilia which has been ascribed to Donatello. This wonderful thing is not well known: it has been seldom exhibited, and the photograph by which it is usually judged is taken from a reproduction moulded a generation ago. The original, of rather slaty Lavagna stone, has never been photographed, and the cast, many thousands of which exist, entirely fails to show the intangible and diaphanous qualities of the original. The widespread popularity of the St. Cecilia would (if possible) be enhanced were we more familiar with the genuine work itself. It is certainly one of the most accomplished examples of Italian plastic art; not, indeed, by Donatello himself, for there is a softness and glamour which cannot be associated with his chisel. But it has the unequalled tenderness and grace for which the Gattamelata tomb is so notable, placing its nameless author in the highest ranks of Italian sculpture.
[Footnote 208: "De antiq. urbis Patavii," 1560, p. 374.]
[Footnote 209: "De Sculptura," 1504, gathering f.]
[Footnote 210: Marble, in Sacristy of S. Antonio.]
[Footnote 211: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 75, 1879.]
* * * * *
Erasmo Narni, General Gattamelata, died in 1443, and the Venetians, whom he had honourably served, granted the privilege of a site in the tributary town of Padua for the monument, the cost of which was borne by the family of the dead Condottiere. Donatello had to reconstruct the anatomy of a horse on a colossal scale. He was faced by the formidable task of making the first equestrian bronze statue erected in Italy during the Renaissance, and no model existed except the antique statue of Marcus Aurelius at Rome. Donatello was, however, familiar with the four horses on the facade of San Marco at Venice. He undertook to complete the Gattamelata monument by September 1453, but the bulk of the casting was finished as early as 1448, though the chiselling and chasing of the bronze required further work for two or three years. The statue was placed on the pedestal before the agreed date, and a conference was held at Venice to settle the price. There were four assessors on either side, and it was finally agreed that the total payment should be a sum equivalent to about two thousand guineas in our own day. Donatello does not seem to have been hampered by his lack of experience. The work is adroitly handled, the technical difficulty of welding the large pieces of bronze is successfully overcome, and the metal is firm and self-supporting. There are faults, of course, though the fact that the horse ambles need not be considered an error. But the relative proportions of the horse and rider are not quite accurately preserved, Gattamelata being, if anything, rather below the right scale. The monument is, however, so massive and grandiose that criticism seems out of place; indeed, in the presence of the statue one feels that everything is subordinated to the power and mastery of Gattamelata himself. The general is bareheaded, and the strong courageous face is modelled with directness and energy. The gesture is commanding, and he rides easily in the saddle. Colleone's statue at Venice is superior in many ways: yet the radical distinction between them is that whereas Gattamelata is the faithful portrait of a modest though successful warrior, it must be confessed that Verrocchio makes an idealised soldier of fortune, full of bravado and swagger, a Malbrook s'en va-t-en guerre of the Quattrocento. But, striking as the contrast of sentiment is, noticeable alike in the artist and his model, these two statues remain the finest equestrian monuments in the world, their one possible rival being Can Grande at Verona. Donatello has decorated Gattamelata's saddle and armour with a mass of delicate and vivacious detail, which modifies the severity without distracting the eye. The putti which act as pommels to the saddle are delightful little figures, and the damascened and chased fringes of the armour are excellent. Moreover, the armour does not overweight the figure. The horse, of rather a thick and "punchy" breed, is well suited to carry a heavy load; he is full of spirit, and is neighing and chafing, as the old critics pointed out. An enormous wooden horse, some twenty-four feet long, is preserved in the Sala della Raggione at Padua. It used to belong to the Capodalista family, and has been considered Donatello's model for the Gattamelata charger. This is unlikely, and it was more probably used in some procession, being ridden by a huge emblematic figure. It is improbable that Donatello should have done more than sketch the design; but the head of the horse is admirable, with the feathery ears and bushy topknot which one finds in the Venice quadriga, on Gattamelata's steed, and on the colossal bronze head of a horse now preserved in the Naples Museum. This used to be considered an antique, but it is now established beyond all question that Donatello made it; and it was presented in 1471 to Count Mataloni by Lorenzo de' Medici. It is an interesting work, defective in some places, and treated similarly to classical examples; indeed, Donatello was obviously influenced in all his equine statuary by the most obvious classical horses at his command, namely, those at Venice. He does not seem to have taken ideas from the Marcus Aurelius, which he had not seen for upwards of ten years when commissioned to make the Gattamelata. The base of the statue is simple, but scarcely worthy of the monument it supports. The pedestal made by Leopardi for the Colleone monument is both more decorative and dignified. On Donatello's pedestal there are two marble reliefs of winged boys holding the general's helmet, badge and cuirass. The reliefs on the monument are copies of the maimed originals now preserved in a dark passage of the Santo cloister. There must be many statues elsewhere, now taken for originals, which are nothing more than replicas of what had gradually perished. If one closely examines the sculpture on some of the church facades—Siena Cathedral, for instance—one finds that most of the statues are only held together by numberless metal ties and clamps; and one may safely assume that many of those in really good condition have been placed there at later dates.
[Footnote 212: 29, vi. 1453. Donatello is still described as abitante in Padova.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Smaller Reliefs and Plaquettes.]
The Gattamelata reliefs seem to be sixteenth-century work. They show a detail of which Donatello and his scholars were fond, namely, the Medusa's head. It reappears on the Martelli Patera and on the sword-hilt in the Royal Armoury at Turin. The former has been ascribed to Donatello, but the attribution is untenable. It is a bronze medallion of a Satyr and Bacchante, executed with much skill, but not recalling the spirit or handling of Donatello. It is an admirable example of the bronze-work which became popular in Northern Italy, to which Donatello gave the initial impetus, and which soon became ultra-classical in style. The sword-hilt is more interesting, and it is signed "Opus Donatelli Flo." Some of the detail has a richness which might suggest rather a later date; but the general outline, especially the small crouching putti, was, no doubt, designed by the master. The history of this curious and unusual specimen is unknown, and it is outside Donatello's sphere of activity. Michael Angelo, it may be remembered, also had the caprice of making a sword for the Aldobrandini family. The manufacture of plaquettes, small bronze plates which were widely used for decorating caskets, inkstands, candlesticks, &c., became a specialised art; and some of these dainty reliefs are possibly made from Donatello's own designs. There are, however, a few larger bronzes of greater importance in which his personality was able to assert itself more freely than in the reduced plaquettes. But the work of scholars and imitators has been frequently mistaken for Donatello's own productions. Thus the Ambras (Vienna) relief of the Entombment, with its exaggerated ideas of classical profile, must be the work of a scholar. The Sportello at Venice also shows later Renaissance decoration in its rich arabesques, though two hands seem to have been employed—the four central putti and the two angels being more Donatellesque than the remainder. The relief of the Flagellation in Paris is more important, as we have a rugged and severe treatment both in the subject and its execution: but the summary treatment of such details as the hair makes one doubtful if Donatello can have been wholly responsible. A somewhat analogous Flagellation in Berlin is the work of a clever but halting plagiarist. He has inserted a Donatellesque background of arches showing the lines of stonework, and a pleasant detached girl who reminds us of the figure on the Siena and St. George reliefs. But the imitator's weak hand is betrayed by the anatomy of the three principal figures. The positions are those of force and energy, but there is no tension or muscular effort, and there is no vestige of vigour in the rounded backs and soft limbs. Even if Donatello furnished the original sketch, it is quite impossible that he should have executed or approved the carving. Madame Andre's Martyrdom of St. Sebastian is work in which the finishing-touches were probably added by a pupil, but this striking composition shows dramatic qualities which one must associate with Donatello himself. So also the tondo Madonna belonging to M. Gustave Dreyfus, in which the figures are ranged behind a balustrade, making the "garden enclosed"—a popular symbolical treatment of the Virgin and Child—is doubtless from one of Donatello's designs. Though imperfect, the London Deposition or Lamentation is an important work, and has a value as showing the methods of fastening figures in relief on to the foundation of the background, though in this case the bulk of the background is missing. Three other reliefs should be mentioned, all representing Christ on the Cross. Of these, the Berlin example, though sadly injured since its acquisition for the museum, is notable; being, in fact, a genuine sketch by Donatello himself, and in a degree comparable to the clay study of the same subject in London. The bronze relief, belonging to Comte Isaac de Camondo in Paris, is a most remarkable work of the Paduan period. Donatello has succeeded in conveying the sense of desolating tragedy without any adventitious aid of violence or movement. The whole thing is massive, and treated with a studied simplicity which concentrates the silence and loneliness of the scene. It is superb, and superior to a varied treatment of the same subject in the Bargello. In this well-known relief the crowded scene is full of turmoil and confusion. In the foreground are the relatives and disciples of Christ. Many soldiers are introduced, some of whom closely resemble the tall men-at-arms in Mantegna's frescoes at Padua. Donatello's hand is obvious in the angels and in the three crucified figures, which are modelled with masterly conviction. The rest of the composition has been ruthlessly gilded and chased until the statuesque lines are lost in a mass of tiresome detail; which is regrettable, for the conception is fine.
[Footnote 213: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 8717, 1863.]
[Footnote 214: Museo Archeologico, Doge's Palace.]
[Footnote 215: Louvre, "His de la Salle Collection," No. 385.]
[Footnote 216: Marble, No. 39 B.]
[Footnote 217: Cf. a Donatellesque stucco Madonna beneath a baldachino belonging to Signor Bardini, who also possesses a stucco Entombment similar to the London bronze.]
[Footnote 218: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 8552, 1863. Bronze.]
[Footnote 219: Stucco No. 41.]
[Footnote 220: See p. 62.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Madonnas.]
A whole treatise would be required to describe all the Madonnas which have been attributed to Donatello. Within the limits of this volume the discussion must be confined to certain groups which are directly related to him, ignoring a much larger number of subordinate interest. The tendency is to ascribe to Donatello many more than he can possibly have made—varying inversely from the attitude of modern criticism, which has asserted that not twenty paintings by Giorgione have survived. Hundreds of artists must have made these Madonnas, of which only a small minority are in bronze or marble. Many names of sculptors are recorded to whom we can only attribute one or two works; the remainder being generically ascribed to the school of some great man, and often enough to the great man himself. The bulk of these reliefs of the Madonna and Child are in stucco, terra-cotta, carta pesta and gesso—cheap malleable materials which were easily and rapidly worked: the reliefs were manufactured in great numbers for the market. Then again, well-known works were cast, and small differences in colour and finish often gave them the semblance of original work. Vasari says that almost every artist in Florence possessed a cast of Pollaiuolo's battle-piece. Such facsimiles are eagerly sought after nowadays, and are treated as genuine works of the sculptor. It must also be remembered that during the last decades there has been a systematic multiplication of these reliefs, and that forgeries can be found in most of the great collections of Europe. The first difficulty encountered in trying to discept between Donatello and his school, is that authenticated examples from which to make our inductions are very rare. Donatello certainly made Madonnas in relief: Vasari mentions half a dozen; Neroccio, the Sienese sculptor, possessed una Madonna di gesso di Donatello. There are Madonnas on the tombs of Pope John and Cardinal Brancacci. The latter shows no trace of Donatello's craft, and the former is of indifferent merit, and was certainly not made by Donatello alone. There are two Madonnas at Padua, one the large altar statue, the other a tiny relief three inches in diameter on one of the bronze Miracle panels. The sources of stylistic data are therefore most scanty. One may say generally that in the authenticated Virgins as well as in the other heads of women, Donatello makes a marked nasal indenture, thus separating him from those later men who drew their heads with the classical profile, showing a straight and continuous line from the forehead down the nose. But even this cannot be pressed too far. As regards the Christ, Donatello seems to preserve the essence and immaturity of childhood. His treatment of the Child is never hieratic, and it is always full of warm human sentiment. The Paduan relief, for instance, is almost a genre representation of a mother and child, domestic and intimate, with nothing but the halos to indicate the higher meaning of the theme. Having said so much, we come to the other Madonnas which are assigned on various grounds to Donatello: those known as the Madonnas Pazzi, Orlandini, Siena Cathedral, Pietra Piana; the London oval, the Madonna of the Rose, the Capella Medici group, and the Piot and Courajod Madonnas in the Louvre. All of these have one or more features which conflict with our ideas of Donatello. It is impossible to say that any one of them must inevitably be by Donatello himself; none of them carry their own sign-manual of authenticity. The Pazzi Madonna in Berlin is now generally ascribed to Donatello himself, and certainly no more grandiose version of the subject exists. The Virgin is holding up the Child close to her beautiful face; she broods over him, and the countenance is full of foreboding. The solemnity of the large Paduan Madonna is visible here, and it is only made to apply to the Virgin, for the Child is a typical bambino. So, too, in the relief outside the transept door of Siena Cathedral we find this grim careworn expression and the sense of impending drama: the massacre of the Innocents is still to come. This relief, a marble tondo, is in such abnormally perfect condition that one wonders if it may not be a later replica of some original which the atmosphere disintegrated. Donatello must have provided the design; at any rate, it is difficult to suggest an alternative name. The four winged cherubs are, however, lifeless and ill-drawn, while the Christ is more like some of the putti on the Aragazzi reliefs than Donatello's typical boy. The share of Michelozzo in the reliefs ascribed to Donatello is larger than has been hitherto acknowledged. The Orlandini Madonna yearns like a tigress as she holds up her child and gazes into its face; here again we have a composition for which Donatello must have been primarily responsible, though the full profile is attributable to inefficient handling of the marble rather than to deliberate intention. Signor Bardini's version of this relief has a delicacy lacking in the original; one touch of colour removes a certain awkwardness of the profile. The Madonna in the Via Pietra Piana at Florence belongs to a different category. Here again the design is Donatellesque, but the face of the Madonna has a dull and vacant look; not only is it without the powerful modelling of the Pazzi or Siena reliefs, but it shows none of the sentiment for which those two Madonnas are so remarkable. There are several reproductions in Berlin and London, all differing from the Florentine version in the drapery of the head-dress. Closely related to this Madonna is another composition which only exists in soft materials. The Virgin, with long wavy hair, looks downwards towards her Child, who is looking outwards to the spectator. This is a work of merit, with something attractive in the anxious and clinging attitude of the Madonna. The large clay Madonna and Child in London, the Christ sitting in a chair and the Virgin with hands joined in worship, has been the subject of much controversy. There are good grounds for doubting its authenticity. The angular treatment of the head and a dainty roundness of the wrist often indicate that Bastianini had a share in this class of work. This relief has all the merits and demerits of the circular Piot Madonna in the Louvre. Here, too, the handling of Bastianini has been detected, though there is a clumsiness which is seldom seen in the productions of that distinguished artist. The frame and the background, which are integral features of the composition, can leave no doubt as to the origin of this work. But the Piot relief has an interest which the London terra-cotta cannot boast, for a fifteenth-century original from which the copyist worked is in existence, now belonging to Signor Bardini. This is a tondo Madonna of uncoloured stucco, of no particular value in itself; but it is the model from which the Piot sophistication was contrived; or else it is a cast from the lost original of marble. It reveals all the whims of the copyist: the treatment of the hands, the lissome tissue of the drapery, and the angular structure of the skull. A less interesting forgery is the marble Madonna in London. Three reproductions of the lost Donatellesque original exist, the Berlin copy being in stucco, that at Bergamo terra-cotta. Signor Bardini has an effaced and poor copy of the same relief, in which the hand of the Madonna is obviously meant to be holding something; but the stucco has been much rubbed away and one cannot tell the original intention of the sculptor. But the two other genuine versions are in better condition and supply the answer, showing that the Virgin held a large rose between her fingers. The man who made the London relief copied from the incomplete version, and carved an empty meaningless hand with the fingers grasping something which does not exist.
[Footnote 221: v. 100.]
[Footnote 222: Mentioned in his will. He died in 1500. Milanesi, iii. p. 8.]
[Footnote 223: Marble, No. 39. Versions in soft materials exist in the Louvre, in the Andre and Bardini Collections, and a variant in the Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 7590, 1861.]
[Footnote 224: Marble, Berlin Museum.]
[Footnote 225: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 7412, 1860; Berlin Museum; collections of Herr von Beckerath and Herr Richard von Kaufmann.]
[Footnote 226: Louvre, Berlin Museum; Verona, in the Viccolo Fogge; cf. also the relief under the archway in the Via de' Termini, Siena.]
[Footnote 227: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 57, 1867.]
[Footnote 228: Giovanni Bastianini, 1830-68, though the doyen of forgers, did not profit by his dexterity, and died almost penniless.]
[Footnote 229: Terra-cotta.]
[Footnote 230: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 8376, 1863.]
[Footnote 231: No. 53 E. Bergamo, Morelli Collection, No. 53.]
The little oval Madonna in London is a work of much interest. It is coloured stucco, and Dr. Bode, who has dated it as early as 1420-30, believes it to be the first example of the Santa conversazione in Italian plastic art. A variant belonging to Dr. Weisbach in Berlin is of equal importance, and both are probably original works and not casts. The Berlin relief is not so thickly painted as the London medallion, and shows signs of the actual modelling. There are contradictions in these valuable works. The music-making angels are like a figure on the Salome relief at Siena: but they are also related to Luca della Robbia's reliefs on the Campanile, and to a terra-cotta Madonna in London (which reminds one of the Pellegrini Chapel); Matteo Civitale uses a similar type on the tomb of St. Regulus at Lucca; while the crowned saint of the London version was copied at a later date on a well-known plaquette forming the lid of a box of which several examples exist. The figure of the Madonna and Child also suggests another hand; and with the exception of the stone relief in the Louvre, and another derived from it at Padua, it is the only case in which the Virgin is not shown in profile. These latter works are bold and vigorous, and must be ultimately referred to Donatello, the head of the Madonna being rendered by fluent and precise strokes of the chisel. A bronze relief in the Louvre (No. 390), which came from Fontainebleau, has Donatellesque motives; but the spiral coils of hair, and still more the fact that the Virgin's breasts are hammered into the likeness of putti's faces—wholly alien to Donatello's serious ideas—sufficiently prove it to belong to the later Italian school which flourished at the French Court. The Courajod Madonna (Louvre, 389) is modestly called a schoolpiece; but it is a work of first-class importance, for which Donatello is to be credited. This is a very large relief in painted terra, the Madonna being in profile to the left, with a wan and saddened expression. The arm is stiff and wooden, while the undercutting of the profile, like that of the Siena tondo, is so pronounced that, when standing close to the wall on which the relief is fixed, one can see the Virgin's second eye—unduly prominent and much too near to the nose. This is a needless and distracting mannerism, though, of course, the blemish is only noticeable from one point of view, being quite invisible as one sees the relief from the front, or in a photograph. The Berlin Museum has another large Madonna comparable for its scale and rich colouring to the Courajod relief. This came from the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi at Florence. The Child, draped in swaddling-clothes, stands up leaning against the Virgin, who looks downwards. Above them are four cherubs, full of character and vivacity, the whole composition being typical of Donatello, though naturally enough much of the primitive colouring has disappeared during the last four centuries. One other group remains to be noticed, founded upon the large marble relief in the Capella Medici of Santa Croce. We detect Donatello's ideas, but no sign of his handiwork: neither was he responsible for the composition, of which the governing feature is a total absence of his masterly occupation of space. There are also florescent details in the halos, drapery, and so forth, which are closer to Agostino di Duccio than to Donatello. Though not all by the same sculptor, these reliefs are most interesting and suggestive, showing the growth and activity of a small school which drew some inspiration from Donatello while preserving its own individuality. We find an intricate treatment of a very simple idea. As compositions, Donatello's Madonnas were always simple. But our knowledge of the subject is still empirical, and until the problem has been further sifted by the most severe tests of research and criticism, our opinions as to Donatello's personal share in the array of Madonnas must remain subject to revision.
[Footnote 232: Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 93, 1882.]
[Footnote 233: Ibid. No. 7594, 1861.]
[Footnote 234: One was in the Spitzer Collection, another belongs to M. Gustave Dreyfus.]
[Footnote 235: No. 294, Davillier bequest; and in the entrance hall to the Sacristy of the Eremitani at Padua.]
[Footnote 236: Terra-cotta No. 39a.]
[Footnote 237: The others are Victoria and Albert Museum, No. 7624, 1861, marble. Berlin Museum, stucco. Madame Andre, marble, finer than the London version. Marquise Arconati-Visconti, Paris, marble, and a rough uncoloured stucco in the Casa Bardini.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: The Pulpits of San Lorenzo.]
Donatello was sixty-seven when he returned from Padua. He seems to have been unsettled during his later years, undertaking ambitious schemes which he did not execute, and hesitating whether Florence or Siena should be the home of his old age. The bronze pulpits of San Lorenzo are the most important works of this period, and they were left unfinished at his death. Donatello was an old man, and the work bears witness to his advancing years. Bandinelli says that the roughness of the modelling was caused by failing eyesight, and it is obvious that, notwithstanding the signs of feverish activity, and an apparent desire to get the work finished, much was left uncompleted at his death. The pulpits were not even erected until a later date; some of the panels were subsequently added in wood, and others do not correctly fit into the structural design. But the genius of Donatello shines through the finishing-touches of his assistants. Drama is replaced by tragedy; and in these panels the concluding incidents of the Passion are pictured with intense earnestness and pathos. But Donatello would not allow gloom to monopolise his composition. The paradox of the pulpits consists in the frieze of putti above the reliefs: putti who dance, play, romp, and run about. Some of them are busily engaged in moving a heavy statue: others are pressing grapes into big cauldrons. The boy dragging along a violoncello as big as himself is delightful. The contrast afforded by this happy and buoyant throng to the unrelieved tragedy below is strikingly unconventional; and the spirit of both portions is so well maintained that there is neither conflict of emotion nor sense of incongruity. The scenes (including those added at a later date) are sixteen in number. Except the later reliefs of St. John, St. Luke, the Flagellation, and the Ecce Homo, all are of bronze, upon which more care seems to have been expended than on the clay models from which they were cast. On the southern pulpit the scene on the Mount of Olives shows the foreshortened Apostles sleeping soundly as in Mantegna's pictures. Christ before Pilate and Christ before Caiaphas are treated as different episodes, in two similar compartments of one great hall, separated by a large pier. The Crucifix and the Deposition are, perhaps, the most remarkable of all these reliefs: corresponding in many ways to works already described; but not having been over-decorated like the Bargello relief, show greater dignity and less confusion. The background of the Deposition is flat, but broken here and there by faintly-indicated horsemen; naked boys riding on shadowy steeds like those vague figures which seem to thread their way through some panel of Gothic tapestry. There is an element of stiacciato in the Entombment, giving it the air of a mystery rather than of an historical fact. The draperies are thin and graceful, suited to the softer modelling of the limbs: some of the faces are almost dainty. Passing to the northern pulpit, we come to three scenes divided by heavy buttresses, but unified by figures leaning against them, and overstepping the lateral boundaries of the reliefs. The subjects are the Descent into Limbo, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The link between the two former is a haggard emaciated Baptist. The Christ is old and tired. The people who welcome him in Limbo are old and tired, feebly pressing towards the Saviour. The Roman guards lie sleeping, self abandoned in their fatigue, while Christ, wearied and suffering, steps from the tomb with manifest effort. One feels that the physical infirmities of the artist are reflected in these two works, so vivid in their presentment of the heavy burden of advanced years. But in the Resurrection a fresh note is struck. The bystanders are gathered round the Christ, who gives the Benediction. His robe is held back by little angels, and the scene is pervaded by an atmosphere of staid and decorous calm. Donatello has treated this relief in a more archaic spirit. The absence of paroxysms of acute grief, giving a certain violence to other parts of the pulpits, makes the contrast of this relief more effective; but, even so, this scene of the Ascension is fraught with dramatic emphasis. The Descent of the Holy Ghost is less interesting. There is a monotony in the upraised hands, while the feeling of devotional rhapsody is perhaps unduly enforced. The relief of the Maries at the Tomb, which occupies the western end of this pulpit, is almost Pisanesque in the relative size of the people to the architecture. There is a combination of trees and pilasters seeming to support the long low roof beneath which the incident is portrayed. A curious feeling of intimacy is conveyed to the spectator. The pulpits are full of classical details—far more so than in anything we find at Padua. It is very noticeable in the armour of the soldiers, in their shields bearing the letters S.P.Q.R. and the scorpion, and in the antique vases which decorate the frieze. The centaurs holding the cartel on which Donatello has signed his name are, of course, classical in idea, while the boys with horses are suggested by the great Monte Cavallo statues. Then, again, the architecture is replete with classical forms; in one relief Donatello introduces the Column of Trajan. But here, as elsewhere, the classicisms are held in check, and never invade or embarrass the dominant spirit of the Quattrocento. How far Donatello was helped by assistants must remain problematical in the absence of documentary evidence. Bellano and Bertoldo were in all probability responsible for a good deal. In the relief of St. Laurence it is possible that Donatello's share was relatively small. Moreover, one part of the frieze of children is so closely allied to the work of Giovanni da Pisa at Padua, that one is justified, on stylistic grounds, in suggesting that he may also have been employed. But it is certain that the share of Bellano must have been limited to the more technical portion of the work, for there is happily nothing to suggest the poverty of his inventive powers. These pulpits are very remarkable works; they have an inexhaustible wealth of detail in which Donatello can be studied with endless pleasure. The backgrounds are full of his architectural fancy, and the sustained effort put forth by Donatello is really astonishing. But he was an octogenarian, and there are signs of decay. Michael Angelo and Beethoven decayed. Dante and Shakespeare were too wise to decay; Shelley and Giorgione died too young. But the sculptor's intellect must be reinforced by keen eyes and a steady hand: of all artists, Nature finds him most vulnerable. Donatello's last work shows the fatigue of hand and eye, though the intellect never lost its ardent and strenuous activity. There was no petulance or meanness in his old age, no decadence; he merely grew old, and his personality was great until the end.
[Footnote 238: Properly speaking, they are ambones. They stand in the west end of the nave of the church close to the junction of the transepts.]
[Footnote 239: 7, xii. 1547. "... Donato non fece mai la piu brutta opera," &c. Letter printed in Bottari, i. 70.]
[Footnote 240: It is probable that these famous horses were mere wrecks in the fifteenth century. At any rate, Lafreri's engraving of 1546 shows one of them without breast or forelegs, the remainder of the horse being nothing but a large pillar of brick. Herr von Kaufmann has an admirable statuette of Donatello's latter period modelled from the horses on the San Lorenzo frieze. Cf. also Mantegna in the Madonna di San Zeno, Verona.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Donatello's Influence on Sculpture.]
The influence of Donatello on his three greatest contemporaries was small. Jacopo della Quercia always retained his own massive style. Luca della Robbia and Ghiberti—the Euphuist of Italian sculpture—were scarcely affected by the sterner principles of Donatello. All four men were, in fact, exponents of distinct and independent ideas, and handed on their traditions to separate groups of successors. Nanni di Banco and Il Rosso were, however, impressed by Donatello's monumental work, while other sculptors, such as Simone Fiorentino, Vecchietta, Michelozzo, Andrea del Aquila and Buggiano (besides much anonymous talent) were largely influenced by him. It is owing to the fact that Donatello was the most influential man of his day that so many "schoolpieces" exist. The influence on his successors is less easily determined, except so far as concerns the men who worked for him at Padua, together with Riccio, the most skilful bronze caster of his day, who indirectly owed a good deal to Donatello. But Urbano da Cortona and his colleagues produced little original work after their return from Padua: their training seems to have merged their individuality into the dominant style of Donatello; and much of their subsequent work is now ascribed to Donatello or his bottega. Verrocchio, whom Gauricus calls Donatello's rival, owes little or nothing to the elder man, and the versatile sculptors who outlived Donatello, such as Rossellino, Benedetto da Maiano, Mino da Fiesole and Desiderio, show relatively small traces of his influence. But Donatello's sculpture acted as a restraining influence, a tonic: it was a living protest against flippancy and carelessness, and his influence was of service even where it was of a purely negative character. Through Bertoldo Donatello's influence extended to Michael Angelo, affecting his ideas of form: But Jacopo della Quercia, who was almost as great a man as Donatello, is the prototype of Michael Angelo's spirit. Jacopo ought to have founded a powerful, indeed an overwhelming school of sculpture at Siena. Cozzarelli, Neroccio, and the Turini just fail to attain distinction; but their force and virility should have fructified Jacopo's ideas and developed a supreme school of monumental sculpture. As regards Michael Angelo, there can be no question of his having been influenced by Donatello's St. John the Evangelist and the Campanile Abraham. The Madonna delle treppe in a lesser degree is suggested by Donatello. The Trinity on the niche of St. Louis again reminds one of Michael Angelo's conception of the Eternal Father. His Bacchus in Berlin was held to be the work of Donatello himself, and the Pieta in St. Peter's has also a reminiscence of the older master. But in all these cases the resemblance is physical. The intellectual genius of Michael Angelo owed nothing to Donatello. Condivi records one of Michael Angelo's rare obiter dicta about his predecessors to the effect that Donatello's work, much as he admired it, was inadequately polished owing to lack of patience. The criticism was not very sagacious, and one would least expect it from Michael Angelo, of whose work so much was left unfinished. But, at any rate, Donatello commanded his approval, and contributed something to one of the greatest artists of the world. But the ideals of Michael Angelo were too comprehensive to be derived from one source or another, too stupendous to spring from individuals. He sought out the universal form: he took mankind for his model; and while he typified humanity he effectively denationalised Italian sculpture.
[Footnote 241: E.g., work wrongly attributed to Donatello: the figure of Plenty in the courtyard of the Canigiani Palace, Florence; the Lavabo in San Lorenzo; the two figures on the famous silver altar at Pistoja; the bronze busts in the Bargello; the font at Pietra Santa; chimney-pieces, gateways, stemme, and numberless Madonnas and small bronzes.]
[Footnote 242: Casa Buonarroti, Florence.]
[Footnote 243: From the Gualandi Collection. It is attributed by some to a Neapolitan sculptor.]
[Footnote 244: "Vita," 1553, p. 14.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Early Criticism of Donatello.]
Donatello's activity is the best testimonial to the appreciation of his work during his lifetime. Sabba del Castiglione was proud to possess a specimen of Donatello's sculpture. Commissions were showered on him in great numbers, and Gauricus says that he produced more than all his contemporaries. Flavius Blondius of Forli compares him favourably with the ancients. Bartolomeo Fazio warmly praised Donatello, his junior. Francesco d'Olanda and Benvenuto Cellini also admired him. Lasca credited Donatello with having done for sculpture what Brunellesco did for architecture:
"E Donatello messe la scultura Nel dritto suo sentier ch' era smarrita Cosi l'architettura Storpiata, e guasta alle man' de' Tedeschi...."
and so forth. Another early poem, the Rappresentazione of King Nebuchadnezzar, shows the great popularity of Donatello in the humbler walks of life. Vasari's rhetoric led him to say that Donatello was sent by Nature, indignant at seeing herself caricatured. Bocchi claims that, having equalled the ancients and surpassed the sculptors of his own day, Donatello's name will live in the perpetual memory of mankind.
[Footnote 245: "Ricordi," 1554, p. 51.]
[Footnote 246: "De Sculptura," 1504, gathering f. "Donatellus ... aere ligno, marmore laudatissimus, plura hujus unius manu extant opera, quam semel ab eo ad nos caeterorum omnium."]
[Footnote 247: "Italia Illustrata," Bale, 1531, p. 305. "Decorat etiam urbem Florentiam ingenio veterum laudibus respondente, Donatello Heracleotae Zeusi aequiparandus, ut vivos, juxta Virgilii verba, ducat de marmore vultus."]
[Footnote 248: "De Viris illustribus," Florence ed. 1745, p. 51. "Donatellus ... excellet non aere tantum, sed etiam marmore notissimus, ut vivos vultus ducere, et ad antiquorum gloriam proxime accedere videatur."]
[Footnote 249: "Dialogues," Raczynski ed. Paris, 1846, p. 56.]
[Footnote 250: "Due Trattati," ed. Milanesi, 1857, passim.]
[Footnote 251: "Due Vite di Brunellesco," p. 142.]
[Footnote 252: Semper, 321.]
[Footnote 253: "Lem.," iii. 243, in first edition.]
[Footnote 254: 1677 edition.]
* * * * *
[Sidenote: Character and Personality of Donatello.]
Donatello must be judged by his work alone. His intellect is only reflected in his handicraft. We know little about him, but all we know bears tribute to his high character. The very name by which he was called—Donatello—is a diminutive, a term of endearment. His generosity, his modesty, and a pardonable pride, are recorded in stories which have been generically applied to others, but which were specific to himself. He shared his purse with his friends: he preferred plain clothing to the fine raiment offered by Cosimo de' Medici; and he indignantly broke the statue for which a Genoese merchant was unwilling to pay a fair price. He was recognised as a man of honourable judgment, and he was called upon to act as assessor several times. The friend of the Medici, of Cyriac of Ancona, of Niccolo Niccoli, the greatest antiquarian of the day, and of Andrea della Robbia, one of the pall-bearers at his funeral, must have been a man of winning personality and considerable learning. But he was always simple and naive: benigno e cortese, according to Vasari, but as Summonte added with deeper insight, his work was far from simple. He is one of the rare men of genius against whom no contemporary attack is recorded. He was content with little; his life was even-tenored; his work, though not faultless, shows a steady and unbroken progress towards the noblest achievements of plastic art.
[Footnote 255: Gauricus, b. 1.]
[Footnote 256: Vespasiano de' Bisticci, Vite.]
[Footnote 257: "Vasari," iii. 253.]
[Footnote 258: Ibid. iii. 244.]
[Footnote 259: "Fo in Fiorenza ad tempo de' nostri padri Donatello huomo raro, semplicissimo in ogni altra cosa excepto che in la scultura."]
[Footnote 260: Matteo degli Orghani, writing in 1434, says: "Impero che e huomo ch' ogni picholo pasto e allui assai, e sta contento a ogni cosa." Guasti, iv. 475. Donatello died in 1466, probably on December 15. He was buried in San Lorenzo at the expense of the Medici. Masaccio painted his portrait in the Carmine, but it is lost. The Louvre panel No. 1272, ascribed to Paolo Ucello, shows the painter, Manetti, Brunellesco, and Donatello. Monuments have been recently erected to the sculptor in his native city. For Donatello's homes in Florence, see "Misc. Fiorentina," vol. i. No. 4, 1886, p. 60, and "Miscellanea d'arte," No. 3, 1903, p. 49.]
WORK LOST OR NOT EXECUTED
Padua.—For the Santo altar, a figure of God the Father, stone; a Deposition and the remaining bas-reliefs mentioned in the "Anonimo Morelliano;" a St. Sebastian, wood; a Madonna in the church of the Servi.
Ferrara.—Donatello probably worked there; in 1451 he visited the town as an assessor. Gualandi, iv. 35.
Modena.—Donatello also visited this town in 1451, and received a first instalment towards the equestrian statue of Borso d'Este. Campori, "Gli artisti Italiani." Modena, 1855, p. 185.
For Mantua he made a large number of works, including columns, capitals, images of the Madonna in stone and terra-cotta, a St. Andrew in tufo, &c.; also the design for a shrine of St. Anselm. See documents in Archivio Storico Lombardo, 1886, p. 666. At Rome a St. John Baptist, "Una testa" in the Minerva Church, and the portrait of Canon Morosini in Santa Maria Maggiore.
At Siena a Goliath, a silver crucifix, gates for the Cathedral, and a marble statue of San Bernardino.